Lesson Learned from Ants: A Powerful Strategy to Manage Feelings in an Instant

Fun fact! Did you know that ants don’t have ears? It’s true! Having had four kids doing online school this past year has really given me the opportunity to learn and relearn a whole variety of fun facts, but relearning about ants reminded me of a beneficial and powerful strategy that can benefit and assist anyone to be able to deal with and manage our feelings in an instant.

My daughter was looking for some help on a school assignment and came to me asking where the “feelers” are in an ant and what they are supposed to do. Her question caught me off guard a little bit but I was able to realize that the “feelers” she was referring to was the ants antenna.

I described the long, curved looking legs on their head and explained that they are very crucial for an ant as ants use their antennae to smell, feel and touch what is ahead of or behind them as they crawl and even use antennas to talk with their friends. So, even though ants have mouths, they don’t use them to talk–{they actually communicate using their antennae to smell pheromones.}

Doing a little more ant research, I also discovered that ants don’t have ears but use their antennas to feel out sounds and vibrations. Kinda ironic that the one insect that is known for being a good listener and following directions, doesn’t even have ears. They actually rely on their antennas to navigate their worlds.

Just as it is vital for the ant to use its antenna or ‘feelers’ in order to navigate in their world, we really need to learn how to use our feelings to navigate in ours. Just like ‘feelers’ serve as a way to get information about what is ahead of or behind the ant, our feelings can likewise serve to help us understand our world as we see it. Our feelings help us to see what is ahead (danger, surprise and what is behind us–reminding us of past hurt or embarrassments). Our feelings are sending us messages, reminders and warnings. When we can recognize what we are feeling, {label it with a name and identify it}, we can then decide what we are going to do about it.

The key is recognizing the messages our feelings are sending us and realize that not every feeling is accurate and that our feelings can change. In fact, we can change our feelings with our thoughts. But how, you ask? The Cost-Benefit Analysis Strategy Technique.

There is a technique known as Cost-Benefit Analysis that is very effective at being able to help us analyze our feelings and change them if needed very quickly. All of you who are math minded or accountants are probably really intrigued right now but even if math isn’t your strongest subject, this strategy is something simple that everyone can use and benefit from.

With the Cost Benefit analysis you would simply list the advantage and disadvantages of a feeling. You can do this in your head or even on a piece of paper.

For instance, an event happens. Let’s say your plane is late and your first feeling you recognize is anger. You would simply mentally list what would be the advantage or disadvantage of getting angry that your plane is late. You can determine within your mind that getting angry isn’t going to change the fact the plane is late and then choose a different feeling and thought. Ex: This is frustrating, but staying angry isn’t going to change the fact the plane is late so I am going to choose to remain calm and look for alternative options and choose to feel hopeful.

You can recognize that your feelings are simply messages, reminders and warnings and that not all feelings are accurate. For example, one of my personal favorites: “I don’t feel like doing it, so you put it off.” If you waited until you felt like doing a task you don’t like, you would never get it done. Instead, you make choices to brush your teeth, make dinner and visit the dentist and it has little to do with your feelings. Using the Cost Benefit Analysis you can mentally weigh the advantages and disadvantages of putting something off because you don’t feel like it. You can decide that it isn’t worth the dealing with all the disadvantages and make a conscious choice to move forward even if you don’t feel like it.

You can even use the Cost/Benefit Analysis strategy with a negative thought you are having. For example: the thought that no matter how hard I try, I always give up. What are the advantages or disadvantages of listening to this negative thought? You can choose to say, this thought isn’t helpful. You can determine that it is not worth it to listen to a thought that is not helpful and then choose to remember the time that you make a difference when you didn’t give up or the difference someone in your life made on you when they didn’t give up on you.

The Cost Benefit analysis also works on changing patterns of behavior: (Lying around and eating when you are feeling sad). What are the advantages or disadvantages? When you recognize a pattern of behavior is not helpful, you can choose to implement a different pattern. Choose to sit outside for a moment or find someone to serve or look to other ways that have been helpful in dealing with sadness for you. You can change your feelings simply by asking yourself if they are helpful to you and then making a choice to change them.

All of our feelings have a purpose but unlike the ants, we can choose what we do with those feelings and we can change our feelings, our thoughts, and even our patterns of behavior. Pretty powerful, huh? Try it out and see how the Cost Benefit Strategy can improve your world in an instant!

