Archive for May, 2009

Do You Yoga

My wife is an avid yoga practicer( I guess that’s what you call it). She performs yoga almost every night and says it really makes her feel better. She read the 10 rules to yoga to me the other day but I forgot them I really need to get a copy as a lot of the rules or mantra of yoga was really right along my core thought processes.

I’ve been thinking of taking up yoga, but I’m a little scared. Not that my kid will laugh at me, even though he will. I’m more concerned that I will not be able to strike the yoga poses correctly I guess I could give it a shot and see if it could help my health. I’m not in bad health but there are definitely areas I could improve on.

So what are your thoughts should an old out of shape man try to pick up yoga? Or should I keep making excuses as to why I don’t want to realize the benefits that yoga may offer me?

Where are you going?

Did you ever really think about this question. I’m sure we have all thought about our future and made plans to achieve our goals, but do we really think about whether once we get there that is a place we want to be? I’ve been pondering this question a lot lately and I recently came across something I wish I would have had years ago.

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

"Not very long," answered the Mexican.

"But then, why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the American.

The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The American asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. I have a full life."

The American interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat."

"And after that?" asked the Mexican.

"With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge new enterprise."

"How long would that take?" asked the Mexican.

"Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years," replied the American.

"And after that?"

"Afterwards? Well my friend, that’s when it gets really interesting," answered the American, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you can start buying and selling stocks and make millions!"

"Millions? Really? And after that?" asked the Mexican.

"After that you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends."

And the moral of this story is: ……… Know where you’re going in life… you may already be there.

This story has an excellent morale. We all face stress in our lives. But how much stress is self inflicted and does it really get us to where we want to be? I know personally I’ve put myself in difficult situations which caused me more stress than was worth the problems the stress caused in my life. I’m sure a lot of us are like this. Perhaps it would be better for our society if we all took a look back and decided whether its worth a big car or big house considering all the work stress many must endure to have these things. Wouldn’t a smaller house and a slower pace of life be just as good?

Albert Einstein said “Too many people buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have trying to impress people they don’t like”

This is so true at least that it something I’ve been guilty of doing. Have you?

Nurture Your Soul With Inspirational Books

No matter what your religious affiliation, inside of your body there is a soul that craves nourishment. Time spent reading material that inspires and touches you will enhance your stress management efforts. There are several authors I have found that stir my spirit each time I read their books or listen to audio CDs of their great ideas. I keep a special handwritten journal of quotes from many of these books and add to the material when I find something special. I use the computer for most of my writing and correspondence but find that writing by hand in this journal gives me time to slow down and give each quote proper time and attention. In times when I am spirit-hungry, I can pick up this journal and use these words to stimulate my soul.

Even reading time in small bits and pieces can invigorate me. One of my favorite authors, Victoria Moran, writes her books in short chapters that can be enjoyed anywhere. The first book I read by her is still my favorite: Lit from Within. It sits in a very prominent place where I usually go to sit some times per day (depending on how much water I have consumed) and each time I pick up this little book of wisdom I am blessed by reading just a few pages. I have two copies – one in hardback that I shared with my Mom and the other in the powder room that was signed by the author. Another favorite from her is Shelter for the Spirit. I have this on CD and listen to it when I am home alone puttering around in the kitchen or doing a downstairs straightening. It keeps my spirits up while I perform tasks around the house as it is all about making the home a haven.

I spend a lot of time in my car as I travel between two hospitals to see patients. I keep audio lectures by Dr. Wayne Dyer in the car to listen to during that commute time. I enjoy reading his books but prefer to listen to his longer lectures on CD. I have Secrets of an Inspirational (In-Spirit) Life in my car and have listened to it some times. Although I probably have most of it memorized by now, I still enjoy listening to it! It helps me to stay focused on what is important in life and keeps me positive even in trying times. This program is also especially useful for examining difficult life events in a different light and reframing your feelings and responses to those events.

Another favorite book is Gracious Living in a New World by Alexandra Stoddard. This was the first of many of her books that I have read and still the favorite that I go back to time after time. This particular book looks at how to make life special in each and every moment. Some reviewers have labeled this author pretentious, but I enjoy her work.

