Stress Out or Not–Your Choice

Waiting in LineToday is a beautiful day in the Napa valley.   The sun is out, the rain is over, the air is clean, and we are breaking 70 degrees.  I am in short sleeves for the first time in weeks.  It really is a perfect Northern California January day.   Even during cold spells, which we have had a lot of lately, I always consider myself lucky to live here.  So I was quite surprised to hear people make themselves miserable today.  Perhaps I should explain.

During lunch I ran an errand up to my HMO pharmacy to pick up a couple of prescriptions.  Nothing major, just a regular thing for me.  I had re-ordered them online, and had gotten a call that they were ready so it seemed like a good idea to pick them up.  When I got there, after waiting in line to get to the counter, I found out that only one of the prescriptions had been filled.  No particular reason–it just didn’t get done.  The woman helping me was apologetic and asked if I would like to wait if they could rush it.  Although it was inconvenient, it was just one of those things so I took a seat to wait for my name–again.

I was sitting near the entrance to the pharmacy, so I couldn’t help but hear people as they queued up behind my chair.   As I sat, I was amazed at the reaction as people entered the pharmacy on a Friday afternoon.  The line was actually not too long, maybe ten people at a time.  But as each person came to pick up their prescription it seemed as though they were surprised that anyone else needed to do the same thing that they did.  I heard more than one expletive, and several conversations about how poorly the pharmacy was run.  As these people talked,  they seemed to feed on the negative energy, making the wait balloon into one of worst things that could possibly be happening in their lives.   The rising stress levels in the line were almost palpable.

Now, I have to say that people are not usually at their best when in a pharmacy.  They are probably there because they are ill and less than their best.  However, in today’s world standing in line to buy anything is not really a surprise.  And getting angry about having to do it is neither productive nor healthy.  I couldn’t help but think that this was a classic example of choice and picking your battles.

When we are faced with situations that are unpleasant we have to make a decision.  Can we do something about it, or is the situation out of our control?  And if it is out of our control, how do we choose to react to it?  These are fundamental questions but our world moves at warp speed these days and we don’t always have time to think about them.  The result is a lot of frustration and unnecessary stress.

In this example, the situation is out of our control but we do have a choice in our reaction.  We can wait or we can come back later.  Both are probably inconvenient, but getting angry about the inconvenience will only make us feel worse.  Perhaps a better way of dealing with the situation is to make a choice and take responsibility for it.   Wait or come back–our choice.  Getting angry and blaming the pharmacy, or worse the person behind the counter, will not change anything.  It will only raise blood pressure and most likely put a damper on the rest of the afternoon.   And that doesn’t seem like the best choice to me.

I’m not naive.  I know people are busy, and most are over-scheduled.  But letting situations over which you have no control upset you will do nothing but stress you out unnecessarily.  I know this because  I used to be the first to stress out if I had to wait for something.  I was busy, tired, and certainly didn’t have time to stand around and wait–I had a schedule to keep.  That was several years ago in my corporate life.

Flash forward to now.  I’m still busy (although I sleep better these days so I’m not really tired much), and don’t really have time to wait around for something.  I still have a schedule.  But I have a different perspective now. Indignation caused by inconvenience does no one any good.  I know that I can’t control everything and I take responsibility for my reactions.  By doing so, I still get my prescriptions, although it took a bit longer than expected.  The world did not end because I had to wait.  I also get a beautiful sunny afternoon, smiling conversations with people behind the counter,  and the ability to let the inconvenience go and get on with my day.  Because of it I have a lot more energy, a lot less stress, and a lot more enjoyment of my day.

Seems like the better choice to me.

How do you deal with inconvenience?  Do you let it stress you out or does your reaction let you enjoy your day?   

Advertisements

Need a Change? Try Your Perspective

S

Let’s face it–change is hard.  It doesn’t matter if it is a change for the better, such as committing to a healthier eating plan, or coping with  change caused by external sources, such as  a layoff.   Adjusting to change is just not something we humans tend to do well.  And initiating or maintaining change, especially self-change, can be even more difficult.   It doesn’t matter if we understand the changes could be beneficial.  Creating new habits and patterns is just not something that comes easily to most of us.

So what can we do if we are considering a positive change?  The first way to attempt a change is to make an external change.  A great example is deciding to go on a diet.  We alter our eating habits, thinking that this will help us lose weight and feel healthier.  And it works–for a while.  But the change doesn’t last.  We slowly revert to our old habits, and the weight returns.  Why is it so hard to maintain healthy changes?  Because so often we change the behavior, but do not  make a corresponding change in how we view our world.  We just don’t change our perspective.

One of the best ways to create lasting change in our lives is to change our perspective.  When we can change the way we see ourselves and the world around us, changing behavior becomes much less difficult.   Changing eating habits is a great strategy for weight loss, but deciding that a healthy lifestyle is more reflective of who you really are gives you a much greater chance of lasting success at achieving your goal.  If you believe that you are a healthy person, it will be easier to make healthy changes that complement that perception.

