Life can be overwhelming. Maybe you're stuck and think that finding joy means adding one more task to your to-do list. I'm here to assuage your fears.
Where do you start?
Here's some food for thought:
1. Shift your approach
Let's say that you're swamped. There's no more time left to spare.
Bring in elements of joy throughout your day.
Focus on the aspects you appreciate at work. Maybe this means allowing yourself to pause every few hours and reflect for two minutes about which parts are gratifying. This could be a conversation with one of those favorite co-workers. Or maybe your office overlooks a beautiful tree. Take a second to relish in all of its beauty.
2. Find an activity where there is no outcome, but to enjoy the process
Our seriousness has its place, but sometimes it can take away from experiencing fun in the moment. I want to challenge you to think of something you can savor without the confinements of "doing it right" or "performing". When we expect ourselves to be perfect, it can be difficult to revel in the activity itself because we are so focused on the outcome.
3. Rekindle childhood memories
I used to enjoy going on the jungle gym. I've always craved that sense of freedom. This translates to my enjoyment into being outside surrounded by trees. As an adult, I love driving to vista points and being surrounded by the mountains.
For you, this might have been putting on your favorite pair of jeans, and from that day on, you feel in love with fashion. Or maybe you used to go to museums and now you find a sense of peace when you make collages from magazines.
Sometimes we forget that we know ourselves best. We know that we work better in the morning or in the evening. Instead of fighting against that, we can acknowledge it and if it's possible, we can use our natural inclinations for our own benefit.
For example, if we have more energy at night, maybe it's better to tackle that book or workout at night.
WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT YOURSELF?!
I used to be concerned about making everyone else happy. I felt afraid to express my feelings and to make others feel uncomfortable.
It wasn't until I felt insecure about myself that I started taking care of myself and finding the courage to express what I needed to others.
HOW DO YOU ENCOURAGE YOURSELF?!
Do you ever feel like life gets stressful?
Some tools to try:
Encouragement: Write down a statement that you would like to hear from others to encourage yourself
Meaning: List who or what is most meaningful to you Movement: Try 3 or more stretches (Ideas: neck, shoulders, and legs)
Quote: Use a mantra from one of your role models
Which one do you want to try?
How to make your own stress-relieving kit:
-mint (alerts the senses)
-velvet (or something nice to touch)
-lavender (to smell)
-chimes (to hear)
-gum (to chew)
Which of the 5 senses calms you?
Today’s mini-guided imagery exercise:
Imagine yourself in the forest.
What’s it like as you brush your fingers against the tree bark?
You see yourself feeling the leaves beneath your feet.
While envisioning the trees around you, you hear the birds chirping.
Do you expect yourself to be perfect? Having high expectations for ourselves is a positive. When we're too hard on ourselves, it can keep us in inaction.
Break it down into more reasonable chunks.
Have someone hold you accountable. Let your friends and family know that you have to complete certain tasks. Make them text you to make sure that you're getting it done!!
It's okay to re-visit the task on our list. We might not do it correctly on the first try, but we can always edit or come back to it.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH PROCRASTINATION?!!
Here are some things to try if you feel nervous or want to procrastnate more. :P
TEMPERATURE: Bring a frozen water bottle and place it on your forehead before the big event.
RAISE YOUR HEART RATE: Do some jumping jacks to decrease your anxiety.
BREATHE: Take a deep breath and hold in for 4 seconds. Breathe out for four seconds.
PROGRESSIVE MUSCLE RELAXATION: Tense and relax each muscle group starting with your toes and move up your body until you've reached the top of your head.
How do you cope with your nerves?
Self-Care as a flexible recipe:
I used to get annoyed by "self-care" because it's an overused term and it sometimes suggests that "self-care" is a magic fix. Reframing self-care as something that's unique to each person, I've learned to embrace it.
For me, self-care is a flexible recipe. When I need time alone, I'll add in more physical activity. Other times, I'll need more time with friends. Sometimes it's an action step--like driving to the store to get my favorite sugar scrub or candle.
