speaker on stress management

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.

Are Introverts just too quiet?

I hear it often – in person, from clients, on the internet – “I’m told I’m too quiet, and need to speak out more.” I’ve had more than one client whose job review included that feedback. And the client says to me, “But I only speak when I really have something to say – and then it’s overlooked or discounted. So why bother?”

Why indeed do introverts so often feel their ideas and offerings are swept aside by other, louder people? Is the ability to influence other people really based on the ability to speak louder than other people?

I don’t think so. Some of the most effective people I have known were soft-spoken but relentless. They didn’t give up on presenting their ideas, wants, or needs to others until they saw the light of comprehension in the other person’s eyes.

The introvert brain is a busy brain, and when we do produce an idea publicly we have probably looked at it from all angles, teased out the many objections and answered them. Blurting out an idea about an idea before it’s fully formed is not our style. Our mistake lies in the fact that we then communicate it in a kind of telegraphic style to the world.

Here’s the problem, and I’ve seen it over and over. Heck, I’ve done it over and over. We somehow think our neat summing up of a complex issue is immediately apparent to other people, who have not been a witness to all the rich thought that went into the production of that idea.

We just give them a compact package, and then feel hurt when they don’t respond with the excitement (or at least the respect) we think it deserves. We got to that point of excitement and belief through a process that we haven’t shared, then we blame the listener for not appreciating it.

We need to learn to lead others to our good ideas, to teach them how to understand us.

An unconfident introvert too often starts with, “This is just my opinion, but … ” or, “This may or may not be a good idea, but ….” Overwhelmed with the belief that it’s hopeless to inform this person or group anyway, the unconfident introvert subsides easily, feeling overlooked and a little bitter.

The confident introvert starts with, “I’ve thought this through carefully, and I’d like you to follow my reasoning here.” Another good sentence to use, which reflects a high-level introvert skill, is, “I’ve listened to the various thoughts you all have, and I’d like to add what I have concluded.” When interrupted, the confident introvert may say, “I’d like to finish; then I’d be happy to discuss your objections.”

Since you are very likely to have thought in advance, find an anecdote or punch line that illustrates what you are trying to say. Help your listeners make pictures in their heads that match the pictures in your head. They can’t see those. After all, if you just describe the tip of an iceberg to someone, it isn’t reasonable to get mad if the person doesn’t see the whole iceberg. Would you show someone a snapshot and expect them to understand the plot of an entire film?

Which one are you – the unconfident or confident introvert? You see, it’s not about introversion and/or extroversion, nor is it about becoming either a chatterbox or a loudmouth. It’s about having the confidence to communicate well when you do have something to say.

And when you are able to do that, you have earned the right to sit back and be quiet in a group. Even your quiet presence can be influencing to people, who recognize that you can be a powerhouse of thought and that your quiet listening skills really do pay off.

If  you are an introvert with a passion to share with the world and you need help communicating your dreams in speech or writing, I’m available to help you craft taglines, elevator speeches, sound bites and more.  I can help you overcome obstacles to delivering these communications, too.  Contact me at Lynette@CreativeLifeChanges.com

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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.

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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.

Simple Gifts

Personal note

Last night I traveled through the first snowstorm of the season to give my new talk, “The Roadmap to Cherish,” to a group of divorcing women. Apprehensive and fearful about the process through which they are going, they nevertheless were thoughtful and even humorous about the plight of the person who has experienced what was perceived as the safety of a relationship, only to find that the floor has been pulled out from underneath.

Their comments made me think more fully about how important it is to nurture and learn to cherish ourselves. If Christmas emphasizes the spirit of giving, the concept doesn’t rule out giving to oneself. Or as one person put it, “Self-care” is not the same as “Selfish.”

Think about it as you acquire gifts for everyone this holiday season.

The Best Christmas Gift of All!

Are you feeling overwhelmed and undervalued? Is a little inner voice saying, “All I really want for Christmas is to be cherished”?

You can get out of overwhelm and turn “undervalued” into “highly valued,” using my simple Roadmap that will take you there in five amazingly powerful steps.

