Posts Tagged ‘self-improvement’

Motivation & Goal-Setting

December 8, 2017

Setting goals can be tricky. Staying focused, even harder. Motivation is key in setting and completing goals. Examining our desires, values, and ideals can inspire us to act and help us control our level of motivation.

5 STEPS TO HELP YOU GET MOTIVATED

Motivation begins with a choice. The following tips will help you maintain and gain momentum:

  1. Identify – Consider your core values, beliefs, and desires. How do these interrelate with your work, health, and relationships? Prioritize their importance to you. Then look for themes emerging from your list.
  2. Seek accountability – Surround yourself with supportive people. Encouragement is vital, especially from those who’ve completed a similar goal. Constantly competing with others can be very isolating.
  3. Inspire – Look for ways to uplift yourself daily. Consider posting an inspiring quote or picture to your mirror. Read about influential people and see what wisdom you can glean.
  4. Consider the alternative – If you don’t make this change, what will your life be like? Your reaction to this question is a clue to how much you value this goal.
  5. Forgive yourself – It’s easy to be your own worst enemy. Understand you will days you fail, make mistakes, and get rejected. Stay positive and keep moving forward.

GOAL-SETTING TIPS

Getting started is often the hardest part in goal-setting. Step out of the gate with these guidelines:

  • Think big – Put logic aside for a moment and dream big. Negative thinking is a dream-killer. Just because you cannot reach a goal today doesn’t mean it’s not a possibility.
  • Break it down – Goals should be broken up into attainable and measurable tasks. Setting a daily or weekly goal keeps you motivated and helps track your progress.
  • Stay positive – Use uplifting language when you’re writing your goals. Focus on what you want for yourself rather than what you don’t. Write a vision statement to help you stay on course.

Motivation and goal setting is a life-long process. As we move through life, our circumstances and passions will change. Stay flexible and adapt your goals as needed. As you achieve one goal, be sure to celebrate the victory.

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Handling Holiday Stress

November 20, 2017

From pumpkin spice to peppermint mocha, there’s a tangible feel as the seasons change. Yet, for every bit of holiday magic, extra stress and confusion can easily spoil the show. Parties, traditions, food, and scheduling conflicts can add up to a holiday handful. Whether you find yourself dreading or anticipating that annual event, consider these tips to keep your relationships happy and healthy.

  • Pay attention – Expectations, memories, and drama can easily complicate the season’s joy. Be mindful of your feelings and needs, particularly if you’re in a different situation than last year. Grieving the loss of a loved one, relationship, or job can leave you feeling sad. That’s okay. Even though it’s the holidays, you don’t have to be happy.
  • Be realistic – Communicate your expectations of others and yourself. Remember, you are only one person. You can only be in one place at a time, bake so many cookies, and spend so much money. Consider scaling things back to enjoy the most from each detail.
  • Prevent stress – Everyone has that one family member, coworker, or acquaintance that gets on their nerves. Postpone deep or controversial conversations. Stay cordial, stick to the small-talk and form an exit strategy to excuse yourself from a potential disagreement.
  • Say no – Practice the discipline of saying no to preserve feeling overwhelmed and resentful. Cherish your holiday, say no to the good and yes to the best.
  • Travel solo – Double-booked with multiple engagements? Consider splitting the events with your partner. Driving separately so one of you can leave early is another alternative. Stand up for your individual needs to strike the perfect holiday balance.
  • Plan – Reduce last-minute surprises by organizing a plan for who, what, when, and where. Communicate your plans by writing them down or sharing via your favorite mobile device app.
  • Minimize – Consider limiting your sugar, food, and alcohol intake. Avoid holiday hangovers by cutting back.

No matter what holiday situation arises, practice the art of being polite. Keep scrooge locked away and remember your manners. Say thank you, send a note, or consider a donation to your favorite charity.

Creating Your Personal Identity

November 16, 2017

Who do you most admire? Do you regularly achieve what you want? Have you thought about the legacy you’ll leave? If these sound like mature, adult questions, it might surprise you to know you began forming these answers in childhood.

POPULAR BELIEF PATTERNS
As young children, we began to form our personal identity by observing our place in the world around us. We then made conclusions about behavior, attitude, and ourselves. While this process is perfectly normal, it can become problematic when these beliefs go unchallenged and lead to distorted perceptions of reality in adulthood. Some examples are:
  • I can’t do things on my own.
  • I have to be perfect for people to like me.
  • I’m not smart enough to do what I’d really like.
  • I am/am not _____________ (you fill in the blank).

