Doing Life Together
Doing Life Together
By Holly Miller
“Are you ready for the new school year?” is a question I hear every year earlier and earlier into my summer break. It always makes me squirm with anxiety in a regular year. This year, when the questions started coming in July, I answered with “I can’t even get my head around that yet!” I spent the good portion of August ignoring it. Even as I woke to attend my first in-service, I was still in denial that the new school year was starting. To say the start of this year has been challenging is an understatement. Teaching always presents new challenges from year-to-year, but with all of the Covid restrictions, seeing my classes for only 88 minutes once a week and coming up with digital lessons for the rest of the week for them, managing students in-person as well as live on Zoom, ensuring I am covering all of the high school math curriculum at the same pace in this platform, and trying my best to keep my students and myself safe with sanitizing, social distancing, and mask-wearing, I do not recognize what I am doing this year as teaching. And I have 100% NOT been ok mentally. I have sobbed every day after work for at least an hour when I got home up until last week. I wrote this social media post in the height of my anxiety:
I’ve had 5 panic attacks in the last 5 days. I am 100% convinced I cannot do my job. The only way I could convince myself to leave my house today was to mobile order a Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew from Starbucks. Something good waiting for me outside of my house. I picked my drink up and headed to work. Except I didn’t. I went the complete opposite way. Trying to get myself turned around and heading in the right direction, I drive by the place where we found Murdoch after 3 weeks of hopeless hell. I am taking this as a sign that there are things I was convinced were impossible but they came to be and it can happen again. I’m completely lost. But I’m going to do the next right thing.
"I've seen dark before, but not like this
This is cold, this is empty, this is numb
The life I knew is over, the lights are out
Hello, darkness, I'm ready to succumb
This grief has a gravity, it pulls me down
But a tiny voice whispers in my mind
You are lost, hope is gone
But you must go on
And do the next right thing
Can there be a day beyond this night?
I don't know any more what is true
I can't find my direction, I'm all alone.
How to rise from the floor?
But it's not you I'm rising for
Just do the next right thing
Take a step, step again
It is all that I can to do
The next right thing
I won't look too far ahead
It's too much for me to take
But break it down to this next breath, this next step
This next choice is one that I can make
So I'll walk through this night
Stumbling blindly toward the light
And do the next right thing
And, with it done, what comes then?
When it's clear that everything will never be the same again
Then I'll make the choice to hear that voice
And do the next right thing"
- The Next Right Thing, Frozen 2
Murdoch in this story was our beloved dog my husband and I had before we were married. A friend was watching him in 2012 when we went to New York City for the day. He was a very anxious dog and when she went to let him out, he snapped his leash and ran off. Murdoch was lost for 3 entire weeks. 21 days. Over Christmas. We did absolutely everything we could to bring him home. We barely slept, barely ate, and were out in the cold and snow non-stop posting flyers, talking to people to ask if they saw him, checking out reported sightings, trekking through wooded areas, streams, and fields to find him. While we felt so hopeless, we never gave up. I never prayed for something harder in my life. 21 days later, down to the hour he escaped, we got a call that he was sighted near a housing development in a field. We were able to secure him. We got him back 6 miles from our house. It was an unbelievable miracle that came true. I always look to this as my personal miracle and proof that with God, all things are possible.
I bring up this story because often when I read in the Bible of Jesus performing miracles and his disciples doubting him, I always get kind of frustrated with his disciples at first. “Um, He is JESUS! You’ve witnessed this man do miracle after miracle! How can you doubt him?!” And then I realize I do the same in my own life. When I got lost on my way to work (seriously, how do you get lost on your way to a place you have driven to over and over again for years) and drove by the spot where God granted me the biggest miracle of my life, I knew it was no mistake. I was being reminded of who is in control when I feel out of control. Despite how terrible I am feeling mentally, how difficult I am finding it to do my job and even just function as a human being, despite my fears, doubts, and worries, I know I have already won this mental battle.
“No, we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” – Romans 8:37-38
I sometimes get so caught up in drowning that I forget to look up to see that I’ve been rescued all along. While starting the school year has been tough on all of us, teachers, students, and parents, I am trying my best to remember that this battle I am trying so hard to fight has already been fought and won. Not only will we get through this rough patch, we will more than conquer it.
While Holly Miller has eclectic passions, interests, and hobbies, she is easily summed up as a high school mathematics teacher who found a way to thrive despite her anxiety and depression. Her goal is to spread awareness about mental health, inspire those who struggle to see that they are not alone and show them that they can find light in even the darkest of places. She enjoys spending time with her husband Luke, their two dogs, two cats, and Russian tortoise. While she may not have many impressive credentials, Holly believes there is magic in the ordinary every day and that a simple life is a good life. Holly can be reached email@example.com
By Holly Miller
As a rule, when I am on Summer Break, I put up personal barriers so I can relax. I do not allow myself to dwell on the past school year or worry about the upcoming one. The 2020-2021 school year, however, causes more anxiety than usual. “Are we going back to in-person instruction? How will social distancing work? Are we really expected to enforce mask wearing for students of all ages? If we go to a hybrid schedule, how will I have time to teach in person and online all in one day? Students are going to be eating lunch in my room?! How do I space 30 desks 6 feet apart in a 20 by 20 room?” All of these thoughts and more started seeping into my relaxation time once summer break began. I threw up my barriers again because, as a teacher, I have no say in what this upcoming school year will be like, so why stress about it? I do want to write this month’s blog to frame this upcoming school year in hopes of insight and easing some worry.
