working from home challenges answered

Working from Home in a time of quarantine

Maybe you’re working from home and it’s all new. On top of it, you’re either alone more than usual or you’re trying to work from home with other people also home…maybe your kids or mate..or both. It can get a little nuts.

Even for those of us who are used to working from home, this pressured time brings with it extra challenges. Here are some guidelines ALL of us can remember in order to stay sane, stimulated, and productive.

Tips for Working from Home

1. Do your work in the same place. Those of you home with others probably have this one figured out already. You know you can’t be all that productive with everyone else swarming around so you’re off in a designated room, maybe quite obviously, an office or study. (That might have required some furniture moving and cleaning.)

For some of you monitoring small children simultaneously, being in a central location and available might be crucial. Still, same thing: set up and “go to work” in a designated zone. Teach children that when you’re in that zone, you’re at work. Do be “interruptible” for very young children. Thirty seconds of focused attention when they really need it helps kids feel secure and we all know that minimizes chaos in the house.

I know this takes patience. If you manage 30 seconds of focused attention calmly, kindly, and completely… (and obviously without blowing your stack,) kids can quickly get a sense that there is still structure and safety in their day. You may need to educate them (calmly and kindly of course) about the differences between need and want. Remember, connection, safety, and security are needs. Plus, getting outside and taking a walk can be just as important for children as it is for dogs.

2. Go to work at the same time. Even if your company does not require it, you’ll be more productive. Announce to those you live with that you’ll be at work from X-X and taking your breaks at specific times. Then do it. On top of making you more productive, you’ll experience your work day having a beginning and an end. And it should have an end.

Especially when we’re available at home, everyone else can start to think we’re available 24/7. I have an assistant doing all her work for me remotely, and as a boss, I’m careful about when I send her an assignment and my expectations regarding how long I hope it will take…i.e. when her part is “due.” Not all bosses are going to think about that. But YOU can, especially when you’re NOT the boss. You have nothing to fear by communicating a boundary around this. You’re soon going to be a frazzled mess if you don’t.

Sometimes communicating that boundary is about your behavior. As in, DON’T answer the email at 9 pm. Answering is on you.

And if you ARE the boss (and I’m reminding myself here,) stop work communications at your own designated hour. You need time away from work. We ALL do. Time to work, time to play, time for domestics, time to connect (in relationship- with those is proximity and those at a physical distance) and absolute, do-nothing down time.

A note: Some of you are doing your essential work in finance or medical supplies or innovative restructuring and I know you have a sense of urgency for the work. You still need a break. And regular food and sleep, and some movement. You might need a hug or several. You need more than a few deep, relaxing breaths…and a shower. Which leads me to:

3. Get dressed. You don’t have to wear the same clothing you’d wear to the office, but groom yourself. Make yourself presentable. Shower. Wash your face, do your hair, and brush your teeth. Wear something you’d be happy to have everyone at work see you in…on “Casual Friday” sure.

If you’re meeting clients online, it IS okay for it to be business up top, party on the bottom…as long as no one sees your bottom. πŸ˜‰ Me, I’m definitely ditching my dress pants and heels for the home duration. Look, I’m not suggesting ridiculousness here. You should be comfortable but definitely groomed and dressed.

Because YOU know the difference.

In addition, this actually signals to those you live with that you are working. Then when you change into cozy lounge wear, it signals that you’ve left work. It might sound silly, but it matters! This is especially helpful for young children. Guess, what? Your mate will appreciate the distinction too.

General Comments on Working from Home

You are going to be subjected to more distractions: neighbor noise, other people’s pets, your pets, the dishes, a television, social media threads, and an onslaught of additional email. Who else here is suddenly buried in assurances and descriptions from every business they’ve ever frequented… in response to the coronavirus? (I know I might be one; I’m hopeful you’re finding it helpful and truly comforting. That’s what I’m here for, after all.) The three point structure above can help minimize the impact of those distractions.

Some of you are already better than others at compartmentalizing. Now is the time to do it. And don’t get mad at your mate for engaging this skill right now. He or she might be super good at it and now’s the time to engage it. Besides, all of us benefit from leaving work at work. Remember: work time, play time, domestics, connecting time, and down time.

Other tips for Productivity

These tips are good no matter whether you’re working from home or not and if you make them a practice now, they’ll increase your productivity exponentially for the long term.

Get up and move around every fifty to fifty five minutes. Even if you’ve fashioned a standing desk at home, move around. Get some blood flowing. Check on the kids. They’ll be glad you did and will feel simultaneously more connected and more willing to “allow” you to get back to work. Give someone a hug for more than 20 seconds. It releases oxytocin and that always helps lower cortisol, the stress hormone. And, it’s soothing.