Find out how to feel and be special. How? Give yourself a gift, or nudge a willing Santa Claus, desperate for gift ideas, with this Christmas Special, which includes:

  • The Roadmap to Cherish: a recorded one-hour talk outlining the five clear steps that will show you quickly where you can get on the path and claim the skills to be treasured by others.
  • Your Personal Profile: An amazing short profile that reveals strengths you didn’t even know you had, and why other people haven’t valued them. A life-changer!
  • Deep Dive: A powerful and confidential 1-hour one-on-one coaching call with Lynette to bring you insight, clarity and freedom. During your hour, you will get some tips to make immediate changes and learn the next steps to completely eliminate the behaviors that have been holding you back from success.

Don’t delay! Value: (Priceless, but regularly$197) Christmas Special: $97
Act now!

Simple Gifts

Black Friday has come and gone; frantic shoppers jammed parking lots and then the internet to buy things that speak their love for others – and incidentally to get into debt. But do these things we buy really do the trick? Are they really worth getting financially strapped over?

I was looking over the collection of greeting cards I have received over the years. All of them I treasure for one reason or another; one of them I truly cherish. It is from a friend who is very like me – in some ways. We both enjoy solitude, and can sit together companionably, reading, without having to interrupt or be entertained by the other.

In other ways, such as tastes and lifestyle, we couldn’t be farther apart. I love dress-up events in posh places, such as theaters and fancy hotels. She loves spiritual get-togethers with incense and candlelight. I look buttoned-down and Vogue; she looks mystical and other-worldly. Heck, I am a recovering chocaholic, a taste in which she indulges with admirable restraint. We may at times resemble the odd couple when we go places together, but we are friends, and have been for a long time.

The card that I cherish (and look at frequently) shows a delightful fantasy world, with princesses in pointed caps, a unicorn dipping its horn in a stream, and rabbits dressed in livery and tooting ceremonial bugles while doing balletic leaps in the air, all depicted against a background featuring a large rainbow. (Well, ok, you have to see it, but trust me, it represents my inner world.) The wonder is that she knew this when she saw it and sent it to me.

It took me a few years of gazing at this card to recognize a truth: She knows who I am, and she likes me for it!

How often do we give gifts that we think would complete our fantasy of the other person: an item of clothing a little more upscale or flattering (in our opinion) than the other person would have chosen, for example. A gift that is a little hint, a nudge in what we believe is the right direction.

How much more difficult it can be to honor the real person, but how rewarding.

In these financially difficult times, the best gift of all can be within your budget. It doesn’t have to be a fancy object. How about a card offering to take the person to an event you know he or she would love, but you would not? You might ordinarily be bored to tears by a poetry reading, for example, but you would be generously sharing your time – and finding out more about that person than you knew beforehand. Or you could offer to perform some task that would be very helpful but difficult for the recipient to do.

It doesn’t even have to be the “right” card, one with just the right sentiment. A home-made one will do just fine to express your feelings, as kindergarteners everywhere know.

Your gift could simply be words of appreciation that you realize you have thought for years but have never put on paper or released into the atmosphere. Christmas couldn’t be a better time to do so.

The release of your positive feelings, as your pour them onto paper or into your actions, increases the capacity of your brain to have positive experiences. What could be more nurturing, more cherishing for you?

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 the heck is eustress?

Personal note

I recently joined a TED talk group, and then missed the first meeting due to a frustrating maze of road repairs that made it seemingly impossible to get there.

People e-mailed me a link to a YouTube video of one of the talks, in which the speaker recounted, with the enthusiasm of someone who is reporting late-breaking news, that stress can be good for you.

Having written a book in the 1980’s called The Psychology of Stress: From Distress to Eustress, I somehow wasn’t surprised. Nor should anyone else be who has background in the field.

Performers (of which I was one, previously, as a ballet dancer) recognize that the little thrill of excitement and even panic before a performance can be exactly what is needed to energize the performance.

The only thing new is that we now know exactly how good that kind of stress is for you, and why. Read on to discover the conditions under which eustress can improve your health.

