Whatever it Takes. Four New Ways to Grow Today

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Surrender and Slow Down

Expect some pain today. When faced with problems during the day, I like to think of them as growing pains.

You see, the counter-intuitive (and funny) thing about embarking on the path of personal growth is that it’s not going to be all cake and cookies. Read: 7 Harsh Truths About Personal Growth.

However, whatever you do, don’t add to your pain and problems. Slow down, see life as it is, not worse than it is. Please don’t make it worse with a second  arrow.

What’s a second arrow?

“If you get struck by an arrow, do you then shoot another arrow into yourself?” 

If we look at the way we move through the day, when something happens, when we have pain in our body, when somebody treats us in a way that feels disrespectful, when something goes wrong for someone we love, that’s the first arrow.

Our mind and body go into a reactivity that does not help to bring healing. We blame others, we blame ourselves. That’s the second arrow. – Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance.

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What I’ve come to learn and accept is that there is always a solution of the highest good, but it may not be aligned with what we think we need.  Our job is to surrender to the fact that the Universe has a plan far better than ours. I’ve found that the more I surrender to the Universe’s plan the easier it is to move through the discomfort of uncertainty.  @GabbyBernstein Read: The Universe Has Your Back

 Connect meaningfully

Heart to Heart

If you look at it this way, it becomes clear. If you don’t add value to another person’s existence, then you will not be missed when you are gone.  Read: 13 Simple Ways You Can Have More Meaningful Conversations.

 

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Understand the Payoff

of Putting Things Off

The payoff you get for procrastinating is that you don’t have to do the work. You don’t even have to try. It’s so much easier to stay the same, to stay small.  Hell, you’re use to it. It’s comfortable. You may not like it that much, but it kind of works. You know what to expect from your day. The work is easy. You are complacent, but you can deal with that. That’s the payoff.

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Once you begin to realize that doing the same things you always do will give you the same results you don’t want, then you realize the hard part is starting.  You have to put in the effort and be okay with stumbling and bumbling around for a while. It’s like walking through a dank and dark tunnel without a torch. Starting something new is really hard and frightening sometimes.

 

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The Temptation to Control and Repair Everything Around You

When life is uncertain – and when is it not really? – I feel the need to try to control the people around me. It gives me a false sense of security. If I can control what they do, then maybe I can control some of the results. The outcomes.

And we all know, no one really wants us to control them. So, this only has me feeling more frustrated. I am wasting all that control energy doing something that is absolutely frustrating. The only thing I can control is me and my attitude.   I must be like water.

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Go with the Flow

Try this. Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless. Be water My Friend.

In order to control myself I must first accept myself by going with and not against my nature. This is the true meaning of ‘Be water’. It is the complete and unconditional acceptance of the self. Where the self itself melts and becomes formless, fluid and flexible. When you attain that state, you are water

Read: How to Stop Trying to Control Everything

Critical Life Lessons from Watching My Parents Die

They’re not dead yet, but they aren’t living either, although they were once a fantastic dynamic duo, living quite a wonderful life, they are now in a highly emotional state trying to navigate a fiercely complex and shifting terrain that is filled with unknowns.

Now at 76 my mom has stage four lung cancer and even though she will start a new FDA-approved targeted therapy in less than a week, she is very scared, angry and confused. It is a part of the acceptance process, I guess and I hope it will pass.

Dad claims he can take care of her and will not accept any help in their home. It’s causing everyone in the family senseless, needless pain and worry, but it’s even more difficult not to help them. It is a twisted form of enabling and the situation changes daily. How do you know when you’re enabling an elderly loved one as opposed to actually helping them out with something they need?

Life Lessons Learned from The Dying Thus Far

  1. Be Open & Responsive to Change

darwin.jpgBoth of my parents are stubbornly holding on to old ways and traditions that no longer serve them and probably never served anyone well. They are trying so hard to hold on to their independence as they shut out the world around them. They refuse any help at all while making life harder for everyone, including themselves. Their behavior has affected not only their lives but all of us who care for them as they insist on struggling terribly through their days. Their lack of flexibility and adaptability is actually driving their decline even faster than if they chose to open their minds to new ways of staying as safe, secure and healthy as possible.

2. The Trouble is, You Think You have Time

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Whether it’s the best of times or the worst of times, it’s the only time we’ve got. ~Art Buchwald

What you do with the time you have now, while you are actually able to live is most important. More important than savings, work or taking care of daily activities of living. Do not hesitate for one instance to do, try and execute everything you have ever dreamed of – for you have no time. Forgive and let go of the past, tell someone what they mean to you and  celebrate each and every miracle of breath that you take. Gratitude for what you have right here and right now is everything. Do more with your life while you have it to live. Do not take this lightly. This is the most crucial lesson.

