10 Tips for Protecting Your Energy

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One of the biggest sources of stress, anxiety, burnout & life dissatisfaction is a lack or a perceived lack of control over our energy. When we invest our energy into things that aren’t in alignment with our goals and values, spend more of it on other people than on ourselves and/or are spending an excess amount of energy without also taking the time to recharge our batteries, it’s inevitable that stress & anxiety will take over — eventually leading to burnout and in extreme cases, life dissatisfaction.

So how do we protect it? Here are some (not always so) simple steps.

  1. Recognize it’s a problem. Identify where you are NOT protecting your energy, how it’s effecting your life and why you want to make a shift. Ask yourself whether you’re controlling your energy or whether your energy is controlling you. Without a clear understanding of how you aren’t prioritizing this or a meaningful reason for wanting to do so, none of these other steps will matter.
  2. Get clear about your priorities. What things are most important to you? In what areas are you currently spending most of your energy & in which areas do you want to be investing more of it? When what we WANT to be spending our energy on isn’t in alignment with what we ARE spending our energy on, it can naturally be unsettling.
  3. Visualize. What does life look like if you continue investing your energy in areas that aren’t in alignment with your priorities? What would life look like if you did? How would you feel mentally & physically? What would your relationships be like? How would you communicate & interact with people? What would you accomplish? Visualizing a life where we’re protecting our energy is more likely to cause us to prioritize doing so.
  4. Set boundaries. In order to protect our energy, we need to set boundaries with the other people in our lives. We need to say no to things that don’t realistically fit in our schedule, aren’t in alignment with our own values or goals, and that may deplete us of the energy we need for other things. Whether it’s a co-worker, friend or family member, don’t hesitate to set boundaries and put your energy first.
  5. Communicate more. In conjunction with #4, we need to become better communicators. We need to tell other people what we need from them and get vulnerable & honest about why we may have to say no more often. Chances are they will understand, respect and sometimes even admire our ability to do something they’d also like to do more of. In turn, this strengthens our relationships and, if not, some distance from the type of people that lack understanding and empathy for our needs may be a good thing.
  6. Schedule time to re-energize. Even if we’re spending our energy in full alignment with our goals, values and priorities, it can still be exhausting. We all need time to decompress and recharge our batteries. Set time aside each day to do so — even if it’s just an hour in the morning or at night. Determine what helps you feel re-energized and implement those activities during this time. Whether it’s reading, writing, watching television, or taking a hot bath, part of protecting our energy is allowing ourselves the time & space to cultivate more of it.
  7. Anticipate energy-draining activities. The truth is, we can’t always avoid certain tasks/activities/relationships that can drain us of our energy. However, we can learn to anticipate them and approach them with a different strategy and mindset. Setting time aside for ourselves before and after a particularly energy-draining activity is important. It’s also helpful to go in with an action plan for what we’ll do when & if it starts to become overwhelming. Approaching the situation with a plan of attack for how to implement breaks, ask for help, communicate better, etc. helps us feel more confident and in control of our energy.
  8. Ask for help. Sometimes we think we need to take on everything & to be all things to all people, but putting our pride aside and asking for help or delegating some tasks can make an incredible impact. We’ll often find that people are more than happy to help and we may even become less resentful in our relationships as a result, which cultivates more (and better) energy.
  9. Avoid toxic people. The type of people that we surround ourselves with can greatly effect our energy and it’s no surprise that being around negative, bitter or tense energy can quickly deplete our own. Do a scan of the people you spend the most time with and ask yourself if they’re adding positive or negative energy into your life. If it’s the latter, it may be a good time to communicate with them so you can work on shifting your energy together or putting some distance in the relationship.
  10. Know your stress signals. It’s important to know what symptoms you experience when your energy is being taken or controlled by someone/something else. Tension in your neck/shoulders? Rapid heartbeat? Shortness of breath? Clenched jaw? Be able to pinpoint the physical symptoms that you personally experience so you can use them as a trigger reminder to regain control over your energy.

