Jumpstart Productivity: 7 Tips to Get on Track

productivityThose long lazy days filled with sunlight and flowers are nearing an end. Dawn and dusk last a bit longer as the sun’s angle lowers in the sky. Shadows dance through the trees upon the breeze while the air cools, just a touch. As the gardens wilt and turn to seed, shorts and tee shirts no longer comfort you. Instead, you reach for sweaters and pants each morning and enjoy the crisp new season. You begin looking forward to what autumn brings – change, purpose, and productivity.  While summer will be missed, you know it will come again. It’s bittersweet but the time is nigh to look ahead and plan for your most abundant fall and winter.

Here are a few tips to get started on making the new season a fruitful one.

  1. Establish a routine. The power of routine is immeasurable. Once you’ve created an order in your life that allows your brain to focus on higher level or creative pursuits, the mundane and trivial activities of everyday life become almost unconscious. This allows your mental effort to be applied to what you really want to accomplish, rather than getting bogged down in the details.
  2. Create accountability. Verbalize your goals with people around you to create an external source of responsibility to them. It’s motivating to answer publicly to your proclamations. Set clear boundaries and expectations for what you want. Use timers, calendars, and a daily schedule to keep on track.
  3. Clear your mind. Meditation is the most effective way of creating peace, clarity, and focus in your life. It can happen in just 20 minutes per day. It physically changes your brain structure to allow better coping with stress. Madonna, Clint Eastwood, Lady Gaga, Howard Stern, Katy Perry, and the list goes on… practice meditation to create a sense of calm groundedness amidst the chaos of a busy life.
  4. Just say, “no”.  This is an undervalued skill that makes life more manageable. How often have you overcommitted? When you’re frantically striving to complete many tasks, your quality of work is reduced. When you focus on only a few projects that are really important to you, your quality of work skyrockets. Practice the art of graciously declining invitations. It’s better for outcomes, relationships, and your health.
  5. Get some shut eye. The research into sleep is exploding. Recent studies are finding that sleep allows your brain to encode (save/remember) information, organize information, and cleanse itself of toxins. It not only allows your mind and body to rest, it can improve learning and memory, performance, and mood.
  6. Fuel your machine. Would you drive your car on an empty tank of gas, or expect your cell phone to ring when the battery is depleted? How could you expect peak performance from yourself without the proper fuel? Reduce your consumption of alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, and other vices. Increase consumption of lean meats, leafy greens, fruits, fatty fish, and nuts. They provide nutrients that reduce depression, increase energy, promote healthy brain function, heart health, and immunity. The benefits of eating right are endless.
  7. Burn it off. Exercise increases feel-good chemicals such as endorphins, norepinephrine, and dopamine. It lowers stress related hormones like cortisol & adrenaline. Combined, these improve energy and balance emotions. Getting sweaty develops brain regions responsible for memory and learning, improves your overall physique, and can boost your self esteem. Commit to regular exercise.

productivityWhile the long, lazy days of summer are coming to a close, a new season of growth and opportunity beckons. Go with the flow, stay in the present moment, maintain your focus. When you implement these tips, you will improve your life. Start small. Begin with one change that will get you closer to the way you want to experience life. Make it a habit. Reap the benefits.


“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” – Michelangelo
1st Photo courtesy of free digital photos.net. by David Castillo Dominici.

Psychology Today- Coping with Terrorism

Heather Edwards, coping with terrorismThis article on Coping with Terrorism was published in Psychology Today on November 29, 2015 by Mark Banschick and Heather Edwards…

The bloodshed seems nonstop.

In the last few weeks, tragedy struck Beirut, Paris and Mali. A Russian airliner was bombed out of the sky over the Sinai Peninsula. We watch as hate spurs stabbings in Israel, and far away Milan.

The Global Terrorism Index:

According to a study by the Australian-based Institute for Economics and Peace(link is external), global terrorism is on the rise. That’s probably not a surprise to you.

  • Terrorism related deaths are up 80 percent last year.
  • The economic cost of terrorism is up 61 percent.

We read the newspapers and watch the news. By and large we are all safe.

Yet, threatening images are invading our lives, and we all must try to cope. Some of us go into denial. Some keep vigilant, others become news junkies.

Fear does not equal weakness. It is a biological response designed for self-preservation; trying to anticipate and survive. But there is a line that marks an over-reaction.

In this piece by Heather Edwards(link is external), we are guided to regulate our emotions, deal realistically with the risk of danger, and continue to live life fully.

