Stress

Stop Saying “I’m Too Busy” and Say THIS Instead…

I catch myself saying “I’m too busy to…”

… and then I realize that’s a lie.

When you say “I’m too busy to do that,” you’re really making a subjective call. And people might not respond the way you want.

By rephrasing this common saying about being stressed out, you’ll be reframing what you REALLY mean, you’ll be better understood, and you may never catch yourself saying “I’m too busy” ever again.

How to Handle Back-to-School Scheduling Without Losing Your Cool

After a long (maybe too long?) summer break, it’s time to get your kids back to school. Hallelujah! But the first month of school is prime time for stress around your house, as everyone tries to shake their lazy summer habits and jump right back into the busy-ness of the school year.

 

If your family is stressed and high-strung the first several weeks of school, here are some chaos-management techniques to help your family actually ENJOY the transition of the new school year:

 

 

Use the Plus-20 Rule

Everything takes longer than you think it does. And when you’re talking about getting back to your rigid schoolyear schedule, that goes double. Build an extra 20 minutes into every single commute, mealtime, and bedtime. I’ve found that when I’m getting into a new routine, 15 minutes isn’t *quite* enough of a buffer, but 30 is too long. Try making room for 20 extra minutes per activity in your schedule, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you get there on time. (You can also adapt this rule for projects and test studying, too! Give yourself an extra day per major assignment. Everything takes longer than you expect when you’re getting back into the swing of it.)

 

Hire the Professionals (0r the Semi-Pros)

When I was teaching my son to drive, I had a realization. I should NOT be teaching my son to drive. Somebody else should! If you have high-stress, conflict-inducing activities in your household, like math homework, parents shouldn’t be the ones to oversee that activity. Hire a professional math tutor, get a college kid to come oversee homework two nights a week, or maybe staff the job out to a math-whiz friend who owes you a favor. If you and your kids get into the habit of arguing now, this early in the school year, that’s a tough habit to break as the months wear on. Your kids are bound to be more respectful to anyone who isn’t you. So hire someone else to help with whatever the worst stuff is at your house, and enjoy the peace that follows.

 

Institute Work Hours

When I was growing up, we had “homework time” – it reached up to 2-3 hours a night once I was in high school. Depending on the age of your child, designate Work Hours time that’s just for work. If they say “I don’t have homework tonight,” great! They don’t have to do school homework, but they have to work on something. It can be a book, a project, or just a general interest. Anything but TV, phone, or video games. Adjust the age upwards as they grow. And EVERYONE in the family participates in Work Hours, not just kids. This way, you’re modeling the diligent behavior you want to see, and you’re giving your kids less of an excuse to zip through their homework and grab the remote control.

 

How Your Stress Might Be Costing You (Big Time!) At Work

Think you have your stress symptoms under control? Think you do a good job of masking your frustration at your boss and coworkers? Think no one else notices the pressure you feel?

 

Think again.

 

Most of us aren’t very good at hiding it, when we’re stressed. We leave little clues, like a huff in our voice or a death grip on our armrests. I promise you, people notice.

 

Why do we think we should hide our stress? Well, many workplaces recognize that stressed-out employees produce poor work quality, provide bad customer service, and make lousy colleagues. (Some work environments still romanticize stress as a sign of being important, but that’s a whole different problem!) We think we need to hide our stress so we can show that “we got this!” and that we’re a rockstar who can juggle anything given to us.

 

If you’re shoving your stress down thinking no one is noticing, you’re wrong. The little stress signals you’re giving off are speaking volumes to the rest of your colleagues, and they could cause you problems at work, in three major ways:

 

You’ll Be Labeled “Not a Team Player”

 

When you’re under stress, a natural reaction can be to pull away from the group, in order to avoid lashing out or feeling further annoyed. It is a good idea to stay away from situations that will trigger an unprofessional stress response, but sometimes your instincts will cause you to retreat too much.

 

You might not even notice that you’ve pulled away from the group, but your boss probably will. She won’t necessarily realize you’re under stress (because you haven’t told her because you want to get that big promotion so you want to look like you can handle anything!) She’ll just see that you aren’t contributing during meetings, or assisting your coworkers the way you used to, and she’ll think you’re not interested in being a contributing member of the team. Uh oh…

 

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You’ll Drive Away Your Inner Circle

 

But you have one team at work you can always count on, right? Your work buddies! There’s a group you can be honest with, and share your stress.

