You Don’t Have to Always Hustle to Be Successful

I read a blog this morning about the behaviors of emotionally strong individuals.  Initially I asked, “what is emotional strength?”  Emotional strength is the ability to experience positive feelings.  There are some studies to suggest that certain personality traits are linked to greater emotional stability, an indicator for emotional strength (Guswell & Ruch, 2012). A particular study by Guswell and Ruch (2012) suggested there are innate characteristics that can either support or hinder a person’s ability to manage emotions.  In other words some personalities have an easier time managing emotions and remaining positive.  Although research claims it may be easier for some more than others it is not likely that only certain individuals with certain personality traits are allowed happiness.  All people are allowed happiness and all individuals can have a happy disposition despite character, experience, or previous thought patterns.

Individuals can learn emotional strength.  If you struggle with something in life you can learn to improve; you can learn to emotionally improve, as well. Your emotions do not control you.  Your thinking does not control you.  (It seems that way most of the time because turning “off” thinking and emotions is challenging).  The source behind the thinking and the emotions is YOU and the one in control of you is YOU!  I understand my posts talk a lot about choosing to be happy positive and I understand this can be very frustrating to most.  But, that truly is the issue; choice.  How you think and how you feel is up to you!  It is that simple.  The hard part is applying the skills, tools, and techniques to make that choice stick.

There are lots of tools and behaviors one can apply to increase emotional strength.  One behavior that stood out to me as a read the blog on emotional strength was ,”They (emotionally strong people) are not afraid of slowing down”.  This really stuck with me and caused me to ponder.

Emotional strength equals success.  Early research clearly demonstrated that people with an ability to evaluate their emotions, identify their emotions, and rationally handle their emotions are better able to reach and achieve goals (Allport & Allport, 1921).  To consider that emotionally strong people can slow down and relax challenged the belief that successful people are “go-getters” and “busy-bees”. Success coincides with work.  So many of us are chasing dreams, aspirations, and goals.  Motivation is inspired and we are challenged to keep going, keep pushing, and work daily to achieve success.  Then why is slowing down a sign of success and emotional strength?  How does rest and slowing down accomplish goals?

When we slow down we can LIVE.  It is so easy to be caught up in pursuing goals and achieving success and to lose sight of daily life and the little miracles that occur.  I am no exception.  My goals and aspirations in life require me to have daily goals and a daily plan.  The drive to be successful causes me to become acutely aware of my daily goals and I can spend minutes of my day, hours of my day planning, working, building, doing, and analyzing.  What happens if I just stop?  What happens if I just slow down and approach the day as it comes?

When we can slow down we are left with seconds, minutes, hours, even days for freedom and to live.

  • Slowing down means we can be content with our present moment and our present blessings.
  • Slowing down means we can be thankful for what we have.
  •  Slowing down allows us to experience love and support of family and friends.
  • Slowing down means taking a break.
  • Slow down means we have time to do something else (perhaps read a book, talk with a friend, or sit in silence).

Today I challenge you to stop!  Stop planning and stop working.  Take time away from your “to-do” list and do something else.  You do not need to always be working on something and you do not need to always be focusing on your goals.  I challenge you to take a step back, slow down, and enjoy the moment and the people you are with.  When you slow down to live you will restore your heart, your brain, and your soul.  This renewal of mind, body, and spirit will help you achieve goals, accomplish tasks, and lead you to success.

 

 

References:

Allport, F. H., & Allport, G. W.  (1921). Personality traits: Their classification and measurement. The Journal of Abnormal Psychology and Social Psychology, 16(1), 6-40.

Guswell, A. & Ruch, W. (2012).  Are only emotional strengths emotional?  Character strength and disposition to positive emotions.  Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 4(2), 218-239.

Thigh Gaps and 6-Pack Abs

I am saddened and, quite frankly, sickened by modern perceptions of beauty and what this is doing to women, young and old. I love fashion. If I ever return to school for a second career it would be to work in the fashion industry. I love fabric, accessories, makeup, beauty products, shoes, clothes, and the art of fashion. I am intrigued by models. I find them beautiful and I find them alluring. I find that I want to wear or carry whatever it is the models are wearing or carrying. As I flip through the most recent addition of Vogue and I see the gorgeous photos shining back at me, I feel a bit conflicted and convicted. Does my love for fashion and this media standard of beauty mean that I support the unhealthy and unrealistic expectations of beauty?

