'Stress Management' Category Archive

Posted on Aug 8th, 2006

1)Excessive worry

No, I’m not saying "don’t worry, be happy."

Well-used worry can alert us to areas in our lives that need attention and change. It’s just that most folks don’t use worry very well. Turning worry into action takes care of the worry.

2) A sedentary life

Would you send your kid to a summer camp that made the campers eat a continual diet of unhealthy food, allowed them to move as little as possible, made them stay inside and watch meaningless junk in their spare time?

Of course not.

Yet many of us volunteer for that lifestyle on a continual basis. Get up. Go outside and move. Human beings feel much better while living life instead of watching other people live.

3) Procrastination

Four words that virtually guarantee failure are "I’ll do it later."

Every time we say we’ll do it later, that thing runs around in our head taking up space. That’s too much stuff to carry around.

Practice doing it now. Do it now. Do it. Now.

4) Excuses

We seem to be the most creative when we need to find an excuse, usually for why we did or did not do something.

It’s been said that when we set a goal, there is only one of two outcomes:

We either achieve the goal, or have excuses why we did not. To free yourself from excuses, take responsibly for your own. Make sure you are doing all the necessary things to get you where you wish to go.

Visit SecretsofGreatRelationships.com for tips and tools for creating and growing a great relationship. You can also subscribe to our f*r*e*e 10 day e-program on how to enrich your relationship today, from relationship coach and expert Jeff Herring.

Posted on Aug 7th, 2006

1) Create the life you desire

Two of our most underdeveloped muscles are our choice muscles and decision muscles. Begin to exercise these muscles by making decisions and choices that serve to create the life you desire. If you don’t, who will?

2) Do work that you love

Some of the happiest people I know are those who get up in the morning, get to do something they love and also get paid for it. What do you love to do? How could you make a living at it? If you are not doing work you love and know you will have to be doing it for a while, what can you find in your job that you could love to do? What could you get really good at in this job that you could use later on in a job you love?

3) Keep it simple

Complicated is not better. Simpler is better.

4) Risk and make mistakes and even fail

I’ve heard many people say "I’d like to do so and so, but I’m afraid I’ll fail." So!? Failure is not the end. Failure is simply feedback. Learn from any failure. Then take what you learn to increase your chances of success the next time.

Hockey great Wayne Gretsky said "you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take." So do your research, decide on the best plan of action, and take your shot.

5) Slow down and relax

Some time during the past two decades we began to believe that the faster we go and the busier we are, the more successful we are.

We’ve turned into a nation of frantic people scurrying from one place to another trying to get it all done.

Stop. Sit down. Don’t do anything. Or if you simply must do something, just do one thing at a time. Just for five minutes.

Billy Joel once sang "slow down you crazy child, you’re so ambitious for a juvenile."

It’s good advice.

Visit SecretsofGreatRelationships.com for tips and tools for creating and growing a great relationship. You can also subscribe to our f*r*e*e 10 day e-program on how to enrich your relationship today, from relationship coach and expert Jeff Herring.

Posted on Aug 2nd, 2006

Of all the sources of stress in our lives, faulty emotional rules are one of the most debilitating. These faulty emotional rules are typically ingrained during childhood and become a part of how we live. Because they are largely unquestioned, we rarely stop and consider how they might be influencing our lives. If unchecked, these rules can even run our lives.

"How can I know what these rules are if I’m not aware of them?"

Good question. Perhaps a few examples can illustrate what I mean.

Let’s consider a person who appears to have his life together. He is financially secure and fulfilling most of his dreams. Yet he always feels there is something missing.

If this scenario seems familiar, you’re not alone. It’s a fairly big club.

Now, check out what we discover about this person’s faulty emotional rules for life. The rules are:

I have to be perfect.

If I’m not perfect, then I make a fool of myself.

Then I will never forgive myself.

That’s not exactly a prescription for enjoying life, is it?

