THE IMPORTANT FIRST STEP

Recently, I have had some conversation with a new friend of mine about some stress they have been going through. Most of their stress had focused around an aspect of their job, but had been affecting both their family and their relationship. This happens quite often and can happen to all of us and at some point usually does. This is quite often referred to as taking your job/work home with you. I have even known some people who have changed their entire essence of who they are based on working in a negative environment. This can especially hold true for those working in law enforcement, first responders, teachers, the courts and any other job that exposes you to less than desirable people. It is not limited to these careers, however. You can experience stress in retail, food and beverage industry or the travel industry. It is not only costumers, but coworkers that can cause us stress. I recall early in my postal career this being true. The post office can be a stressful and negative work environment more often than not.

What helped me and what did I share with my friend to help them? I am going to share some of that with you in hopes that you too can use it or share it with someone you know who might be going through some great deal of stress. There are a few basic things I would recommend starting today, whether you are under stress or feeling good about how your life is going. Being proactive can make dealing with stress a lot easier. The time to learn to swim is on the shore and not when you are in a boat that is sinking. Remember I speak from experience. If I had known about or used some of what I am going to share with you when I began working at the post office I could have saved myself and those I care about a lot of stress and hurt feelings.

The first thing to remember is that you are not alone. According to a study done by Forbes magazine up to 70% of us are going to jobs we do not like. In our culture we have put a priority on things like money and benefits to the detriment of our own happiness. Insurance is important, but choosing one job or position you may not like because it has better benefits may end up causing you to experience more trips to the doctor than it will help you reducing your medical costs. How can that be? According to a study done by Stanford University, 80% of visits to a primary care doctor are stress related. Stress has been found to be a common denominator in nearly all medical conditions. Even if stress was not related to the onset of the condition, continued stress will only worsen every medical malady.

Great, we are all a bunch of stressed out individuals. Knowing such information can lead to little comfort, but do little to help alleviate the actual stress itself. For that we must create and use some tools to help us. One of the first things I have recommended in both my book as well as seminars is creating a happy playlist. This is exactly what is sounds like. A list of songs that put you in a good mood. I don’t care if it is the song don’t worry be happy, or the theme to the Jefferson’s television show, whatever makes you happy put it on the list. Now create a playlist on your iPod or other MP3 player. I actually have created a happy playlist on YouTube so I can listen to it anywhere I have my cell phone. Now when you encounter a particularly bad day at the office we can listen to our happy playlist on our way home so we arrive in a better state of mind. If the situation is really bad, you can find yourself in the restroom with an ear bud in. This will not do anything to directly change the situation, but put you in a much better frame of mind to deal with whatever challenge is facing you.

In addition to music, which I believe provides the quickest boost in mood, you can apply this to other media as well. Create a list of movies you enjoy watching, books you enjoy reading or places you enjoy going to eat. If at all possible, do this while you are in a good mood. Once again it is easier to think of what makes you happy when you are not already stressed out. Then when stress comes knocking, pull out your list, or just push ‘play’ on your happy playlist. I recall listening to Bob Marley’s Legend cd every lunch hour while working for a telemarking concern. I think that saved my sanity more than once.

The other thing I recommend is keeping a journal. For those of you who follow my work even a little I am sure you have heard me mention keeping a journal quite often. The benefits are many and I can’t possibly list them all here. A few worth mentioning in regards to work place stress and how to reduce it are as follows. First, writing your feelings and the facts of the situation down on paper can offer a lot more clarity than trying to figure it all out in your head. It also removes a great deal of stress from keeping all in your head. Second, it provides a great place to vent. Quite often those we love, even those closest to us, can reach a point when being a sounding board becomes too much. We must remember they are dealing with their own stresses as well. Writing in our journal can be a relieving and safe place to vent. Finally, seeing everything in black and white can bring to light solutions we may not have considered when we were in the middle of the emotional whirlwind. Reading back it can show us patterns that we go through that routinely create stress in our lives. By recording how we feel at the moment and being able to go back and reread it when we are in a better mental state can be enlightening too.

As an added bonus, I recommend doing as many of these things as you can out in nature. Being outside in the fresh air can serve as its own therapy. Add some physical exercise and you multiply the stress reliving benefits. It can be anything from an intense run, to a leisurely stroll. Motion helps emotion. Do yourself a favor and get outside and get moving. You can listen to your playlist as you do so. When you stop to rest, you could pull out your journal and write. Before you know it you will create a shield around you that no workplace stress can get through.

By all means, if you have any other great stress reduction tips to add please do so in the comments below.

 

 

SECRET TO A HEALTHY COMMUNITY

The man on the far right, with the megaphone, is the mayor of my fine city. Every year he holds a 30-day challenge to have members of the community be active for 30 minutes a day. This year the challenge was kicked off with a one mile walk that the mayor led. In politics there is too often examples of “Do as I say, not as I do.” It is refreshing to see a leader who leads by example.

