Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Many Facets of Grief

Grief is such a wide topic, and covers so many areas of related to loss, to define it as one particular emotion would do an injustice to those who have had the experience. Grief has many different facets. It is like the ocean, sometimes it’s calm, other days it hits you full force.  It is a normal and natural emotion to loss or change. The energy of grief is not a disorder; it is deep sadness, caused by the end or change of something familiar. This creates a scenario, in which you must now adapt your life differently, in an unwanted new reality.

When someone you love dies, your life is never the same. Coming to terms with that is challenging enough, because we can no longer reach out and contact that person. This is the most common way people perceive someone who is grieving. But what about someone who has lost a beloved pet, moved away from their home to start anew in an unfamiliar area, or suffering from a painful divorce. These too are all examples of grief, and there is no ‘One size fits all’, description of what grief should look like.

When you have a deep emotional attachment to someone, or a circumstance that is important in your life, and asked to let go and move on, it can often feel like you are abandoning everything you loved and forgetting about it. Some attachments are so deeply entwined in the fiber of who you are, that letting go seems impossible. We live in a culture that has created a timetable for grief, depending on the situation.  Then, after a designated time, that person is supposed to move on with their life, given a choice of only two emotions, sadness or happiness. I prefer using a method of balance, by integrating both into your life without feeling guilt about expressing either emotion. You can’t hide from grief, it will always find you. You have to experience it, and I believe we grieve to the depth of our love. Talking will help move emotions  through your body, enabling you to process them easier.
The human spirit has the capacity to overcome almost everything. To begin, let go of the timetable, perhaps look to professionals for guidance, but most of all, be gentle with yourself.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Is 'Busy' the new Buzzword?

It never fails that when I ask someone how they are, their immediate response is “I’m really busy”. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, is busy these days, and it makes me a bit uncomfortable because I am not sure if I am interrupting them from something important. However, as the conversation progresses, I realize that there is a difference between being busy, and being productive.
We can all find things to keep us busy, especially with social media, so spending hours on the internet, can expend a lot of our time. Then, we are scrambling to get things accomplished, so our life becomes hectic.
I had to step back and take a look at my own life. I realized that I too would respond that I was busy, but the reality was, when I became more productive, I had more time to give to myself and others. We have been conditioned to believe that we have to be doing something, every minute of the day or we are lazy. Then at some point in our evening (perhaps it’s happy hour), we have earned the right to relax and regurgitate our day to anyone willing to listen. And yet, we do it all again the very next day.
It’s almost become a competition now, who has the busier life?

 I was eating lunch with a colleague the other day, and couldn't help overhearing a conversation at the table next to us. They were almost in an argument attempting to one-up each other, on which one had a busier schedule and lifestyle. Multi-tasking has become a badge of honor. The more you can multi-task, the more accomplished you appear. The reality is, the more you multi-task, the less productive you are because your ability to give 100% to each task is greatly reduced by the number of tasks you take on.

 I ask you to stop and evaluate your lifestyle. Are you using your time to be productive, or just keeping busy? When I see employees at different offices on Facebook, Twitter, or shopping online, they absolutely appear busy as they are pounding away on the keyboard, but they aren't producing for their employers. Even our time at home can be more productive if we strategize a plan. Making a list keeps me accountable for my actions, as I can sometimes be a procrastinator. That feeds on my need to feel busy, but with a list, I can check it off and it keeps me on task.

We all have 24 hours in our day. How we choose to spend them is up to us.
So, when someone asks you how you are doing, think before you say ‘busy’, unless you truly are.
Until next time~

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Time To Reboot Your Resolutions

This month has been a busy time with clients sharing  their inability to follow through on the
resolutions they set during the new year. The begin to feel like a failure, and come down too hard
on themselves.
There is a term called the "false hope syndrome," which means their resolution is significantly unrealistic and out of alignment with their internal view of themselves. This principle reflects that of making positive affirmations. When you make positive affirmations about yourself that you don't really believe, the positive affirmations not only don't work, making you feel worse.

There is also the cause and effect relationship. You think that your life will change WHEN all your goals are met,  and when it doesn't, you may get discouraged, reverting back to old behavioral patterns.

