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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Antidote to Overwhelm

I may have bitten off more than I can chew.  

I signed up for three different coaching programs that each demand their own Herculean effort to complete and for one month, October, they all overlap.

I certainly wouldn't have planned it this way had I been in charge of the master plan.  But often times one thing leads to another and several doors fly open at once. 

The seemingly innocent challenge I took up in January to write 500 words a day for 30 days set me up for a year of upping the ante. I figured if I could do that, I could do just about anything.  So I started doing stuff.

By showing up, being accountable, and being visible brave new worlds have opened up to me. When the information is so valuable, so life-changing, so timely, it doesn't make sense to wait until it all fits nicely into my schedule.  Such is the case with my coaching programs.

And here's what I've discovered about overwhelm.  The antidote to overwhelm is not giving up, but engaging in something whole-heartedly, completely, passionately.  Right now I have to fire on all cylinders in order to keep up.  From what goes into my mouth to what comes out of it, I'm acutely aware of the impact on my energy level.

Although it's easy to complain, the only thing I really have to do is prioritize. Daily. Hourly.  This means giving up bad tv and carbs and regularly working outside my comfort zone. It means going the extra quarter mile. It’s really not a bad trade considering what I'm getting in return.

It's a bit paradoxical.  When I have no energy, the last thing I think about is adding more to the mix.  However, if I add an experience that is so compelling, so enticing that I am leaning towards it, it has the ability to energize all areas of my life. 

My guess is you've had a similar experience.  If not, the next time you feel like throwing in the towel, try picking up a project instead.  

Whether it be something as simple as challenging yourself to get more steps each day than the previous day for 7 days in a row or organizing your parent's love letters or creating a guest blog post, see how your new interest infuses your day with enthusiasm, curiosity, and a sense of adventure. 

Be sure to give yourself a time frame that pushes you out of your comfort zone but not over the edge. Knowing that the project will last "x" number of days or weeks adds the urgency that tends to dissipate when there is no due date.  

It is also incredibly helpful to have someone to hold you accountable who might also be doing the same thing or has been there, done that, and is willing to coach you through it.  In my coaching programs I have either a team or peer coach to check in with and that has been invaluable. 

Sure there are things we must do for ourselves.  But there are many things we shouldn't do without support.  We have the collective wisdom of the ages at our fingertips.  Accessing it has never been easier. As Barbara Sher said, "Isolation is a dream killer."

In a few months I will be launching the online course (Read It & Leap! ) I am creating in one of my coaching programs.  In it I share several secrets about taking small leaps to move you into a life that is the antidote to overwhelm - an engaged, inspired, involved existence.

If you'd like to know more about it, email me with the word Leap! in the subject line and I will be sure to let you know when I roll it out.  

In the meantime, I'd love for you to share your antidote to overwhelm in the comments below.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ten Zen Seconds

It's official.  I'm overwhelmed.

Basic math suggests adding things to my schedule without subtracting anything results in a crowded and cramped life.

But as the former Queen of Calm, I plan to dig deep into my toolkit and pull out a few tried and true time and tension tackling tips.

The best strategy for me is to slow down those racing, negative thoughts and breathe.  Last night I assigned my mind to figure a few things out while I was sleeping.  Sure enough, when I awoke, Ten Zen Seconds was the first thing that came to mind.

The irony of meditating or contemplation is we like to think we don't have time for it.  But taking a few moments to think about things, can save a lot of thoughtless activity.

It helps to know we're not alone.  And since I know I'm not the only one who might be feeling frazzled, I wrote this for all of us.

In this riot of activity
find an oasis of calm.
Breathe deeply,
slow down the thoughts,
ask for clarity,
and focus on the one thing
that flows from this moment.
Trust that finishing this sentence
is the best way to be here now
and honoring the present moment
is the only guarantee
we'll even be aware of our future.

Ten Zen Seconds
is all it takes...
I am equal to this task,
to my life,
to all I have chosen to take on now...
despite the part of me who wants to dispute that
and do nothing more than watch tv and consume carbs.
But the wise part of me knows better,
knows I can do this,
I can make informed nutritional choices,
manage my time,
and focus my energies.

Other people handle far more than I do every day.
Even though comparing myself to them
doesn't diminish my load,
it does remind me that 
I can figure this out and
I chose to take this on.

