TRY NOT TO FREAK OUT😮

I have heard a lot of people expressing how crazy the world seems lately. I put that word in italics for a great reason. A lot of our world is based on our perception. We have all heard the cliché ‘Perception is reality’ The reason that it is a cliché, is because there is a great deal of truth to it. The world does seem to be filled with dramatic and rapid change. The same was probably true during the industrial revolution. Also during the dark ages, when any day you could be killed if your neighbor said you were a witch. That must have been some stress to live under. I honestly believe that the amount of stress doesn’t change, just the name and form of stress.

Whatever form stress may take, there is one thing we can say about being stressed out – it sucks. Feeling overwhelmed or out of control of our own life never feels good. There are a lot of new tools to help us deal with this stress. There are meditation apps. I even saw an app where celebrities can read you bed time stories. These are great, but I believe there is a tool that has been around for centuries that can do a better job. In addition to helping us get a handle on our stress, it can do so much more. It can give us a greater sense of mental clarity. It can also give us a great insight into our thinking patterns, acting as a cheap and readily accessible therapist. That way when life is getting at you, or like our poor chap in the picture above, you get a bad phone call, you can use this tool and help avoid overwhelm and burn out.

You might think a tool that can do all of this would be expensive. You will be pleased to know you can get this tool as cheap as a couple of dollars. I wrote about this tool in my first book, A Happy Life for Busy People. I also wrote about it a total of three times on this blog in 2013. Oddly enough, we haven’t spoken about it since then. I think it is long overdue that we bring up the topic again. This amazing tool is the journal. Before you are tempted to dismiss this idea because of its simplicity, let me caution you against doing so.

I am going to share with you some of the reasons this tool is so effective. First of all, a handwritten journal forces us to slow down and record our thoughts. Second, we are…umm… well…recording our thoughts. Trying to keep all of our thoughts in our head can be equated to plugging more and more things into an outlet. Eventually, the circuit will blow. This could be a feeling of anxiety, a panic attack or a full-blown nervous breakdown. These are expensive physically, mentally and with the cost of healthcare, financially as well. The cost of a journal can be as cheap as a pen and a spiral notebook. This takes some of the load off that circuit. It also gives us a record to thoughts we have and what may trigger them. Often, when we write down how we are feeling and read it back later, we can feel a little foolish for how we may have reacted to a certain situation. It is good to have that record.

A journal can be a safe place to share our feelings, even if it is only with the paper. It can be a place of emotional release. A journal can be the cheapest therapist we can hire. Beautiful thing is, this therapist doesn’t have office hours and is always available. In order to keep life from becoming overwhelming for you, might I suggest picking up a journal and just begin recording your day. Getting things out will take the burden off of your mind and will help you from having a melt down, or just blowing a circuit. I would love to hear your stories about how journaling helped you. If you want to learn more about journaling, feel free to check out my book, A Happy Life for Busy People, available on Amazon or wherever fine books are sold. You can also go back and read the posts from 2013 or listen to the episode on my podcast at the link below. Whatever you choose, I would love your feedback!

CLICK HERE FOR MORE AMAZING CONTENT ON MY PODCAST 😀

START IT OFF RIGHT!🌞

Here is something that is of the greatest importance, but easy to improve. That is your morning. It should not surprise anyone that how your morning goes, does a lot to determine how your day will go. If this is rather easy to understand, why is it that we do not take better advantage of it? Here is why, getting up early can be a challenge for a lot of us. I am guilty as charged. When I returned to work after my heart surgery, I was on a roll of not hitting the snooze button. About 2 months straight I was very disciplined. Then, one day after a long night of being a DJ, I needed those few extra minutes. Guess what has happened since? I have not got out of bed without hitting the snooze button.

This may not sound like such a big deal, but it has affected how the rest of my day has went. I guess I did not realize the degree in which it has until I was on vacation. When I have those extra ten minutes in the morning, I can do a lot more. More important, I can do everything with a lot less stress. When I was not hitting the snooze, I was able to leisurely make my cup of coffee, plank for at least 3 minutes and do ten squats. This would get my mind and body fired up. It also helped me achieve some wins before I left the house. This is why I tell people to make their beds before they leave. I would, but there is a sexy lady still sleeping in mine. Not sure she would appreciate me making the bed around her at 445am.

