Tuesday Tip: Two Lessons Learned From Flying That Can Change Your Life

The truth is that life is rarely traveled on a well-lit, smooth paved road. Life is bumpy and full of up and downs. Traveling by flying is no different. You can’t predict the wind or the weather and turbulence can happen at any time. It would seem that in life, the “fasten seat belt” sign is almost permanently lit. There are two lessons that I specifically learned from flying that can make a huge difference in how we navigate this life.

The first lesson I learned was actually before boarding the aircraft.
I once dated a guy who was working on getting his pilot license and I watched him complete a flight plan. Mind you, I had traveled by plane many times but I had never considered that creating a flight plan would be any different than mapquesting a destination in a car. You choose where you start and and where you want to end up and then figure out the roads and highways that will get you there. I figured it would be even simpler to do a flight plan since you wouldn’t have to figure out the roads to get there but could literally fly from point A to point B. That flight plan was one of the most intricate things I had ever seen. Using a map which has a million different circles on it that represent airways, you have to figure out all of the circles that you plan on passing through from one airport to your final airport. Then, while navigating in flight, you are constantly using your flight instruments and checking in to make sure you are on your desired path as you pass through those airways. Even with the detailed flight plan, you are constantly veering off course and having to correct your course. This is how life is. It is essential to have a flight plan–to know you are and where you want to go but even more essential that the flight plan is being able to use your ability to check yourself to be able to correct your course. The way to measure how you are doing in life is not how many times you get off course, but how fast you return to the flight path or in other words, how fast you are able to recenter yourself when life becomes unbalanced.

The second essential life skill I learned from flying is given during those long and monotonous emergency instructions you listen to once you are boarded on the flight. (I realize that I should probably pay more attention to safety instructions that are there for my own benefit but man it is rough to listen to sometimes!) During those lovely instructions though, they give one of the most insightful rules that is an absolute mental health game changer. In case of loss of air cabin pressure, they tell you that an oxygen mask will fall from the ceiling above you. Then they give you this admonition: Before you assist someone else, you need to put your own oxygen mask first. This is an essential skill that many caregivers or parents often overlook. They, (many times out of concern and love) attempt to address the needs of those they care for without having addressed their own. This can lead to burnout. The skill is to identify and provide self-care for yourself and then to be able to provide assistance to those in your life who may need it. What does self-care look like? Self care is simple acts that show that you are taking care of yourself and recognizing your own needs. Below I included a list of a few self-care items, but in reality your list will be just as unique are you are and may not include the stash of chocolate in the pantry. 😉 It is not selfish, but in fact will allow you to show more love to those around you just like putting your oxygen mask on first before you assist others to put on theirs.

So, take a moment to create your own flight plan for yourself. Who are you, and where are you headed? Write out that goal and then you can check yourself periodically to see what course changes you may need to make in order to stay on your path.

Second, create a self-care plan for you. What would be on your list of self-care items? Create that list. Check in and monitor yourself and if you know that you are going to be needed whether it is emotionally or physically– start by making sure you have first put on your own oxygen mask. Taking care of yourself matters and allows you to then assist others which in turn brings joy to your life.

While these tips will not change the turbulence that we experience in this life, it will help you to more successfully navigate your flight and reach your desired destination. Have a safe flight!

Truth or Myth: Grief is Something That You Should Get Over. {Myth! 5 Truths To Help Understand and Cope With Grief}

Believe it or not, the first class I ever took regarding grief was in High School with Father Tom. I attended a catholic high school in California and it was in that class on “Death and Dying” that I was first introduced to the 5 steps of bereavement by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Although I do find value in her work and stages of grief: {denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance}, I also feel that it has assisted in portraying a false notion that grief is something that we are to get over. Truthfully, those who follow her theory will be the first to tell you that you do not go through these stages chronologically and each situation is unique. However, it can still perpetuate the idea that grief is something that you are supposed to get through or that there is an end.

In fact, the question I was often asked by clients was “When am I going to get over this?” or “When am I going to move on?” There are five truths about grief that will help with understanding the role and purpose of grief.