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The Most Important Lesson We Can Learn in This Life

In this day and age of social media and filters on instagram, there is a lot of time spent putting forth images that you want to portray rather than the reality of life. We are constantly looking for ways to sequester or hide flaws and mistakes in order to feel accepted. In this quest for perfection, we often end up overlooking and minimizing a vital truth: No one is perfect and everyone will make mistakes in this life. So rather than the focus be on perfection, it would be better served to focus on how to fix our mistakes. Being perfect is not the answer. The answer is learning how to fix our mistakes. And learning how to fix our mistakes is the most important lesson we can learn in this life. It is the one thing everyone of us has to do. Here are four reasons we should focus on fixing our mistakes rather than be afraid of making mistakes and promote perfection.

Mistakes Have the Ability to Teach Lessons

Mistakes have the ability to teach lessons. While we are often encouraged to forget the mistake and move on, remembering the lesson learned is far more important that forgetting the mistake. A few years ago, I was making cookies with my middle daughter who was maybe 5 at the time. My little helper was standing on a chair next to me anxiously looking on while I added the flour into the standing Kitchen-Aid mixer. I told her to turn it on but neglected to tell her what speed and she turned it on so high that within seconds she became a ghost covered in flour- not to mention the counter, the flour and pretty much the whole kitchen. A mistake for sure, but one that we talk about and laugh about nearly everytime I make cookies. In fact, just yesterday she said to me (in between bouts of laughter): “Remember when you made me into a ghost??” I think of that story everytime I go to turn on the mixer and luckily to this day haven’t made anyone into a ghost as I remember the lesson I learned: flour and speed don’t mix well.

You Don’t Have to Make Your own Mistakes in Order to Learn From Them

You don’t have to make your own mistakes in order to learn from them. There is power in books, and shows or movies; power in history and sometimes real lessons that you can learn from in your own family history. Don’t be afraid to talk about mistakes. My kids are all highly entertained by the Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series that has actually been made into 3 different movies as well. The main character, Greg, is constantly getting into trouble and finding mishaps–often digging a hole even deeper with his habit of lying. It is important to talk about and discuss characters in books and in movies and even relatives who have gone on or are still living and share the mistakes they made and how we can avoid making the same mistakes and repeating family history rather than growing from it. All of us have made mistakes, but what books and history helps us realize is that you can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.

Making the Mistake is not the Biggest Issue, it is not Fixing the Mistakes we Make

Don’t be afraid of mistakes. Mistakes can and will happen and making a mistake is not the biggest issue. It is not fixing the mistakes we make. Just last week, in my anger and frustration at finding my son playing with a LEGO set instead of what he was supposed to be doing, I picked up the LEGO set and broke it. It seemed liked millions of grey and black LEGOs went flying in all directions. I made a mistake into a much bigger mess. However, it became a great lesson to show my son that I fix mistakes–even mistakes like this one that took HOURS to fix. He will remember that I broke it but he will also remember that I spent hours working together with him to fix it– That I am not afraid to fix mistakes and that there is no mistake that he could make that I wouldn’t be there to help him fix. Yes, it would be better if I had not broken the set but I can’t go back in time and change that moment in that chapter, but I can change the ending of the story.

Mistakes Can Be Fixed

Charles F. Kettering was once quoted as saying, “You can’t have a better tomorrow if you are thinking about yesterday all the time.” If there is one thing that is more powerful lesson about mistakes than anything else, is that mistakes can be fixed because forgiveness is possible. It doesn’t even matter if you have shattered something that is beyond repair. Because of Jesus Christ, there is a way forward no matter what mistake has been made and it is not dependent upon whether a person we have wronged has forgiven us.

“However late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love.” Jeffrey R. Holland

You are not the mistake. You are someone who makes mistakes AND who fixes them.

While I much rather have not made my daughter into a ghost that day in the kitchen and not broken my son’s Star Wars LEGO set, I am grateful for the knowledge that mistakes can be lessons that can help us learn and grow and that mistakes are made to be fixed. There really is not a more important lesson we can learn in this life than how to fix mistakes. If this has been helpful for you, please like and share so others will be able to benefit as well. Thanks!

Flip the Switch: A powerful tool that can change your perspective and your life immediately

Flipping the Switch is a simple, yet powerful tool that can help your mind cultivate gratitude and can change your perspective immediately.

