Relationships

5 Habits that Build Resilience Every Day

Do you have time to add one more thing into your life?

 

I wouldn’t blame you if your gut response was “no.”

 

Most of us feel full to the brim already, packed with activities and responsibilities. Making time for resilience-building practices in your life sounds like a chore. Yet another thing to check off your to-do list. And it could be…

 

but it isn’t.

 

Most of us are already doing 3, 4, or even 5 of these habits already. But we’re not doing them on purpose, and we’re not paying attention to how they help build our resilience and mental toughness, so we’re not getting the maximum benefit.

 

So to make it easier, instead of giving you a list of 100 things you can do to feel more resilient, think about these habits as big categories. As long as you do SOMEthing in that category, you’ll get the benefit.

 

Make Something

 

Yes, I know “making dinner” may feel like more of a chore than a fun activity. But if you reframe dinner as “I’m creating something I want to eat,” it gets a little more fun! Or nuke dinner but make an art project with your kids. Or write a note to a friend. Use your creativity and your two hands to make SOMETHING every day, Creativity sparks an area in your mind that you don’t get to use very much as an adult. But it helps with problem-solving and keeping you calm, two things every adult DEFINITELY needs!

 

Move Something

 

Have you heard about telomeres yet? Telomeres are the little protective caps on the end of your chromosomes, and they can wear down with chronic physical and emotional stress. Research has shown that exercise is terrific for keeping your telomeres intact for longer. But moving your body in ANY way is good for your emotional well-being – it doesn’t have to be a full-blown exercise regimen. In our house, we like to have a 1-minute dance party in the evenings, after dinner. It’s a time to be silly and get our blood flowing. I’d be lying if I said we didn’t watch TV at night, we just do the dance party in ADDITION to our favorite shows. Because moving your body releases endorphins, try just a little bit every day to manage stress and build resilience.

 

Enjoy Something

 

For me, the best part of the day is heading to a bubble bath with a glass of wine and a good book. That’s three great things right there! Do you have a moment in the day you can just… enjoy? Sunrise with your coffee before everyone wakes up? There is actually a psychological benefit to what’s called “savoring” – paying attention to and appreciating something enjoyable. When you savor something, you’re not only practicing gratitude, but you’re also immersed in the moment, which is good for mindfulness. The practice of “savoring” has been shown to increase your positive emotions. So find something each day that’s really enjoyable and just revel in it for 2-3 minutes!

 

 

Finish Something

 

In today’s busy world, you’re constantly crossing something off your to-do list. But each finished item just moves you on to one more, and it feels like the day is never done. So often, we finish one or two tasks towards a dozen different projects in our lives: we make dinner but then leave the dishes for tomorrow. We send off a report but leave 10 emails in our inbox. Doing some but not ALL of a project can actually take a toll on our brain. Because of a process called “self-efficacy,” we like feeling powerful and in control. We like to see the end result of our hard work! It may actually be better to finish ALL of one project, as opposed to MOST of three different things.

 

 

Look Someone in the Eye

 

One of the key predictors of resilience in a person is having strong bonds with others. But in the day-to-day stress, we sometimes fail to spend quality time nurturing those bonds. Instead of just being in the same room with your partner or your children, stop for just a minute and have a real conversation. Look them in the eye and just talk. And your strong bonds don’t have to be under your own roof – volunteering and helping others does amazing things for your happiness levels!

 

 

You don’t have to add 5 new activities into your daily life. That would make you MORE stressed, not less! But if you slow down and pay attention, you’ll realize you can shift just a few things around and prioritize these 5 important habits every single day, to help make you more resilient to the stress and challenge.

 

 

Three Warning Signs You’re Dealing With a “Taker”

Life is all about give and take. Or so it SHOULD be. But some people are all “gimme, gimme, gimme,” and they take more than their fair share.

 

In his landmark book Give and Take, Wharton professor Adam Grant zeroes in on how the “Taker” personality type – whose mission is to gain as much as possible without helping others – can be difficult to live and work with because of a selfish nature.

 

How do you know if you’re dealing with a Taker?

 

Warning Sign #1: The Case of the Missing Gratitude Chip

 

Most of us have been taught that gratitude – feeling thankful when good things happen to us – is a positive trait. But Takers don’t feel gratitutde, bcause they believe they deserve everything they get. They don’t feel a need to say “thank you,” because they believe they were entitlted to whatever they took in the first place.

