5 Tips for a Juicy, Gorgeous Life

Heather Edwards Life Coach

Heather Edwards Life CoachLet’s face it! You’re bored with the status quo. You’re an adventure-seeker-happiness-freak-self-improvement-junkie.  (No offense intended. I’m one, too!) So, put the needle on the record. Let’s pump up the volume! Here are five tips you can start today to create the life you want…

  1. Shift your routine. The same ole only maintains what you already have.  Mix it up! Stir the pot. If you’re reading this blog, you’re ready for something new. Identify one action that could change the outcome of your day. Decide to get up 30 minutes earlier. Start your day with a journal entry, meditation, or work out. Unplug at a reasonable time. Whatever you choose to enact will change your trajectory.
  2. Embrace one goal that stretches you. See it through.  What area of your life do you most want to transform? Some want to advance their career. Others focus on relationships. Even more want to lose weight. Everyone wants to find their soulmate, if they haven’t already. Identify what you desire most. Decide to do something about it. You have the power to create a revolution in your life.
  3. Heather Edwards Life CoachSwear by the best case scenario. Believe it will happen.  According to metaphysics, the  type of energy we put out, is returned to us. If you’re affecting energy in a negative way then, negativity is what you receive. If you are projecting energy in a positive way, then relish it. It will create positivity around you and help move your life forward. “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” -Henry David Thoreau
  4. Silence the mind chatter. Reframe negative thoughts into positive ones.  You are your biggest doubter and own worst critic. You notice more flaws and imperfections in yourself than anyone else. Shift your thoughts to the things you love about yourself. Notice the delicious possibilities for your future. Acknowledge your heart’s desire. 
  5. Abandon comparisons. Relish the goods that are you. There is no one else in the entire universe like you. That’s special. Most people fall into the trap of comparisons. For example, a lawyer might compare herself to a chef. A chef might compare himself to an athlete. An athlete might compare herself to a musician. A musician might compare himself to a doctor. …and all can feel less than worthy. Whatever the comparison, it equals self sabotage. Instead of looking for evidence of your shortcomings, (we all have them) practice gratitude. Imagine how much you would want the things you have now, if you didn’t already have them.

In the words of Fatboy Slim, “We’ve come a long, long way together, through the hard times and the good. I have to celebrate you, baby. I have to praise you like I should.”. Check out the video below for a lil’ pick me up.  Remember to celebrate you everyday!

 

photos courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by stockimages

Kung Fu Your Energy – Get Healthy with Open Awareness

Heather Edwards Psychotherapist and Coach

Heather Edwards Psychotherapist and CoachAs a kid, my sleeping imagination had no limits. My dreams were vibrant, colorful, moving, exciting, emotional, and physical. There were monsters, heroes, allies, and adventures. I could see, taste, touch, smell, and feel the twists and turns of events.  My unconscious mind was free to wander, explore, create, and fantasize.

The governor, censor, parental control, and filter of any sort was non-existent as far as I could tell.  In the morning, the sensations from the intensity of my dreams lingered for a moment, leaving me wondering about the truth of their reality.

Sometimes they scared me.  Sometimes they filled me with joy. Regardless of the theme, their dynamic, flowing, saturated richness left a lasting impression.

And then, KAPOW! Hello, reality. Time for school. That wild imagination was stifled. Even searching for animals and objects in the clouds seemed impossible.  What was happening??

You may have fallen prey to the same trap – even as a full grown adult.  Judgement. Expectations. Insecurity. Fear of failure. Preconceived notions. Ideas about how things should be done dominate. It was no longer about having fun with clouds, or dreaming.

Sure, having structure and frameworks help guide your actions and keep you on course. But what happens when staying the course leaves you stymied, stuck, limited, or confused?

Move with the dynamic interplay of people, circumstances, surroundings, and changing agendas, not against it. Allow room for imagination, change, flexibility, spontaneity, and dreaming. Kung Fu your energy.

Focus on movement, motion, and balance. Here is where you will find the perfect position of readiness. Practice open awareness. Observe your process without commitment to any judgement, expectations, or opinions. Heather Edwards Psychotherapist and Coach

Embrace your Chi – it’s in your body.  This is the source of your energy and endurance.

The experts in Energy Psychology (the mind-body connection) state that black and white thinking, or all or nothing thinking, creates an impasse in the flowing, changing, expanding experience of the moment. It can stop the flow of emotional energy in your body making it nearly impossible to change unwanted feelings.  It can affect all ares of your life – relationships, physical and mental health, and overall well-being. Spoiler alert – it can be downright threatening to the life you want to live.

