Maria Connolly, LPC

Category: Controlling Stress

A very successful approach to controlling stress and achieving a lasting peace and calm is to live an embodied life by creating an inner peace and calm through learning to recognize and embrace your inner experience in an honest and curiosity-filled way. It means you’re aware of your total mind/body/spirit connection and you do things daily to nurture it.

How to Stay Calm under Pressure

If you suppress your feelings so that you look calm on the outside, but inside you feel like you’re ready to explode, learn how to stay calm under pressure.Have you ever tried to suppress the excitement of a group of little children as they wait for a treat they really want? It’s not easy is it? The more you shush them, the more they wiggle, giggle, and chatter. You have more success if you channel their energy toward another activity until the treat arrives.

Similarly, trying to suppress your own feelings of anxiety, stress, and frustration is like trying to put a lid on the excitement of a group of children. Suppression doesn’t work. Yet that’s how many people try to force themselves to be calm under pressure. And, as a result, they feel like a powder keg ready to blow.

A more effective approach combines channeling your physiological responses, thoughts, feelings and attitudes into productive activities. Rather than telling yourself all the things that can go wrong, you’ll be able to think about how things can go right. No longer will crises push you into a panic or state of paralysis, instead you’ll see that overcoming challenges starts to excite you, which actually gives you an inner peace and calm.

Here are some tips on how to stay calm as you channel your physical and mental responses into more productive activities:

  1. Understand what’s going on in your body. Stress and anxiety trigger the “fight or flight” response. Your brain perceives a threat and starts to produce hormones that tell your nervous system it’s time to get ready for action. Yet in many life and business situations, you can’t start fighting or fleeing. Consequently, your body doesn’t get to release these feelings. As a result, you end up with your brain and body in a feedback loop, freaking out. That’s when you say and do things you regret.
  2. Breathe deeply and slowly. Break the body part of the feedback loop by consciously breathe slowly and deeply. This increases the oxygen in your system, which calms the fight or flight reaction.
  3. Label the emotions. Break the mind part of the feedback loop by assigning labels to the emotions you feel. This moves you out of the “fight or flight” mode accessing the neocortex which allows you to think more clearly and productively about the issue at hand.
  4. Re-label your emotions. Next, eliminate the emotional triggers that caused the “fight or flight” response. For every emotion you identified in step 3, re-label it with a positive emotion. For example: fear becomes anticipation; frustration becomes desire; worry becomes concern; dread becomes caution; alarm becomes curiosity and so forth. By re-labeling your emotions, you’re convincing your brain that this isn’t really a dangerous situation but rather a situation you can learn from and enjoy.
  5. Put things into perspective. Stop over thinking and overreacting by asking yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen? Will this matter in five years?”
  6. Recognize that people are less focused on you than you think. You may see yourself as the center of attention. However, everyone else is focused on improving the situation not on you. The more you feel judged by others, the more intense your anxiety. Re-direct your mind from yourself onto becoming part of the solution to the problem at hand.
  7. Magnify your logic. When you bring logic to the forefront, you can maintain the right frame of mind. It forestalls the panic and anxiety as you dispassionately observe what’s really happening. This increases your awareness of the big picture view, seeing all the moving parts of the situation and their possible consequences.
  8. Take action. Procrastination is the enemy of calm, because it feeds the negative thoughts. Instead, empower yourself by turning anxiety into excitement. You’ll rise above the challenge and see your performance improve dramatically.

It takes time and effort, but you can develop the ability to positively look at each situation as an opportunity to turn anxiety into energy and excitement. I’ve found that there are a number of life pillars or core beliefs that will assist you in staying calm under pressure.

  • Have an understanding and practice of mindfulness.
  • Practice daily instead of waiting for a crisis to happen. It’s like getting ready for the Olympics – it would be silly to start training the week before.
  • Increase awareness through deliberate practice. Practice needs to be specific in order to be effective. For example, when you’re practicing slow, deep breathing, notice your heartbeat, identify your emotions, and so forth.
  • Become really good at predicting. Acknowledge that there are situations that make you feel pressure. Identify when, where and how it will show up (know yourself!) and make it part of your life cycle instead of avoiding it.
  • Keep your energy focused on the things you can change.

An effective way of learning these life skills is through Neuro-Linguistic Programming. My colleague, Nando Raynolds, and I are starting our fall classes September 15th, so there’s still time to enroll. Learn more about the benefits of NLP trainings and what we’ll be teaching by clicking here. Or contact me with any questions you might have.