DEVELOPING YOUR PERSONAL IDENTITY

If you’re unsatisfied with how you view yourself and the world around you, you can work toward shaping a clear personal identity that can lead you to your desired vision of life. If your identity is shaped by external circumstances – like wealth, attractiveness, or relationship status – your perceived value can flip in an instant. A better and more stable choice is to base your personal identity on values and principles that you can actively control. Here are a few steps to help you discover and develop your personal identity:

  • Choose – Pick five values you desire to emulate in your life.
  • Identify – Determine what each value means to you. If you desire an honest life, write down what an honest life looks like to you. Try to be as specific as possible.
  • Determine – Consider how your choices contribute to or minimize that value. Learn from your past to help direct your future.
  • Practice – Incorporate your new values into daily actions. For instance, if you want to be trustworthy, ask yourself, “What would it look like to be trustworthy in this situation?”
  • Repeat – Work your plan and review as needed.

How to Respectfully Disagree

August 31, 2017

All relationships experience conflict. Disagreements cause stress for everyone, even those with a healthy emotional intelligence. Whether it’s romantic, professional, or familial, navigating a disagreement with respect is a sure sign of personal growth and maturity.

BEST WAYS… TO DO IT POORLY

Conflict is often uncomfortable at best, and it is easy to fall into poor habits. However, we can learn to converse respectfully and constructively disagree. If you identify with any of these disagreement no-no’s, it would be wise to reconsider your approach. The best ways to disagree poorly include making a disagreement any of the following:

  • Personal – Do you find it challenging to separate the issue from the person? Remember, it’s an idea or concept being suggested that you are actually upset or disappointed by, not the individual.
  • A put-down – Have you found yourself saying things like, “That’s a dumb idea?” Avoid putting down the other person’s ideas, culture, or beliefs. Use respectful language, such as, “I don’t see it the same way you do.”
  • Emotionally charged – It’s easy to grow passionate and heated about topics that matter to us. Instead of lashing out or saying regretful statements, take a deep breath. Think before you speak or ask to continue the conversation at a later time if need be.
  • About you – Do you stop listening and begin mentally formulating your argument? Maybe you avoid it altogether and simply comply. Instead of shutting down or over-talking, try listening for understanding. Ask questions to gain insight into the person’s thoughts and feelings. Listening is a universal sign of respect.

PHYSICAL CUES

Learn to listen to your body’s clues and dues during a disagreement. Be mindful of overreacting, or “the amygdala hijack.” Our brain’s pre-frontal cortex is the center for rational thinking. Yet during an emotionally charged disagreement, the brain’s amygdala takes control and activates the fight, flight, or freeze response. Watch for physical cues such as a racing heart, increased breathing rate, or feeling tense to recognize the amygdala is kicking into high gear. Take some deep breaths to calm down and lower your heart-rate.

Navigating disagreements takes courage and maturity. Creating a culture and relationship built on mutual-respect amidst conflicting points of view is a worthy and rewarding pursuit.

Conflict Resolution

May 16, 2017

Everyone faces conflict in varying degrees at some point in life. Because conflict happens in any relationship, including those at work and at home, no one is immune to its complexities. How we choose to deal with conflict is unique, as everyone brings his or her own personality and experiences to these difficulties.

CONFLICT DEFINED

A conflict is a difference of opinions, priorities, or perspectives, whether friendly or hostile. Because people react differently to conflict, the situation may be difficult to assess. Those who view conflict as a threat usually experience anxiety and stress, and those who see it as an opportunity for growth can overcome it and even benefit from conflict.

CONFLICT IN THE WORKPLACE

One environment where conflict is common is in the workplace. We spend the bulk of our time there and often can’t choose our co-workers. Since conflict is inevitable, there are real benefits to improving your resolution skills. Some of the paybacks include improved relationships, a smoother working environment, fewer delays in production, increased communication, and improved health as tension symptoms decrease. The following strategies will help you in your workplace conflict resolution:

  • Tackle potential conflict – If you sense tension in the workplace, take a proactive stance. Calmly confront the other individual with honesty. This could prevent a future blowup from occurring.
  • Choose your battles – Not every little item is worth the conflict. Knowing when to let things slide and when to take action about conflict makes for a more success work environment.
  • See growth in conflict – Being able to resolve conflict in relationships is a sign of maturity. Try viewing conflict, at work or home, as an opportunity for growth instead of something to be avoided.