If you are a parent of a student, I know you have so many questions. I know there was so much that you would like to see improved upon if we are doing online education again. I realize what a hard choice it will be to send a student to school or continue distance education if you are given that option. But here is the number one thing you can do to help your student. Have a positive attitude. Children are VERY perceptive. They can instantly pick up on how you are reacting to hard news. When schools closed in the Spring, did you huff and puff and complain? Then I guarantee your children did the same. If you tried to give it your best effort and tackle what you could with what you had, I bet your children were willing to at least TRY to follow your example.
So no matter what is decided for the upcoming school year, realize those decisions are pretty much out of parents’, students’, and teachers’ hands. What we CAN control is how we react to these tough decisions. We can change our attitudes to meet challenges head-on. Will this upcoming school year be all rainbows and smiles? Probably not. Be willing to roll with the punches, expect the unexpected, and be ready to adapt to multiple changes. Children learn by example, so we must lead by example. I’m not saying we can’t be sad or disappointed if things don’t go how we would want, but we have to meet this school year with a ‘can-do’ attitude and I know it will go much better than those who find something to complain about at every twist and turn. If I hear the word ‘unprecedented’ one more time, I might scream, however, these times are truly unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. I NEVER would have imagined my school year would have ended the way it did. We all must realize that while we are all in the same storm, we may not be all in the same boat. So have a great summer break, do things that make you and your family happy, and be ready to return to school rested and ready to rise to the challenges we will be facing. We can do this if we BELIEVE we can do this!
By Cherie Faus Smith
I have always considered myself a strong woman. After all, I’ve survived three abusive relationships involving intimate partners, am a melanoma cancer survivor, and clawed myself out of the trenches of depression and anxiety that left me with dirty fingernails.
Do I feel sorry for myself? NO!
Why don’t I? Because I have a strong woman in my life who has shown me what it takes to be a survivor, I call her mom.
Looking back on my childhood, I realize that my strength came from watching her persevere.
As a teenager, it was a tough transition. I left my friends and moved to a neighborhood full of strangers.
My brother and I made the best of it even though we found trouble or trouble found us (shh…that’s a secret).
There is a saying that my parents often repeated, "If things aren't going your way, punt. It's not the end of the world." That has stuck with me my entire life because life isn’t always easy – there are lots of lessons to be learned along the way.
Thanks to her, I’ve grown into a strong and confident woman. But what happens when that woman breaks?
Recently, we said goodbye to our precious dog, Sadie. It was unexpected, and she has left an enormous hole in our hearts.
When I found her, she was standing on the side of the road, eating pebbles. I wasn't supposed to be on that road that day. The path that I usually take was under construction, and there was a large orange detour sign. I was annoyed knowing I was already late, but then I saw her - this beautiful creature with black fur, cream paws, and tan markings above her eyes.
I stopped and opened the van door. She immediately hopped inside, walked to the front, and plopped herself on the passenger seat, looking at me as if to say, "Hey, let's go! Floor it, lady."
We did everything we could to find her owner, but after a month of no luck, we made her part of our family.
She instantly became my shadow and was by my side during my cancer diagnosis and recovery, depression, and anxiety bouts. Most importantly, she was there day in and day out for the last nine years to provide constant companionship. She was the best dog ever, and I miss her every day.
The day after we said goodbye, I sat on the sofa, bawling my eyes out while my body shook. I was inconsolable, and even my husband couldn’t help. I’m sure he felt extremely helpless, watching me fall apart.
I distinctly remember saying, "I'm breaking."
She was going to be my riding partner once I bought that Jeep that I’ve had my eyes on for the past year.
She was going to fill that void when our son moves into his place this fall.
I had so many plans for the two of us. Life isn't fair, and I wanted more time with her.
I’m a fighter.
I'm a survivor.
I'm a tough cookie.
But even strong women break.
I have a passion for supporting women and created a Facebook Group called Sisterhood of Fabulous and Fearless Women. Would love for you to join.