Next post, we will look at some things we can do to set our morning up for victory. Until then, try to make it one day without hitting the snooze. Begin that discipline. You will notice how much less stress you have to start the day. Less stress is always success!

TAKE A BREAK FROM IT ALL!😃

One of the best ways to improve any situation is to improve your mindset in regards to it. We seldom have control over outside variables, and waiting for them to change will only add to the frustration we have with the situation we are involved in. What we do have complete control over is our mindset. If that seems down, we can change it. It sounds cliché, but we hear viewing something as a teaching moment verses a failure can help us so much. All of this may sound easier said than done, but there is a way we can begin to change our mindset.

Last post we spoke about taking Monday off to make us find it less offensive. This doesn’t have to be limited to Monday. Kids getting on your nerves and you find yourself snapping at them when you shouldn’t? It may be time to call a sitter and spend an afternoon at the spa. Your spouse working on your last nerve? Maybe a shopping trip with the girls, or a fishing trip with the guys will refresh your outlook. I am not advocating running away from your problems. If there is something that needs addressing, by all means do so. Sometimes, however, all we need is a little time to catch our breath and revive our outlook.

It amuses me how many people talk themselves out of being able to do these things. “I can’t get a sitter unless I really need one.” I think if it improves the relationship with your children, then some ‘me time’ might be something you need. “My spouse will be unhappy if I go shopping/fishing.” They might be, but if it means you come back with more love and patience for them, and it improves your relationship in the long run, I think they will be happy with that. Especially if you state it like this, “My love, I feel like I am not able to give my best to you and this relationship and a little time away would help me do that.” Who could argue with a statement such as that? Do not say this if it is not genuine. If you are having relationship burnout, which happens in the best couples, it is important to address it before it leads to even greater problems.

It may help to view these breaks as what they are – investments. Taking a break is like a strategic retreat. It will allow you to regroup and meet life head on in a far more productive manner. If you find any part of your life overwhelming, run away from it…for a while. Take a break. Take some ‘me time’. Regroup and come back stronger than ever. Invest in yourself.

A NEW PERSPECTIVE

Many times, changing the way we view certain things can benefit us greatly. I have often spoke about viewing your life as a business and the benefits that can have. I think this picture above, comparing your brain to a computer, can be very helpful as well. Most of us are guilty of treating our computers better than our brains at times. If you find it hard to find the motivation to read and educate yourself, just think of it as updating your software. This even sounds fun. Imagine telling your friend, “Sorry Bob, I would like to hang out tonight but I am updating my software.” Bob may think you’re crazy, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is a good way to look at filling your mind with healthy and positive material.

How about the discipline to go to bed at a decent hour? You are not getting some sleep, you are recharging the batteries of your super computer brain! Would you run your computer, your phone or your car until it ceases to work, or would you allow time to rest and recharge? What if it was the only phone, computer or car you could ever have in your lifetime? We only get one mind and body, but all to often, we treat these with less care than disposable devices which we can replace.

Cleaning your computer’s hard drive will allow it to run with greater speed and efficiency. The same can be said about the super computer brain you have. How do we clean the hard drive of our minds? Above are three great ideas. Meditate, journal and positive self-talk. Clear out some of the stress and emotion. I also recommend working out and walking in nature.

If you think your super computer brain needs a reboot, try engaging in some of the activities listed above. Viewing our brains as super computers, which they are, can help us evaluate and provide better care for the most important equipment we have. That is the equipment between our own two ears.

PLUG YOURSELF IN

Many of you wrote in to express how much you enjoyed our posts on self-care. With that in mind we decided to do another and bring you a little something different. I think the picture above is a great example of why we need to recharge our batteries, as well as that of our cell phones. In fact, if you need a good reminder to take care of yourself, every time you plug in your cell phone let that be reminder to charge your own batteries as well. Most of us cannot even imagine taking as much time for ourselves as we give to let our cell phones charge. Writing that just sounded crazy to me. Most of us take better care of an electronic device than we do of our own bodies.