What the heck is eustress?

Hans Selye, known as the “Father of Stress,” coined the term “eustress” in 1926. It means, literally, “good stress.” Is there such a thing?  You bet there is.

When we’re underwhelmed by life, we seek excitement in anything from scary movies to amusement park rides; we crave new ventures and exhilarating relationships. A totally stress-free life would be not only boring, but also unhealthy, and we now have scientific proof.

Distress, the bad stuff, where we feel overwhelmed, anxious, and/or distressed, is not only emotionally painful but also results in damage to everything from constricted arteries and accelerating coronary artery disease, to the diminished functioning of the immune system.

Eustress occurs when, instead of feeling overwhelmed and out of control, we feel challenged, in control and committed to the outcome. Kobasa and Maddi described this combination in 1979 when they studied what they called the “Hardiness Factor,” a state of resilience based on the 3 C’s: Challenge, Commitment, and Control.

Performers and athletes, for example, study and practice their skills over and over. Even though panic may overwhelm them just before they strut their stuff, the well-practiced behaviors take over. External circumstances may be out of control – scenery does fall down during performances, sound systems malfunction, ice is choppy from a previous performer’s ice skates – but the internal control the performer, in any area of life, has developed can be relied on.

You don’t reach this peak of dedication without a deep sense of purpose to which you are committed.

And a threat becomes a challenge when you know you have tremendous skill and decide to dream a little bigger and try a little more to show what you can really do.

We are challenged when we reach for a goal that is a stretch for us, but not impossible. We have achieved some control when we have studied and practiced the steps necessary to reach that goal, and we are committed when it is a goal that is in alignment with our deepest purpose. The stress becomes an energizer of performance, giving it both increased physical power and enhanced emotional impact.

The result is not only one of personal growth, the pride in accomplishment; we also now know that, instead of constricting arteries and shutting down the immune system, eustress dilates the arteries, through which blood flows freely. Levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the good kind of cholesterol, actually rise under eustress.

You may experience eustress when you prepare for, and complete, a networking experience, a public speaking opportunity, a promotion, a new business . . . the opportunities are endless.

So, to make the shift from distress to eustress, think, plan, practice, and enjoy. Reach for the skies, knowing it can only be good for you.

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.

Is Tech Stress Driving You Screaming Mad?

Personal note

The leaves are turning brilliant colors of gold, orange and red, and soon will be dropping from the trees. In contrast, my life feels as if it were blossoming as in a particularly jubilant Spring.

This week truly feels like the first week of the rest of my life. Soon the print copy of my book, The Confident Introvert, will be released.

The delay has been due to collecting the wonderful endorsements I have been getting from pre-readers, including Dr. Philip Zimbardo, leading expert on shyness (“this book can help millions of people”) and Dr. Nancy O’Reilly (“equips [introverts] with practical skills to turn their personality into a winning asset”).

Meanwhile, I’m off to California to discuss speaking engagements in the Bay Area, my former home.

Altogether, a satisfactory end to the year, and a promise of even more exciting things to come in 2014!

Is Tech Stress Driving You Screaming Mad?

It’s official (in case you hadn’t already noticed): technology is raising our stress level precipitously.

In fact, Mike Kushner, co-owner of a computer solutions company in Palo Alto, California, has paramedics ready to respond to calls from what he calls the “digitally desperate.”

Some of that desperation is created because the hardware malfunctions.

Since stress tends to make us stupid, we react as if we’re helpless, lost in a futuristic world of technology where we don’t even speak the language. Recently, I was without a printer for three weeks. At first, I panicked, then realized I could put everything I needed on a flash drive, go to the nearest Office Max, and get it printed out. Encountering another desperate business owner a few weeks later who was in the same panicked state, I suggested my solution. It hadn’t occurred to him, but he welcomed it.

Then there are the unintended consequences of using the technology that we once welcomed as a way to make our lives easier:
We’re driven by the “always on” syndrome: computers don’t have to rest, and they can multi-task endlessly without taking notes or developing “brain buzz.” We do need to rest.