By Holly Miller
Our brains are amazingly powerful. That brain power can do some astonishing things to our bodies. It has caused me to shake uncontrollably for weeks, make me feel dizzy for days on end, overwhelm my body to the point of passing out, and pack on weight. When harnessed for good, my brain helped me to calm myself, clear my skin, and lose weight. There is this chemical in our brain called cortisol that can change your life for better or worse. If you want to read more about it, here is a quick guide: https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-cortisol
If you don’t believe in what our brains can do to our bodies, take a look at the picture that accompanies this blog post. That picture is of the same woman, in the same classroom, 4 years apart. Look at the lady on the left. Blotchy red skin, round face, glassy eyes, defeated expression. She looks nothing like the lady on the right who looks bright, happy, and ready to tackle life! But both are me! After I got some medical help from my doctor, I began to re-evaluate how I let my brain speak to me. “You are worthless.” “You always fail at everything you do.” “You will never truly feel happy.” Would you let anyone say these things to your best friend? No? Then why do we say them to ourselves?! The way we speak to ourselves (self-talk) can affect our cortisol levels. Your brain has that kind of power. Look at that photo again! The woman on the left was not kind to herself in the least. The woman on the right looks like someone I would want to give me a pep-talk. We cannot allow ourselves to speak in a way that we NEVER would to someone else.
I was struggling to write a blog this month. I realized it was because I was slipping back into negative self-talk. I think so many of us don’t even realize we are doing it. We need to be more aware of how we talk to ourselves. Our brains can be re-wired for our benefit. I love this article: https://brainspeak.com/how-negative-self-talk-sabotages-your-health-happiness/ It talks about how we can literally change our brains to affect our bodies for good health. It seems so cliché to hear, “Just think positive!”, but our brains depend on it for our health, mentally AND physically.
Next time you have a negative thought about yourself, I challenge you to change it. Whenever I find a bad thought coming into my head, I picture a loved one in my mind and make myself say that thought aloud to that person. I immediately come to that person’s defense. “You can’t talk to her like that!” “She is an AMAZING person.” “BACK OFF! Why are you being so mean?!” Why do we not champion ourselves like that? YOU are the most influential person in your life. It’s time to take back that powerful brain of yours and use it for good!
While Holly Miller has eclectic passions, interests, and hobbies, she is easily summed up as a high school mathematics teacher who found a way to thrive despite her anxiety and depression. Her goal is to spread awareness about mental health, inspire those who struggle to see that they are not alone and show them that they can find light in even the darkest of places. She enjoys spending time with her husband Luke, their two dogs, two cats, and Russian tortoise. While she may not have many impressive credentials, Holly believes there is magic in the ordinary every day and that a simple life is a good life. Holly can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
A lot has happened in the past couple of weeks and we are all impacted at one level or another. Dealing with the emotional (and other) toll of corona was hard enough and now the issues of social injustice, racism, and safety are front and center. Many have lost their lives in the past week and beyond.
In the past few days, I have had many courageous conversations in diverse circles. I talked with my church small group on what the church can do to be the solution. I have also had friends who asked me what they could do to help. Emotions are high and so is helplessness.
And I understand both but I want to remind each of us that we need to have faith and hold on to hope. We also need to remember thatchange starts with each one of us. In order to change the world around us, we need to first change ourselves.
Furthermore, I want to tell you personally that I see you. I see you wanting to do your best and feeling like it's not enough. I see you having so much to say and not sure if it's the "right" thing to say. I see you wanting to make a difference and not sure where to begin.
I see you being filled with anger, frustration, sadness, confusion and even despair at times. And I see you. I see you because I too, am dealing with similar emotions and I have been working hard at recentering myself.
I see you and I want you to know that you are not alone in what you think and feel.
I see you and I'm only a click away if you need a safe place to be heard.
I see you and I want to hold space for you!
The recent events have been affecting my emotions big time and I needed to center myself in prayer this morning, maybe you need this as well. If you would like to pray with us on a regular basis, join us at https://www.facebook.com/groups/PrayWithChou/
By Holly Miller
After almost two full weeks off of school and a really nasty upper-respiratory virus, I found myself unmotivated to start a project I so happily signed on for earlier when the world seemed a lot more bright, shiny, and promising; this blog. And every year I have to remind myself that ‘this is just how it is’ this time of year for me. As a teacher who also struggles with anxiety and depression, having my routine shaken up, spending hours of unstructured time alone, and then being thrust back into ‘the real world’ again after winter break can be really tough. And I know it can be so hard on my students too. After the lights are taken down and the cheerful trappings of the season are packed away, the world sometimes looks even darker than it did before the holidays.
And you would think that after over 30 years in academia, I would be used to this – having my routine come to a screeching halt and then having to re-start it again in the new year. But every new year presents the same main issue I always struggle with – starting again. Although it is never easy, I guess I have a good amount of experience in starting again (and getting 150 teenagers to re-start again with me when we return from break). While these are not groundbreaking tips, these are things that are tried and true and always help me struggle less when heading back to school after the winter break or just starting again in general. So whether you or your kids are heading back to school after some time off, here are some things to help.
1. Be prepared.
It always eases my anxiety by picking out my outfit the night before, packing my lunch, and knowing what I’m making for dinner when I come home from school. Having a plan helps push out some unease.
