Archive for the ‘Stress and your performance’ category

7 Steps to Help You SLOW DOWN

May 30, 2009

I remember several years ago I had a flurry of speeding tickets. I owned a children’s clothing store which was starting to falter, I had three kids doing various activities, we were building a house, and I never seemed to have enough time to do anything.  I always seemed to be rushing from hither to yon and within a three week period of time, I received two speeding tickets and a warning. I failed to mention that at this time, I was also doing a lot of soul searching on how I was living my life as I WAS NOT HAPPY.

When I was stopped by the cop on the third occasion, I looked at him and pleaded with him to not give me a ticket and apologized profusely.  I GOT IT THEN – I needed to SLOW DOWN – not just my driving but my life as well.

Today when I notice that racing feeling starting inside of me and I take the following steps:

1 – I take a deep intentional breath

2- Ask myself –What is my goal for the next hour or two? I define a segment of time and write down my goal.

3 – What do I need to do to accomplish my goal – I spend time outlining steps, prioritizing these steps, writing them down (this makes them tangible and easier to remember).  This process may take 2-5 minutes and saves valuable energy.

4 -Ask myself – HOW DO I WANT TO FEEL WHILE I AM WORKING ON THIS GOAL – I set the intention that I am present, focused, clear and efficient.  This is easier to do when I set the intention for this period of time i.e. one hour rather than a whole day.

5-  I start working on the steps, breathing and focusing on what I have set out to accomplish – staying in the moment

6 – About 5 minutes before the end of the segment of time (at 55 minutes – set a timer) I decide whether to carry on for longer or to stop working on the goal and write out what I need to do next time I work on it.

7- I take a deep intentional breath and acknowledge myself for the focused, clear, efficient work that I did the previous hour.

If I found that I was not as focused as I wished, I tell myself the truth and try to be gentle on myself and celebrate what I did accomplish. 

In reality I do this about 80% of the time and it works marvelously.  I try to be more intentional with my time because the rewards are endless.

If we don’t acknowledge what we have done we will never see how far we have come.

Blog with you soon.



Giving Myself Permission to do NOTHING

May 24, 2009

Life has been busy for me lately with the re:design and content development of my web site, writing and recording podcasts, writing blog posts as well as seeing clients and all of the administration that comes with owning my own business.  I just took training on Twitter and Linked-in and feel a bit overwhelmed with all I have to do.  I absolutely love it all and feel on track with everything but the volume of work at times seems a bit over the top.

On Tuesday, I felt scattered, had low energy and was really foggy in my thinking.    As I looked at the things I wanted to get done on my “to do”  list, phone calls, emails, banking, content development, editing podcasts etc. as well as writing my speech for Toastmasters, I felt at a loss for where to begin. I knew that I needed to do something otherwise my day would be struggle.

I got quiet for a moment, took an intentional breath and asked myself  “what can I do RIGHT NOW” to get myself on track.  The message I got from my “self” was loud and clear “do nothing”. I thought, “how can I take a break when I have so much to do”. Yet, I know from experience that I need to give myself permission to listen to my body and myself when I get these messages. So, I gave myself permission to “do nothing” i.e. not write my speech, not look on twitter or write a blog,  not do the banking and not respond to emails.  NOTHING!!!

I poured myself a cup of tea, put my feet up and turned on some relaxing music.  I did some intentional breathing and closed my eyes for a few moments.  What happened next for me is a testament to living in the moment.  I followed my energy and picked up a piece of paper to make some notes about what I wanted to do.  Before I knew it, I had  composed my speech for Toastmasters (outline and the content ready to be edited and polished).  From there, I got up, went to see a colleague next door and came across another colleague whom I had been meaning to contact.  We were able to reconnect and set up an appointment to meet. After that, I responded to emails and got MOST of the things completed on my list. It was all done easily and effortlessly.

If I would have pushed through I know it would have taken me 10 times longer.  This way, I took care of myself and got reenergized and before I knew it everything was done.

So next time you feel overwhelmed or are starting to feel like stress is beginning to build, ask yourself “What can I do RIGHT NOW” to feel better.  Then be quiet and listen to the messages and ACT ON THEM.  If you do, I bet you will be amazed at the results you achieve.

Take care all and I will blog with you later.


Feeling good – “in the moment”

May 21, 2009

There has been a lot written about the “Law of Attraction”, “The Secret”,Power of Positive Thinking” and many others to help guide us on the road to living and thinking more positively.  These books and self improvement movements are attempting to teach us that we can manifest and achieve greatness in our lives depending on our perspective and our beliefs.  In order to have the life we want, we need to change how we think and feel in order to achieve what we want to attract in our lives.