Connected to more people digitally, we’re actually losing human connections. A Stanford University study found that the amount of time people spend on the internet comes out of time they would have spent with family and friends.

Computers and smartphones can keep working tirelessly, and never feel pain. We can’t, and we try to do so at our peril.

How do we keep our lives from being taken over by machines?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Never, never, ever, boot up a computer without having a list (yes, a handwritten list) of what is important for you to do now right in front of your eyes. Then stick to it, no matter how enticing the ads or the email titles are.
  • Set aside two times per day when you open your e-mail. Stick to this schedule, no matter what.
  • How can you decrease the “e-mail overwhelm”? By reducing the amount of e-mail you send. People feel compelled to respond when you email them; do them a favor and reduce their load. It will be reflected, sometimes significantly, in the amount of e-mail you receive.
John Freeman, in The Tyranny of E-Mail, lists some questions you should ask yourself before sending e-mail, including:
  •         Is this message essential?
  •         Does it need to arrive there instantly?
  •         Why am I sending it?
  •         What expectations or precedents will it set?
Why not send a postcard to a friend while on vacation? It lasts longer, and is more memorable.

Thinking about a friend and wanting to connect? How about picking up a phone? Even if all you can do is leave a voice mail message, that is warmer than print on a screen.

So…pick up the phone, scrawl a hand-written note, walk down the hall, reconnect with the human race, and calm your mind and body.

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.

Whose Deadline Is It, Anyway?

Personal note

I wrote today’s article in 2011, and I’m recycling it because I am being crowded by deadlines again, as I’m pretty sure you are too as the Fall season kicks off, and I firmly believe that “Stress Makes Us Stupid.” We need constant reminders of that, and about what we can do to relieve the pressure.

On the edge of starting to breathe in an anxious way, I realized this was a good time to remind myself that 90% of what we stress about is not “out there.” It’s all in our heads.

Along the way, I found out where the term “deadline” originated. It seems that in a prisoner of war camp during the Civil War there was a line about 6 feet from the edge of the camp. Any prisoner who crossed that line was shot dead. Do you know how few experiences there are in life where crossing a certain line – physically or metaphorically – results in your death?

Lynette Recommends:
My amazing friend Barb Greenberg continues her work empowering divorcing women as she launches her new project:
Rediscovering U offers a community of support and education, direction and hope, for women approaching, experiencing or moving forward from divorce.

Upcoming Program:
Finances and Your Future, Tuesday September 24th
For more information go to http://RediscoveringU.com

Whose Deadline Is It, Anyway?

There are real deadlines it’s important to meet: dialing 911 within seconds after witnessing symptoms of a heart attack or stroke comes to mind immediately as an example that meets the true definition of “deadline.”

Responding to the urgent request of a loved one, especially a child, or of a valued client or customer is another.

But then there are deadlines we obey because we are … obedient. They are only urgent to the extent that we are dependent on a self-image of a “good person” who is consistent, reliable, faithful, and always on time. Sort of like a dog, except for the last bit about being on time.

Taking seriously the request of someone who pays your salary is probably not something to debate. But there are deadlines that we obey because someone else requires it – they are someone else’s urgency. I have a friend who constantly rushes his girlfriend when they go shopping, fearful that all the checkout lines will be much longer if they delay an instant. How seriously you take someone else’s deadline depends on the seriousness of the consequences, but many people simply respond immediately to another person’s sense of urgency without asking, “Why is this important to me?”

The deadlines I was missing were all the result of a personal preference: wanting to get something finished in order to feel good about it. You may have a mental picture of a calm, peaceful time that awaits you just on the other side of that deadline. Of course, in the meantime you are stressing yourself badly in order to get to that calm, peaceful place. Why not just jump to that calm, peaceful place? You could just seize the day and remain calm and peaceful as long as those barriers, which you have not erected and which are not under your control, are in place.

Then there are deadlines that will cost us something if we miss them – lost time, a little discomfort, some money. How serious this is depends on your resources.