The tool is simple. When you feel frustrated or overwhelmed with a particular situation you would simply ‘flip the switch’ and imagine that the opposite holds true. What does that do? Flipping the switch has an immediate affect. It helps to cultivate gratitude for your situation. You are able to recognize blessings that you may have been overlooking and it allows you a path forward. It also allows more joy into your life and grants you energy and motivation to improve and change your circumstance.

For example, if you are frustrated with the size of your house you would ‘flip it’ to being homeless. This doesn’t mean that you can’t improve your housing situation if needed but it does allow you to be grateful for what you have when you consider what life would be like if you had nothing at all. And when you are feeling gratitude, you take better care of your belongings and you have a greater appreciation for what you do have. You see things more clearly and are more able to find ways to improve your situation rather than dwelling on what you don’t have.

If you are feeling frustrated about the limited options of schooling for your kids or your grandkids, you would imagine what life would be like for them having no school and having no opportunities to learn at all. While it doesn’t take away the difficulties you are facing, it does allow for gratitude to work in your life and to recognize opportunities you do have but might be overlooking due to the frustration. You become more aware of what opportunities they do have and ways to maximize them. You feel and express gratitude for those teachers or technology that they do have. You become part of the solution–looking for ways to improve their education rather than feeling hopeless and powerless to help.

If you are feeling frustrated with an aspect of your job, you would flip the switch and imagine what it would be like not to have a job at all—where you were prevented from having a job–no money, no opportunity to grow or learn, no sense of accomplishment in making a difference in the life of someone else. Flipping the switch allows you to recognize what you would actually miss the most and then feel gratitude for those aspects despite those aspects that can be frustrating. It can even lead you to a new path that you might not have been considering. It allows you to recognize what you enjoy most about working and by concentrating on that you are able to move forward instead of stay stagnate in a negative circle of frustration. Positive employees tend to have higher job performance and gratitude for your opportunity to work allows you to be more positive about your employment.

If you were overwhelmed with your your kid(s), you would flip it to not ever having them in your life AT ALL. While everyone can and should benefit from breaks as a parent–flipping the switch means you would imagine them COMPLETELY never a part of your life. And not just for that moment after you stepped on a LEGO for the hundredth time–imagine what your life would be like never having ANY of the moments with them. Who would you be without them? What qualities and characteristics have they helped you develop because they were there? Flipping the switch allows you to not only remember but also reexperience positive feelings– that feeling when they looked to you for help and your arms were sufficient to provide all the help and healing they needed. The feeling that you had introducing them to something new and watching the thrill of excitement. The feeling when you enter a room and as they recognized you and brightened simply because you were there. You would flip to a memory of them that makes you smile like as a little girl in pig-tails with with a big, black smile from oreos covering all their face or when they were dressed up like Darth Vader and making all the sounds of a light saber battle. Flipping the switch allows you to find reasons to be grateful especially during those moments when it is hard to find a reason. Even if that reason is they are helping you to become a more patient person. You recognize that having them in your life is helping you to become a better person than you would be without them. It can inspire you to grow together to improve.

So the next time you are feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, try “Flipping the Switch” and look for the blessings that are there but might have been overlooked. Flipping the switch allows gratitude to immediately work in your life. It is just like a flipping the switch on a light in a dark room that allows for the ability to see things that we would have missed if we continued to stumble in darkness. And gratitude turns what we have into enough.

If this has been helpful for you, please take a moment to like and share. Thank you!

Journaling: A Simple Task with Profound Benefits {9 Reasons You Need To Write, Right Now}

There is power in simple, small things. For instance, all of us have felt that power at one point in our lives from just a simple hug that made a tremendous difference. During this particular time of social distancing, hugging isn’t an option for many of us. However, there is a simple and small thing that can make a huge difference in our lives in the midst of uncertainty when it is apparent now more than ever how much of life is outside of our control. There is power in simplicity that we just often overlook. This simple task doesn’t have a particular method you have to follow. There is no recipe. There is no determined outcome you need to achieve or a set number of required reps or word count. And it isn’t graded. This is something that anyone (including any child who can write) can do and reap the numerous benefits. The task is simply journaling.

I realize that I just probably shocked many of you with that response. What could possibly benefit me from journaling? However, there are several proven benefits from journaling and small things can and do bring about great and profound results. Here are just a few:

Journaling Allows Your Mind to Process

Journaling allows your mind to process in a way that no other method can. Journaling allows you to center your feelings and allows you to realize what it really on your mind. It allows you to problem solve and declutter things that are weighing on your mind but you didn’t exactly realize how or what. It is a way to gain the clarity that we all crave and need. It more importantly allows you a way to get out of the constant feedback loop of your thoughts as your thoughts escape on paper and allow you instead to be able to move forward.