3. Know Your Limitations, So You Can Move Forward 

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My parents won’t accept their current weaknesses – fading health and loss of memory, which is causing them even more harm and possibly big trouble for others. How many times does it take getting lost while driving, or losing your cell phone, checkbook, wallet and keys before you realize that your memory isn’t what it was? Only when we honestly examine ourselves and accept our current limitations can we improve or find the tools, people or plan to help us work around the obstacles we face. If we don’t accept that we have a problem, than how can we fix it? 

4. It Takes a Measured Amount of Expectation & Acceptance to Survive

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Yes I see how refusing to accept the aging process can be helpful- expecting more from yourself and those around you can actually keep you going, but your approach is what matters most. Feeling overwhelmed and then reacting never produces a good outcome.

Life is always walking up to us and saying, “Come on in, the living’s fine,” and what do we do? Back off and take its picture. ~Russell Baker

My mother really surprised me when she said that she didn’t think the oncologist or the cancer center was really doing anything for her condition. In her mind, they are epically failing.  How about 18 extended months of living? Mom is actually expecting a cure from the second deadliest disease in the world. It’s phenomenal. There is a measured amount of acceptance that is necessary in order to strike a deal with reality.

5. Plan Your Aging & Dying Process Before it Happens

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It is our duty to plan our death. I am not taking about a living will, health care proxy or deciding on cremation versus a below the ground burial. I am talking about how you plan to age. How open you will be to the natural process of slowing down? Reverse engineering your life so that when you get to the point that you need help from others, you will accept it. Knowing when it’s time to let go of past behavior and activities, giving up your favorite things like driving. It is critical to understand the type of attitude you will have as you enter a new season of your life.

Just as we plan our career, marriage, children and even vacations, we need to be more thoughtful of how we leave this earth.

6. The Reality of Dying is Largely Negotiable

Just like anything else, we can rethink how we plan to age and die.

If you stress-test the boundaries and experiment with the “impossibles,” of dying, you’ll quickly discover that most limitations are a fragile collection of socially-reinforced rules you can choose to break at any time.

Social rule systems are used to examine all levels of human interaction. They provide more than potential constraints on action possibilities. Read more about social rules and the patterning of action here.

Who made these social rules about aging and dying and why do we think we need to obey them?

Increased longevity paired with aging baby boomers means that our older population is growing at record speed – a phenomenon in developed countries from the UK to Japan. According to Professor David Clark, a researcher in end-of-life care at the University of Glasgow: “We’re seeing what we regard as a massive global issue. There’s a huge wave of dying, death and bereavement.” At the moment about one million people die each week around the world; within 40 years, that number is expected to double.

I held a moment in my hand, brilliant as a star, fragile as a flower, a tiny sliver of one hour. I dropped it carelessly, Ah! I didn’t know, I held opportunity. ~Hazel Lee

 

People redesigning the experience of death

Making decisions about serious illness is not an easy task and they are not made alone. Watch Nick Jehlen  of Common Practice explain his design approach to facing the elephant in the room, the talk about death and these new products, services and dying submissions to Designing Death.

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On Thinking Clearly & Writing More Nobly

The Goal: A Completely Transparent & Unclouded Mind

I am not an online shopper. I don’t buy much stuff at all. But this week I’m anxiously checking my mailbox daily. I’ll try (almost) anything to tame my unsettled and restless monkey mind.

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What did I order, you ask? A brain boosting mushroom (minus the visuals ) coffee with lion’s mane (supposedly good for memory and in a category of safe, smart drugs or nootropics) as well as chaga and Rhodiola which was used by the vikings to calm the nervous system while enhancing immunity from Four Sigmatic.

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I am also creating my own filters so I can focus on. . .

Paying Attention to What Matters Most

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As I listen to Jason Silva at The Sydney Opera House explore the exponential growth of technology and how it is shaping our personalities, I realize how much a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.  In a world of abundance, the only scarcity is human attention. Recommended reading: from Kevin Kelly The Inevitable, Understanding the Twelve Technological Forces that Will Shape Our Future.

How Time Totally Trumps Money

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With all there is to be distracted by. . .hell, time moves oh too quickly.

So as I focus on what to study, read, learn and create, I tell myself, I can always make more money, but I can’t create more time.