As a fitness competitor and as an individual that works in the health and wellness field I spend a lot of time focusing on the body. Bodybuilding athletes spend a great deal of time trying to shape their physique to meet a specific standard. Countless hours are spent in the gym, time with friends and family is neglected, and sheer dedication to stick to a meal plan are all required to achieve a particular body. Once this body is achieved there is pride in the work. Then the individual faces a panel of others to have their body judged, critiqued, and evaluated. Does this support media standards of beauty?  Then once the competition is over, life continues.  The lean muscles and the “fit” physique do not make daily life any easier, nor does it make the average individual any richer or more valuable.  For most, this physique does not pay the bills nor does it improve relationships with others.

The current standard in beauty is a “thigh gap” and “6-pack abs”. People believe to have the body shaped in this way means a person is more beautiful. But what does achieving this body mean? What does this body say about this person? I asked a group of young girls about this. To achieve the ideal body means someone is more popular, happier, smarter, and more successful in life. What we need to realize is that the physical body is only a shell of a person. A pecan shell may indicate a yummy, healthy pecan is inside, but once cracked up it displays a rotted, spoiled nut that cannot be eaten and left for garbage.

I am afraid these media standards are not going anywhere and they are not likely to change anytime soon. We will constantly be bombarded with thigh gaps and 6 pack abs. Rather then change media outlets (please continue to fight for realistic, less unhealthy versions of beauty in the media), we need to focus on changing our individual selves to value who we are, what we do, and how we look.

The easiest way to change how we value ourselves is to examine our beliefs. One way our beliefs develop is through our personal experiences. Most people believe in the notion that as humans we live in a Just World. In other words, it makes most sense to believe that things happen in life to us and to others because it is deserved. We may think that a person deserves abs and a thigh gap more than ourselves. We think the “beautiful” person has been rewarded their figure.

Most people walking around this planet have experienced heartache, disappointment, hurt, rejection, and fear. Sadly these experiences influence how we feel about ourselves and have the tendency to cause us to believe we do not deserve better (Callan, Kay, & Dawtry, 2014). A recent research study found people use this thinking to develop patterns of behavior. These behaviors include beliefs one is not capable of achieving better and that other people believe the individual is not deserving of better (Callan, Kay, Dawtry, 2014). Let’s say you have a goal to lose weight and want to be more fit so you start attending the local gym on a regular basis. You walk in and see people that appear “fit” and healthy to you. Rather than become motivated by their physiques you start to doubt your ability to squat that much weight, run that fast, or jump as high. Because you are not able to keep pace with the more “fit” person you assume you are not deserving of a better physique. This self-doubt will keep you from your goals. If you do not believe in yourself, you will struggle to achieve your dreams.

What also happens is people think others are judging them (Callan, Kay, & Dawtry, 2014). I hear people say all the time they are not willing to enter the weight room for fear of others judging them as they work out. If you feel bad about yourself, you will think others think bad about you as well.

The reason for selling yourself short and doubting yourself is related to the thoughts and experiences you hold. Every single person on this Earth has positive and negative experiences and every single person will base their opinion of self based on these. It is not true that individuals with the body and life you want are more deserving than you. In fact you deserve it as much as them. The difference between you and them, is their ability to see self in a more positive frame of reference.

A research study suggests that individuals that can retrieve positive self-images had not only increased self-esteem but also improved social interactions. The researchers found people had to deliberately conjure these positive self-images (Hulme, Hirsch, & Stopa, 2012).  To be more successful and love yourself more, you need to image your best, most fabulous self, and you have to do this on purpose and with intention.  It will not always come easy but creating a reminder of this best self, is sure to help remind you to recall how great you really are.  

  • To feel better about yourself and forget about the images bombarding you, image your best self.
  • Think about all the times you have been told “I love you”.
  • Imagine a time you were successful and proud.  
  • Write all of this down.  Include pictures if you have them.  Include pictures where you look happy, proud, and excited.  Include letters and memorabilia.  Place all of this on a wall, in your car, in your purse, in your pocket, in your workout bag, etc.  Keep it somewhere to remind you how great and beautiful you are.  

Remember a thigh gap and 6-pack abs will not pay your bills, will not keep you safe, and will not love you back.  These “status symbols” do nothing to improve an already fabulous you.  The things you have listed above determine your value and your worth.  Those things are more beautiful than a thigh gap and 6 pack abs, the thigh gap and 6-pack abs will disappear soon anyway.   

References:

Callan, M., Kay, A., & Dawtry, R. (2014). Making sense of misfortune: Deservingness, self-esteem, and patterns of self-defeat. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, (107)1.

Hulme, N., Hirsch, C., & Stopa, L. (2012). Images of the self and self-esteem: Do positive self-images improve self-esteem in social anxiety? Cognitive Behavior Therapy, 41(2).

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Which “Diet” Is Right For You

There are various types of diets individuals swear by in the health and fitness industry. Each one claims to help people lose weight, maintain weight, experience satisfaction, and promote health. With all the diets out there it can become overwhelming and confusing to decide which is best to live by.