2. Ease back into your routine.
It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with things I need to accomplish. I allow myself some time just to go to school, put in a solid day, then come home and do nothing else. I try not to overschedule myself. I give myself permission to relax when I get home for the first few days back from break. While things need to be accomplished, giving a little downtime is absolutely necessary.
3. Plan something you look forward to.
One of my colleagues a few years ago started “Taco Night” in our group of teacher friends. Once a month, someone would take a turn to host dinner and we would all gather for a night of food and board games. It was fun to look forward to those dinners after the holidays were over. Something small like a movie night or allowing your student to pick a meal for dinner one night a week goes a long way.
4. Yoke unpleasant tasks with something you enjoy.
Getting back into a routine means getting back to things we don’t always love. I HATE doing dishes. (Yes, our house built in 1955 has never been updated to include a dishwasher). So I set my iPad up above the sink and watch Gilmore Girls while doing a task I dread. Pair something not so great with something enjoyable helps unpleasant tasks go faster.
5. Watch your self-talk.
Somebody once told me “speak to yourself as you would your best friend on their worst day”. I try really hard not to put myself down or beat myself up for things I didn’t accomplish. My mantra for teaching is “you get done what you get done, and whatever didn’t get done wasn’t all that important”. Our to-do lists are never-ending. So recognize good stopping places and congratulate yourself or your student for a job well done.
As we go into 2020, a lot of us may feel overwhelmed at the whole year ahead of us. Martin Luther King Jr. said “Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” I don’t know about you, but looking at the whole staircase raises my blood pressure. But taking the first step, that’s something I’ve done a hundred times and that something I can do again. I am looking forward to a year of blogging about mental health, education, and just being a human. And I just took my first steps into doing so!
While Holly Miller has eclectic passions, interests, and hobbies, she is easily summed up as a high school mathematics teacher who found a way to thrive despite her anxiety and depression. Her goal is to spread awareness about mental health, inspire those who struggle to see that they are not alone and show them that they can find light in even the darkest of places. She enjoys spending time with her husband Luke, their two dogs, two cats, and Russian tortoise. While she may not have many impressive credentials, Holly believes there is magic in the ordinary every day and that a simple life is a good life.
Holly can be reached email@example.com
It' easy to be grateful when things are going well, but do you keep that gratitude going when things get tough? Here are 3 ways to be grateful for the hard stuff. I also have a gratitude journal to help you cultivate an attitude of gratitude no matter what you're going through. Get it at http://bit.ly/gratitudejournal2019
We’ve come to the end of our mini-challenge, and we’ve covered quite a bit of information. You’ve learned why acknowledging, embracing and expressing gratitude is so important. You’ve also learned a few specific ways to begin a practice of gratitude in your own life. I’d like to expand on that as we end our challenge to provide you with a more in-depth list of helpful tips to tap into the power of being grateful. You can use these ideas as you move forward in creating your own routine.
Take a Gratitude Walk
Going for a walk is a great way to relieve stress and gain perspective. It offers a number of advantages. You leave your regular environment, get out in the fresh air and move away from distractions. It’s a form of physical exercise that comes with all sorts of health benefits. Walking can even be considered a form of meditation. It’s a fabulous way to focus on gratitude. During this particular jaunt, pay special attention to the things you encounter along the way. Chances are, you’ll discover plenty to be thankful for during your walk.
Make a Gratitude Collage
A fun way to acknowledge your gratefulness in a visual way is to create a gratitude collage. This process works in a similar way as a vision board. You can cut out pictures from a magazine or add personal photos. Your collage can simply be laid out on a poster board or you can get more creative and decorative. You can even keep your board electronically on Pinterest or some other app. The point is to collect images that move you to consider your good fortune. It’s a good idea to put your board in a place where you can see it or access it daily. You might even want to add to it to keep its momentum going.
Hold a Friendsgiving
Friendsgiving is like Thanksgiving, only with friends and chosen family instead of biological family. This special occasion is often held in place of traditional Thanksgiving for those who don’t have family physically nearby or who aren’t emotionally close with their relatives. Sometimes it takes place near the actual holiday. You can get creative, though, and hold your own special gathering, customized to your needs, any time you wish. A gratitude party or get-together can remind you of the people who are most important in your life and enhance existing bonds.
Look for Gratitude in Challenges
Let’s turn things around a bit. You probably know how easy it is to focus on the bad stuff. Sometimes we get stuck in the negative and allow it to weigh us down. That’s natural, but you can interrupt that cycle by consciously working to find the gratitude in life’s challenges. Look for the lessons or the silver linings. Be sure to write them down in your gratitude journal or make a note of them in some formalized way so that you can look back and remember the good that came from adversity.
One of the most impactful ways to gain perspective and be grateful for what you have is to help others in need. This can be through a formal volunteer effort with a philanthropic organization or it can simply be something like helping a neighbor you see who could use a hand with his lawn. No matter what the effort, you’ll reap the rewards when you pitch in to give to others. Try to do something to help someone else at least once a week, and you’re sure to experience a boost in gratitude.
