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Crisis Management 101

IMG_2269A few nights ago I was watching a Joel Osteen sermon online where he talked about facing life’s challenges. In his message, he talked about how what we focus on, magnifies. He suggests that when you face a challenge, it serves you better to focus on the good in your life and the good coming in your future. And when focusing on problems, it could possibly block the good (or solutions) that could come because your attention is in the wrong place.

While many could argue that his message isn’t anything new, it made me think about how spirituality frequently intersects with the research of science.

Many times before, I’ve shared with you the research on the impact that your thoughts have on your well-being. Our thoughts influence the way we feel (emotions) and the way we behave (actions). Chronic stress, depression, and anxiety have also been linked with debilitating medical illnesses. While we may know consciously that it does more harm than good to stay in a rut and feel bad about our current situation, sometimes it’s just too hard and maybe even feels impossible to be positive about life.

As a counselor, I know there is merit when you can experience your emotions fully. It is very important to acknowledge and witness our difficult emotions like disappointment, sadness, anger, and anxiety. Having an emotional container to allow feelings to wash in and out is an important characteristic of emotional well-being. But what are we supposed to do when the feelings become too much and there is no hope?

For me, Joel Osteen’s message was a reminder of how important it is to have hope during challenging times. While Joel mentioned the importance of knowing God’s promises for your life which provide hope, you don’t have to be religious to have hope and optimism about your future.

Coincidently (or not), I came across this blog post by Seth Godin yesterday. He states that you should make two lists – one list of all the wonderful things in your life. Everything good about yourself and your situations, encouragements, achievements, all of your best stuff. On the other list contains all the crappy stuff… all the stuff working against you, obstacles, and challenges that you have faced or are currently facing. When facing a crisis, you can only pull out ONE list and which list you pull out influences how you proceed.

We ALL face challenges and obstacles. Facing those challenges may seem like it’s the end of your dream or maybe even the end of yourself! But there is always a fork in the road after the crisis, where you choose to make the crisis the end of the road, a setback, or a SET UP for your future success.

Over the years, I have created an informal crisis management plan. After an allowance of wallowing, my inner Olivia Pope springs on the job to turn the situation around. My protocol consists of self-care practices including good food, Epsom salt baths, cry sessions with Boo, puppy/kitten YouTube videos, journaling, affirmations, and my go-to healing books. If I follow this protocol, focusing on the hope and promise for my future becomes a lot easier.

My challenge for you is to develop your own inner Olivia Pope Protocol (OPP!) for when you face a crisis. If you can get into the habit of following it EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. that life hands you lemons, you will find you need less and less rebound time from life’s little plot twists.

I leave you with one of my hard core beliefs about the human experience… Challenges are not meant to kill, silence, or deter you from living your dream. Their purpose is to help arm, equip, and educate you about how to fulfill your Great Destiny. Take a break at the nearest rest stop if you need to, but never quit, you have a great purpose to fulfill.

To your amazing and hopeful future,

Signaturesmall

What do you REALLY want?

IMG_2159As I am writing this… I am in heaven… AKA sitting on the couch with my laptop, eating sunflower seeds with my furbabies along with some foster kittens purring by my side. Yeah, this is my heaven… No plans, full belly, and my kids.

Over the past two weeks, I have made an intention to do less. I have blocked off my calendar, stopped taking new clients, no longer accepting teaching solicitations, and turned my phone on silent. Before just recently, the only time that I have not done anything is when I physically can’t because I am sick. I have to say that while it feels pretty empowering to purposely not do anything, it is very uncharacteristic and kind of awkward.

This is new to me… The high expectations are gone. The constant drive is gone. And all the effort is gone.

All that is left is – me.

I have to admit, this intentional downtime was not strategic, but a last ditch effort to try to get what I want.

For the past 18 months or so I have been working full time as a counselor, teaching psychology, finishing up coursework for my PhD, and building an online business. Don’t be impressed. It’s an insane way to live.

I used to run down my list of roles and responsibilities like it was a badge of honor. “Look at how much I can manage everyone!! I’m awesome!” Until I realized that I wasn’t managing very well… I was maxing out my sick leave because I caught a cold every time someone sneezed within a 50 ft radius, had daily headaches, wasn’t sleeping, and wasn’t eating regularly.

From the outside looking in, I was superwoman but on the inside I was hanging on by a thread.

That led me to take a look at why I was doing so much. Yes, I want to help people through counseling and coaching. Yes, I love teaching psychology classes. Yes, I want to contribute to the academic discipline of psychology and obtain my PhD. And, I want to build a successful business that impacts many people’s lives.

But I also REALLY want to have the time and energy to spend with my boo, take vacations, walk my dogs in the park, read an entire book in a weekend, and enjoy adult beverages with my friends. You know… the good life.

