Tag Archives: self-help

Relabeling – Another Angle on Stress

Relabeling – A positive coping skill
From Kicking Your Stress Habits
By Donald A. Tubesing, PhD, MDiv.

You wake up. You’re in a good mood for a Monday. You get ready for work and head out the door. Three hours later, your head is on your desk and you want to go back to bed. What went wrong?  You may not realize you assigned an event a good or bad value until you find yourself stressed and wondering that very question. What did go wrong? Thinking back, you see that you started feeling stressed when a friend you work with walked by without saying hello. After that, you started feeling gloomy.

So, you’re feeling threatened because you fear that you’ve lost the respect of a friend. In this situation, you can try relabeling—looking at an event from another, more positive point of view. Rather than instantly jump to the conclusion she was ignoring you, think about other reasons she may not have noticed you. Maybe she was on the phone, or had a headache. When you’ve calmed down, you can asked her about it. Most likely, there was no actual threat, and relabeling can help you calm down enough to see that.Relaxed frog

Relabeling is not always right. While you can relabel some situations, don’t relabel getting mugged as meeting someone new.  When you identify a threat, you will know it; use the adrenaline boost from the stress to get out of the situation, or fix it.

Kicking Your Stress Habits Cover

Signs of Stress

Signs of Stress
From Kicking Your Stress Habits 
By Donald A. Tubesing, PhD, MDiv

You’re already very familiar with some stress symptoms, but distress can cause a wide range of conditions. Maybe you have some that you didn’t know are stress related. There are five categories the common warning signs of stress can take; physical, emotional, spiritual, mental and relational signs.

Physical Signs Emotional Signs Spiritual Signs Mental Signs Relational Signs
Appetite Change Anxiety Emptiness Forgetfulness Isolation
Headaches Frustration Loss of meaning Dull senses Hiding
Fatigue Feeling blue Doubt Low productivity Resentment
Insomnia Mood swings Acting Unforgiving Negative attitude Loneliness
Weight Change Bad temper Martyrdom Confusion Lashing out
Illness Nightmares Searching for miracles/magic Lethargy Intolerance to other’s feelings
Muscle pain Crying spells Loss of direction Whirling mind Clamming up
Indigestion Irritability Cynicism No new ideas Lowered sex drive
Pounding heart Easily discouraged Blaming others Boredom Nagging
Accident prone Depression Apathy Spacing out Distrust
Teeth grinding Nervous laughter Intolerance to others’ faith Mental bullying Lack of intimacy
Skin outbreaks Worrying Excessively Feeling abandoned Feeling stupid Using people
Restlessness (eye twitching, foot-tapping, finger-drumming) Feeling like no one cares Needing to prove self Poor concentration Less contact with friends
Increased drug, alcohol, tobacco use Feeling happiness is just out of reach Challenging a higher power Feeling useless Fear of betrayal
  • What stress symptoms have you experienced that you didn’t know were stress related?
  • What are you experiencing now?
  • Is there a category (emotional, relational, etc) that you have more symptoms in than the others?

Kicking Your Stress Habits Cover

What is Stress?

What is Stress
From Kicking Your Stress Habits
By Donald A. Tubesing, PhD. MDiv.

When you think of stress, what comes to mind? A deadline, some bad news, a hectic schedule? What about a party, a promotion or a holiday with family? These events are stressors that create the physical and mental feelings we all know too well — the anxious grinding in the pit of your stomach, the headaches, the moments of panic. Stress is more than a negative force. In fact, good stress can be a boost to help you overcome challengers and meet goals. Positive stress, called eustress, can add some excitement to your day and help you focus.

While life would be pretty dull without any stress, too much bad stress is destructive. This is distress — what you’re feeling when you’re stretched too thin or something traumatic happens. Both good and bad stresses are part of daily life. As Donald Tubesing puts it in his book, Kicking Your Stress Habits, we are all like violin strings; each of us needs a little tension to make music, but not so much that we snap. Each of us has to find a balance to be happy and healthy. What kind of stress adds zest to your life? What bogs you down? And how do you know when it’s too much? These are questions you can find out for yourself with just a little thought and time.

Kicking Your Stress Habits Cover

Intrinsic motivators feed your success

Motivators Feed Your Success
By Jacquelyn Ferguson

Losing weight, getting out of bed some days, not screaming at a customer; the list of responsibilities and tasks that require motivation to accomplish is a long one.

But what is motivation? Where can we get some?

The thesaurus says that it’s incentive, inspiration, drive, enthusiasm, impetus, stimulus and impulse.