TAKE ACTION THROUGH LISTENING

The following tips demonstrate how to resolve conflict with listening skills:

  • Listen actively – Active listening aims to understand the thoughts, feelings, and emotions behind what the other person is saying.
  • Acknowledge the message – You don’t have to agree with the other person to respect and validate their opinion. Recognize their value as a fellow human being and affirm the importance of their beliefs.
  • Know your message – Before you respond, consider your own emotions and thoughts about the situation in conflict.

Breaking Bad Habits Now

April 4, 2017

Habits form when we repeat an action and often they are very helpful to us. We form bad habits because they have short-term benefits, and we ignore the long-term consequences for this momentary payoff. The more enjoyable the instant gratification, the harder the bad habit is to break.

When behaviors are enjoyable, even if they’re unhealthy, they can release a chemical in the brain called dopamine. The habit becomes even stronger, and we continue doing it regardless of how we feel afterward (i.e. overeating, obsessively checking social media, etc.).

STRATEGIES TO BREAK BAD HABITS

Along the path to better habits, we must start by making a choice. Here are several strategies to break bad habits:

GETTING STARTED

  • Identify purpose – Perhaps the most helpful strategy is to understand what purpose the bad habit serves. If you weren’t getting something from it, you wouldn’t keep doing it.
  • Identify progression – What actions typically lead up to your habit? Disrupting the progression of events that trigger your bad habit sets you up for greater success.
  • Identify motivation – How would you assess your commitment to change? Feeling a deep connection to your “why” helps make difficult choices worth it.
  • Identify influence – Try to avoid individuals who are linked to dangerous habits like excessive drinking or drug use.

MOVING TOWARD GOOD HABITS

  • Plan ahead – Don’t trust your strength in the moment. Making a plan ahead of time for dealing with temptation prepares your mind to resist the urge.
  • Change environments – Be mindful of situations and temptations where it might be easy to continue in your behavior. This will help to eliminate the potential for a slip-up.
  • Practice mindfulness – Pay attention to your mind and body. Be mindful of the emotions you’re experiencing and what’s going on in your body.
  • Replace with good – Trade out your bad habits for good ones. For example, swap out the time you once spent overeating and use it to exercise.

POSSIBLE SETBACKS ALONG THE WAY

  • Not alone – You don’t have to do this alone. Find someone wanting to quit one of his or her bad habits and team up.
  • Forgive – If you slip up, don’t beat yourself up. Change takes time. Some days you might take a step back before you keep moving forward. Forgive yourself and keep trying.

All About Feelings

March 24, 2017

While much has been said about the differences between men and women with respect to awareness of feelings, the truth is, it’s easy for everyone to lose touch with their feelings once in a while. Yet, feelings provide powerful clues as to what we’re thinking and how we’re reacting physically.

EXPERIENCING FEELINGS

There are three main ways we encounter an emotion. First, we experience the feeling. Second, our body reacts to it. Last, we express the feeling through our behavior. Therefore, if you were angry, you’d interpret the emotion as anger. Perhaps, your body would tense up and your heart would begin to pace, and then you might lose your temper and begin to shout.

THE IMPORTANCE OF FEELINGS

Exploring your feelings can benefit both your body and behavior. For example, if you find that you often feel afraid you may also discover that you regularly experience association anxiety and physical symptoms of stress. Perhaps your heart is continually racing and your sleep is affected, these responses can have a long-term impact on your health. If you start to examine the root of your fear, you might find that your thoughts aren’t factual. Recognizing this faulty or irrational thought pattern is the first step in modifying it and ultimately feeling less anxious and afraid.

TIPS FOR MANAGING EMOTIONAL REACTIONS

Controlling your reactions to emotion takes time and practice. The following ideas will help you learn how to regulate your reactivity.

Track your feelings – Keep a log of your feelings throughout the day. This experience will give you greater insight into how you see the world and react to it.

Scale emotions – Emotions exist on a broad spectrum, so rating them on a scale of one to ten might help you look for patterns and situations that trigger certain emotions.

Reduce stress – When you experience negative emotions, tracking the methods you use to lower your stress provides invaluable insight and guidance on when and where to use these methods to reduce stress.