One: Grief is not something that you can fix or control. In fact grief expert, Julia Samuel, who recently wrote a book entitled, “Grief Works”, describes grief as chaotic, unpredictable and messy and is a process that you are not in charge of but works beneath the surface. Grief is personal and there is not one way to grieve. The key according to Samuel is to find ways to express your grief so that it doesn’t get stuck inside you–to reach out for comfort and support from loved ones, find a word or a way to express those feelings or to journal about your feelings so that they do not remain so overwhelming.

Two: It is essential to acknowledge painful feelings. What you are feeling is normal and if you attempt to shutdown pain or numb painful feelings, you also shutdown or numb happy or joyful feelings. Do not avoid the pain. In fact many often turn to alcohol or to work as a way to avoid pain and to try to numb the painful feelings. Grief and pain come and go in cycles and they have a role. Finding connection to loved ones that can support your grief and pain allows the pain to diminish and for you to heal.

Three: There is meaning in pain and it isn’t something that you should or need to avoid. Pain connects you to the person who is no longer there. When a loved one who has made an imprint in your life is no longer there, you can expect that there will be a void. This void is a reminder of the love that you shared which is not meant to be replaced.

It is important to note that there can be a tendency to equivocate pain with a way to connect to the person who is gone and you can feel like you are abandoning them if you stop feeling the pain. Many have felt guilty if they laugh, find enjoyment in life, forget an anniversary or special date. It is important to know that you can allow both and to give yourself permission to seek comfort in your life.

Four: Grief will always be painful and you will always miss them. One of my favorite analogies that has been pretty useful at explaining grief was told by the psychologist of Lauren Herschel and is known as the ball and the box. Grief is compared to a large ball that is placed in a box with a pain button. The ball is so large that at first you can’t move the box without hitting the button. It moves around in the box and consequently hits the pain button over and over. You can’t control it- it just keeps hurting and seems relentless. Overtime, the ball shrinks, and you can start moving the box without hitting the button. The ball still hits the button sometimes, but less than it used to. However, when the ball does hit the pain button, it hurts just as much. Although you can function better day to day, the ball will hit that pain button randomly when you least expect it. For most people the ball never goes away fully but the ball keeps getting smaller.

Five: Research shows that it is not the circumstances of the grief that predicts the positive or negative outcome but it is the support that the person receives at the time. So, if you are in the midst of grief and pain, reach out and connect where you can. Professor Brene Brown’s mother gave some of the best advice when it came to pain: “My mom taught us to never look away from people’s pain. Don’t look away. Don’t look down. Don’t pretend not to see hurt. Look people in the eye. Even when pain is overwhelming. And, when you’re in pain, find the people who can look you in the eye. We need to know that we are not alone–especially when we are hurting.”

Truth or Myth: Feeling Anxiety Can Be a Good Thing

Truth! Anxiety is a normal and healthy function. In fact, you couldn’t subsist without it. Evolutionarily speaking, it was essential for our brains to be able to be observant in order to survive. Anxiety is a sign you are aware of your surroundings and that you are mindful of growing opportunities and that you are frightened of things that are in fact scary (like that saber tooth tiger or starting at a new school/job)! There are several functions that are necessary for us to survive that stem from feeling anxiety.

For one, feeling anxiety or stress increases cortisol and adrenaline levels in the body, greatly improving the fight or flight reaction. Your heart beats faster, your breaths per minute increase, you become more aware of your surroundings and your body is ready to fight or run to protect itself. Almost like your “spidy-sense” is triggered and your body is set to gear up to deal with and handle the situation at hand.

This adrenaline can improve both attention and your ability to focus. Think of a time when something big was on the line. Perhaps it was a speech you had to give, a three point shot at the buzzer to win the game—all create certain amounts of stress and anxiety.And while many of these situations are filled with pressure, the increased anxiety makes you focus that much more. In all of these instances, if your body wasn’t producing extra levels of adrenaline and cortisol, you wouldn’t be as ready to make that game winning shot.