You may lack these for something you don’t want to do but you’re full of them for what you love to do. Think about:
* Something you dread doing;
* Something you love to do;
What motivates you to do each?

For what you dread it may be an external force that’s pressuring you to complete it. Like the threat of losing your house if you mess up on your job or the perceived or actual disapproval of family members if you somehow fail to tow the line.

Consider the vast difference in what motivates you to do what you love. Maybe it’s caring for your grand-kids on a weekend. You love those kids so much that there’s no real motivation that you have to work up; it’s just there. Or perhaps it’s your favorite hobby that you dive into after the work day that exhausts you. Your energy miraculously returns because your hobby captivates and challenges you.

An important difference is that you’re probably intrinsically motivated by what you love to do and have to depend upon extrinsic motivation (threats, pressure, guilt, money, etc.) to force you to do what doesn’t excite you.

The trick to creating motivation for tasks that you don’t feel like doing is to look for and create intrinsic rewards for finishing them.

Intrinsic motivators represent who you are at your core. They’re associated with better mental health and lead you to greater persistence, creativity and life success. They include:
* Your positive values, which are natural motivators;
* Making a contribution;
* Pride in your work;
* Personal and professional growth;
* Meaningful relationships;

Extrinsic motivators and rewards come from outside the self and are associated with poorer mental health, even depression, and create a façade that you must then invest energy into to carrying on. These include:
* Wealth and the stuff it can buy;
* Beauty;
* Fame and adulation;

Self-esteem works in the same manner as motivation: if your perceived value is dependent upon external things like a hot car or a big house, your self-worth will be fleeting. What happens to your confidence if you lose these things? Intrinsic self-esteem based on positive values like love, connection, growth, giving, etc., gives you meaning. These values don’t leave you in hard times like your income and your looks can.

So, what is something you procrastinate doing? Or dread? Or a task that bores you? Which intrinsic motivators could help you accomplish these? Sometimes your only motivator will be a threat, money or other external rewards or punishments. Just know that mental health and success are nourished when intrinsic motivators significantly outnumber your extrinsic ones – more on this next week.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple.

Let Your Body Win

Let go of need to control and you’ll let go of stress

Let Go of the Need to Control
By Jacquelyn Ferguson

Believing you have insufficient control is one definition of stress, like the office worker whose knuckle cracking colleague drives her nuts or the parent who becomes angry over the children’s messy rooms.

The employee blames her colleague for keeping her from concentrating thereby assumes he’s causing her stress. The paradox is that the bulk of her stress is her fixation on wanting him to stop his irritating habit.

We all tend to want to control those who bother us. But that’s our stress. Get it? Instead, for example, the parents must stop wasting their time wishing their kids were tidier and change their approach. They could impose logical consequences if their rooms remain messy, which is within the parents’ control.

Given this, then, control freaks must live highly stressful lives! They often attempt to control people and situations that are inherently beyond their control, thus the paradox.

But we’re all control freaks one degree to another. Like passive people who loathe taking the initiative and exercise their control by associating with those who are more than happy to take charge.

Who’s your control freak? Someone who tells you how to live your life or spend your money? These unwanted authorities can be irritating to those on the receiving end if not downright intimidating.

Could these control freaks be acting out their own fear of the unknown, as Pasadena psychologist Ryan Howes contends? Their unsolicited advice is an attempt to combat their feelings of powerlessness like not being able to prevent an accident if the driver does something wrong. Psychologist Steven Reiss of Ohio State University says, “The backseat driver is an individual who has a strong need to feel influence, and they’re always looking for ways to express that need.”

Where does this need for control come from? “If you grew up in an environment that was kind of chaotic, it’s almost a defensive sort of reaction,” says Jerry Burger, Santa Clara University social psychologist. “We’ve seen this in homes where a parent has an alcohol problem, for example – those children develop a need for control themselves.”

Other control freaks can trace their tendency to a specific, traumatizing life event, like mine: eye surgery at the tender age of 2 ½ after which I was tied to the crib 24 hours a day minus the 15 minutes of relief when my parents were allowed to visit. At some level of awareness I made an unconscious decision to never be out of control again!

Decades ago I worked very hard to diminish my need to control others. What helped was accepting and acknowledging what’s within my control and what’s beyond. Everything about everybody – their personalities, tendencies, habits – are beyond my control. If I want a different outcome with someone I must change my approach. For example, I could assertively ask the person to change. Or I could tolerate what they’re doing. But if my goal in changing me is to get them to change I’m still barking up a stressful tree; more on this next week.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple.

