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 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.

 

Principles of Aikido Empower Embodied Leaders to be Calm under Crisis

These principles of Aikido teach business leaders to create a powerful personal and business presence that leaves you peaceful despite the chaos around you.Would you like to fully develop your potential for leadership? The principles of Aikido (The Way of Harmony or Peace) can help you. Aikido is a unique form of martial arts that emphasizes the blending of energy, rather than resisting it or attacking. It lets you peaceably deal with conflict by taking the energy directed at you and neutralizing it or diverting it. Aikido helps you be extremely calm, focused, and effective in the midst of chaos. In the process you learn to handle yourself around others with confidence and it gives you a powerful presence as an embodied leader.

Aikido heightens your sense of the mind/body connection. It strengthens your capacity to find and maintain a sense of calm while staying vigilantly aware. You develop an alert relaxation that appears to be very still but is highly engaged with your surroundings. With practice, you can become very stable AND ready to move with 100% of your power at will.

What principles of aikido serve business leaders best in today’s high-stress, high-demand world?

Be balanced and centered. If you feel like you’re under attack, you’re out of balance and are possibly operating from a place of disrespect or distrust. Instead of giving in to the fight or flight response or freezing up, you can use centering and breathing techniques that promote emotional calmness and mental alertness that enable you to respond gracefully to even the most stressful situations. The loss of a centered mind results in loss of balance as you instinctively start to fight for control. A centered and balanced mind doesn’t need to fight, control, or dominate.

Be calm. Many business leaders get caught up in reacting emotionally to everything, living in drama so that they’re always putting out fires. You can deepen your mind’s capacity for calmness. If you feel calm, you can maintain calm under any circumstance. Aikido teaches you to get closer to your attacker and move in the same direction as he is, which may seem counterintuitive, but is a very powerful life skill for diffusing tense situations.

Be fully present and aware. Too many people are disconnected or distracted from the here and now because of worrying about the past or the future. Or they’re so busy thinking of what they’ll say next they aren’t listening to what’s being said. By becoming fully aware of the other person or of the situation, without being attached to a preconceived outcome, you can build a harmonious relationship with what’s happening. By doing so, you get out of your own way and develop the ability to access your intuitive self. You learn to succeed by surrendering.

Be open and adaptable. The fear of losing control in actuality spins a person out of control. Let the situation unfold without resisting. Rather than letting your mind lead you, learn how to lead your mind. Become comfortable with not knowing everything, which in turns opens you up to creative solutions that are best for everyone on your team.

Be proactive and responsible. While it’s easy to make excuses for why something doesn’t work, an embodied business leader takes responsibility, provides guidance and support as he or she start influencing others to do their best. For those who are painfully shy, introverted, and uncomfortable in social situations, the principles of aikido teach you to assert yourself in relationships without being aggressive. You learn to successfully lead a person, so that he or she willingly follows. This is an invaluable skill for you in your role as an embodied leader.

You have the tools to deal effectively with conflict within you. You just need to find them. Just as silence is always present even if there’s a great deal of noise going on around you, you can experience silence if you shut out the distractions and listen for it. In the same way, you have the capacity for peace and calm under all stressful situations. You just need to learn to access it.

When you achieve peace, no one is going to take it away from you. Only you can give your peace away. With that simple understanding, you know that conflict is not about you, it’s about them and their insecurities. By modeling your peace, you can diffuse sticky situations and improve not only your life but the lives of those around you

Would you like to learn more about how a complete body/mind approach can help you excel in life and business as you step fully into your embodied leadership role? Contact me and I’d be happy to set up a somatic coaching session with you in person in Ashland, Oregon or via Skype. And don’t forget to get your free copy of “The 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment”, so you can build your life on a solid foundation.

The Wheel of Life – Seven Steps to Creating a Truly Balanced Lifestyle

Introducing The Neways Wheel of Life – Find Your Balance

Find your balance because "happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmnony." ~ Thomas Merton“It’s not enough to be busy; So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Work-Life Balance…can it really exist? There are millions of people searching for the answer to work-life balance. Since the issue of balance usually arises when one feels that something important is missing in life, this indicates that way too many people are unhappy. And shouldn’t it really be called Life-Work Balance anyway? Life is more important isn’t it?

If you don’t mind, I’d like to ask you:

  1. How do you define balance in your life?
  2. What might it look like when your life is truly balanced?

Some people look at life-work balance as a three-legged stool that needs all three legs for balance – the legs represent their physical, mental and spiritual needs. Yet this seems to oversimplify it because within those three categories are so many areas of life. And for many people, balance involves feeling like they have TIME, but don’t we all have the same amount of time? So there’s something needed that’s much deeper than just having time.

No matter what your definition of balance is, achieving a feeling of harmonious peace and happiness is really a matter of both internal and external balance. 