I want to be clear about something here. I am not a nutrionist, nor am I a dietician. I am an expert in behavior and health, however. This post is not to claim that one diet is better than the other or to report an opinion about each diet. The purpose of this post is to identify a few types of popular diets today and explore the eating behavior associated with each. This post is to help you decide which diet supports how you want to live your life.

Why is eating behavior important to explore?

What you eat will impact your entire being. Eating, it goes without saying, will influence your body composition. What you eat will impact your waist line, your weight, and how your clothes feel. Thats why those in the fitness world often exclaim, “You cannot out train a bad diet”. Food not only impacts your physical body but food also will impact how you behave and interact with others.

Clearly research indicates food can impact mood. Researchers have found the stomach contains a hormone called ghrelin, and ghrelin travels directly to the brain and triggers the feeling of hunger. Researchers at University of Texas found ghrelin was associated with decreased stress and anxiety. THIS hormone reacts in the brain similarly to an antidepressant. What this research suggests is that eating can cure depression.

Think about how you feel after eating a nice healthy salad. The answer to this question could vary. On one hand eating a healthy salad can make someone feel satisfied and healthy. On the the other hand a person may feel bored and neglected after eating a salad. Now think about how you feel after eating a piece of chocolate cake. Again the answer could vary. A person may feel satisfied and relieved to have a craving satisfied, or a person may feel guilty and shame. The feelings associated with eating are related to eating behaviors. People that restrict may feel bored with eating foods, and people that binge may feel guilty for enjoying foods. In this regard diets that require restriction and eliminating foods could be difficult for some people. Not only is restriction difficult for emotional health but food restriction can harm your relational health.

Consider how many events, gatherings, and meetings involve food. Culturally we relate with others, express love, build relationships, and discuss ideas with others over food. Food is comforting. Food is enjoyable. Food is relaxing; so it makes sense why so many social interactions involve eating. Your eating behavior can improve your relationships with others. Eating behavior can also harm relationships when a person feels their diet prevents them from attending social engagements. It is possible a diet can cause increased isolation and withdrawal.

I love eating out and trying different restaurants. It is one of my most favorite things. My husband and I re-connect each weekend over dinner at a restaurant and we fellowship with friends with dinner and drinks. While on prep for my last bikini fitness competition I was not able to eat out for part of my plan. This made meals out with friends and family awkward. Although I was OK with my decision others I joined at restaurants felt uncomfortable as I ate in tupperware. My dad said he felt guilty for eating a big meal in front of me while I ate out of my Tupperware. Our eating behavior is impacted by the eating behaviors of others! Ultimately I started to decline invitations to eat out and the invitations to eat and fellowship with others stopped. Because of my “diet” I missed time with friends and family.

Are you now convinced that food is more than just fuel for your body? Food and our behaviors associated with food influences how we function on a daily basis. It is easy to see why millions struggle with food, either eating too much, eating too little, or uncertainty about what to eat.

So with all the diets that claim to be effective how do you decide which is best for you and your lifestyle?

The Gluten-Free Diet may be necessary for people with specific diseases and food allergies, however many others report restricting gluten in the diet will help shed pounds. Gluten is found in foods with wheat, barley and rye (such as pasta and traditional baked goods). The key for gluten free diet is to eat foods marked as gluten free on the package and to eat whole foods like meat, fruits, and vegetables.
This diet is helpful to keep people from eating processed foods which can contain dangerous chemicals and contain increased amounts of sodium, sugar, and fats. In that regard a Gluten free diet is healthy.
The problem with Gluten free is that packages marked “Gluten free” are still processed and contain increased sugar and fat. These are needed to maintain flavor. Lastly refraining from eating certain foods that may contain gluten does not allow the body to receive necessary and vital nutrients.

A clean eating diet is similar to gluten free. However individuals that claim to eat clean do not eat ANY processed foods. Clean eating involves eating whole foods that have minimal ingredients added. The key with clean eating is to eat the food in the most natural state as possible.
Clearly eating involves eating whole foods like meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes. These foods are beneficial for the body and for life. These foods will provide the body with the nutrients necessary to function well.
The problem with clean eating is that many treats, cheats, and indulgences are eliminated. Oreos are not consumed on a clean eating diet.

The Paleo diet is all the rage. Paleo is very similar to clean eating. People on a Paleo diet live like the cavemen do. In other words they eat foods that are either hunted or gathered. Cavemen did not eat processed foods or foods that were cooked. This diet is good for health and the physical body because individuals eat increased lean meat, fruits, and vegetables, and processed foods like sugar, sodium, dairy, and other chemicals are eliminated. Any diet high in lean meats, fruits, and vegetables will benefit health. However this diet can be restrictive as dairy (ice cream, milk, cheese, etc) are eliminated. There are some that say eating increased amount of some meat (red meat) can lead to increased health problems (heart disease, cancer). This diet does not allow people to enjoy some foods for fear of eating food that is “bad”.