The stress response that is triggered by anxiety is also designed to help us react when something potentially threatening happens, to help us deal with it and learn from it. Dr. Daniela Kaufer, an associate professor at UC Berkley, studies the biology of stress–examining at the molecular level how the brain responds to anxiety and traumatic events. Her research found that the part of your brain involved in the stress response (called the hippocampus) will stimulate stem cells which go on to form neurons or brain cells. Hence, anxiety can be a good thing as it can help you focus more and be able to learn more!

Having an understanding of how anxiety can be a useful tool in helping you be observant (ability to focus more), and recognize areas of growth (example: where you realize that you should focus more on your 3 point shot) and give you the adrenaline or energy necessary to deal with situations (example: saving the 2 year old from falling off the chair) can help you realize that anxiety can be an asset. Feeling anxiety really isn’t a bad thing. It is a normal and necessary feeling that you can make work for you rather than against you. How do you do this? When you recognize feeling anxious (everyone is unique in how they feel anxiety in their body but everyone feels it) mentally listen to the message that it is giving you and then in your mind, assign the anxiety a task. For example, you recognize you are breathing faster while preparing to be interviewed for a job. Take a deep breath and mentally give yourself a task to remember the interviewers name or to remember answers to questions you have already prepared and your brain will be stimulated to complete that task. Anxiety can really be an asset and not just for the caveman.

Tuesday Tip: Kindness Matters

The ripple effect of kindness is more powerful than many might realize. I can’t emphasize enough how much kindness makes a difference. In fact, it has been the catalyst that has saved lives. The clients I have had the honor of working with as they processed he excruciating pain and anguish which leads someone to contemplate suicide, often surprised me by the stories that they would share of the simple acts they witnessed {many times these events did not even that happened to them} that would help them to hold on amongst the pain and restore hope. You don’t know the positive impact that you can make simply by moving over to give them a seat on the bus or at lunch to make room for someone else, the high five to a stranger in the hallway, the heartfelt smile that allowed someone in pain to realize their heart was still beating. Reaching out with kindness is something everyone and anyone can do and I promise makes a difference. The Boy Scouts of America has a slogan, “Do a good turn daily.” This is a tip that would be a great goal for all of us. So, today’s Tuesday Tip: Do an act of kindness daily: the ripple effect is beyond powerful.

Truth or Myth: Your Thoughts Are NOT Your Identity

Truth! You are NOT your thoughts. In fact, according to the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at the University of Southern California, the average person has about 48.6 thoughts per minute. That adds up to nearly 70,000 thoughts per day. Researchers estimate that 60-80% of those thoughts are negative! Dr. Raj Raghunathan, of the University of Texas recently conducted an experiment asking students in the business school to register their thoughts for 2 weeks and then categorized them. He found that 70% of those student’s thoughts were negative.
Negative thoughts do NOT define who we are. It has absolutely nothing to do with our character and who we are as a person. You cannot control if a bird lands on your head or every thought that comes in your head but you can prevent birds from making a nest and you can control what thoughts you allow to stay.

Looking to reduce the negative thoughts in your head?

Stay tuned for 5 proven strategies to combat negative thoughts coming next week. For recurrent negative thoughts, you can also check out:
https://practicallyspeakingwithbrita.com/2019/02/06/5-simple-steps-to-change-negative-thinking/

Tuesday Tip: The Importance of Distinguishing Between Shame and Guilt.

There are few words and feelings that make such a profound difference as the difference between these two five-letter words: Shame and Guilt. While you might think they are synonyms, you will be surprised to know that psychologically speaking, they are more distinct than you might think and understanding their differences can be life altering.

So, what’s the difference? According to renowned researcher/storyteller, Brené Brown, PhD, LCSW, the difference is huge. Brown has been researching shame for over ten years and her TED talks have garnered over 10 million views. She defines shame as the “intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.” Shame focuses on yourself: “I am a bad person… I am stupid…I am a failure.”

She defines guilt on the other hand as “holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.” She view guilt as adaptive and helpful and focuses instead on the behavior: “This behavior is bad…that was a really stupid thing to do…that outcome was a failure.”

According to Brown, “Shame [is] highly correlated with addiction, depression, eating disorders, violence, bullying and aggression. Guilt? Inversely correlated with those.” What does that mean? That means the ability to change the way in which you talk to yourself (guilt vs. shame) or your internal dialogue can dramatically change the outcome.

