Real Talk · Uncategorized

Can we talk about stress for just a minute?

Usually, once I decide on a topic I want to pursue, I spend days and even weeks pouring over the internet reading as much as I can or talking to friends and family on the subject, trying to learn everything I can about it. I find the best articles tackling the topic, I take notes, and then I start to formulate my own answer to the question in a way that resonates with me and that I hope will translate properly to you.

But I had this crazy thought late last night while I was out walking Winston:

What if I let you into the process?

Instead of coming to you AFTER I’ve written this full-on blog post outlining the “answer” that I’ve come up with, how about I bring you into the finding-out stage. Instead, I can start presenting certain issues or struggles I’m experiencing and we can talk about it together and how they’re affecting our lives. Then, maybe together, we can formulate (via the comments here and on Instagram) ways that we’ve been able to get past the struggle – or just what has proven helpful. But the important part is that we are TOGETHER in the struggles. Do you think this is weird or are you here for it?

So today I want to start by talking about stress because I’d like to write a value-add blog later on easy-to-apply coping strategies for dealing with it on a daily basis. I think it’s safe to say that we all deal with stress, right? But, stress looks very different for everyone. I’d be willing to bet that some of you might even be stressed out right now, right this minute and not even know it. I know that’s definitely been the case for me before. Last week I posted a little bit about it on Instagram and let you in on where my head is and I was honest when I said I was a mess – trying to do everything and nothing all at once!

Here’s what got me thinking about it

well, other than the fact that it’s a very common human struggle…

A few months ago, I was reading a random article about something I can’t actually remember (sorry, I have no idea which article this was or even where I found it) and they mentioned the physical manifestations of stress. For whatever reason, this was the only part of the article that stuck with me; and it has continued to occasionally pop up in my weird little brain since then. Basically, the article discussed the physical effects of stress – like how our bodies (literally) physically respond to it. And this was fascinating to me! I’d never thought about it before and there’s a lot to learn here.

So ever since then, I’ve been paying more attention to my body’s warning signs of stress. And just thinking about stress in general – like, what is it actually?

As I’m sure you probably know from your own experience, stress can be a good thing if used correctly and carefully. It can motivate us and kick us in the butt to get things done when we need it most. But too much of it (like most things in life) can be a bad thing. In a sense, being “stressed” is sort of like being in 911-emergency-mode. It’s our body’s way of responding to threatening or demanding situations in an effort to protect us.

What is actually happening when you’re stressed?

When you feel threatened, your body responds by releasing stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which throw you into emergency mode (aka fight-or-flight). Your heart beats faster, your blood pressure rises, your muscles tighten, your breath quickens, and your senses become a little sharper. Coupled together, these physical changes increase your strength and stamina, improve your reaction time, and even enhance your focus. Your body responds this way in order to prepare you to either fight or flee the “dangerous” situation.

How do I know when I’m stressed?

For me, I can feel it in my shoulders first and foremost. But, I did a little looking around and here’s what I have come up with. Not only can it cause physical aches and pains, but It can also begin to impact just about every system in your body. It can totally suppress your immune system and upset your digestive and even reproductive systems. I also read that (wow this is intense) it can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, etc. Yikes!

Okay but I don’t really want this article to be one where I’m talking AT you.

Talk to me!!

Instead, I want to get the conversation going and see – what aspects of STRESS are we interested in? Here are a few things to get your brain moving but PLEASE add and discuss in comments below:

  • How do you know when you’re stressed?
  • In what ways does your life fall apart when you’re “stressed”?
  • How does stress impact your brain? Is this interesting or not so much?
  • Why do some people pretend it’s cool to be stressed and busy and scrambling around all the time?
  • How stressed is too stressed?
  • Can you chime in?

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Real Talk · Uncategorized

How to forgive (even when you really don’t want to)

I forgive you.

Few words in the English language are more powerful, and yet the idea of forgiving someone who has let us down, hurt us, or betrayed us, can sometimes feel almost impossible.

We might even pay lip service to the words, even as all those emotions and feelings of resentment and bitterness are still there, bubbling just below the surface.  Our mouth says we’re over it, but our heart tells a different story.

The reality is that emotions are powerful; they drive us and shape us into who we are. We make important life decisions based on our feelings—love, fear, happiness, hurt, anger—they all play a role in our core identity. Emotions truly rule our lives.

I don’t have children but I did grow up with much younger siblings and if you have kids, you’re aware of the spectrum of emotions they can feel over seemingly insignificant issues that arise. Every parents likely has had to deal with tears over a sandwich (mustard can be devastating), screaming fits over outfits and hairstyles, and impassioned lectures and debates over bedtimes and story choices. Kids have lots of emotions.

It makes sense as they’re trying to figure out this whole “human” thing. The strange part? When you realize that as adults we experience almost the same spectrum of emotions, over nearly the same somewhat insignificant issues (in the grand scheme of things).