What happens as our cell phone battery begins to get low? We may drop a call. Our connection to the internet may be spotting or may not exist at all. Perhaps our applications we are running slow down. We look at our phone and realize it is because the battery is low. We not only know this, but we expect it. As the energy in the phone becomes lower, so does its performance. How come this does not transfer to our thoughts on people, most of all ourselves? We realize our phones run best with a full battery. Wouldn’t it make sense we would too? We often feel guilty for saying no to someone or for taking time for ourselves.

Let us look at what happens when we let our battery run low. This can be skipping sleep, working extra long hours or not addressing stress in our lives. What are some of the symptoms? Let us first look at the physical or ‘outside’ manifestation of this. It often first appears as general fatigue. Much like our phone slowing down, so do we. Just like an electronic appliance, if we keep going at this rate we will eventually stop. Either by passing our or passing away. We also can get headaches. There are even specific pain relievers marketed as “tension headache relief”. If Madison Avenue can figure out stress can cause us physical discomfort, how come we can’t? Add muscle cramps or pain. This can come not only from stress, but not practicing other self-care methods such as staying hydrated.

Many of us “battle through” these symptoms. Some even consider them a badge of honor of sorts. Let us look at how this can affect our mental state or our mood. Stress can bring on feelings of anxiety or even paranoia in extreme states. Even milder cases can drain our motivation. This can cause us to get less done which can stress us even further. Talk about an equation for disaster! How about feelings of restlessness or overwhelm? Those are fun aren’t they? You may be tempted to say “So what! As long as I am making the boss happy, who cares if I am a wreck?” This brings us to our next reason taking time for self-care and to recharge is so important.

We may think being continually stressed and running ourselves on empty only impacts us, but we could not be more incorrect in that thinking. Being both physically and mentally drained can cause our behavior to change as well. We can be prone to angry outbursts. Have you ever found yourself snapping at someone who did nothing wrong except to cross your path when you were stressed and burnt out? Not only is this not good for our relationships, it also adds the stress of having to repair the damage your stress did in the first place. We can begin to overeat or even under eat when we are not taking time to focus on our well-being. We certainly wouldn’t be eating the stuff that will fuel our body and allow it the best chance of coping with what we are putting it through. Some people even turn to drug or alcohol abuse to help them cope with the stress when they are no longer able to do so physically or mentally. This often can be true of high-achievers, who have a hard time taking time out from chasing their goals to focus on themselves. Can you imagine how one or several of these behavior changes would impact the lives of those close to you or even those depending on you?

Most of us charge our phones at least once a day. Make sure you do at least that much for yourself. As you can see your cell phone is not the only thing that performs poorly when its battery is drained or it has too many programs running at the same time. Make sure you are getting enough rest, eating and drinking the right things to fuel our brains and bodies. Lastly, make sure you are taking steps to address stress. This can be meditation, exercise, talking with a professional or even a friend. Make sure you do not have too many applications running in your own life. Keep the batteries charged and you will keep yourself running smoothly.

LEARNING WHAT YOU NEVER KNEW

Last post we discussed addressing some issues we may not have known we had inherited from our family, neighborhood or other influences. It may make some people uncomfortable to think they are changing or God forbid, improving something about themselves. I get it. In today’s world it can be hard to admit we are anything less than perfect, even if it is through no fault of our own. Nobody likes to admit they have something to work on. Do you know what nearly everyone likes? Realizing they are getting better at something. It can be close to downright exciting to think you may be working on mastering something. Here is some great news, there are plenty of areas in which we can do this!

If we stop and think of the very important issues in life, how many were we taught or have we stopped to research? What do you think is important in your life? Where did you learn how to do it well? Did you ever stop to learn how to do it well? Relating to others is one of the most important skills a human can have. How well did you do in your ‘relating to others’ class in school? Do you recall when your parents sat you down and explained some of the many aspects that go into a healthy and sustainable relationship? Me neither. How about communication? The ability to both convey your thoughts, feelings and emotions to others as well as hear and understand theirs is skill that is as rare as it is valuable. How many years did you study that in school? If your education was anything like mine, that answer would be less than one. . What good is learning our alphabet and how to spell words if we are never taught how to effectively convey and use those very words.

