What’s on your ‘to-do’ list today?

Here’s the deal, we have a ton of stuff that is expected of us each and every day.  Some times it comes from our own internal ‘to-do’ lists and often it’s a mixture of responsibilities that come from work, family, and this thing we call life.  As I was working through my own tedious tasks today I couldn’t help but notice that none of my important items had to do with me, my well-being, or pretty much anything that made me feel light inside.  So I paused for a minute, jotted down a few things that I could (and would) do before my head hit the pillow tonight.

I list 21 items below but the idea is not to do them ALL today or maybe even all this week, but it’s a great start.  I simply wanted to write them down so I could work through a little every day.  It’s not an exhaustive list and I encourage you to add or adapt your own actions, but hopefully it will give you a nudge (if you need it) of inspiration to pause and pay special attention to your best resource, YOU!

Pick 1 or 2 or however many you think you can realistically do today and feel free to repeat the same list for tomorrow.  I truly hope and believe that any one of these actions would improve your overall sense of well-being, feeling of peace, or even relief (even for a just a moment).  I do offer a bit of explanation with a few of the items, but mostly that is for comical benefit.  I tend to use humor as a primary coping mechanism (hence, all the smiley faces all the time)!

  1. Smile. 🙂  See…it’s already working!
  2. Forgive yourself for something (could be for getting frustrated easily or maybe it’s just easing up some of that negative talk within your own head…)
  3. Hug yourself (or someone else). If you need instructions on hugging yourself:  take your left arm and place it on your right shoulder.  Then take your right arm, place it on your left shoulder.  Now squeeze.  I know, sounds silly, but works every time!
  4. Trust yourself.  If this seems too daunting, then start by asking yourself what it means to ‘trust yourself’.
  5. Write out a gratitude note.
  6. Replace a complaint with a positive statement.  Note:  the more you practice this one, the more you notice those around you who could use the practice!
  7. Slow down (yes, this is vague…it is supposed to be as only you know what that means for yourself.  Take it as literal as you like 🙂
  8. Hold the door open for the person behind you or perform any other random act of kindness.
  9. Say good morning (to everyone)!
  10. Tell someone you love them (this could be yourself as well….if you choose self, I recommend saying it in front of a mirror.  It has more impact when you see yourself saying it).
  11. Choose to be happy today (the whole day).
  12. Sit quietly for 5 minutes.  No talking, just listening.  Can be done with eyes open or closed, your choice.
  13. Embrace change.  Again, figure out what that means for you to ’embrace change’.
  14. Let go of something that no longer serves you.
  15. State a dream of yours out loud (doesn’t matter if anyone else hears it).
  16. Write out a definition of ‘love’ without using a dictionary.  Describe what it feels like, looks like, and how you know it exists.
  17. Practice patience.
  18. Stretch your body (arms, legs, whatever makes sense for you).
  19. Listen to your body (instead of a clock) to tell you when you are hungry and tired.
  20. Take 5 deep breaths.
  21. Smile.  Listed twice because it’s just that awesome!

Will these things change your life?  Probably not.  Will they lighten your heart? I surely hope so.  Be intentional today and move yourself and your well-being to the number one item on any of your ‘to-do’ lists!

This thing we call stress

stress

stress (Photo credit: bottled_void)

What is the stress in your life?  The actual definition of stress is an emotional strain on the body.  However, I think we tend to use the word like it’s a living thing instead of simply a reaction of our own thinking.  The reality is that we can’t bottle stress up and give it away, we can’t take it from someone or leave it on the kitchen table.  Stress is the result of what we feel after experiencing stressful thoughts.  In those terms, if we limit or reduce the stressful thinking; we reduce the experience of stress.  Simple, right?  Ha!  Even as I write that statement I realize how difficult it is to let that sit.  Stress is real.  I feel it, I experience it.

The problem is that I don’t often take the time to think through to the source of stress. It’s easier to say, “yeah, work is stressing me out’ than it is to actually process what is happening and what I could reasonably do about it.  Oh wait, that’s part of the problem.  Because when I feel stressed out, I start thinking about the fact that I may not be able to do anything about it.  And of course, the other twisted part of this whole stress reaction is its kissing cousin, worry.  Worry is also a source of thoughts that typically involve anxiety or concern about a real or imagined situation. I mean, has there ever been a time in your life when worrying about something helped the situation?  Or made you feel better?

