Maria Connolly, LPC

Tag: Mental Health

Find tips on healing, supporting and maintaining the best mental health practices by also achieving the best physical, emotional and spiritual health practices too.

Recovering from Burnout — 18 Tips for Restoring Balance

Burnout syndrome endangers many people who work in high-pressure jobs. Learn to recognize its symptoms and how you can start recovering from burnout today.“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” ~ Lou Holtz

The doctors say there’s nothing wrong with you, except for a little high blood pressure and fatigue. But you know there’s something seriously off. You’re not yourself. You drag yourself out of bed. As you walk around the house, you mutter “I’m just so tired,” but you can’t figure out why. Could it be you’re suffering from burnout?

Are you uncharacteristically short-tempered? Has your positive attitude been replaced with critical comments? Do you exercise less? Drink more? Have you lost touch with friends?  What should take minutes now takes hours. Sounds more and more like burnout!

No, it’s not all in your head. Less than a week ago, the World Health Organization posted their 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases, listing burnout as an occupational phenomenon. They state that:

“Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.”

Burnout syndrome contributes to heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and premature aging. This is not something you want to ignore and hope goes away!

Some professions, (e.g. medical, legal, teaching, social work, entrepreneurship), are more prone to causing burnout, because they demand all you have to give and then more! You could be fulfilling responsibilities that are clearly out of the bounds of your job description, without being compensated for them. You may be working in an unsupportive or toxic environment. Perhaps you’re asked to compromise personal values and beliefs. On top of that, you may have unrealistic expectations of yourself.

Did you notice WHO said burnout results from “stress that has not been successfully managed”? That should give you hope, because you can learn to manage stress and start recovering from burnout, with a few adjustments to your life. Right now, you may feel like you can’t do one more thing! But, please, take steps to get your life back in balance.

How do you start the process of recovering from burnout? It all begins with a practice of mindfulness to check in with yourself throughout the day. Here are some other suggestions:

  1. Learn stress management skills. Yoga, deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation techniques, reconnecting with nature, and utilizing the power of gratitude are all helpful.
  2. Tune into body sensations. Focus on your body’s response to movement. For example, stretching releases tightness and tension.
  3. Talk to someone. Find a good listener who isn’t going to try to “fix” you or judge you.
  4. Rekindle friendships. Phone someone and schedule a lunch date, or better yet, go for a walk with your friend and get some exercise, too.
  5. Limit contact with negative people. Your may have to work with them, but you don’t have to eat lunch or hang out after work with them.
  6. Learn to speak Positivity.
  7. Reframe the way you view work. Focus on how you help others.
  8. Set boundaries that support your valuesLearn to say “no!” and rediscover your happy place.
  9. Develop curiosity about emotional distress. Think of it as a learning tool.
  10. Take time off and get away. Ovid wisely said ~ “Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.”
  11. Stop the tech addiction. The world isn’t going to end because you completely disconnect from your devices at the end of each day!
  12. Feed your creative side and find a hobby.
  13. Get restorative sleep
  14. Make exercise a priority. Aim to exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes/day. Mix it up with activities you like.
  15. Eat healthfully. Just cut out one harmful item and add one healthful item at a time. It makes a difference.
  16. Avoid narcotics, nicotine and alcohol. Stimulants and depressants alter your brain chemistry. The temporary euphoria isn’t worth the negative effects.
  17. Find a better job. It took courage, but I have never regretted shifting my practice to coaching women!
  18. Work smarter. Hone your time management and organizational skills.

Jonathan Lockwood Huie reminds us, “Say NO to the demands of the world. Say YES to the longings of your own heart.”  Are you ready to make that shift? Does recovering from burnout feel too overwhelming — you don’t know where to start? I’d love to help you create a plan that gets you to where you want to be. Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).

Choose Personal Responsibility Over Blaming Others or Taking Offense

Choose Personal Responsibility Over Blaming Others or Taking Offense“The victim mindset dilutes the human potential. By not accepting personal responsibility for our circumstances, we greatly reduce our power to change them.” ~ Steve Maraboli

A husband and wife were driving through an unfamiliar section of the city.  She read the map and told him to turn left or right at the intersections. He faithfully followed her every direction, until finally she wailed, “Now YOU”VE gotten me lost!” True story? Yes. (It wasn’t my honey and me, it was an acquaintance of mine.) It just illustrates that we, as humans, are quick to blame others for the results of our own actions. We take offense instead of taking personal responsibility.

People have become very confused about how to respond to life, because of conflicting messages they’ve received since childhood. For example:

  • It’s common to praise children for everything, which can inflate the ego and instill a mentality of, “I’m entitled. The world owes me”.
  • Parents make excuses for their children and blame the teachers, when the child gets in trouble or under performs.
  • Rather than learning that actions have consequences, many young adults get bailed out of their problems, so they never learn resilience or what their own strengths are.
  • We’re told “you’re entitled to your feelings and to let it all out”, without learning how to responsibly manage those emotions productively.
  • We’re taught to stand up for ourselves and not be doormats. However, by not giving an inch we hear feedback as criticism from which we must defend ourselves.