Many claim the trick to eat for weight loss is to eat less calories. The idea is to create a calorie deficit by burning more calories a day than one will consume. Honestly this will work, however, it is not necessarily safe and it is not recommended to maintain on this diet. Eventually the body will stop burning fat as calories are restricted. Restricting calories will keep the body from receiving essential nutrients and vitamins and eventually this can cause increased hunger, irritability, agitation, tiredness, and headaches. This diet does encourage an active lifestyle, which is always a benefit. However this diet should not be maintained for long periods of time and it does not teach people how to make healthy lifestyle choices.

Juicing is new trendy diet that many use to shed pounds and detox. Clearly veggies and fruit are good for the body. The body needs the nutrients and minerals in fruits and vegetables. However the body also needs nutrients and minerals in meat, grain, and fats! These foods are not found in juice. Although juicing will promote increased consumption of fruits and vegetables it severely eliminates foods the body needs to function properly. A juicing diet should not be maintaned for any period of time for risk of develop nutritional deficiencies.

Ever heard some say, IIFYM? IIFYM stands for If it Fits Your Macros. You may be asking, “what the heck is a macro?” A macro is a nutrient in food. The three primary macros are protein, carbs, and fat. Food also contains sodium, fiber, sugar, cholesterol, potassium, Vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron. This micronutrients are also an important component of nutrition and are needed for optimal health. IIFYM is often referred to as “flexible” dieting. This diet promotes eating any food you want. It teaches people to let go of the guilt of eating foods because “bad” foods and “good” foods do not exist with flexible dieting. In other words if you want to eat donuts for breakfast, it is OK as long as it fits your macros. Everyone has different macro demands based on body composition and goals. With IIFYM you eat what you want as long as you consume the right number of protein, carbs, and fat each day. This makes eating more fun and relaxed. However it is also obsessive. Flexible dieting requires daily tracking food. Every meal needs to be weighed to the gram or ounce, measured, and calculated. It is a great way to learn about foods and the different composition of food however IIFYM requires being attached and restricted to a food scale and a calculator. Your life can be consumed by numbers and a need to manipulate portions and foods to fit macros. Flexible dieting is not eating oreos, cake, and donuts all day every day. In order for IIFYM to work a person must eat clean, whole foods most of the day.

One of these diets or none of the diets may appeal to you. You may be currently living by one of the diets and can attest to the benefits and show off your progress. Here is the thing about diet. All diets are “bad”. I do not think we should live a life of “diets”. Rather we need to live a life! We need to live a life where we love, experience, enjoy, challenge, learn, and grow. Food should never consume our time, energy, feelings, thoughts, and emotions. The key is to find balance. You will be most benefitted if you eat mostly whole foods, not overindulge or binge, refrain from restricting, and be sure to eat protein, fruits, and vegetables throughout the day. Bottom line, what diet you choose should fit your lifestyle and your goals. It should be one that you can live by every single day for the rest of your life. Finding balance with eating means you eat for health most of the time but know that is OK, acceptable, and appropriate to enjoy foods occasionally. Eating is a behavior and your diet should support your behavior and your lifestyle, not your life and lifestyle support your diet.

Let It Go For Improved Mental and Emotional Health

I am aware that what I am about to talk about is a challenge for most people. However what I am about to say is possible for ALL people.

Feelings of stress, depression, anxiety, worry, fear, anger, and frustration are normal human emotions. These emotions were adaptively necessary to help our early ancestors survive dangerous situations and these emotions help us adapt to our situations. What you feel is 100% OK. Although these feelings are normal and necessary it is not normal and necessary to hold onto these feelings for an extended period of time.

Holding onto grief, sadness, anger, frustration, worry, and fear can harm all areas of your life.