Not surprisingly, this chaotic stuck energy can be caused by trauma. But extreme reactions to unmet expectations, judgements, and perfectionism can be connected to this, too. While trauma is typically unavoidable, our opinions and ideas about things are very malleable. Be willing to examine and adjust them.  It allows the body’s flow of energy to continue, freeing our emotional growth, imagination, and coping resources.

Fluid thoughts are healthy thoughts. They are imaginative and open.  They are expansive, explorative, and expressive. There’s no right or wrong, good or bad. They just are. Stop judging your thoughts and feelings. Instead, liberate your creative and tolerant mind. Speak kindly to yourself. Create wiggle room in your psyche through awareness, acceptance, and openness.  Refocus on your breath, your life force.

Release limiting beliefs. Release old messages.  Release ego. Release the inner critic who is masterful at self sabotage. Open your palm wide and unhand negativity, prejudice, and worst case scenarios. Embrace non-judgement. Embrace open awareness.  Embrace you in your entirety…

Back to the dreams and clouds – was that a mermaid, or a unicorn? Who were those heroes and allies? Keep dreaming – this time with your eyes open.

 

 

 

 

Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net by Stuart Miles & njaj.

Personality Type:  Know Yourself

Personality type has its roots in a psychological theory dating back to the 1920’s. The Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung (1875-1961) known for his work on the psyche, ego, personal unconscious, collective unconscious, archetypes, and dream analysis also developed the enduring theory of personality types based on psychological opposites.  Jung and  Sigmund Freud collaborated from about 1907-1909 addressing Freud’s mission of making the unconscious conscious through the practice of psychoanalysis.

Jung’s personality theory explains normal differences between healthy people.  He concluded that these differences in behavior stem from inborn tendencies to use our minds in different ways and can be influenced by culture, family, and the environment. Each of us possesses all six characteristics he defined in his personality theory, but we favor one or the other of each opposite.  His personality typology has been so enduring that it has current practical applications in career, leadership, relationships, and learning today.  So what are the six opposites that in combination define eight different personality types according to Jung?  Furthermore, what is their purpose?  Let’s start with Introversion vs. Extraversion.

Energy:

Where do we get energy?  According to Jung, one aspect of personality called the “attitudes”, are the psychological opposites Introversion and Extraversion.  In Jung’s typology, he believed that individuals gain their energy either from internal reflection and subjective experience (introversion) or from the outside world of people and the environment (extraversion).  These opposites interact with the “functions” of personality in gathering information and making decisions.  Together, they create a dynamic individualized way of experiencing and interacting with the world.

Information:human resources image

How do we gather information?  The four dichotomous “functions” of personality are Sensing vs. Intuition, and Feeling vs. Thinking.  Sensing types tend to focus their attention on concrete information obtained from using all five senses – touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell.  Intuiting types tend to focus their information gathering on the big picture inferred from the five senses.   They tend to abstract information and use imagination and concepts.

Decisions:

How do we make decisions?  Those who prefer Feeling vs. Thinking tend to be compassionate and value driven. They tend to use their energy and information in ways that promote harmony and practice empathy, considering the feelings of others in decision making.   Those who prefer Thinking tend to be analytical and objective in making decisions.  They take a step back from the situation and evaluate the facts.

“The four functions are somewhat like the four points of the compass; they are just as arbitrary and just as indispensable. Nothing prevents our shifting the cardinal points as many degrees as we like in one direction or the other, or giving them different names…but the one thing I must confess: I would not for anything dispense with this compass on my psychological voyages of discovery.”C.G. Jung, Psychological Types

Katharine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers made Jung’s personality theory their life’s work in developing the most widely studied and used assessment of personality type.  It is called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).  It is based on Jung’s eight patterns of personality type.  Briggs and Myers added another dimension to the theory to determine which of the opposites are dominant and also extraverted into the environment.  It is the Judging vs. Perceiving function.  It expanded the theory to 16 personality types, all of which explain the way we get energy, gather information, make decisions, and interact with the outside world.

Dealing with the outside world:Man shaking hand

People who prefer Judging tend to be structured, organized and plan ahead.  People who prefer Perceiving are more spontaneous, open ended, and comfortable with last minute changes. These combined with the other “functions” and “attitudes” determine which of the psychological processes is dominant, auxiliary, tertiary, and inferior – or are varying levels of consciousness and unconsciousness, and which is extraverted.  Together, they form the gestalt of the multi-faceted 16 types of personality.

ENTJ is an example of a personality type based on Jung’s theory and the MBTI assessment.  It means the “attitude” is Extraverted, the “functions” are “Intuiting” and “Thinking”, and the way one deals with the outside world is “Judging”. Jung emphasized that one type is not better or worse than another type.  It is different.  Understanding those differences benefits the user in many ways.