 

Well… maybe.

 

See, research shows that “venting” is actually an unhelpful form of expressing your frustration with a problem, because you let off just enough steam that it keeps you from actually getting up the energy to make headway against the problem. Think of it like a pot of boiling water that never quite boils over, because you’ve “vented” the lid just enough. If you stay boiling long enough, your friends are going to distance themselves from your negativity. Yikes…

 

You’ll Get Passed Over For That Promotion

 

You’re trying to hide your stress levels precisely because you want to get ahead at work. But those hidden “tells” that you’re letting slip are ratting you out. Your boss is noticing the changes in your behavior, and even if he does realize it’s stress-related, he’s wondering why you haven’t approached him about it.

 

Successful people often (not always, but often) get to where they are by admitting they can’t do everything themselves. My husband, an entrepreneur, is a great example of this for me. He always reminds me that he hires people far smarter than he to do their jobs, and he relies heavily on them when the workload gets high. If your boss thinks you can’t admit when you’re stressed and can’t ask for help, he may think you aren’t qualified for that promotion. And he may (rightly!) be worried that you don’t have enough appropriate stress-management techniques to handle the job. Bye-bye, corner office!

 

 

Even if you think you’re hiding your stress from your boss and coworkers, you probably aren’t. And the symptoms of your stress that are showing are probably hurting you worse in the long run than just admitting you’re stressed. Come clean if you’re feeling stressed, because then you and your team can come up with appropriate ways to successfully get you back in peak form.

 

 

 

 

Overwhelmed by Current Events? Here’s How to Protect Your Mental Health

It’s hard not to feel beaten down and hopeless when you see the daily news, no matter your political affiliation or personal beliefs.

 

When the world seems like it’s too much to handle, it may be because your brain is tricking you into one of the following overwhelming mental traps:

 

 

I’m only one person, I can’t do anything to help.

 

The world’s problems are bigger than any one person can solve. And when we look at them in one giant mass, like on the front page of a news website, it’s easy to feel completely powerless. But the next time you catch your brain saying “I can’t do anything to help,” correct it. Tell your brain, “No. You can’t do everything to help. But there is something.”

 

Do you have specialized skills that are needed? Can you donate money? Can you educate yourself and be a resource for others? If there’s nothing you can do today, think long-term. Can you teach your children to end the cycle? Can you consider a run for public office? When we feel hopeless, that feeling can start to spiral and invade other areas of our lives. But the good news is it’s easy to correct by taking action in a single area. Decide one thing you can do to make the world what you think it should be, and that hopeless feeling will start to fade. As it does, you’ll feel yourself able to take on more and more.

 

 

But if I turn off the TV, I’m just turning a blind eye.

 

I applaud anyone who thinks “Sure, I could turn off the TV or shut down the computer and not have to look at it. But the people living in X situation don’t have the privilege of walking away.” That’s a compassionate thought. But my concern is this: engaging in a solution is activism. Engaging in a solution is positive. Engrossing yourself in a problem is mental torture.

 

Activism is literally the foundation of the United States of America, but recently I’ve heard many people say they can’t sleep or even talk to other people because they’re so outraged over the current state of affairs. If you are so disturbed by current events that you can’t function, you may be unable to turn your feelings into positive outcomes. Stepping away from the news, if it puts you in a better mental state to take action on your beliefs, is the best help you can offer.

 

I don’t even know what to believe.

 

Social media has become a major source of many people’s information. Yet nearly every time I log on to Facebook, I see someone sharing something that appears (on the surface) to be research, but at closer look it’s not. My recommendation, if you’re overwhelmed with conflicting information is to get off social media, or at least don’t get your information from there, even if an article appears to be legit and it agrees with your beliefs.

 

Do your own research. If you’re looking to find balanced media sources, I’ve seen this infographic floating around. I also just ran across this online self-test to help you identify whether or not you can tell the difference between facts and opinions (this is a non-partisan quiz!). In complex situations, there often isn’t one single, magic-wand of a solution, and therefore not one entirely right answer. If the flood of conflicting opinions on social media is making you want to scream, it’s okay to log off. Engage, but engage where it really matters (which often isn’t the internet.)