  • Relationships with others can be negatively impacted by holding onto upset feelings.  These feelings can cause isolation and withdrawal, and rather than spending time with loved ones you start to spend time alone.  Feelings like anger and frustration can cause one to yell or lash out at loved ones.  Excessive worry, fear, and anxiety can make others in our lives feel powerless to help.  These issues will limit others desire to spend time with you.
  • Your health will decline if negative feelings control your life.  Feelings not only create an emotional reaction in the body, but a physical one as well.  Upset feelings cause increased muscle tension, increased heart rate, decreased sleep, fatigue, and decrease the bodies ability to fight illness, disease, and infection.
  • Holding on to upset feelings can impact your mental ability.  Prolonged emotional upset causes negative thinking.  It can be difficult to think positive thoughts and challenging to see the “silver lining”.  Emotional upset leads to thinking that becomes distracted, distorted, and unfocused.
  • Decreased mental and cognitive ability can make completing tasks at work or school challenging.  Rather than focusing on what needs to be done in the present moment, upset feelings keeps you thinking about the things that caused the upset.  This causes increased forgetfulness, distraction, difficulty concentrating, and memory problems.
  • Spirituality beliefs can be challenged when upset emotions take over. This becomes a problem because rather then turn to a higher power, moral beliefs, and prayer and meditation to cope one may shy away from these practices.  Upset feelings can cause use to abandon helpful, positive, and effective coping skills.

I think most would agree it is unhealthy to hold onto upset emotions, particularly when these emotions get in the way of enjoying life. However it is not easy to let go of emotional upset. There are numerous reasons why emotions are hard to let go of.

  • Loss of a dear loved one
  • Betrayal
  • Lost trust
  • Emotional hurt from another
  • Physical hurt from another
  • Repeated disappointments in others
  • Limited resources or options available
  • Limited support
  • Conflict with others

This list is not exhaustive. There are other, numerous situations and life events that cause feelings to linger. However in my practice and therapy with others I have found it is most difficult to let go of upset when we feel as though we have been hurt (emotionally), betrayed, and left vulnerable by others.

In those situations we want the wrong done to us to be made right. We want justice. We want karma. We want retribution.  It seems that holding onto the upset is a way of maintaining control over self, others, and the situation. At the end of day the only one being hurt by harboring upset is you!  The other person continues to live their life and go through their day unaware of the upset you have toward them. However when you lie in bed at night you suffer with the thoughts and the upset.

Letting go is for you!  Letting go benefits you!  Letting go does NOT excuse the wrong done to you, nor does it make it OK. You were hurt and wronged and that’s ok. But allowing yourself to let go of some emotional upset helps you live life on your terms. Here are my five suggestions for living life on your terms, letting go of upset, and finding the silver lining daily.

  1. Exercise – beyond the health benefits exercise helps increase happy feelings, lowers stress, and gives you some “you-time”.
  2. Forgive – forgiveness is not forgetting!  Forgiveness is releasing harboring upset so that you can make room to enjoy life.
  3. Spend time everyday doing something you enjoy. I call this vegging out. Find that activity (watching TV, cooking, reading, take a bath, etc) that causes your mind to shift focus and settle down.
  4. Acknowledge how you feel and know the upset emotions are OK!  You are justified for feeling that way. No one can tell you how to feel. You are in control and you can take active steps to change how you feel.
  5. Release those upset emotions. Cry!  Yell!  Whatever you need to do to express the feeling do it. The thing about expressing emotions is that it will eventually stop. You may feel like if you start crying you will cry forever but you won’t. The crying will stop. Expressing emotions is like a coke bottle that has been shaken and opened. Eventually the coke stops exploding from the bottle and it settles. Then you are left with a refreshing beverage. Express your emotions so that once they are released you can enjoy life a little better.

it is not realistic to be happy all the time, but allowing yourself to feel and then release the feeling will create room for more pleasure and enjoyment in your life. You have one life. You have one day, today!  Fill your day with whatever feeling you choose. The good news is, tomorrow you get another chance.

 

* If you are having trouble letting go, it is Ok. Many people struggle with this concept. It can be hard, but extremely beneficial to ask for help. Don’t think that asking for help makes you weak or disabled. Asking for help gives you more power to overcome. If you need help letting go I can help!

Do Whatever You Want

My first competition is drawing closer and closer. Each day requires getting up early going to the gym and training, eating according to my plan, and returning to the gym for more training. I must also remember to practice posing and maintain energy to maintain a home, a husband, a full-time job, a dissertation, and various social commitments. Needless to say energy and motivation is lacking at times. It is hard. I will be honest and say I have wanted to quit, on more than one occasion. I tell myself I can skip this cardio or I can lift less during this training session. I tell myself a bite of cheese or dessert will not mess up my plan. I want to sleep in, skip a workout, and cheat!

However I don’t. Every single day I get up early. I wake up with energy after the first alarm. I sometimes dread my workout as I get ready to head to the gym. As I start my cardio I think I may not make it. Yet every single time I do!  I go faster. I recover quicker. I have increased energy. As I approach my lifts for the day I worry about how heavy the lifts will be and how it will challenge my body. Yet every time I train I am shocked at how much stronger I feel. I have read other competitors lose strength during prep.  I have been prepared to use that as my excuse to not lift as heavy and as strong.  However I continue to progress in my strength and training.  I continue to get stronger. 