Maybe take a cold shower in the morning. I can’t bring myself to do this quite yet. I enjoy the hot ones for their steaming and comforting qualities right now. But science indicates a cold shower wakes up the neurotransmitters, increases resilience, helps manage stress, and seems to have a strong correlation with creativity and motivation.

Do everything else you know to do to take care of your stress level. You might know from our work together whether you are heartfirst, brainfirst, or bodyfirst. If you ever answered the question from me about what you do when you enter a party, you also might know if your instinctual stack is first one-on-one, social, or self-preservation. It all makes a difference in the things that work best for YOU and addressing your stress.

More on that in a future blog.

A final note:

For now, (and always) be kind and gentle…with yourself and with others. Keep those things structured that can be. Rest when you’re tired. And create your own center of safety, whether it is your routine, inside your heart and mind, or inside your home.

Of course, if I can help with any of that, let me know. Let’s connect.

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Coming soon, ways to cope if you are alone in your house- with or without furry, breathing friends. And what to do is you want to KEEP DATING during COVID-19.

 

parenting

Parenting during Coronavirus

Parenting during coronavirus (stay-at-home, shelter-in-place, quarantine, lockdown…whatever you are calling it) is going to be challenging if it hasn’t been already.

These times will absolutely accentuate the positive and the negative of your existing family system and structure, no matter what age are your children.

Some of you are home with wee ones. Some have school-agers. Maybe you have a wrangle of multiple ages with bigger children capable of giving a hand. Still others of you are home with moody teens or young adults wrestling their own disappointments: social opportunities shut down, dating relationships challenged, questions about their future looming.

No matter what, it’s a challenge.

On top of it, you know parenting is one of the BIG THREE that affects marriages, right? Mishandling differences in parenting style, money management, and the sexual relationship can ring the death knoll for any marriage. Notice I said mishandling differences. Having differences is not the problem. Many of us need help figuring out how to handle the differences.

No matter what your parenting styles, even when they differ greatly, here are guiding principles you can each use and adapt for good (not perfect) parenting right now.

Parenting during Quarantine

It’s Parenting 101 all over again.

Some of you have heard me use the model that good parenting consists of nurture, guidance, and limits… in physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and sexual realms. All that nurture, guidance, and limiting is age-appropriate, of course. Not very many of us GOT that growing up but we CAN intentionally offer it to our children…at any and every age.

How are you doing with that matrix?

And if it’s just complete pandamonium and you’re thinking, “Yeah, right, Beth. Nurture, guidance, and limits!? I’m just trying to survive over here” skip down to the numbered points below. πŸ˜‰ Those should help.

No worries. You’re human. And you already have a family system in place and working or not working so well, in which case, use this time to revisit your family norms, structure, operation, and health level.

I’m not saying start from scratch and drum up All the Good Stuff right this minute under pressure. I’m saying you can use the matrix to continue to shore up your parenting even now. Use it to spend some brain space envisioning what you can do to be a better parent.

And pay attention to and emphasize all the great things that actually work. Then remind children of their positive family identity. “We prize family and togetherness. We’ll get through this together. ” Or maybe you can say “We always get through hard things. This is no different.” It is true that “this will definitely be a time to remember.” You ARE creating family memories…even now.

Above all, and in all, be kind and gentle with yourself and others. Just as much as you are able. And get some help if you’re having a hard time with that.

Parenting in Quarantine can be pure chaos

…if you let it. You are in charge of the kids, not the other way around. Even though you’re exhausted, stressed, and sleep deprived while relationships may be strained, you really are in charge. I know your brain might be in fight, flight, or freeze mode and if you identify with that, let me know. I’ve got specific tools to help get you to a more regulated state. And don’t worry, I’ve been helping people with that and more…not just the last three weeks, but for years.

Here are parenting principles to help:

1. Know that your kids are individuals who will have varied and unique responses to stress. Respect that. Honor it. In fact, acknowledge it out loud in a sentence or two even if your audience is likely to respond with an eye roll. Even teens need to feel seen and respected by their parents.

2. Everyone wants to hear things are going to be okay. (They ARE going to be okay. If you don’t know that, let’s chat.) There’s no need to overemphasize this or to fake it. Be genuine. Your kids always want to know that you have got this. You are the adult in their world. They do take their cues from you. It’s okay not to know everything and have all the answers. You can admit you feel scared sometimes too. But it’s not okay to make your kids take care of you right now.

3. Don’t neglect yourself. If you’re freaked out about something, tend to your own freak out. Call your therapist. Lots of us are doing video telehealth now and it is super helpful and safe. There are concrete skills a good therapist knows and can teach you to help address your issues and get you solidly feeling so much better. Then you’ll be ready to jump back in and be a great parent. (Of course, call me. I’m here for you.)