In plain terms, according to Isabel Briggs Myers, Introduction to Type, Sixth Edition, an ENTJ tends to be “frank, decisive, assume leadership readily.  Quickly see illogical and inefficient procedures and policies, develop and implement comprehensive systems to solve organizational problems.  Enjoy long-term planning and goal setting.  Usually well informed, well read, enjoy expanding their knowledge and passing it on to others. Forceful in presenting their ideas.”  

Knowing your type gives you the information you need to understand the way you interact with others and thus, the way others interact, too.  It sheds light on the best ways to listen, gather, share information, and accomplish your goals.  When enlightened with the knowledge of “what makes you tick”, you also gain insights into what makes others tick.  This is invaluable information across the roles you play at work, home, and in personal development.

Jung’s legacy continues on in corporate environments, marriage therapy, and life coaching – among those seeking to better understand and leverage their personality type. As a Certified MBTI Practitioner, I’ve witnessed the profound personal growth and positive change created through increased self awareness and acceptance discovered through this process.

 

 

“1st Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

“2nd Image courtesy of  David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

“3rd Image courtesy of stockimages/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

Psychology Today – Easy Tips for Keeping New Years Resolutions

140772-141776This article is published in Psychology Today by Mark Banschick and Heather Edwards.  It is entitled, “Break Bad Habits”. 

It’s countdown time!  The new year marks a fresh start for new beginnings.   Be prepared on January 1 to state your New Year Resolutions and stick to them! If your plan is to lose weight, exercise more, eat healthier, save money, or build your career or social network, then get started on developing a system for success that will work for you.

Resolutions without specific plans usually get pushed to the wayside by the demands of everyday life. Come April, they’re already out the window and down the street! Be prepared to keep your New Year Resolutions in 2014 using these simple tips for seeing them through to 2015.

Be specific: Define the details of your goals and make them measurable. For example, if your goal to is lose weight, how much weight do you want to lose? By when? If your goal is to spend less money and start a savings, how much money do you want to save? Set a deadline. Make your goals attainable, but not too easy. Setting goals you CAN achieve will keep you motivated.  Making them too easy isn’t really a challenge. The point is to stretch yourself to a higher level of functioning.

Make your goals personal: Stay true to your values and purpose. Do your goals come from a desire for improvement that are tied to your personal belief system? What is most important to you? The more personally meaningful they are, the more likely you are to stick to them and be successful.

Get a partner: Having a workout or healthy eating partner can help keep you motivated and on track. Design a supportive environment. For example, if you know that junk food and soda are your weakness, remove them from your home and replace them with healthy snacks and seltzer water. Remember, it’s nearly impossible to quit a behavior without replacing it with a new one. Find healthy alternatives. Start a progress chart. Record daily and weekly change. Write an accountability blog which others may be following.  Join a weight loss group or get a trainer.  IMG_6963

Believe in yourself: Your goals have to be important to you. Does it motivate you? Is it a value of yours? Is it a high priority? Do you have a sense of urgency about it? Can you imagine yourself 6 months from now, or a year from now, having succeeded in your goal? What does that look like? How did you get there? Retrace your steps to determine what you did to be successful in your future self. Do you have support?  If you believe you can do it, you will!

Put your goals in writing: Write them down in an “I Statement”. Put them in a visible place. Own them! This will serve as a reminder and motivator every time you see your personal statement. For example, if career development is your goal, “I will find a networking group in my field of interest and join it by February 1. I will seek out courses and sign up for at least one new class or conference in my field of interest by February 1.”. Stick these notes on your refrigerator or on your desk, in a high traffic area in your home or office. Set reminders in your phone. Review your goals regularly.

Replace self sabotaging thoughts with a positive mantra: Be flexible. Remember that failures are only temporary setbacks and great motivators for change. It’s never too late to get back on track. Even if you haven’t met your goal by your deadline, remember this is a process that takes time. Don’t confuse the destiny with the path. The path is meant to be savored, too. Each step you take will get you closer, even if its not exactly on schedule.  Remember, YOU CAN DO IT.

Now you’re ready to ring in the new year with a plan for a new you! Write your goals down. Be specific. Do some soul searching to determine what’s most important to you. Tell your friends. Get a partner. Set reminders. Chart your progress. Be patient. If you need more support, get a Life Coach, Counselor, or expert in the life domain you’re focused on to help you succeed. Happy New Year and New YOU!

Psychology Today – Five Secrets of Highly Successful People

IMG_8167

This article is published in Psychology Today by Mark Banschick and Heather Edwards.  It is entitled, “5 Tips for Success”.