We’ve lost our sense of humor and take ourselves too seriously. Becoming offended over real and imagined slights has grown into a problem of epidemic proportions. We see evidence of this in the irritation, sarcasm, hostility, resentment, pouting, grudges, rants, rioting, assaults, road rage, “going postal”, school shootings, and even terrorist attacks.

Here are some things people say in order to avoid taking personal responsibility:

“It’s not my fault!” While excusing ourselves, we hold others to an impossibly high standard.

“It’s not fair!” Because we fail to develop gratitude, we compare our life to others and become embittered and perceive the good others experience as a personal grievance.

“It’s his fault!” Shifting blame, when things go wrong, is easy.

“He started it!” When someone slights you, you respond by giving him the cold shoulder. Your own hurtful behavior is okay, because he did it first.

“He’s out to get me!” It’s all about us. We don’t make allowances for others’ good intentions. Instead we cynically search for their “sinister” reason.

If you want inner peace, cultivating the habit of personal responsibility is vital. I love how Iyanla Vanzant puts it:

“One of the greatest challenges in creating a joyful, peaceful and abundant life is taking responsibility for what you do and how you do it. As long as you can blame someone else, be angry with someone else, point a finger at someone else, you are not taking responsibility for your life.” 

Taking personal responsibility for the good and the bad in your life is one of the most empowering things you will ever do. Only then can you shape your future. Consider this: the word responsibility is made up of two words…response and ability. That means you have the ability to mindfully choose your response to whatever happens. As Viktor E. Frankl said,

“Between stimulus and response, there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” 

Taking personal responsibility is a habit you can cultivate over time. It’s like a muscle memory. You do it often enough, it will become automatic. So it’s up to you to decide. What kind of person do you want to be? If taking responsibility is important to you, start with these suggestions…

  • Before responding, honestly ask yourself, “What part did I play in this situation? How did I make it worse? How could I have made it better?”
  • Recognize your own limitations. You’re not perfect, so give yourself some slack and avoid becoming defensive and prickly, when others point out your “faults”. Accept it with grace and humor. And give others some slack too.
  • Sincerely apologize for your actions or your lack of actions.
  • Welcome feedback and learn from it. Even if you think it’s undeserved, you can find something positive in it, if you look hard enough.
  • Look for the good in others and don’t impute wrong motives. If you’re suspicious, respectfully ask them why they said or did something, rather than jumping to negative conclusions.
  • Accept your life, without judgment and resignation, rather than wishing things were different. View today as a starting point from which you can create something better.
  • Let go of the past. You have the choice and the power to change your future.

Sometimes, we don’t even realize that we’re not taking personal responsibility for our actions. If you’d like to enhance your emotional intelligence and communication skills, so you can turn even the most trying situations into positive outcomes, please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). You can do this!

How to CALM Your Mind Using My 4-Step C.A.L.M. Process

Learn how to CALM your mind by using my 4-Step C.A.L.M. Process. Even in times of great stress, practicing it will help you achieve calm and peace more quickly.“I have never experienced a stressful feeling that wasn’t caused by attaching to an untrue thought. Behind every uncomfortable feeling, there’s a thought that isn’t true for us.” ~ Byron Katie

Many of you are doing a great job of maintaining a peaceful state in your lives through practicing mindfulness and other somatic skills I’ve shared with you. Yet in times of great stress, some clients tell me that they can’t help but revert back to a reactive state, which makes them feel out of control, defensive and on edge. Negative thoughts stream back into their minds. Let me reassure you, that’s quite natural. Don’t give up! The more you practice mindfulness the more it becomes your default method to calm your mind.

To make it easier to calm your mind during stressful times, I’ve come up with an acronym to help you remember the steps to take. It’s C.A.L.M.

Before I dive into how to CALM your mind, it’s helpful to understand the two systems or states your brain functions under –

  1. the reactive fight or flight response (sympathetic nervous system) or
  2. the responsive rest and digest state (parasympathetic nervous system).

To put it simply, these two systems transmit valuable information via your neurochemical systems that make the body/mind connection.

Ideally, you want to experience the responsive rest and digest state most of the time. It’s the “shock absorber” in your brain that stops feelings like fear, frustration or anger from taking total control over your actions. Because you have an underlying sense of security and fulfillment, you can observe your feelings without judgment, name them and rationally cope with them, without getting too stressed out.

The fight or flight response should only switch on occasionally, when you’re faced with real danger. After the threat passes, you should quickly return to the rest and digest state in which you feel safe and peaceful.