Listen to How to Waste Money to Improve the Quality of Your Life

 

On Writing More Clearly & Nobly

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Studying Lu Chi’s Wen Fu: The Art of Writing

From Catalogue of Genres

A body of writing may take any of a thousand forms,

and there is no one right way to measure.

One whose language remains muddled cannot do it;

only when held in a clear mind can the language become noble.

Living Intentionally

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I have come upon a shift in thinking.  It’s the difference between living a life that is unprepared, off-the-cuff and according to the demands and cries of others TO a more deeply connected, intentional and thoughtful life.

A life designed to inspire and ignite others.

It’s a conscious decision to move away from my “ad-libbed” life, towards an artful, improvised life with deliberate purpose and meaning.

“My life is not an apology, but a life. It is for itself and not for a spectacle. I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain, so it be genuine and equal, than that it should be glittering and unsteady.” Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson    Read Self Reliance

I will no longer live a reactionary life as I move away from ” making it up as I go” TO steering my life with clear intention and genuine vision, headed in the direction of my heart.

Honoring myself and the eternal verities every step of the way.

This choice I have made, to live a responsive and purposeful life. A deliberate and well-designed life sparked by deep inquiry.

I arrange each day in such a way that I am living thoughtfully, mindfully and respectively with the best version of me.

Inspired by

Actor and HB Studio Acting Coach David Deblinger 

Jonathan Fields

Michael Port’s Steal the Show: From Speeches to Job Interviews to Deal-Closing Pitches, How to Guarantee a Standing Ovation for All the Performances in Your Life

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Mastery synthesizes the years of research Robert Greene conducted while writing the international bestsellers The 48 Laws of PowerThe 33 Strategies of War, and The Art of Seduction and demonstrates that the ultimate form of power is mastery itself.

Mastery

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In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The willful warrior, the worry-free wanderer, the mindful self-mastered and the curious creator . The spontaneous-seeker summoned by synchronicity.  The truth teller. May we all live intentional and thoughtful lives.

How are you living more deliberately today?

The Sky’s the Limit. Your Amazing Future.

human-robotWhen you stop to think about where you will be in 10 years, what do you consider? Will you be doing the things you are doing right now?  Will you be richer? Thinner? In love? Famous?

Tomorrow is Today

Focusing on our future selves helps us to make new decisions about what we should be doing right now. With this vision and connection to our future self we can apply the action needed today to make the changes in order to be a more fantastic future versions of ourselves.

One caveat. It will take self-control.

So if you really want to be 20 lbs lighter in the future, put down that bag of chips right now and stop mindlessly eating at your desk.

The Future is Here

top-10-robots-710x434Want to know what your future will look like? Thanks to technology, you can get a glimpse. This website lets you talk to your future self using a sophisticated combination of motion capture software, speech recognition and 3D imaging. You will need to download the latest version of Chrome to check it out here. It’s really fun, I promise.

Need a bit of help with self-disclipine and control? Who doesn’t?

Read The Marshmallow Test: Why Self-Control Is the Engine of Success

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Instead of hanging on to hope and possibility, you can increase the probability of your success with these tools.

If you want to be Fabulously Fit

Stop hitting the gym like an amateur. Workout like a pro, forget CrossFit, practice mindful movement. LearnSelf-Limiting Movement

jumpropeBoost up your cardio. Jump Rope Jump Rope Workouts: Cardio fitness for increased stamina, lean muscle building and fat burning

Find Your Very Best Friend and Soul Mate

Study Rules of the Game and don’t be afraid of finding love on line. Check out these top ten best dating apps here.

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Crushing it in Your Career

Rev up the motor. Move the Needle. Read this detailed system that will help you achieve your professional and personal goals.

ReadMoving the Needle: Get Clear, Get Free, and Get Going in Your Career, Business, and Life!

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Remember

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Something to Smile About

smiling_cat_small1Meditation is not just all breathing and quieting the mind. There are many types of meditation techniques including my absolute favorite, Smile Meditation. So, in honor of #worldsmileday  I share with you a simple way to lighten up and spark joy.

To begin the inner-smile meditation, sit comfortably on a pillow or chair with your palms on your knees. Straighten your spine, lifting it up from the top of your head. Then relax the muscles in your neck and throat. Take a few deep, slow breathes.

Close your eyes. If you are tense, gently move your neck from side to side and take one or two deep breaths that fill your abdomen and chest, then slowly exhale.

Next, smile outwardly. It might be helpful to use a positive memory to evoke the feeling of joy. Once you have a grin on your face, it’s time to smile inwardly.

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Picture a smiling face in your mind. Bring the smile to the space between your eyebrows – your third eye or “yin tang” in Chinese medicine – and allow it to rest there for a few breaths.

