Why is it helpful?
I get it. It's difficult to let go of a difficult situation. We want to know what will happen, how it will all look, how we'll feel. For all of us anxious people (myself included), certainty provides us with a sense of comfort.
But from what I've learned, letting go means becoming comfortable with the discomfort.
It is just that. Uncomfortable. And if we can be certain about one thing--it's that everything always changes. Even happiness and pain. It's all temporary.
So what does this all mean?
Yes, we can still make plans. And they're important and necessary. But the key is that we won't know how the future will unfold down to the specific details. Instead of seeking for knowing what will happen, I've started relying on being open and trusting my instincts.
And how can we cope with all this?
Similarly, we can try our best, but we cannot control if we make mistakes. Recognizing what we can control may assist us with letting go. We can control how we respond to the situations that are presented to us. We can focus on how we manage and acknowledge our emotions.
The act of expressing what we need is a way of taking responsibility. Even if the outcome isn't what we expect and we can't control how others respond, sharing our thoughts with others is a way of taking care of ourselves and regaining a sense of control.
What does it mean to trust your intuition?
You know that feeling "in your gut". You know that feeling--when you meet someone and you get a sense that you can't trust this person. Maybe it's that the person's body language doesn't align with the person's words--you might see right through that person's smile or hello. Or maybe you're sensing that the person is being insincere. Our intuition is a sense of "knowing" without necessarily having tangible evidence.
Why is it important to trust our intuition?
This internal "knowing" may give us signals through our bodies. What I mean by this is that physiological signals are tied to our emotions. Research (Feldman et al., 1999) suggests that when our emotions are associated with different physiological responses. For example, when we are anxious, our heart rate most likely increases and our bodies might become warm. So the next time your heart races, ask yourself if you are anxious or worried. Our intuition can lead us to what seems right for us. When we use our intuition as a guide, we carry onward with less self-doubt.
So how do we begin to trust ourselves?
Slow your roll
I get it. We're busy people. So it's easy to get caught in the hustle and bustle of things. In between that rushing, if we slow down once in awhile, we will be more attuned to what we need.
Sometimes it's easier to ignore what we're feeling when we're rushing.
You know those days--when you've been rushing from place to place and you tell everyone, "I haven't eaten since breakfast." So after that long day, you stop at In-N-Out to get a burger but feel awful afterwards. When we're rushing, we forget to eat, and make those decisions that would make us feel less-than-good at the end of the day.
Even if we can't slow down entirely, we can make a conscious effort to pause for a few minutes in between the craziness to ask ourselves what we need or how we're feeling. Taking these moments allows us to practice listening to our intuition and what we need.
Feldman, P.J., Cohen, S.C., Lepore, S.J., Matthews, K.A., Kamarck. T.W., & Marsland, A.L. (1999). Negative emotions and acute physiological responses to stress. Annals of Behavioral Medicine , 21(3): 216-222.
Who are we? Do you use your career title as a way to define who you are? It happens to many of us. This act only gets us into trouble when we solely define ourselves by our achievements.
It's simple and accessible to identify based on our career roles. It's something that we can use in passing, to answer the question "What do you do?" when we are meeting someone for the first time. But answering that question does not begin to describe all the hats we wear in this world. Perhaps you are a parent or a sibling. Or some other descriptor related to one of your hobbies. Sometimes these automatic responses become engraved into our sense of being. It's easy when we are connected to communities with others that share this similar identity.
Maybe the path to our identity is just that. It's a process. It's a way of encompassing all that we do and who we are as people. Think back to your childhood. How have your beliefs changed over the years? How did your identity shift from each life stage.
What Does Our Self-Esteem Have To Do With It All?
Our self-esteem is based on how we see ourselves and how we may judge ourselves against others. Do you compare yourself with others?
When we compare ourselves with others, we often see a sliver of this person's life on the outside. It's merely a snapshot among many. Unless we know that person intimately, we do not know what other struggles that that person encounters on a daily basis.
When we are sure about ourselves, others' appearances matter less to us. We are less impacted when we feel comfortable with who we are.
Self-image & Loving Ourselves
Positive self-image takes place when our realities align with who we want to be.
Let's go back to that childhood or college self. Who did we want to be? How did we see ourselves? Now, fast-forward--how does your current self align with your dreams from the past and present? Does this mean that you'd want to bring in some unconditional love for yourself?
But is there more? How do we identify ourselves beyond our roles? We can reframe our roles beyond ourselves. Perhaps it means using our skills to serve under-privileged communities twenty minutes away from our homes. How would you want to share your interests with others? What would bring you immense joy?
During my recovery periods from skating injuries (broken toe and ankle, strained knee, lower back, and groin, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints), I practiced guided imagery when I wasn't able to train on the ice. I watched videos of myself performing jumps. Then I would imagine the feeling in my body for each of the jumps.
Some strategies for guided imagery:
For this example, I'll use pull-ups.
Closing your eyes, take a deep breath in and feel your core engaged.
Feel your lat muscles engaging.
Imagine how it feels to lift yourself.
Start small. See if you can feel one muscle group engaging as you're visualizing.
So why does guided imagery work?
