stress management

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.

Becoming a socially connected introvert – without exhausting yourself

 

I read the introverts forums, I watch the comments, and I feel a little dismayed. “Why won’t people leave me alone?” “I don’t like small talk, so I avoid people.” “Being around people is just so exhausting that I spend all my free time alone.” “I hate even the thought of networking.”

One gets the impression that all introverts are grumpy, asocial and even hostile to people who desire more stimulation and activity in their lives (OK, extroverts).

Unfortunately, good health and success are tied to the high quality of the relationships we form. Isolation is not.

It doesn’t have to be that hard. Fortunately, I know introverts who are highly successful in personal and professional life, especially relationships.

My friend with whom I traveled is an introvert who has a wealth of supportive friends and a successful professional life. Everywhere she goes, she seems to encounter someone who knows and likes her. If they don’t know her already, they will soon like her.

An outgoing extrovert? No, a lifelong introvert, who values her private time, makes it clear to others that she does so, and withdraws and uses meditation frequently to clarify life’s problems.

The lessons she models are important ones, because the people who “just want to be left alone” may be nonplussed to discover that they nevertheless need support, such as a drive home from a hospital after a procedure, a place to stay when their home has become temporarily uninhabitable, support for a bright idea, or even just a hug. And if you have a dream or a vision: nobody gets there alone. We all need support, and to get support you need to connect.

How she does it is a model for introverts everywhere. Here are some key guidelines.

Look for similarities, not differences.

It’s too easy to see someone else as abrasive or exhausting. Try to look for something you have in common with another person, or at least something likeable – perhaps a characteristic you’d like to have, such as a way of making people smile, or putting them at their ease.

Thoughtfulness: your Secret Weapon

Thinking deeply and noticing subtleties are real introvert skills. Too often we misuse them; our deep thinking becomes rumination, in which we obsess over and over about our inadequacies or embarrassments. The subtleties we may latch on to are other people’s negative reactions to things we do or say, rather than insights about the other people.

What about changing that to look outward and see other people for who they really are, then think of how you can connect?

My friend says that, when she meets someone new, she always looks for a similarity.

Reaching out and sharing doesn’t have to be exhausting.

You don’t have to sign up for big, noisy events, such as following the crowd to happy hour, to be socially connected.

Invite a colleague or neighbor to have coffee or tea: a one-on-one encounter in which you can find out more about the other person. You can take charge of the time, length and setting of the event.

Connecting doesn’t even have to take that much activity, nor do you even have to be physically present. It can only take a minute or so, sometimes even a second, to send thoughtful notes that are easy and quick. Keep some great stationery or cards on hand, then comment on birthdays, anniversaries, and especially successes.
Too busy to find cards and notepaper? Send one of those animated online cards, but make sure you add a personal note.

Set up a calendar which sends you reminders of other people’s special events: birthdays, anniversaries.

Special hint to make you special to others: take some time to make the message personal – for example, not just “congratulations,” but something like “I knew your ability to focus and be dedicated would pay off like this.”

Her way is to keep a list of people she knows and their tastes. During this recent trip, in April, she carried her Christmas list for next year, filling her suitcase with colorful bookmarks, soaps, and trinkets with which to delight her relatives, friends, neighbors, colleagues. All year long she picks up things that she thinks will delight people on that list. Most items are neither large nor expensive, but they are truly insightful. Her choices are very apt: at one point, she gave me a small pair of wooden tongs to fish burning toast out of a toaster without electrocuting yourself. I use them every day, and I think of her every time I use them.

Having human contacts and arranging that those contacts don’t drain you of energy can keep you healthier and happier in so many ways.

Here are some of the consequences of the good social network she has set up:

She loves to travel, and has a host of friends to mind the cat and water the plants when she is away.

She also has a number of friends in other countries with whom she can connect when she next visits.

When she needs something, whether it is a new printer or a new sink, someone in her network seems to know exactly where to get it.

And recently, she started a new small business. With no advertising, not even a website, she had two clients in the first week. Some entrepreneurs agonize over how to attain visibility. She just does it naturally – one contact at a time.

So can you.

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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.

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.

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.

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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 Dark of the Year and the Dancing Saints

As the days grow shorter and darker, I find myself mentally withdrawing into a kind of warm, personal cave – a cozy one filled with minute lights and small comforts, in which I experience a minimum of demands on me.Over the years, I have come to realize that the Dark of the Year is not a great time to find solutions to big problems, or to make great creative leaps, much less make magic.  It is more like the time experienced by daffodil and tulip bulbs, snug under the ground, quiet, gathering their strength for the big surge that will come as the Earth warms.

No use looking for experiences that will trigger answers to questions – somehow the questions you are asking and answers you are receiving never match. It is instead a time for gathering in experiences that are nourishing and that will fuel that great Springtime leap.

In the spirit of providing ourselves with soul-nourishing experiences, a friend and I went to a Wintersong concert at a church in San Francisco.  The concert itself, consisting of songs from Eastern Europe sung by eight charmingly costumed women, was a revelation.  We were told that caroling predates Christianity, and consists of songs that fulfill that human need to find light, joy and community in the darker months.

As if that were not enough, the sanctuary in which the concert was held was a revelation in itself.  From top to bottom, the walls were covered with vividly colored paintings of saints, as defined by the parishioners, all dancing together.  St. Thomas Aquinas, John Coltrane, Florence Nightingale, Anne Frank, Francis of Assisi, Barnabas, Sojourner Truth, Paul of Tarsus, Eleanor Roosevelt, Martha Graham, and more, all joined hands in the dance. Somehow Lady Godiva was in the mix, too, as were several Seraphim, all similarly clothed (or unclothed). As a friend of mine once remarked, “The Lord certainly loves diversity.  He created so much of it.”

It was a magic experience.  All of these people, spanning centuries and representing a myriad of different belief systems, somehow came together to create a harmonious whole.  It may have been pure fantasy, but it was the most hopeful thing I have seen all year.
May we all dance together as harmoniously in 2014, and may the magic of the holiday season grow in you, and burst forth triumphantly as the light returns.

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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

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.

***
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
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*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.

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