Now take the smile and glide it in turn to each part of your body. You can imagine your body as hollow and the smile as a glowing ball of light filling every dark corner. Alternatively, you can picture every organ, tissue and bone smiling. If your smile gets stuck or fades at a tense or painful spot, breathe gently into that part of your body. Imagine inhaled breath moving into that area.

o-SMILING-ANIMAL-facebookNow, try to maintain the sensation of the inner smile throughout the day. #worldsmileday

Read more about inner smile meditation here.

Some Other Race

the-black-and-white-cookie-620x300I was on standby jury duty yesterday. My first time ever and while I realize it is a privilege to serve I just didn’t want to go. Too much to do.  I am sure you can appreciate that.

Anyway, as I climbed the steps of the Supreme Court building (in much need of some TLC I should say), I made the deliberate decision that I would approach the day with a mindful curiosity, looking forward to learning a thing or two about our judicial system and the right to a fair and just trial. I have never been in a courtroom before. Judge Judy my only reference.

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Although I can go on and on about how even just a tad of technology could greatly improve a very antiquated system, I want to point out one single moment that left me absolutely dumb-founded.

It was filling out the 2010 (yes 2010)  census questionnaire.

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Seriously? In a racially diverse world where people consider themselves to be “global citizens”, we are still asking these questions?  According to Pew Research the US Census bureau is looking into changing the questions on the next census because more and more “Americans” don’t know how to respond to the “race” question. The Census Bureau’s overall goal is to reduce the number of people who select “some other race.” Read more here.

Now, my husband’s family is of German, Irish and English decent. My side of the family is Italian and Brazilian. Although our grandparents came to the US in search of the glowing promise of the American dream, we were both born here in America. Which leads me to a question my daughter asked me this morning.

“How do you feel about interracial marriage?”

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Photo: Richard and Mildred Loving never asked to be heroes of the Civil Rights movement. But when the state of Virginia deemed their interracial marriage illegal, the couple fought back. And won. More here.

Love Rules

I believe that love rules and color/race/nationality is irrelevant. If you are a loving and kind human, you deserve to be in a happy and beautiful relationship with another loving and kind human or alien for that matter. As long as the two, three, five of you are giving your best back to the world. Period. That’s what I believe Ariel.

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Love Rules

I have had fantasies about starting a website or podcast based on this whole “race” thing – this ridiculous act of defining ourselves by the color of our skin or the place we come from. Sure we have cultural and belief differences but I believe it is our duty to tolerate those differences with compassion and empathy as we raise our collective consciousness.  I hope you do to.

Note: Now, I completely appreciate the importance of gathering demographic data after all, I have spent my career as a marketing professional.

 

Keep it Simple

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Rules of a Renegade

beginningThe more I learn and think about how I want to design my life, the more I believe it is important to write my own rules, have my own set of commandments, my own guiding principles for success.

This list here includes some of the most important ways in which I wish to serve the world. I am sure it will grow and change as I progress. Does anything ring true with you? Anything you recommend to add?

  1. If I don’t feel it, I won’t do it.
  2. Set (very) clear expectations with everyone.
  3. Build my life on truth and all will be okay.
  4. Don’t be a slave to striving.
  5. Grit, what it takes to persevere, is a combination of gratitude, optimism, self-control, social intelligence, enthusiasm and curiosity.
  6. Pros do what they have to do. I choose to go pro.
  7. Don’t act on auto pilot.
  8. Seek to discover new solutions to sticky, old problems.
  9. Slow down a bit. Give myself some more time to complete things in an improved way.
  10. Say know. Know what I must do to make the day just 1% better, each day.
  11. Don’t try to control what others are doing.
  12. Beware of getting caught up in group think – the delusion of the masses.

Read Rules for Renegades: How to Make More Money, Rock Your Career, and Revel in Your Individuality

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Real but not True – a Mindset for Success

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If you suffer from even just an occasional attack of anxiety, worry or ruminating thoughts, this post has some very useful tips on how to stop the spin cycle of subcortical looping, ie. excessive, repeating thoughts of worry and fear. These are therapies and tips that I have been researching and trying on myself. They are not to replace professional medical guidance.

First, a few book quotes from  Awakening Joy: 10 Steps to Happiness

Worrying as a Way of Controlling the Future

The thoughts spinning around and around in our minds can be very convincing. We build elaborate scenarios of failure and chaos and believe them to be true. This may be very creative, but not conducive to happiness! Worry is a very real kind of mental suffering. I know because I come from a lineage of worriers myself. My mother used to joke that when she couldn’t think of anything to worry about, she’d really get worried. “It was my way of making sure I was taking care of things,” she says.