Let’s look at another example. This person is in and out of bad relationships and has a history of being taken advantage of by others. Here are the rules this person lives by:

I have to please everyone around me.

If I don’t, then I am bad.

Then people will abandon me.

Are you beginning to see a pattern here? Faulty emotional rules typically involve three steps or parts that look something like this:

1) I have to (fill in the blank). This usually involves some kind of command, with no choice allowed.

2) If I don’t, then I’m (fill in the blank). This is usually something bad and difficult to change.

3) Then (fill in the blank) will happen. This is some terrible event that will dramatically affect your life, maybe even threaten it.

Now that the pattern of these rules has been established, you can look at the faulty emotional rules that interfere with your life. Just ask yourself these three questions:

In order to be a good person, what is it that I believe I must do?

If I don’t, then what does that make me?

Then what will happen to me?

The answers to these questions can help clarify the faulty emotional rules you might have accepted in your life.

So what should you do with this information? This is one of the rare times when you are being encouraged to break the rules. And you’ll be breaking them for a good reason.

One way to begin to break and then change faulty emotional rules is to ask lots of challenging questions. For instance:

Where did these rules come from?

Who taught them to you?

In what "emotional classroom" did you learn these rules?

Are they useful?

Do you want to keep them, change them or get rid of them?

Are they outdated and no longer applicable?

Are they like training wheels on a bike - necessary for survival at one time but no longer needed?

These questions can begin to loosen the hold that these rules have over your life.

The next step is to begin to construct and create your own emotional rules that fit your present life.

One way to do this is to ask friends and family about what rules work for them. They might look at you strangely at first, but if you keep digging, you might find out some interesting things.

Another way is to think of someone you admire and either guess about their rules and/or ask them.

Still another way is to ask yourself: "What do I need to believe in order to feel the way I want to feel, take the actions I want to take," etc.

All of us either have or have had faulty emotional rules in our lives. The trick is to identify, challenge, break and then, most importantly, change them.

Visit SecretsofGreatRelationships.com for tips and tools for creating and growing a great relationship. You can also subscribe to our f*r*e*e 10 day e-program on how to enrich your relationship today, from relationship coach and expert Jeff Herring.

Posted on Aug 1st, 2006

Q. I have just recently come to recognize that I don’t handle change very well, although my husband and friends have told me that for years. I seem to have trouble with changes that are out of my control. And then when I try to change things I want to change, I just don’t know what to do and get bogged down. What do you recommend?

A.

I believe that most people do not like change because they either don’t know how to respond to it or they respond poorly.

One way to think about this is that change is like waves on the beach. Just like change, waves are relentless and can be powerful, and there’s really only three things you can do with a wave: Let it knock you down, survive it or ride it.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these three ways to handle change.

We let the waves of change knock us down when we take what I call the dead roach approach to change - flat on our back, feet in the air and just out of control.

You can tell you are taking this approach when you say things such as:

"I’m so stressed out!"

"I can’t take this!"

"This isn’t fair!"

"Why does this always have to happen to me?"

Doesn’t surviving change sound like a good thing to want to do? Though in a few cases it’s really the only thing you can do, it really isn’t the optimal approach to take. I don’t know about you, but merely surviving doesn’t sound like a very compelling way to live.

If you’re thinking or saying these things, you’ve probably settled on merely surviving:

"How can I get through this?"

"What’s the worst that could happen here?"

"I don’t know if I can take this."

"What can I do to get by?"

The problem with taking a survival approach is that you just merely get by. When you’re ready to do more than just get by, it’s time to begin managing change.

Riding the waves of change means moving from a state of survival to a state I call "thrival." Thrival is simply the process of making change work for you.

Here are some questions to ask to begin to learn how to thrive on change:

How can I make this work for me?

What’s good about this?

What does this change allow me to do that I couldn’t do before?

What positive things might this change force me to do.

Change is inevitable. How we handle it is optional. Make the choice to ride the waves and you’re likely to create a compelling life for yourself.