I almost missed a connecting flight to London last year, and stopped myself in time from stressing my body for the entire first leg of the flight. Yes, it was my fault that I hadn’t allowed enough time in between flights, so the airline would have charged me if I had had to take a later flight, and I would have had to sit in an airport, perhaps for hours. Yes, I would have spent a little less freely on my vacation because of this additional expense.

But it’s a lot better than being dead, which is what can happen to you if you repeatedly believe that life is a series of deadlines that you must meet or else.

This low-level panic takes a heavy toll on you psychologically and physically, lowering your immune system responsiveness and ultimately shortening your life.

I sat back, relaxed, and found that the winter scenery going East was very different from my usual trip to the West Coast, and quite beautiful. Focusing on it, instead of my worry, made for a very pleasurable flight.

When pressured, I’ve learned to ask the following questions: “Whose deadline is it, anyway?” “Why is it a deadline?” and “What will it cost me if I miss it?” If you can afford the cost, relax. It’s probably a lot less than the cost of the mistakes you might make, relationships you might disrupt, and health issues that will arise because of continually putting yourself under stress.

By the way, I easily made it to my flight to London, strolling leisurely from the gate at which I came in to the new gate, with time to spare, reminding me once again that 90% of our stress lies in our thinking, not in reality.

Worrying wouldn’t have gotten the plane there one second sooner.

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

Are your Bragging Rights killing you?

Personal note

A lovely relaxed long week-end with a dear friend prompted me to think about how I am dealing with my own life, as well as about my clients who are abusing their bodies in the name of busy-ness.

 
We had an urban staycation, with ample time to chat about our lives and the choices we are making. It was a time of great clarification; no vacation to Hawaii or another paradise could have brought as much peace and serenity to me.

Here we are, relaxing on my front porch.

Are your Bragging Rights killing you?

“I never eat lunch,” “I work 12 hours a day,” “I only get about 4 hours of sleep a night – oh, I don’t need any more; I feel just fine.” “Weekend? What’s a weekend?”

I hear these statements all the time from people whose body language and facial expressions show that they are pleased, even smug about their habits. They protest, with overly bright eyes, that they are just fine.

They have drunk the kool-aid; the flavor that tells them that bad things such as heart attacks and strokes only happen to other people – old people.

They don’t know that skipping meals leads to stress, which leads to craving all those things that are bad for you – sugar, fats, and salts. They really don’t grasp that these things are bad for you. And although they may have heard that sleep is necessary for repair of muscles, including the heart muscle, healthy functioning of the immune system, and weight & appetite control, they don’t really feel threatened by their behavior.

They may attribute their anxious or depressed moods to what’s going on in life rather than what’s going on in their bodies. When their memory suffers and they make mistakes, they believe it’s a temporary problem due to overload – which of course will be gone any day now. Only somehow it’s not.

Perhaps they don’t know that cardiac disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, with the death rate rising for women ages 35 to 50. I recently heard a cardiologist at the Minneapolis Heart Institute remark that sleep deprivation is a greater precursor of cardiac disease than high blood pressure and diabetes – together.

In the meantime, while waiting for a surprising attack that will finally get your attention, you can be forgetful, irritable, frequently ill, and overweight. Sound like a good life to you?

What exactly is the prize that many of these health scofflaws are pursuing so vigorously? 

When you start bragging about this kind of hardiness, it’s a good idea to stop and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What did I really want when I started out on this race I now seem to be in?
In the heat of the race, it’s easy to forget what originally motivated you.
  • Is this prize any nearer now that I have worked so hard?
Sometimes it seems as if the end is farther and farther away, more and more
illusory.
  • Is there another way to get to this same prize?
If what you were pursuing is the good life, maybe you could stop right now,
look around you, and enjoy what is already there.
  • Is the prize worth the price I am paying?

Missing key events in the life of your loved ones, especially growing children, is an extraordinarily high price to pay for success which may or may not be coming to you in this manner and in this place.

End of life counselors tell us that people on their deathbeds don’t sigh with satisfaction and say, “At last I got that Beamer,” or “My greatest satisfaction in life was that I got that second home on the lake.”

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

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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