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Plus these important parenting tips:

4. Do provide structure. The creation of predictability and certainty in uncertain times is soothing to EVERYONE, including you, whether you realize this or not. Create structure. Order play times, designate time for work (homework, chores,) time for taking care of business, (when Mommy or Daddy need to be alone for a limited amount of time) and times AWAY from the parenting task…even if it is just for a long, luxurious shower. Or, if they are the correct ages, do get some away time when they are in bed for the night.

5. Rest. Literally, like all of us were told when our babies were born, rest when they rest. Do that now if you can. Don’t expect yourself to go, go, go…even though most of us are doing this within our own homes now. These ARE stressful times. Give yourself and your kids a break. (And remember, a break implies that they were previously on-task or hard at work. πŸ˜‰ But I mean this figuratively as well. Leave room for human responses. Keep your discipline and consequences within reason. If you’re having trouble staying reasonable because you’re just overwhelmed, call a friend, take a break, and of course, get some professional help if you need it.

A few final tips for parenting now

6. Play. No matter what age your children -and I mean grown ones too- play together. On purpose or spontaneously, do something FUN. Board Games, competitive ones, made-up ones, goofy ones, whatever. But PLAY together. It’s a great way to experience JOY.

7. Be grateful out loud. Make lists of good things. Count blessings. Say a prayer before meals. Whatever fits you. But do it and let your kids see and hear you as well as contribute their own ideas. You might not force surly teens to add to the list, but let them hear you doing this.

8. Enjoy this time. It IS unprecedented and that means there will never be another time like it. It’s new and different, which means your brain is on high-alert recording memories and experiences. Make some good ones for your kids.

In addition, Psychology Today has published the first of a series dealing with parenting during crisis. Read it right here. You’ve got resources to make the most of your quarantine.

If you’re having a hard time with any of this, related to parenting or just related to you, reach out. I am here for you.

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relationship under quarantine does not necessarily mean staying indoors 24/7

Love in the time of Coronavirus: your relationship under quarantine

Your relationship under quarantine is your relationship under pressure. Lots of it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but wait two weeks.

Hopefully by then, you’ll have seen your therapist (virtually) a time or two AND you will read and DO the stuff that’s actually helpful in order to maintain a healthy, loving connection… or adjust a strained, tense one. (More on that below.)

Maybe you already saw the video on Facebook (follow me there if you don’t already) from last Friday talking about how this time has people responding differently because of the way they’re made and the way they process and move through the world, AND because of their unique core issues.

Stressful times can trigger those core issues very differently for members of a couple. Those responses can highlight differences in a way that doesn’t always feel so great when there’s a very real looming threat like coronavirus. Just when you need one another, tension in relationship can increase. Nothing like a pandemic to tax the strength of any relationship! And if you’ve already got issues, well then, here’s help:

First move for a relationship under pressure

Honestly, make an appointment with your therapist. Yes, I am available and currently very effectively continuing to meet with clients online.

If you feel nervous about online therapy, let’s chat. I’ve been doing it successfully for years. Even if you aren’t tech savvy at all, you’ll likely be surprised just how little time it takes to settle into this, experience it as truly meaningful, and get as much from it as you would an office visit. Some of my clients have even reported that it’s easier and more focused.

For me, both personally and professionally, especially during this time of Shelter in Place in Cincinnati, I take seriously our civic contribution to move as little as possible. We’re meeting online because we can, it works, and it is the right thing to do for the greater good. (For those of you who know my work, that’s the Gentle, Benevolent Observer in action on a large scale.)

Back to your relationship under quarantine.

1. A skilled relationship expert can help you clarify, communicate, and manage whatever is going on for you…and between the two of you. She knows how each of you is made, how you process, and what tools will work best for you individually and as a couple for facing your exact challenges, especially under pressure.

We got you. We are trained for this. It’s what we do all the time. Call your therapist.

AND if I’m your therapist or you want to see if I will be yours, call ME.

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2. Secondly, your relationship, even now, needs some space. You’re gonna need some clear communication, some real intimacy, some teamwork, and some space.

Plan it.

Don’t wait until one of you is brimming over with irritation or feeling stuffy, smothered, and claustrophobic trapped in your house. We don’t want there to be any “finally erupting in anger.” Don’t wait. Know that you are going to naturally need a break from interaction and intensity and that it’s a good thing.

Also, don’t let those daily irritations pile up. Those sighing expressions, eye rolls, facial masks, and body language all communicate something even if you’re “holding your tongue” so to speak. Be sure ALL your communication is something helpful, kind, and true. (Not just one of those things, either: all three.)