If you’re internally balanced:

  • Your inner critic is in check and it operates more like a friendly coach.
  • You can methodically work on self-awareness – knowing yourself allows you to share the true you with others.
  • You have awareness of your values and always operating from them.
  • You check in periodically to make sure all inner parts are congruent and feel seen and listened to.
  • You have a balance between taking risks and stretching beyond comfort and pursuing what is quiet and familiar.

If you are externally balanced:

  • You will engage all areas of life (see The Wheel image below) that fit your lifestyle.
  • You surround yourself with social support.
  • You set boundaries.
  • You’re comfortable with saying, “NO”.

I’d like to share seven steps that you can take to achieve greater balance

  1. Define what balance is to you. Your definition will be uniquely yours.
  2. Identify your values by using percentages: 15% fun, 10% travel, 25% family…to see how much you require of each to be happy in an ideal world.
  3. Take care of basic needs: nutrition, water, sleep, exercise, vitamins and supplements.
  4. Regularly visit a supportive therapist, coach, or mentor.
  5. Make quality time for social contact.
  6. Block out “alone time” to be introspective, using mindfulness to get to know yourself more deeply – what your wants, needs, preferences, personality traits, and quirks are.
  7. Manage your energy not time! As the book, The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal, demonstrates, managing time is not the key. Instead, focusing on a balance of exertion and renewal helps youreach optimal performance.

Here is a tool for you to use in your quest for balance. It’s called The Neways Wheel of Life – Find Your Balance.

The Neways Wheel of Life Find Your Balance

Click here to get your downloadable, printable PDF copy of the Neways Wheel.

This Wheel of Life is designed to visually help you develop your own definition and vision of a balanced life. Each wedge represents critical aspects of life: Friends & Family, Healthy & Wellbeing, Love & Intimacy, Career, Personal Growth & Learning, Life Vision & Purpose – Spiritual Fulfillment, Fun & Leisure, and Physical Environment.

From 1 to 10 how would you rate your satisfaction in each area of the Wheel of Life? (Please print a copy of THE Wheel of Life and fill it in with where you are right now. Keep it handy and check your progress regularly.) You’ll find that your numbers will vary. And that’s a good thing. Obtaining a perfect 10 in all categories is not the goal. Balance is not static. It’s like riding a bicycle. You only remain balanced if you keep moving forward. Remember, it’s the journey that counts. We never truly get to the destination, because our definition and vision of balance changes as we change throughout the years!

No matter where you begin, all the sections of your life are interconnected, just like the wedges on the Wheel of Life. It’s simply a matter of what you want to focus on first. If you’re craving a more balanced lifestyle, it might be time to enlist the help of a life coach who can help you fully utilize your Wheel of Life. Contact me, because I would love to work with you!

15 Highly Organized Characteristics of a Leader to Create a Lifestyle You Love

Find 15 characteristics highly organized leaders cultivate in support of a busy lifestyle and learn 7 reasons why you’ll want to use them in your life too “Good order is the foundation of all things.” ~ Edmund Burke

People who focus on excellence, like leaders and business coaches, know that their best performance starts with becoming highly organized and that “Clutter is a state of mind.” A cluttered space begets a muddled mind and vice-versa.

I have a confession: I’m unusually organized. Not only do I make my bed every morning, I also find a way to tidy up and declutter as I go. I partly inherited this from my mother. I suspect her neatness was a way to cope with stress and anxiety. I’m so glad this gave me a model for creating a simpler, clutter-free environment.

Being highly organized is not only a way to create pleasant spaces but also a strategy for doing anything in life. It means being clear about what you want, being able to prioritize, setting outcomes and the respective steps to make your way to the goal.

We can’t run around stressed all the time with a million things on our mind and expect to perform at our best. So…how are you going to change your lifestyle to one that’s more organized?

Take a look at the following highly organized characteristics that leaders cultivate. (You can do the same with daily, mindful attention.)

1. Be undistracted by uncluttering your mind. Learn to work through the daily stress in a way that let’s you forget it and move on. For some, the best method is a vigorous workout. Others like yoga, walking, or talking with a friend or professional. Personally, I love Crossfit, Archery, and Aikido.

2. Be proactive. If a task takes fewer than five minutes, do it! Pick it up, wipe it down, put it away. That way work doesn’t frustratingly pile up.

3. Be goal oriented. Create an environment that makes it easy to achieve your goals. It’s easier to let things go when they’re not attached to your goals.

4. Be optimistic. The can-do attitude keeps you on track. Focus on filling your mind with the positive things you can do, even if they seem small.

5. Be decisive. Wishy-washy gets you nowhere. Consider your options, pick the best one and work it to the best of your ability without looking back.

6. Be imperfect. Don’t become immobilized in the minutia of the details. It’s never going to be perfect, so determine when it’s good enough and move on.

7. Be list, calendar, and container oriented. Make a place for everything, and put everything in its place. This applies to physical items and routinely scheduled events. You’ll know where it is when you need it and you’ll know if you have a slot open in your schedule for invitations and requests. Capturing your ideas in a detailed list of tasks frees up your mental energy. Referring to your list and calendar often keeps you on-task. This helps you foresee any potential conflicts that might interfere with your goals.