Give these ideas a try. Research or brainstorm some additional ones on your own. Just get started so you can see just what a difference embracing a mindset of gratitude can have on your entire life.
We’ve talked about the process of writing in a gratitude journal and the kinds of benefits that activity can offer. Writing is a powerful process. Sharing your written words of appreciation with others can have an even bigger impact than journaling privately. Personal notes can really brighten a person’s day, and make many positive impacts in the lives of those receiving them and those giving them.
Writing Has Power
In a busy world, we can get caught up in ourselves and the things we absolutely must accomplish each day. It’s easy to forget to acknowledge the important people in our lives. It’s for precisely this reason that receiving a note of thanks or appreciation is so very meaningful. People simply don’t receive these spontaneous offerings on a regular basis. That’s why setting aside the time and taking the effort to write such a message is so powerful, for both you and the receiver.
Sharing Gratitude Strengthens Bonds
A personal note or message goes far to show you care. Words have meaning, but it’s often said that actions speak louder. The recipient of your note will be surprised to receive it. A positive surprise almost always improves someone’s day and mood. This can be especially impactful if you intentionally send your message to someone you know is going through a rough patch. Regardless, this small gesture will go far to strengthen existing bonds because it’s such a customized act. When people feel a personal attachment, they tend to experience feelings of closeness and meaning. Your written acknowledgement of their importance in your life will surely affect your relationship in a positive way.
Ideas to Get You Started
Your words of gratitude don’t have to be in hand-written form, though it truly is a nice touch that’s a rarity these days. You can send electronic correspondence, if you prefer. Your message doesn’t have to be long, either. Any written words of appreciation will be a start and can be quite meaningful.
Here are some examples:
***Grab my new gratitude journal and start cultivating an attitude of gratitude.
If you’re still on the fence about starting a practice of gratitude for yourself, I’d like to issue you a simple challenge. Just for today, find just one random thing in your environment to be grateful for. This is a low-stakes activity that can be a great way to jumpstart your pursuit of gratitude
What to Look For
It’s easy, really. There are things to be grateful for, even on the difficult days. In fact, it’s even more impactful when you discover little rays of light in the darkest times. You can look for anything within your daily routine that inspires you. If you don’t leave your home that day due to sadness or inability, perhaps the very roof over your head could be your source of gratitude. Even a beautiful flower out your window might be enough to influence your mood for the better. Find just one thing and focus on that.
What You Can Expect
Let’s be realistic. Taking a minute to notice one thing you’re grateful for in your day probably isn’t going to completely change your life. However, it could be a significant jumpstart toward moving you in the right direction. This is especially true when you’re going through a difficult period. Turning a long-standing low mood around even slightly by acknowledging one small good thing can be quite meaningful. Remember, our thoughts influence our feelings and behaviors.
Sometimes all it takes is one small catalyst to spark major change. Some consider this the “baby steps” philosophy. Every habit or practice begins with one small step. Taking a moment to be grateful for just one thing in your environment today can improve your mood, even just a little bit. You may notice a weight is lifted from your chest or that some of your anxiety has eased. Hold onto that feeling. Notice whether your perspective improves after reflecting on gratitude just once today. This lift in your mood and brightened outlook can lead you to feeling better, which then influences your actions in a positive manner. You might just notice it’s a bit easier to find that one thing to be grateful for tomorrow.
Give it a try. Find one tiny spark to light the flame of gratitude today. Be intentional in noticing the effect it has on you. You may find it’s simpler and more rewarding than you realized to begin your gratitude practice.
*** Are you keeping track of what you are grateful for? Here is a journal to help you do that!
You’ve probably heard of both meditations and affirmations, though you may be uncertain of just what they are and how they work. These two practices are actually quite simple to add to your routine or even to use in a particularly stressful moment to gain perspective. Let’s take a look at how to use gratitude meditations and affirmations to boost your spirit anytime.
What Are Meditations?
A meditation is really just a practice of taking some quiet time to be mindful and focus your attention on a particular thought or issue. It’s a moment of silent reflection that focuses you on the here and now. Gratitude meditations involve focusing your thoughts on being grateful for the particulars of your life or situation, even the ones that may not seem so positive. Your gratitude journaling can be considered a meditation, even. Any contemplative, purposeful time spent focused on being grateful can fall into this category.
What Are Affirmations?
Affirmations are short, concise and positive sentences that are meant to purposefully affect the ways in which we think and feel. These can be in both conscious and unconscious ways. What we think greatly influences how we feel and behave. Introducing these positive messages into your life on a regular basis can help you to internalize them and begin living accordingly. Gratitude affirmations focus specifically on being grateful and appreciative.