Everyone has a unique life story. Family traditions, religious beliefs, and cultural norms differ and converge in a myriad of ways across people and places.  We embody our personal experiences and take them with us, wherever we go. We use our history as a road map through life. What’s familiar is comfortable and predictable.  The downside is, it can keep us stuck in old patterns that hold us back.

What if you took the road less travelled?  What if you could shed the part of your life story that is holding you back while developing those that propel you forward?  Well, you can!  Recalibrate the GPS.  Follow these five secrets to creating the life you want.

1. Large and In Charge.

You can effect neural firings and change the structure of your brain!  Daniel J. Siegel describes this neuroplasticity of the brain in his book, “Interpersonal Neurobiology”.  By choosing to focus on positive experiences, you can manage and regulate your neural firings.  The more you take in the good, the more naturally your brain will spontaneously notice it unfolding around you.  You can reap the benefits of positivity that otherwise may have been overlooked.  We’ve all heard the saying, “Smell the roses.”.  Rick Hanson also talks about this in his book, “Buddha’s Brain – The practical neuroscience of happiness, love, and wisdom.”.

Notice when you feel your best, most confident, prolific self. Fully absorb the gratifying feelings that happen in these moments. Look for opportunities to experience successes and accomplishment. Spend a few minutes each day encoding positive feelings. This can gradually improve and change your brain structure over time allowing you to build momentum toward goal fulfillment.

2. Bring on the Love.

Lake Tahoe

Positive energy breeds positive energy. Laughter is contagious. The best therapy can be a hearty laugh with friends.  Notice your company when you are feeling your best. The more time you spend with positive people in a supportive environment, the better you will feel. Positive relationships are one of the essential elements of well-being in Positive Psychology, according to Martin Seligman. Well-being is proven to be more fulfilling than happiness. It’s comprised of positive emotion (pleasure, ecstasy, comfort, etc), engagement (in an activity or moment), positive relationships, meaning (belonging and serving something larger than yourself), and accomplishment. Spend time with those you love and cherish. Participate in meaningful activities in which you are industrious.

3.  Scared and Alone.

Certain circumstances and challenges seem overwhelming. They take us outside our familiar comfort zone or back to a previous stressful time.  They can create insecurity and threaten our self esteem. Being faced with a seemingly impossible task can stop us in our tracks. Here are a few ways to accept the challenge and assert your new empowered self!

– Jump right in! This is a method that typically results in finding that your worst fears didn’t come true …and were likely exaggerated from the start.

– Take “baby steps” toward your goal and celebrate your progress every step of the way. This will reduce your fear gradually over time with each new successful experience.

– Challenge  automatic negative thoughts by rating their validity on a scale of 1 – 100.  Chances are they are pretty unrealistic and invalid.  Replace them with rational thoughts.

– Mindfully notice your body and breath.  Breathe slowly.  Shift your attention between bodily sensations and the surrounding environment.  In doing so, you can regulate physical reactions that feel like panic.

– Notice the inner child holding onto fear in moments of self doubt.   Soothe him/her.  Use your wisdom to inform and calm that inner part of yourself.

4. Goodbye, Chaos!

New studies in neuroscience show that we are capable of achieving anything we want. The trick to this achievement is truly wanting it and believing you can do it!  We’re born with an amazing brain capable of learning and mastering more than we even understand. It’s not because we can’t achieve it, but because we don’t fully tap into our brain’s potential. Fears and anxieties might convince us that we can’t do math or we aren’t an artistic type. Brain studies demonstrate this to be untrue. Now more than ever, it’s evident that practice DOES make perfect! Tony Buzan talks about this in his book, “The Mind Map Book”. The more time you spend repeating the same exercise or thought pattern, the better you will perform it over time. With practice, you are strengthening the neural pathways responsible for mastering those thought and behavior patterns. So take a painting class or learn a new sport or language! If you believe you can do it, you will.

5. Hello, Dreams and Aspirations!

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”, Mae West.   Make the most of your life!  Imagine it as you want it to be. Notice what gives you energy. Get started on setting clear, achievable goals. If at first your goals seem too lofty, then break them down into smaller ones. Establish daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly targets. Remember that everything is a process. If it’s worthwhile, it probably takes a lot of hard work and a steady dose of time. Practice patience and flexibility with yourself while holding true to taking forward steps.

Begin mindfully acknowledging your extraordinary individual strengths and nurture them.   Notice your most challenging moments as opportunities for growth and empowerment and don’t shy away.  Clarify your strengths, challenges, and life goals. Overcome those old habits that stifle you.  Begin to design your best life.  It’s never too late to start creating the life you want.  In the words of John Cage, “Begin anywhere.”.