Here are some questions to ask yourself about "self-care":
1. What types of activities do I find energizing or draining?
2. Do I feel more relaxed when I've met with a large group of friends or met with someone one-on-one?
3. What work activities maintain or drain my energy?
4. Do I gain more energy after a meeting at work?
5. Do I feel better after I've spent time alone in my office?
6. How often do you generally spend engaging in enjoyable activities?
7. What are some things that you would like to spend less time doing?
8. Do you find it more manageable when you answer emails all throughout the day or during scheduled time frames?
taking care of Your emotions
Self-care also includes paying attention to our emotions. Even if it's uncomfortable, the ability to identify our emotions helps us catch them before they get bigger. What I mean by this: have you ever gotten really upset about something that seemed silly to someone else? I have! But what I have learned is that surge of anger may have been related to a lot of things piling up over time.
Do you ever feel like emotions are warning signs?
I used to ignore my emotions and pretend to be happy non-stop.
What I've learned is that emotions indicate that we need to pay attention.
Feelings aren't facts, but emotions let us know if we need to set limits.
For example, when I'm feeling irritable, I ask myself if I need to take a step away from the situation.
What do emotions tell you?
Here's an exercise for paying attention to our feelings:
Take 2 minutes to...
OBSERVE what's in front of you.
DESCRIBE in words what you see, feel, and hear.
ENGAGE in your experience and feel it fully.
What do you notice right now? What feelings are you experiencing? What thoughts arise?
WHAT'S PART OF YOUR SELF-CARE RECIPE?!
Sometimes we doubt how beautiful we are, inside and out. When we are surrounded by others' expectations, we have the ability to do what makes us happy, even if it doesn't fit into the standard mold. We get to define who we are and do what feels go to us, even if that means placing ourselves first.
DON'T LET OTHERS TELL YOU WHO YOU SHOULD BE
Follow the beat of your own song.
Dance even when others aren't dancing.
Do what makes you happy.
Show 'em when others tell you "no".
Be your own guide.
WHAT MAKES YOU "YOU"?
NO ONE IS AS UNIQUE AS YOU!
Own all your flaws.
There's no reason you need to fit yourself into a box. Be who you want to be.
WHAT MAKES YOU UNIQUE?
Radical acceptance means accepting the facts of the situation without changing it. Resisting our circumstances can lead to additional suffering.
For example, we might be frustrated that we have to show up to work when we're sick. Acknowledging that it's a difficult situation validates our situation rather than creating more inner turmoil. When we accept our situation, even if it's uncomfortable, we are better able to cope with it. How can you accept the facts of the situation without changing it?
WE ARE ALLOWED TO FEEL WHAT WE'RE FEELING
Sometimes it's hard to slow down and to feel what we're feeling. We might invalidate ourselves because we think that others might have a tougher situation. While this might be true, you're still entitled to feel what you're feeling. Someone might have a difficult situation AND you are feeling what you're feeling.
What you're feeling doesn't take away from who you are as a person. It doesn't mean that you're not working hard. They're just feelings. They come and go.
HOW DO YOU VALIDATE YOUR FEELINGS?
We're less likely to worry about the future when we're engaging our senses.
STRESS MANAGEMENT: DE-STRESS WITH GROUNDING EXERCISES
How to do it:
Name 5 things using each of your senses
Focusing on the senses helps alleviate our stress.
Grounding exercises are also a great tool for managing trauma, hypervigilence, anxiety, or panic attacks.
When I'm tired, I'm less likely to be mindful. I was in a meeting and I wasn't fully aware of how I was soaking up other people's anxiety. Next time, I'd like to remind myself that I might be tired and it might be harder for me to be aware of others who might affect me.