Have you been trying to implement these strategies for awhile with no or little success? Talking to a therapist or a friend who will hold you accountable can keep you intentional in this mission. As tip #8 suggests, it’s okay to ask for help — not only with the tasks that are consuming your energy, but also with staying committed to protecting it.

Have other strategies that help you to protect your energy? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

Staying Committed to Your New Year’s Goals Long After the Energy You Set Them With Has Passed

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For many, a new year feels like a fresh start & a clean slate. And although you can make a change on any of the 365 days of the year, it’s still important to take advantage of any new energy and enthusiasm you may be feeling right now. What’s most important, though, is to accept & acknowledge that you likely won’t feel that same energy or enthusiasm every day, week or month this year and that you have a plan in place to bounce back from that.

Here are just a few ways you can make the most of your positive mindset right now and use it to build momentum & keep yourself inspired all year long:

  1. Set intentions – Intentions leave a little wiggle room for you to not be perfect, which is important. They require acceptance of where you already are while also requiring you to get crystal clear about the type of life you want to live, the type of person you want to be and how you can manifest that in your daily routine. Intentions are different from resolutions in the sense that they don’t set out to ‘resolve’ anything and instead help us gain clarity about what specific qualities or behaviors we want to possess that will help us live the life we want to. Instead of making resolutions & giving up at the first misstep, set intentions that are aligned with your goals and values and forgive yourself when your behavior isn’t aligned, knowing the intention is still true.
  2. Anticipate challenges – Every year will have some bumps in the road, both big and small, both expected and unexpected. Make a game plan for how you’ll respond to those. For example, if you know you have a trip coming up, are there ways you can start saving for it now? If you have an event later in the year, are there ways you can spread out the planning so it’s less overwhelming down the road? If you know your company is laying people off in the summer, can you start updating your resume or networking to prepare for that? Of course there are some things you can’t prepare or plan for, but doing an overview of big, upcoming events can help us feel less stressed when they approach. You should also put a plan in place for what you’ll do about unexpected challenges or any periods of depression, anxiety, disappointment, or failure this year. Who are your supports and what action steps will you take if those things should come up for you?
  3. Make 90-day goals – While it’s great to set long-term, yearly goals, it also leaves the space for us to put things off until much later in the year, possibly never getting around to something on our list or not leaving a realistic amount of time to accomplish it. If you want to ensure you make progress toward your goals early on, setting quarterly goals might be a better approach.
  4. Schedule weekly and monthly reflection – Checking in with yourself to reflect on how your year is going, whether or not you’re behavior is aligning with your intentions and how your progress toward your goals is going is an important step that people often overlook. It’s great to have intentions and to set goals, but you need to be checking in with yourself on them, too, so you can make shifts and adjustments where needed. I recommend a Sunday and end-of-month check in to review what went well and what struggles you had the week or month prior, decide what changes need to be made for the week or month ahead, and create a plan to put those changes into action.
  5. Find accountability and support – You shouldn’t have to feel alone in your approach to the new year and having consistent accountability & support toward your intentions and goals will help you stay focused long after the new energy from the beginning of the year has passed. Find a reliable accountability partner or support group that has similar goals to yours and schedule time to check in with them weekly or monthly, no matter what. Sometimes just sharing our goals and knowing someone is going to be checking in with us about them at a specific time is enough to help us overcome the lack of energy or motivation we may experience otherwise.

How are you feeling about the new year? Have you set some intentions or goals for yourself? If you’re lacking clarity about what you want to achieve or manifest in the new year, that’s okay. Try journaling or talking with a friend or therapist to get in touch with your inner values. As you speak it out loud or write it on paper, your inner dialogue and internalized desires become apparent.

Wishing you all a healthy & fulfilling 2018!

 

 

It’s Not the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” For All of Us

freestocks-org-470417.jpgIt’s the most wonderful time of the year, right?