Take, for example, when a friend or family member lets us down. Most of us have been left in tears at one point or another from someone who said something careless or didn’t come through like we thought they would. The devastation and emotion we feel is on par with an eight-year-old’s crushing disappointment at having their best friend choose someone else to have a play date with. And while as adults, we might not pout and storm around the house or pick on our siblings, we still feel all the hurt, sadness, resentment and bitterness. Those same emotions are valid and they occur whether we’re two, 22 or 86.

But when we experience negative emotions (especially anger and resentment) for too long or when we can’t get ourselves back to the joyful end of the spectrum, that’s when things start to go awry.  These very human emotions get in the way of our happiness.  And that is why it is so important to teach yourself how to forgive, even when you don’t really want to. Remember you are doing it for you and not always for the other person.

Sunflower Field

The positive effects of forgiveness.

The scary truth is that years of little resentments and frustrations can build up and start to have an effect on our overall health and happiness. They can destroy our relationships with our spouse, friends and loved ones. While forgiveness for the sake of others is certainly noble, the reality is that we need to learn to forgive to protect our own well-being. Even those not-so-little resentments can destroy us if we can’t let them go.

When we forgive, we feel lighter. We feel less frustration. Sometimes the other person might not even know we forgave them—or they might not even know we were harboring those negative feelings in the first place! It’s said that forgiveness is like unlocking a door to set someone else free, only to realize you were the prisoner all along. By letting go of the things we’re holding on to, we’re actually allowing ourselves to move forward freely and positively.

How to forgive.

There are many challenges to forgiveness, the least of which is the whole “forget” part. You might not be able to truly pretend something didn’t happen, nor is it even advisable or key to forgiving. We can’t actually wipe our memory clean and ever completely forget what happened or why we were upset, but we can stop choosing to replay the scenario over and over in our minds.

Repeatedly focusing on the same thought is called rumination. It’s the loop of tape playing over and over in your head while your spouse peacefully snores next to you, blissfully unaware their comment at dinner is still eating away at you. It’s the, “Ugh, I should have come back with something snappier or a cutting comment,” feeling after you have a confrontation. In laymen terms, it’s dwelling and it’s not healthy.

Write it out.

One way that I find helpful to forgive someone who has wronged me is to write down my feelings. Get out all those toxic feelings, hurts and resentments weighing you down. Now, don’t go writing everything down then mailing off a hate letter to them (which can be cathartic, but rarely makes things better).

Instead, write down your feelings and thoughts just to get them out of your head. End the letter with how you intend to let go of the feelings and why you’re forgiving the person. You don’t have to do anything with the letter afterwards. You may choose to share it with them if you think it’ll be helpful or you may use it as a fire starter, whatever you’d like. It’s just the act of getting everything out of your mind, formulating thoughts and sentences and then letting it go.

Get some distance.

Another key to forgiving someone is to distance yourself from the situation for a while. This is different than giving someone the cold shoulder or the silent treatment. Instead, it’s about giving yourself time to regroup rather than snapping and doing or saying something you’ll later regret.

Go for a walk and wait a few hours before angrily sending off an email or picking up the phone, just take a breather. Do some deep breathing and try to talk yourself through a little perspective. Will this matter in six months? Will it still be important a year from now? In five years will this still effect my life? If the action of the other person was simply annoying, hopefully a few minutes of reassessment will give you a chance to realize it’s not worth spending anymore time on.

This doesn’t mean you should be a pushover either and just pretend everything’s fine when it’s not. It simply means that time heals all wounds and occasionally the sting of certain actions can wear off quickly—before we react and make it worse.

Focus on the positive.

If you’re still having a difficult time with forgiveness, try focusing on the positive aspects of the person you want to forgive. A friend of mine recently shared this little exercise with me. She and her boyfriend are in a long distance relationship and every time she was feeling annoyed or angry with him, she would reference a little post-it note in her wallet where she’d written positive words she associated with him: loyal, kind, funny, and so on. Whenever she felt annoyed, she’d look at the note and remind herself of all of the things she really loved about him, making it much easier to overlook some of the negatives. You could also do the same with a photo or a charm or anything that makes you think and connect with that other person.

You can do the same thing with a friend, your children or a family member. Write down or think of all the things you really appreciate about the person you’re trying to forgive. It’s likely you’ll find the positive aspects of your relationship far outweigh the negative feelings, so the bridge just isn’t worth burning.

Ask for forgiveness.

If you’re still struggling with forgiveness toward someone, consider expressing it and asking them to help you. While it sounds a little crazy and backwards, the reality is that sometimes honesty really is the best policy.

Express your feelings by saying, “I’ve been feeling really upset because of what happened. I’ve been harboring these negative emotions toward you and I want to work it out. I want to ask your forgiveness and help so we can resolve this and make amends on both sides.”

When you show a sincere desire to move past the emotions and resolve the negativity with the other person, chances are they will also feel the same way. Sometimes you might find out they have something serious going on in their life and actually need your help and friendship but they weren’t able to ask for it.

Give yourself the gift of being able to let go of the things weighing you down and polluting your life, including resentment and bitterness. We’re all just humans trying to do our best and everyone is fighting a hard battle. Once we realize we’re on a level playing field, we can move toward resolution.