Some reminders about stress and what might get in the way of sticking to our new goals:
Identify situations that might drain your energy levels. Anticipate that it might be harder to stay with your goals when you're tired. List difficult situations and how you will cope with them ahead of time. It takes more energy to cope with stress. When we're tired, it's harder for us to maintain self-control.
Think about how schedule changes or unpredictable events might shift your behavior.
Studies show that those who did not attempt to change their affective state were better able to perform tasks requiring pain and physical stamina.
WHAT SITUATIONS HELP YOU MAINTAIN SELF-CONTROL?!
Muraven, M. & Baumeister, R.F. (2000). Self-regulation and depletion of limited resources: Does self-control resemble a muscle? Psychological Bulletin, 126(2), 247-259.
STRESS MANAGEMENT: ON COMMUNICATION
As a therapist at a school, I find that I'm giving a lot. Being present for them takes a full tank of gas.
When I'm communicating with others, I want to listen and to be fully present. No one is perfect, but what I find is that the words people use are incredibly impactful. What are some words or phrases that make you want to listen?
"Should" suggests a demand or obligation. I am careful about giving advice without asking someone first. When do you prefer advice and how do you ask for it?
We all want to be heard and to be understood. Who are those people in your life that you dont't need to explain yourself? How do they provide their time?
Sometimes, at work or when I'm around acquaintances, I'm misunderstood and I might feel shameful or angry. A shift takes place when I remind myself of my values and who I am. When I am with my friends and my sister, I feel understood. I don't have to explain my actions. Who makes you feel understood?
JUDGMENTS & BELIEFS
"There is never a right time for strong emotions. But as human beings, we experience them! It's unavoidable. I have been thinking about some of the messages that society has placed upon us. But guess what? We don't have to abide by those rules.
Here are some of the examples that come to mind:
""Emotions always get in the way""
Yes, it can feel like they are inconvenient, but we have the strategies to cope with them. Feeling emotions all at once is not necessarily the goal, but rather, acknowledging them as they come up from time to time.
"Being emotional is a sign of weakness"
I disagree with this statement. You are welcome to have your own thoughts and opinions! :) Instead, having emotions makes us human and less robotic. They allow us to show kindness to other people. We are better able to connect and form strong relationships if we allow ourselves to be open about our feelings. Emotions are signals. They tell us if we're taking care of ourselves or if something hits us deeply.
What are your judgments and beliefs around emotions?
My introversion is most apparent after a long day at work. To de-compress, I find it relaxing to draw or get coffee with a friend. I enjoy spending time with people one-on-one, as opposed to large groups.
Extraverts seek stimulation outside themselves-- through high-energy activities and with lots of people. This isn't to say that introverts don't find these activities engaging, but rather introverts might not pursue these activities all the time.
Zelenski, J.M., Whelan, D.C., Nealis, L.J., Besner, C.M., Santoro, M.S., & Wynn, J.E. (2013). Personality and affective forecasting: Trait introverts underpredict the hedonic benefits of acting extraverted. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(6), 1092-1108.
WHAT MAKES YOU AN INTROVERT OR EXTRAVERT?!
This is a snapshot into a time when I was studying for the Law and Ethics exam when I felt less confident about myself intellectually.
It had taken me back to the time in college when I wasn't sure about my determination and academic capacity. Reminding myself of what I do well has been carrying me through my own doubts.
These are my self-compassionate statements:
"I might be having a hard time absorbing the material, but I'm going to study anyway. It's normal to be frustrated."
"It's okay to be anxious. Other people would be anxious in your situation."
WHAT IS SELF-COMPASSION?!
1) It's an attitude of kindness and non-judgment toward oneself
2) We feel less isolated because we acknowledge how others may feel similarly in this situation.
3) Self-compassion is identifying our thoughts and emotions in a unattached way. We are not consumed by these experiences, but rather, we are able to see them in a balanced way.
Neff, K.D. (2003). The development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion. Self and Identity, 2, 223-250.
WHEN ARE YOU SELF-COMPASSIONATE WITH YOURSELF?!