This is not because I have super powers, special genes, or unique talents. I am human and I am an average adult woman.   I keep growing simply because I can. 

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it. 

Lou Holtz

 

Anyone can do anything. I have said this before and I will say it again. So many people sell short, do not reach their potential, and doubt their ability. I want to see people know they can do whatever they want. It is possible to set our mind on something and to be successful and achieve that something. All you need is ability, motivation, and attitude.

Abilities will vary from individual to individual. Some people have mental ability. Remember high school and how your class had a class valedictorian?  That person (if it was you – Way to go), probably worked hard. They may have also had more brain capability. Research has found that some brain development is related to IQ (Lange, Froimowitz, Bigler, & Lainhart, 2010). However not every valedictorian is a genius with a high IQ and a pre-wired brain. I read an article recently that discussed a study that indicated certain genes were related to athletic ability and performance (Eynon, Ruiz, Oliveria, Duarte, Birk, & Lucia, 2011).  This same article explained these findings are small and there is not enough collective research to claim that athletes perform well because they are genetically wired a certain way. 

What this means is that everyone is born to be able to do something. Ability is what you can do physically. I cannot physically learn to snow ski in North Texas. I can travel or move but I am unable to find a slope to ski down where I am currently living. I am not able to create beautiful paintings because I have not engaged and grown my creativity. I lack patience and therefore I am not very good at customer service jobs. I understand that sometimes we are limited due to our physical, emotional, and situational experiences. Someone disabled and unable to walk will have physical difficulty running a marathon. However ability is not the only thing required for success. People that are disabled physically, emotionally, and cognitively accomplish dreams and overcome obstacles every single day. Our limitations are used as an excuse and cage us, but understand, you are able to do something. Those who are able, can! 

Add motivation to ability and the chance of success increases. If you really want something you will do it. You have heard that saying, “when there is a will, there is a way”. Motivation is that will. If you want something what is stopping you? We have clarified you are likely able. Now your success depends on your desire and willingness to overcome. How hard will you work?  How bad do you want it?  How far can you go?  For me, I keep going because I want to stand on stage knowing I gave  my all. The package I bring, no matter the outcome, is because I kept going. I am motivated by my ability to succeed and be the best possible me. What is your motivation? 

We have determined you are able. Now if you are highly motivated then how you think about the situation will influence your success moving forward. I hate cardio. I just hate it. I dread it every time and minutes leading up to my cardio session I am anxious and question how I will get through it. My attitude about cardio sucks. This attitude is quickly followed by a desire to quit, take it easy, or cheat. Then I remember the only one being cheated is me!  I literally have to chant to myself, “you can do this!” or “you got this, almost there!” to improve my attitude about the interval approaching. I can do it because I am able. I can do it because I am motivated to do it. When I think I can, I get through each training session feeling proud, strong, and one step closer to my goal. 

I encourage you to make a list and answer the following questions: 

  • What are you able to do? Write down everything you can do!
  • How motivated are you?
  • What obstacles are in your way? If you identify obstacles, which ones can be removed or avoided. For obstacles that cannot be removed or avoided, consider what resources (skills, tools, people, etc) you have to help you overcome the obstacle?
  • List your feelings about the task you are about to start. Keep the positive thoughts and feelings to continue to motivate and encourage you. Take the negative feelings and get rid of them. Simply change the negative thoughts to positive ones and you will find your attitude will improve. 
  • Focus on the positive thoughts and feelings you have and you will find you are succeeding. 
It gets hard when working toward any task. We all need little tricks and tools to keep us pushing forward. My hope for you is that you will stop letting excuses, fear, and doubt keep you from your dreams. Use what you have to get you going and use what will learn to push you forward.  If you are able, and you want to, then you can!

 

Reference:

Eynon, N., Ruiz, J., Oliveria, J., Duarte, J., Birk, R., & Lucia, A. (2011). Genes and elite athletes: A roadmap for future research. The Journal of Physiology, 589(13), 3063-3070. 

Lange, N., Froimowitz, M., Bigler, E., & Lainhart, J. (2010). Associations between IQ, total and regional brain volumes, and demography in a large normative sample of healthy children and adolescents. Developmental Neuropsychology, 35(3), 296-317. 

Slow Your Role

We spend so much of our time being BUSY. We have work responsibilities, family obligations, social commitments, and leisure activities that compete for our time and attention.  Lately I have been focused on the future and all the things I need to do to complete my to-do list. I spend so much time making to do lists, setting goals, and planning my days that I have been forgetful to deal with my present moment. 

I am not the only one with lots to do. I am not the only one with goals, dreams, and aspirations. And although I believe we can do anything I worry we spend too much time looking forward. Recently I am working on being content and being in the present moment. 

