Category Archives: Change

5 Strategies to Make it a Jolly Holiday

Feeling Numb?

Feeling Numb? Chilly? Out of Sorts?

The holidays can be stressful. There’s alot to do, and the pressure is on to prepare food, entertain, and decorate your home. That’s all on top of the shopping!

Many of us love the holidays! We relish in the merry songtrack playing in the malls (with all the online shopping, isn’t it amazing that the malls are still full!!). We notice and respond to the warm and happy demeanour of the people we meet. We get excited about visiting friends and family.

Some of us dread the holidays. As Ray Williams reports in Psychology Today, “For some people, they get depressed at Christmas and even angry because of the excessive commercialization of Christmas, with the focus on gifts and the emphasis on “perfect” social activities. Other get depressed because Christmas appears to be a trigger to engage in excessive self-reflection and rumination about the inadequacies of life (and a “victim” mentality) in comparison with other people who seem to have more and do more.  Still others become anxious at Christmas because of the pressure (both commercial and self-induced) to spend a lot of money on gifts and incur increasing debt. Other people report that they dread Christmas because of the expectations for social gatherings with family, friends and acquaintances that they’d rather not spend time with. And finally, many people feel very lonely at Christmas, because they have suffered the loss of loved ones or their jobs.”

Whether this is a tough time of year or not for you, you can always benefit from some strategies to engage positive emotion. And, the bonus is…these strategies work all year long!

LOOKING FOR ‘HAPPY’?

Strategy: Think Gratitude

Thinking Questions:

  • What am I grateful for?
  • What makes me smile?
  • What are my blessings?

Body Exercise:

Start a Gratitude Journal. Each day, write down three things for which you are grateful. What do you notice in a week? In a month?

LOOKING FOR ‘CALM’?

Strategy: Focus on Breathing

Thinking Questions:

  • How can I let go?
  • What images/sounds help me feel content?
  • Where does calm reside in me?

Body Exercise:

  • Relax into a favourite position. Touch your thunbs and forefingers and interlock them to make two rings. Rest here for 1-2 minutes.

LOOKING FOR ‘JOY’?

Strategy: Focus on Pleasure

Thinking Questions:

  • What is the source of my delight?
  • What brings me joy?
  • What uplifts me?

Body Exercise:

  • Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth. As you breathe out, allow the sound ‘Haaaaa’ to come out. Experiement with sounding softly and loudly.
  • What else happens in your body as you do this at least 8 times?

LOOKING FOR ‘UNDERSTANDING’?

Strategy: Observe and Honor the Other

Thinking Questions:

  • What emotion am I noticing in the other person?
  • What does the other person need?
  • Where do I feel connected to the other?

Body Exercise:

  • Step into the other person’s shoes by experimenting with mimicking the person’s standing, sitting, walking, gestures. Put yourself in their posture. How does it feel? What thoughts come up?

LOOKING FOR ‘LETTING GO’?

Strategy: Focus on Now

Thinking Questions:

  • When do I feel most free?
  • What do I do to let go and be in the present moment?
  • What opens me up?

Body Exercise:

  • Stand tall, balanced on both feet. Place your hands behind your head, fingers laced together. Press the back of your head into your clasped hands. Notice the sense of uplifting and opening in your chest and upper back.
  • Choose a strategy, or try them all. The key is….pause and notice the small shifts that might be occurring…and then appreciate and allow them to integrate within you.

As an added bonus, check out a wonderful book written by Kevin Rempel, Paralympian and Founder of the Sledge Hockey Experience. In his book, Still Standing, Kevin tells a compelling and authentic story of overcoming adversity. In one of the final chapters, he says “I get it. I’ve lived it. We all have down days. It’s part of human nature. I just want you to know you can take control of the situation. Here’s how I did it. 1) Accept everything. It allows you to look forward. ; 2) Get your priorities in order. Sleep. Exercise. Eat. Socialize.; 3) Journal. Get it out of your head. ; 3) Reach out for help, then accept help.

So, now…go out and create the kind of holiday (and life) you would like to create.

 

 

The 5 Habits of Psychological Resilience

Resilience…when you look at or hear that word, do you find yourself thinking ‘What is it?  And, how can I get some of that??’  The word conjures up incredible images of strength and flexibility, of being adaptable, of possessing the ability to bounce back from the challenges of life.