That can be hard when things are getting TRIGGERED for you individually. That brings me to…

3. Tend to your personal issues. They’re yours. Some of you know really well how to take responsibility for them, to address them, and take care of yourself in a way that helps (and does not hurt) yourself or the relationship.

Some of you need a counselor to help with that. Or you’re currently working with one. Get in for an individual session. In the meantime, do everything you already know to manage your own issues, your own stress, and your own triggers

Is it take a walk? Take three deep breaths? Do some tapping and releasing? Do you need to journal it out? Meditate? Call a friend? Send a letter or email? Work out? Stay in touch with a support group?

Do it.

And if COVID-19 circumstances are challenging, get creative. Of course, reach out virtually. Host an online party. There are lots of online platforms available for that as well.

Don’t have the right workout equipment at home? Lots of workouts available online will have you using alternate equipment for weights, blocks, straps, and other stuff. Improvise. You have amazing flexibility, adaptability, and creativity. Now’s the time to use it.

Got an old addiction, habit, or tendency? I’m not saying this is the time to quit smoking or stop drinking entirely…but it might be. For anyone else tempted to mitigate your stress with alcohol, food, or some other unhealthy obsession, do everything you need to do to stay focused on your overall health. It’s that Gentle, Benevolent Observer part of you getting some exercise and growing bigger even now, in fact, especially now.

4. Make a Schedule

Some routine and structure is good for all of us. If you’re home with kids, they need this. If you’re suddenly working from home, you gotta set some limits on how much you work. More details on upcoming blogs discussing Parenting in the time of Corona and Suddenly Working from Home in the next days.

In your relationship, maintain some structure.

Is Wednesday night date night? Keep it. Dream up ways to make it special. Even if you have kids at home, structure this around their sleep, or if they are old enough (and game) let them be your servers at the home restaurant, or let them enjoy their own treat-time downstairs while Mom and Dad are alone together in the dining room, dancing in the living room, or settling in with a movie. (By that time, maybe the young ones can join for the movie…or maybe it’s bedtime for them!)

Is Saturday hiking time? Do it, even if you have to walk closer to home. The two of you can hold hands, you just have to stay 6 feet away from everyone else you meet (or not in your household.)

Let your days be structured. And stick to it.

Don’t let Quarantine disrupt your relationship

No matter how you do it, don’t waste your quarantine. The two of you are made, move through the world, and process differently. You are each going to face this challenge a little differently. It really can be a time of greater intimacy, connection, and learning in your relationship. Or it can add to the aggravation, irritation, and ultimately cement a super-unhappy memory.

You got this.

And when you don’t, call. I’m here for you.

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perseption is everything reframe for relief

Cognitive Reframe to the Rescue

Cognitive reframe is not just a psychotherapy term. It is that. But it’s more. You can actually do it with your masterful mind and FEEL better. It’s sort of like magic. Or ninja neuroscience.

Here’s how to engage a cognitive reframe: you notice how you’re thinking about a thing: “oh my God, there’s no toilet paper! What will we do?!” For example.

You don’t label that thought. It’s not bad or good. You just notice that’s the way you’re thinking about it and then ask yourself, “Is there another way to think about this?”

The answer is, yes.

You frame it differently in order to have a different impact. For instance, “Wow, someone else has A LOT of toilet paper. I wonder what that stack looks like in their house?”

This is not a joke, although some of you might be smiling. I get that. Those of you who own the toilet paper right now, you’re probably definitely smiling.

This is also not a value judgement about whether you TP hoarders really need ALL.That.TP. This is for everyone else looking at that empty shelf who might actually be in danger of resorting to wash cloths and having a moment of sheer wonder, anxiety, and possible almost-panic. It’s okay. Don’t worry; that feeling can happen to ANY of us. There’s no judgement.

Another cognitive reframe:

There’s nothing wrong with wash cloths.

In fact, they don’t leave TP pilling. (Most of us think that’s a good thing.) And they are reusable. They worked for hundreds of years.

Does anyone remember cloth diapers? Hullo? They have always been a good thing for the environment and very effective in helping the littlest bums learn to hold the pee for the little potty.

When I think cognitive reframe, I think creativity

Know what? You don’t have to actually believe and invest in your reframe, you just have to consider it as a possibility. It loosens the death grip on your ONE WAY of seeing a thing and helps ease the associated suffering: anxiety, heartache, depression, grief. Whatever ails you.

Know who’s good at this?

Kid-minds.

They’re flexible and imaginative and don’t put ALL the stock in the first way of seeing things. Try it. Put on your best kid-mind and dive in. You can do this with anything.