Choose the high road, the low road, or the one in the middle.  Just be mindful of what works and what doesn’t.  There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to creating the life YOU want, but through mindfulness you can choose the actions that create positive change for YOU.  Leave fear at the door.  Embrace your future self.  In the words of St. Ignatius Loyola, “Go forth and set the world on fire.”.

 

Design Your Best Life

IMG_9273Each of us has a unique life story. We come from different families, places, and generations. Our circumstances effect and shape who we are and become. Personal experiences are part of us, wherever we go. We use our history to guide us through life. What’s familiar is comfortable and predictable. Sometimes though, it’s not the most helpful. How do we acknowledge and let go of the part of our life story that holds us back? How do we flourish, soothe, and celebrate our truly unique, special, and amazing potential?    Answer the following questions to help clarify your strengths, challenges, and life goals.  Begin to design your best life.

1. When do I shine?
There are times, situations, places, and environments where we shine! Notice when you feel your best, most confident, productive self. Fully absorb the gratifying feelings that happen in those moments. Look for opportunities to experience successes and prosperity more often. Spending a few minutes encoding positive feelings, sensory, and cognitive information can gradually change your brain structure.

Daniel J. Siegel describes this neuroplasticity of the brain in his book, “Interpersonal Neurobiology”.  By choosing to focus on the positive you are managing and regulating your neural firings.  The more you take in the good, the more naturally your brain will spontaneously notice it unfolding around you and reap the benefits of positivity.  Rick Hanson also talks about this in his book, “Buddha’s Brain – The practical neuroscience of happiness, love, and wisdom.”.

2. What are my most difficult moments?
Certain circumstances or challenges seem overwhelming. They take us outside our comfort zone, back to a previous stressful time, and feel unfamiliar thus creating insecurity in our confidence and performance. Being faced with a seemingly impossible task can stop us in our tracks. Here are a few ways to address this situation.
– Take “baby steps” toward your goal and celebrate your progress every step of the way. This will reduce your fear gradually over time with each new successful experience.
– Jump right in! This is a method that typically results in finding out your worst fears didn’t come true and were exaggerated.
– Ask yourself what you are saying to yourself (noticing your internal monologue) about those intimidating situations. Challenging those automatic thoughts by rating their validity on a scale of 1 – 100. Replace negative thoughts with positive, hopeful ones.
– Mindfully notice your body, breath, and surroundings. Breathe. Deliberately shift your attention between your immediate physical sensations and surrounding stimuli – smells, colors, lights, objects, people, temperature, etc.  In doing so, you can become more in control of bodily reactions that feel like panic.
– Notice the inner child holding onto fear in those moments of self doubt. What is he/she experiencing?  Soothe him/her.  Use your wisdom to inform and calm that inner part of yourself.

3. Who brings out the best in me?
Positive energy breeds positive energy. Laughter is contagious. Notice who you are with when you are feeling your best. The more time you spend with positive people in a loving environment, the better you will feel. Positive relationships are one of the elements of well-being in Positive Psychology, according to Martin Seligman. Well-being has been determined to be even more fulfilling than happiness. It’s comprised of positive emotion (pleasure, ecstasy, comfort, etc), engagement (in an activity or moment), positive relationships, meaning (belonging and serving something larger than yourself), and accomplishment. Spend time with those you love and cherish. Participate in meaningful activities in which you are industrious.

DSC_0068

4. What old beliefs cause chaos?
New studies in neuroscience show that we are capable of achieving anything we want. The trick to this achievement is truly wanting to succeed and believing in yourself!  We’re born with an amazing brain capable of learning and mastering more than we even understand. It’s not because we can’t achieve it, but because we don’t fully tap into our brain’s potential. Fears and anxieties might convince us that we can’t do math or we aren’t an artistic type. Brain studies are demonstrating this to be untrue. Now more than ever, it’s evident that practice DOES make perfect! Tony Buzan talks about this in his book, “The Mind Map Book”. The more time you spend repeating the same exercise or thought pattern or challenge, the better you will perform it over time. Each time you practice, you are strengthening the neural pathways responsible for those thought and behavior patterns. So take a painting class or learn a new sport or language! If you believe you can do it, you will.

5. What do I want to get out of life?

You only live once. Make the most of it! Imagine your life as you want it to be. Notice your preferences, hobbies, interests, strengths, talents, and desires. Get started on setting clear, achievable goals. If at first they seem too lofty, then break them down into smaller ones. Establish daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly targets. Remember that everything is a process. If it’s worthwhile, it probably takes a lot of hard work.  In the words of St. Ignatius Loyola, “Go forth and set the world on fire.”.

