Check your emotional pulse and remember to take a break

Have you ever felt isolated and alone at your work or home? Are you missing a passion and zeal for your job or life that you once felt? Have become preoccupied with those you are helping that you think about them while you are away from work? Are you currently satisfied with your life’s work? Have you experienced a loss of energy lately? Do you find it difficult to separate your own feelings from the problems at work? Do you feel like you do not have many friends outside your family and work?

Those are a lot of vital questions. If you answered “yes” to more than one of those questions, you may be feeling like life is an emotional roller coaster. There are highs, lows, boredom, and continual demands in life. Is it any wonder that you feel emotionally drained at the end of a week? When you engage in this (highly stressful or emotional behavior) week-after-week, it takes its’ toll. Likely, the better you are at your job, the heavier the emotional burden. You are not alone. Others are struggling with this same balance. It is normal to feel this way. The question is, what are some practices that can provide you relief from emotional strain? You may need to give yourself permission to read a good book or take a walk in your break time. Sometimes knowing that you have a regularly scheduled break may get you through the day. Think about two or three things you can to do every week for their own personal downtime and emotional well-being.

Life is an unpredictable ride. A lot of emotional stress can be draining. Try a simple experiment this week. If you have either a watch or an electronic calendar on phone or computer that has an alarm built in, set it for 10:30 and 3:30 every day for a week. When the alarm goes off, take a quick Sabbatical. Even if it is only for a minute or two to take a few deep breathes of air and zone out from your work, give this strategy a try for one week.

What I learned selling books door to door

Alright, so during the summer of 2006 I sold books door-to-door in Columbia, Missouri in an attempt to pay for college tuition and rent. As it turns out, I was not much of a salesman. That summer was one of the most challenging summers of my life. I learned a lot about myself, how to sell and ho to work hard no matter what.

While I did not walk away from the experience as a rich man, as others actually did, I did grow as a person in four major areas: time management, positive self talk, self-care and a having a business mentality or mindset.

Let me explain: In time management, I learned to break days into manageable sections. Selling books door-to-door, my team woke up everyday at 5AM. We showered, ate breakfast and drove to our locations. We had to knock on our first door at 7AM. Then we were not allowed to come back home until 10AM where we ate diner and went to bed. This routine started over again Monday -Saturday. Sundays were hardly a day off, since we had to travel three hours to get to an all-day business meeting with other link-minded book salesman in the same larger geographical region.

The thing about time management, first was focusing in. Focus on the first 3 hours. Map out a game plan and work hard for 3 hours. Do not think about lunch or tomorrow, push hard and focus in on the next potential customer.
The second time management tip is the more obvious stuff. There is no time for emails, going to movies, museums, football games, etc….This is not tourism nor a vacation. This is earning wages and working hard.

During the week-long training in Nashville, before heading out to Columbia, we were given a lot of training on selling, thinking like a business person and  we did a lot of practice role-play to get ourselves ready for the actual summer. After the role-plays, mentors and business experts gave us a lot of tips and feedback. They taught us to think positively. They showed us how to do positive self-talk. In between doors, on our drive from home to our locations and even during potty-breaks we were suppose to sing or shout, “It’s going to be a great day!” and “I am a selling machine!” I was pretty unfamiliar with this idea of positive self-talk up until this point in my life. Especially after a complete rejection from a potential customer who is threatening to call the cops, it really is encouraging to look at the positives instead of getting our psyche thrown off by a ragging homeowner. Even if the positive self-talk was just lies, it was still encouraging.

Okay, well with self-care, I learned how to control my energy level. These were long days, even longer weeks. And as I mentioned earlier, I was not very good at selling. So often times, I came away empty handed. The first few weeks I was adjusting to the ridiculous schedule I was not able to focus in on one three hour time block at a time. I was worried about the entire day and that was draining my energy level. Once I figured out how to focus in on the three hour time block, I was able to get my mind off of the worries of the day and just focus on the next street. Each street was a treasure hunt to find a customer. My positive self-talk told me, “someone on this street was going to purchase books today!” I am blessed to have learned this crazy skill of energy preservation. I used this skill again just this past week at a youth-group lock-in. All of the teenagers were napping by 4AM, I stayed away the entire night and didn’t nap until after the lock-in was complete and I was in my bed at home. Mental self-care was all about focusing in on the successes, that was the only way to survive mentally.

Another part of self-care is that I learned that I do not want to be a salesman. I do not want to be a workaholic that does not have time for anything other than making money. I found my true self and many things that I am not passionate about during this summer. But by going through with the experience I can now relate to people who are feeling burn-out of long work days and of the burn-out of sales.

Finally the main thing I learned is about the business mindset. The company, I sold books with, who will continue to go unnamed, had excellent training materials. I still look back at the sales manual today. The training was a great experience. I am thankful for that. I am thankful for not waking up to the dreaded day of selling books in the summer heat of the Midwest.
So I am blessed to have learned a great deal from my time there that summer. Now I can put these things and other things into practice even today. I encourage others to learn also from my experience instead of through the hard way!