It would seem a great deal of important subjects are left for us to learn by chance, or for far too many of us, by trail and error or not at all. The problem with this is that the stakes are far too high for most of us to learn that way. One mistake in how we relate to others can not only cost us a job, it can ruin relationships and cause emotional trauma to others, including those we truly care about. We occasionally get some instruction on interviewing to get the job we are seeking, although even that is limited. Did ever seem odd that nobody ever told us how to ask the right questions to discover if someone would be the right life partner for us? The same holds true with maintaining a healthy mental and emotional state. As far as I know, there exists very little, if any, instruction in public education on this subject. Is it any wonder, as the stresses in life continue to rise, we are seeing a host of people with mental health challenges. We were never even told how to deal with the stress that is all too prevalent in our lives.

We repeat here the axiom from the last post that fault does not equal responsibility. It is certainly not our fault we were never taught how to succeed in some of the most important areas in life. This is not a knock on our teachers and parents. They were never taught these things either. It is, however, our responsibility to educate ourselves on these very subjects. If a healthy relationship is important to us we need to learn what the components of one are and how to get them. If being able to communicate to others and have them understand you may be valuable, don’t you think it might be worth a few hours of research? How much effort is living a life with less stress and more joy worth to you? What other areas are important? Do you think being a great parent to your child is important? Do you think you may have received some bias or incomplete information on that subject growing up? Would you like to give your children the best possibility of success as they grow up?

When I share this information I hear a lot of groaning about having to dedicate additional time learning. “I spent enough time studying in school.” is a refrain I hear all too often. If that is your mindset you must then become comfortable at the thought you will not develop past the person you were when you left school. “I don’t have time.” is another answer I hear. To that I say this – it is not that you don’t have time, it is that it is not a priority for you. If I told you that you could have ten million dollars but I would need 2 days worth of your time starting tomorrow at 6am, where would you be at 5:59?

Dedicating time for study in these subjects is worth more than that ten million dollar price tag mentioned earlier, it is priceless. Being able to better understand, and even more importantly meet, the needs of your spouse? How much would you pay for that? Not feeling so stressed out at the end of every work week, or even every work day, how much would that be worth to you? You see, studying the main topics in life is like digging in a vain of solid gold. The knowledge you get can not only positively transform your life, it can do the same for lives of those you care about. Can you imagine sitting down to share topics like these with your children while at the same time listening to what concerns they may have? How valuable would that be? How about learning how to help people feel good about themselves? Would that be skill that might come in handy with the boss at the office or the one you love at home?

Here is the grand upside to all of this. The knowledge on all of these subjects is readily available and it is free. All it takes is some time and effort on our part. There are literally millions of books available in the public library system at no charge to us. There are forums, articles and experts available online with a click of a mouse. There are audiobooks we could listen to in the car, seminars we can attend, videos on YouTube we could watch while we are in line at the grocery store. There is so much information out there, in so many different forms that there is no excuse not to become an expert in any area of life that is important to us. Learning one new thing a month, which is painless to do, can give us 12 tips to a healthier lifestyle. Can you imagine incorporating 12 new things this year to improve your health? How much of an impact do you think that would have? What if we learned one new way to improve our intimate relationship a week? This is still insanely easy to do. Do you think adding 52 improvements to your relationship in a year would positively impact your love life?

There is no excuse not to begin to become an expert on the important areas of our life starting today! How important is the success of your children? How important is the happiness of the love of your life? How valuable would having extra energy and health be? Decide what is important to you and begin to study today! Your life is far too valuable not to.

DO YOUR BEST THIS WEEK!

We touched on this last Monday, but it is worth repeating. As we gear up for the week ahead, I know the vast majority of us are looking to make progress on our goals. Whether that is finishing the book we are working on, promoting our website or physical business or just being on time to work to make sure we can keep earning funds to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. One important aspect to keep in mind is scheduling some mental health time. If you can get so much done in a certain amount of time, it would make sense that the longer you work, the more you will get done. This is true, to a point.