The very wise Dolly Parton once said, “Don’t be so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

I was so busy working on achieving my goals that I forgot about making time to insert happiness, joy, play, and rest into my everyday life. Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE researching, working with my clients, and teaching… but its not nourishing in the same way as intentional self-care.

A common misconception of success is that it produces happiness or that all successful people are happy. It’s probably because successful people can buy a closet full of Louboutins, vacation in the Maldives, drive a Porsche, and live in a multimillion dollar home… Who wouldn’t be happy right?

Psychological research argues that the relationship between success and happiness is actually a reverse causal relationship… Being happy creates success! Positive affect (positive emotions like happiness) leads us to approach behaviors that facilitate further success. Positive emotions help people develop positive characteristics, behaviors, and resources that parallel success and the ability to thrive.

Happy individuals are more likely to have fulfilling marriages and relationships, high incomes, superior work performance, community involvement, robust health, and a long life.

What I have found time and time again in my work is that when people put achievement before their happiness, once they have achieved, their success is empty and unfulfilling.

So what if we were to start with the end in mind? Danielle LaPorte, the author of The Desire Map had the same idea. Her goal setting method encourages readers to choose their core desired feelings and then do things that bring about those feelings.

Here I am… Taking a break from all of the effort and instead enjoying the fruits of my labor that have brought me to this point. So far I have spent QT with my boo, enjoyed adult beverages with friends, read two books, and taken my dogs for a walk in the park. There are moments when my overachieving self freaks out and exclaims, “What are you doing?! You are wasting time… Do this, Do that!” I kindly reply,  “I can’t right now… I am too busy – living the good life.”

No, I don’t have a PhD, haven’t coached 10,000 people, written a New York Times Bestseller, or have seven figures in the bank… YET.

But I am determined to be as happy now as I will be then.

Until then…

Much happiness!
Signaturesmall

The picture above is of my foster kittens. Paisley telling her brother, Plaid, he can’t be in the picture! :)

Reference:

Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?. Psychological Bulletin, 131(6), 803-855. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.131.6.803

An invitation to lose control

photo-62About a year ago I wrote this blog (it was my 2nd blog ever!)…

The Best Breakup/Life/Business/Success Advice Ever!

Little did I know THE BEST advice ever would come back to me when I needed it once again.

For the past couple of months, I have been exhausted… Physically, emotionally, and mentally.

About a month ago, I was chatting with a counseling colleague of mine and I was telling her about all the things in my life that were stressing me out. She asked me, “Deah, do you know about the three types of business?” I shook my head no… She then shared, Byron Katie says there are three types of business – my business, your business, and God’s business. Are all of the things you are worried about your business?”

I heard this message before it resonated with me to my core.

I realized I was so exhausted because I was so worried about stuff that wasn’t mine to worry about.

That helped a lot in that moment and in the moments thereafter… I felt a huge weight lift as I sorted through all of my worries and let go of things that were other people’s business and God’s business.

I GOT IT! This was great!

Two weeks later, I am at a horse ranch. I am about to go into a round pen with a gigantic horse and the retreat leader asks me, “Deah, what’s your intention with the horse?” Excited, I replied, “To control it!”

She smiled…and asked, “Have you heard of the three types of business?”  *facepalm* Seriously???!!! Obviously, I hadn’t gotten it…

Gently she explained, “Deah, it’s not your job to control the horse. The horse is going to do what it’s going to do…  That’s not your business. Let go of trying to control. Your job is to take care of yourself and your business. When you take care of yourself, the horse will follow you.”

In that moment, I realized that my attachment and attempt to control everything in my life is what was keeping me in everyone else’s business!

Overachievers, myself included, live under the illusion of control. Controlling people. Controlling situations. Controlling outcomes. And on some level, we are really good at it! (…until one day we aren’t!)

When you have your way (control) for so long, it’s hard to realize when the need or expectation for control is actually doing you, your relationships, or your well-being a disservice.

So I have been practicing daily, sometimes hourly… Losing control and staying in my own business.

If I notice myself getting irritated, overwhelmed, or exhausted, I ask myself – Who’s business is this?

Most of the time it’s not my business. Then I can return to attending to my own business which includes a release of control and an invitation to take care of myself.

This is such a more gentle and less stressful way to live.

I would love to hear ways that you are able to stay present and in your own business.

Signaturesmall

Do your words give you life

photo-61The Power of the Reframe! A lot of the industry leaders in personal development talk a lot about the tremendous impact that having an awareness of your thoughts can have in your life. I have also talked about this in my blogs several times as well. Over the past several weeks, I have noticed the impact that word choice can have on my perspective. For example – You are having a really bad day, nothing is going the way you expected. Your best efforts have been thwarted by traffic, bad luck, or other people’s bad juju. You come home exhausted and you exclaim, “Today was _________!” How do you fill in the blanks?