Forgiveness is hard, I won’t lie to you. Some have this idea that forgiveness shows a weakness but I don’t agree with that. I think having the guts to face a problem and find a resolution is one of the bravest things we can do. I have been through some stuff, and I am sure most of you have as well and people are often surprised by my calmness and ability to not let things fester but the secret is – I don’t do it for others, I do it for me.

If you do one thing for yourself this week, forgive. Forgive that one person or that one event that has been eating away at you. You don’t have to share it with anyone but find a way to forgive it and then put in back in the box and file it away somewhere.

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Real Talk · Uncategorized

13 Tips for being charismatic that are seriously helpful.

Whether it’s letting your personality shine through during an interview, or impressing someone on a first date, it never hurts to turn up your charm and be more charismatic. Being the most magnetic person in a room is a pretty handy skill that can win you friends, while scoring you all sorts of life perks.

If that sounds good, then you might be wondering what it means, exactly, to be charismatic. Think of the best salesperson you know, the person who is able to fit into any group and situation, or the person who is so witty they are able to think of funny and profound things on the fly. This is charisma, this is intelligence, and this is a quality that will take these people far in whatever area they choose to apply this skill.

Once you know how to work it, so to speak, charisma can be used during a job interview to win over your potential boss and land you that dream job. Or on a first date which will likely guarantee a second. Or just when hanging out with friends — especially when they need someone caring, empathetic and fun to hang out with.

Prioritize self-care.

Before you can go off into the world inspiring and impressing people, you’ve got to lay the groundwork by focusing on yourself, this will require lots and lots of self-care. While that means different things to different people, it might include exercising, getting lots of sleep, and eating well. Whatever makes you feel your best.

Say “HI” to people throughout the day.

It’s so tempting to trudge through life without looking up. And hey, sometimes that’s all you can do. But there’s no denying the benefits of occasionally making eye contact, smiling, and greeting people. Over time, you will find more people will be drawn to you because you exude happiness. That is magnetic. Happiness is charismatic.

Pay attention to your posture.

Body language is everything when making a first impression (or second, or third). So don’t forget to pay attention to your posture. If you are slumped into your body, that shows you are tired or your self-esteem may be dipping. While it may or may not be true, it never hurts to give off an air of confidence by standing up straighter.

Be as supportive as possible.

Trustworthy, supportive people are great to be around, so go ahead and work on being that kind of girl. One way to start, is by calling up friends to just check on them. Ask how they are, listen, let them vent. I promise they’ll truly appreciate it.

Be proud of your accomplishments.

Humbleness certainly has its place in life, but sometimes you just want to proudly share your accomplishments. When you are at your best and someone acknowledges you, you will glow. When you glow, people will feel it. What could be better than that?

Focus on your best qualities.

While you’re at it, go ahead and focus on your most charming qualities, too. Take a moment and write down all of the things that are wonderful and fantastic about you. Keep those thoughts and memories with you and you’ll soon be one of those wonderfully positive, magnetic people.

Try to live in the moment.

I love staring into my phone and getting tangled in the Instagram web or a dark hole on YouTube just as much as anyone else. But sometimes you just need to put it down and start a real conversation. The more sociable you are, the more people will enjoy your presence. Put down your cell phone. Stop texting and sending emails when you are with people. Engage with the people right in front of you. I assure you they’ll notice and appreciate getting your full, undivided attention.

Work on your self-esteem.

This one is easier said than done, of course. But the more you work on your self-esteem, the more charisma you’ll project into the universe. Charismatic people are really confident people — people confident in their own skin. People who are comfortable in their own skin tend to have more empathy, and are usually more fun to be around.

Find what’s exciting in everyday situations.

Charismatic people have a knack for finding the fun in any situation that is presented to them. Think about the people who make you feel the most alive. More than likely they’re the people who can turn a trip to the grocery store into a fun adventure … that’s charisma. They’re alive in the moment.

Practice actually listening to people.

Whether you’re meeting someone for the first time, or sitting down with an old friend for lunch, make it a point to truly listen to what they have to say. People who do this make those around them feel heard and understood and above all, comfortable. In a world where that rarely happens, this skill will earn you all sorts of great things.

Remember to make eye contact.

Again with the eye contact, I know. But it really is so so important when it comes to projecting that all-important confidence. It all starts with looking someone directly in the eye when speaking. It really can be what makes the difference between impressing someone, or not.

Ask lots of questions.

Whats one trait of likable people? They ask questions. Lots and lots of questions. People love to share their story, and they also deeply enjoy being listened to. While charismatic people are typically thought of as gregarious characters, they also take the time to let someone else shine while participating in the conversation.

Be your most authentic self.

While it can be tempting to change yourself or tweak your personality in order to be liked, the most likable thing you can do is just the opposite. Every time you reject yourself, you kill your inner charisma gene. So go ahead girl and just be you.

They may take a lot of work at first, but these traits are all so charming it’ll definitely be worth the effort. While it’s not important to be “on” 100 percent of the time, knowing how to turn up your charisma is something everyone should know how to do.

Do you think you could benefit from any of these things? Are there any others that you would add?

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