Just a few suggestions to get you started. Of course, if none of these authors seem to inspire you, keep looking. We are all individuals and enjoy different writers and styles. Just remember to spend some time nurturing your soul.

Time for Self Nurturing

Now that we have discussed some time management and organization strategies, it’s time to set time aside just for you. How much time do you give yourself each day for self nurturing? If you are like me in my corporate days, you are probably getting a few minutes each week. If you spend most of your waking time working and taking care of others, it’s a must to take time each day taking care of yourself.

Set aside at least twenty to thirty minutes for yourself sometime during the day to spend on something FUN. Just because you are an adult doesn’t mean you have forgotten recess, does it? Unplug and get away from all of those RESPONSIBILITIES and do something you enjoy. For me this means spending twenty minutes before bed listening to my favorite relaxing CD and hitting the yoga mat for a nice light stretching routine. This is strictly ME time and I feel comfortable in shutting the door and asking not to be disturbed. I started this routine about a year ago with a DVD called Meditation for Beginners by Gaiam. It has an easy 15 minute yoga routine followed by a 20 minute relaxation exercise and a 20 minute guided meditation. If you have never done yoga or meditation and want to give it a try, I highly recommend this DVD. I’ve been doing it for so long that I have it memorized and can do it to my favorite CD.

Now if yoga and meditation are just not your thing, find something that works for you. It does not matter what you do as long as it is something that you enjoy. If getting this started is difficult for you, begin by making a list of activities that you enjoy. Try to come up with at least ten things you enjoy that can be done in 20-30 minutes and pick one each day. Here is a sample list of things I enjoy:

Walking outdoors on a nature trail, in a botanical garden, or even a stroll around the neighborhood park.

Reading a good old trashy romance paperback or suspense novel outdoors on the back porch, in a great big comfortable chair, or any other favorite cozy place.

Reading spirit nurturing books or listening to audio lectures by my favorite authors Wayne Dyer, Victoria Moran, or Alexandra Stoddard.

Watching a television show that stimulates the mind (cooking shows, gardening and home shows, PBS specials, Science, Discovery, and the History Channel programs are some of my favorites)

Taking a yoga, meditation, or FUN exercise class or putting on my favorite CD and dancing around the house (I’m partial to the Lilo & Stitch soundtrack).

Taking a nice long bubble bath with candles and relaxing music and spending time afterward wrapped in a huge fluffy bath sheet relaxing on the bed.

Getting a massage. A thirty minute massage is great; an hour is even better. If a professional massage is not in the budget, trade massages with a loved one or even give yourself a nice foot massage with your favorite scented lotion.

Buying myself a nice small bouquet of flowers and arranging them in a vase, then placing the vase in my office, in the kitchen, by the bed or anywhere I will see them often and enjoy.

Taking a magazine to the local Starbucks or stopping by a bookstore with a cafe and browsing a few titles. Even if I don’t have time much time to spare, I can always pick up something to read at a later date.

Taking a friend to tea. I have a nice little tearoom in my hometown that I just love to spend time in because it is like stepping back in time to a more gracious era.

Going fishing!!! Some of my fondest memories are of my grandfather and me in a boat out on the lake. An hour fishing from the shore can bring me back to that peaceful frame of mind. You know what they say a bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work any day.

I hope these activities piqued your interest or helped you remind you of things you like to do. Take some fun recess time for yourself TODAY!!!

Take Control of the Morning

One of the biggest sources of stress for me is clutter and a generally messy looking house. If I start out the day with glasses and cups on the living room tables, empty packs of potato chips on the kitchen counter, shoes everywhere and mail in piles, you can bet my stress-o-meter is going to be sky high.

As I work less hours outside the home than my dear hubby at the moment, I take on the brunt of the household chores. However, I am not the maid and don’t enjoy cleaning up after others. We have implemented the 30-min pick up in the morning before we start the day. This could be done in the evening or the morning, but I have more energy in the morning and find that a tidy house starts my day off on the right foot. The trick is to never let things get so messy that they can’t be reasonably straightened in less than 30 minutes. Do we get this done every day? Heck no, we are normal just like everybody else and the house is just messy sometimes. But the days that start out with this morning routine are usually more peaceful and calm. Here is my morning quick-pickup routine:

Make the bed the minute you get out of it. If you have a good comforter and pillow with shams, (and don’t live with someone who flops around like a fish all night) you can throw it together in less than a minute.