Rather than worry about all I need to do later I want to be Ok with what I am doing right now. I want to strive to improve and strive to be a better version of myself.  I want to learn to be OK with who am I right now. I am trying to remember “I am enough”.  

 

Lately the above Scripture has been floating around in my head. Perhaps it is my soul telling me to slow down and be in the moment. I have all that I need right now.  I am fully equipped with the strength and emotional ability to manage whatever task I am working on right now. This verse reminds me to slow my role and be OK because who I am today is exactly who I am to be. This verse helps me slow down and reflect that I am truly blessed with so much love, respect, support, hope, and resources. All of those things will help me accomplish goals today and in the future. I can relax and be current with myself and others.

Psychologists refer to this as mindfulness. Psychology Today defines mindfulness as a state of active, open attention on the present. Mindfulness requires being ok with thoughts, feelings, and surroundings right now in the present moment. Mindfulness does not mean you enjoy being in a state of upset or distress but, rather acknowledging that and then accepting the upset so that steps can be taken right now to make the moment better. 

Focusing on the future or focusing on issues beyond our control keeps us from solving problems now. In order to be better problem solvers and more relaxed and focused we need to “slow our role”, accept the situation, and proceed. Here is why practicing mindfulness is in your (and my) best interest. 

  • Researchers found that individuals that practiced mindfulness had less worrisome thoughts and decreased depression.
  • Mindfulness reduces stress.
  • Studies found that mindfulness improved focus, attention, ability to ignore distractions, and improved ability to recall information. 
  • People that were more mindful became less emotionally upset and were better at self-reflection and self-awareness. 
  • Research studies support that mindfulness can improve the quality of relationships (Davis & Hayes, 2012). 
  • Mindfulness has demonstrated a strong ability to improve health as evidenced by improved immune systems. 
  • Mindfulness improves happiness. 
  • Mindfulness helped people remain practical and rational during a stressful situation (2011). 
Being aware in the present moment and achieving mindfulness requires some skill. However anyone can master it. You do not need to be a master at meditation or spend hours doing yoga or prayer to achieve mindfulness. Anyone can start practicing mindfulness at any time. The more mindfulness is practiced the easier it becomes. 
 
  • Observe your current moment and sense the current environment. This requires just looking at the current environment. 
  • Look at where you are, smell where you are, experience the sounds and feelings of where you are, and identify any feelings you are having.  Try describing the current environment and situation as if you wanted someone to read it and be able to see and understand your situation as well. 
  • Remember the “to-do” list will never be blank. We will always have something to do, unless we are dead. Rather than rush to clear a list that will never clear, slow down and take it one thing at a time. 
  • Ask yourself “what do I need to do right now”?
The key is to not label the situation and any feelings or people as good or bad. Mindfulness requires you to be an objective observer of the “now”. Once you are in the “here and now” you will relax, think better, and be able to focus. This will help you make a decision that will benefit you right now as well as in the future. For example over the weekend I had the difficult task of working to understand and efficiently communicate a very difficult statistical procedure. I was frustrated because it is a statistical method that is foreign to me and I was not sure how to proceed. To make matters worse I feel like I have been working on my dissertation for a very long time and I just want to be finished. I was focused on completing the tasks and finishing my dissertation. However that only frustrated me more. I realized that would not help me address the issue in the current moment. I chose to accept my frustration and let that motivate me to figure out the solution. I chose to stop thinking about the future and completing the task and I chose to think about what responsibility I had now.  Once I was more accepting I felt more calm and I was able to focus and solve my problem.  
 
Staying in the moment will keep us from missing opportunities. We will be better spouses, siblings, employees, coworkers, friends, parents, and ultimately a better self. I vow to work on being current, present, and aware. I vow to take one thing at a time and enjoy the time that I have right now. I know being present and mindful now will make me a better me in the future. Can you commit to be more mindful with me?
 
References: 
 
Davis, D., & Hayes, J.  (2012). What are benefits of mindfulness? Monitor on Psychology, 43(7), p 64. 
 
Doing and being: Mindfulness, health, and quiet ego characteristics among Buddhist practitioners. Journal,of Happiness Studies, 12(4), 575-589. 

The Mental Health Issue You May Be Ignoring

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  Most people think that mental health relates to depression, anxiety, or being “crazy”.  However mental health issues can and will impact everyone.  Yep, everyone has mental health problems.  Even you!  Do you get stressed?  I bet you do.  Even good things in life, graduation, moving, marriage, or having a baby are considered stressful.  Stress is a mental health problem because it will impact your emotional health, your physical health, your mental health, and your behavior.