These are the thoughts that hold us back from doing the things that will bring us success. 

Phantom Problems

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Our minds can get stuck in worrying about phantom problems that we convince ourselves are real. As Mark Twain put it, “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”

Reasonable planning for the future can give us direction, but obsessing about what might go wrong puts us in a perpetual state of stress and rarely brings about positive results. 

The Problem with Chronic Worry is that it Solves Nothing and Causes Stress

“New solutions and fresh ways of seeing a problem do not typically come from worrying, especially chronic worry. Instead of coming up with solutions to these potential problems, worriers typically simply ruminate on the danger itself, immersing themselves in a low-key way in the dread associated with it while staying in the same rut of thought.” – Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence.

Read more Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

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Health Problems Associated with Obsessive Worry

Not only does worrying drain your energy, chronic worrying will eventually manifest into insomnia, sleep disorders, stomach problems, heart issues, binge eating, headaches, anxiety and depression. I personally have suffered through IBS and severe panic attacks and have been seeking guidance and help my whole life. However, I no longer want to feel this way.

Your Worry and Thoughts are Real, but Not True

So how do we wake ourselves up from the suffering of obsessive worry and anxiety?  Tara Brach, Clinical Psychologist and Founder of The Insight Meditation Community of Washington, DC (IMCW) suggests you shine some light on the worry by asking yourself a series of questions that begin with – What am I believing right now? Are you believing you will fail at something in the future? That something is wrong with you? That doom and gloom is right around the corner?

While the beliefs you have and those ruminating thoughts running your mind may feel very real they not necessarily true and they may be causing a very real physical effect on your body – like tightness, anxiety and fear.

Illusion exists because it’s not investigated.

As soon as you start questioning these thoughts and beliefs and shine a light of investigation on your fear-based loops you can begin to wake up out of their grip.

Question Your Beliefs

Shining the light of awareness on our worry really helps.  Byron Katie the founder of Byron Katie International (BKI), an organization that includes The School for the Work and Turnaround House in Ojai, California recommends we ask ourselves some powerful questions as we investigate the validity of our worry.

Take a moment to answer these questions. (Note, this is not a one time quick fix, in order to really do the work, these questions should be asked over and over again, it’s a practice.)

What am I believing right now?

Is it true? Do I really know that this is true?

What is it like to be living with this belief?  What does it feel like? Do I feel small? Contracted? Sad? Defeated?

How has this affected my life to be believing this?

How would I be if I didn’t believe this to be true?

These questions and post was inspired today by this amazing talk by Tara Brach. Click here to listen to more Releasing Limiting Beliefs   

Suggested Reading: True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart

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Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)

I am researching and studying the benefits of a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Here are a few tips I have picked up a long the way. They have certainly helped me lighten up from the weighted suffering of worry.

Pause and Breathe

Mindfulness interrupts the tape loop by bringing us back to the moment so we can respond to what is actually happening right now. Mindfulness meditation shifts the mode adopted in response to thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness meditation involves a particular kind of attention and mental stance: deliberately, intentionally and non-judgementally paying attention to the present moment. Just one minute of mindful awareness can break the sub-cortical looping and rumination. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out. Just focus on that breath moving in and out of your body.

Look for Triggers

Triggers are warning signs and triggers for rumination include tiredness, inactivity and irritability. It is important to watch your mind and become aware of any of these emotions, which can lead to bouts of anxiety and obsessive worry. These can be counteracted by taking better care of yourself ie. plenty of rest, exercise and nutrition.

Get up and Move and maybe Join a Team

Cognitive behavior therapy has found that exercise and sports that are action focused and have us directly engaged in an experience can help release worry and rumination. Think yoga, tabata, tennis, skiing and team sports. Participating in sports that require your attention and engagement may really help you immerse in a sensory experience which will help you break the pattern of fear and worry.

Start a New Project

Shifting your activities from routine chores and obligations towards more self-fulfilling and absorbing activities will help you refocus your mind on something new. So will taking a more mindful approach to cleaning the house, running errands and folding the laundry.

Slow Down and Reduce the Rush

CBT therapists will encourage patients to slow things down while only focusing on one thing at a time. They will ask their patients to pace their activities without taking on too much which also may help  reduces the sense of “rushing around” and “being under pressure”.

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When we lighten up and let go of real but not true thoughts, we make room for more in our lives.

What have you tried that has helped? I’d love to learn more.