Grab a trash can and make a round sweep of the downstairs (for us an office, dining room, living room and kitchen) clearing all that needs to be thrown away.

Fold blankets & put away, straighten throw pillows, and do a quick vac of the living room.

Unload the dishwasher and have dirty dishes put in throughout the day so that you can turn it on at bedtime.

Straighten any books, magazines, or movies left out and send any toys that have lost their way upstairs to the kids room. When my son was small, we had a toy chest downstairs where he could keep a small group of toys. Those that could not be contained there would go upstairs. Now that he is a teenager, his stuff can go back to his room at the end of the day or at the latest, first thing in the morning.

Use a bottle of all surface spray cleaner and do a quick wipe of all surfaces in the kitchen, dining room, and living room.

Pick up the mail and make a stop at the trash can outside to dispose of all the junk mail and flyers. If it never comes into the house, it can never become clutter. Put the bills and real mail in a basket by the door (or in the office) and any reading material in the office or magazine rack.

Whew!!! Sit down with a well deserved cup of coffee and survey your beautiful sparkling house. Take joy in starting off the day in an organized manner!!!

There are many great books out there for organization and time management. Problem is, many of us don’t have the time to sit down and read them much less implement changes! So here is a quickie version of some basic time management and organizational strategies you can begin to use today and possibly free up some time to read one of these great books later. My favorite how-to books are the xxxxx for Dummies series and yes there is a Time Management for Dummies. I highly recommend it.

Do you have a million and one things running around in your mind that you need to do? First and foremost, make yourself a to-do list to get those things out of your worried head and on to paper where they are tangible and more manageable. I keep one to do list with two sections an upper 2/3 section for work and a lower 1/3 section for home and other. I try to put them in order of importance and check things off as I go along. I start each day with a fresh list and keep the older ones for reference in case I need to go back and see when I accomplished something. A quick re-writing of my things to do list each day helps me see what has to be done and plan the day accordingly. I keep six months to a year of these to do lists for backup. Some people like to keep the same list and prioritize with A, B, or C to determine what gets done first. Whatever works for you is what you should use. Just a note – if you happen to be using the 50 post-its stuck around the computer monitor method, you may want to try the list method instead.

For people at work who ask you to do smaller tasks (print reports, change this expense to a different category, install a software program, set up voice mail, etc.) tell them to send the request to you in e-mail. Be firm! Tell the requester that you will not do XYZ without a formal request via e-mail. This keeps you from having to remember the five requests you got stopped for on the way to a lunch meeting. When the task is completed, send a quick it’s done message and move to a separate e-mail folder marked tasks completed. This is a great backup when someone complains that you never responded to a request. Simply pop up the e-mail and forward to your complainer showing when the task was completed. This ends up working like that get out of jail free card in Monopoly in times when your feet are to the fire.

Learn to Say NO

Once again we’re going to talk about boundaries. Most people who are overworked and overstressed are just simply doing too much. If you were raised like I was to mind your manners, be helpful, be a good boy/girl and let the others go first it can take decades to unlearn these habits. (Not to discount the value of being nice to your fellow humans and love for the world because we all need more of that). There are any number of people who will eventually want a little piece of your time as life goes on. If you have the time to give, more power to you. If you don’t and many times say you do, it’s past time to learn to say no.

Let’s say your son’s teacher once again asks you to chair the annual holiday can drive. You have done it for the last two years and know that even if you have a committee you will be doing all the work. You just don’t have the time to do it this year, but don’t know how to get out of it. Just say no!!! I would love to help, but I can’t chair the committee this year as I have other commitments, Period. End of discussion. Don’t launch into a long dialogue of the reasons you can’t or start to give excuses. This is volunteer work and no you don’t have to do it. If the teacher pressures you or other parents with but you have always done the can drive or the ever popular but you are so good at it, we can’t do it without you just keep repeating your mantra I’m not available this year, I’m not available this year, as many times as it takes to get your message across. Be firm and don’t waffle. You will be so proud of yourself later when some other parent is doing the last minute run around for the can drive and you are at home sipping hot cocoa and enjoying making cookies with your kids. This is in no way being selfish it is a way to start putting your own needs as priorities in your life. This same scenario can be used for the church fundraiser, fall carnival, the committee to better the neighborhood, the sister-in-law who wants you to watch the kids (again), and so on.