Guilt serves as a motivating factor to change whereas shame becomes the catalyst to the downward spiral of self loathing that has been correlated with depression and addiction. For example, I could do really poorly on a test and say to myself: “Dang it. That was a mistake. I should have studied differently.” Now, I still feel bad and the event didn’t change-I still did poorly, but I am motivated to fix that mistake.

Check out the difference with shame: “Dang it. I am such a loser. I am so stupid. I don’t know why I bothered to think that I would ever be good at taking a test.” Shame cuts at your self identity and does not inspire you to move forward but rather stay in a downward spiral of negative thoughts.
The ability to change the self-talk — and believe it — can dramatically change the outcome.

So, today’s Tuesday Tip: examine your internal dialogue. Is it more inline with shame or guilt? When you or someone you love make a mistake, allow your feelings of guilt to inspire a course correction. As I lovingly repeat to my kids on a daily basis: “Peirce’s make mistakes and Peirce’s fix mistakes.” They might have the same number of letters but feeling shame and guilt are extremely different and distinguishing between them is an absolute game changer.

Truth or Myth?: Asking someone if they are thinking about suicide will increase the likelihood of them committing suicide.

Myth! Research has actually shown that asking about suicidal thoughts or feelings will NOT push someone into engaging in self harm or committing suicide. In fact, the findings suggest that acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce rather than increase suicidal ideation. Asking about thoughts of suicide is in fact one of the number one things you can do to help and assist anyone who may have suicidal ideation.

So, what do you say if you are concerned about someone who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts? Reach out and be direct. My “go-to” question is:

“Hey. You seem like you have been {quiet, tired, depressed, sad, not yourself etc} and I {love you, care for you, am concerned}. Have you thought about hurting yourself?”

Do not worry that you need to provide all the answers if they do have thoughts about committing suicide. They don’t expect you to have all the answers. They just need you to care enough to ask the question and get them to someone who can help. That is the easiest of the steps because all it requires is a phone.

Keep in mind that you can always call the National Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (or text “TALK” to 741741). {They both go to the same source.} This number is not just for the person who is currently feeling suicidal but also for anyone who is looking for assistance or advice on handling a situation where someone they know might be suicidal. You will be talking with a licensed mental health professional who will do a safety assessment to determine if you are calling for yourself or for someone that you are worried about; if you are in need of emotional support or if you are in crisis. They will talk with you and develop a safety plan and future resources where needed. You can call any day at anytime- 24/7.

So, don’t be afraid to reach out, acknowledge and discuss suicide if you are concerned about someone. There is hope and help and it all starts with asking the question–Just Ask!

Tuesday Tip: Why Honesty is the Number One Thing You Want To Teach Your Children

This answer comes down to six simple words: You cannot change anything without it.

No one is perfect in this life and mistakes are going to happen. What you need to teach your child is not simply how to avoid mistakes but instead how to fix mistakes–what to do if and when you make a mistake.

Psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck, a professor and researcher at Stanford University, is known for her research on mindsets-or the ways in which we view the world. She discovered that there were two distinct mindsets–a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.
In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.

According to Dr. Dweck, “[i]f parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”

Developing a growth mindset is really key in being able to develop what Dr. Angela Duckworth found to be the single greatest factor of success. She conducted research at West Point Military academy, the National Spelling Bee and even a sales team at a professional company to determine who is successful and why. She found that a term which she called ‘grit’ was the single most defining factor in being successful. She defined grit as passion and perseverance for very long term goals. Grit is having stamina and sticking to your future for an extensive period of time.

Wondering where your grit level is? For those of you who are curious, below are two links for a short grit scale questionnaire developed by Dr. Duckworth – [The first one is an 8 question for children to access where they are on a grit scale and the second is a 12 question for adults.]

https://www.dropbox.com/s/rn5wo3y0iis0qtf/8-item%20Grit%20Scale_Child%20Adapted%20Version_4.pdf?dl=0

https://www.dropbox.com/s/2pzjz1v0dadmr8r/12-item%20Grit%20Scale.pdf?dl=0


Having a growth mindset of knowing that your talents and abilities will get stronger through your effort and persistence is the motivating factor for developing grit, and thereby being successful. However, the key to both developing a growth mindset and developing grit is really honesty. Being honest with your thoughts and feelings is the first step to being able to recognize where you are and then being able to improve. Cultivate and teach your children the importance of honesty. It is the foundation of trust, success and change.

