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  • Anxiety Hacks During COVID-19

    Anxiety Hacks

    Anxiety Hacks During COVID-19

    Change can be overwhelming enough. Throw in a virus that has an unusually high potential for creating disaster and anxiety shoots through the roof.

    During a time like this routine is comforting. It helps navigate the unexpected.

    And, of course, all we have right now is the unexpected; our routines have gone by the wayside.

    Sadly, no coffee at your favorite coffee shop, no leaving home in the morning to go to work or school, no carpooling or collegial chats with co-workers, no listening to that book on Audible™ during your morning commute.

    So, in order to protect ourselves and others, we must change everything.

    Even though our routines are being thrown off, systems are being recreated, the world is simultaneously on stand-by and everything is moving forward at a fast clip.

    There are worries about health and supplies, as well as confusion thanks to unclear messages about what to do and what not to do. How sequestered does one really need to be to get that “curve” down? Will other people listen and follow instructions?

    Fortunately, the antidote to worry is taking action.

    Why? Because doing something positive and focused helps us stay in the present moment.

    The question is:

    What can we do in the present moment to keep us feeling productive and positive?

    Take a deep breath. When our regular routine has flown the coop, it’s time to create a new one that fits life as it is today.

    First, take a minute. Yes! Pull out that mindfulness video and follow along. Don’t have one? You can click here to get a free guided meditation from me, or use an app like Calm or Headspace.

    Second, remaining in place– whether alone or with co-workers, friends or family – can feel restrictive. Don’t forget the importance of connecting with others via the guidelines required or requested by your local jurisdiction.

    In the old days, before the internet, phone calls had to suffice for staying connected when not in the same physical space. But today we don’t have to feel so isolated. Facetime and other on-line chats let us actually see the other person. YAY!

    Third, make sure to get some quiet time too! Sometimes we have the best ideas when we are resting or daydreaming.

    Here are a few more tips I’ve been sharing with my clients:

    #1 Organizing your day is a great way to feel calmer. If you are working at home, set your hours. Remember routine is stabilizing.

    #2 If work feels like it has doubled because it’s being done differently, recognize that although there may be additional work, the stress of revamping the system may also be creating fatigue. Take a breath, take a rest, be kind to yourself and remember that you know what you’re doing.

    #3 If you have school-age children at home with you, plan activities that you can do together as a family. Here’s a helpful blog a colleague has written that shares great tips for children and families.

    #4 Feeling overwhelmed? Take a walk in the fresh air. Sing, paint, cook, de-clutter. These are all life-enhancing ways to refocus attention.

    #5 Find the silver lining.
    Where are there new opportunities for your family or your work?
    What’s your vision for your community and how we all can support each other during this uncertain time? Someone on my neighborhood list serve needed milk because the shelves were bare at her grocery store and someone else provided another source within minutes. Awesome!

    #6 Overwhelm or fear can cause stress and at times sharp tongues. Family members and friends are feeling it too. A “we are in this together” attitude goes a long way toward decreasing feelings of overwhelm, fear and stress. EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique is an interesting and effective tool that uses tapping on meridian points to help those who use it de-stress. Here’s a link to a good website if you’d like to try it.

    #7 Remember to focus on what you know, not what you are afraid of. Often, that will help you focus on a problem you can solve, and maybe even see the bright side. If you know shelves in the grocery store are bare by 4pm, worrying that there won’t be food to buy won’t help, but going to the store at 8am just might.

    #8 College-age folks or High Schoolers at home? It’s sometimes hard to imagine that COVID-19 is actually more serious than the flu. Enlist them in helping make sure older people in the community are safe from exposure by limiting their own gatherings. Here’s a great interactive map that shows how people going out and about has spread the virus in other countries.

    Remember, this too shall pass. We will be stronger for it, more connected and grateful for our thoughtful community. A shout out to the businesses that are being mindful and supporting us and their employees during this time.

    Be well and stay in touch,

    Liz

     


    Join me on my Facebook page!