8. Be able to say, “No.” When you know exactly what you want, it’s easier to turn down invitations and requests that don’t fit into your goals.

9. Be prepared. Know how much time you have to complete a project and leave enough time, including a cushion for unexpected occurrences, to do it.

10. Be focused. Avoid multi-tasking. It’s better to protect your time by shutting out distractions and focusing on doing one task at a time.

11. Be aware of your strengths and play to them. Define how you want to live your life such as how you want your home to look, how you want to dress, how you spend your time. This makes it easier to set goals and accomplish them. Do your most taxing work when you’re alert and energized.

12. Be willing to ask for help. Trying do it all yourself only causes more stress. Respect your most valued resource – time – and use it wisely.

13. Be content. Just because you see something beautiful you don’t need to possess it. Just because it’s on sale, it’s not a good deal if you don’t really need it.

14. Be in love with what you own and do. Everything need to be cared for and maintained whether these are relationships, skills, or possessions. Streamline your focus to the place where you can thrive.

15. Be choosy. Don’t attach sentimental value to everything you own. For example, just because you inherit your parents’ furniture, it’s okay to pass it on to someone else if it doesn’t fit your lifestyle.

What I love about being highly organized is that it:

      1. Saves time in the long run,
      2. Lessens your stress because you’re not “playing catch-up”,
      3. Makes you feel better about yourself,
      4. Prepares you for everything,
      5. Empowers you to say NO to excess and say YES to what you really want,
      6. Energizes you as you stop procrastinating, and
      7. Shifts your focus from quantity to quality.

Being organized is about striving for optimal effectiveness and maximum efficiency in any task. It is about feeling more in control, about the thrill of setting things up for success. Wouldn’t you love the freedom to be exactly who you’re meant to be as you enjoy each moment of life? Becoming organized can get you there! Contact me and let’s work together on ways that empower you to make lasting change. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Remain Relaxed Even Under Pressure with these NLP Anchoring Techniques

Remain Relaxed Even Under Pressure with these NLP Anchoring TechniquesStressed out. Strung out. Uptight. On edge. Tense. Nervous. People have such a hard time achieving a deeply relaxed state of mind. Any little thing can set them off, send them over the edge. This is taking a terrible toll on the emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual health of us and our loved ones.

Earlier, I shared a number of ways to achieve deep relaxation through Progressive Muscle Relaxation and simply making time for things you enjoy. (Yes, that’s me in the picture. I love archery!) As mentioned, to get the most benefit, focus on relaxation via the body, via the mind, and via the soul.

What do I mean by Deep Relaxation via the Soul?

A lot of people say that they can’t relax because their lives are chaotic and messy. It’s important to practice your ability to relax fully no matter the circumstances or the conditions around you. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) teaches us that we can choose any psychological state at will. This means that you can experience bliss, joy, gratitude, or love no matter what is happening in your life. And one of the NLP techniques that helps you do this is called “anchoring”.

In NLP, “anchoring” refers to the process of associating an internal response with some external or internal trigger so that the response may be quickly and subtly accessed.

NLP anchoring techniques are based on science. Russian scientist, Ivan Pavlov, famously demonstrated how conditioning works. He rang a bell every time dogs were fed. Soon the dogs psychologically associated the smell and taste of food with the sound of the bell. So even if the food was not present, the dogs would salivate at the sound. The bell (an external trigger) caused a real physiological response (salivation) even though the smell and taste were absent.

NLP anchoring techniques similarly cause you to psychologically associate a signal or trigger (tapping your chest, snapping a rubber band, squeezing your fingers) with a physiological response (an emotion, mood, or mental state) of your choice. When you experience a negative emotion, you can trigger a positive emotion and extinguish the negative one. This thereby allows you to choose your mood or state of mind no matter what the circumstances are.

Here are 7 Easy Steps to Anchoring a Resourceful State of Mind:

  • Decide on the state you want to anchor. For example being calm and relaxed.
  • Recall a memory or imagine a situation where you can experience the state. Make it very detailed and vivid, using all your senses.
  • When the experience is vivid and you’re in the desired state, connect it with a part of your body. For example, put your hand on your heart when the state is at its peak!
  • Now, break state by removing your hand and doing something else. Open your eyes, count down from 10 to break state and distract yourself.
  • Apply the anchor by just placing your hand on your heart and check that the required state, such as calmness or peace, occurs again.
  • You may need to repeat the anchoring process a number of times to make the experience sufficiently intense.
  • Use your new anchor in the situation where you want to experience the desired state. For example, when you’re feeling stressed during your next business meeting, place your hand on your heart and make sure it creates a sufficiently robust resourced state of calmness.

NLP anchoring techniques are really a method of deep relaxation that is best learned under the guidance of a trained professional. If you’d like to add this excellent tool to your life skills, please contact me and I’d be happy to help you finally achieve the peace you crave.


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