Visit SecretsofGreatRelationships.com for tips and tools for creating and growing a great relationship. You can also subscribe to our f*r*e*e 10 day e-program on how to enrich your relationship today, from relationship coach and expert Jeff Herring.

Posted on Jul 31st, 2006

"Watch your language."

We all heard this admonition as kids and probably say it to our own kids as well.

Did you know that it is also a great stress mastering technique?

The words we use to make sense of both our day and the stress that confronts us make a huge difference in how well we handle our lives. Many times the words we use can make us feel even more stressed.

The funny thing is, it’s usually just a very small distinction that can make all the difference. One of the best examples is what I call the "got to vs. get to" difference.

Saying "I’ve got to" is so prevalent in our language that most of us don’t realize just how much and how often we say it.

Pay attention to how often you think and say, "got to." You’ll notice that it makes you feel tighter, heavier and more rushed. Actual physiological responses in your body take place as your muscles tighten and your breathing becomes shallower.

Activities and tasks that are simply a part of life, or perhaps even a privilege, then become burdens to be carried and gotten through.

Instead of enjoying the day and the blessings that come with it, we focus on just getting through. Doesn’t sound very compelling does it? Yet we do it all the time, every day.

Here’s what I suggest you do. Over the next few days, watch your language. Pay attention to your language. Notice how often you think or say, "got to." I’m willing to bet you’ll be surprised, and you’ll begin to understand a part of why you feel so stressed.

Now that you’re aware of how much you say "got to" and how much it effects you, here’s what you can do about it.

Remember earlier I pointed out it was just a small distinction between "got to" and "get to"? Well, the distinction is small, but the difference is huge. You can look upon the same day, with the same tasks in it, and take a "get to" approach. You’ll notice that you will feel lighter, less stressed, more motivated and more blessed.

Here’s a recent example from my life. On a recent Thursday afternoon, I found myself in the middle of a "got to" binge. It was past the time I prefer to send in this column. We just got the news that my wife would require more surgery following her recent pregnancy. And I had a full load of clients to see that afternoon.

Here is one more suggestion - imagine what it would have been like to lay in bed this morning, thinking about all the "got to’s" that were coming in your day. What does that feel like? Now, imagine the same scene, but focusing on all the many things that you "get to" do that day. Notice how different you feel? Which one do you like better?

It takes some practice, and with practice you can learn to avoid the "got to’s" and focus on the "get to’s" in your life. A small distinction, yes. And a huge difference.

Visit SecretsofGreatRelationships.com for tips and tools for creating and growing a great relationship. You can also subscribe to our f*r*e*e 10 day e-program on how to enrich your relationship today, from relationship coach and expert Jeff Herring.

Posted on Jul 30th, 2006

Q. I’ve been told that I need to learn from my mistakes. But telling me to learn from my mistakes is easier said than done. How exactly does it happen?

A. People seem to go through three stages in learning how to learn from their mistakes:

Stage One: Get me out of this!

No one likes mistakes or the problems and challenges that accompany them. But each mistake, problem and challenge comes with a gift for us.

When we are rescued from our mistakes, we miss out on what we are to learn from them. There are certain lessons that each of us is to learn in life. If we don’t learn the lesson the first time around, the same mistakes, problems and challenges will come back around.

I call this the "taps and 2-by-4’s process of life." When we need to learn and/or change something, life begins with a small tap on our shoulder. If we don’t pay attention, the taps get more forceful. If we still don’t listen, life has a way of taking out a 2-by-4 and whacking us across the head to get our attention.

Having been on the receiving end of a few 2-by-4’s, I recommend that you pay attention to the taps, because 2-by-4’s hurt.

Stage Two: Get me through this

Instead of looking for a way out, you are looking for a way through. We begin to ask questions like "How can I get through this?" instead of "How can I get out of this?" The focus is on survival instead of escape.