    I’ll be conducting regular Facebook Live sessions to provide you support, tips and hacks to mitigate your well-being during this time.

    A Different Take on Conflict for the New Decade

    Liz Lerner works with couples to help them build strong relationshipsIt’s 2020 – the beginning of a new decade. But it’s clearly not the end of all the conflict we’ve seen over the past few years. Turn on the local or global news and you’ll see it everywhere. In fact, our environment is so politically charged right now that people are taking sides, sometimes at the expense of their relationships.

    The good news? There’s never been a better time to work on reducing conflict with those around us. Especially those we love.

    World events aside, we all experience interpersonal interactions that cause stress, whether they occur at home or work, or are related to concerns about our children, aging parents, our own health or just about anything else. Life is full of situations that can lead to stressful conversations.

    When things get heated conversations go awry because of the way we express ourselves. We become flooded with emotion and our frontal lobe (our thinking brain) goes offline. We start talking straight from our limbic system and amygdala (where our survival instincts come from). So, instead of remaining calm and having a productive conversation, we fight.

    I know. Even though I’m a clinician and coach, I’ve been in situations where I’ve acted more from emotion than thought. My experience of being a caregiver for my very independent parents and going through a divorce helped me hone everything I teach and test it on myself. The benefit: being in potentially high-conflict, high stress-situations and remain in control over my words and actions. What a life saver that was for my family, because when one person makes a change, it effects the whole and everyone benefits. We all want to find a way to have less conflict and experience connection rather than suffering.

    If you’d like to reduce conflict and stress in your relationships, start with these three tips:

    #1: When you’re upset, write down your thoughts and feelings. This practice uncovers the real issue (which is often not what we think it is) and will help you figure out what you really want. Stick to writing about the present issue because dredging up the past will only make the current situation seem bigger than it is.

    #2: When you’re ready to begin the conversation, use “I” rather than “you” statements (e.g. “I feel X when Y happens.”). This avoids conflict from the start by ensuring the other person doesn’t feel blamed – and the calm that results allows both parties to feel heard.

    #3: Listen actively by repeating back what the other person has said. This not only helps you be certain you’ve heard correctly, but also shows the other person they’ve been understood. Active listening also slows down the conversation enough to prevent knee-jerk reactions.

    Practice these three tips alone and you’ll be well on your way to a different, more productive approach to conflict in the new decade.

    Create Aliveness in the Holiday Season

    The most transformative moments in our lives are those moments when all of a sudden something important is illuminated.

    When we have those big Aha’s!

    The trigger could be a simple or profound insight, or a life changing event – like a birth or a death, a marriage or a divorce – or the trigger could even be an experience like the one we might have standing on top of a mountain for the first time.

    What we are feeling is ALIVENESS!

    And it is in these trigger moments, good or bad, that we actually are the most alive. We feel a certain type of energy in the air. We feel the skin on our body and the beating of our heart. We feel totally connected.  We are present in the moment. It’s electric – it’s what some call a peak experience. Because in those moments and during those life events we know we are really HERE! It’s visceral!

    And that’s just it, we feel these peak experiences so intensely because, during them, we are smack dab in the middle of the power of life.

    What’s happening the rest of the time?

    We’re still alive, of course, doing our thing, going through the motions, perhaps even fairly consciously.

    But what if every moment in our lives or at least lots more of them felt just as electric as a peak experience? What if we were fully tuned in far more of the time? What if we could have that heightened “electricity-in-the-air experience” all the time?

    I remember when my son was born. We were given a book titled “On the Day You Were Born”. It showed every aspect of nature, on our own planet earth, and our own planet in motion with everything else –  the entire universe. And all of it was welcoming our baby into life … into the world, into the motion of everything … into the flow.

    It was such an exciting feeling to see these connections so clearly in that pivotal moment.  We are all part of the flow. We ARE the flow.

    Everything is connected, and everyone affects all things at all times.

    Those momentous peak experiences simply remind us of this fact. But in reality, we are always in the flow. And even more, we are directing it all the time.

    We just don’t know it or notice it.