How to Use Them
Both meditation and affirmation are easy to put into practice. They can be used almost any time and anywhere. When you think of meditation, a long, intensive ritual may come to mind. In actuality, you don’t need to spend a lot of time meditating in order to reap the benefits. Simply sitting quietly for a few minutes and contemplating on what you’re grateful for can help to center you and to provide new perspective, which often will lead to feeling better. If you want something more structure or have more time, you can look up guided gratitude meditations online or grab a meditation app to try. I personally use Abide and Headspace.
When it comes to affirmations, a good practice might be to combine them with your gratitude journal. Write down positive messages that apply to your life and help to inspire or motivate you. Perhaps you want to keep them in a separate journal or store them online. Then you can pull out your collection of affirmations for a pick-me-up when you need one.
Gratitude meditations and affirmations are simple tools that offer a big return. They take only a few minutes to practice, and you really don’t need any special equipment. Give them a try when you feel you could use an injection of gratitude in your life.
***You can write you affirmations in your gratitude journal.
Once you get into the habit of contemplating what you’re grateful for each day, it’s time to consider making it a written activity. This can be intimidating for people who don’t like to write or who feel they may not have time to dedicate to such a practice. In all honestly, it really doesn’t take much more time to write it down than to simply think on what you appreciate, and you don’t need strong writing skills in order to jot down three sentences. Let’s see if we can’t make the process seem less stressful. There truly are some amazing benefits that come from the physical process of creating a record of gratefulness.
More About Gratitude Journals
While it’s called a “gratitude journal”, it’s actually a tool or a record. You don’t have to write in a paper journal. The important part is that you take the time each day to record a few things that make you feel fortunate. Doing so can actually help to manifest more positive things. Writing down what you’re appreciative of each day brings that sense of gratefulness to the forefront. It allows you to focus on the positive, helping you to spot opportunities you might otherwise have missed. Keeping a gratitude journal gives you a written record to pull out and look back on any time you’re feeling less than fortunate. It can provide you with motivation in the toughest of times.
Benefits of a Gratitude Journal
There are many benefits to keeping a gratitude journal. Instilling a writing practice in this way ensures that you maintain a focus on positivity. Sure, sometimes bad things may happen, but this overall emphasis on finding the good can help to provide you with the resilience to keep going. Your stress levels will decrease as you begin embracing an attitude of gratitude. Plus, the act of writing can be therapeutic in itself. Writing also helps to give you a different perspective on things that you might not see as readily without engaging in the process. You can identify patterns and insight into your life that might help you to find opportunities and to grow.
Tips for Using Your Journal
The most important thing when it comes to a gratitude journal is consistency of practice. Some journal twice daily. Others prefer once. Regardless, it will only be effective if you use it regularly. One of the best ways to help yourself want to use your journal is to choose a format you enjoy.
Don’t force yourself to write in a journal by hand if you prefer to use electronic methods. You can keep your records in a simple word processing spreadsheet or use one of many apps that are available for this purpose. On the other hand, if you are inspired by a beautifully-bound paper journal, find one that speaks to you and start writing your thoughts down immediately. No matter what you use, keep it handy by your bedside or on easily accessed devices.
Turn your routine into a ritual. Make it a process that feeds your soul. Incorporate your morning coffee into your journal writing or light a candle with a lovely aroma to accompany your routine. Just make it yours.
A gratitude journal can be an insightful and life-changing tool. Remember, you only have to write three simple things you’re grateful for. There’s no need to make it complicated. Start your record keeping practice today and see what it can do for you.
Gratitude can be simply broken down to appreciating the good things in your life. It doesn’t always seem simple, though. When things are hectic or stressful, finding the silver lining can be challenging. However, learning how to embrace gratitude can significantly boost your happiness. Being grateful offers a host of other benefits you’re probably not aware of, too. Let’s take a closer look at the concept, ways it can improve your life and how to practice it.
There are many definitions of gratitude. Some people believe it’s a feeling or emotion. Others look at it as more of a mood. Still, some folks believe gratitude is a personality trait a person exhibits. These can all be correct. In essence, gratitude elicits satisfaction and appreciation in a person through feelings, actions or even inherent qualities. However, even those of us who may be more inclined to feel grateful on a regular basis through our glass-half-full-optimism likely need to work on evoking such an outlook. Gratitude can be viewed as a practice or something you perform regularly. Most people practice something because it benefits them. This is true of gratitude. As with other practices, you’ll get better at demonstrating gratitude the more you work at it.
Benefits of Embracing Gratitude
There are many benefits of gratitude; many of them have been scientifically proven. Once you begin to understand these, chances are good that you’ll see why it’s so important to develop a grateful mindset. Gratitude can have a positive effect on both physical and mental health. Research has shown it to improve relaxation, sleep quality and energy levels. Being thankful for your blessings can enhance your emotional wellness. You’ll deal better in crisis situations and find you’re more resilient when you’re able to look on the bright side. This can contribute to better relationships, too. Appreciating the positives in life can simply make you feel happier.