Please see the article below for more information on why stress is considered a mental health issue and what you can do about it.  I was going to say it but Mental Health America said it so well I thought I would share it with you all today.

Everyone has stress. It is a normal part of life. You can feel stress in your body when you have too much to do or when you haven’t slept well. You can also feel stress when you worry about things like your job, money, relationships, or a friend or family member who is ill or in crisis. In response to these strains your body automatically increases blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, metabolism, and blood flow to you muscles. This response is intended to help your body react quickly and effectively to a high-pressure situation. However, when you are constantly reacting to stressful situations without making adjustments to counter the effects, you will feel stress which can threaten your health and well-being.

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According to the APA’s Stress in America study, nearly 70% of Americans experience physical and mental symptoms of stress, but only 37% think they are doing very well at managing stress.

Tips for Reducing or Controlling Stress
If you are feeling stressed, there are steps you can take to feel better. As you read the following suggestions, remember that conquering stress will not come from a half-hearted effort, nor will it come overnight. It will take determination, persistence and time. Some suggestions may help immediately, but if your stress level doesn’t seem to improve, it may require more attention and/or lifestyle changes.

Be realistic. If you feel overwhelmed by some activities (yours and/or your family’s), learn to say NO! Eliminate an activity that is not absolutely necessary. You may be taking on more responsibility than you can or should handle. If you meet resistance, give reasons why you’re making the changes. Be willing to listen to other’s suggestions and be ready to compromise.

Shed the “superman/superwoman” urge. No one is perfect, so don’t expect perfection from yourself or others. Ask yourself, “What really needs to be done?” How much can I do? Is the deadline realistic? What adjustments can I make?” Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.

Meditate. Just ten to twenty minutes of quiet reflection may bring relief from chronic stress as well as increase your tolerance to it. Use the time to listen to music, relax and try to think of pleasant things or nothing.

Visualize. Use your imagination and picture how you can manage a stressful situation more successfully.  Whether it’s a business presentation or moving to a new place, many people feel visual rehearsals boost self-confidence and enable them to take a more positive approach to a difficult task.

Take one thing at a time. For people under tension or stress, their day-to-day workload can sometimes seem unbearable. The best way to cope with this feeling of being overwhelmed is to take one task at a time. Make a list of things you need to get done and start with one task. Once you accomplish that task, choose the next one. The positive feeling of “checking off” tasks is very satisfying. It will motivate you to keep going.

Exercise. Regular exercise is a popular way to relieve stress. Twenty to thirty minutes of physical activity benefits both the body and the mind.

Hobbies. Take a break from your worries by doing something you enjoy. Whether it’s gardening or painting, schedule time to indulge your interest.

Share your feelings. A conversation with a friend lets you know that you are not the only one having a bad day, caring for a sick child or working in a busy office. Stay in touch with friends and family. Ask them how they have dealt with a similar situation that may be “stressing you out.” Let them provide love, support and guidance. Don’t try to cope alone.

Be flexible! If you find you’re meeting constant opposition in either your personal or professional life, rethink your position or strategy. Arguing only intensifies stressful feelings. Make allowances for other’s opinions and be prepared to compromise. If you are willing to be accommodating, others may meet you halfway. Not only will you reduce your stress, you may find better solutions to your problems.

Go easy with criticism. You may expect too much of yourself and others. Try not to feel frustrated, disappointed or even “trapped” when another person does not measure up. The “other person” may be a coworker, spouse, or child whose behavior you are trying to change or don’t agree with. Avoid criticisms about character, such as “You’re so stubborn,” and try providing constructive suggestions for how someone might do something differently.

Where to Get Help
If you think that you or someone you know may be under more stress than just dealing with a passing difficulty, it may be helpful to talk with your doctor, clergy person, or employee assistance professional. They may suggest you visit with a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or other qualified counselor.

In crisis? If you or someone you know is in crisis, seek help immediately. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center or dial 911 for immediate assistance.

Ideas to consider when talking with a professional
• List the things which cause stress and tension in your life.
• How does this stress and tension affect you, your family and your job?
• Can you identify the stress and tensions in your life as short or long term?
• Do you have a support system of friends/family that will help you make positive changes?
• What are your biggest obstacles to reducing stress?
• What are you willing to change or give up for a less stressful and tension-filled life?
• What have you tried already that didn’t work for you?

For more on Mental Health America head over to: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/stress-coping-everyday-problems

Remember stress is something that everyone experiences.  Those that may not appear so stressed out may have learned ways to manage it.  Stress can be managed.  There is help and there is hope.  You do not have to be controlled by stress and overwhelmed.  You can live relaxed and calm even if there a million things going on.  Take things day by day and do something today that will make you smile and relax.