Making Up For Time Lost: 5 Tips for Getting Back in the Game

Gantry ParkI just lost a week of productivity due to “acute pharyngitis”, which is the medical term for a sore throat. Normally, one would carry on, ignore it, and complete one’s typical activities with minor discomfort. Not me. My sore throat felt like seven samurai swords incessantly scraping my trachea with a splash of hot sauce and 40 grit sand paper for gauze. When experiencing this type of pain, things such as work, exercise, conversations, smiles, and wakefulness all come a bit harder. In fact, the only thing that feels natural is lying down and feeling sorry for yourself. Sleep even hurts. Now it’s Monday, a week later. I’m in panic mode and have a lot of sh*t to get done. Since it’s time to put my own Life Coaching advice into action, here’s what I’ll do:

1. Prioritize:

What is the most urgent activity to get caught up on today? It helps to determine which items are most time sensitive. Is anyone expecting something from me by a certain time this week? Are there any deadlines today? If so, what needs to be completed in order to meet those hard cut offs? I’ll make a list of all appointments, projects, and collaborations due and rate each of them with an “A” for today, “B” for this week, and a “C” for this month. The good news is that it’s Monday and October is just beginning.

2. Set a Schedule:

Now that I know when items are due and where my priorities lie, I will set a daily, weekly, and monthly schedule. So which items need to be completed by COB today? Let’s see – return emails, write new blog, schedule clients, take on-line class, work in studio… You get the picture. Based on the items identified, I’ll set a set a schedule that reflects, in order of priority, what needs to be done by midday, COB, and bedtime for the week. Umhmm, when you work for yourself and/or are a parent, there’s no 9-5 schedule, the workday begins at wake up and ends at sleep time.
South Street Seaport
3. Self Care:

I know that amidst this fury (yes, I said fury and not flurry) of activity, I need some “me” time. Since I lost a week of exercise, which really does balance my hormones, even out my mood, increase my motivation and clarity, and give me energy, I will get back on the bicycle and go for a ride through Central Park today. Since I also know that riding midday through midtown traffic can be a death defying act in-and-of-itself, I will schedule my ride before noon. Easy. I’ll also eat healthily and drink plenty of water.

4. Relax:

When at the doctor, receiving my diagnosis of “acute pharyngitis” last week, my blood pressure crept up toward the higher end of normal. This is very unusual for me and set off alarms, sending it even a bit higher (just guessing!). Was it a manifestation of the illness, or thinking about all the responsibilities that weren’t getting done, the lack of exercise, or simply a result of lamenting the fact that I was lame for a few days? Whatever the cause, I will spend time (five minutes three times each day) mindfully breathing, meditating, and focusing my thoughts on positive outcomes and gratitude for the things that are going right. This automatically activates my parasympathetic nervous system which releases calming hormones throughout my body and improves my general sense of well-being. Ahhh.

5. Get to work!

The week is planned. I feel organized and industrious. The clients aren’t going to schedule themselves, the pottery isn’t going to make itself, the bike isn’t going to ride itself. It’s off to the races! One happy thing is that my blog is done, which being written in the first person has doubled as a journal entry, and I have a sense of accomplishment! You, too can use these helpful tips on Monday’s and everyday to stay focused, calm, and productive.

Gantry Plaza

Jobs 101: The Ultimate Search Simplified

Brooklyn BridgeWe’ve all run full speed ahead in the hamster wheel of work-exhaustion and discontent, at times. Job dissatisfaction can bring you down and effect all areas of your life, if it is not addressed.  People often feel burned out and under-appreciated at work.   “I feel so disrespected.”, “I’m bored with my job and I deserve a promotion.”, “I’m overwhelmed, I don’t enjoy my work anymore.”, are pretty common expressions of burn out.  These are obvious indicators that it’s time for a career make-over.  If you put in the time, effort, and soul searching required, you can create the career you want!  It seems like a daunting task, but the alternative is not an option.  How does one turn that formidable rodent wheel of work exhaustion into the grand Ferris Wheel of job and life fulfillment?  Here are a few tips for re-defining your professional self and getting on your way to a purposeful and inspiring career.

Name Your Talents:

What are your special skills and strengths?  Everyone has strengths!  What are yours?  Notice the challenges and tasks that you enjoy.  Identify the activities that give you energy, and a sense of satisfaction.  Shift your focus to the responsibilities you savor.  What are the small successes within each of those that you’ve mastered? Use this information to develop the job description you want.  Consider industries in which those assets are valued and sought out.  “Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade?” – Benjamin Franklin.

Brainstorm:

Identify a few options.   Based on your answers to the previous questions, what can you do differently today?  Leverage your successes to ask for what you want.  Here are a few ideas for how to do so.  Talk to your boss about gaining more responsibility, or peruse the internal job postings in other departments. Consider starting your own business, or begin the task of updating your resume and exploring external options.  Perhaps your interests lie in a different industry altogether.  Whatever your direction, stay true to yourself.  The more you enjoy your job, the less it will feel like work!  “Use what talents you possess, the woods will be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.” – Henry van Dyke.