The only problem is that while surviving sounds good, it’s not very compelling. How excited would you be each morning if you got up thinking, "All right, I get to go survive today"?

Sometimes it seems like the very best we can do is survive a situation, but I believe there are better responses we can choose. In the words of Dan Fogelberg: "Lessons learned are like bridges burned, we only need to cross them but once."

Stage Three: What can I learn from this?

This is when you begin to learn from mistakes. If you believe that all mistakes come with hidden gifts, then this is when you can begin to discover them. Just asking the question frames the situation in a different perspective.

Here are some useful questions to ask: What was I trying to accomplish? Did it work? What ongoing themes were revealed that need to be changed? How many other ways are there to accomplish what I want? Is what I want to accomplish the right thing to do? Is it worth doing? What will happen if I keep making this mistake and/or don’t learn anything from this problem?

Making a mistake is not the biggest mistake we can make; not learning from them is the biggest mistake.

Visit SecretsofGreatRelationships.com for tips and tools for creating and growing a great relationship. You can also subscribe to our f*r*e*e 10 day e-program on how to enrich your relationship today, from relationship coach and expert Jeff Herring.

Posted on Jul 29th, 2006

Q. I wonder if you could help me with a problem that just seems to be getting worse. I seem to blow everything out of proportion. I react so strongly to even small problems and always think the worst is going to happen. My friends tell me I do it, my husband tells me, and I know I do and I’m tired of it.

A. Whether you call it blowing things out of proportion, making a mountain out of a molehill, or some other phrase, it all comes down to turning every event into a potential catastrophe. This is called catastrophism.

It’s a learned response. Most people who practice catastrophism have either had it modeled for them by someone else, received a great deal of attention when they go the high drama route, or both. Sometimes the problem can even get solved, which greatly reinforces the response.

Symptoms of catastrophism

Total or near total loss of perspective on the relative importance of events.

Turning the simple into something complex.

Viewing most, if not all, problems as potentially life-threatening.

Going from 0 to 60 emotionally in response to life’s challenges.

Demanding that others see the situation the same way you do.

Frustration with others when they don’t see it the same as you.

Catastrophism can be a very draining experience. Going from 0 to 60 all the time wears you out.

Imagine a meter that measures from 0 to 10, with 0 as rest and 10 as the strongest possible reaction. When we are faced with a challenge, we are designed to go from rest to some number on the meter and then back down to rest. But when we make events a catastrophe, we respond by shooting up the meter and never coming back down to rest.

Fairly soon we live at an intensity level of 5 and rarely get back to rest.

Another negative consequence of catastrophism is that people begin to not take you seriously. When everything is a big deal to you, then nothing is a big deal to those around you. So, when something really is a big deal, others will think you are crying wolf.

Another consequence is people tend to shy from the intensity and drama, so again, when something is an actual crisis, nobody’s around to take you seriously.

Fortunately, there are many ways to intervene in this process and get the changes you want.

Practicing perspective

The first thing I recommend is to practice some perspective. Perspective is something you either use or lose. I worked with a client whose motto in the face of challenges was "Well, they can’t cook and eat me." There might be some wisdom there. While you may not want to use those exact words, telling yourself "this is just an event" can calm you down and allow you to respond more effectively.

A fun way to get a different perspective on a problem is to think of a character whom you admire in a book or movie and ask yourself "How would this person respond to this problem?"

Another practical strategy is to consider how you see the problem vs. how a video camera would see the problem.

Here’s a strategy that can aid you in your perspective practice: Either write down or imagine two scales from 1 to 10, with 1 the lowest and 10 the highest. The first scale measures the importance of the event; the second scale measures your response to the event.

I’m betting you have a history of responding to lower-scale events with some dramatic, higher-scale responses. You may want to get some help from your husband or a close friend with charting the importance of an event. What you want to do is practice responding at or near the same level as the event. If the event is a 3, instead of shooting up to a 10, practice responding at a 2, 3, or 4 level.