Time Management Tips that Reduce your Stress and Increase Productivity

Seven easy time management tips that reduce your stress and increase your productivity by encouraging you to choose a state of mind that supports you.Do you feel like you’re always battling against the clock and there’s not enough time to do what you need to get done, let alone what you want to do?  And since the long to-do list never gets finished, are you left with a nagging feeling that you’ve failed in some way?

You CAN relieve these stressful feelings by mastering time management skills, learning to stick to your priorities, refusing to get distracted, and choosing a state of mind that continually supports you. As a result, you’ll feel a lot happier about the commitments you make. To that end, here are some suggestions:

Seven easy tips to reduce your stress and increase your productivity

Time Management Tip #1. Live an embodied life. When you have collaboration between your body, mind and spirit, your daily routine will revolve around your life’s mission. You’ll reflect the harmony of being fully present in all you do as you align your gifts and skills with your unique purpose. In turn, your life will become more meaningful and satisfying.

Time Management Tip #2. Set your intention. Before sleeping each night reviewing your accomplishments and allow yourself to feel success even in the little things you’ve done. Declare your intention for the next day. When you wake up, again declare your intention, and it will keep you motivated to follow through. (Your intention might be a goal, making peace in a strained relationship, or something that supports your physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.)

Time Management Tip #3. Resist the urge to multi-task. Have you seen the juggler who keeps many things in the air at once, but as soon as he drops one, they all crash? That’s what multi-tasking does to us. On the other hand, when you focus on one thing at a time and do it well, you increase your self-confidence, lower your stress and you get more done.

Time Management Tip #4. Prioritize. It’s okay to make a mile long list. Just don’t stop there or you’ll add to your sense of overwhelm. Pick two or three items from the list that are highest priority and focus on accomplishing only those tasks. Delegate when you can. And educate people that you won’t respond immediately unless it’s an emergency but that you’ll get back to them in 48 hours.  

Time Management Tip #5. Use time-blocking. Group related tasks into blocks of time. Say you have a doctor’s appointment – take your shopping and errand lists with you and do it all in the same trip. Or instead of reading emails all day (which is a huge time waster and stalling tactic), check them only in the block of time you designate for it. Allow sufficient time for each block of activity. Schedule the hard to do tasks when you have your greatest clarity and energy. Set a timer for 20 minutes and see how much more productive you become!

Time Management Tip #6. Be reasonable in your expectations. Don’t overbook. Leave plenty of flexibility in your schedule to allow for the unexpected. That way you don’t add to your stress by feeling rushed or pressured. Learn relaxation techniques that let you unwind regularly throughout the day.

Time Management Tip #7. It’s okay to say “no”. Women are especially prone to taking on too much at once. Before agreeing to a request, give yourself time to consider it. You don’t need to feel compelled to give a reason when you decline, and you don’t need to feel guilty in honoring your own time and commitments, because you’re allowing opportunity for someone who really wants to do it to say “yes.”

It’s essential to choose a supportive state of mind and eliminate limiting beliefs in order to use these time management tips most effectively. In our FREE talk on August 25thChoose Life Enhancing Beliefs, Nando Raynolds and I will show you how to utilize NLP techniques in your life. It will be held in Ashland, Oregon at 6:30 PM to 8PM. Learn more about it by clicking here or contact me for more details.

Self Sabotaging Behavior – 5 Traps Women Need to Avoid to be Truly Happy

self sabotaging behaviorWhich would you say is more damaging to your health: stress from a car accident or from a messy house? Which is worse: a breakup with a romantic partner or a friend who makes you crazy because she never follows through on what she promises?

The answer lies in whether the stress is short-term or long-term. We’re actually equipped to handle life-threatening situations. It’s the constant, nagging stress that causes problems. Why is that?

“Today, many people live in stress mode all the time, and the constant release of steroids like adrenaline and cortisol can lead directly to diseases like diabetes, heart disease, depression and cancer, and indirectly to bad health habits like undersleeping and overeating.” says James Ehrlich, MD, clinical associate professor of endocrinology at the University of Colorado.

Interestingly, women produce a higher amount of oxytocin than men do, which counters the rush from cortisol and epinephrine and puts them into a “nurturing, tending and befriending” mode, according to a WebMD article on why men and women react differently to stress. This means that if you’re not careful, you can find yourself focusing solely on giving to others, which will leave you depleted.

What is it that makes your stress level rise? Is it chaotic surroundings or disrupted schedules? Do you fall prey to negative self-talk or negative body image fed by food and fitness issues? Or do relationships make your blood pressure rise?