 

Warning Sign #2: People Aren’t People, They’re Tools

 

Takers see other people as opportunities, more than they see them as individuals. Other people, to a Taker, are valuable bin direct proportion to how much they can do for the Taker. If what you can offer the Taker diminishes, the Taker won’t care as much about the relationship. Takers are the type you see at a networking event who are in one conversation, but leave mid-sentence because they spotted someone more important.

 

 

Warning Sign #3: Turnabout Is Not Fair Play

 

Takers don’t like an equal playing field. They freak out at the slightest sign of someone else taking from THEM, or getting ahead. And if you DO take something from a Taker, don’t expect to be forgiven. Takers expect everyone else to forgive them, but they aren’t very good at forgiving other people for the exact same behavior.

 

What can you do if you have a Taker in your life?

 

If the Taker is an adult, there might not be much you can do to change them. You can model good behavior, but the best thing you can do is protect yourself and not give more to them than they deserve. According to Grant’s research, the healthiest pattern is to be a “Matcher,” someone who is happy to give, as long as there is a sense of fairness and balance to what they get in return. Remind yourself that the Taker in your life isn’t going to give you very much, so don’t give very much in return. Takers don’t like boundaries, but by protecting yourself, you’ll be mentally healthier in the long run.

 

If your child is a Taker, it’s not too late to intervene. Most children ARE Takers, at least in the early years. When you teach them to share their toys in order to get friends to play with them in the sandbox, you’re teaching them how to be Matchers. Both kids get something in return! Find opportunities to point out examples to your child where more than one person can succeed – like passing the ball to a teammate who has a better shot so the team can win the championship.

 

You don’t have to let a Taker take over your life. Watch the warning signs, protect yourself, and be generous to the people who deserve it.

 

 

9 “Bad” Habits You Need to Start Practicing Today

Here’s some bad news: you can actually be too “good” for your own good.

 

So many of the cultural behaviors we think are good – like always maintaining a positive attitude, or being a hard worker – aren’t always so good for us. These expectations we place on ourselves may in fact drain our strength and our mental energy, so that we aren’t able to be resilient when it really matters.

 

Here are 9 habits that get a bad rap, and why you should reconsider adding them back into your daily routine:

 

#1 – Complain

The world gives bonus points to happy people who don’t gripe, but sharing our struggles with the people around us can be beneficial. It helps us bond, and puts our problems in perspective. The key is to communicate your stress but not dwell TOO long on the problem before moving on to a solution, or else it turns into repetitive venting. In small doses and to the right people, complaining can help you feel supported, understood, and ready to move forward.

 

#2 – Daydream

Thinking about the future is critical for surviving stressful times. Studies of children from difficult backgrounds showed that the children who succeeded despite the odds had something called a “future-orientation.” When you shift your focus toward the future and start making plans, your brain starts to make meaning out of your current struggle, and use it as fuel to get you where you want to go.

 

#3 – Procrastinate

Some deadlines can’t be missed, but others are self-imposed out of some idea of what “successful people” do. In my own business, I often set an artificial timeline on when something “has” to be done, and then I beat myself up when I miss it. But I was busy doing things that were truly more important to my business. It’s 100% okay, and even smart, to move deadlines that don’t make sense anymore.

 

#4 – Say No

I like to think of myself as a nice, helpful person. I hate saying no. As a result, I’ve often spent my days completely overcommitted and overwhelmed. Then a smart friend passed on this bit of advice: “Every yes is a no to something else.” When you say no to something just to be nice, or because you think you should, you’re taking up time for a future activity or opportunity that would be more meaningful to you.

 

#5 – Goof off

When your stress level is high, it might seem like goofing off is the last thing you should do. But when you’re under extreme stress, your brain floods your body with adrenaline and cortisol, sending you into a biological panic mode. While you’re under the influence of adrenaline and cortisol, you aren’t capable of getting high-level work done, because your prehistoric survival brain has taken over.  Take time to not just clear your head, but release the adrenaline and cortisol from your body. By goofing off and doing something enjoyable, like laughing at an internet video, you move your brain out of stress mode and into high-performance mode.

 

#6 – Be weak

There’s a common belief that tough people survive traumatic events with grace and poise, never wavering or having a moment’s doubt. I know from experience that’s a lie. Every one of us who struggles, even those who feel deeply that it will all be okay in the end, have moments where we just can’t stand the suffering. If we all suffer in silence – because we don’t want to appear pathetic or we don’t want to burden anyone else –  then each one of us believes that WE are the only one who is weak. Instead, be honest about your fears and doubts. You’re sure to find that you’re in good company.