Given time and some practice, most people are able to respond in more effective ways to the events of life. One of the best payoffs is that life becomes more fun and enjoyable.

Visit SecretsofGreatRelationships.com for tips and tools for creating and growing a great relationship. You can also subscribe to our f*r*e*e 10 day e-program on how to enrich your relationship today, from relationship coach and expert Jeff Herring.

Posted on Jul 28th, 2006

Q: Someone told me that the Chinese symbol for crisis means danger and opportunity. I just lost my job, and I see nothing but bad stuff in this. Where is the opportunity?

A: When you are hit with a life crisis such as losing a job, it’s easy to focus on only the dangers and bad things.

Here are five questions to ask yourself when life hands you something you don’t want or like. They are designed to get you through the crisis and to help you manage your thoughts and emotions as well.

1. In how many ways can I make this work for me?

The language of this question is important because it contains what is called a presupposition. I think that the first people to really understand the human brain and emotions were not psychologists, but those in advertising and sales.

For example, when you are shopping for a new car a good salesperson will ask "Do you want to buy the red car or the blue car?" The presupposition is that you will buy one of them.

Our question presupposes that there is a way to make this work for you, and it also assumes there are several ways to do this. It may take a great deal of creativity, but creativity is simply the ability to look at something that has always been there and see something that has not been seen before.

2. What’s good about this? What does this allow me to do that I might not have done before?

One of the many results of losing a job is you suddenly have a lot of time on your hands. While this can be scary, it also can work to your advantage. Are there projects around the house you can now complete? Are there members of your family with whom you can spend more time?

One of the best uses of this time can be to step back and consider what it is you really want to do in life. If you have been doing something that is not your passion, losing your job could be your ticket to living and working out your passion.

3. What would you love to do?

If there is not a job like that around, how could you create one in a way that would add value to the lives of others? The happiest people I know are those who are doing what they love for a living.

4. What does this force me to do that I might not have done before?

When our backs are up against the wall, we sometimes have to face issues we have been avoiding. Do you need to improve your job skills? Go back to school? Sometimes being out of work can expose financial areas of your life that have not been taken care of. Once you are working again, do you need to get out of debt, take care of retirement, or something else?

5. How many ways can I make this work for me?

I know I asked that question once already. But questions 2 through 4 prepare you to better answer the question the second time around. See what other useful answers you can come up with at this point.

It comes down to a sometimes difficult choice: Am I going to focus on all the ugliness of what has happened, or am I going to focus on how to come out of this better, stronger and wiser than when I went in?

Visit SecretsofGreatRelationships.com for tips and tools for creating and growing a great relationship. You can also subscribe to our f*r*e*e 10 day e-program on how to enrich your relationship today, from relationship coach and expert Jeff Herring.

Posted on Jul 27th, 2006

Author and speaker H. Stephen Glenn has said,

"In terms of the entire world, if, when you wake up in the morning, you have a choice of what to eat, a choice of what to wear, a job to go to and a way to get there, you have abundance."

And yet we squander that abundance so often by not making choices in our lives. We allow life to just happen to us, instead of choosing what we believe to be best for us. We have enough abundance to create and live our best life, and yet we lose out by choosing not to. We have very weak choice muscles.

So the question becomes:

are you a chooser or a loser?

If that sounds harsh, well, so be it. It’s a harsh reality.

How to be a loser

Allow life to just happen to you.

Play the victim role.

Complain without taking any action.

Believe you have no power to influence yourself or others.

Take the "dead roach approach" to events that occur in your life _ lying flat on your back with your legs wiggling in the air and whatever happens, happens.

Believe in silly sayings such as "waiting for the other shoe to drop" and "bad things always come in threes." These are classic self-fulfilling prophecies.

Take a reactive approach to life - do not use you brain.

Ask really useless questions like "why does this always happen to me?" while whining "this is not fair!"

Play it safe and don’t take risks _ prefer the safety of mediocrity over the chance to go for want you want in life.