An extra note – where you decide to spend your money is another boundary you can work on using the same principles. At least once per month I am bombarded by parents selling trivets, cookie dough, trinkets, or other overpriced things you don’t need for their child’s fund raiser. If you are one of these folks that bring flyers to work and sell for your kids, yes you probably should buy from the others; it’s only fair. I don’t take these to my workplace and don’t hit up friends to buy from my son. (If he wants to sell, I go with him thru the neighborhood and let him sell). In any case, it’s ok to just say No, thank you. Or you can say No thanks, we have our own charities that we donate to. You should probably practice saying no, thank you as you will be using it more and more in the future.

Last year during the holidays I opted out of the many gift swaps by saying “We are simplifying and only exchanging gifts with immediate family this year. Worked great and I was not so stressed about money last year. Remember, all of these are suggestions for decreasing your stress. Take what works for you and leave the rest behind (or just say no???).

Where is all of this stress coming from???

We all live stress filled lives. An overload at work, a child that must be picked up early from school for a doctor’s appointment, the jerk in traffic that just cut you off. A thousand little annoyances during the day can lead to a head full of worries by the end of the day. And you still have to make dinner, help the kids with homework, do a load of laundry, and get up and start all over again in the morning. ARRGH!!

So where did all this stress come from? Don’t we have hundreds of nifty little gadgets that have been invented to help save time? Where would we be without the washer and dryer, dishwasher, microwave, and that wonderful computer? We would probably be without that nasty little beeper and always ringing cell phone, also!! We seem to use our saved time to add other things into our lives instead of using this time for much needed rest.

One modern problem related to all of this nifty electronic stuff is that we can never unplug. We are always connected 24/7 and our friends, family, and unfortunately our employers can always reach us. Twenty years ago, most employers would never call an employee at home unless it was a true emergency it was considered an invasion of private time!!! Today, most folks don’t think twice about calling, paging, beeping, or e-mailing any time of day. I myself just got a call on my cell at 8pm last night from my boss asking to get the serial number off of my office key because he needed to have it in a report to turn in tomorrow. Real emergency stuff and never mind that I have already e-mailed him the same information three times!!! We have to ask ourselves how has the world changed so much? The norm is that we allow and expect our home and private time to be interrupted and infringed upon at will.

Instead of coming home from a regular (ha, ha) eight hour workday and relaxing around a nice home cooked dinner and spending time with family a la Leave it to Beaver, the typical day for the average American worker goes something like this:

– Leave work an hour and a half late because the boss had another last minute emergency project that he knew about a week ago but decided TODAY at 3:30 it had to be done before the end of the day.

– Get stuck in traffic due to an accident on the freeway where another poor slob who had the same late workday got in too much of a hurry.

– Spend that time in the car worrying about bills to pay and things that have to be done before the end of the day.

– Stop by the local chicken mc grease fast food restaurant to grab another quick but unhealthy meal because there’s no time to cook.

– Say a quick hello to family members as they all grab a plate of food and run off to their respective rooms, TVs, or computers.

Sit down with a plate and check and respond to all of the e-mails you didn’t get to answer at work because you were so swamped putting out fires while simultaneously helping little Billy with his homework.

– Say a quick goodnight to the kids as you throw in a quick load of laundry, grab a quick shower and drop into bed too exhausted to do more than hug your sweetie and crash.

– Get up the next morning and start it all again.

No wonder we are all stressed out! Many of us have been led to believe that is the way life is supposed to be and we keep on going until we get sick or have a heart attack. Is there something we can do to regain control of our lives? Yes, dear reader, there is.

It’s All In Your Head

Ok, time for a short lesson in psychology. We have talked about the many stressors in modern life, but where is the actual stress located? Is the stress located at home, or at work, or on the highway? Nope, try looking a bit closer. Yes folks, it is all in your head.