Not only was this an example of a leader walking the walk, but of one who truly cares about the city he leads. Wanting the people who live in the city to be both healthy and happy is an extra step that most officials would not take. The position of mayor is filled with lots of obligations and responsibilities. Arranging both a walk and a 30-day fitness challenge creates a lot of extra work. Including, but not limited to, setting up police presence to make sure the course is safe. Working with sponsors and allocating prizes to be given away, t-shirts printed and what is sure to be countless other details I am forgetting.

Sure, setting up such an event can help you during reelection, but so could just being a great mayor. Why take all of the extra steps? That answer was made clear as we walked along. The mayor did not discuss politics, or as some national politicians are wanting to do, discuss how great of a mayor he was. No, today as we walked along he discussed his son’s love for sports, his family’s like for vacations in northern Wisconsin and an eventful trip they had made to Disney world. Most importantly, the mayor listened. Another sign of a great leader. He listened patiently as people voiced their concerns about aspects of the city, but also when they shared stories of their families as well.

After the walk had concluded, there was a small gathering where water, yogurt and prizes were handed out. Sadly, I did not win any of the State Fair tickets that were up for grabs. I did win, however, by being part of this great community.

I had the great pleasure of talking to wonderful neighbors like Jon and Robin who are also working diligently to foster a sense of community. Even though she wasn’t able to attend, there were plenty of discussions about my amazing neighbor Linda and what a caring neighbor she is. To make the day even better I was able to finally meet several neighbors I had only previously interacted with online including Denise and her fabulous husband. I look forward to chatting more with all of them as we work together to foster a greater sense of togetherness in West Allis Wisconsin.

If your community offers programs such as this I encourage you to join. If they do not, work with leaders to begin some. They not only do a great deal to reduce crime and increase a sense of community, but bring people together for positive and healthy reasons. Leaders, take mayor Dan Devine’s example. Caring about your constituents runs deeper than success at the polls and does not go unnoticed.

THE PATH TO ETERNAL BEAUTY

Look in any magazine or watch any reality show and you will run across the same thing, everyone is trying to find the key to eternal youth and beauty. There are ads for creams, lotions, even cosmetic surgery has been refined to an in and out process. There is a new cool laser that can make your fat cells disappear. People spend millions of dollars a year on both hair removal and hair restoration. No matter how many advances or your financial ability to obtain them, one thing is for certain, eventually they will fade.

Do not misunderstand me. I believe there is plenty of physical improvements that make sense to do from not only an appearance stand point, but from a health stand point as well. Having dental work done will not only increase your chances of smiling, adding beauty right there, but help your health in many ways. Engaging in physical exercise will not only have your figure looking fit and trim, but help your heart and circulatory system run efficiently as well. Choosing a healthier way of eating over a crash fad diet will pay dividends for years to come.

Considering the amount of money we spend on items in the first category that serve only as a temporary cover up at best, we certainly could do better. Even the time, energy and effort we spend on items in the second category will only take us so far if we continue to ignore the single most important category to increase our physical appeal. The area of our life we should address first is often relegated to an after thought.

What is the area of our life that will bring us the greatest return on investment in regards to our beauty? It is our spirit, our heart, our inner peace. This may sound a bit cliché to many of you, but it is true. How many times have you come across someone who may not be your normal physical ‘cup of tea’ as it were, but something just attracted you to them? We all like to be around people who make us laugh, smile and enjoy life more. On the flip side, even if the person we are with has graced the cover of a million magazines, if they suck our spirit dry and leave us feeling emotionally drained there is no way we would want to be around them.

How do we invest in this portion of our lives? The answer is simple. Invest in ourselves. When we work to become better as individuals, we have more to offer each other and the world at large. Do something to refresh your spirit. Discover new ways to cultivate joy, engage in activities that make you smile. Foster an attitude of gratitude. Always look for the best in others. If you do these simple things and any others that will lead to an improved you, before long you will become more beautiful from the inside out. The upside here is the more you do this, the greater the beauty becomes. Keep it up and this beauty will never fade. No pills, lotions, fad diets or insane workouts needed.

A TACO MEDITATION?!

This is a picture of a billboard just outside the Wisconsin State Fair. It is a catchy little slogan for a Mexican restaurant. My mother and I have started taking walks after my heart trouble caused me to take a break from working out as hard as I would like. Being the state fair is probably my favorite place to go, it makes sense to choose that as a location to walk. This particular day my mother and I decided to walk the perimeter of the park to see how long that would be. (roughly 3.2 miles for those keeping track) While on the northern side of the park we came across this billboard.

As we walked passed it I began to think of the slogan “Inhale tacos, exhale negativity”. A slight confession is that I tend to practice a lot of both in my life. The last couple posts we have been discussing meditation and how we can work it into our life. One of the simplest forms of meditation is to pay attention to your breathing. If you add to that visualizing breathing in positivity and exhaling negativity, it can lead to an increased state of peace. I encourage you to practice this for several minutes twice a day and let me know what difference you notice. It is a simple practice, but can bring great change.