Denial. Anger. Fear. Helplessness. Rage. Suspicion. Guilt. Grief:

These are but a few of the negative emotions felt all over the world since the Beirut, Paris and Mali terror attacks. We try not to think, we become hyper-vigilant, or we feel guiltybecause we’re okay when someone else isn’t.

Fight-Flight, denial, revving up, ignoring…what do you do?

Like a suction cup, you’re glued to the TV, Internet, and radio:

You are scared. And you’re angry that you’re scared. Layering feelings upon feelings. It means they won. Terrorists want us to fear each other, going out, and seeing people from different groups. Terrorism breaks down culture, and makes us tribal.

It is an attempt to kill the best of democracy.

You want this to go away:

Yet, you obsess about what’s next and what it means for your future. Is this the beginning of World War III? It’s something you didn’t foresee in your lifetime. Are these attacks a harbinger of things to come, or will they fade out into history?

Questions abound. Is it best to stay home?

Should I avoid the city? Can I fly to France, Turkey…to Iowa? Are the subways safe? Can I freely discuss my concerns? How do I know if the person next to me is a terrorist, or not?

Here in New York City, people are re-traumatized:

It’s all too similar to what we experienced on September 11th, 2001.

In Washington DC, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, the pain of 9/11 does not remain permanently buried. You worry that a new era of terror is coming.

According to PTSDUnited.org, 70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives…

“This equates to approximately 223 million people. Up to 20% of these people go on to develop PTSD. As of today, that equates to approximately 44.7 million people who were or are struggling with PTSD. An estimated 8% of Americans − 24.4 million people − have PTSD at any given time. That is equal to the total population of Texas.”

Since you can’t change the events that have already happened, and you can’t control what other people do, how can you cope in the face of such terrible unknowns?

Here are a few paths to peace, hope, and safety in your internal world and possibly your outer world, too…

1. Meditate:

Sit comfortably. Close your eyes. Take three belly breaths.

Tune into the sensations of your breath, and only what you hear, feel, smell, taste, and see. Allow thoughts to pass through your mind without judging, evaluating, or solving anything. Simply observe your experience. Gently allow the present moment to pass through you and coexist with you in its entirety. It removes the chaos and struggle and strengthens the part of your brain responsible for kindness, compassion, peace, and calm.

2. Focus on the Good:

Brain studies demonstrate that whatever you focus on is strengthened. If you want to feel calm, focus on calming thoughts. If you want to feel safe, focus on safety thoughts. If you want to feel happy, focus on happy thoughts. When you focus on fear, anger, and hatred you strengthen those beliefs and feelings. The choice is yours.

Remember, from a calm place you are best able to make good decisions.

3. Write it Out/Draw it Out:

Get those negative thoughts out of your head. Write them down. Scribble or draw them. Dump them onto paper. Journaling is cathartic and clarifying. It provides relief from distress and a safe place to channel negative emotions. Balance it with notes of gratitudeand what you hope for the future. It can shift the energy in a positive direction.

4. Get Naked:

You must live normally. You must find a center.

So have sex or otherwise exercise. Your physical body stores stress and trauma in the form of pain, inflammation, and disease. Release it. Go to yoga. Take a walk. Play the drums. Get a massage. Climb a tree.

Movement helps express and relieve tension. It keeps energy flowing in your body and supports a healthy nervous and immune system. This clears the way for better coping strategies to emerge.

5. Reach Out:

Call a friend, Counselor, Pastor, relative, or other trusted person for support. Remember you are not alone. When it’s too difficult to manage your emotions and put healthy coping skills into play, take action!

There’s no shame in being proactive about your mental health.

Without it, everything else suffers.

6. Get Treatment if Needed:

As mentioned above, millions struggle with some variant of PTSD, which can be triggered by a terrorist attack. If you find yourself regressing or having panic attacks when hearing about one of these terrible attacks, do consider getting help.

Terrorism is terrifying. All the more so for those who have been traumatized in the past. Much can come to the surface.

7. Seek Inspiration:

Whether its a fond memory, a quote, speech, poem, mantra, song, or dream find a nugget of positive energy that resonates with you. There is safety, clarity, and promise in the words and images that move you.

Use them to transcend today’s calamity and envision a better tomorrow.

8. Turn toward those negative emotions. Acknowledge them. Validate them:

They are real. But then temper them, distract yourself from them, channel them, look for the middle ground. Life doesn’t only exist in hardships, extremes, and struggle.