Hmm, I’m sensing some themes here. So if we think stressful thoughts and worry about things that may or may not happen we essentially cause our own emotional and mental strain on our bodies. Now, I’m not going all crazy and suggesting that we never experience stress or worry.  But maybe if we realize that when the stressful thoughts occur or the worry happens, we simply acknowledge it and spin it into a less stressful thought that includes a solution, support, or strength.  For instance instead of thinking “all this work is stressing me out” could be “how can I take better care of myself and organize my work to make it feel more manageable?”  Granted, it may be tough to find a positive spin or proactive approach for each situation, but it’s a lot easier to think about actions I can take to change a situation or simply cope rather than get caught up in the relentless space of fear, worry, and stress.  Yes, if I have to choose, I will always choose a space of hope versus stress or worry.  Now I just have to practice making that conscious choice instead of falling into the habit of an automatic way of thinking.  🙂 

 

The power of hope is stronger than the turmoil of worry

When is the last time someone asked you, “What are you hoping for?”  And how often do we spend time thinking about our hopes and dreams?  I say things all the time like, “I’m hoping for a quiet day today” or “I hope traffic isn’t backed up this morning.”  But I don’t really think about what it means to be hopeful when I’m saying these things.  I have things in my life I think about often, including work, financial security, my parent’s health, the people in my life, emotional stress, the tragedies that occur each day, and my overall state of well-being, but what I get from all that is a lot of time worrying and not so much time hoping

And let’s be real, who can blame me?  The media and our culture tell me every day a host of things to worry about including health, politics, the BPA in plastic, global warming, gas prices, community violence, and the unstable economy just to name a few.  I stopped watching the news on a regular basis because I just couldn’t stand it any longer.  Each broadcast seems to start with a highlight of something violent, traumatic, and/or otherwise tragic.  I don’t know if I have ever seen a news hour with a promo of  “This is going to make your heart sing…so stand by and get your daily dose of uplifting news.” Or better yet, how about “Look, we are about to give you some really overwhelming and scary information but we promise to end out the news cast with solid strategies to reduce your anxiety and improve your sense of calm and peace.

I can’t help but wonder what we are doing to our younger generation when we subject them to all of this worry instead of instilling more hope.  If I ask a teenager what they hope for.  They may start off by saying something like “I hope I’m rich and famous someday.” But when I go ahead and ask them a couple of more questions, like “So if you’re rich and famous, what will that mean for you?”  or “What if you were rich and famous right now, what would be different?”  It takes a few rounds of creative questioning, but eventually I hear “…because if I have money and fame then I won’t have to worry.”

The reality is that we have been conditioned to be more comfortable in a state of fear, worry, and angst than we are in a state of peace or hopefulness.  Not to mention that we are constantly being told that we need more money and everything is getting more scarce and the concept of ‘enough’ is almost unheard of.  It’s so sad that we are programmed to respond to the routine question “How are you?” with a dismissive, “Oh, I’m fine.  Thanks.”  Because then we end up in this place where we don’t really share our insecurities or worries nor do we create a space to resolve them with acts of hope.  This is a common place I like to call turmoil.  Unfortunately, I know this space too well.

So how do we get out of the turmoil and make a left turn towards hope?  I believe we have to start by acknowledging what it is that is really worrying us so much and then invest time and effort in figuring out how we are doing address it.  And a major part of this process is: 1) being honest about what it is that we are wanting, and 2) defining what reasonable steps we are willing to take in that direction. The raw definition of hope (according to Dictionary.com) is the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.  And an effective way of feeling that something CAN happen is to identify at least one strategy that puts us one step closer to our stated desire.  So figure out what you need and then create movement in that direction.

Essentially, when we make goals…we promote hope.  And I believe it’s not just hope for ourselves, but for other people too.  I know that when my friends start showing me their accomplishments or telling me of their goals, I start thinking “Dang, I need to get off my butt and do something useful too.”  Now, it does help to have awesome friends who inspire you to be better and challenge you out of your comfort zone, but even if your friends are not lighting fires beneath you; think about how you can be the source of that fire for someone else as well as for yourself!

Of course, I can’t make goals to control things like illness, tragedy, or even how someone will react to me, but if I create strategies that help me address stress, sadness, and other overwhelming feelings…I can at least have options to explore when these things happen.  I guess what I’m getting at is that I realize I can’t control all of these external things happening, but I always have a choice on how to respond.  I can choose to respond with worry, fear, and anxiety or kick all that to the curb and respond with hope, love, and faith.  Those are the things that promote my feelings of safety and security which increase my state of hopefulness and ultimately, my well-being.  Yes, I admit; it’s much easier to say it than to do it.  But as always, this is my reminder that doing it feels much better than just talking about it.

Peace.

Afternoon by the river

Afternoon by the river