Then I thought about inhaling tacos. How could you not after reading that sign? Other than increasing the feeling of hunger I had already started from the walk, it got me thinking. Obviously, they are using tacos as a replacement for the word positivity. This could probably hold true for many people out there. Although saying, “Have a taco day!” Instead of positive day does sound a bit strange. When doing the above exercise sometimes picturing positivity and negativity can be a bit too abstract for some of us. What if we replaced the word positivity with some activity, such as eating tacos or attending the local state fair. In other words any activity that fills us with joy or adds value to our life. As we breath in we could picture being engaged it that activity and breathing in more of those activities into our lives.

On the exhale we could replace negativity with any activity we are trying to remove from our lives. Maybe letting our emotions get the best of us or being filled with stress. As we exhale we could picture that activity and feel ourselves exhaling it out of our bodies and out of our lives. Inhale tacos, exhale being overly emotional. Inhale the state fair, exhale being stressed out. It certainly is worth a try and could be a lot of fun!

 

  • WARNING!!! This blog is not responsible for an increase in the consumption of tacos related to the reading of this article. Restraint is recommended in the amount of tacos consumed or one would not be able to inhale or exhale at all. Please read responsibly.

 

IT IS JUST WHAT YOU NEEDED

Fun… that’s so childish. What does fun do? Provides us an escape. Fun gives us a chance to use our imagination and see the future we would like to create. On the practical side, fun allows us to sneak in some physical activity while enjoying ourselves. We can learn and develop skills all while having fun.

Let me ask you this, when are we most in need of all of these things? When we are children and have little to no responsibility, generally walk everywhere because our legs are too short to reach the pedals, or when we are adults and face the pressures of work, bills, family and fixing the car we are now able to drive?

Another thing that seems oddly more difficult to do as adults is make new friends and bond with the ones we already have. Margie and I began hosting a board game night and had the great honor of being joined by our friends Beth, Terri, Shawn, Josie, Mimi, Michelle, Beto and others. We laughed, drank copious amounts of wine and rum. The best part? We all laughed, and got to know each other a great deal better through this fun.

What does all of that do? The obvious answer is relieve stress, create good feelings and smiles. Maybe not so obvious is that it allows us to get to know our friends likes and dislikes. It allows us to build the level of trust and connection between all of us. The crazy thing? It’s all fun!

So, make sure you schedule some fun in your life! It will help your physical and mental health as well as strengthen your relationships! Now to get some wine, rum and friends together for the next game night!

KNOWLEDGE IS POTENTIAL POWER

THE ESSENTIAL KEYS TO SUCCESS KEY #1

One of the things I am asked the most is “How can I quickly change my life?” Such a tricky question because your life up to this point has taken years to develop. Still, I understand we live in that nanosecond world where we expect change instantly. It is with this understanding that I have distilled my essential keys to success. These represent the pillars that most of my teachings are based on. Each one is a powerful belief that you can adapt into your life that will have a profound effect.

The first key is that of action. We have all heard the axiom that ‘knowledge is power’. That is simply not true. Anyone who knows me may find it odd that I am the one bringing you this message. I love learning, quite often for the sake of learning itself. Knowledge, however, is only worth anything if it leads to a specific action. Without action, the knowledge is completely useless. Allow me to explain.

Let us use the analogy of getting in shape. There are plenty of people who spend weeks and months finding the perfect trainer and perfect gym. The watch every video on the perfect exercise for their abs, their butt and whatever other body part they hope to transform. If they were to spend years acquiring this knowledge, yet never so much as picked up a weight or got on a treadmill, would they find themselves in any better shape? A few of you may argue that you want to find the activity that will give you the maximum effectiveness. That is all well and good, but while you are looking you are not taking any steps to getting closer to that beach worthy body.

Now let us look at the opposite side of the spectrum. Consider the person who has no idea what they are doing in the gym. They really want to get in shape so they start taking a walk every morning before work. Gradually they take longer and longer walks, maybe even jogging a little here and there. Even if they never read a book, watch a video or try any other workout they are still going to be getting in shape. Simply by taking action and learning as they go they are able to pick up a few things here and there.

The perfect mix is a blend of the two. If the person going for a walk spent a few minutes learning about nutrition or different resistance workouts as they continued to walk they would find themselves in shape in a surprisingly little amount of time.

The same holds true for those of us working to improve our lives. Millions of dollars are spent on countless self-improvement products every year. At this rate we should all be fit, happy and successful. So, how come we are not? Here is a shocking statistic, only 10% of that material is ever consumed. Most of it is purchased, maybe perused, used to gain the feeling of improving one’s life and then cast aside. Some of it, a small percentage, is even consumed and then not acted upon. Does that sound a bit extreme? Ask yourself this question, is there anything in your own life you know would improve your life, but you have yet to do it? I think we all do.

Today, take action and begin to do the little things. Continue to learn along the way. You will make mistakes, learn from them they are part of the lesson too. Before long you will gain momentum and you will begin to see progress. That will keep you motivated to continue to push forward.