The underlying cause for many of these stressful issues can be traced to self sabotaging behavior. You’ll achieve greater happiness and freedom to excel if you adjust your perspective on the following five traps:

  1. Imagined fears.Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of rejection and even fear of how your decision will impact your family, friends and others – all of these are paralyzing. And it’s all imaginary. It’s not real. How many fears in the past actually came true? It’s better to focus on what’s real. Your desires for a better life are real. Your dreams can become real if you cultivate a mindset that gets rid of self sabotaging fears.
  1. Perfectionism. Women tend to compare themselves to others wishing to be smarter, more attractive, or more successful. These comparisons are harmful. The only comparison that’s beneficial is – how can I become a better version of myself? Love yourself for who you are.
  1. People Pleasing. Trying to be someone you’re not is exhausting. Worrying about what others think is nonproductive. Let everyone know what you need and think. If you set boundaries, you won’t fall into the trap of not having a life of your own, being at everyone’s beck and call. The world needs to see the “real you”, and they’ll respect you more. You absolutely do have gifts, skills, and personality traits that are extremely valuable. Value yourself, and others will value you more.
  1. DOing instead of BEing. When you measure your value by how much you achieve, will you ever feel like you’re good enough? Not likely. You won’t be able to slow down for even a moment because there’s so much to do! Give yourself a break and learn to be mindfully present in each moment. Enjoy the journey. In the end, what will make you feel more satisfied – accomplishments or a life well-lived?
  1. Self-punishment. So many women struggle with feeling unworthy or undeserving. They minimize their value as an individual. They downplay their accomplishments. You won’t become egotistical if you stop to recognize and acknowledge the positive good you do. When you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, choose to self-correct, find a better way, and keep moving forward. Everyone fails. That’s how we learn to do better.

Are there areas in your life that could use some attention? I’d love to partner with you as you create a life in alignment with your purpose. Join me in my new workshop, The Power of Embodied Presence – Empowering Women Through Somatic Education and the Art of Relationship. This highly experiential, one-day workshop draws on neuroscience, mindfulness, somatic principles, and adult development theory to help you unlock your inner wisdom and create harmony between your mind, spirit, and body. Mark your calendar – July 16th. Click here to learn more.

Feeling Trapped in Life? Master Your Inner Game to Free Yourself

If you’re feeling trapped in life, don’t give up, because you CAN free yourself by mastering your inner game, being focused and learning to trust yourself.“There is always an inner game being played in your mind no matter what outer game you are playing. How aware you are of this game can make the difference between success and failure in the outer game.” ~ Tim Gallwey

Do any of the following statements describe how you’re feeling right now?

  • I’m feeling stuck in a rut.
  • I feel trapped in my job.
  • I’m feeling trapped in a relationship.
  • No matter how hard I try nothing seems to go right.
  • I used to be really good at this, but now I just can’t make it work, so I end up trying too hard and second-guessing myself.
  • My fear of failure makes me default to “I can’t” before I even try.
  • I thought I was over that, but it keeps resurfacing again and again to gnaw at me.

The good news is…YOU don’t have to stay feeling trapped in life. You CAN free yourself from these negative mindsets and limiting beliefs. And while it does take some effort, it really isn’t that hard. Especially when you realize you already have the skills, you just need to make the connection between your two selves.

What do I mean by saying you need to connect your two selves in order to free yourself from feeling trapped in life?

Along my personal and professional journey, I discovered a book that helped me transform my inner environment to one that is more nurturing, supportive and all in all more conducive to learning and growing. It’s The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance. The core message of the book is that in tennis like anywhere else in life we usually play two games, an outer game with our opponent (self 1 – some people describe it as the body, which acts), and an inner game with ourselves (self 2 – some people describe it as the mind, which instructs).

We get into trouble when Self 2 (the mind) tries to tell Self 1 (the body) how to do something the latter already knows how to do. This disconnect spirals into second guessing yourself, trying too hard and feeling like a failure (In my opinion, the only failure is giving up. Nothing else is a failure. It’s simply a life lesson).

For example, when you learn to play tennis, your instructor tells you to “keep the eye on the ball” and your brain instinctively positions your arm and moderates your stroke speed to lob the ball back over the net. Later you forget this advice and start missing, so you think your form is off. To compensate, you swing harder or hold the racket differently, and it just makes it worse. Whereas, if you would go back to keeping your eye on the ball and let the brain do its thing, you’ll be better than ever.

We must quiet Self 1 (the body) and let Self 2 (the mind) do what it knows how to do. The best way to quiet the mind is not to tell it to shut up or force it or criticize it. What works best is learning to focus it. Focus means mindfully paying attention to only the aspects of a situation that are necessary to accomplish the task at hand. This requires that you become an observer of your own behavior.