  • Crappy
  • Horrible
  • The WORST DAY EVER!

Or maybe you go a step further and make statements about your life because of your day, something like:

  • Nothing ever goes right for me!
  • My life sucks!
  • I can never catch a break!

All of those things may feel true for you in the moment … but there are some really powerful consequences to thinking and believing all of those thoughts. When you think about having a crappy day, you probably continue to feel bad even if the bad stuff has stopped happening. Let alone if you tell yourself, “Today was the WORST DAY EVER!” When you further project such powerful words onto your life and say things like “I can never catch a break!” Not only do you feel bad, but then your brain starts to look for evidence of how you just can’t catch a break. Then you are sitting stewing in your bad day, but also feeling pretty bad about your life in general.

While I have shared specific techniques and strategies to explore ways to combat unhelpful thinking patterns in practice, there is another and perhaps a simpler way.

Lately, I have been looking at my word choice. Let’s use our example above. You are having a really bad day, nothing is going the way you expected. Your best efforts have been thwarted by traffic, bad luck, or other people’s bad juju. You come home exhausted and you exclaim, “Today was really  _________ !” How do you fill in the blanks?

  • Challenging
  • Complex
  • Tricky

Think about how those words make you feel versus the ones I used before…  Do they add to the stress or pressure from your day or are they just adjectives to describe the less than ideal conditions you experienced? Here’s the thing – your thoughts create your reality. Your perception of what’s happening in your life influences EVERYTHING! If you are having a crappy day, you are going to feel crappy all day. But if you can take a step back and look at your situation from a compassionate perspective that doesn’t make you feel defeated, it can make the difference between a crappy day and a less than ideal morning.

I want to invite you to begin to examine the nature of your thoughts. When you are feeling not so great about your day, career, or relationship notice the energy that surfaces. See if you are using some emotionally charged or powerful words and try to reframe them in a way that is more objective, that helps you move forward or feel better about the situation.

Remember – we want the words that we use to others, but especially to ourselves to give us life, inspire us, and encourage us to do great things!

Tell me about your best reframe in the comments below!

Signaturesmall

The one thing I am not good at…

IMG_1989One thing I am not good at… being patient.

I do EVERYTHING I can just to avoid being patient. Pay more. Work harder. Finagle. Hustle. Network. Whatever. Just don’t make me wait.

I have come to find out that sometimes, practicing patience is inevitable.

When I was growing up, I learned this song called “Patience” in church summer camp. We sang the song SOOOO much that I sing the chorus even now in moments of frustration.

Take a listen…

The song usually works when I am stuck in traffic or waiting in a long grocery store line. But for REAL life challenges, the song doesn’t cut it.

Other than always wanting to get my way, my huge problem with patience is that it implies that you just have to wait. Idle, sitting there waiting for what you want to happen.

The dictionary defines patience as “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset”.

Now I have been to many personal development retreats and completed enough counseling courses to understand the idea of accepting a situation that you can’t change. And while I even understand the theory behind it, I still can’t fully embrace the idea of patience especially if it means waiting for something that REALLY matters to me.

So just recently I have started a practice that has helped with being able to radically accept when situations aren’t progressing on my ideal timeline.

Before I share with you the practice, I think it’s important that I share with you one of my foundational beliefs – Everything happens for a reason. I know… I know… its cliché. But I believe that if something isn’t working out, it’s for a reason. It might be because there are still lessons to be learned, something is not finished, or there are still people to help.

Because sometimes simply believing that everything happens for a reason doesn’t make the difficult times less of a struggle. So I have started to investigate the reasons why I may not be making progress in my challenging areas.

Here’s the ritual I have been doing:

I take some time to relax. Then I get into bed with my journal. Sometimes I go through a guided meditation to further relax, or just take a series of 5-10 deep breaths.

Once I feel centered, I write…

What is the reason that I am stuck in _______________ (name a specific area)?

Another writing prompt I have used is…

How do I make this time more intentional and deliberate in order to continue to grow and develop in ____________ (name a specific area)?

Then I write for about 20-30 minutes.

It doesn’t matter what I write… “you are being a whiney baby” or “notice the progress you are making in this way and this way…” Whatever the message, I feel like it’s EXACTLY what I need at that time.

The process makes those moments in which I can’t resolve challenges in my action oriented ways easier, more purposeful, and more deliberate. In my opinion, that’s much better than patience.

I want to encourage you to try this out for yourself and see if it works wonders for you as well!

Share with me how you stay patient during challenging times.

Signaturesmall