Category Archives: Stress

Does stress make you overeat at work?

stress_eaterJack is sitting at his desk intently focused on his work. He is getting a little stressed because she has a deadline to meet and he has a lot of other work that is beginning to pile up.  Automatically, his left hand reaches down to the desk drawer that is filled with food in case he gets hungry.   Is Jack really hungry? Or, is he stressed?  Continue reading

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Just BE – 7 Tips for a Mindfulness-based Approach to Life

IDo you multitask your way through life? Do you find yourself constantly making a to-do list or planning? Do you feel restless if you aren’t doing something? Do you think you don’t have time to meditate or engage in other self-care? Do you eat to keep yourself busy or from being bored?  If so, then you may have become a “human doing” rather than a “human being.”

The art of “being human” has been lost in the midst of our need for entertainment, distraction, and constant motion.  In fact, I just asked the people in one of my classes if anyone felt their lives were too busy and every person raised their hand.  And, although everyone thinks they are too busy, if you ask them to sit and meditate or do yoga there is often a resistance to it. So, we have quite the conundrum.  I can’t “be” because I’m too busy.

Here are seven tips to help you become human again.  Try them on a regular basis and notice how you feel.  You can start with just one and work your way up. Each attempt to come back to sanity will be a healing moment for your mind and body. Continue reading

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The Pause That Refreshes!

iStock_000002538269LargeThere probably isn’t anything I find more powerful or helpful than a pause.  Stopping and taking a deep breath when you’re stressed, angry, impatient, or frustrated can keep you from (a) saying things that you wished you hadn’t said, (b) sending emails you wished you hadn’t sent, (c) doing things that you wish you hadn’t done, or (d) all of the above.

People call the pause by many different names.  Tara Brach, in her book Radical Acceptance, calls it the “sacred pause.”  Janice Marturano, in her book Finding the Space to Lead, calls it a “purposeful pause.”  The authors of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy for Depression call it a “three minute breathing space.”  I often call it a “taste of mindfulness.”

Call it what you wish, a pause from your busy lives to check in with how you are feeling, what you are thinking, and how your body feels is all that you might need to avoid any of the behavior above and to help you settle down enough to let your clarity and wisdom arise.  If nothing else, it gives you time to rethink your next move.  It helps you tap into the wisdom of your body so that you take care of it better.  Instead of reactively reaching for a cup of coffee when you’re tired, you might get up and walk, stretch, lie on the floor, take some deep breaths.

A pause can help you re-center into the present moment and really take in what is going on. At work this is particularly helpful.  Perhaps you’re in a meeting but your mind is thinking about something else and you’re not really catching what’s going on.  You miss some of the main points and then you feel pretty timid about asking what you missed. I have put a random mindfulness bell called Lotus Bud on my phone that can go off at any time.  It rings and says “take a breath and be mindful.” When it goes off in a meeting, we all pause and take a breath or two.  It’s amazing how it slows things down (in a good way) and helps people stay more focused on the task at hand.

A pause can be short or long.  Short pauses are particularly good when you feel stressed.  Longer pauses can be taken throughout your day, such as when you are walking to lunch or driving home from work.  Just walk or just drive.  Don’t do anything else.  You’ll be surprised what you might discover.  It is always from the stillness that I have my most interesting, creative ideas.  In fact, when I ask people where they get their best ideas, it is almost always in the middle of a pause.

Think about times when you could use a pause and set an intention to work them into your day.  I’ll bet you’ll amazed at how refreshing they are.

 

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Habit Releasers – Mindfulness to Shake Up your World!

Feeling a little frantic lately?  Needing a little peace in your day?  Well, I have just the thing for you. There is a new book out called Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World.

It is written by Mark Williams, who is a wonderful mindfulness teacher and researcher that I met at a mindfulness conference a number of years ago, and Danny Penman, a writer for UK’s Daily Mail.  Mark has done a lot of work with mindfulness as it relates to depression and co-authored a couple of books on that topic. These are also worth a look if you have any struggles with depression.

His current book appears to be very close to an outline for the mindfulness-based stress reduction program that was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn and that is taught at the University of Missouri (among thousands of other places in the world).   So, if you can’t get to a class, you could pick this book up and get a lot of the same exercises.  NOTE:  taking an in-person class will help you understand the material better and help keep you more accountable.  Actually doing  the mindfulness practices on a regular basis is the key to finding peace in a frantic world—not just reading about them.

One of the exercises in the book I really like is called a “Habit Releaser.”  Give it a try.  All you have to do is make a deliberate choice to break out of one (or more) of your usual routines.  For instance, notice which chair you normally sit in at home, at a meeting, in a coffee shop, or at work and then sit somewhere different and new.  Or perhaps you could drive a different route to work or to the grocery store.  Walk a different route than you normally do.

There is nothing wrong with having habits but they tend to put us to sleep and on automatic pilot.  Changing up the scenery, even by just sitting in a different chair, can show you something new and give you a new perspective on life.  Be aware of the sights, sounds, smells, and feel of this new way of doing things.  Comment your experience below and tell me what you discovered!  There is a whole world out there you miss most of the time.

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Breathe, Belly Check, and Smile!

We are on the countdown to the beginning of the holiday season—Thanksgiving is upon us!!!  We will soon be faced with tables of food—things like turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, cranberries, potatoes and gravy, the obligatory green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin cheesecake (my favorite!!) and many more.  I’m salivating just thinking about it.  Oh the joy of Thanksgiving!