Set very low expectations for yourself and then consistently fail to live up to them.

How to be a chooser

Realize - get it - that you have choices!

Take a proactive approach to your life.

Expect success and for things to go well and go your way.

Set high expectations for yourself, higher than others expect of you, and then exceed them.

Pick a direction in which to head and then pursue it with all you have got.

Be creative. So many people limit themselves by telling me that they are just not creative. My response is "Do you worry?" Answer _ "Yes, of course. All the time." Then you know how be creative. Worrying is simnply being creative in a negative, limiting way. Creativity is simply this: "looking at something that has always been there and seeing something that has never been seen before."

Visit SecretsofGreatRelationships.com for tips and tools for creating and growing a great relationship. You can also subscribe to our f*r*e*e 10 day e-program on how to enrich your relationship today, from relationship coach and expert Jeff Herring.

Posted on Jul 26th, 2006

Here’s a fun little experiment:

Take a few seconds and look around you, noticing and focusing on everything you see that is blue. Just look around and notice everything that is blue.

Now close your eyes, and tell me everything you noticed that is green.

Threw you a bit of a curve ball there, didn’t I?

If you are like most folks, you were expecting me to ask you to name everything that was blue. Instead I asked for something different from which you had focused on.

Here’s an interesting fact from the world of race car driving:

As I understand it, when new drivers are learning how to race, one of the first things they’re taught is what to focus on when they go into a spin.

The natural tendency is for them to focus on the wall they’re trying to avoid hitting - and they usually end up hitting the wall. They are taught instead not to focus on the wall, but on where they want to go. In this way, they have a better chance of avoiding the wall and successfully getting out of the spin.

The exercise and story both point to the incredible power of focus in our lives. Wherever we place our focus, the rest of our mind and emotions will follow.

So how do we learn how to do this focus stuff?

One of the quickest ways to begin to strengthen your focus muscles is to practice the 5-percent/95-percent rule. That means to focus no more than 5 percent on what you don’t want and 95 percent on what you do want.

Focus 5 percent on what you fear and 95 percent on getting educated and skilled to face it.

Did you know that we all have fears? Even people who appear to fear nothing. The trick is not to have no fear but to work at becoming strong and skilled enough to face and conquer your fears.

Focus 5 percent on the problem and 95 percent on the healthiest solution.

Often it’s easy to get caught in the endless definition and redefinition of a problem. "What’s the problem?" is the wrong question. A better question is: "How many different solutions can we create?"

Focus 5 percent on the mistake and 95 percent on learning from it.

There’s a wonderful story about a new employee of a large corporation who makes a $10,000 mistake in his first week on the job. Upon being called into the CEO’s office at the end of the day, he tells his boss that he realizes he will be fired and that he is sorry for the mistake. To which the CEO replies, "Fire you? No way. I just spent $10,000 training you." I bet he became a valuable employee.

Focus 5 percent on who to blame and 95 percent on making sure to heal.

Getting stuck in blame sets you up to be lame. Focusing on healing allows you to move on with your life.

Focus 5 percent on the conflict and 95 percent on the win-win-win resolution.

Conflict, especially in families, does not always have to be a win-lose situation. In any conflict, each side has needs. The question is what kind of solution can be found that meets as many of each person’s needs as possible.

Focus 5 percent on what you must do and 95 percent on enjoying the process of it.

"I have to," "I’ve got to," "I wish I didn’t have to" are all phrases that focus on having to do things we don’t want to do. Better words that shift your focus would be: "How can I get all this done and enjoy the process?"

Finally, and most important:

Focus 5 percent on reading this 95 percent on applying it.

When you drive, your car follows your nose.

When you live, your life follows your focus. Where’s your focus

Visit SecretsofGreatRelationships.com for tips and tools for creating and growing a great relationship. You can also subscribe to our f*r*e*e 10 day e-program on how to enrich your relationship today, from relationship coach and expert Jeff Herring.

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