While chaos is happening around you there are beautiful things unfolding, too. Discover them. In modulating your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, you impact not only you, but also the greater good. Embrace courage, conviction, and belief in peace, love, and freedom.

9. Stay Abreast of What’s Happening:

Terrorism is making itself known to us. Politics aside, it is wise to take your centered self and better understand the dangers, or the lack thereof. The best protection is awareness. And, the best action is preventative. That being said, take advice from trusted sources, and live your life nevertheless.

We have much power within. And, it can guide you to making sound choices.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see.”

Leading by example inspires others to do the same. You can institute positivity in this time of chaos.

By finding your center in this scary moment, you can be of service to yourself and others.

And, that is for the good of all.


Toolbox for Health and Happiness

happiness toolboxMy excitingly educational cousin, Jessi Haggerty, RD asked me to share my toolbox for happiness and stress management during the cool and blustery months of fall and winter. Schedules, expectations, and priorities change with the waning of the long and happy-go-lucky days of summer. It’s an exciting lifestyle shift for many, and an anxiety provoking one for others.  How does one maintain the relaxed, positive glow of summer throughout the other three seasons?  Follow these tips for a quick tune up when your psychic engine starts to sputter…

10. Positive Affirmations.  

Look out for #1.  Remind yourself of your worth.  Find a mantra that gives you energy and a forward focus.  I like these… I am basically alright as I am.  I am free to make mistakes.  Shoulds, oughts, and musts are irrelevant.  My basic job in life is expanding my awareness. – from Self Esteem by Matthew McKay, PhD & Patrick Fanning.

9.  Friends and Family.  

Nurture bonds with those you love and trust.  Express gratitude.  Develop relationships with the people important to you.  A strong support system can get you through the tough times.   Don’t be afraid to lean on them or seek out their guidance.  Remember that you would do the same for them in their time of need.

8.  Purpose.  

Identify what is most meaningful to your core self.  Define your values.  Find an organization to join that contributes to a higher purpose.  Martin Seligman, PhD and the school of Positive Psychology identified this as one of the necessary components of well-being.

7.  Keep it Simple.  

When feeling overwhelmed by chores and responsibilities, break them down into smaller steps.  Focus on one thing at a time. Make a checklist, organize your calendar, set timers and reminders on your phone.  Relying on your memory can create stress.  Get it out of your head and into a simple system.  Remember the words of Bill Murray in What About Bob, “Baby Steps”.

6.  Accomplishment.  

Notice the hundreds of things you complete in a week. They all count!  Did you make your bed today?  Check.  Feed the cats or kids?  Check.   Got up and went to work?  Check. Give yourself credit for all your accomplishments, large and small.  “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau

5.   Mindfulness.

Awaken your inner Buddhist.  Be aware of your mind, body, spirit connection.  Pay attention to how you feel emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  Acknowledge, validate, and adjust your thinking, feeling, and activities, if needed.  Take five minutes per day to meditate and focus on breath.  Schedule quiet time.

4.  Flexibility.

Beware of the inevitable snafu in your plans!  When it happens, pause and adjust your expectations.  Remind yourself that it will be okay.   Change is good.

happiness toolbox II3. Engagement.  

Get involved in an activity that gives you energy.  Find that sweet spot where time flies by without recognition.   What do you love to do? If you don’t have a hobby or interest outside of work, find one.  Explore the arts, sports, music, or gardening!  Lose yourself in the flow.

2.  Positive Thinking = Positive Feelings.

This is the premise behind neuroplasticity of the brain. Our brains have a negative bias.  Despite this, we can affect our feelings and thoughts by shifting our attention to the positive. According to Rick Hanson, PhD this has a global effect on organizing the brain as a whole.  Take in the good whenever you can.  Soak it up. “The mind is everything. What you think you become.” – Buddha.

1.  Exercise and Diet.

Exercise has a positive chemical effect in our bodies.  It boosts feel-good hormones such as endorphins and reduces the stress related hormones like cortisol. It builds bone density, muscles, and energy.  A healthy diet has similar effects on cholesterol, blood pressure, and organ health.  The two combined increase self esteem, well-being, and stamina.

Use one or all ten of these tips to get through the stressful moments in life. Use them everyday to maintain momentum and keep focused on being your best. It can be tricky deciphering the ebbs and flows of your demanding life, but don’t fret. There are a myriad of resources available to you.  Keep your toolbox within reach.