 

#7 – Be Selfish

A lot of the narrative about “good people” includes the belief that good people spend their time and resources on other people. A “good mom” is there for her kids 24 hours a day. A “good employee” works late and on weekends. A “good husband”, a “good friend”, a “good boss”… most of these designations involve some form of selflessness. But being 100% selfless is physically and emotionally draining, and is completely unsustainable over the long term. If being “good” means giving everything you have to others, you’re likely to snap at some point. Prioritizing your own needs can actually be a kindness to other people in your life, because it allows you to do good work, behave with patience, and enjoy the world around you.

 

#8 – Get distracted

As humans, we want to avoid the sting of rejection. Whether we don’t get the promotion we were hoping for, or we get dumped by a love interest, rejection is a fact of life. One of the best strategies for coping with a feeling of rejection is to distract yourself. Focus on something else. In a study of sales people who struggle with fear of rejection on sales calls, even something as simple as snapping a rubber band on their wrist helped them distract their mind from the rejection. You may not want to get too distracted in everyday life (like commuting to work!), but if you’re feeling neglected or rejected, find somewhere else to channel your energy and focus, so you can keep moving forward.

 

#9 – Ignore Advice

One of the most common rules for success is “Find a Mentor.” Receiving advice from others, we’re told, is a great way to shorten the learning curve and avoid the mistakes that other people have made. There’s one problem with that plan, though: thanks to a common judgement error called the “Peak-End Rule,” most people don’t remember enough details of their path to success to give very good advice. Because of the limitations of human memory, a mentor or coach can give you some good ideas, but they can’t help you reverse-engineer your way to where you’re trying to go. If you take someone else’s advice and – likely – don’t get the same results, you may start to beat yourself up or think you’re a failure. Instead of taking any advice as gospel, gather suggestions from multiple places, and be your own best guide as you consider what will work for you.

 


 

Throw away the rulebook: these bad habits will help you build more resilience and find greater happiness. As with everything, these bad habits should be taken in moderation. But by resetting your expectation of what is “good,” you’ll find yourself doing a lot more things that are good FOR you.

How to Pay ANYONE a Compliment That Truly Inspires

Happy National Compliment Day!

Everyone loves a compliment, but some praise means more than others. Here’s how to craft the perfect compliment that will have ANYONE (your kids, your colleagues, even your UPS delivery driver) feeling inspired to be their best!

Surviving the Holidays After You’ve Lost a Loved One

The first holiday after you’ve lost a loved one is tough. How do you make it through a time of joy and family when you’re grieving? Here are 3 practical steps to navigating the holiday season after someone you love has died.

5 Ways To Stay Calm When Getting Terrible News

“It’s cancer.”

 

“You’re fired.”

 

“I want a divorce.”

 

Some words cause your body to go numb. Your ears buzz. You start to float above yourself. In those moments, you’re experiencing so much stress, and your body is being flooded with so much adrenaline, it can be difficult to think straight.

 

As difficult as it may be, thinking straight is the #1 thing you can do to help yourself when you’re getting terrible news. It’s crucial, in those moments, to keep your wits about you, gather information, and maintain self-control.

 

So how do you stay calm when you’re in the middle of receiving terrible news?

 

Take a sip of water.

It’s a tiny action, but taking a sip of water can be a great move when you receive shocking information. First, it gives you a mental break from the tough conversation. You may feel like you need a split second to close your eyes and process the information, and taking a sip of water gives you an excuse for breaking eye contact without looking “weak.” Taking a sip of water also gives you something to do with your hands, to keep them from jittering. Especially if the conversation is with someone like a boss, you want to appear composed and stoic. Having a glass of water as a prop can cover up your nerves.

 

Stay present in the moment.

It’s human nature, when getting bad news, for your thoughts to start spinning out of control. You can’t help but think about the future, and how this news will shape your life for months or years to come. Instead, keep your thoughts in the moment at hand. When you keep you mind focused, you’ll be better able to process what’s actually happening than if you allow your mind to wander to all the worst case scenarios. As this Forbes article remarks, it’s definitely best to avoid heading down the spiral of “what if…?” When you stay in the moment, you’ll be a better participant in the conversation, and you’ll remember the important information more accurately. Which dovetails perfectly with the next step…

 

Ask questions.