Ways to Practice Gratitude
Recognizing your blessings may not come easily at first, but there are some ways to help make it a habit and a regular part of your routine. One of the most convenient and impactful methods for cultivating appreciation is through keeping a gratitude journal. In this practice, you’ll write down three things each day that you’re grateful for, which makes it easier to notice and recognize those good things. Meditation has also been shown to help. Also, making an effort to thank someone each day, for even the smallest thing, opens your eyes and heart to abundance. Giving back and doing good for others can provide tremendous perspective, as well.
Now you have a better idea of just what making a concerted effort to count your blessings can do for your life. Embracing and expressing gratitude are more important than many of us realize.
What gratitude strategy will you practice today?
Do you find yourself looking at a glass as half empty instead of full? Do you tend to look at the things in your life that are going wrong instead of those going right? You can train your brain to go from negative to positive. This video is all about helping you change negative thoughts into positive ones and create positive pathways in the process.
Need help in this area? Then email firstname.lastname@example.org.
**This video was initially recorded in our women group.
Anxiety is something many of us deal with on a daily basis. However, there are individuals who are debilitated by constant thoughts of anxiety; so much that the daily activities of life are impacted.
While medication is available to help with anxiety, it doesn’t have to be the first line of treatment you seek out. Some medications come with lots of adverse effects and cause the user to build up a dependence. If you are seeking out natural ways to calm your anxiety- those without lingering negative effects and which are likely to help you cope better in the long run, then let’s explore some options.
Sleep Enough At Night
Lack of sleep causes your brain to go haywire- playing all sorts of tricks on you and decreasing your emotional tolerance as a whole. You may find that following even just one night of sleep loss your performance will decrease, and you will be prone to anger and agitation. Strive for a minimum of 7 hours nightly to keep your brain chemistry on point.
In our house, we use Melatonin and Lavender essential oil to help us fall asleep and stay asleep.
Exercise is one of the best medicines we have at our disposal, as there are few things that are comparable to the range of health benefits it offers. Exercise, similar to sleep, helps to naturally manage anxiety and depression, by increasing levels of feel good and stress busting chemicals known as endorphins.
Anxiety if partially worsened by high levels of adrenalin, and even though exercise does temporarily increase these levels, the endorphins temper its effects and leave your mood on a high for hours afterwards.
Earlier this year, I bought myself a full-body vibration platform and it has been one of the best investment I ever made. It’s perfect for me, especially due to my limited mobility, and get this: 10 minutes on this thing equals to 1hr of jogging!!! I can’t jog but I can stand or sit on this thing for half an hr. I even have my walker around it for stability. You can check it out here.
Eat Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate has numerous benefits on health, and is not your typical sugar laden variety. Dark chocolate is particularly effective in reducing the impact that the stress hormone cortisol has on our body, including precipitating anxiety.
Its mode of action is unique, as it relays relaxation from the stomach to the brain. Similar to the way that you feel nervousness in your stomach, the vagus nerve gets activated when you eat dark chocolate.
Try To Get Sunlight Daily
People in colder climates have been observed to develop a condition known as SAD (seasonal affective disorder), which comes on during the winter months when sun exposure is limited.
Symptoms of SAD include depression, irritability and increased anxiety, all of which resolve upon exposure to sunlight. If you do live in such a climate, and are unable to get exposure to the sun when winter comes, artificial light therapy also helps improve symptoms.
Consume More Omega-3
Omega-3 fatty acids are strong anti-oxidants, and may help to stem the cause of your anxiety. Typically, the two hormones that are elevated during anxious moments are cortisol and adrenalin, both of which respond negatively to the influence of oxidation.
Omega-3 fats combat excessive oxidation and are anti-inflammatory, helping boost production of serotonin and dopamine, and helping keep your anxiety response normal. I like THIS brand of Omega-3 supplements.
These are just a few natural ways you can combat anxiety. Start with one or two of these and add more as you are able.
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There’s a growing number of people struggling with their work-life balance. A large percentage of American workers feel their job demands that they should be available 24/7 since they can check in from anywhere using their smartphone. This constant availability takes a toll on both a person’s mental and physical health. Humans need to socialize, relax, and care for themselves to stay happy and healthy.
Here are four simple ways to improve your work-life balance:
It’s easier said than done, but avoid checking your phone for work matters after hours. This constant checking may have become a habit you wish you’d never started, and if you are honest, practically all work-related matters can wait until the next day. It’s key to unplug from work when you get home each evening and on the weekends. Let your coworkers know you won’t be returning emails, calls, or texts regarding work after hours so that they can prepare for this change.
If you can’t seem to get all of your work done within your working hours, you aren’t alone. An alarming number of Americans work more than 50 hours a week, every week. Before you go to your request a reduction in your workload, take a careful look at how you are spending your time. Track it for a few days and see what’s causing you to stay late each night and come in early each morning. You will be surprised by the ways you can change or eliminate distractions and other time-wasters.