Resilience is the ability to absorb high levels of change, while maintaining your personal resourcefulness.  It is more than stress management.  Stress management is about ‘managing’ or getting rid of something that is negative (that you don’t want).  Developing or building resilience is more about creating something positive (that you want).  Focusing on what you want to create provides you with opportunities and ‘answers’ that will not come to you when you focus on what you want to eliminate.

And, that is precisely what Habit #1 encourages.  Decide What You Want.  Every moment of every day, focus on what you want.  What do you want to attract to your life at work and beyond?  What do you want to experience more often?  What words would you like to choose to describe your day?

Once you decide what you want, develop Habit #2, Be Mindful.  In order to be mindful, you need to move out of autopilot and away from the default narrative running through your mind (that’s the little voice in your head, that’s always on, although you might not even be aware of it).  When you purposefully STOP and PAUSE for a mindful moment, you have the opportunity to access information from your environment that you might not have noticed otherwise.  You also, during moments of mindfulness, will become aware of your thoughts and emotions.  This increased awareness helps you to self-regulate (rather than being hijacked by emotions that seem to ‘sneak up’ on you).

Habit #3 is Choose Positive.  Your brain’s primary purpose, in addition to being an amazing logic-processing machine that helps you make decisions and solve problems, is to keep you alive.  Every moment it is assessing whether to move away from danger (negative) or to move toward reward (positive).  While we know that positive yields far better results, your brain is by default, negative.  You need to, mindfully, ‘choose’ positive thoughts. And what we are discovering is that when you get in the habit of choosing positive thoughts (beliefs, expectations of yourself and others), and getting the positive results that go along with that choice, you can create new neural circuitry – you can actually change your brain.

And that is exactly what Habit #4 encourages: Integrate the Experience. You can create new pathways in your brain that move you toward what you want (rather than away from what you don’t want).  When you mindfully notice the benefits of moving toward what you want, and choosing positive thoughts, pause again and integrate that experience.  One NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) strategy is to anchor the experience physically.  As you are noticing the sights, sounds, feelings and behaviors of the positive results you are achieving, touch a part of your body (make it a body part that you can easily access in public!!) for a few seconds.  You might choose to place a finger on your wrist, for example.  Choosing an anchor point, and then using that same anchor point each time you are experiencing this resilient state will help you to build new memories in your body and brain that work FOR you.

Finally, Habit #5 is Take Action.  I love the quotation from Elbert Hubbard ‘People who want milk should not seat themselves in the middle of a field in the hope that a cow will back up into them.’  It’s one I’ve adapted to ‘People who want resilience should not read a short article and hope that their brain can suddenly read their mind.’  If you want different results, you need to ‘do’ something different.

Let’s look at the example of Ted, who was finding that he was continually stressed and tense when he was at home with his family.  ‘It really bothers me’, Ted said, ‘they are the most important people in the world to me, and I am miserable and uptight most of the time I spend with them.  The kids are growing so fast and I don’t want their memory of me to be of a guy who could not relax.’  Ted worked his way through the 5 Habits of Resilience, and this is how it came out for him.

What do you want?

I want to be calm at home with my family

When you are calm, what is happening?  What does it feel like? Where do you feel it in your body? What are you thinking? What are you doing? What are you noticing around you?

I see my wife and kids smiling; I attend fully to what they are each saying and doing; I feel relaxed, my face is loose and my body is open and light; my breathing is at a regular rate; I am thinking about how much I value each one of them, I am smiling

What positive thoughts can you choose to ensure you create this experience more often?

I can choose to believe that this is possible for me every day.  I can choose to believe that my children will benefit far greater from a father who is calm and present than from one who is uptight and over-worked.  I can choose to believe that being ‘in the room’ with my family is not taking away from my effectiveness as an executive, and is in fact making me an even better leader.

How will you integrate this?

Each time I experience this sense of calm – at work or at home – I will pause and take note of it, and I will touch my thumb and middle finger together for a few seconds.

What will you do so that you can have more ‘calm’ in your life?

I will breathe deeply to slow my rate of breath; I will shake my shoulders to loosen and relax my body; I will clear my mind so that I can focus on the other person; I will take note of extraneous distracting issues to look back at later; I will focus my attention on the other person; I will smile; I will remember my anchor.