Let us take this picture of these people paving a road, I am guessing. Let us say they can get a certain amount of road done in 8 hours. If we kept them working 24 hours straight would we assume they would get three times that amount of road done? Of course not. Eventually, they would begin to tire and become less physically able to do their job. We have all had this happen, haven’t we? Even if we do not do construction for a living. We could be working around the yard, for example. When we start out we are feeling good and making great progress. After a few hours that shovel begins to become a little heavier, that lawn mower a little harder to push. Sure, if we keep working we could make a little more progress, but it would be at a slower rate and more likely to contain some mistakes. The human body has its limits. They vary from person to person, but we all tire out eventually.

It is not just physical exertion we need to be aware of. The brain, just like any muscle in the body has its limits, maybe even more so. Your brain requires glucose and oxygen to operate at peak efficiency. We need to make sure our diet and exercise are good if we are going to push ourselves mentally. We also need to make sure we let the brain rest as well. This could be working in some meditation, laughter or even a nap during the day. As we push our brain we also begin to lose the rate at which we can produce and increase the chance we will make a mistake. As a writer I can testify to this. I can sit down and write for hours if I am properly rested (and caffeinated) After a while, if I don’t give my brain a break I may struggle to spell “cat”. This is one of the many reasons there are not a lot of cats mentioned near the end of my blog posts. Just remember your brain is muscle like your arm or leg and needs to rest to perform at its best.

As we work towards all we wish to accomplish this week let us keep this in mind. Hard work is a noble pursuit to be sure, but intelligent hard work is what leads to the best results. We need to remember to recharge both our physical and mental batteries as we go along. There is a law of diminishing returns, or arc of productivity as I prefer to call it. There reaches a point where if we push ourselves the returns will slowly get less. Keep pushing ourselves and we will end up making mistake after mistake, generating negative returns. It would be better, and more productive, to take a break, get some rest and begin again.

Look, I get it, sometimes the cake for the party is due and you only have an hour left. Maybe your publisher (or mother) is expecting that book to be done yesterday. What can you do other than keep pushing? When the cake falls over or you accidentally delete 3 years worth of writing and find yourself worse off than when you began, you will say to yourself, “I should have listened to that Neil guy.” or you may just utter an explicative. Either way by pushing beyond your limits, you will have created more work for yourself. The best way is to plan accordingly. Schedule some time to rest. Believe it or not, this is one secret to an amazing life.

WHATEVER SOOTHES YOUR SOUL

Whatever soothes your soul

We began the week by discussing how important taking care of our mental health was. If you do not understand why that is important, I highly suggest you go back and read Monday’s post again. One of the fun, life-changing things I advocate in my second book, Living the Dream, is to create lists of things that sooth your soul. The picture above gives us some great ideas. Although I am not sure about “taking a nap with your loved ones” not sure what kind of polygamous situation the author has going on, but finding yourself sleeping with too many people could lead to a very stressful situation.

Back to the lists I was speaking of earlier. This can be movies that make you laugh. Creating a Happy Playlist on your MP3 player or other device of songs that put you in a good mood. It can be creating a list of friends you can call in an emotional emergency. One of the things people do not think to write down is a list of places where you feel at peace. These can be vital in times of distress, but are just as important as a preventative measure. Keeping your soul happy can help you deal with stress better which can lead to a stronger immune system and a healthier you overall.

You may think creating these lists as something you don’t need to do, but that would be overlooking a very important aspect of human nature. You may wonder why you would need to write down what movie makes you laugh or where you feel most at peace. You already know those things. Whenever the human brain is under stress, it does not operate at its best. That is why you see game show contestants with blank looks on their faces when asked how much 2 +2 equals. Of course they know the answer, but with prizes on the line and the what seems like the whole world watching their minds go blank. Have you ever studied all night for an exam and when you get to class you forgot everything you read? I think we have all been there. This weekend, take some time to write down what sooths your soul. It will not only be helpful, but it is actually quite fun. You can edit these lists as you grow through life, but having the information on hand can shorten the intensity and duration of many a stressful day.