Making resolutions work is essentially changing behaviors and in order to do that, you have to change your thinking and "rewire" your brain. Habitual behavior is created by thinking patterns that create neural pathways and memories, which become the default basis for your behavior. Change requires creating new neural pathways from new thinking, as shown in MRI's according to Antonio Damasio and Joseph LeDoux and psychotherapist Stephen Hayes.

Now here's my take on it. I think Spring is a better time for goal setting and I'll explain why.
 Robert Butterworth, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles said "People do it all wrong The worst time to make New Year's resolutions is on New Year's Eve. We're exhausted after the holidays. We're stressed out. The weather is bad. Everybody is talking about it and watching what your resolutions are." I couldn't agree more.

Still, at least half of Americans make New Year's resolutions, which is why health clubs, diet programs, and smoking-cessation clinics spend so much on advertising at the end of the year; they know millions of people on Dec. 31 are going to resolve to lose weight and get fit. They know that most are going to fail and yet we still fall for all the advertising.

Springtime Advantages make much more sense to me.

Spring is a better time to set such goals, because it's a time of renewal. We feel more
energized, it's staying light longer, and we have more energy.

Spring is also an ideal time to reassess your resolutions and modify your strategy for success, according to psychologist Stephen Kraus, PhD.

Ultimately, Kraus says, success depends on two things -- desire and the right strategy. The trick, therefore, is to renew your desire to achieve your goal and keep modifying your strategy until you succeed.

So now you can reboot your goals, let go of the guilt, and here's a few ways to do that.

1. Focus on one goal at a time, instead of several. When one fails, it has the domino effect.
2. Set realistic, specific goals, and give yourself a little reward as you get closer, not at the end.
3. Truly focus on changing your behaviors and beliefs. That will create new neural pathways in
    your brain. Like anything else, you must TRAIN YOUR BRAIN.
4. And last but not least, don't take your life so seriously. You can mess up, but don't give up.
    Just start again tomorrow.
    One piece of cake isn't going to ruin your diet but your attitude will!  Here's to your Reboot!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Why Your Brain Struggles With Your New Year's Resolutions

As the year quickly comes to an end, millions upon millions of people begin thinking about their New Year's Resolution. Finding their motivation, their inspiration for making these changes, they mark the day on the calendar, January 1st, to begin anew.

Although it is well intended, over 88% of them fail. Not because they aren't motivated, but because haven't trained their brain. Willpower is like a muscle, it has to be trained before it can operate at it highest potential. Your pre-frontal cortex is a part of the brain that is responsible for will power. Instead of a broad goal like losing weight, a person needs to break it down into specifics, like exchanging a high fat food, to a healthier choice. Otherwise, it's the equivalent of asking your brain to lift 200 lbs!! Your brain isn't ready for that heavy load yet.

I know people who have decided to start jogging, even though they haven't exercised in years. Their intentions are admirable, but they haven't trained their muscles, mentally or physically. They buy the new shoes, the clothes, put their ear buds in, and head out for their first run. Within a very short time, they have either given up, or hurt themselves by pushing their bodies past their limit, resolving that running isn't for them. Soon they are reverting back to their old habits. The better option would be to start a walking program, and work up to jogging after their body was better conditioned. Any muscle needs to be trained, and this includes your brain!

 B J. Fogg of Stanford University said: “What a mistake – the whole idea around New Year’s resolutions. People aren't picking specific behaviors, they’re picking abstractions.”

Choosing an abstract goal is nearly impossible to achieve. Your brain needs to focus on a specific
behavior in order to be successful. What this means is instead of taking one huge bite, take small
nibbles, which trains the brain to a new behavioral pattern, a new habit pattern.

So if you decide to make a New Year's Resolution, here are a three suggestions.

1.  Make only one and don't forget to take baby steps in training your brain to make the necessary habitual        changes.

2.  Write it down as a daily reminder. Also, psychologically, it holds you accountable for the
     decision you made and can keep you motivated.

3.  Focus on the positive aspects, and not small setbacks that you might experience. Just because you had
     a piece of cheesecake, doesn't mean you have to give up on creating a new eating lifestyle. Remember
     willpower takes time to build, so don't beat yourself up. Just start again. Albert Einstein said " You never
     fail, unless you stop trying".

I wish you all a wonderful end to 2013, and a blessed, happy, healthy and prosperous 2014!!

Until next time....

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Stress and the Holidays~ Created or Imagined?