When I found out I had cancer, there were so many questions I wished I had asked the doctor when I was right there in front of him. Because I was so flustered at the news, I sat there in shock instead of asking smart questions. I had to email my concerns to the nurse and wait several days for a response. If you get bad news, don’t hesitate to ask as many questions as you need, rather than assuming the worst. It also helps to take notes. Many times our adrenaline keeps us from recording good memories of these tough conversations, so taking notes will help you not only focus in the moment, but also give you something to jog your memory later.

 

Remind yourself all the ways it could be worse.

We’ve been taught to believe we should think positive when we get bad news. But last week I had the honor of hearing Sheryl Sandberg, the author and Facebook executive, participate in a Q&A, and she had a different perspective. She recalled that a friend told her, after her husband Dave died, that “it could have been worse. Dave could have been driving the children when his heart gave out.” She realized that she could have lost her entire family in a single moment. By remembering that things could, in fact, be worse, we put our struggles in perspective.

 

Take a single action.

Getting bad news makes us feel powerless. We can’t control the situation, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything. Figure out the first action you can take to regain control, no matter how small. Through a psychological construct called “self efficacy,” taking even the smallest action helps you feel more competent and powerful. If you’ve been diagnosed with an illness, your fist step could be finding a specialist. If you’re faced with divorced, your first step could be protecting your financial information. If you’ve been let go from your job, it could be brushing up your resume. By doing what you can do, even if it doesn’t feel like much, you’re building your self efficacy for the moments ahead.

 


 

Getting bad news can feel like life as you know it is over. But if you keep calm, stay present, gather information, and put the situation in perspective, you’ll be able to move forward as quickly as possible.

 

No, My Husband Isn’t My Rock. And Yours Shouldn’t Be, Either.

My husband is great. But he’s not my rock.

 

I don’t say that to be insulting. In fact, I mean it as a compliment. He’s not my rock, or my anchor, or any of those other overused phrases to describe a partner. A rock and an anchor are things that tie you to one place. They slow you down, weigh you down, or even drag you down. That’s not a metaphor I want to use in my marriage.

 

On top of the terrible image of being weighed down by your partner, a boat is pretty much helpless without an anchor. It can’t go much of anyplace. It can get stuck at sea forever, but it can’t go much of anyplace else. The boat needs the anchor. That’s a pretty crummy analogy for a healthy marriage, too.

 

By describing our spouses using outdated comparisons, we set negative expectations for what relationships should be. If you hold on to a belief that your marriage is holding you in place, what do you believe will happen if you grow and evolve? Or want to experience the world on a grander scale? If you believe that you require your partner, in order to be safe and secure, what will happen if your partner can’t always keep you safe? Or if life ever challenges you to be alone?

 

Healthy Marriages Don’t Need Rocks

 

My husband isn’t a rock. He’s more like… Technicolor.

 

Movies were great long before Technicolor was introduced. But they were even better after. Before Technicolor, we could still experience the story, the characters, and the emotions. We still enjoyed the drama of it all. But with Technicolor, everything got brighter. It got more engaging. It seeped into our souls.

 

The analogy of Technicolor works because it helps us understand how our partner makes our life better, while still allowing us to be whole, functioning individuals. It acknowledges the richness of relationships, while not supposing that singlehood is like being adrift on a lonely see. Heck, some people prefer black and white films!

 

When we rely on other people to provide necessary functions we should really be providing for ourselves, like happiness or stability, we’re handing over our personal power to someone else. And that’s a recipe for dysfunction. The struggles of life require us to be fully complete individuals, all by ourselves, to survive.

 

My husband is my Technicolor. He brings brightness and joy and intensity to my life that I didn’t have before. My movie would still be running without him, but it’s far better with him.

 

 

How to Say Goodbye to a Loved One

How do you say goodbye, grieve, and honor the memory of a loved one who passed away? I recently lost a loved one, and I got some great advice on two things you can do to help you heal. I’m doing these same things right now, too.

Is Your Best Friend Bad For You?

I just got back from a business trip where I tacked on an extra day and a half to see a dear friend from childhood and her growing family. My friend and I have one of those relationships where it always seems easy. We just slide right back into hangout mode no matter how long we’ve been apart.