A Cognitive Reframe Story

Some of you know I love a good story. Here’s one: Monday, working from home, I thought I’d do the responsible (and prudent) thing and I ordered some grocery supplies on line. Things like face wash and body wash, mouth wash and deodorant: things no one else will care about so much (except my honey) if I am endlessly working from home. But I care about these things!

(Apparently I have plenty of toilet paper, but not an abundance of run-of-the-mill cosmetic supplies.)

So, I ordered online for delivery. All the cosmetic supplies and frozen vegetables, which, if you know me at all, is almost blasphemy. Fresh is my mantra. But: wrong face scrub, no veggies, sample size pit-juice, and, to top it off, the shopper picked himself up a box of brownie mix which I never ordered, I did pay for, and I did not receive because he obviously took them home as a tip for his less-than-stellar job as my personal shopper. (I really did NOT order brownies! Honestly. I’d make those from scratch… most of the time.)

Of all the things to surreptitiously add to a grocery order!

At any rate, the order was such a fail, I braved the store myself the next day.

And purchased $276 worth of food, beverages, and supplies to get me through at least a month if I were to be quarantined all by myself in my house.

Which is not happening anyway, btw. I’m not quarantined nor will I shelter in place all by myself. There’s My Honey for company (which is not his real name.) And the cat (also not his real name.)

Fast forward to the grocery shelves.

Yes, there were vacuous, bare, clean racks with NOTHING on them where the meat and seafood usually are, where there used to be dairy and bread and paper products.

But do you know what my cognitive-reframing-trained brain did?

It got creative.

What other protein can I introduce?Β  There WAS packaged meat, just not the freshly cut stuff.

I even remembered to buy sauerkraut, potatoes, and (chicken) sausage in order to celebrate St Patty’s Day with “bangers and mash.”

Personally, I shrug at bread since I consume so little of it, being gluten sensitive, but whole wheat crackers fit that bill nicely.

I bought not-my-brand decaf coffee and chose organic microwave popping corn since all the families with kids off school obviously absconded with the other stuff and the overwhelming sense I had was of…

ABUNDANCE!

I have enough, I am enough, I do enough.

Oh my word! There were some empty shelves, but there were aisles and aisles and aisles and plenty of lush, fresh produce, and multiple choices of real food just waiting to be loaded into my cart and organized in my pantry.

And guess what? There was still PLENTY when I left it behind, despite the fact there were so many shoppers in the store, dutifully staying 6-feet apart, allowing turns choosing similar items and lining up with some distance between carts to check out.

Makes me wish I owned stock in Kroger, Cub Foods, Byerly’s, Lund’s or Whole Foods!

Made me proud of us as humans!

We can feed the world, people. And make toilet paper galore. And replace the paper towels that sold out! I hear that PnG (right here in Cincinnati) is thinking flexibly about all kinds of anti-microbial products and sanitizing solutions they will sell to us this year!

For EVERY negative, there is a positive reframe

This is not just half-empty, half-full rigmarole. It actually matters. There is always a different way to look at the darkest thing you’re considering. And it does not need to be related to these unprecedented, strange times. It applies to your relationship. To your parenting. Your money. To your food, your sister, your workplace, your circumstances, your self-imposed, silly limits, and every single other thing that troubles you today.

And if you can’t see the alternative just by getting creative, or you’re having trouble thinking flexibly, call your therapist. Or me. We want to help you. We’ve got ninja magic neuroscience tricks up our sleeves that work. Cognitive reframing is just one of them.

Be well. Be safe. Get in touch. Follow on Inst or FB. Join the Insiders so I can send you Love Letters . Reach out for contact or an appointment. I’m here to help.

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peace comes from faith not fear. learn to handle fear

Handle Fear Itself

The way you handle fear just might be your biggest challenge in life. Not just right now, but in absolutely everything at all times. In fact, it might be the only challenge that really matters. (Well, that and managing shame, the other troubling emotion but even shame does not paralyze in quite the same way as fear. It’s not as contagious, for starters. More on that in a later blog post.)

When Franklin D. Roosevelt said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” he knew what he was talking about. It applies today. And yes, it does apply to fear around our money as FDR meant when he said it in his first inaugural address.

Now is a great time for people NOT to panic about the economy and about their money. History bears this out time and again: those who resist the panic and keep their wits about them are the ones who get the real pay off in the end. Especially when it comes to economic things.

No matter what you apply it to: health, relationship, wealth…everything we do is either in faith or in fear.

I mean it. Every single step, every move you make, every vow you take (sorry, I distract myself with song lyrics.) But it’s still true; it’s ALL fear or faith.

Every single thing you confront today is either done in faith or fear. You are moving through life in faith or in fear. Going to work, driving your car, flying on a plane, submitting that work proposal, trying to improve your health, talking about that thing with your boss, your mate, your sister, or your dad.