Journaling Allows You to Focus on You and Become Your Best Self

Journaling allows you to unplug and without the pressure of meeting anyone’s expectations. Instead of attempting to write a post that is going to generate the most likes, you are instead able to spend a little time pondering and reviewing your life and the direction it is heading. You don’t need to worry about punctuation or spelling or the reactions of others. You can take a step back from the pressures of work, school and even your social life and decompress taking time to get to know who you are. Knowing who you are, what you stand for, what you dream or envision for your life and family allows you to be present in relationships and develop honest and healthy connections and become your best self.

Journaling Allows for Growth and Change

Journaling allows you to recognize opportunities for growth and change and to recognize what is working well in you life and what you want to continue doing. You will find that the more sentences that start with “I” will allow you be be the change that you are seeking in life. It only takes one variable in an equation to change the outcome and there is real power in pondering and deciphering for yourself what the outcome is that you are seeking and even more importantly what you can personally do to become that agent of change. For instance, if I really at my core decided that I want a family that is more loving, I can look for way to share kindness myself and recognize and support the kindness I see in others. Journaling is the best way to being able to determine what you really value at your core and gives you an opportunity to give a voice to the dreams that you have inside you and create goals that are meaningful and valuable.

Journaling Increases Your Emotional Intelligence

Journaling helps you give a name to a feeling and makes you more emotionally intelligent. When a feeling has a name, it is much easier to know how to manage that feeling and helps you to navigate difficult issues that often are overpowered with unnamed feelings. Your emotional intelligence is key in being able to create and recreate connections. It allows you to decompress and assist your brain to be able to regulate and manage your emotions in a way that nothing else can.

Journaling Can Improve Your Emotional and Physical Health

Researchers have found that journaling for as little as four minutes a day resulted in measurable difference in a person’s mood and and sense of well being. Additional research by University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher, James Pennebaker, found that regular journaling strengthens immune cells (T-lymphocytes) and resulted in a decrease in health problems and an increase in immune system functioning. Researchers have also found that students who wrote about meaningful personal experiences for 15 minutes a day over the course of several days in a row felt better and got higher grades in school.

Journaling Allows for Hindsight and Perspective

Reviewing journal entries is a great way to remind yourself how much feelings can change–even very powerful feelings. When you reread what you write, you actually feel the feelings that you felt when you wrote it and can quickly notice how much feelings can fluctuate and change and how temporary they are. Rereading the entries allows you insight that coupled with hindsight is beyond powerful. You aren’t just thinking back on events in your life, but you are experiencing the feelings you felt then with your feelings now and are able to recognize steps that lead to your personal success and steps that do not. Reviewing journal entries is also a unique way to see and recognize patterns–healthy or unhealthy–and help you to make decisions that can lead you to reach the life you have determined for yourself. Journaling gives you an inside perspective and ability to reflect that simply relying on your memory does not.

Journaling Allows You to See God In Your Life Regardless of the Challenges

It is hard in this life to feel like your life is being guided and directed especially amongst such uncertainty. There is a poem that is pretty famous but that is always been one of my favorites. It is titled, “The Footprints”. It recounts how it was only after a man looked back on his life that he realizes how he was carried and that he was guided and directed even and especially during his darkest times. Journaling allows you to see His footprints in your life.

Journaling Allows Us to Deal With Things That Are Outside of Our Control

We all love to feel in control. The examples are endless–from the weatherman who is supposed to predict the future and our outfit for the day—to even the school lunch calendar which can make or break your kid’s heart. Routine makes us feel good, like we control the outcome. Journaling is a great way to realize it’s okay not to have all the answers. It helps you focus on what you do know and the resiliency and strength we don’t always recognize in ourselves becomes apparent as we have daily examples of reactions to events that are outside our control.

Journaling Makes You Happier

Best selling Author and Top podcaster, Gretchen Rubin, devotes her life to seeking for ways and habits to be happier. She actually advocates for something she calls the ‘one sentence journal’ and even has a top selling one sentence journal and she has been journaling for 10 years. She has found that journaling doesn’t have to be a long task, but that it can and does make you happier. You don’t have to worry about the length of your journal entries or the content, but being consistent in writing can and will make you have a happier outlook on life.