 

 

 

As the world becomes smaller and smaller thanks to the speed of digital information, it’s easier than ever to see the suffering and the conflict. You cannot fix the problems of the world unless you are as strong and resilient as possible. Avoid the overwhelm, then you can be a champion for the causes you believe in.

 

How to Overcome Anxiety at Work

Do you find yourself second-guessing your abilities at your job? Do you worry about what your boss thinks about you? Do you worry about getting fired all. the. time?

 

These 3 simple steps will help you be a little less nervous and anxious about your workplace performance, and they’re easy enough that you can start them TODAY!

 

***(Calling attention to the special caveat because I can’t say it enough: actual anxiety disorder is a separate thing, so work with a mental health professional if you think that’s what you’re dealing with.)

Stop Hating Your Job

Your alarm goes off. You roll over and bury your head under the comforter. You pinch your eyes shut and wish for it to be Saturday. But it isn’t.

 

If you hate your job, every day feels never-ending. Because we spend so much of our lives at work, it’s better to at least like what you do, even if you don’t love it. So how can you stop hating work, if you and your job just can’t get along anymore?

 

Remember What You Used to Love About It

My dad used to work as an investor. He was so good at his job, they promoted him to manager. He was flattered, except… he hated managing people. He’d rather hole up in his office researching stocks all day. He started to wish he could just go back to his old role, until he got better about protecting his time, and scheduling blocks on his calendar devoted to stock research, where he wouldn’t be interrupted about management issues.

 

If there was something about your job you used to love doing, make time to prioritize that work. There’s probably SOME reason you took this job in the first place, hopefully more than just money (because research shows that thanks to a process called “habituation” or “hedonic adaptation,” the happiness we get from money wears off pretty quickly). Whatever the reason you chose this profession, and accepted this job offer, remind yourself of what your hopes and expectations were, and take steps to build those activities back into your day. Even if, like my dad, you’ve been promoted to new tasks, you can still keep one hand in the activities you love.

 

Plug In To a New Arena

 

Maybe your job hasn’t changed… maybe you’ve changed. Maybe since you started this job, you’ve discovered new passions or skills, and you’d like your work to incorporate some of those new interests. Especially these days, there are lots of creative ways to step outside your normal work functions, like volunteering on the committee for an interest group. You could also spearhead some of the community and volunteer initiatives, or take on training the interns if you’re passionate about teaching. Getting involved in a different part of your company should have you seeing your work and your workplace in a different light, and give you the opportunity to fall in love all over again.

 

Ditch a Complaining Crew

 

Could your work buddies be fueling your bad mood at work? Most likely, yes. If you’re burned out and disillusioned at work, the odds are good that your office friends feel the same way. And the odds are really good that you talk about it together. While sharing your struggles can be a good way to get emotional support, “venting” has been proven to be an unhelpful form of coping, because it keeps the anger simmering right at the surface.

 

To get rid of on-the-job anger, top hanging around people who are burned out and find a new crew. Seek out a completely different friend-set; in fact, hanging with the interns might remind you of how inspired and excited you felt when you first got into the industry

 

Remember the Purpose

I was seventeen pages into editing the annual report, and I was about to give up. If I spelled a single donor’s name wrong, it could cost us a future donation. My eyes were starting to cross and I hadn’t even eaten lunch yet. On my way to the kitchen, I veered off course. I headed out the door and across campus, straight to the shelter where the animals were housed. Ten minutes later, covered in slobber and a pile of cocker spaniel-mix puppies, I was ready to finish the annual report and raise even more money to find homes for those puppies. I just needed to be reminded why my work was so important.

 

In so many roles, we’re buried in our own little piece of the puzzle, and we don’t’ get to see how our piece fits into the larger mission. But when we pop our heads up from our desk and take a look around, we see how our piece is important to our customers, our colleagues, and the world. We see why we do what we do, and we’re reminded that it matters.

 

 

Maybe your job is horrible. Maybe your boss is rotten, the pay is terrible, and your coworkers are jerks. Or maybe you’ve just lost your passion, and you can find it again. Hating your job takes a toll on your mental health, so before you write up that resignation letter, try these 4 steps and see if you can fall in love all over again.

3 Ways to Stop Squabbling At Home

 

Every family has its fights.