Breathe in compassion, breathe out judgment and criticism.
Breathe in openness and spaciousness, breathe out fear and constriction.
There is enough time, energy, money, love, forgiveness, understanding.
Breathe it all in. Breathe it all out.

Peace out.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Celebrating Slow Eaters

There's one in every family.  

In my family it happens to be my dad.  He's the one who can turn any meal into an all day affair.  Not because of the endless preparation involved in cooking a family feast.  He's just a slow eater.  Regardless if he's the first to start eating, he's always the last to  finish.

Turns out, that's a good thing. 

As an ACE-certified fitness professional now pursuing a coaching certificate in Dynamic Eating Psychology, I'm fascinated by many aspects of eating I've never considered before that have literally shaped my life.

I'm reading a book by Marc David called The Slow Down Diet.  He asserts that it's not just what you eat  but how you eat that determines your body's ability to digest and metabolize food.  

If you eat when you are stressed, distracted, unaware of what or how much you're putting in your mouth, is it any wonder you suffer heartburn, indigestion, bloating, constipation, or any number of digestive issues in response?

When your body is concerned with threats to your well-being, the last thing it is going to think about is digesting the doughnut that somehow found its way into abyss known as your belly.  Instead of extracting all the nutrients it can from the side of protein, fruits, and veggies you wisely fed it, your body is going to be busy secreting stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline into your circulatory system.  Blood flow will also be rerouted to your brain for quick thinking and to your arms and legs, should you find the need to fight for flee.

Can you see how operating in survival mode can give you gas or at least irritable bowels?  On the one hand you must eat to survive, but on the other, constant stress, speed, and failure to engage in the present moment will see to it that you don't.

Today's post is not intended to freak you out or give you another "should" to add to your "to do" list.  I'd merely like to make a suggestion I think is both doable and enjoyable.  

Here's the good news.  You don't have to change your diet (yet! That may come later.).  This week's challenge is simply to try this exercise in eating awareness as many times as possible.  

Here's how it works:

1. Notice what you are eating.  Notice the texture, the color, the smell, the size, any especially endearing quality about what you are about to put in your mouth.

2.  Notice why you are eating.  You love it? It was all that was in the frig? You are nervous, bored, or otherwise in need of stimulation, sweetness, acceptance, or love?  (You weren't expecting to dive deep into the psychological underbelly of eating quite so quickly?  Pack your bags.  That's where we're headed.)

3.  Take your time eating.  Before you take a single bite, breathe.  Even if you are ravenous, especially if you are ravenous, breathe. Then take a bite.  Chew.  Chew some more.  Breathe.  Repeat. Follow my dad's example. Be the last person at the table to finish eating. 

 4.  Eat in a pleasant environment.  No matter how much you love your car or office, do not eat an experimental meal in your car, at your desk, or after having an especially emotional exchange with your credit card company. Get out the china.  Use the special silverware. Break out the wine glasses. Definitely find the cloth napkins cleverly cinched up in the napkin rings you received as a housewarming gift. Whatever makes this meal meaningful, marvel at it why you so seldom make the effort to celebrate a meal, and then proceed to do so.

5.  Luxuriate in the present moment.  Maybe you are surrounded by someone who makes you laugh, lights your fire, unleashes your creativity.  Or perhaps you're alone at last. Pleasure is a nutrient too.  Don't squander the moments you've carved out to nourish yourself with crazy-making activities.  Whether it's fifteen minutes or a few hours, take the time to savor your meal.  

I am supremely confident you can do the above 5 steps without too much effort.  I also have a strong suspicion these steps have the power to revolutionize the way you eat.  

I'd love to hear what you discover.

Share if you dare below.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Six Secrets to The Art of the Start

I was talking with a friend who was describing his life as being on hold for the past three or four years.  Anyone who has been on hold for three or four minutes can imagine how excruciating three or four years might feel.  Everything he tried from seeking new employment to moving to a new city to looking for love seemed to get a resounding “no” or “not yet” from the universe even though his biological clock was ticking at an alarming rate.