There is power in simple and small things. Journaling is one proven way that you can reap a myriad of benefits that are proven to improve your mental health, and your relationships. So, make a moment to spend time journaling- start with just a sentence or thoughts on a topic of your choice or take an inventory of your relationships and life goals and where you are headed. When life seems out of control and you need to clear your head, don’t neglect the small and powerful gift that is the small act of journaling. I can promise you will be amazed at the results.

Law of Love that Can Change Your Relationship

Being in a relationship is a leap of faith. In honor of leap year, I thought I would share a truth about love that will help change and improve your relationship.

My husband says that ice cream is best received in small, consistent doses and love is no different. Sometimes it is portrayed in the movies or reality television that it is these grandiose moves that you feel loved, but the truth is that it is actually the small things over time that cement relationships. According to top psychological researcher and clinician, John Gottman, PhD: “It’s the small things done often that make the biggest difference.” These small things are referred to as “bids”, which are really opportunities to pay attention to the small ways in which your partner reaches for you and attempts to connect. How you react to these bids to connect everyday will make more of a difference than extravagant gifts or time shared once in awhile. In fact, Dr. Gottman discovered after conducting a six year study on newlyweds that couples who stayed together turned toward each other’s emotional bids 86 percent of the time, while those who went on to divorce turned toward each other’s bids only 33 percent of the time.

When you are looking at filling your bucket with love, it is best filled with consistent, meaningful drops rather than a downpour of rain. So look for ways to express the love you are feeling in daily ways–whether it is a kiss before you walk out the door, a “miss you” text during the day, making the bed etc. The act itself could be anything but it is important that you express that it is your way of showing your love. Everyone wants to feel chosen and it is important to look for and be intentional about the ways in which you are choosing to share and express your love and to do it in small ways that are done often. So, take the leap and make a decision to be intentional about a small act of love that you can do consistently and you will be amazed at how far it takes you. Happy Leap Year!

The Power of Reflection: The Greatest Tool We Can Use to Achieve Our Goals

Our minds really enjoy a good book—meaning that our minds love things that have a beginning and an ending. In fact, we love it so much it can often become our downfall. I have not worked with a couple who didn’t have an initial goal when they decided to get married to have a happy marriage. However, life is much more fluid than books and it is often not full of neat and tidy beginning and endings. Even the seasons in the weather have transitions. For instance, my daughter was born on April 7th. On any calendar regardless if the groundhog saw his shadow, April 7th is most definitely spring. In fact, the calendar will tell you that the first day of spring is actually March 19th. But the night she was born, it snowed. And it shouldn’t snow in spring. But this is a good reminder of what progress looks like. It is in constant motion and not something that we can necessarily control. But there is one strategy that makes all the difference with our minds and it is something that we can control: the ability to reflect. This is the tool that actually provides the most success in establishing, monitoring, and creating the happy endings our minds desire.

Reflection is a vital tool for success in any goals. It takes honest reflection to evaluate where you are and where you want to go. What do you want to see happen? What are the desires of your heart? How do you want things to be? I think one of the biggest mistakes people make is to think that you only reflect once in order to create or set your goals but true success lies in learning to reflect more often.

Modern travel is a great way of showing the value of reflection. If Christopher Columbus never checked and made course corrections, it is safe to say that he never would have landed on the island. Planes in order to reach their destination or goals constantly are reverting back to their flight plan to make sure they are in alignment and traveling to where they want to go. Reflection is a tool that does the same things for the goals we have for ourselves. It is important to be able to check in and ponder or reflect on where we are in our progress with our goals in order to determine if we are indeed progressing where we want. We might not be able to control how fast we arrive at our destinations, but we can always control which way we are facing and that alone is the most important factor for reaching our intended destination.

If you continue on the path that you are on, where are you going to end up? Is that where you want to be? A reflection question that I have asked couples I have worked with is, “If everything stays the same as it is now and nothing changes, what is going to be the end result?” It takes a conscious decision to make a change in your life. But it requires reflection in order to see what changes need to be made. It is helpful to know that you can continue to change as you continue to reflect and make course corrections.

Reflection allows you to put yourself in the equation. If you want to be change the result or the answer in an equation, you do not need to change all of the variables. You only need to change one thing on the right side of the equation and the result is guaranteed to be different. If your goal is to have a healthy and happy marriage, what are you doing to make that happen? Reflection allows you look to yourself to be the change that will change the result.