Are you ready to learn how to CALM your mind? It will allow you to pause and let your rational brain catch up with your emotional brain and give it some guidance.

C stands for Connect. Connect with what your body and emotions are telling you. Notice your body sensations or physical reactions. Identify the feelings attached to them. Name them. Remember, feelings are not right or wrong. They just are. Work on accepting and exploring your feelings.  

For example, your husband says something that hurts you.

Your response: I feel hurt. I’m clenching my jaw and tensing my shoulders. I feel sick to my stomach. I feel threatened. I feel ridiculed. I feel belittled like when my dad said I was just a stupid girl.

A stands for Assure. Assure yourself that you’re safe. Observe your thoughts. What story or assumption are you telling yourself to make you react this way?

Your response: Oh, I was thinking he doesn’t respect me anymore, that he would leave me. That’s not true. We’re committed to each other. He’s just upset because of what I did. He doesn’t understand. (Breathe…Relax.) I’m safe.

L stands for Live YOUR Truth. It’s possible to cause unnecessary stress for yourself by trying to please someone. The sad fact is we often think we’re pleasing someone by pulling back from our dreams or putting ourselves down, which only makes us miserable. And it makes them miserable, too. That’s not what they want. They just want to understand. Each of us has to live our own truth – not somebody else’s.

Your response: This is important to me, because _____. I know he doesn’t understand. Collect my thoughts, so I can explain it to him patiently and reasonably. He probably feels threatened too. Reassure him that I’m not leaving. I’m committed to our relationship.

M stands for Mindfulness. Mindfully and purposefully choose the thoughts and actions that support the life you want to live.

Your response: I’m a powerful, intelligent woman who has a lot to offer my family, career, and community. I have a purpose and there are things I can do right now to move me closer to fulfilling that purpose. I know I need to include him more often, communicating my desires, plans and goals, so he doesn’t feel left behind. I feel calm, happy, and safe.

Would you like more training on how to calm your mind and live up to your full potential? Then plan on joining us at our Women: Bring Forth the Leader Within Retreat June 20 to 26th in Grand Canary Island. Yes! We’ve changed the name to reflect more accurately how we’re empowering women, like you, to live a vibrant life and make a difference in the world.

12 Strengths of Mentally Strong People – How Many Do You Have?

It’s within your power to become one of the mentally strong people by mindfully making your best choices. Here are 12 mental strengths you can work on to become the best YOU possible.“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”– Arnold Schwarzenegger

Are you one of the mentally strong people? I think you are, because you’re interested in improving your life. That’s a sure sign of mental strength. Most people want to keep the status quo. Change takes too much effort. It’s too scary.

That doesn’t mean mentally strong people are superhuman. Mental strength isn’t about false bravado, acting tough, hiding feelings, or being inflexible. Mentally strong people aren’t afraid to be vulnerable. They know they’re strong enough to handle it, if people reject them or try to exploit them. Because what other people do is their responsibility. Your responsibility is how you choose to relate to events and people.

No matter how strong you are today, if you don’t use your mental strengths you will lose them. This applies to muscle as well as character. As you read the following list, why not take note of what strengths you’d like to work on next…

  1. Mentally strong people are comfortable in their own skin. While you want your loved ones to be happy, you won’t sacrifice your truth and lose your identity. Other people’s opinions will not keep you from what’s important for you.
  2. Mentally strong people give generously. It may seem counterintuitive, but the more you give, the more you get. But getting back is not your motivation for giving. Instead, you’re creating the world you want to live in. The more you give the better your world becomes.
  3. Mentally strong people say ‘no’ easily. We live in a world that preys on our fear of scarcity. Yet you’ve reasoned out what will serve you now and what will clutter up your life with unwanted commitments, unpaid credit debt, unused products, or dust-collecting items in your house.
  4. Mentally strong people are kind. Reciprocity is behind many acts of “kindness” – she invited me to dinner, so now I have to invite her to dinner. It takes strength to break out of that mold and become the one who goes beyond what’s expected and initiates kind acts, without expecting a certain outcome. It takes courage and self-confidence to put yourself out there and risk being rebuffed or unappreciated. But you do it anyway because that’s the kind of person you want to be.
  5. Mentally strong people think for themselves. As you gather more information, you may even change your mind dramatically. That doesn’t mean you’re wishy washy or easily influenced. Instead, it indicates you’re open to growth.
  6. Mentally strong people use weakness as opportunity. Weaknesses aren’t excuses for inactivity or for putting yourself down. They are springboards for taking positive action that corrects a situation, either through learning a new skill or delegating it to another, so you stay within your zone of genius.
  7. Mentally strong people are patient with themselves and others. Instead of demanding instant results or gratification, you know it takes time to create something you can be proud of, like reaching optimal wellness. Each new day is your friend. You hold onto your vision and keep working toward it, little by little. 
  8. Mentally strong people don’t go it alone. Surround yourself with a community of people who support you all the way. 
  9. Mentally strong people challenge themselves. Welcome it when something doesn’t work the first time. It’s an opportunity to grow outside your comfort zone.
  10. Mentally strong people regulate their emotions. Mindfully peel back the layers to identify your emotions and what causes them. If a situation makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t judge yourself – invite that emotion to a Tea Time Exercise. If an emotional response no longer serves you, do the internal work to let it go. You’ll be able to behave in a productive manner, even when you’re upset.
  11. Mentally strong people keep their cool. Even under provocation, hold your tongue. Retaliation may be your first impulse, but it can create irreparable damage to your relationship, so you choose to forgive, let it go or wait for things to calm down before discussing it.
  12. Mentally strong people know when to stay or walk away. The key is not trying to win, but making it work. You have to be strong to work through the discomfort. Yet, when the other person refuses to work with you, act in harmony with your truth and be strong enough to leave, whether it’s an argument with a coworker or a toxic relationship.  