There are four important steps to connecting your two selves:

Step 1: Observe in a non-judgmental way, simply seeing the situation as it is, rather than judging it to be good or bad. Being judgmental only leads to self-doubt and anxiety.

Step 2: Visualize your desired outcome.

Step 3: Trust yourself.

Step 4: Observe the outcome and results in a non-judgmental way. It’s neither right nor wrong. You did your best at this point and time, and that’s good enough.

Learn to be aware of your feelings and your body’s responses so you can overcome the self-doubt, nervousness, anxiety and lapses of concentration that keep you from performing at your best. Master athletes and business professionals know that they can’t win the outer game if they lose the inner one. They know the value of having someone coach them as they Master the Inner Game. If you’re ready to make the commitment to a richer experience in life, please contact me. I would love to partner with you as you learn to get out of your own way to let your best game emerge.

How Embodied Leadership Succeeds Where Other Leadership Styles Fail

There are many leadership styles, however when you learn the embodied leadership way you develop a congruent body-mind connection that gives inner strength.It’s commonly assumed that good leadership styles are mostly mind or personality based. Although it’s recognized that leaders should look the part too, being physically fit and well groomed. And some even give consideration to speech training and the way a person carries herself. But beyond that the body isn’t thought about much…

That’s a mistake because ultimately what’s inspiring is a leader’s presence and way of being.

An embodied leader is aware that planning and leading are definitely whole mind/body/spirit activities. And that’s what makes business leaders who have embodied leadership skills so different and more much effective.

Take for example a leader we’ll call Sarah.

She’s so busy she doesn’t have time for breakfast as she rushes off to meet her team. They greet her with demands that pull her in eight different directions. She tries to handle them all at once, while not giving any of them the attention they deserve. Oh, her frustration and stress levels are rising. She has deadlines to meet, so she cancels another lunch date with her best friend…again! She just hates putting her friend off like that, but she couldn’t have eaten a bite anyway.

The presentation scheduled this afternoon is making her sick to her stomach. And no, she can’t make it to the gym today. She’s must keep her doctor’s appointment because her blood pressure pills need to be adjusted and she want to talk with the doc about getting something for the anxiety and depression that’s closing in on her.

Everyone thinks she has it all together. That she’s so successful. She looks like a leader. Yet she’s falling apart inside. Something is drastically wrong. Her leadership style is impossible to maintain.

Are you starting to see that effective leadership styles requires that the body be completely congruent with the mind?

A successful leader must be able to intervene in his or her own physiological responses to stress and have the awareness to know which decisions are going to support the things that are really important in life.

Sarah, from the above story, wants to be calm and collected. She has every intention of reaching her goals for having a successful business, strong friendships and good health. Yet as stress is introduced, her body betrays her. Because she’s only thinking with her conscious mind of doing the things she know good leaders do, her body rebels, because it reverts back to patterns that have been formed by a lifetime of habits.

Your habits live not only in your memories, but in your tissues and cells. The body remembers. Embodied awareness lets you hear what your body is saying. It helps you watch yourself from an outside perspective. Then you can engage in practices that develop your ability to take more effective actions. In time, you develop a new muscle memory that lets you do things you couldn’t have done before, whether it’s being calm under crisis or being an assertive introvert.

Extreme stress can cause a mind/body disconnect that makes people act in crazy ways. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “She’s not herself today.” When stress triggers an interaction in our brain between the hypothalamus, which regulates hormones and the amygdala, which assigns emotional significance to an event, the fight or flight stress response takes over the conscious mind. Normally you wouldn’t scream, yell, shake, and cry, but the brain/body disconnect makes you behave in a way that’s foreign to you.

Let’s put it in another way…you may know you’re not supposed to run from a bear, but your legs don’t believe you. This is a really dangerous mind/body disconnect that gets you in trouble. Because the next thing you know you’re trying to outrun a bear…not a good idea!

So what can embodied leadership principles do for you that other leadership styles do not?

It supports you as you make slow and steady progress toward a strong awareness of your mind/body/spirit connection. Through mindfulness, centering, somatic exercises, breathing techniques, and NLP anchoring techniques you learn how to be present in the moment of stress in a relaxed, unattached way. It gives you time and the skills to slow down, be fully mindful so your actions truly reflect a peaceful state of mind. If you’d like to work with me as you master these skills, I’d be honored for you to contact me. We can set up a time to meet in person at my Ashland, Oregon office or via Skype.

 


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