YOU DON’T NEED AN EXCUSE

Today is Monday, a day that holds a lot of stress for a lot of people. It doesn’t matter what day you read this on, you might be experiencing some form a stress for many different reasons. What we all need to remember is that it is not only ‘OK’ to take some time to address any mental health concern we might have, but it is vital we do so. This can often be hard in this work until you drop society.

It seems the fashion of the day is to post things about how hard you hustle or grind. It is important to work hard for sure. Doing so at the sacrifice of your mental health is not only foolish, it can be deadly. According to a survey of 156,000 hospital admissions for heart attacks over 7 years in Sweden, they found you are 11% greater to suffer a heart attack on Monday morning. The day you are least likely to suffer? Saturday. The stress of going back to work, often to a job we are less than thrilled about, can literally kill us. This is just one of many reasons to take your mental health seriously.

If you feel guilty about taking time off to take care of your mental health, here is a thought to ponder. Research by Oxford University Business school in collaboration with British multinational telecoms firm BT found a conclusive link between happiness and productivity. A further extensive study found that happy workers are 13% more productive. By taking care of your mental health, you are not only taking care of your own health, but actually doing your employer a favor by reducing sick days and increasing productivity. Look at you, rockstar employee!

Taking steps to address and maintain your mental health is not only for work. When you take care of your own mental health by doing things such as deep breathing, meditation, taking time for yourself and other forms of self-care, you are able to be a better parent, better spouse and better person overall. How many times have we caught ourselves in reaction and later thinking to ourselves, “Why did I say/do that?” Chances are you were under a great deal of stress and not acting as the best version of yourself and instead reacting to the emotions you were feeling at the moment. Taking care of our mental health will benefit all areas of our lives. You should NOT feel guilty about it and you certainly do NOT need an excuse to do so.

STRESS? HERE’S WHAT TO DO

One of my favorite philosophers, Mr. Rogers has a good suggestion when it comes to stress. This, I must confess, sounds easy but is not. When we see others under stress, it is easy to be compassionate and understanding. At least for a person reading this blog I assume it would be. However, if you are one of two or even several people involved in a stressful situation, this becomes quite a bit more difficult. There are two parts of this equation and I think we deserve to look at each of them here briefly.

The first part tell us in times of stress we should listen with our ears and our hearts. This means not only hearing the words the person is saying, but really doing our best to understand where they are coming from. We should never make assumptions and always ask for clarity if we do not understand. We should also be aware that in a stressful situation, most things said that seem angry, hurtful, or just plain mean, can be veiled cries for help. Not everyone is skilled at communicating in regular situations, much less when they are under stress. When we think of listening with our hearts, that involves a great deal of compassion for the person sitting across from us (or on the phone, or in a text or email) This can prove very difficult especially if that person seems to be attacking us or, as Norman Vincent Peale used to say, “Using biblical terms in a very unreligious way.” This difficulty is multiplied several times if we also happen to be under stress. What a difference it would make if we were able to accomplish it? Even putting forth the effort will make a great impact.

The second part is just as important. We must be assured that our questions are as important as our answers. When we provide an answer, we are more addressing the other party’s concern that getting an answer to our own. How great does it feel to know that our feelings and concerns are important to the party we are talking to? How do we think the other party would act if they felt their questions and concerns were not as important as our own? I can’t imagine the discussion would be very healthy or productive. We must not only tell the other party their questions are important, we must also show them. We do so by repeating them back to make sure we are addressing them. By listening, not just to reply, but to understand. This is a small difference that has a huge impact on the conversation.

While involved in a stressful discussion, let us do our best to remember the party we are involved in the discussion with has feelings and concerns that they need to know are important. They need to be heard with both our ears and our hearts. It is not easy, especially if we are also under stress, but it is necessary. We may not succeed 100% of the time, but that does not mean we shouldn’t do our best 100% of the time. It may help to sing this very popular song from Mr. Rogers before we begin our discussion.