This is a very powerful concept and one that brings great success to those who can master the principals.  The reality for many people however, is that this is easy in theory but difficult in practice.  How can we start to change our perspectives and our beliefs in order to live “the life we want”?  My answer to you is “moment by moment”.

I described in a previous post that our body responds to the stories we tell whether real or imagined. If we recount the story of how someone hurt us, angered us, jilted us etc. and we tell this story repeatedly to ourselves or anyone who will listen, we are stimulating the secretion of stress hormones in our body – just by reliving the story. Unfortunately in society today, it is all too common for people to dwell on negativity and sad stories.  Look at what happens every time there is a story of human tragedy; the media overloads us with stories, images etc. to help us relive the tragedy several times each day/week and even months.

So what can you do shift to a more positive life? Remember I told you that our body responds to the stories we tell whether real or imagined.  So if you can reconnect with a positive story, something that makes you smile, something that makes you feel good, then the opposite can happen.  The feel good hormones – serotonin, endorphins, and DHEA are released when we tell a story that makes us feel good.

So what makes you smile? Imagine puppy dogs running with feet that are too big for their bodies, a child learning to walk and how they giggle when they take their first step, the look on the mother’s face as she is encouraging them with love and excitement.  One of my feel good moments is hugging my kids and the emotions that wash over my system when I think of them.  For some people it is a memorable hike, a family gathering, an amazing ski adventure and for others it may be a jump into a lake on a hot summers day.

What are your feel good moments?

Take a few minutes and write them down.

Come up with as many as you can so you have a variety to call on when you want to feel good in the moment

Take one of those moments

Reconnect with the feelings of the time

Imagine your body reliving that moment

Notice how your body feels

Be with this feeling as long as you can

Try to make a habit every morning, lunch, dinner and bedtime to connect with positive emotions – it will help you “feel good – in the moment”

Take care all,


7 Unrecognized Signs of Early Stress

May 20, 2009

People think of stress as being burnt out, crying alot, feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope.   While these are definately signs of stress, they are often preceded by some earlier warning signs that people do not necessarily attribute to stress. These include:

1.  Inability to get a good nights sleep – Many of my clients report that they cannot sleep well because they are  thinking and rethinking about their day as they are trying to get to sleep. Sometimes they wake up in the middle of the night and find it difficult to get back to sleep as they cannot seem to shut off their mind.

2.  Aches and Pains – Research shows that even one stressful thought can lead to changes all the way down to the DNA of our cells.  The aches and pains we experience are like the body is crying out for some relief from the stress that it is facing and it needs to get loud for us to start paying attention to it.

3.  Low Energy – Not only does stress affect the DNA of our cells, it also affects the energy generation of our cells. It is a major energy leak .  Dr. Woodson Merrell in his book “The Source” outlines wonderfully how stress impedes our energy. This is an excellent book to help you develop a plan to return to vibrant health.

4.  Scattered thinking – Have you ever walked into your office and thought “I need to do this today” and 2 minutes later you find yourself on the internet surfing something totally different.  You find yourself starting one project, and then moving onto something else without completing the first.  Not only is this behavior stressful as you do not get your work done, but it is often an unrecognized sign that stress is starting to accumulate.

5.  Foggy Thinking – Have you ever found yourself trying to get a project done but you cannot seem to find the words to write the report or complete the task.  You look at the work in front of you and do not know where to begin.  Once again, with adrenaline and cortisol running through your system at unhealthy amounts we get what is called “corticol inhibition” which means we are not even accessing the brain’s cerebral cortex which is responsible for decision making, problem solving and creativity.

6.  Loss of your sense of humor – Remember when you could laugh at your mistakes, when you did not take everything in your life so seriously, and when you could smile spontaneously at a good memory.  When we have stress starting to accumulate in our bodies, our perspective narrows and we start to take everything way too seriously.

7. Increased negativity – Remember when you could see the good in others, in your children, in your partner and your colleagues.  If you are finding yourself more critical and inclined to gossip or look for what is not working in a situation, this is another unrecognized sign of stress.

Many of these signs are often minimized or ignored. What usually happens when people notice they are acting this way is they get into the negative self talk of the shoulda, woulda, coulda that I spoke about it “How connected are you with you”.

One of the best ways to de-stress “in the moment” is to take 3 Intentional Breaths.  This focuses your attention on the body with the intention of calming it down.

Blog with you later


The Intentional Breath

May 19, 2009

The breath is the most underutilized tool available to us “in the moment”. Research shows that when we breathe deeply into the very base of our lungs that we can calm down our nervous system which is responsible for many of our stress symptoms.

The Intentional Breath brings in life affirming oxygen on inspiration and breathes out stress and tension on expiration.  Take a moment to notice your breathing NOW.


Focus your attention to the middle of your chest

place your hand over this area.