Are You A Life-O-Sucter?

Life-O-Sucter???
by Leigh Anne Jasheway

Life-O-Sucter, it’s a new word for an old problem: someone who sucks the life out of everyone he or she comes in contact with every day. Unfortunately, just as  vampires can’t see themselves in the mirror, most Life-O-Sucters (abbreviated LLS) can’t see their own bad habits. Take this simple quiz to see if you’ve developed any of the symptoms and to learn what you can do to avoid turning into full-fledged LLS.

1.         If a friend tells you how bad her day has been, what is your usual reaction:
a.         You listen to her without judgment.
b.         You offer her a shoulder to cry on.
c.         You tell her how much worse your day was – in vivid gory detail.

If you answered “c,” you might be a Life-O-Sucter. LLS like all attention to be on them all the time, even in one-on-one interactions. It’s like they’re playing a game called “My Life Is Worse Than Yours!”  If someone has a bad day at work, the LLS has had a bad month or year at work; if someone has a fender bender on the way to the store, the LLS has a brush with death on the freeway. There’s no sob story a LLS can’t top.

If you find the words “You think that’s bad? Listen to this,” frequently fly from your mouth, you might as well get yourself a cape and fangs. Or you could change your behavior by making a list of alternative phrases to use in these situations. Phrases such as:
I’m so sorry this happened to you.
No wonder you’re (exhausted, frustrated, angry, etc.)
Is there anything I can do to help?

It won’t be easy to stop yourself from jumping in with all the horrible things that have ever happened to you, but if you keep using the list, you’ll find this monstrous habit will soon be defeated.

2.         Which of the following words apply to you:
a.         Drama Queen
b.         Hypochondriac
c.         High-maintenance
d.         None of the above

If you answered “a,” “b,” or “c,” you may be a Life-O-Sucter. Drama Queens, hypochondriacs, and high-maintenance people are all overly-involved in their own lives and can’t usually find the time to be a positive force for others. And if their lives aren’t dramatic enough, they create drama – for example, thinking every bump and bruise is cancer or every friend who’s late to lunch has either been killed on the way there or has dumped them.

One of the best ways to stop creating drama where there is none is to help someone else whose life really is rife with stress and drama. Volunteering with an organization like Habitat for Humanity, visiting kids with cancer in the hospital, or helping an illiterate adult learn to read will help convince you that your life is pretty good. And by helping others out, you put positive energy into the universe instead of negative.

3.       Compared to five years ago, do you have:
a.       More good friends.
b.      About the same number of good friends.
c.       Fewer good friends.

If you answered “C”, you may be a LLS. Eventually Life-O-Sucters lose their friends. Who really wants to stay in a friendship with someone who always one-ups you, never lets you have any attention, and whines more than a puppy left home alone for the first time?  Being friends with a Life-O-Sucter is like being friends with a leach – it’s exhausting, draining, and sooner or later you can’t wait to shake them off!

The best way to reach out to friends who’ve gotten fed up and moved on is to apologize and tell them you want to change your ways. Admit that you haven’t been the easiest person to have as a friend and ask for help to do a better job. Chances they’ll have plenty of advice; all you have to do is be humble enough to listen. To show you’re serious, bring a pencil and paper and take notes!
4.         When chatting with someone on the phone, do you usually:
a.         Hang up as soon as you’re done with what you have to say.
b.         Wait until the other person is finished talking before hanging up.
c.         Hang up at a mutually-agreed upon point in the conversation.

If you answered “a,” you may be a Life-O-Sucter. LLS think that when they’ve finished saying what they have to say, the conversation is over. If you’re always the first to hang up and people have actually asked you why you always slam the phone down in the middle of their sentences, ring-ring, it’s the Life-O-Sucter clue phone!

A visual reminder may be needed to change this bad habit. Print out the question, “What else is new with you” on a sheet of labels and apply one to each phone in the house (and your cell phone too, if there’s room!)  Tell yourself you’re not allowed to hang up on anyone without having asked the question at least once.

5.         When it comes to face-to-face interactions, phone conversations, or Instant Messaging, do you:
a.         Let other people do most of the talking.
b.         Hold up your half.
c.         Monopolize most of the time.

If you answered “c,” you may be a LLS. If the people around you are always starting thoughts, but never completing them, you either hang around with very forgetful people, or they never get a chance to finish what they start because you constantly interrupt them. Life-O-Sucters believe that whatever’s running through their head is more important than anything anyone else has to say.