 

It’s common knowledge that friendship is good for you: people with friends live longer and are healthier. In fact, close friendships may make you more likely to live longer than exercise! (That’s news that calls for an extra slice of chocolate cake at girls’ night out, right?)

 

But not all friendship is healthy or helpful. For your social connections to really be good for you, pay close attention to who you’re spending time with.

 

Do You Like Your Averages?

 

Jim Rohn, a business expert, said “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” This idea is sort of like the firnedship version of “you are what you eat.” The more time we spend with the people closest to us, the more our ideas and behaviors influence one another. Whatever outcome we’re desiring  – happiness, success, peace, you name it – we’re more likely to get it if we’re spending time with people who have what we seek.

 

In more tangible terms, one study showed that weight gain was practically “contagious” among friends. People often gain weight when their closest friends do. This is because behaviors become normalized in groups, so make sure the behavior that gets normalized and repeated in your groups is behavior you want to make your habit.

 

Cancel That B%#&@ Session

 

There’s one common behavior among that makes you miserable: Venting.

 

It’s natural to use friends as a sounding board and support system. But venting, which is complaining with no plan to take action or get an issue resolved, is actually unhealthy. Experts say venting allows you to release just enough frustration that you stay stuck in place and never make any headway against your problem.

 

Hanging out with negative people can also make you feel more negative. Humans are naturally empathetic, so when we hear other people talk about being miserable, our brains start to mimic those emotions, even if we don’t have a concrete reason to feel badly. Chronic complainers and people who vent can leave you feeling frustrated, anxious, and blue. And you might not even know why!

 


 

Connections with people are critical. But WHO those people are and how they behave may be more important to your mental health than you knew. Visiting my friend this week left me feeling loved and content! But if you have a friendship that drags you down, it’s okay to cut the cord for your own well being.

 

 

3 Signs Your Family Fighting is Out of Control

Family conflict is normal. It can even be healthy! But if you and your family are fighting all the time, it might be out of control. These three warning signs will help you recognize family conflict that’s become an unhealthy pattern, so you and your loved ones can get back on track.

 

Why Is My Family So Lazy?

 

I get it – your family just drives you crazy sometimes. They’re lazy. Or they’re too loud. Or they’re forgetful. Whatever issue is annoying you, it’s tempting to take that complaint and turn it into a character flaw.

 

The trouble with calling out our loved ones’ character flaws is that we personalize the conflict. When we tell someone that we’re frustrated because they’re ALWAYS lazy, or ALWAYS whatever-it-is, we make the conflict worse. Research from my book, The Successful Struggle, shows that when we make a conflict personal, we escalate the conflict to higher level, making both sides dig in their heels and feel less inclined to meet in the middle and find resolution.

 

Additionally, parents may want to be especially careful about labeling behaviors as character flaws, because children can easily internalize those statements and come to believe that they’re “bad” people, or that they’ll never overcome those traits.

 

Everyone Is Lying To Me!

 

Lying can become a way for children and adults to deflect conflict.  Now, lying can also be a developmentally appropriate (if totally infuriating) thing for a child to do. But if your children don’t outgrow the typical lying phase, or lying seems to become a multi-generational habit in your house, look deeper for an underlying cause.

 

If everyone in your family lies to avoid a fight, one reason could be that the adults are handling conflict in a volatile and scary way. When that happens, everyone else tip-toes around in order to keep from making Mom, Dad, or whoever else angry. If lying seems to be a big problem in your house, make sure you aren’t overreacting to issues, causing your family members to lie to avoid your anger.

 

Apologize… or Else

 

Children should always be respectful of their parents. But when it comes to family conflict, it’s important to find the right balance between respect and resolution.

 

It’s not always appropriate for children to shoulder all the blame for a conflict. But in many families, the idea of “respecting your elders,” can mean that children are required to apologize, yet never receive an apology in return. If you lost your cool, it’s important to own your part of the fight and apologize. Watching you gracefully acknowledge your frustration and ask forgiveness is role modeling for your children, and will make them better at handling conflict in their future.

 

The end goal of family arguments should be true resolution, not just a child’s forced apology. Putting the burden on your child to apologize to end an argument can be a sign that you’re unclear on how to resolve a fight in a healthy way that hopefully ensures the same issue doesn’t crop up again.

 


 

It’s time to end the homework battle and dinner table fighting for good. Recognize these three signs and get your family conflict under control so everyone can be happy and healthy (and you stop pulling your hair out!)