Breathe in deeply through your nose for the count of 5

Imagine your hand moving up and down with the breath.


Blow the air out through your mouth for the count of 5

Notice the sensations running through your body, any warmth or tingling

Breathe normally in between the deep intentional breaths


Place your hand over your solar plexus

(halfway between the belly button and the rib cage)

Breathe in through your nose to the count of 5

(moving your hand up and down with the breath)


Blow the breath out through your mouth for the count of 5

Notice any sensations in your body, warmth, tingling, energy

Breathe normally between the deep intentional breaths


Once again the hand over the solar plexus

Breathe in through your nose for the count of 5

(moving the hand up with the breath)


Blow out through your mouth for the count of 5

consciously blow out any stress or tension you feel in your body

Notice any sensations in your body, how do you feel

Breathe normally

Set up a practice schedule for yourself to do the breathing every morning, every lunch, at the end of the day and before bed. See how you feel and let me know how this works.  Take care all

Blog with you later.


Real life stress

May 16, 2009

My education into the world of stress came to me a few years ago when I was working at a very demanding job. When I took on the job I was gung-ho and set up a variety of systems to insure I did the job well.  I was  organized, articulate and efficient at what needed to get done and  I felt  capable and confident in what I was doing.  As time went on, I  achieved great strides and many kudos from my colleagues.

The demands of the position grew and became overwhelming and unreasonable for me to achieve on my own. I kept pace for a long period of time and did not recognize that it was getting away on me. Some of the signs (in retrospect) that showed me I was not coping well were that I became less organized,more frustrated and overwhelmed by the workload. I had less patience with my colleagues, my clients and myself.  I lost my sense of humor and developed a multitude of aches and pains. I contracted a bad virus that left me with a bout of bronchitis that lasted several months. On top of all this, I had a family with their needs and expectations.  After two years in this pressure cooker position, I reached a breaking point and lost it. Never in a million years would I have seen this coming but what was happening was totally indicative of an excess amount of adrenaline and cortisol running through my veins.  I was totally stressed.

Now some people when they reach this breaking point quit their jobs, others stay and quit their jobs and others go on stress leave. For me, I took stock of my situation and realized that I was not happy both with the job and with the direction my life was going. I did alot of soul searching and asked myself what I wanted in my life.  I realized then that I wanted to move on and start my coaching practice and I did additional education and training and became a specialist in stress and stress management.

Is my life stress free? Do I have stress handled so that I am no longer impacted by its unhealthy grip? Nope! I am human and as such am challenged by the obstacles that come my way. I am much better at recognizing when I am disconnected from myself by getting into the moment so that I can gain some perspective and effectively manage my stress through the use of the “in the moment” tools that I teach. However, life happens and we must respond.   My goal is to react in a way that is in integrity with what I want and what I believe. Sometimes, easier said than done.

In my next post, I will discuss some of the beginning signs of stress so you can become aware of how stress may be impacting your life and your perfomance.  Only through awareness can we bring about change in our lives.

Have a great weekend.


Cortisol – We need you but enough already

May 15, 2009

Cortisol is a hormone that is secreted by our adrenal glands and is a necessary part of our waking and sleep cycles.  We need it to wake us up in the morning but if we have too much cortisol, it can be a problem.

Earlier in the week I spoke about adrenaline, why we need it and what can happen if we have to much. Similarly too much cortisol can have serious health consequences for us. Research shows that people who live in high stress work/home environments with a lot of negativity have excess amounts of cortisol. It is almost like, every time we are confronted with the negativity we need to wake up and be more alert because the stress is arousing us into action. Research also shows that excessive amounts of cortisol can be responsible for increased aches and pains, poor blood sugar regulation, weight gain, poor immune response and other chronic conditions. These facts make it important for us to find healthier ways to combat our stress.

Did you know that we can shift from a negative internal state of high cortisol by shifting what we are focusing on in any given moment? Our body does NOT know if the stories we are experiencing are real or imagined.  When we think of the negative things that happen in our lives and relive the experience of the events, we are sending cortisol into our system just by imaging and reliving the story.

The opposite of this is also true.  When we can relive positive times in our lives and get into how it felt we can shift our cortisol to DHEA (the feel good, anti-aging, vitality hormone).  What this means is, we can make our physiology healthier by focusing on something positive.

In this moment

Think of something that makes you smile and let yourself smile.

Smiling stimulates positive, feel good hormones in your body.

Practice kindness in thoughts and actions

Performing an act of kindness increases our serotonin levels

Observing kindness increases our serotonin levels


Celebrate what is good in your life

We can shift our physiology moment by moment throughout our day.  Remember to breathe and smile.  These simple “in the moment” tools can have amazing results.

Blog with you soon.