Take A Stay-Cation
Another vital way to establish a healthy work-life balance is to make use of all of your vacation days. A large number of US workers lose essential time with their family or with themselves because they don’t take all of their vacation days, or in worst cases, don’t have any vacation days at all. If you feel uncomfortable about using all your allotted holidays in one long vacation, schedule the occasional day off here and there to enjoy “stay-cations.” Breaking it up like this will give you the mental health days you need while ensuring you don’t come back to an overwhelming mountain of work.
Train Your People
Many of us grew up hearing, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” Unfortunately, this gets ingrained to the point where we feel we can’t delegate any tasks lest they end up back in our laps in worse shape than before. If you have employees you manage or freelancers you outsource to, take the time to train them well. Make sure they know exactly how to do things. Of course, this will take time upfront. But, once they understand your requirements, you’ll be able to hand off more work and give yourself some slack.
Feeling out of balance?
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The holiday season is an opportunity to spend time with family and friends, to take some time off work, or even escape for a winter getaway. For all the joy and fun, though, so comes the stress.
The expectations of social events, gift shopping, and entertaining guests can become too much for even the most festive types. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association 8 out of 10 people expect to experience an increase in stress over the holiday season.
With stress comes a greater risk of anxiety and depression, and reports from the Mayo Clinic show that depression is frequently an unwelcome guest over the holidays. All is not lost however, there are many ways you can minimize your stress and anxiety to allow you to truly enjoy the season.
1.Set A Budget
Shopping can be fun, but spending money isn’t always easy, and Americans spend almost a $1,000 every holiday season on gifts alone. You can minimize the damage by setting a budget and sticking to it.
A lot of the stress that we experience during the holidays is due to financial pressure and the Mayo Clinic suggests that setting a budget can be beneficial to your stress levels. Work out how much you can afford to spend on food and gifts, and stick to it.
The American Heart Association wants you to stay active all the time, but it’s extremely important to keep that up during the holidays. Any activity or exercise you can fit in will help reduce your stress and elevate your mood. It’s going to stimulate endorphin production and trigger a positive feeling in your body.
You might be busy, but if you can find time to exercise for half an hour three times a week, you will feel better. You can go walking or jogging, swimming or biking, play sports, and find time for aerobics. Also, find an accountability partner. I’m working on this step so if you are too and want to link arms, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can do this together.
3. Take It Easy
The American Psychological Association reminds us that we need to take time for ourselves. There are parties and gatherings and we are constantly surrounded by people. It’s great to be with the ones we love and laugh about the old days.
You shouldn’t miss all those great times, but what you should be careful of is setting unrealistic expectations. You can’t do everything, and it’s okay to take time out for yourself, even if it’s just 15 minutes. If you do a whole lot of hosting, make sure you delegate- whether you ask everyone to bring a different dish, or you rope in the family to take on certain tasks.
4. Stay Smart
The holiday season is a time of indulgence, but as the Mayo Clinic directs- it doesn’t mean you should abandon your healthy ways. There’s no need for a free for all that will just add to your stress.
Enjoy yourself, but try having healthy snacks before holiday gatherings so you don’t over snack while you’re out. Make sure that you’re getting plenty of sleep, as you are more likely to overindulge after a poor night’s sleep.
5. Choose Your Battles
We all have someone in our circle that rubs us the wrong way. It’s only natural- not everyone can always get along. Allowing someone else to get under your skin, though, is only going to ruin your holiday and increase your stress level. Learn to pick your battles, and don’t take the bait.
The Mayo Clinic suggests that if you have a real problem with someone, set it aside and save it for another day. Even the calmest people can lose their cool during the holidays.
Self-care is a conscious choice and this is even truer during times of more stress, such as the holiday season. Make sure to take the time and create a deliberate plan! Remember, the holidays are supposed to be a time of fun, family, and relaxation, don’t let stress interfere with this great time of year.
For more tips on self-care and stress relief strategies, grab your copy of my book here: https://amzn.to/2V4r4Qp
Stress affects just about everyone’s daily lives. It can affect your body in ways that can have a long-lasting impact on your health. In my book, The Stress R.E.L.I.E.F. Method: A six-step guide to creating a life with less stress, I shared how stress “lead to depression, anxiety, and a load of health issues”. Here are some ways that stress can affect your health:
Personal and Spiritual Growth Coach Stephanie Miller shares what she likes about the Stress R.E.L.I.E.F. Method and how reading the book has impacted her life.
Grab your copy at https://amzn.to/2zy7fIi
In this video, Chou Hallegra reads the first chapter of her new book.
Grab your own copy at https://amzn.to/2zy7fIi
Chou is a best-selling Author, a Transformational Speaker, Certified Life Coach, Counselor and Consultant on a mission to inspire people to rise above their circumstances. She is passionate about helping others achieve emotional wellness, reach their full potential, and live fulfilling lives. You can contact Chou at email@example.com