Gather Information:

What do you need to know?  You’ve completed the first steps of career exploration.  Now that you’ve identified what’s important to you, search out industries and companies that match those preferences.  Make a list of your top five target organizations.  Begin researching their history, mission, and products.  Go to networking activities, such as industry conferences or business networking groups.  Speak with people in those businesses.  Do your homework to avoid jumping from the frying pan into the fire!

Training and Education:

Is there a certification or license that would push you over the next hurdle in your career?  Find out what is required to achieve it.  If you’re planning to pursue a different field, explore the education and credentialing requirements for those jobs.  Collect informational packets from professional schools and universities with programs in your area of interest.  Remember, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”, Lao Tzu.

Choose a Deadline:

This is a crucial factor in the process of self discovery and change.  Creating a deadline helps you stay on track in defining and aligning your path in career development.  It keeps the journey time limited, focused, and easier to manage by breaking down the steps into weekly, monthly, and/or annual goals.  What do you want to accomplish by the end of this week, this month, or this year?  Write it down.  Share your intentions with others.  Accountability to yourself and those you love will provide the structure and support necessary to follow through on your plans.New York City

Self Care:

Throughout the process, be good to yourself.  Job hunting and career development can be overwhelming!  Maintain life balance.  Establish healthy boundaries.  Spend time with friends, family, exercise, and have fun.  Be patient.  In the words of Buddha, “There is no path to happiness: happiness is the path.” So continue to embrace and be grateful for the things you cherish.

 

Psychology Today Post – Getting Unstuck!

129823-129389My latest blog in collaboration with Dr. Mark Banschick, Getting Unstuck – Eight Ways to Get Your Mojo Back, published in Psychology Today.  

Life takes twists and turns. Just when it seems you’ve figured things out, that metaphorical rug can get yanked out from under you. It can leave you spinning and wondering which way is up… or out! A sucker-punch can come from anywhere, a divorce, a terrible boss, an impossible project, a bad loss, or a family conflict, to name a few. It can be unexpected and disorienting.

In this guest blog, Heather Edwards, a New York based therapist and life coach, gives you a way to get back on track when you’re feeling down and out.

 

Everyone knows what it feels like to hit a wall, whatever the stress may be. And, when you do, your sense of well-being and purpose can drop away. It’s a big loss.

So, how do you pull yourself up by the boot-straps, get back on the horse, and restore your mojo after a crisis? Here are a few tips for getting unstuck, lifting your mood, and redefining your course.

Gratitude:

What are you thankful for today? After all, not everything is a mess! Start a journal of what is going right. Spend at least two minutes each day thinking about one positive thing that occurred that day, or a distant fond memory that makes you smile. You’ll actually change your brain structure over time to think more positively, naturally, by doing so. Neuroscientists have found that neurons that fire together, wire together. So get to work on changing your neural pathways.

Healthy Grief:

Sometimes bad things really do come your way. The marriage is not working out, the job turned sour, or you’ve got a child with an emotional problem. It’s important to mourn the loss of what you might have had. Grief feels like depression, but it’s really something different. It is the necessary unhappiness required to adsorb your hurt and move forward. Healthy grief leads to healthy acceptance, which then opens the door to taking constructive action.

Notice Your Body:

Where do you feel stress? Is it in your neck, your stomach, or your back? Stretch, move, exercise. Be mindful of your physical experience. Those aches and pains are indicators that you need to breathe, move, and play. It’s no secret that exercise has many benefits. It improves mood by increasing feel-good chemicals, like endorphins, and reducing stress hormones, like cortisol. Find a yoga class, get to the gym, go for a walk, or a bike ride. Do your best to keep a regular sleep schedule and eat healthily.

Adjust Semantics:

What are you saying to yourself about the situation? Neuroscience and Cognitive Therapy have demonstrated that the way we think effects the way we feel. Is there a less extreme way to describe what’s happening in your life? If it seems hopeless, impossible, or devastating, search for the glimmer of light that keeps you going and adjust your vocabulary. It’s easier to change a situation that feels disappointing, challenging, and frustrating rather than awful. Take your feelings-words down a notch to less intense ones and see how that changes your perspective.

Imagine:

What will your life look like when this problem is getting better? Envision yourself in that place. Time heals. Whatever the situation, your experience of it is temporary. Notice the feelings you have now, acknowledge them, give them a name and let them go. It’s a sort of Zen experience that allows feelings to float by like a cloud in the sky or a leaf on a stream, simply noticing them and letting them go. Don’t get wrapped up in them.