Events in our lives often cause a reflection. Getting pulled over for a traffic ticket, finding out a loved one is in the hospital or that they suddenly passed away or hearing the words, “You have cancer” will cause us to stop and reflect on our lives. However, you do no need to wait for an event such as these to be able to reflect and make sure your life is in alignment and headed in the direction that you want.

So, make a time for reflection. Whether it is part of your daily commute, while you exercise, while you take a shower, while you fold laundry or while you take communion or the sacrament. Reflect on where you are in your goals and whether or not you need to make any course corrections. Ask yourself if there is something you should stop/start doing that would make you more successful at your goals. We are all works in progress and goals help us become better versions of ourselves. Consistent reflection allows us to be more mindful and successful at progressing in our goals. It really is the greatest tool we can use.

Top 5 Strategies to Help Manage Grief

The Holidays are often a time that many look forward to each year but for others serves as a reminder that life is not the same. While there are no ways to change that loved ones are not here with us, there are ways that we can process the grief that at times feels overwhelming. Grief is something that all of us are guaranteed to experience in this life. And though it will be experienced by everyone, each person is going to process it differently. The key is to find ways and outlets to express that grief. Here are five strategies to help manage and cope with grief.

Find Ways For Their Legacy to Live On

“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of the unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” Jamie Anderson

You can find ways to express the love that you would want to give but cannot. While they may not physically be here to hug or participate, you can find ways that their legacy can live on. Many sponsor events such as golf tournaments or running events and donate the money to a cause that their loved one supported. Some purchase benches or seats in the honor of their loved one. However, it can also be as simple as doing and act of service or something that they would have done in their honor. For instance, you can go and collect all the carts in a busy shopping center, make their favorite cookie or meal and bring it to someone else, pay for a drink or a meal of the person behind you, donate a newborn outfit to the hospital in their honor. Finding a way to have their honor or legacy live on is a very cathartic way to process grief.

Rituals

Rituals also have a great role in being able to express grief. Hiking on their favorite trail, leaving a pebble on their headstone when you visit, releasing their favorite color balloon, watching old videos or looking through photo albums on their birthday. Rituals and activities such as these allow you to send a postcard that “I remember you” or a way to say “Thinking of you” when those moments come.

Physical Momentos

Physical reminders also serve as a way to process grief. From pillows or blankets made from old shirts, necklaces made from their handwriting, birthstone or handprint, a token from items they collected that can be displayed, being able to physically hold something when you cannot hold your love one is an avenue that has shown to make a big difference in expressing grief. Just this past week, a friend whose brother had recently passed away from cancer wore his shirt to the movie theater to watch Star Wars. Physical momentos are a powerful way to express and process grief.

Find An Expression

There is a lyric from a song released this year by Craig Morgan. He wrote it as an expression of grief in tribute to his son who passed away in a drowning accident. “My boy’s not here, but he ain’t gone.”

It is important to be able to find an expression for your grief whether from art, writing poems, lyrics or a song, or even just journaling. Grief is not something that can be controlled and is often just under the surface but when you have an avenue to express the grief you are feeling, it becomes manageable. The pain is still there but that pain becomes a reminder of the love and then the love has an outlet to be expressed.

Reach Out

If there is one thing that you could do to help someone who is grieving, it is simply this–allow them to have an expression. Sometimes we fear causing them pain by bringing up old memories and feeling like we are opening up old wounds, but the most pain they feel is when the rest of the world isn’t grieving and recognizing their grief. So what can you do? Remember them. Allow them an avenue to talk about their loved one. Unexpressed or suppressed grief is painful. When the grief surfaces, allow them the space and avenues to express it. Those who have researched grief have found that the number one difference made in dealing with grief was the support the person felt while they were experiencing it. You can be that difference for someone.

No matter how old you are, no matter what your gender, your education level, how much money you have, where you live…we will all experience grief. While we will all experience it differently, finding ways to express and process this grief will allow us all to manage the role that grief plays in our lives.

If you found this article helpful, please like and share. Thank you.

For more information and to understand the grief that you might be experiencing or the grief a loved one is going through, here is a quick article:

https://practicallyspeakingwithbrita.com/2019/04/10/truth-or-myth-grief-is-something-that-you-should-get-over-myth-5-truths-to-help-understand-and-cope-with-grief/

The Best Gift You Can Give Yourself- and Everyone {Including Two Strategies to Make it Happen}

As much as we might try, there are things in this life that are beyond our control. From the weather to a 2 year-old having a meltdown in the isle of a store, there are things we cannot completely control in this life. However, we can control our reaction to them. And the best gift you could ever give yourself which will positively affect everyone in your life is to improve the way you react and manage stress. Recognizing when we are stressed and taking steps to handle our own stress rather than passing that on to those around us is the greatest gift you could give yourself and will bless the lives of those around you. There are two main keys to learn to make this gift a reality for you–recognizing your stress level and implementing a healthy stress management plan.