I guess you can be doing something in a trance as well, unconsciously. Yet underneath it, even your subconscious is in faith or fear.

It matters.

Facing Fear

When handling fear, you don’t need to shout it down or summon angels for help or start a war. That really just makes it worse. It’s like struggling in quick sand. Exactly the opposite of what helps.

Fear is just fear. It’s an emotion. It’s just like every other emotion. And that means you can notice it, say to yourself, “hmmm, that’s interesting” and allow it. Breathe. Let it go.

Just like every other emotion, fear gets more powerful and bigger the more space you give it. What you focus on amplifies. Every troubling nuance, when given attention, becomes something bigger and more troubling.

Good news: when you focus on all the good stuff, that grows too. Including faith. And faith is NOT just an emotion. πŸ˜‰

Faith is actually a bit meatier. Now, I’m not meaning this in any kind of religious or spiritual sense. I don’t have to be talking from that perspective for this to be real because this is a truth that exists in the secular, human psychology perspective as well. It’s just true. (But if you have a religious or spiritual relationship with faith and perspective, you might already know what I’m talking about. And go ahead, draw on that as you reflect on this if it helps.)

Faith is more powerful than fear. You just need a tiny little bit of the stuff for it to grow. More than an emotion, faith is the expectation of things hoped for. In fact, one text calls it “the evidence of things not seen.” Did you hear that? Faith itself is the evidence of things not seen. Because the faith exists, (the positive belief, shall we say) the unseen thing actually IS. More than an emotion, faith is a state of being.

You’re either stuck in the emotion of fear or you’re in a state of faith.

Managing Fear with Faith

Making this distinction takes power from fear and gives it to faith. Think of fear simply as an emotion and faith as your chosen state of being and you are well on your way to complete freedom from the paralyzing effects of fear, my friend.

It’s that simple.

You know how to manage your emotions.

They’re just feelings you HAVE, and just like any other feeling you have, they will change. So you can tolerate the not-so-fun ones in the moment. They will change. Even the really hard ones based on real crappy things…like learning a mate cheated, or getting dumped, or losing a job, or having a loved one die… I mean those things truly hurt, AND those painful emotions do not stay as intense forever without your help.

Some of you know how to tolerate your pain, not just manage your emotions and that is a very necessary skill. Especially when the thing you feel is pretty unpleasant. And let’s face it, sometimes fear can be pretty intense and grab hold of you. It can seem once you’re in its grip, you’re trapped. But that’s not true.

Handle Fear Intentionally

Concentrate on the good. Count blessings. Garner joy. Repeat the positive. Avoid negatives and catastrophizing. In like fashion, avoid mockery and derision, conspiracy, and complaint. These are all quite a waste of your time and bring fighting energy to a thing that really doesn’t need to be a struggle.

Choose faith. On purpose. Adopt a few soothing mantras if you need them. “Everything’s gonna be all right.” I believe in goodness. “Good things will come of this.” All shall be well.

No matter what phrase or phrases you choose, keep them around and bring them out as a habit, not just when things look dark or threatening. Notice the difference they make.

One woman I see often in the shared lavatory of my office building obviously experiences a lot of fear. She’s always worried about something: the weather, the roads, the soap dispenser, the flu. Her constant mantras are definitely affecting her overall mood, health, movement, and experience in life.

Adopt some positive ones and make them a habit. You’ll reap the benefit of those as well.

Handle Fear with Your Brain

It’s amazing how research and clear thought can keep gnarly emotions at bay. Some of you #brainfirst people already know that. (The downside we talk about sometimes in therapy is too much intellectualizing, too much “thinking your feelings” when those puppies were meant to be felt, enjoyed, and even shared, producing connection, intimacy, and interdependence.)

But at times when the fear factor threatens to overwhelm, there’s nothing like good rationale and clear thinking for truly clearing the clutter and helping one breathe and get back to balance. Take, for example, this Washington Post article explaining why it’s so crucial to slow our movement at times when a virus is on the loose. Good research, informed thought, and measured response help all of us make good decisions and formulate a plan.

And when you’re feeling fearful, having a plan is comforting.

Handle Fear with Movement

That’s right. Move your body. (And if you’re slowing your movement to help slow the spread of coronavirus, move your body within those parameters. I’m heading to pick-up that Kroger order later, for example. I’m not going into the store…because I don’t need to. )

So, if you are slowing your movement, working from home, suddenly with kids home from school, think about your movement and making it intentional. Plan to exercise in the house. Or go out for a walk or run and don’t stop for a chat with the neighbor. Wave. Smile. These are good.

Clean, de-clutter, and organize some more. Knock yourself out and disinfect. Again. Physical movement like this can increases hopefulness, add to lightness of being, keep you from getting cabin fever, and underscore a sense of control.