Surprisingly that isn’t the case for a large number of people who actually feel increasingly depressed, lonely, and anxious around the holiday season. The societal pressure to feel all ‘holly jolly’ makes people who are already experiencing some level of distress, loss or unhappiness in their lives feel even worse. Mixed with the seasonal shift and the added stressors of extra expenses, busier schedules, poor eating & drinking habits and dysfunctional family relations, it only makes sense that our emotional and mental state would be heightened during this time.

If you’re one of the many people who struggle around this time of year, there’s a few important things you should know:

  1. You are not abnormal. It might seem like everyone around you is wrapped in Christmas lights and singing ‘fa-la-la’ while tap dancing in the snow, but more people are experiencing intense levels of depression, anxiety and stress at this time of year than you probably realize. People are often too proud to share the hard stuff, especially when they (like you) assume everyone around them is so full of joy, but believe me, it exists. As a therapist, I see many patients who struggle during this time of year and many who even consider taking their own lives as a means to escape it all. Despite the supposed ‘joy’ of the holiday season, there are plenty who just like you – are feeling down. You are not flawed, wrong, or a bad person for feeling this way. In fact, it’s completely normal for your emotions to be intensified now more than ever.
  2. You are not alone. When we feel like the people around us are happy, the last thing we want to do is burden them with our problems. But we’re actually not burdening them at all. If it is the case that they seem to feel particularly happy during this time of year, they will likely be even more eager to listen and support you. On the contrary, they might be relieved by you sharing your struggles because it gives them an opportunity to relate and share their own. When we feel depressed, we often assume the worst about the people in our lives – that they don’t care about us, that we’re a bother to them or that they couldn’t possibly understand. These are usually just defense mechanisms that we create to justify our feelings of loneliness and, ultimately, make ourselves feel worse. If you’re not comfortable reaching out to the people you know, there are plenty of therapists and support groups that can help you through this time of year.
  3. You are not your thoughts or feelings. One of the biggest challenges people have is separating their thoughts and feelings from themselves. They feel lonely, so they believe that they are lonely & might fail to see the ways that they’re not. They feel depressed, so they beat themselves up for it, assuming they’re flawed or a failure of some sort. They think that nobody cares about them and assume that must be true. Our thoughts & feelings are separate from ourselves. I like to think of them as clouds, just floating by, unattached to us. They exist, and they’re a part of our existence, but they don’t define who we are and what our reality is. When we can begin to separate our feelings and thoughts from our reality, our worthiness, and our identity, we can begin to heal and not feel consumed and controlled by them.
  4. You are not doomed. It’s often hard for people to see light at the end of the tunnel or to believe that they are capable of overcoming the intensity of their emotional and mental state. When we’re in the midst of a severe period of depression or anxiety, it doesn’t necessarily matter how much we rationalize with ourselves, remind ourselves of previous times that we worked through something similar, or use positive self-talk. We just feel stuck, frustrated, and helpless. But let me remind you of point #3, just because you feel stuck, frustrated and helpless, doesn’t mean you actually are. You might feel that way right now and it may take some time for you to feel otherwise, but chances are, if you’re reading this, you are also extremely self-aware, resilient and curious — and those things will help you through this difficult time.

If you don’t personally experience increased feelings of loneliness, depression or anxiety at this time of year, make sure you’re being mindful and aware of the people in your life who may. Reach out to your loved ones and make sure to remind them that you’re there for them. Invite them to spend time with you, but be understanding if they’d rather not. Don’t make them think they can just ‘snap out of it’ or try to guilt them into feeling better. Show them patience, kindness, love and support – even if they only let you do so from a distance.

I’m offering free, 30-minute ‘holiday healing’ sessions through the new year to help you start the process of working through the difficult emotions you may be feeling during this holiday season. Please contact me with your availability to schedule yours.