1. Through Motivation General Mastery (MG-M), a specific type of guided imagery focuses on the details of our optimal performance and our ability to overcome challenging situations. In this type, we imagine ourselves as competent and confident. With practice and mastery, guided imagery allows us to improve our confidence levels through decreased anxiety.
2. A specific type of guided imagery, Motivation General Arousal (MG-A), pinpoints our ability to regulate our level of performance anxiety. Through relaxation exercises and the focus on physical sensations, athletes use MG-A to feel at ease prior to the competitive event.
3. Cognitive Specific (CS) is primarily based on specific sports skills (ex: penalty shot in hockey)”, while imagining the process required in the skill. CS is most effective when combined with MG-A to mimic the arousal states perpetuated by the real-life event.
Some helpful tips for using guided imagery:
1. Shift the meaning of this image
Let's say that you are using guided image for a goal on the field. Seeing the goal as a challenge as opposed to pressure can help athletes improve their skills and be more effective. This reinterpretation influences our level of confidence.
2. Practice, practice, practice
Visualize movements and engage physically in the movement (imagine doing the movements yourself). Start with simpler images (e.g. visualize the field), and then progress to more complex ones (e.g., imagine specific sports skills).
Most of the studies have covered the effective nature of imagery to the extent that it improves skills and strategy acquisition, whereas fewer studies have focused on the cognitive restructuring and how imagery impacts arousal and anxiety. It has been found that CS imagery is more effective than MS imagery. MG-A is only helpful when used with CS imagery because of the visualization of movements required in skill attainment
Movement Imagery Questionnaire (MIQ, Hall & Pongrac, 1983; MIQ-Revised, Hall & Martin, 1997).
Roberts, R., Callow, N. , Hardy, L., Markland, D., & Bringer, J. (2008). Movement imagery ability: Development and assessment of a revised version of the Vividness of Movement Imagery Questionnaire, Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 30, 200-221.
Vividness of Movement Imagery Questionnaire (VMIZ; Issac, Marks, & Russell, 1986).
Short, S.E., Tenute, A., & Feltz, D.L. (2005). Imagery use in sport: Mediational effects for efficacy. Journal of Sports Sciences, 23(9), 951-960.
Why do I love helping people manage their stress? For awhile, I had a tough time finding balance and the ideal recipe of "doing" and "being". Now I want to help others find their sense of balance, while challenging them to pursue more of what they love and decrease their stress.
What do I mean by "doing"? It means going through our daily routine--going to work, finding a job, running errands--everything from doing what we need to do to get through the day to finding what makes us happy.
I've noticed that changing my attitude has helped me discover moments where I can just be, where I can be aware of what's surrounding me, even if I'm distracted and not directly in the "present".
WHAT HELPS YOU MAINTAIN BALANCE?!
I used to believe that I wasn't "good enough", particularly in my career. I felt as though I needed to "prove myself" to others and that I was productive all the time. I used to compare myself with others. I was surrounded by driven individuals who knew exactly what they wanted to pursue. A shift took place when I stopped comparing myself with others and focused on my career and what I needed.
I remember feeling scared to let my guard down and showing people who I was. My path didn't look like others' journeys and that was okay. Now it's not about "being the best" that matters to me, but doing what brings meaning into my life. Acknowledging the bumps in the road has allowed me to accept who I am today.
Being spontaneous and letting go of my plans made me realize that it's a lot easier to get thins done. Sometimes we need a break from the seriousness, and being silly can remind us of the fun in life.
There's nothing like being totally silly and letting loose. I used to worry about whether I looked weird, if I used the "right" words, the list continues...
Peers used to mock me because I was nerdy. I'm not saying this to receive pity or sympathy, but rather to show that it's possible to feel good about who we are, without caring about what others think of us!
What helps you be silly?
Sometimes, with silliness, it means letting go of what's expected of us as adults. Who says that we can't act like a kid every once in awhile?!
My boyfriend had dropped off his car to get fixed and there was a downpour. So what did we do?! We skipped in the rain and slid into the mud. The hills turned golden as the sun parted through the clouds.
Some tips to get silly:
1. Watch an old cartoon and embrace all of it.
2. Grab a friend and make silly faces at each other until you start laughing.
3. Go to a comedy show.
4. Start telling jokes and laugh at yourself.
5. Look at something and make up a nonsensical story about it. Laugh at yourself!
Goal-Setting: Connecting our Pros & Cons List with our Thoughts
Do you ever feel like, "I don't think I need to change "? Maybe it's about staying who you are, while shifting some of your habits.
If you're thinking about changing, it can be helpul to think about different obstacles or what might interfere with making this adjustment. Sometimes change is anxiety-provoking. Pros & Cons lists can highlight our level of motivation for altering our behaviors.
Here's an example: "I want to go to two yoga classes per week"
"I will feel accomplished after going to yoga"
"I will feel more relaxed after the class"
"I want to take care of my body"
"I have to get someone to watch the kids if I go"
"I don't know where to start. There are so many different yoga studios"
"It costs a lot, and I don't know if I can attend consistently to make it worthwhile"
Thoughts distracting me from the goal:
"I'm too tired"
"I want to hang out and relax after work "
We can shift this thought by using our "Pros" from our list:
"I might be tired, but I will relaxed after going to yoga."
"I might not want to go to yoga, but I will feel proud of myself for going to yoga"
Which parts can you relate to when making a shift?
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?