Just check with yourself to be sure the ways you are moving within your own parameters really ARE serving you, helping keep you measured and well, and feeding your faith, not the fear. There’s no need to be frantic in these movements either.

There you have it. Go with faith, my friend. As much as you are able. And then the rest of the way, when you’re having a hard time with faith, be comforted. You’re not alone. We are in this together. (And that goes for ALL of life, not just virus-time.)

As always, let me know if I can help. I’m here for you. And because I truly believe it is the most responsible and community-minded action, I’ll be seeing you in my virtual office for now. Don’t worry; you’re going to like it too. Plus, I’m here at the blog, on Facebook, and on Instagram…and just a phone call or email away.

Keep the faith. Chin up. Rely on your brain. Move intentionally. You got this.

freedom in personal growth through self-acceptance

Personal Growth; it’s human

Personal growth is one of those “given drives” of humanity. You don’t have to work hard at it. And yet, most of us do. (Especially faced with crisis: divorce, break-up, infidelity, death, financial pinch, job change, that extra ten pounds after the holidays STILL not moving after the whole month of January.) We really strive. We work harder. (And sometimes we give up and reach for the chocolate.)

Sure, we get somewhere. We make some progress. Things shift over time. But sometimes that happens despite our efforts and working real hard and not actually because we are giving our attention to the right things. Also, next year or next month we might be on to the next great workout plan or the umpteenth diet. Or talking about the weight or the need to get in shape but doing nothing about it. That too. But it doesn’t need to be that way.

Take for example, a seed, planted in good soil. It just needs light, water, and time. It needs to BE left to grow in that beautiful (and just-right-for-it) environment. It needs to not be scooped up and checked on every day or shouted at to GROW. It does not need to be doused with water every single hour or screamed at to GERMINATE!

Personal growth is like that too.

We grow and change and move all the time.

We were made for personal growth.

And yet many of us stress ourselves to the max trying to make it happen! (Um, I speak from experience…hence, I CAN speak.)

Did you see my quote on FB and Insta: What if working on yourself doesn’t work? Crazy idea, right? And yet, it’s true. Sometimes the harder we push the sweatier we get…but we get no better.

Just like that perfect little seed, which in the right conditions, will germinate, sprout and grow incredibly strong, we humans just need to foster the right conditions for our own growing.

It just takes the right environment.

That does not mean become a hermit. It does not mean you need to cloister yourself away or go to an ashram. You don’t need to meditate more or do more yoga or eliminate monkey mind or lie prostrate and say ten “Hail Marys.” Some of those things, in the right spirit, may indeed bring good effects.

In the spirit of more striving and doing and trying, they do harm.

That does not mean we should clear out all the “low-class friends” and all our substandard stuff, nix our connections with family and break up with the boyfriend!

It doesn’t mean we need to get hypervigilant or legalistic about what we consume or say or see.

It means we stop doing the things that actually accentuate our own suffering.

That means you stop shouting at the sweet little seed of YOU that’s in the already fertile ground of life! Stop demanding with your loud, impatient shouts that you GROW or ARRIVE or FIGURE IT OUT or TRY HARDER.

Dang, that’s so harsh.

Be nice to yourself. Be kind. Be gentle.

Lighten up.

You’re already pretty amazing. Like that tiny little seed, you have all the DNA and information IN YOU already to grow into what you were intended to be!

Anyone know that scripture regarding having the faith of a mustard seed being ALL the faith you need?! It’s kind of like that. It’s ALL already in there.

But we make things harder for ourselves.

Why?

Because, rock bottom, we actually believe we have to DO more and BE more and TRY harder, GIVE more, and STRIVE in order to EARN it…whatever IT is.

But we don’t. You don’t have to DO more. You do enough. You don’t have to be more. You ARE enough. Trying so hard and giving more or proving something or earning it mean nothing. You are on the planet and you are human. You are HERE for heaven’s sake.

And that is enough.

Give yourself a little credit.

Carl Rogers, a founding psychologist once said in his book, On Becoming A Person, β€œThe curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

And you’ve heard my Love Equation (TM) because it is the absolute FOUNDATION of all my work, my practice, my approach to helping, to my life and my movement in the world: Love is to See accurately, Understand (deeply) and Accept unconditionally.

Then and only then can real personal growth happen.

So don’t yell at the tiny seed of you or the germinating you or the sprouting you, the seedling, the juvenile or young adult you. Just enjoy the process. Set the course for where you want to go and then believe that you will get there.

Ask the gentle “how” questions along the way, not the pressing analysis and demanding definition questions “why” and “what.” Then wait. Allow the answer to come. Let the growth and the change you want happen naturally. Because the right conditions for such change…any change you wish to make… truly do begin with seeing yourself accurately, understanding your humanity, and offering yourself unconditional, warm regard.