The best way to stop this bad habit is to let your friends and relatives know you realize you have a problem and ask them to let you know when you’re interrupting them by using a unique code phrase like “Fuzzy bunny slippers” or “Brad Pitt.”  Anything that will get your attention and stop you mid-thought will work. And if you choose a fun phrase, it will help you keep a lighter perspective while you change.

6.         Do you usually see the glass:
a.         Half full.
b.         Half empty.
c.         Completely empty, dirty, and you have to wash it.

Again, “c” is the Life-O-Sucting answer. Choosing the most negative perspective on life (and it IS a choice) is one of the classic symptoms of being a Life-O-Sucter. If you’re always negative, the only way your relationships work is that other people are putting positive energy out there to feed you. Eventually, they just get exhausted.

Some people keep a gratitude journal to remind themselves of the good things in their lives. I recommend keeping a “Gratitude List” on your refrigerator, right next to the grocery list. Every time you think of something good in your life, jot it down on the fridge where you will see it every time you’re in the kitchen. Regular reminders that your life is good overall can help you overcome the negativity fiend.

7.         Look closely at your face in the mirror. Which do you have more of:
a.         Frown lines
b.         Laugh lines

If you answered “a,” you may be a LLS. Over the years, Life-O-Sucters tend to develop something I call Irritable Scowl Syndrome. You’ve seen it on people’s faces, maybe even your own. It’s that permanent look of annoyance and irritability right between the eyebrows. It’s no wonder Botox is so popular!

Changing this LLS symptom is relatively easy because you can fake a smile and it will boost your mood, no matter how you really feel.  Since it’s really hard to smile and frown at the same time, you get at two-for one bonus. And, not only will you feel better, but those around you will feel more positive when you’re around. Not bad for a Life-O-Sucter!

If you’ve noticed lately that people run screaming from the room when you come in or light torches and try to run you out of town, try a few of these tips. Because nobody vants to be a Life-O-Sucter!

Leigh Anne Jasheway-Bryant, M.P.H. has been helping people learn to use their funny bones, their smile muscles, and their optimism to have a better life for fourteen years. She is a nationally-recognized keynote speaker, author of fifteen books, and winner of the 2003 Erma Bombeck Humor Writing Award. Visit her website at www.accidentalcomic.com.

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Are you Playing With Me

Beware of emotional autopilot

Are you on Emotional Autopilot?
By Jacquelyn Ferguson, MS

It’s easy to block out painful emotions and operate emotionally on autopilot. Addictive behavior may be a warning sign that this is occurring habitually. To notice some emotions they might have to become extreme. But mindfulness stress management can allow you to face your emotions and not feel like you have to run from them.

According to Ronald Alexander, Ph.D. and author of “Wise Mind, Open Mind: Finding Purpose and Meaning in Times of Crisis, Loss and Change” handling stress mindfully helps you to be less reactive focusing on the big picture of a stressor. When automatically reacting to stressors you’re reacting out of your unconscious, which is largely programmed from early childhood. In other words, automatic, defensive reactions tend to be coming from your inner child. You’re also probably focusing on the details of the situation.

Alexander says, “The key to dealing with stressful situations, especially for those who take things personally, is to develop a deeply grounded core rudder so that no matter what size of wave one encounters they can recover quickly and proceed with more focus.” To remain grounded he recommends developing “mindstrength” through mindfulness meditation practice. “Mindstrength is the ability to easily and quickly shift from a reactive mode to becoming fully present in the moment, experiencing the full force of your emotions even as you recognize that they are temporary and will soon dissipate.”

He says mindfulness practices affect your brain’s amygdala, the area responsible for regulating emotions. When the amygdala is relaxed, your stress response is more balanced. Your:
* Heart rate lowers;
* Breathing deepens and slows;
* Body stops releasing cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream, decreasing the potential damage chronic stress places on your body;

Over time, mindfulness meditation, Alexander says, “thickens the region of the brain responsible for optimism and a sense of well-being. This area is also associated with creativity and an increased sense of curiosity, as well as the ability to be reflective and observe how your mind works.”

When in stressful situations he encourages you to answer these questions, taking your pulse of the here and now:
What do I feel right now?
Do these feelings benefit me in any way? If I feel anxious and fearful, do these emotions lead me to insights, or do they cause conflict, hold me back, and distract or weaken me?
If what I’m experiencing is in response to another person’s behavior, what’s the evidence that that person’s actions have little or nothing to do with me and are, instead, the result of what’s going on inside his/her own mind?
Can I depersonalize the situation?
How can I nourish myself at this difficult time?