Key #1: Recognize when you are stressed. How do you know when you are stressed? Does it seem like you realize that you are stressed only after you have maxed out? Do you ever feel like the Hulk just emerges without much warning? It can be difficult to recognize when we don’t know what to look for.

Why isn’t is easier for everyone to identify? There are a few good reasons we all struggle sometimes to identify when we are stressed until we tend to explode. For one, stress itself is not bad–we need some stress in our lives in order to function–we couldn’t function without it. So, we are used to feeling some stress and get accustomed to it. Second, just like a frog sitting in water that slowly heats up will end up being a boiled frog–sometimes when it is a slow accumulating stress we don’t tend to recognize it. Adding one more guest to a party– even adding one every few days over the week isn’t going to alarm us as much as the same number added the day before the party which can then be absolutely overwhelming. And finally it is sometimes difficult to identify because we all feel stress differently. We can’t always look to our parents, partners or even kids to see how they experience stress because it is completely unique and their experience for themselves will be different from ours but they are a great source to ask when they know we are stressed. My daughter says, “oh no–mom is getting her stressed eyes!” My eyes tend to get large when I am stressed so it has become a good indicator for me.

While we all experience stress differently, there are some things we all have in common. We all will feel stress in our bodies. While some people might have their breathing quicken, others actually unconsciously hold their breath and don’t breath as often. Some people’s muscles tighten while other’s get lightheaded. Some people’s heart race and blood pressure rises and they can feel chest pain. Some people feel stress in their stomach and can feel nauseous. Some people’s appetite changes where they have little appetite or tend to overeat. Stress can trigger headaches and migraines. It can make you feel fatigued or cause you not to be able to sleep. Most of the time, we feel it in more that one way in our bodies. What is important to note is that we can recognize the signals our body is telling us when we feel stress so that we can manage the stress level before it manages us.

Strategy: Implement stress self checks. Knowing that it is difficult to always recognize the stress level we are feeling in our lives, doing a stress check throughout the day is a great way of being able to manage our stress. Check your body and how you are feeling and assign it a number between 1-10 and then you can implement strategies needed to keep you in the optimal stress performance zone.

Key #2: Implementing a Healthy Stress Management Plan. I think that one of the greatest myths is that we only need a stress management plan when we are stressed, but in reality this plan is needed when we aren’t necessarily in a state of stress trying to troubleshoot what to do. Everyone will experience stress in this life. You make better choices and can control your reaction better when you have plan. So, what do you do to handle your stress? We all have ways of coping when we are stressed out–some more healthy than others. Here is a link to my favorites: https://practicallyspeakingwithbrita.com/2019/02/28/top-9-proven-strategies-to-manage-stress-including-the-science-behind-how-they-work/

It is also important to recognize the coping methods or cards that we use and to increase the cards as they can’t be played every time. For instance, obviously taking a nap is not an option when you are stuck in traffic, so you are going to need to play a different card like deep breathing or listening to uplifting music etc. The more healthier cards you know and can have in your card deck, the better.

There is a game I will play with young clients to help them understand this concept. The game is called UNO Attack and it takes UNO to a whole new level and instead of drawing from the deck when you don’t have a card or have to “draw two”, you actually hit a button and sometimes you get no cards and then sometimes a whole bunch of cards are popped out at you. This simulates how life is–sometimes things happen and you end up with a lot of extra cards or stress in your life but knowing how to manage that is the key to winning UNO attack and to be successful in life.

Strategy: Create a Stress Management Plan. Make a conscious effort to figure out how you are handling your stress and take a step to add a healthier card to your deck. For instance, if you are finding that you are often stressed in the car, add some healthy snacks or chocolate or create a cool playlist of music. A stress management plan is key whether you are currently stressed or not.

So get to know yourself and ask yourself these two pivotal questions: How do I know when I am stressed and what do I do to handle my stress? Implement a stress management plan. There really is no greater gift that you can give yourself and managing your stress becomes a gift for everyone.