Start each day by asking ‘What do I want today?’ (#1) Start each meeting by focusing on what you want to notice from your team, and what you want them to notice from you.  Decide, like Ted, what you want from your time with family and friends.  Pay attention to what you notice (#2) when you have what you want, choose to focus on what’s positive (#3), integrate the sights, sounds, thoughts, and emotions (#4) and continue to move toward (#5) creating the life you desire.

ACT: A Mental Health Strategy for Overcoming Obstacles

project-mom-dev-kneeSometimes you are just rolling along and – WHAM! – you are broadsided by an unexpected obstacle. It might be a physical obstacle, such a being stuck in traffic. Or it might be another kind of obstacle, one that is more ‘internal’, an emotion or a way of thinking that is having a negative impact on you.

No matter the obstacle, there is a simple and practical strategy that can help you move through the obstacle and either get back on track, or find a new track all together!

Let’s look at the first example. You are heading to an important appointment and suddenly you find yourself stuck in a congested roadway. Traffic is not moving. You begin to notice your anxiety (and maybe your anger) increasing as you realize that you may be late for your appointment. If you stay in that state, your body will tense, you might grip the wheel tighter, you might furrow your brow, you eyes might widen, your heart might increase. All of these physical symptoms are congruent with a threat state. In neuroscience, this state is described as an AWAY state; your body is preparing to protect you from the threat before you. Interestingly, when you are in a threat state, you expereince tunnel vision; you quite literally are limited in your ability to perceive and to think.

Instead of staying in the threat state, you could try this simple strategy, called ACT:

A – Accept your current reality

C – Choose a vision of what you want in this situation

T – Take action to move TOWARD your vision

So…instead of gripping the wheel, furrowing your brow, and maybe releasing some unpleasant expletives, you say the following (to yourself, or out loud):

A – I accept that I am stuck in traffic and I might be late for my appointment

C – I want to look for an opportunity to get to my appointment as soon as possible and I want to feel good when I arrive

T – I will:

  • take a deep breath
  • call ahead and indicate that I am stuck in traffic and might be late for the appointment
  • look around to see if I can make eye contact with someone to let me cut in front of them
  • smile at the person with whom I make eye contact
  • prepare for what I will say when I arrive at the appointment, and visualize myself there
  • remind myself that it is most important to arrive safe and feeling good

You might do all or some of these things, or you might choose to do other things such as listen to calming music or recite a mantra that has meaning for you. The idea is, while you are taking action to move TOWARD your vision, you are NOT wasting energy and valuable neural resources focusing on moving AWAY from your obstacle. A positive, toward state provides you will a broadened perspective; you are able to access more internal and external resources to help you in that moment.

Chances are, you will get to your appointment sooner. Or, at the very least, you’ll arrive much more positive and calm when you do arrive.

Let’s look at another example. My beautiful mother has dementia. It sucks. When she first started experiencing symptoms, it was overwhelming. I found myself becoming anxious and sad just at the thought of going to see her. I felt helpless, angry, and vulnerable. Then, I felt guilty; here I was thinking of myself when my poor mother was mentally deteriorating.

Then, I decided to ACT. Here is how that went for me:

A – I accept that mom has dementia and it sucks – for her and for those of us who love her

C – I want to see her as often as I can, and to feel good when I go and when I leave

T – I will:

  • go to visit only after I have had a good night’s sleep
  • meditate before I go
  • bring people with me; mom always liked lots of noise
  • make physical contact with mom (hold her hand, rub her back)
  • smile when I arrive and when I leave
  • remind myself that any unpleasantries are not my mom, they are the disease that grips her brain

I decided to ACT in this situation well over 5 years ago, and I never, ever, not once, hesitate to go and see my mom. I truly and completely look forward to it. I feel good when I arrive and when I leave. Because I am moving TOWARD my vision, I am not stuck in the negativity that arrives when I focus on moving AWAY from the reality of her disease.

So, give it a try the next time you feel stuck! Make sure you address and acknowledge all three elements of ACT. The ‘I accept’ element is very important. Do not leave it out. It simply means that you acknowledge that ‘it is what it is’. It does not mean you like it or that you are happy that it happened; it just means that you accept that it is.