Identify Your Strengths:

Remember what makes you the wonderful brother, sister, friend, colleague, or parent that you are. Take stock of your talents, skills, and values. They define you, not the external stresses that are bringing you down. Own your strengths. Be a friend to yourself.

A Proactive Plan:

There is nothing like being effective to set your mind at ease. What one thing can you do this week to effect change in the problem situation? Can you schedule a meeting with your boss or consider options outside your company? Can you communicate with your spouse about your concerns in the marriage or begin exploring mediation? Can you talk to your child’s teachers and counselors or establish increased support at home? Start by asking questions and communicating with those around you. Remember, you’re not alone in this experience.

Seek Support:

It’s okay to lean on friends and family during times of need. How have you felt when a friend came to you with a problem? I’m willing to bet you were happy to help! The same applies to you. Reach out, remember people love you. Get off the couch, change your scenery, and be social. If that’s not enough, don’t be afraid to call a therapist. The stigma about therapy that once existed is now obsolete. Therapeutic intervention has hard science to back it up. In other words, it’s legit. Your mental health deserves the same attention you give to your physical, financial, or spiritual health.

 

________________________________________________________________________________

 

Seeking Refuge

Sleeping CatPsychology 101 teaches students everywhere that besides food, water, and air, the most basic of human needs is SAFETY.  Just watching the news today can be traumatizing.  It seems the news networks are building their audience and profits by sensationalizing real and/or perceived threats to their viewers’ personal and public safety.  We’re easily captivated by the shock and horror of natural disasters and man’s capability to commit heinous acts.  Whatever the headline, it grasps our attention, shakes us up, and dares us to let go.  What does one do with the barrage of real threats and sensationalism around us?  Where does one find refuge?  How can we create a sense of peace and carry on our lives a productive and optimistic way?  Here are a few suggestions for keeping your feet on the ground, your head lifted high, and getting-on-with-it amidst the chaos of everyday life.

*Surround yourself with positive people.

We feed off of each others’ energy and attitudes.  We feel happier around happy people.  Find the people in your life that encourage the experiences and state of mind you crave.  Strengthen those relationships.  Let them know how much you value them.  Replay the positive messages you’ve heard from those you love and respectBelieve in yourself.  Recall those revitalizing messages that give you energy when you hear the voice of fear, self doubt, or criticism in your head.  Write yourself a letter of encouragement.  Practice being a friend to YOU.

*Meditate.

Take a time-out to redirect your thoughts to the present moment.  Be mindful of your existence in the immediate environment.  Focus on your breath and how it feels filling your lungs and belly, and leaving your body through a slow exhale.  Notice any tension in your body as you breathe.  Notice the sounds and smells around you and let them go.  Do this for five minutes each day and you will begin to feel more at peace and less stressed out. 

*Relish happy experiences past, present, and future.

Write about them.  Spend a few minutes each day reminiscing about good times and future plans and goals.  This can change your brain structure in positive ways.  Writing about cherished memories and ideas strengthens the neurological chain of events responsible for positive-thought processes.  It also gives you another way of appreciating them.  Our brains naturally attend to negative aspects of our environment to keep us safe.  Retrain your brain to notice the joyful, empowering ones more easily!

*Accept that fear is a feeling.

It’s not a guarantee that something negative will happen.  Notice your feeling.  Label it.  Let it go.  Use your imagination to allow feelings to drift by like a cloud in the sky or a leaf on a stream.  Don’t get caught up in that feeling.  Simply notice it, name it, and let it go.  That moment of emotional distance from your feelings can result in a more peaceful, productive, problem-solving state of mind.

*Celebrate each day.

Appreciate the people, places, and activities that feed your soul.  Notice even the tiniest of pleasures.  Be an active participant in life.  Let others know that you value them.  You’re not alone in feeling negative feelings.  It’s a normal part of life.  That’s what makes it so important to demonstrate gratitude and nurture the sources of your well-being at every opportunity.

*Laugh & Smile.

The act of smiling forces a chain reaction of muscular, hormonal, and neural activity that is associated with happiness.  It therefore is difficult to hold onto negative feelings when smiling.  Laughter is associated with strengthening the immune system due to the physiology involved.  Here is some information about this… http://www.yalescientific.org/2011/05/can-laughter-be-therapeutic/ Try it right now!  It can actually lift your mood

*Distract yourself.

The more time and energy you devote to fearful or negative thoughts, the more power you give them.  The effect can be stifling for positive behaviors.  Do what makes you smile.  Go for a walk.  Spend time with old friends, family, or neighbors.  Treat yourself to a show, dinner, massage, or yoga class.  Do the opposite of negative thoughts and behaviors.  You deserve to feel good!