Whether we like it or not, the holidays are rapidly approaching. At my local grocery store, on one side of the aisle were Halloween decorations, on the other side, Christmas. I understand that this is the 'make it or break it' time for retailers, I was in retail for many years. However, what I am observing from clients, friends, and family members, is the FEAR associated with the holidays, instead of the joy.  Fear that there isn't enough time, enough money, enough, enough.... Is this the reality or an illusion that has been created by the media and by us?

Correct me if I am wrong, but the holidays appear to show up around the same time each year. So it shouldn't be a shock to any of us that Thanksgiving is only a couple of weeks away, and December follows in it's footsteps. Could it be that we are creating our own 'stress', by perhaps generating drama where it doesn't exist? Trust me, I use to be that person. Whenever November rolled around on the calendar, I would immediately go into the " Oh my gosh, there is so much to do", drama. It was a story that I told over and over, and of course others were eager to join me in telling their story as well. And yet, somehow each and every year, it always got done.

The holidays are a time when we become the season of what I call the "Overs". We over eat, we over spend, over drink, and over think! This is a coping mechanism that we have created to excuse our behavior. Good thing we have new years resolutions!  The reality is, very few resolutions are ever kept. In fact, Forbes magazine published an article that said only 8 % of people actually follow through on their promise. So what do we do? We beat ourselves up for not being able to commit. STOP IT!!

As a Board Certified Life Strategies Coach, I have some suggestions that worked for me, and perhaps they will work for you as well.

I know that for many, the holidays are a difficult time, especially if you have lost a loved one, or your life situation has changed. You see, most of us don't live in a Norman Rockwell painting or on a Folgers commercial. The media bombards us with images of family and friends gathered around the piano singing as the snow is falling. Then we look at our life and wonder what happened to us? One of the things that I find useful when I am feeling that way, is to help someone else. This takes the focus off of me, and onto the needs of others. This immediately shifts my perception from victim to gratitude.

Also, I have learned how to say "No", without guilt. I can now decline an invitation, without having to make up an excuse. If there is an event that I must attend, then I set a time limit. I may leave at the designated time, or I might find that I am enjoying myself, and choose to stay. However, if I decide to leave, I thank the host, say my good byes and head out the door. If I encounter someone who says" You are leaving already?", I simply tell them that I have another commitment, even if that commitment is only to myself by going home, putting on my PJ's and watching a movie. It's a win win for everyone.

I also shop throughout the year for family and friends. If I see something that I know for certain they will like, I buy it and put it away for the holidays. It's small bites instead of one large chunk at the end of the year, and much easier to swallow financially.

Another strategy is to create a holiday fund. I have money deposited each month into an account so I don't miss it. Then in November, it is re-deposited automatically into my main checking account. But even if you don't have that ability, you can easily create a container marked Holiday Fund. Put a certain amount in each paycheck, and you will be surprised at how much you save. I also throw extra change in a jar. By the end of the year, I usually have over $200.00!!

The reality is, there is nothing magical about January 1st, other than it's the inception of a calendar year. Your new beginning can start today if you are truly committed to making a change. So let go of the stress as much as possible. Don't allow it to rob you of the beauty that is right in front of you. Be grateful for all the gifts that you have been given, and don't forget to help those in need. We aren't promised tomorrow, and we can't re-live yesterday. All we have is right now, in this present moment.

I wish each and every one of you, a wonderful, joyful, and blessed holiday season.

Until next time~

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Aren't We All Terminal?

In the past couple of months, I have heard from two friends who've been given the diagnosis of ‘terminal’. Their reactions were dramatically different. One is in denial, refusing to talk about it, and is suffering through rounds of chemo and all the side effects that ensue. The other responded with quite a different attitude. He said “I have somewhere between a few minutes and forty + years to live”. He made me laugh even though he was still digesting the news.

Having studied the mind-body connection for many years now, I learn something new every day. The one thing I know for sure is that our attitude about life, will ultimately dictate the ending to our story.

I can speak from experience because I lived a good portion of my life in irrational fear. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was hiding behind a myriad of masks. I wore different ones depending on what situation I was in. I had a work mask, many different social masks, and I became so comfortable wearing them, I began to believe my own false identity. If ‘they’ only knew what I was really thinking, they wouldn't like me. I could easily morph into whatever you wanted me to be. I was lost in a sea of deception.