  1. Gentle up
  2. Believe that you will grow and that you are enough
  3. Decide where you want to end up and then
  4. Reach for the sun in that direction.

You will GROW. And you’ll be surprised; it really is amazing how quickly and easily things change when you aren’t striving so hard.

Need help? I coach people through this all the time. I’d love to hear how it’s going for you and let you know how I can help.

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stay motivated by changing your inner dialogue

Staying Motivated

There IS a secret to staying motivated and it is completely within your control. That’s the good news. Putting the secret to work to benefit you takes just a little conscious effort on your part. (For you super-lazy people, that’s the bad news.)

For the rest of us, staying motivated is actually easier than you think right now. And sure, some of your “anchor” reminders or aspirational images truly may help you focus on where you’re going. I won’t say that’s complete hogwash. After all, I am often caught saying “we have in our lives exactly what we believe we deserve.” And I stand by that. So those anchors and aspirational images actually do help you envision what you deserve…as long as they are not accompanied by an inner dialogue that completely negates everything they stand for.

If you look at that anchor photo of the beautiful house you will afford, or the lovey-dovey couple joyously cavorting on the beach in their elder years, or the svelte model in the exact jumpsuit you have hanging in your closet waiting for you to drop 15 pounds…and you say to yourself “fat chance, sucker, who do you think you are? That’s not you; you’ll never get there…”

…well, it’s not the image or anchor that needs to change. It’s your inner dialogue that needs to adjust so your motivation has some staying power! And the key to staying motivated is shifting your inner dialogue.

Shift the Inner Dialogue to stay motivated

Psychology Today did an article on Silencing your Inner Critic several months ago. Since I keep the magazine in my lobby at Luwandi Counseling and Coaching here in Cincinnati, I observe what people pick up. Other issues have been recycled, but reprints of that one article has been requested more than any other.

Maybe part of the reason is that I talk about this in sessions. It relates to being gentle, (a theme song everyone who knows me hears over and over) and it’s one of the best ways to stay motivated when the rest of therapy (or life) is a struggle.

Why on earth are we hard on ourselves?

Many of us think it’s what actually gets us motivated and moving. That’s rarely authentically true. Usually there is fear under the harshness and well, fear just is NOT as good as faith (or love and respect.) Ask any kid who ever had a harsh parent.

Did that harshness really engender respect and make any child a better person? I have met adults who heard that harshness and gritted their teeth and vowed to prove that parent, coach, or teacher wrong! But it was anger that motivated, not the harshness itself.

Sure, I’ve had clients who internalized the harshness and passed that harshness, critical, and bitter bile onto their children, hurting the generation to follow. But no one was better for it.

And yes, fear keeps us running for a while. All of us have imagined wolves or rabid dogs (of some sort) chasing and nipping at our heels and it DID keep us moving and striving. But it’s exhausting after a bit. It’s super exhausting after years… or decades.

It’s time you put down the harshness and fear and realized it just does not serve you anymore.

There is a better way!

Shift your inner dialogue from harsh to caring (not permissive or anything goes, don’t worry!) I know at first it can feel like you’re hiking cliff-side without guard rails, but You have Got this! (I say that even though I secretly think that phrase is so overused!)

But seriously… get a hold of yourself, keep your eyes in front of you. Resist the fear and just proceed one step after the other.

Notice when your inner dialogue gets harsh. It happens any time you call yourself names, when you disparage your efforts, or label your behavior as worthy of disdain. First notice, and then replace it with something you can believe.

Replace the inner critic with a Cheerleader

I’m talking the kind of cheerleader you can believe. Which means you don’t go from zero to a thousand if your mind is just going to laugh at you. Begin in gentle increments. But begin.

You’re not an idiot. You’re not a slob or gross or a klutz or hopeless. Start with easy phrases like “you got this” if you can believe it. Encourage yourself with soothing, encouraging phrases you might tell a small child. Cheer yourself with things you’d say to a very dearest friend. Be GOOD to you.

Just a note

Yes, being good to you IS different than being indulgent. In my office, I like to talk about waking up your true self, the “Gentle, Benevolent Observer” who is really your higher self, your higher consciousness, the higher self, your functional adult…all the same part of each of us as humans. You’ll recognize her when she acts like her name. You’ll know him when he shows up performing the duties his name describes. Get in touch with THAT part of you. It’s the YOU who prevails, succeeds, breaks habits, makes new ones, and reaches the goals your heart desires.

Need help with that? Of course, reach out. Shoot me a message on the contact page or JOIN the Insider’s Club and get my Love Letters.

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