Are You on Santa’s Stressed List?

Santa's Stessed ListStress. It’s a word we hear every day and I am sure it means different things to each of us (including our kids). The World Health Organization defines stress as, “a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation. It is a natural human response that prompts us to address challenges and threats to our lives.”  Back in the “early” days, stress was meant to protect us from the dangers out in the world and keep us safe. These days it feels more like a byproduct of our everyday lives. Even the general pace of our society can sometimes (no, probably often at this time of year) feel like it is going too fast for us to process and is one stressful event after another.

Just to be clear, I am talking about the stress we bring on ourselves – the temporary type* that can often be mitigated if we had the ability for “do-overs.” Think about the last time you stopped and realized you were feeling overly stressed. What happened just before that?

Common Stressors:

      • Did you say, “yes” to one or ten more things you knew you didn’t have time for?
      • Or did you forget something important and then had to scramble to make it right?
      • Did you lose something important?
      • Were you late for an appointment?
      • Did you stay up later than you knew you should?

All of these, and many more can increase your stress level. Imagine if you could rewind time and try again. Would you be able to identify what got in the way and caused your stress and then be able to prevent it (or at least reduce its impact)? What would that feel like?

Now figure out what you can do to get that feeling.

What ideas did you come up with? I know you are in the mad, almost the holidays rush but, maybe you can make some notes for next year.  Trust me, your “future self” will thank you if you leave some hints and actions to take to manage your stress level.

Here are some ideas to think about:

      • Get more sleep (dark rooms, lowering lights in the evening and using lamps not overheads)
      • Exercise
      • Build a self-care toolbox of things that help recharge you and schedule time in for you
      • Create routines that work for you and the family
      • Limit changes to plans at the last minute – it is okay to say “no”
      • Feeling prepared helps melt stress so make a realistic plan and then work it
      • Smart tech use – sure the dopamine hit feels good at the time but then that time is gone
      • No negative self-talk – your brain believes what it hears
      • Declutter the things you no longer need and that only interfere with you being able to find what you need quickly
      • Lastly, organize your spaces. Where is the logical spot for that? Where would a hook work for your keys? What would make your life easier and save you time? Add that to your to do list.

When you understand you have options, you can take action. Even baby steps in the right direction, will still get you there.

Are We REALLY in Control?

Woman juggling too muchDo you ever feel like your life is a constant juggling act and that if one more thing comes at you, you’ll lose control?

When that happens, it can make us feel “out of control.” It isn’t just that one thing that causes you to drop the ball, but a combination of things. It is different for everyone but ask yourself, is it too many to-dos and not enough time? Or is it disorganization, weak boundaries (read, can’t say no) or unrealistic expectations of yourself or others?

The causes and the solutions are different for everyone. So, if you are looking for solutions to get back that feeling of control for yourself, a coach approach can provide the structure to get you the answers you need.

What is the Outcome You Want, to Feel in Control Again?

Imagine your life without this challenge – what does that look like? If you’re an adult with ADHD, how is ADHD showing up or impacting this situation? Just becoming aware of what is interfering with your ability to get to that outcome is the first step. A coach can help you explore that in a safe, non-judgmental and supportive way. They can help you narrow down your focus to one piece of the puzzle. In our example, maybe it is unrealistic expectations of yourself. Even Wonder Woman has her limits.

What Can You Do to Control The Outcome?

Brainstorm ideas and strategies keeping in mind there is no ONE right answer. You know yourself best and need to keep that in mind so that your strategy will work for the way you think. We can’t always predict what success will look like so designing an “experiment” gives an opportunity to try things out without fear of failure. Each experiment provides more data (more clues as to what will work) even if you don’t get there on the first try. Be clear on what you are committing to doing and how you will measure if it is successful or not. In a coaching relationship, you can ask the coach to hold you accountable for whatever actions you want to do.

Anything that Could Interfere with Your Plan?

A coach wants you to succeed but the responsibility is all yours as they are not attached to the outcome. You won’t be able to predict if your experiment is going to work or not but you can check to make sure there is time in your calendar to work on the experiment. Do you have everything you need to complete the experiment? When/If this works what will you learn about yourself?

Who Do You Want to Be?

Each experiment whether successful or not helps you learn more about who you are and who you want to be. It builds on your strengths and helps you find strategies you can use in other instances. In the end, we don’t do the tasks for the “fun” of crossing them off the list, we do them to show ourselves we are capable and in control of the outcome and of ourselves and our actions.

Now what can you do to take back your control?

If you’d like to learn more about how coaching can help you reach the outcomes you dream of, then let’s set up a 20-minute zoom call to chat. Email me here: laine@thinkinganddoingskillscenter.com

Stressed at the Speed of Life?

stressed frogAre you feeling stressed today? The pace of our daily lives is so overloaded with choices, decisions and must do’s that we can easily feel overwhelmed. We are influenced to different degrees by everything that is around us. The weather, the news, the traffic, our boss, our family obligations and responsibilities and all the options and choices we are bombarded with takes up brain bandwidth and contributes to our stress level. There are some things that are beyond our control, but there are also things that we can control, that can lessen the pressure or stress we feel. First, let’s figure out…

What’s Stressing You?