So, today’s Tuesday Tip: When a child (or anyone really) comes to you about a mistake that they have made, instead of giving into the myriad of emotions that it evokes, take a breath and say the words: Thank you for being honest. This reinforces that you value trust and honesty and reminds both of you that this is the first step in being able to fix any and all mistakes. Honesty- you cannot change anything without it.

Truth or Myth: We are Born to Need Each Other

Truth! One of my husband’s favorite songs is “Islands in the Stream” by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. In case you were curious or just wanted to listen to that song again, I included a clip below. {You’re welcome. ;)} Unfortunately, while my husband might love this song, the message of this song can perpetuate this false notion that we are meant to be ‘islands’ in a relationship and that being self-sufficient is what makes your relationships stronger. However, researchers will tell you that, in fact, close connections make us stronger and that we are born to need each other.

Dr. Susan Johnson, developer of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) and 2016 Psychologist of the year noted that, “The human brain is wired for close connection with a few irreplaceable others. Accepting your need for this special kind of emotional connection is not a sign of weakness, but maturity and strength.” She emphasizes that self-sufficiency is just another word for loneliness and that we all long for a safe haven in our relationships.Strength, she argues, comes from close connections and we are born to need each other.


The need we have as children to be able to call to a special loved one and know that this person will respond with reassurance and comfort never goes away.

Connections in life are critical and are the source of both pain and joy. Dr. Naomi Eisenberger, a psychologist at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) found during her brain imaging studies that rejection and exclusion trigger the same circuits in the same part of the brain (the anterior cingulate) as physical pain. In fact, this part of the brain turns on anytime we are emotionally separated from those around us. On the other hand, close connections with others turn on reward centers in the brain and flood us with calm and happiness chemicals like dopamine and turn off stress hormones like cortisol. We have an innate need to connect. It is a basic primary need– like oxygen and water. We truly are born to need each other– so do not be afraid or feel ashamed of this need for connection. No man is an island–not even Kenny Rogers.

Making Things ‘Slightly Smaller’: A Functional Tip When You are Feeling Overwhelmed

Who hasn’t felt the feeling of being overwhelmed? You know that feeling when things were already pretty stressful and then one more thing happens and threatens to capsize the whole boat. When you are in the midst of the storm it can be difficult to be able to come up with a plan that will deal with the storm and rightly so. When your brain is flooded, it no longer processes things the same way as many functions are ‘offline’ not allowing you to process thoughts as you usually would. So, when you are feeling overwhelmed there is a tip that will help jumpstart your mind into staying engaged and being able to assist in coming up with a plan to address your state of mind. It’s called “Slightly Smaller”.

After taking a deep breath, you can tell your brain to assign your current state into a number. For instance, if I am really stressed out I might assign myself an 8. Instead of trying to solve and figure out the whole amount of stressful 8, I would make it slightly smaller by subtracting it by 1. Then, I would ask my mind, “What would make it a 7?” This allows your mind to be able to stay engaged and come up with a plan to address your stress in a smaller, more manageable portion. You don’t need to try and solve everything at the moment. Storms will come and go as they do, but the ‘Slightly Smaller’ tip will allow you to be able to use your mind to be able to stay in and process, problem solve and survive the state of feeling overwhelmed. Don’t let the simpleness of the tip fool you–try this the next time you recognize feeling overwhelmed and see for yourself if your mind doesn’t play a more active role in being able to get your ship to the shore. Happy Sailing!

Looking for more ways to deal with feeling overwhelmed? Check out:

https://practicallyspeakingwithbrita.com/2019/02/28/top-9-proven-strategies-to-manage-stress-including-the-science-behind-how-they-work/

https://practicallyspeakingwithbrita.com/2019/02/06/9-proven-strategies-to-change-your-thoughts-and-change-your-world/