    But here’s the thing:

    We DO have the ability to be present to that connection daily. And WOW! What an opportunity that is.

    To wake up, grab our life force and really show up in our lives. No matter what we are doing. To take off the filters that cloud our connection and, with the intention of being fully present, step into the aliveness of the moment.

    And intention is all it takes to begin to learn how to feel that aliveness every day and to learn how to keep that feeling going.

    Here are some simple ways to practice …

    Right now, as you’re listening to me, notice if your brain has taken you to the next item on your to-do list, taken you away from being where you actually are in this very moment. Are you here? Or are you thinking about what’s next? Or what happened earlier today?

    In order to be present in this moment, I’d like you to do a quick experiment. First, find your feet. And put all of your attention/concentration in your feet. Feel them. I’m doing it too. Second, Feel your feet connected to the floor or ground. And now BREATHE … breathe all the way into your feet … and, as you do, feel your breath move through the rest of your body.

    Perfect! Thank you for doing that with me. You are now in your body. And once you are in your body you are on the road to being present.

    The more you breathe into your feet and feel that you are actually connected to the earth, the more the rest of your body will start to show up too. Because what you are doing is taking your energy and attention out of your head and bringing it home into your physicality – into your physical being … into the present moment. And it only takes a minute.

    Once we are in our bodies we can really see where we are. Our focus is fully on what is around us, our vision is zeroed in on the now.

    Our culture makes multi-tasking seem attractive, but when we are doing one thing and thinking about another, or doing multiple things at once, it’s pretty hard to breathe and be in your body … and, therefore, it’s difficult to truly feel alive or to simply enjoy the present experience of being fully engaged in a task.

    To build on the exercise we just did and help you become even more present, walk around the room you are in or, if you are outside, even better.

    First connect to your feet, take a breath and walk slowly forward. As you do, feel your footsteps … the bottoms of your feet connecting to and releasing their connection with the floor or earth. Then, as you walk, begin to name aloud or silently to yourself every object or being you see, taking each in fully.

    Really notice what is around, you …

    The lamp with the burlap shade, the wooden table, the striped cat, the woman with the red coat, the mirror with the gilded frame, the crazy patterned pillow, the tree fallen in the path.

    With every object or being you name as you walk, you will become more and more present to the moment, more and more grounded … feeling more and more alive.

    For those of you who feel anxious from time to time – this exercise alone is a great anxiety reducer. Again, just a few minutes spent doing this exercise will make a world of difference.

    We’ve all heard the phrase, “stop and smell the roses.” And most of us take that saying as a caution to slow down, to take the time to enjoy life, to stop doing too much. It might be just the ticket.

    It’s good advice at times… and it may sound a lot like what I’m talking about – but it’s not.

    And perhaps it’s not the most helpful advice for today’s fast-paced world or in times of real stress.

    We need to realize that at whatever speed we’re moving, no matter what is happening – good or bad – and regardless of how much we have on our plates, we can and need to be fully present and we want to feel fully alive.

    Aliveness has nothing to do with stopping. It has nothing to do with how much we have going on. If we stop to smell the roses, we might not actually be smelling them if we’re thinking about what we have to do next.

    And in fact, sometimes the most alive we feel is when we’re moving at lightning speed …

    As long as we stay in the present.

    So, don’t stop and smell roses … instead learn how to get into the present regardless of how fast you’re moving or what is happening (and yes you may need to slow down to do that at first), but after you practice and learn it …

    Move fast, move slow, do a lot, do a little, take breaks, get back to it … and through it all … BE PRESENT … LIVE YOUR WHOLE LIFE IN THAT ZONE – fully connected, fully in the flow, fully alive.

     

    Confidence and Pancakes

    Liz's Chocolate Chip Pancakes

    Liz’s Chocolate Chip Pancakes

    December 2013

    The other day I was making banana chocolate chip pancakes (see recipe below).

    I have begun making them quite frequently as they have become a favorite. The consistency of the batter is a bit different. The liquefied bananas make them a bit harder to flip and they take a bit longer to cook.