 

Speaking Your Partner’s Love Language to Strengthen Your Connection

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Let’s face it, relationships are tough. Whether they be romantic, friendly, familial or professional, there is almost always bound to be miscommunication, misunderstanding, difference of opinions, difference of values, and varying mental and emotional reactions. Because it’s very rare that two people are 100% on the same page of understanding, feeling, emotion and thought at the same exact time, communication becomes a very complex, yet important component of maintaining any relationship.

When we think about communication however, we often think solely of verbal communication. We try to find ways we can better articulate ourselves, use I-language, speak in a calmer manner, be more complimentary, say thank you and I love you more often, share our feelings, etc. While these things are certainly important and helpful to any relationship’s stability, we might become confused when our efforts to be better verbal communicators or verbal expressers don’t entirely fix our problems. This is because verbal communication is only ONE way that we can express ourselves to our loved one – and only a certain group of people feel truly loved through words.

If you haven’t read ‘The 5 Love Languages’ yet, I highly recommend getting your hands on it (clickable link posted below). If you have, I’d love to hear your thoughts and whether or not it’s application has been useful in your relationships.

The book breaks down the 5 ways that humans typically give and receive love and speaks to the importance of knowing your partner’s love language and speaking to them in it consistently in order to add more growth, connection, fulfillment and security to your relationship.

The 5 love languages are:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Physical Touch
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Gift Giving

While most people find that all or most of the love languages are important in their relationship, there are some languages that make us feel more loved than others and when they are missing or lacking in our relationship we consequently feel a disconnect. The missing or lacking pieces usually aren’t due to lack of care, however. We just usually only speak in the love language that makes us feel most loved, which isn’t necessarily what makes our partner feel most loved, thus sometimes leaving us or our other with an emotional void. Therefore, it’s important that we understand both what we need and what our partner needs so we can adapt to one another accordingly.

You can read more about each love language, how to determine what you and your partner’s most prominent love languages are and how to speak to one another in them more frequently in the book below. There’s also a quiz at the end that will guide you in determining your love languages if you can’t quite figure it out throughout the course of the book.

I hope this resource leads to better understanding and better, more effective communication that allows both you and your partner to feel more loved and fulfilled in your relationship.

Feel free to contact me if you’d like to further discuss this book or these concepts or work through a problem in your relationship. I’m always glad to hear from you & happy to help!

Click to purchase 

The 5 Most Crucial Steps for Becoming a Morning Person

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We know that developing a positive morning routine can greatly impact our mental and emotional well-being, increase our productivity levels and improve our quality of life. But we also know it’s a lot easier said than done, right?

As a former late sleeper turned morning person, I’ve compiled what I believe to be 5 of the most crucial steps for breaking up with the snooze button.

  1. Determine your motivation. If you don’t have a really strong reason for wanting to take your mornings back other than that you’ve been told it’s a good idea, you probably won’t fully commit. You need to determine HOW reclaiming your mornings will impact your life and WHY that is important to you. If you don’t have really strong reasons for waking up earlier, the rest of these steps won’t matter, so it’s important to get crystal clear about your goals and how an earlier wake-up time will help you achieve them.
  2. Throw out your current narrative. Proclaiming that you just “aren’t a morning person” isn’t exactly opening up the space for you to become one, is it? Focusing on how much you hate mornings probably won’t help you in the process of learning how to enjoy them. Shift your mindset and visualize yourself enjoying your mornings every night before you go to bed. Focus on the aspects of morning that you enjoy rather than what you dread about them. When you wake up, replace complaints with gratitude and set positive and productive intentions for the day.
  3. Develop a routine. We are creatures of habit, so developing a morning routine will make you more likely to be successful in your mission to wake up earlier. As you consistently do this routine, waking up earlier will feel like less of a chore and more of a normality (typically after the first month). Develop your routine by choosing tasks that are directly connected to your motivation and that will directly impact the reasons you’re deciding to make mornings a priority.
  4. Sprinkle in things that you enjoy. Start by thinking about the things you love to do, but find yourself not having the time or energy for later in the day — exercise, reading, journaling and meditation are common morning practices that help people feel more fulfilled and productive throughout the day. Think about what things might make you feel that way and schedule them into your routine accordingly. Without some form of enjoyment in your morning routine, chances are you’ll feel more inclined to skip it.
  5. Commit. One of the biggest reasons people fail to develop a new routine or habit is because they don’t ever fully mentally commit to it. They see it as optional, something they would like to do, instead of a requirement and something that they have to do to achieve their goals. This is often a defense mechanism we use to cope with our fear of failure. Try, instead, to think of your morning routine as a non-negotiable part of your day. If you do miss it, don’t let that be a perceived failure or an excuse to give up entirely. Instead, make a re-commitment to your morning routine every day with your WHY at the forefront of your mind.