Now don’t get me wrong, fear can be your friend. It will warn you against dangers, and can alert you when you know something in your body doesn't feel right. Fear can become your ally. It is an emotion and one that we all experience. It can jump start you to take action, or completely devour your spirit until you find yourself in a fetal position in bed. It all depends on your perception.

I had the privilege and honor to spend some time with a very good friend of mine who knew she only had a few months left to live. Once she moved past the fear of losing her life, she truly began to embrace everything, even the pain. She told me that she had left all her emotional baggage at the carousel, never to be claimed. That’s when I realized that life really is a precious gift, and every day we should be grateful for the opportunity to begin anew. Why was I spending so much time deceiving myself and other? I put all my masks in a backpack and left them at the carousel as well. Living authentically was the gift that she gave me. I am forever grateful, and dedicated a chapter to her in “The Wellness Code”.

The reality is, we are all terminal. As soon as we are born, we begin to die. Now I don’t say that to be morbid, but to jolt you into the mindset that you never know when your last day on this planet will be.
We get so engrossed in our stories, be it our past, or our future, that we never fully experience living right now. Give up the notion that you can have a better past. It isn't going to happen, so why continue to re-live it? Our future is shaped by our actions today, so it’s critically important that we show up. There is finality to the word terminal, but we all have a finite amount of days. I thank my friends for reminding me of that. 
Each of us will have an ending to this story that we call life. The only person who ultimately gets to decide what that last chapter will look like, is you.  Here’s to happy endings….

Friday, September 27, 2013

Who Is Creating Your Reality?

How do you create a more authentic life? That is a struggle for millions of people. It’s so much easier for us to slap on a mask and hide behind it, because we have no idea who the heck we truly are.
We have been told for years that we should dress a certain way, act a certain way, drive a particular car, because that is the definition of “Making it”. Well I can tell you that I have many financially successful clients, and happiness has absolutely nothing to do with what they have acquired. They feel depleted, drained, and empty. They are spiritually bankrupt! You see, things come and go, and if you have associated your things with your self- worth, then if you lose anything, you also lose your identity. That is part of what I do, teach others how to change their perception.
I have been told many times that I am one of the most unconventional coaches/counselor, because I don’t subscribe to the “Go Big Or Go Home” belief. Each person has to do what resonates in the heart not in their head.
We think we have to live up to the expectations of our family, our friends, our peers, so we strive to achieve a goal that may not have been ours in the first place. We were told it was living the dream. Well I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live someone else’s dream. I want to live my own!
We live in a media driven society, and it’s a company’s job to convince us that we have to have their product or service. We are enticed to purchase the latest and greatest because without it, we are ‘less than’. That is marketing 101, and I know because I majored in it.
Just look at the pharmaceutical ads on TV. I counted 16, in a 30 minute news show. Here’s the thing you need to understand. After only 30 seconds of sitting in front of a television, you slip into an alpha-consciousness state. It’s a state of hyper suggestibility, one that is associated with hypnosis. That is why we are bombarded with drug after drug advertising. They want to convince you that you have a disorder or disease. I mute them, because I don’t want to subject my subconscious to that type of brainwashing.
We have become a prisoner of the media and now it’s time to be released. Are you defining your self worth by all your ‘stuff’? Pay attention to why you are doing it. Are you following the popular view of the day? Do you feel inadequate without it?
If you want to reconnect with your authenticity, then ask yourself, what really makes you happy? Most people don’t even know! What are your dreams? Is it downsizing your life to one that is simpler?
Did you know that 20 % of the population is on a daily anti-depressant? They need a drug just to get them through their day. Would they still need that drug if they were happy with who they really are, instead of a shell of themselves?
Let go of the fear of what others think you should be. Reclaim your identity or at least start the process of rediscovering who you really are. Don’t allow others to influence how you should live your life. Perhaps they are living in fear, so they are projecting it onto you. What are their motives?
We are all impregnated with a dream, what is yours? You may feel fear and uncertainty at first, but birthing takes time, you can’t plant and harvest in the same season, but at least plant the seed!!
And finally, don’t allow others to stomp on your dreams, whatever they are, even if people call you crazy. Be okay with people calling you crazy, because when you finally let go of what other’s think, you can start taking off those masks and revealing your true identity.
As Lisa Nichols said “Some motivation comes wrapped in sandpaper”. So don’t be afraid to scratch the surface. You might be surprised at what you find.
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