Tips for completing your physical goals

If you work in a stressful profession, neglecting your  body makes you very vulnerable to that stress. The most obvious areas of care for one‘s body are diet and physical exercise. A first step towards improvement is becoming conscious of your reality. Take a piece of paper and describe how you are currently paying attention to your diet and getting your exercise. Are you pleased with the result? Also in this journal, describe a first step in improving your behavior for the next week. Reflect on the past, but look forward to the goal, make one simple action plan.
There is always a temptation for small indulgences. You may tell yourself, “I’ve been working hard, doing so much good” or “I deserve that candy bar or extra order of French fries.”  Another may be, “I’ve been so busy meeting the demands of my job that I have just been too busy or too tired to go exercise.” Not all indulgences are bad but they can easily get out of hand. Becoming conscious of them is a first step to keeping a balance in your life. On your paper, list a couple of small indulgences that you have given in to during the past month. I know for me, I enjoy fast food from Wendy’. This is both unhealthy and expensive. If I can cut this one bad habit out for a month, I will save money and realize that I can eat healthier.
If you do make a plan to do exercise, try to make a connection with other people. Some people play sports together, attend exercise classes with others, find a partner to walk with or run with, etc. When someone else expects you to participate, this builds accountability and support for changing your habits. Also making the event social makes it more fun and offers more of a motivation than just the pure physical exercise (which you may actually be dreading). 
These three simple exercises can be useful in helping you accomplish your physical goals this next year. First journal about your plan and then take one step to execute that plan. Second, consider any “indulgences” that are slowly taxing your health. Third, make the exercise (and even the diets too) social, adding a social element offer an alternative motivation to meet your goals. 

Mindfulness Links

There are a ton of resources out there regarding mindfulness, here are a few:

Mindfulness – What is it? Does it really work? – Lifehacker

Mindfulness Helps Undergraduates Stay On Track – Science Daily

Mindfulness Stops Negativity From Sticking To You Like Glue – Huffington Post

Mindfulness: 6 Steps to Better Memory, Verbal Reasoning and Improved Concentration – PsyBlog
Mindfulness:living in the moment– Visual.ly

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for bipolar disorder: a feasibility trial  – PsyDir





Letting go of what you can’t control

Last week, I looked at the Serenity prayer and focused with an example on some things we can control when stressors come. Today, I want to help by giving tips for the flipside, what about the things we cannot control?

Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

In this prayer, there is an element of faith, of a God . There is an element of change and an element of acceptance. Some things we cannot change, while other things we can. So regarding the things that we cannot change, what are we left to do?

Being able to accept things that we cannot change does involve faith. In faith circles, the term is to “let go” of things, of stress and worry for example. But this idea of “letting go” is a difficult thing to define. Especially for people who do not believe in God, letting go is still not an easy task. The definition means to “giving permission or opportunity.” In the sense of how it is used to “let go” of worry, is really like “letting go” if a girlfriend after a break-up. It is giving permission to be free. So when we talk about accepting things that we cannot change, we are able to let them go from our worrying minds. Our minds can be free of these worries!

One last thing  that is really helpful when those fleeting thoughts do come back to us is the use of relaxation techniques. Many of my clients find this simple muscle relaxation technique to be
extremely effective, especially before going to bed:

Begin by finding a comfortable position sitting, standing, or lying down. First focus on breathing. Breathe in forcefully and deeply, and hold this breath. You should be able to count to 5 or even 6 (in your head) as the oxygen enters and and then again as it exits. Let all the air go out slowly, with
it release all the tension. You should see your chest expand and feel it collapse. After about five deep, long breathes we focus on each individual muscle groups but we want to continue this breathing pattern through-out the exercise.

Start with the muscles on your two feet. Tighten all the muscles of your feet. Count to five while holding this tension. Do a final squeeze! Then relax. Let all the tension go. Feel the muscles in your feet go limp, loose, and relaxed. Your feet are not heavy. Notice how relaxed the muscles feel now. Feel the difference between tension and relaxation. Enjoy the pleasant feeling of relaxation in your feet.

I have my clients do their feet first then move up the body, all the way to their head/face. We follow the same basic instructions just instead of “feet,” I say “legs” or “arms.” Throughout the exercise, I stop and remind the client to continue to focus again on their breathing. They need to have slow, even, regular breaths.

This is a simple trick but it really does work and focusing on breathing is scientifically proven to lower heart-rate. sometimes I add things to this technique if the client or I am feeling tired of this same technique. A simple addition is to add another relaxed meditation to it. I like to tell the
clients that they are on a cloud and explain how everything is soft, peaceful, solace and comfortable. There are many similar setting and scenarios that can enable relaxation.