You may often hear about behavioral techniques you can use to trick yourself into getting up earlier — putting your alarm clock across the room, splashing water on your face, jumping into a cold shower, sleeping in your workout clothes, getting to bed earlier — many of which are incredibly helpful and effective. But these things alone won’t get you out of bed earlier every day. You must have a strong desire and motivation, something that excites you and a routine and mindset that will help you stay committed.

Whether you love or hate mornings, I’d love to hear from you. What things help you to have or prevent you from having a productive morning? Which of these 5 steps, if any, do you need to implement most in your quest to reclaim your mornings?

Why We Should Be in More Bad Moods

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Ever feel like you can’t just ‘get over it’? Can’t snap out of your bad mood? Can’t force a smile? Can’t pretend everything’s fine?

Good. That means you’re human.

Society has made us believe that positive emotions are good and negative emotions are bad, thus making us feel even worse when we experience even a hint of an emotion that we perceive to be negative. Not being able to ‘shake it off’ just makes us feel even worse and, sometimes, as though something is inherently wrong with us. The social media highlight reel doesn’t help this false notion.

What would it be like to never experience emotional pain, sadness, frustration, loneliness, anger or jealousy? On a very surface level, you might think it sounds great. But the avoidance or absence of these emotions would actually stunt our positive emotions, too.

While it’s healthy to learn how to regulate our emotions so that they don’t feel overwhelming or out of our control all the time, part of getting there is by accepting them – ALL of them – and allowing ourselves to fully sit in and experience the good, the bad and the ugly.

Imagine if I told you NOT to think about a purple elephant. Chances are you wouldn’t be able to STOP thinking about one. The same goes for telling ourselves to just ‘get over it’, to stop feeling a certain way or to stop thinking about a pressing issue. Instead, we often end up feeling worse or thinking about it more and, as a result, a viscous, counterproductive cycle begins.

Sometimes things just suck — and anger or sadness is an appropriate reaction. Sometimes you might find yourself in a bad mood for no clear reason. Those feelings can be uncomfortable, but they’re also important. When we avoid them, we risk prolonged anxiety, depression, and more severe issues down the road.

So what do we do when these super uncomfortable & seemingly “bad” emotions flare up? What do we do when we just can’t shake our bad mood?

1) Be kind to yourself. You are not a robot. You are not going to feel positive, happy and in control all of the time. Learn that that’s okay. Be your own best friend and remind yourself to let you off the hook. Keep a mantra or affirmation that resonates with you written down somewhere to read, re-write or say out loud as needed.

2) Give yourself space. It’s okay to take a few minutes, an hour or even a day to just feel your feelings. While we all have responsibilities, we also have a responsibility to ourselves, too. Depending on the severity of what you’re experiencing and how you’re feeling, consider taking a mental health day, having a good cry in the shower or finding healthy ways to release your emotions, such as journaling, exercising or speaking with a therapist or friend.

3) Give yourself time. Don’t expect your feelings to dissipate immediately upon giving yourself some space. Don’t set limits on what the right or wrong amount of time to feel something is. Just continue checking in with yourself and reminding yourself that how you’re feeling now is not necessarily how you will feel forever. Rushing the process will only prolong it.