  • Communication happens 24/7
  • Online ordering done in one click
  • Less staff so more work – is it any wonder you feel like you can never do enough?
  • Less control over your own calendar
  • Unlimited choices
  • Distractions everywhere
  • Interruptions
  • Lack of boundaries around work and home time
  • Lack of sleep – have your hours of sleep decreased? That can cause difficulties with focus, working memory and other executive functioning skills needed throughout the day

What Can You Control?

Stress is defined as, “ a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” (Oxford). How can you reduce that tension?

  • Stop tolerating things that you do have control over. As mentioned in our July newsletter, change is hard but sometimes we don’t even recognize that we should or need to change something that is causing us stress simply because we don’t take the time to look at it. Is it fear of change, is it an old limiting belief that is no longer true or just a big “BUT” that gets in the way? ( I would do that but….).
  • You can say “NO”. This is a tough one because there are so many choices, but are you really making a choice going along because it is easier?
  • If you are frequently distracted by your phone, (it’s a quick dopamine hit) you have the power to decide how often you will check it. Keep a tally of each time you pick it up in one day and you will be surprised. Set a reasonable number of times to check it (if your job communicates that way, this might not be possible). Turn off the general notification sounds and pick specific tunes for text messages from important people that you don’t want to miss. Most notifications can be sent to your fitbit or smart watch, so you really won’t miss them. You are also less likely to be distracted if your phone is not nearby. Also, you can set up the “Do Not Disturb” for an evening free of “squirrel!”
  • Interruptions from people can be politely deferred for a short time if you are in the middle of something. If you allow the interruption, know that it may take you 50% longer to complete your task and you may make more errors (Brain Rules by John Medina p. 87) If interrupted by your own thoughts, write it down and get back to work rather than running off to do that “one” thing.
  • Stop multitasking – you are actually switching between things and losing attention to details and adding time onto each task
  • Declutter – that’s right, clutter can increase your stress. Click here for more insight.
  • Create a simple, nightly reset plan to prepare for the next day and start fresh
  • Lessen the strain on your memory by setting specific days for certain tasks. A basic week plan might have a laundry, grocery, bills, cleaning and/or decluttering day.
  • Take time to take care of yourself. Exercise, eat healthy, get enough sleep and reduce the stress you can control with clear boundaries.

A stressed brain does not think as easily as a non-stressed brain and learning can become more difficult. We all know the health impacts of chronic stress. For those with a neurodivergent brain, you may need to work harder at controlling your environment to make it work FOR you and not AGAINST you.

Taking time to look at what you can control and doing something about it, can really make a difference. The world is stressed enough, do we really need to allow it to impact our health and our homes?

Please share your strategies on my Facebook page.

5 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Stress Level

Anytime during this Covid-19 pandemic seems like the perfect time to discuss stress. On a scale of 1-10 (with 1=lowest and 10=highest) how would you rate your level of stress?

Just so we are clear, “Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Stress is your body’s reaction to a challenge or demand. You can experience stress from your environment, your body, and your thoughts.”1

I cannot imagine all the possible variables that you and your family may be experiencing now but I hope that by providing some simple strategies you can reduce that stress and improve your health.

5 Keys to Reducing Your Stress Level

  1. Create routines
  2.  Get organized
  3. Connect with loved ones
  4. Reduce your work load
  5. Take a break
  1.  Create routines – Have you heard of decision fatigue? It’s real and neuroscience tells us that each day we start off with a set amount of decision-making power. The more we use it – the less we have as the day goes on. Have you struggled to decide what to have for dinner? It’s possible your decision-making power is at its lowest, making even the simplest decisions challenging at the end of the day.

By creating routines and limiting choices you can “save” some of that decision-making power for the more important things. A routine is something that can be done on automatic pilot and doesn’t use much decision-making power at all. Having a morning, afternoon (returning home) and evening routine that works for you and reduces the number of decisions necessary is a great way to start. Having routines around sleeping, showering and eating are great for kids too as they often don’t check in with their bodies to know what they need.

Is it really worth it to use your decision-making power on your breakfast choice, or what you will wear today or when you will exercise? It makes more sense to save it for important decisions at work, helping your child with their homework or deciding where to vacation. Having routines that work, saves the decision-making power for the important things.

  1. Get organized – Along with creating routines that work for you, getting organized can also reduce your stress level. Estimates range from 2.5 days per year to 5,000 hours a year as the amount of time Americans waste looking for misplaced items. What would it be like if you never had to search for your keys or the TV remote again? Tired of paying late fees because you missed the payment reminder in among those 1000+ other emails?

Have a place for everything and put everything in its place, is what my mother used to say. That works for many things like hooks for keys, baskets for mail, and snacks in the drawer. The other thing to watch for is if you have too much of something. De-cluttering and getting rid of excess makes it easier to find what you are looking for. Having less, means it takes less time to “take care of” things, less time to find what you need and saves money because you didn’t have to go out and buy a new one.