Finally, Alexander says, “Mindfulness meditation and other disciplines such as martial arts, tai chi, and yoga are excellent ways of quieting the rational mind and opening up to the intuitive mind and its link to the spiritual creative force. Through this connection you can build “mindstrength,” stop reactivity, and focus on the big picture.” (www.ronaldalexander.com)

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple.

Are You in Love with Stress?

stressed out womanStressed Out and Like It?
By Leigh Anne Jasheway

It’s tough not to be overstressed these days. With all the roles we play every day – parent, employee, caregiver, interior decorator, organizational expert, chauffeur, medical consultant, CEO of everything – it’s only logical that we’d feel overworked and overwhelmed most of the time.

Have you ever thought about the possibility that you might actually like being stressed out?  That in fact, you might get the same kind of giddy high from having too much to do that you get when you fall IN LOVE?  There’s a bumper sticker that would be funnier if it weren’t so true for so many of us: “Don’t tell me to relax – stress is the glue that holds my life together.”  If you’re measuring your value and purpose by a full calendar or the fact that your cell phone never stops ringing, you’ve formed an unhealthy love relationship with your stress. Take this quiz to see how in love you are with the stressors in your life.

1.         When it comes to multitasking, do you:
a.         Try to never do more than one or two things at a time.
b.         Juggle as much as you need to in order to make it through your day.
c.         Hope it becomes an Olympic event because you know you’re a shoo-in for
the gold medal.

2.         When you open your calendar, which of the following would make you feel best?
a.                   Lots of blank space.
b.                  A good balance of scheduled and unscheduled time.
c.                   So many scheduled activities you need a magnifying glass to be able to read what’s there.

3.         Speaking of blank space in your organizer, if you had a full day open, what
would be your first thought?
a.         I wonder if I have time to go to the gym.
b.         What have I forgotten?
c.         I’d better scribble something down in case anyone peeks inside so they’ll
see how busy I really am.

4.         When someone asks you to do something for them and you really are too busy, do
you:
a.                   Thank them for asking and turn them down nicely.
b.                  Agree to help out this once, but chide yourself for caving in.
c.                   Say “I’m really overbooked, but I’ll try to squeeze you in,” then make a point of showing them how crowded your calendar is.

5.         As you go through your day which of the following phrases is most likely to run
through your head?
a.         Wow, this is fun!
b.         Slow down, you move too fast!
c.         I feel the need for speed!

6.         When a friend or co-worker tells you how busy she is lately, what would be your
first response?
a.                   Helpfully suggesting she take some time off.
b.                  Saying you know how she feels.
c.                   One-upping her with anecdotes about your even-busier life.

7.         If you were stuck at the airport for an extra hour, would you be most likely to:
a.                   Enjoy a conversation with a stranger.
b.                  Call and check on the office, then if there’s time, your family.
c.                   Pull out your laptop and happily disappear into your own little world.

8.         When your kids see you at the end of the day, do they:
a.                   Excitedly tell you about their day.
b.                  Give you a few minutes to yourself.
c.                   Avoid you like you’re a low-fat snack food item.

9.         Which cartoon character best reflects your life?
a.         Sleeping Beauty – I know the importance of rest and rejuvenation.
b.         Snow White – I’d really like to delegate things to the dwarfs, but I usually
end up doing everything myself.
c.         The Tasmanian Devil – I’m more comfortable spinning around as fast as
possible.

10.       When you lie in bed at night right before falling asleep, do you:
a.         Give thanks for all the wonderful people and things in your life.
b.         Plan out your next day.
c.         Lie awake restlessly, looking forward to the next day so you can get back
to being busy again. After all, sleep is for sissies!

SCORING:  Give yourself one point for every “a” answer, two for every “b,” and three for every “c”.

1-10     You’ve got a healthy relationship with stress and busyness. You understand that there is more to life than increasing its speed and that your family doesn’t come with a rewind button.

11-20     Although you think you’ve got a handle on things, when the chips are down, you tend to “Just say yes” to stress. Follow some of the tips below to make sure you keep things under control.

21-30   You’re not just over-stressed, you’re in love with the feeling it gives you. Being crazy busy gives you a sense of power and makes you feel better than your friends, neighbors, and co-workers. But your body and mind (not to mention your family and friends) are probably already suffering the consequences of your choices. You should pay attention to every tip listed below to try to end your relationship stress.

Read about Leigh Anne Jasheway-Bryant!

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