There were probably some strengths that you feel you’ve mastered and others that could use some work. That’s okay because there’s always room for improvement. I’d love to partner with you in your quest for excellence. Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).

Create a Master Plan to Make 2019 Your Best Year Yet!

Create a Master Plan to make 2019 your best year yet! “Stay focused, go after your dreams and keep moving toward your goals.” ~ LL Cool

I can hardly believe we’re at the end of 2018 and that it’s time to get ready for a new year. It’s an exciting time to create the life you want and to define your success. To that end, throughout this month I’m going to be sharing useful tips so you can make 2019 your best year yet!

It’s always good to take some time and reflect on what you did well during the last year. This is when your journal will really be helpful, because we tend to minimize or forget our wins. Or you could write a letter to yourself about the lessons you’ve learned this year.

To up your game and maintain greater focus, it’s vital to create a Master Plan to make 2019 your best year yet. I find that some of my clients get sidetracked in the minutia of life and lose sight of their bigger picture. Where can you start and what needs to be given priority?

#1 Priority – Fuel your body, mind and spirit. If you don’t take care of yourself first, you will not be able to implement the following suggestions. A successful Master Plan will make your own physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellness top priority. Feel free to download my 7-Point Wellness Assessment and it will help you begin creating a healthier YOU today! 

#2 Priority – Make restorative sleep a priority. Your health, mental clarity and ability to be productive depend on it.

#3 Priority – Develop systems. Goals are fine, but if you want to create real change, it helps to have supportive systems in your life so that you perform important tasks automatically rather than relying solely on using willpower.

Before you proceed, please, take care of yourself with these priorities first! Then the following suggestions for developing and maintaining your focus will help you make 2019 your best year yet.

Remove distractions. Use the rest of this year to get rid of the clutter in your house, mind, desk, email inbox or schedule. This will help make room for any opportunity that arises.

Define your goals. When you define your goals according to a yearly, quarterly, monthly, and daily schedule, you’ll be less likely to lose your focus. Yes, that’s a lot of work to do before the year begins, but it’s worth it. It’s how you connect each day’s activities to your significant life goals.

Divide each goal into small tasks. Do you find yourself saying, “Where do I start?” “If” and “then” are small words, but they are indispensable tools in your productivity arsenal. Ask yourself, “If I want to accomplish my big goal Z, then what absolutely has to happen? If I want to work on Y, then I need to finish S, T, U, V, and W.”  Baby steps and microhabits are your best friends for making progress.

Work on hard things when you’re fresh and energized. Days can pass without accomplishing much toward your big goals, if you don’t learn to work to your strengths. Whether you’re a morning person or not, be selfish and keep the first hour of the day for yourself. Start with something that gives you an immediate win, like meditation, exercise and setting your intentions for the day. As you’re feeling confident and centered, you can turn to working on the hardest project of the day. Leave running errands and repetitive tasks for lower-energy moments.

Create and stick to your boundaries. Especially if you work at home, you’ll benefit from creating boundaries about when you answer emails, the phone, the doorbell or when your family can interrupt you. I like this reminder from Steve Jobs:

“Focusing is about saying No.”     

Hold breaks as sacred. Under Oregon law, the typical adult employee who work eight hours must receive at least a 30-minute meal period and two ten-minute rest breaks. Yet many people who work for themselves will not treat themselves that kindly. They push until late at night, skip meals, and work through break times. And their bodies hurt! It’s time to listen to your body and heal yourself from that abuse.

Reward yourself. Celebrate every small or big win each day. Get up and dance, grab a latte, cuddle your cat, buy a flower. Make each win memorable, because that’s how you’re going to know at the end of the year that you really did make 2019 your best year yet!  

If you’re tired of going it alone and are looking for an accountability partner, please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). Let’s work through the rough patches so you can make 2019 your best year yet!  

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