    I noticed that when I was feeling confident about the flip it worked seamlessly, and when I had doubt, the pancake inevitably folded or fell on another. In short, it was a mess—sometimes I could fix it and sometimes it just turned into a ball of cooked goo. From a taste perspective all was perfectly wonderful but … not as I had planned.

    So I did an experiment. Prior to each flip I chose to be confident or concerned. Each time I chose to be confident the flip was perfect. Each time I allowed doubt into the equation there was something that wasn’t quite right. It became a game with fascinating conclusions.

    Let’s think about the things we do in our lives that are affected by a similar thought process. How often do we begin a task—simple or complex—with a preconceived notion of doubt or concern? How often do we begin a task or performance or project with total surety? What would happen if we left the worry out? Whether we believed it or not, we proceeded with utter and complete confidence? What if we fully acted as if we felt completely sure of ourselves? Would the complex become simple?

    I believe we can choose. Start with something simple like flipping a pancake or locking your bike. Basically start with anything that you are not sure you can do with ease. Begin as simply as possible and do your own experiment. I know when I try to lock my bike at times I struggle with pulling the cord through etc. etc. Next time I will approach it with complete confidence and see what happens.

    There are so many ways to live our lives with more ease, reduce stress, feel happier, and be healthier. Let’s start with confidence and pancakes.

    Let’s build the muscle and see what happens. I would love to hear your adventures. Please post. Share with me at info@yourinspiredchoices.com or on Facebook.

    With confidence,

    Liz

    Recipe: Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes

    2 cups unbleached white flour
    1 cup whole wheat flour
    ¼ cup unrefined sugar (can use less)
    1 tsp of baking powder
    1 cup of milk (amount to preferred consistency)
    1 egg (optional)
    3 ripe bananas – Place bananas in blender or Vitamix with a small amount of water and blend to a fluid but not watery consistency
    1 tablespoon of oil – if desired
    1 or 2 pat(s) of butter for the pan or griddle

    Mix ingredients in the order listed.*

    Pour some batter into a one-cup measuring cup and add mini chocolate chips. You must add chips based on the amount of chocolate you prefer in the pancakes.

    *It is not advisable to add the chocolate chips to the entire mixture. This recipe makes enough to save and use again within the next couple of days. If saving is not desired to reduce proportions.

    Let butter melt in the pan- when bubbling- mix batter with chips and spoon out to create the pancakes. Heat till bubbles appear and flip with confidence.

    Happy eating!

    Mindfulness and Creativity in Healing in Miami

    mindfulnessLast week I had the honor of leading the opening meditation session and two workshops on Mindfulness and Creativity in Healing at the (CCA) Colon Cancer Alliance National Conference in Miami. I say honored because I was surrounded by people who are engaged in the joy of living, who are fighters and who want to change the world and the survival rate of people with colorectal cancer. So here is where people begin to turn away. One fact I learned is that people don’t really want to hear about this most preventable form of cancer because of where it is in the body!!

    The focus of so many of the survivors of stage 4 and (lower) colon cancer is to increase the rate of screenings for people under the age of 50. There are so many people being misdiagnosed and diagnosed late with colon cancer. All we need is prevention to save thousands of lives. Survivors and their families are working tirelessly to spread the word, implement screenings in areas they do not exist, and find funding for colonoscopies for those that do not have insurance or cannot afford to have them. Their work has saved many lives.

    Find out about your family history, talk with your physician about early screening with or without a family history, and listen to symptoms that seem unusual, no matter what. You know your body best. If you are concerned that something isn’t right, persevere! We all know the prep for a colonoscopy is not a lot of fun, but it could save your life.

    Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA) is an amazing resource and support community. A great book about being a your best health advocate is: When Doctors Don’t Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests by Leana Wen, MD, MSc, George Washington University.

    We had a lot of fun doing some Qigong, being truly present in the moment, participating in a guided imagery and using art materials to express the vitality and emotion within. CCA conference participants, you are a great group!

    Liz