 

But there are helpful ways to argue, and hurtful ways to argue. If your family needs some new strategies to keep conflict at a minimum, here are some things to try:

 

 

With Your Kids

 

Have you ever been in a fight with your teenager or pre-teen and felt like “this just makes no sense! They’re not making any sense!”? My son first joined our family as a teenager. The first year or two was the “honeymoon period,” where we avoided the typical teenage disagreements. But before too long, we caught up to the typical family dynamic, and suddenly Mom and Dad knew absolutely nothing and our advice was dumb and we were arguing as though we’d been a family forever. (It’s a weird milestone to celebrate!)

 

I remember one of our first big disagreements, and I was just flabbergasted trying to follow my son’s train of thought. Neither one of us was making any headway, and in a flash I realized “I don’t need to understand his entire thought pattern. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense to me. It makes sense to him.”

 

As adults, we get pretty familiar with our own thought processes. We can track our frustrations back to their root causes, if we take a moment to try. But even WE sometimes have trouble articulating our thoughts and feelings when we get upset. Can we really expect kids and teens to be better than we are?

 

Instead of jumping to conclusions about why your kids are upset, check your assumptions. Ask them questions to understand what’s really behind their frustration. By questioning your kids, you’re doing two things: 1) understanding the real root causes of their anger and 2) giving your kids an opportunity to speak up, which helps them feel less powerless and therefore less frustrated. When you ask questions, you naturally defuse the tension, and you stand a real chance of keeping the same problem from coming up time and time again.

 

 

BETWEEN Your Kids

 

When your children are at each other’s throats, it’s natural to want to send them both to their rooms. And you probably want to cancel any fun plans you had for the day, too, right?

 

In theory, sending them to their rooms is intended to give them time to cool off and mellow out (and it keeps you from having to listen to them yelling!) But when they go to their rooms in the middle of a conflict, your kids just go up there and stew on the fight. They relive it in their minds, and they run the risk of fueling their anger or feelings of hurt even further.

 

Sending them to their rooms and canceling activities causes kids are missing out on a key strategy that can help stop conflict: positive interaction. Research shows that even a single positive interaction can help cool down a conflict. It seems counterintuitive to “reward” kids for fighting, but facilitating some kind of fun activity where the children have to work together, will help the conflict pass sooner and with fewer lasting effects on their relationship.

 

 

With Your Partner

 

Life is stressful and hard. But you can’t really yell at the dog for eating your slipper, or the mailman for waking the baby, or the checkout guy who overcharged you for whole wheat pasta but you didn’t realize until you got home and it was too late because you’re way too tired to go back to the grocery store now.

 

So you turn to the nearest adult and take it out on THEM. Because THEY promised to unload the dishwasher and forgot. Again.

 

It’s common. We all have days where we give eeeeeeeveryone else the benefit of the doubt besides our partner. But taking your stress out on your spouse leads to a feeling called “contempt,” which psychologists consider to be the #1 predictor of divorce. When you feel contempt for your partner, it goes beyond frustration into a feeling of disgust, like the person isn’t worth your time or even human.

 

To avoid feeling contempt for your partner, especially when you’re disagreeing, remember to focus on shared goals. It helps to verbalize those shared goals, so say something like “I think we both agree that we’re happier when the house is reasonably tidy. Is that fair?” Or “I know we both want the same thing: to have a comfortable amount of money in savings.” You may disagree on what “reasonably tidy” or “a comfortable amount” is, and that’s what the disagreement can focus on. But you can keep coming back to your shared goal, when you feel yourself getting pulled into anger. And remember, a shared goal can be as simple as “We both want to have this difficult conversation without yelling”!

 

 

There’s no such thing as a conflict-free home, but you CAN make conflict healthier and more productive!

 

The Best Way to Beat Procrastination and Get Motivated

Procrastination.

We treat it like a bad word. But if you THINK about it that way, you’re more likely to stay stuck.

Procrastination isn’t a bad personality trait or even a bad habit.

Here’s the single best way to tweak the way you think about procrastination so you can get moving and stay successful.

How To Avoid a Midlife Crisis

Worried about the dreaded midlife crisis?
 
You CAN have a birthday epiphany without losing your cool! Here’s what you need to know to make sure you avoid the mental traps that cause a midlife crisis.

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.