I could relate, having spent more than a few years wandering around the desert in what seemed like a perpetual pause.  It wasn’t that I didn’t have dreams.  It wasn’t even that I didn’t have the time because by all accounts, especially my bank account, that’s all I had. 
What I didn’t have was structure, a strategy, or accountability.  I had a grand vision for my future but I had no plan for how each day could lead me anywhere but into temptation.  Like a tumbleweed, my daily course was determined by whichever way the prevailing winds blew. I was definitely in what Gretchen Rubin calls drift or “the decision you make by not deciding, or by making a decision that unleashes consequences for which you don’t take responsibility.    
The good news is most detours eventually lead us back to the beaten path, often with insights we’d never have gleaned if not for the detour.  Now that I have a lot of structure and accountability, I often lament my lack of  free time for creative pursuits.  I remembered the long days of limbo and wondered why in the world I didn’t write more, do more, or accomplish more.

But those days by their very nature evoked a kind of analysis paralysis.  I couldn’t see the gift of “the pause” then because I was so desperately confused about my overwhelming underachievement, my lack of monetary resources, and the enormous burden of potential.   I was so focused on what wasn’t working that I couldn’t see what was and take full advantage of it.  

Listening to my friend, I started thinking about what I know now that might help someone in a similar predicament take the kind of action that would pull them forward with purpose and passion.  

Here is what I came up with.  

1 -  When in doubt, begin.  You don’t know what you don’t know.  So start immediately and find out.  You do not need a lot of money to begin.  In fact, at this stage of the game, if you have too many resources, you’ll probably squander them.  Because you don’t know what you don’t know, you won’t yet know what or how to properly invest those resources.  

What you need is an idea, the courage to act on it, and someone to hold you accountable for doing what you say you’re going to do.  You must connect with other people. If you are too timid to get out and meet people, start with a virtual community.   Don’t simply stalk. Talk. Connect. Contribute.  No one knows you are there until you give yourself away.

2.   Begin again.  Every day you will need to recommit to yourself, your project, the changes you want to make, the action you need to take.  This may be easy when the project is new and fun and you are getting some positive feedback.  Regretfully, this will not last.  One day you will wake up and convince yourself none of it matters.  It does.  Begin again.

It may feel like you are taking baby steps or managing micro movements that are getting you nowhere.  It may even feel like you are losing ground.  Backing up is sometimes necessary to gain the speed you need for takeoff.  You simply must begin again.  And then again and again.  Each time you begin, you start from a different vantage point.  You gain more experience and perspective.

3.  Start where you are.  Do what you can with what you’ve got.  You will always have a reason to postpone the start if you wait for everything to align before you dare to act.  Don't miss the gift of today by waiting for the perfect someday. Lean times are the best learning times.  They teach you about what’s essential.  Creativity kicks in to help you figure out how to get it.

4. Get fit.  The same factors that contribute to an effective fitness program contribute to the success of any program.  Strength, flexibility, and endurance are essential to taking an idea from inception to execution.  You have to summon your strength for the many times things don’t go as you would like, which will be daily, possibly hourly, at the start.  You also have to stay as flexible as possible since your idea will and should undergo many incarnations as it evolves and adapts.  And you’ll need to pace yourself and build your endurance so you can manage your time and energy over the long haul.  

5.  Manage your expectations.   Beginning is hard.  Beginning again is harder.  Starting where you are and getting fit take a real commitment.  Once you’ve worked through these steps you may be more than a little anxious to see some results or at least see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Do not set yourself up for disappointment by assuming you know what success should look like and when it should arrive.  That blinding light could be an oncoming train.  Don’t get derailed by thinking it should have been your ticket out of oblivion.  Resilience is a key quality to have in your toolkit.  We are a society obsessed with overnight success and Cinderella stories.  Yours is not a fairly tale but a love story, an adventure story, a comedy and drama where all parts of you embark on a hero’s journey.  Expect the unexpected.

6.  Get ready.  Gather your wits about you.  While it may look as if nothing is happening, you’re simply experiencing that grace period when you can fly under the radar and make all kinds of mistakes without anyone really noticing.  Use this grace period to figure out who you are, what you want, why you want it and what you are willing to do, sacrifice, contribute, give up, allow, and accept so when the world comes knocking at your door, you are ready to let them in.  

If you have some secrets that you'd like to share about the art of the start, please add them below!