Of course, then there is that sinking feeling about the holidays approaching.  You know the ones.  The thoughts of days packed with even more events and activities than normal, the family gatherings with family you’re not that crazy about, the demands to be at parties and participate in things we might not be so happy about, (or conversely) NOT having invitations to be at parties or have family to gather with, spending too much money, and eating and drinking too much because food is EVERYWHERE.    

What’s a girl (or guy) to do? Continue reading

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Mindfulness Helps You Sit With Pain (Emotional and Physical)

It’s the second week of the mindfulness-based stress reduction program and some people are wondering why on earth I am asking them to do the body scan every day (a formal mindfulness exercise that asks people to systematically bring attention to their body from head to toe).  All kinds of comments are made after we do it at the beginning of class. On one hand, people say things like “It’s kind of boring,” “My mind wanders all over the place,” “The more I do it the less attention I pay to it (and I don’t like the recording).” On the other hand, people indicate “It’s really relaxing,” “I’ve noticed how it’s changed the way I relate to other things in my life,” “I’m able to release the tension in my body,” and “I am more able to cope with my pain.”

Our lives are filled with things that we like and things that we don’t like.  We feel pain (both emotional and physical) and we feel joy. Mindfulness teaches us to treat all our experiences with equal care and compassion and kindness.  Meeting life head-on in each moment teaches us that we can be with whatever is present without reacting. And if reacting is happening, we notice that with curiosity and openness. Continue reading

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Meditation makes us all winners!


But Maryam Fakhradeen from the University of Missouri-Kansas City won the book “Commit to Sit: Tools for Cultivating a Meditation Practice” by posting her comment about doing the three minute meditation.  She said “Helped a LOT; I knew I was tense but didn’t realize I was THAT tense until I was doing the exercise.  Love learning new mindfulness exercises & tips!”

It’s amazing what you notice when you simply bring your attention to your body, your feelings, and your thoughts.  When you check in with yourself, you might find tension or sadness or anger or happiness or peace.  Things could feel pleasant or unpleasant or there might not be much of a feeling at all.  Mindfulness is the tool that helps us to pay attention with curiosity and kindness so that no matter what we find when we look, we can be with it without reactivity.  Hey, then you can relax. No need to struggle with what’s happening.  We are just looking in to see what’s there.

Take a few breaths and, voila!  In a moment or two something else is happening and we can relax around that too.  Mindfulness helps us to sit beside our experiences as well as be in the middle of our experiences at the same time.  This ability to abide with our lives can come in real handy, because, as you know, life is filled with ups-and-downs coming at us constantly and mindfulness lets us ride the waves.

Listening to NPR this morning, the benefits of meditation practice are even being picked up on by business schools around the country—from Harvard to  Michigan’s Ross School of Business.  The bottom line is that “slowing down” (taking a three minute breathing break) helps them be more effective.  Listen to the whole story here. 

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Wake Up! Be Happy!

A study by Harvard researchers indicates that the more you daydream the less likely you are to be happy.  And, it comes as no surprise that people’s minds are wandering about 47% of the time.  That’s almost half of your waking hours. 

When we’re lost in thought this means we’re lost in primarily negative and habitual thinking patterns about the past or the future.  If you’re caught in the past, it’s often depressing.  If you’re caught in the future, it’s often anxiety-provoking.  Every time I teach this in one of my classes I can see people nodding their heads in agreement. We often think we are unique, but our minds are basically alike due to having the same survival and other physiological response mechanisms.

Being engaged in any activity will result in you being happier.  Put another way, the more mindful and conscious you are as you go about your daily activities, the better you would feel.  So, being present for the world around you in “real time” instead of lost in thought would create a happier you. 

I particularly noticed this today as I was traveling across the country to visit my niece.   Sitting in the plane on the second leg of my air travel, I suddenly realized my mind had been running a scenario over and over of a situation at work that hadn’t even happened yet and trying to find a solution.   As the future drama ensued (in my mind), I felt more and more uncomfortable and anxious.   Waking up to the time warp in my mind, I re-calibrated to the present.  Sitting in the airplane.  Breathing.  Young woman watching a video in the seat next to me.  Seat belt sign on.  I felt fine.   Life was okay.   Hey, it’s pretty great.  I’m on vacation!  Oh yeah!

This is what happens.  We get caught in thought, and we lose touch with reality.   If you were able to add up whether you were okay or not in each successive moment of your life in one average day, I would venture to guess you would discover it is mostly fine.  But when you’re caught in mindless thinking you convince yourself you’re not.  Byron Katie, author of Loving What Is, says  “all stress comes from believing a thought that argues with reality.” 

Wake up to what’s really happening as much as you can and notice what happens.  Mark Twain said it best, “I have suffered a great many misfortunes, most of which have never happened.”   Deal with the misfortunes when they actually do happen (and they will), but don’t waste the rest of your life on the imagined ones.  Be happy!

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The falsity of perfection.

I recently received this video that highlights the way models and actors use photoshop to hide the imperfections they have.  This one is from Sarah at diet.com.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YP31r70_QNM&NR=1&feature=fvwp

The Dove Campaign has a couple of good ones as well. This one shows you the transformation of a model in fast forward  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYhCn0jf46U and this one shows you how bombarded with are with images of how we should look  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ei6JvK0W60I.  Both a good watch!

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“The Sweetness of Doing Nothing”

I recently watched the movie Eat, Pray, Love and was reminded again of why I love Italy.  Besides the breathtaking beauty of the cities and the countryside, the food is amazing and the way the Italians enjoy themselves is contagious and appealing.  In one of the scenes in the movie, an Italian was trying to explain to an American about “dolce farninte” (translated as “the sweetness of doing nothing” or “pleasant idleness”).  I think most Americans (myself included) could use an extended course in how to master this art of dolce farninte.  Continue reading

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