4) Communicate with others. We often fear judgment or feel guilty when we’re in a bad mood, but there’s something powerful about being vulnerable and transparent. When we avoid communicating our feelings with those around us, there’s often misunderstanding which can sometimes make things worse. Don’t be afraid to tell the people around you that you’re dealing with something and need some space. Your feelings are your own and you deserve to give yourself whatever YOU need while experiencing them.

5) Reflect afterwards. Once you’re feeling more neutralized, reflect on what was going on for you. Was there a deeper issue causing your feelings that you can address once you’ve had some time and space? While it will probably feel nice to have some relief, it’s also important to try and gain a deeper understanding of what led to these emotions. This will help you anticipate and cope with similar ones in the future. If you can’t pinpoint it, though, move on. Sometimes there isn’t a deeper issue and other times it won’t come to us right away. Don’t dwell on trying to understand.

I’m curious to hear about what you do when you find yourself in a bad mood. Do you try to force yourself out of it or do you allow yourself to fully experience the emotions that come up? It’s okay if you still feel inclined to avoid negative emotions — it’s a very normal reaction and you are certainly not alone in it, but through awareness and practice you can begin to become more patient and accepting of yourself when a bad mood or uncomfortable feeling strikes. Feel free to comment below or send me a message – I’d love to hear from you.

Finding Time for Self-Care in a Busy Schedule

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Work, chores, errands, and a never-ending to-do list – sometimes it feels impossible to do it all. We run ourselves into the ground while trying to and rarely stop to take a breath. We pile things onto our plate when we have no room left on it because we feel like we can’t say no. We have trouble justifying self-care because we convince ourselves that we just ‘don’t have the time for it’.

What if I told you there was a way that each one of us could add more of it into our lives and that instead of taking time away from us, that it would actually give us MORE time?

Yes, that’s right – taking even as little as 15 minutes a day to practice self-care can, over time, lead to lower stress levels, increased focus and more positive thoughts – thus increasing our productivity levels, which in turn allows us to accomplish our usual tasks in a lesser amount of time.

People often think of self-care as a luxury that only people without kids, without busy jobs or with a lot of down time get to enjoy. The truth is that self-care is an experience available to everyone that is open to prioritizing it, which is where we need to take an honest look at lives.

Many of us don’t prioritize ourselves for a number of reasons. We don’t believe we deserve it, we think we’re being a hero by putting others’ needs before our own, it gives us anxiety to not keep busy or to be alone with ourselves for more than a few seconds, etc. So instead, we keep our plates full with things that help us escape from that and we claim we just ‘don’t have the time’.

If you’ve recognized that you don’t make self-care a priority and have used the excuse that you don’t have the time (and trust me, we’re all guilty of it!), I challenge you to look inward and explore the other reasons that you don’t MAKE the time.

Perhaps you can start by:

  • Setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier & starting the day with a guided meditation
  • Taking some time to sit down & read a book while you enjoy your morning coffee
  • Sitting outside during your lunch break instead of at your desk
  • Listening to an audio book or podcast on your commute to/from work
  • Spending a few extra minutes in the shower doing some deep breathing
  • Jotting down a list of what you’re grateful for
  • Doing a brain-dump when you wake up & before you go to bed to write out your to-do list, daily goals and/or random thoughts
  • Keeping a journal with you throughout the day to write down thoughts/feelings as they arise
  • Taking a walk around the block while listening to music

Are these things you think you could implement once a day? Once a week? Once a month?

Self-care doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It doesn’t have to be a full day at the spa or nothing at all. But we often assume that it does, which is why we usually just throw in the towel on it altogether.

If we can open ourselves up to prioritizing self-care in small ways, it will allow us to see the effects that it can have on our lives and empower us to prioritize it in larger ways, too.

In what ways can you add a little self-care to your life without disrupting your usual routine? What’s holding you back from getting started?

Give yourself permission, start small, and embrace it. And above all else, remember: you deserve to make some time for you.