Find a way to keep track of important dates and set the reminders on your phone when necessary. Don’t wait for the last minute. As we have seen with shipping delays, Prime has spoiled us, we no longer want to wait for deliveries. Think ahead.

  1. Connect with loved ones – You don’t need research to show that the pandemic and its social distancing has affected our stress levels when it comes to missing our family and friends. The fear/stress of not knowing who might have Covid-19 is keeping many people housebound for safety. We are keeping away from family for fear we could bring it unknowingly to them.

Thanks to advances in technology, it is easy to connect with friends and family via video. It might not feel the same as an in-person hug but sometimes just seeing your loved one’s face and hearing their voice is enough to reduce your stress and theirs. Set reminders to connect regularly for your health and the health of your loved ones.

  1. Reduce your work load – If you’re working from home you may be putting extra pressure on yourself to get “more” work done to keep your boss happy. However, if you have kids or pets or both, it is impossible! Be realistic and set 1-3 priorities for the day. Work in short blocks of time and batch your activities putting similar things together. Stay off social media and email unless your job is dependent on it.

Spend time with your kids throughout the day. This situation is stressful for them as well. They need guidance to get their school work done (or to have some learning time) and in how to use their time for work and play. Kids are used to having others provide the activities that keep them busy (think after school care, camps, etc.) so take time to encourage their creativity and imagination.

Routines and organization are important for work too. If something isn’t working, take the time to figure out why and then fix it. No one knows how long this situation will go on, so it’s important that it “work” for you now. The same thing applies to all the home stuff too. Create a schedule that works for you and the family and keeps things running smoothly. Get everyone involved. Even a three-year-old can match socks. Working and playing together as a team benefits everyone.

  1. Take a break – Everyone needs some “downtime.” Make sure to take time for yourself and provide breaks throughout the day in order to recharge. By creating “margins” around your activities and allowing for time in between tasks you are also allowing your brain to process what you have just done. The brain uses the most energy of any organ in the body and a stressed brain cannot think. Even as little as 5-10 minutes can recharge your brain. Snacks and movement can also help your brain.

Take time for fun too. Fun helps reduce stress and builds relationships. It raises the dopamine level in the brain which makes us feel good and think better. Your kids will be happier too and that can also reduce the stress in your life.

The pandemic has provided each family the gift of togetherness I hope you take advantage of it and don’t let the added stresses of what is happening in the world effect your health, your family or your home life.

1 my.clevelandclinic.org › health › articles › 11874-stress

Change 2.0

change buttonThere are only a few weeks left until the new school year starts and we all transition into the start of fall. If you had the power to change one thing about this time of year…..what would it be? Think about that for a few minutes and maybe write down a few things. Now pick the one that would make the biggest impact on your life. Stop dreaming about things like losing 20 pounds, getting organized once and for all, finding a new job, being less stressed or anything else that is on your mind and start changing your life TODAY!

I know from experience that sometimes, no usually, change is hard and often we don’t try until we reach a breaking point. That’s what happened to me almost 32.5 years ago when I “got organized.” What I have learned in the years since then has made a bigger impact on my life than getting organized did.

  • No one succeeds instantly
  • Change takes time
  • Relapses are normal
  • You CAN succeed!
  • You have to be flexible
  • It is worth the effort – no matter how many times you have failed before
  • The end result is better than you could ever imagine!

Often times we get so caught up in the moment that we don’t take the time to think through and problem solve what it is we are struggling with. I see this all the time with my clients, they “don’t know why x happens”, and they just accept it as if it is out of their control. But they ARE the one in control – with every decision or lack of decision. If you are ready to make a change, these steps can help:

  1. Analyze what it is you want to change? How is this impacting your life? What would your life be like if this wasn’t bothering you? Dream big!
  2. What would this change look like? Start with the end result and work your way backwards to the smallest step you can take today.
  3. Make space in your life for this change. How long do you need to work on this new “habit” in order to see a change? Where in your day can you find the 10 or 15 minutes you need to build this new habit? Link this time slot to a habit you already have like brushing your teeth, etc.
  4. Set reminders on your phone, put up sticky notes, find an accountability partner, or whatever else will help you remember this new time slot.
  5. Keep track of your success by using a chart, app or tick marks on a whiteboard, whatever will show you how you are doing. Reward yourself after “X” number of positive successes. Don’t expect perfection. New habits can take up to 300 practices before you “own” them.

Lastly, don’t forget that new habits, systems and routines need maintenance. Life interrupts but it doesn’t have to derail. Forgive yourself and get back to it. If you find you are starting over frequently, go back and take a look at steps 1-5. If it is important to you…..it’s worth fighting for, don’t you think?

Good luck with whatever it is that you want to change. I am working on getting to bed at a consistent time each night something I am constantly struggling with. Please share your struggles and successes in the comments below.