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Dealing with Conflict: The Game Changer Question to Ask Yourself

Conflict is unfortunately bound to happen in this life. You don’t have to scroll down far on your feed to find evidence of conflict- in relationships, in schools, in politics–it is guaranteed to be there. However, there is one question that you can ask yourself that can be a total game changer where conflict is concerned. The number one question to ask yourself is this: “How do you want this to end?”

How do you want this to end? What’s your objective? Keeping the end in mind is more important than you might realize. Most people don’t think about the ending but are instead focused on their feelings and often get into an unfortunate cycle and communication myth where the louder or harsher they complain, the more the other person will know how upset they are by the complaint. So volume will tell you how strong your feelings are. The louder you yell, the more valid your feelings are. This unfortunately is a false belief and often leads to additional volume in response and more conflict, and hurt feelings. Speaking louder or more harshly doesn’t mean that you are more likely to be listened to or that your message will be heard. In fact, research confirms that it is the opposite.

Psychological Researcher John Gottman, PhD, who over the past 40 years has become one of the most influential researchers in the industry, actually found that 96% of the time, the way a discussion begins can predict the way it will end. He found that when one partner started the discussion with a harsh start up (being negative accusatory or using contempt) the discussion is basically doomed to fail. On the other hand, when one partner begins the discussion using a softened startup, the discussion will most likely end on the same positive tone. For example: (Harsh Start-Up) “You never have time for me!” compared to (Softened Start-up) “I have been missing you lately, and I’m getting a little lonely.” So, remember that your approach matters and that the way you begin a conversation has a direct tie to how it will end. So, if you want the conflict or conversation to end well, how your convey your message matters and you need to begin your discussions with a softened start up approach.

A softened start up does not mean that your feelings are not strong. In fact, expressing your feelings, even strong, powerful feelings is absolutely fine and necessary. The truth is that you can feel big emotions but do need to match the volume in your voice or tone to convey them. You can feel angry or hurt and not be loud. And how you convey your message matters. It all comes down to understanding the difference between Criticism vs. Complaint. And there is a very big difference between the two. When you are being critical, that means you are attacking the personality or character of a person. It often begins with “You always…” or “You never…” or “Why are you so…” or “What’s wrong with you?” For example, “What’s wrong with you? How could you leave without feeding the dog? You never feed him.” Complaint on the other hand is specific to a behavior you want to change. For example, “The dog was out of food again. Can you make sure he is fed before you leave next time?” Make sure that you are addressing complaints rather than just being critical and have an end in mind. What do you want to see changed? What behavior do you want to see? Don’t underestimate how powerful a tone of voice can be as you have a conversation about the behavior you want to see changed. Keep the end in mind and you will be more effective at conveying your feelings and messages.

The truth is that you do not have control over how someone else will react or that by conveying your feelings that they will change their point of view but you do have a say in how things will end by the way in which you choose to discuss your emotions. So, remember, when you are handling conflict, make sure you ask yourself, “How do you want this to end?” It can be a total game changer and lead to better communication, better handled conflict and happier endings.

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Top Tip to Stop Negative Self-Talk

It has often been said that the greatest battles we face are the battles within our own mind. Today’s tip is a simple one, but can make a tremendous difference in combating this war with a simple tool I call the thought check.

The thought check is a quick and effective exercise in gaging how we are treating ourselves. Here is how it works: you simply imagine your best friend committing the same error that you have. How would you respond to them?

For instance, you are late for an important meeting or for picking up carpool. What would you tell your friend if they were to relay to you that they were late for an important meeting or picking up carpool? Would you berate them or attack their character with phrases like, “You are such an idiot and are so unreliable.” “Why can’t you get your act together?” No, that would be absolutely crazy. While the fact they were late doesn’t change, you would probably be empathetic to their plight and express that this does not define their character and maybe you would offer some perspective or advice–“Everybody’s late sometimes. Maybe next time you could try taking a different route–that freeway is so backed up at that hour.” “I know that you are feeling embarrassed right now. This isn’t you. They will get to know that you will be there next time on time. Everything is going to be okay. “

You then repeat those phrases to yourself that you would tell your best friend rather than the internal negative dialogue that we often berate ourselves with. This tool allows yourself the grace and room to acknowledge weaknesses and shortcomings but from a place of love and growth that allow you to become better. So the next time you recognize a mistake and the negative inner dialogue you tell yourself, simply stop and tell your mind to do a “Thought Check”. Become your own best friend. We all spend a lot of time in our own heads– make it a place where you would want to be.