One of the best ways to change our perspective is to realize that we are responsible for our own reality.  Of course there are external factors that shape our world, but we are responsible for how we react to those factors.  When we make that connection, a very subtle but important shift happens within.   We are no longer victims of circumstance.  We become the creators of the type of life we want to live.  Our perception of our own worth and power changes in a very positive way.  And that is a very powerful tool.

Have you ever noticed that things you worry about tend to happen?  When we worry we fixate on the negative, and expending all that energy on negative thoughts tends to create a negative environment.  It is true that we see what we want to see.  If we shift our perception to focus on more positive aspects of our realities, we can create a more positive environment for growth and change.  Glass half full or glass half empty–you decide.

Here’s a little coaching exercise to help change your perspective and make your world a more positive place.  Complaining is a very negative habit, and it takes a lot of energy away from creating a positive lifestyle.  So here’s the deal.  Try not to complain about anything for one week.  This doesn’t mean that if you receive  the wrong order from Amazon you shouldn’t send it back, but don’t rant on about how awful and ineffectual the company is.  Just return it and move on.    Most importantly, don’t complain about the traffic, or the weather, or anything.  Don’t expend that energy.  It’s not easy, but you can really change your perception of yourself and your world  when you become mindful of how much energy is focused on  negative issues.

When you stop complaining, you can’t help but begin to see the world in a more positive light.  And that more positive light is a great tool to help change your overall perspective as well.

Are you ready to discover how the power of one-on-one coaching can help you break down self-imposed barriers and reach your Personal Best?  Click  here to schedule a complimentary strategic coaching session and see if wellness coaching is right for you.

Check out my free teleclass for Your Best Year Ever and give yourself a head start to a great 2013!


Ready, Set, Stop

It has always been said that nothing good comes easy.  Especially in today’s turbo-charged world, that old maxim seems to resonate more than ever.  We are all moving at the speed of light, trying to balance work and home, personal and professional demands.  It can be overwhelming at the best of times.   There really isn’t a need to describe what the worst of times can feel like.

There is a way to combat this hectic pace we subject ourselves to, along with all the crazy demands we face at every turn.

Stop.

It sounds like the easiest answer  but I’m not suggesting that you just throw in the towel.  Rather, I suggest that you consciously take some time and be with yourself. Just sit quietly and breathe.  It doesn’t have to be a long time, maybe just five or ten minutes.  If you want to reduce stress and increase your overall well-being, it is one of the most important, and hardest, things you can do.

Mindfulness has been practiced for centuries.  It is nothing new.  But our culture has always been one of action.  We justify ourselves by what we accomplish, by what we can show to others.  There is no outward visible reward for being mindful.   It is only recently that the practice of mindfulness has been recognized as a valid way of expanding not only our self-awareness, but our awareness of the external world.

At its core, mindfulness is simply the practice of observation without judgement.   That is one of the reasons it is so difficult.  We are very good at judging things, especially ourselves.   Almost every action or emotion comes with a corresponding reaction.   When you stop and observe, rather than react, you give yourself the choice of how to act.  We all want our actions to reflect our core values, but when we react to an emotion, such as anger or fear, our actions do not always mirror our beliefs.   It seems like such a simple concept, yet it is one of the most difficult to master.

Some people equate mindfulness with meditation.  In meditation, we try to quiet the mind, and reduce or remove extraneous thoughts.  More to the point, we can recognize a thought as just that–a thought. There is no need to analyze it, react to it, or hold on to it.  Acknowledge it and let it go.  The ability to do this holds a tremendous amount of power.  Imagine being able to focus on a complex task during the day, and remain focused when distractions arise.  It is almost impossible not to feel a sense of inner calm when you aren’t pulled in a thousand directions at once.

There are some amazing benefits from taking the time to observe what is going on around and inside of you.  Stress levels drop, and perspective increases.   We can take the time to decide what the best of course of action would be, not just what our immediate reaction is.   This leads to more self-respect and self-confidence.  With confidence comes a sense of calm.  And one of the most important traits that follows mindfulness is compassion.   When we act mindfully, we have the time to see the consequences of our actions on others.  It allows us to treat others as we would like to be treated.

This is why it is crucial to take the time to stop and reflect on our actions rather than simply rushing on through our days.  Rushing may actually be the easier way to get through a day–little to no thought involved.  But if we stop long enough to act mindfully,  those overwhelming issues can feel more manageable.  Knowing that  you acted in a way that reflects who you are and what defines you makes your life much more fulfilling.

After all, success isn’t always about crossing a finish line first, with no thought of the consequences.  Sometimes success is knowing that you acted mindfully, in the best way possible, regardless of win, place, or show.

Are you ready to discover how the power of one-on-one coaching can help you break down self-imposed barriers and reach your Personal Best?  Click  here to schedule a complimentary strategic coaching session and see if wellness coaching is right for you.