How we react to events in our life and the beliefs we have about those events affect our stress level. If you have one of those temperaments that leave you fuming every time something doesn’t go your way, this is a good time to learn to reframe your responses and begin lowering your stress level.

Let’s use an example commuting time on the highway. If you begin each day by getting in your car and mumbling and grumbling all the way to work with thoughts of I hate this commute, people in this city can’t drive, I hate my job, I’m going to be late, my boss is a jerk, MY LIFE SUCKS, how do you think you will feel by the time you finally make it to work? You have been letting your mind run rampant awfulizing everything. If you reframe your thinking, you may find a solution. Ask yourself: what are the facts? I have a 45 minute commute every morning. That does not make all of the rest of the thoughts above true or valid. Do I really hate my job? No, most of the time it is OK. Will I be late? Maybe, maybe not, but being late once in a while is not a big deal. So the only actual fact is that I have a 45 minute commute every day. I can choose to spend that time grousing and becoming grumpy or I can choose to spend the commute in a more productive manner. I could spend the time going through my to do list for the day and giving myself an outline/plan for having a successful day, listening to my favorite music and singing along to wake up and get in a great mood for the day, or use the time for listening to a great audio book. I don’t have to spend that time letting my negative thoughts stress me out before the day has even begun!!!

When you begin to watch your inner dialogue, you can catch yourself before your mind has a chance to stray too far into the negative. This takes time and practice. Be patient with yourself. Begin by tuning in to your thoughts throughout the day and notice the overall tone.When negative thoughts crop up and you can’t seem to stop the tirade, visualize a big red stop sign and say STOP to your thoughts. Now work towards re-directing your thoughts towards something positive. You will be treating your mind like an unruly toddler with the stop and distract method. What do you do when a toddler is reaching for something breakable on a table? You say no or stop and redirect the toddler to a basket of toys in the corner. Then you put away the breakable item. Same concept for the mind: stop, redirect/distract, and leave the negative thought behind.

So what do we use to distract? How about thoughts and visualizations of things you love to do? Digging in the sand at the beach, flying a kite in the park, fishing at your favorite river, playing ball with the kids, and so on are thoughts you can turn your attention to. You can also distract by occupying you mind with a book, going for a brisk walk, or calling a friend. Use whatever works for you!!! I will be discussing self nurturing in a later article and some of those activities can also be used to redirect and distract from negative thinking.

Personal time, home time, and family time seem to have gone the way of the rotary dial telephone. However, one of the best ways to start de-stressing your life is to establish some healthy boundaries and begin to experience true down time.

Two of the best new gadgets that have come out in the last few years are caller ID and voice mail. Most people already have these and if you don’t, I would suggest investing the few dollars it takes to add this service. Now the hard part of this is training the family and having the self discipline to actually begin setting house rules on private time.

Schedule time after work each day when you don’t answer the phone, pager, or e-mail. Better yet, put all devices on silent and let all calls go to voice mail for that time. Start with an hour during dinner and slowly expand that time to include most of the hours after work. Decide which calls automatically go to voice mail in the evenings if you do decide to leave the ringer on. Most everyone in my family knows not to answer work related calls for me after 5pm unless they ask first. (The call I got last evening at 8pm from my boss was answered by my dear hubby before he checked the caller ID. I would have let it go to voice mail.) If there is an urgent issue, the person can leave a voice mail and I can decide if it is an urgent matter for me. Remember someone else’s lack of planning does not make a matter your emergency!

For kids and teens, set ground rules for telephone conversations during dinnertime, homework time, and after a certain hour in the evenings. I don’t take kindly to folks calling my house after 9pm. It was considered rude when I was a kid and I still think it is rude today. Call me old fashioned if you must. I also don’t mind giving a free lesson in manners to any kid who calls my house after 9pm!!! It’s never too early to learn good habits.

I will be covering the importance of self-nurturing in a later article, but for now make sure you use at least some of this unplugged time to begin connecting with your family, your friends, or to spend some much needed time on YOU, not for laundry catch up, paying the bills, or other have-to’s.

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