Stress Stoppers: Stress Stretch

February 14, 2017

When you are under stress, tension accumulates in your neck and jaw. Take a minute to gently and slowly move your head from front to back, side to side, and in a full circle. For your jaw, stretch your mouth open, and slowly move your lower jaw from side to side and front to back. (NOTE: If you notice any pain or if you have had any injuries to your back, neck or jaw, check with your doctor first.)

Set a Goal (and Achieve It!)

Unrealistic goals that never seem to be reached add to your stress level. Try setting one goal for yourself this week. Pick one small goal and write it down. Can you count it or check it off a list? Is it realistic? If not, make it smaller. Decide how to reward yourself when you reach your goal. Set a specific, realistic date to finish or achieve your goal.

Comedy Break: Laugh at Stress

Set aside some time for laughter, your body’s natural stress release mechanism. Rent your favorite comedy video. Tape a TV show that you know makes you laugh and keep it on hand for stress emergencies. Go to the library and borrow a book by an author who can make you laugh. Read the daily comics in the newspaper. Or, phone the funniest person you know!

Walking Breaks

Walk away from stress. Instead of sitting down for another cup of stress-inducing caffeine on your coffee break, lunch hour or when you’re at home … try going for a stress-relieving and energizing walk. If you don’t like walking by yourself, try forming a walking club with two or three of your friends or coworkers.

Growing Self-Esteem

December 16, 2016

Self-esteem is a loaded concept. We don’t have enough, or we have too much. Maybe it causes flashbacks of awkward teen years, or reminds you of someone who thinks to highly of himself.

Growing self-esteem means fostering confidence in yourself and your abilities. It reflects an overall sense of value or worth and filters our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Self-esteem impacts our physical, emotional, and mental health, and it plays a role in our relationships and jobs.

If you are someone looking to better your self-confidence, here are some practical steps to take inventory of your thoughts.

Triggers – First, identify what or who triggers negative thinking. A difficult coworker? Checking your bank account? Interactions with certain family members?

Self-talk – Next, listen to your thinking, or “self-talk.” What do you tell yourself? is it based on fact or emotion? Rational or irrational? Perhaps you are simply assuming the worst-case scenario.

Accuracy – Are your thoughts true? If not, challenge them. Often times our thoughts are influenced more by perception than reality. We jump to conclusions, downplay the positive, or overgeneralize.

Positivity – Finally, replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Avoid thinking of “should have” and “could have” scenarios. When mistakes are made, forgive yourself. Give yourself credit for good things and small wins.

Taking Care of Yourself

A health self-esteem translates into accepting and valuing yourself for exactly who you are, even your flaws. Rearranging your thoughts and prioritizing emotional self-care takes time and practice. The more you challenge your negative thoughts and habits, the greater the pride you can take in yourself. Remember, there is only one unique you, and you are valuable to this world!

Learning to Relax

December 8, 2016

Stress! It’s everywhere and affects everyone. Without proper self-care, stress can feel like it might swallow us alive. Why? Any time a change or interruption occurs in your life, your body, emotions, and mind react. This is known as the stress response.

The Stress/Relaxation Relationship

Having a constant or hyper-normal stress response to life wears down the body. Relaxation techniques are specific practices used to produce the body’s natural relaxation response. The advantage of practicing relaxation include better concentration, reduced anger, lower heart and breathing rates, fewer stress hormones, and less muscle tension, pain and fatigue.

Types of Relaxation Techniques

Autogenic relaxation – Being aware of your body can help decrease stress. First, focus on peaceful images or words. Next, tune in to your breathing, heart rate, and body’s sensations.

Progressive muscle relaxation – This technique slowly tenses and relaxes individual muscles. Start with your feet and work up to your head. This practice teaches awareness of muscle tension when you are stressed.

Tips for Relaxation

Pay attention – We can often ignore what our body is trying to tell us. Pay attention to where you feel stress and tension in your body.

Laugh – Watching your favorite funny movie or catching up with a witty friend can be just what the doctor ordered. Laughter lowers cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, and releases endorphins to uplift your mood.

Be present – Practice being present in your relationships at work and by yourself. Push aside thoughts about your to-do list, future events, and things in the past. Try keeping your thoughts on the here-and-now.

Relaxation techniques may not completely eradicate the stress in your life, but they can lighten your stress load. So, why not try it? There’s everything to gain and nothing to lose, except maybe some extra stress.