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker and Author, Deri’s message reinforces that positive habits are the pathway to a happier and healthier life – at work, at home and at any age! www.derilatimer.com

 

Performance Appraisals: More Harm than Help

Man&WomanMeeting1I started my career in HR. I was educated in, and then spent years staunchly supporting, a core foundation of effective HRM practice; Performance Management.

Every year or so, we HR Practitioners rolled out the Performance Plan to the leadership team, and then relentlessly chased them down to get their performance appraisals done on time. Then, after hearing months of griping from leaders and employees alike, we’d re-develop, re-design and then re-launch the ‘new and improved’ form, the more stream-lined process and we were sure we’d be met with enthusiastic cheers from all involved.

Inevitably, the process of chasing leaders and dodging complaints continued. No form, no annual process, no amount of encouraging, berating or rewarding leaders worked; performance time was the bane of our existence. We detested it as much as everyone else did (and does)!

Then, along came the Neuroleadership Institute, and everything started to shift. Their research support what many of us know is indeed the right thing to do: Kill Your Performance Ratings. Not only are most organization’s performance management systems cumbersome and incredibly time-consuming, they are often counter-productive. And, that’s not even the worst of it. They do more harm than good.  “In the context of neuroscience research, most PM practices turn out to damage the performance they are intended to improve. That’s because they are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of human responses, as revealed in recurring patterns of mental activity.”

Performance discussions, as they are traditionally formulated and administered, automatically put people in a threat state (also known as ‘fight or flight‘ response). Think about it, if someone says they’ll be evaluating you, aren’t you automatically feeling a little on the defensive? In fact, that notion alone – being evaluated or appraised – will likely be enough to distract you away from the performance itself and toward the instinct to protect yourself. When you are in a threat state, your goal is survival…not learning, not growing, not appreciating…just surviving.  An entire organization focused on surviving is not one that breeds the collaborative cultures required for today’s workplaces. Instead a ‘kill or be killed’ mentality permeates the organization. People move away from each other, rather than toward teaming and co-creation.

All sorts of media, including CNN, are picking up on the idea of dismantling performance management as we know it.  Not only is it completely demotivating for  people, it is also a “colossal time-suck’ for managers. “So an increasing number of companies — including Accenture, GE, Microsoft, CIGNA, The Gap and Deloitte — have decided to overthrow the annual review in favor of monthly, bi-weekly or even “on demand” conversations between managers and employees.”

Human beings benefit far more from real-time, ongoing dialogue between managers and staff. Goals stay front of mind, appreciation is provided often, and possible ‘issues’ are addressed and re-directed promptly. Everybody wins.

Since people do better when dialogue is open, continuous and positive, why would we not have the key communication system about performance be that way as well?

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker and Author, Deri’s message reinforces that positive habits are the pathway to a happier and healthier life – at work, at home and at any age! www.derilatimer.com

The Gift of a Rainy Day

A Rainy Day Hangout

A Rainy Day Hangout

It can be a drag. You’ve been working hard all week and have been looking forward to a weekend of fun outdoors. After a week of commuting in blistering heat, you wake up on Saturday morning to cloud cover and a drizzly forecast. Groan.

It’s perfectly okay to be a bit bummed out. I mean, you had big plans for the day; sunbathing, gardening, going for a long walk in the park, a get-together with friends on a steamy deck enjoying great conversation over a cold drink or two.

Once you’ve given yourself permission to sulk a little, decide what opportunity this quick change in plans has provided to you. I think that sometimes the universe provides for us the very thing we need that we might not give to ourselves.

Here are a few ‘rainy day’ ideas:

  • Skip the shower and don your favourite ‘comfy’ clothes (no shaving, no make up, choose to go au natural!)
  • Enjoy your coffee and morning paper for an extra long time; read the sections you tend to skip when you are short on time.
  • Clean out those drawers that you have been thinking about for the last two (or ten) years. You may discover things long forgotten and thought long lost.
  • Pull out that craft/hobby/special project that you never get time to do on a ‘normal’ busy day off. Remember why you enjoy that activity.
  • Go through your photo albums and just enjoy the memory-filled ride. Pause and take yourself back to the time when the photo was taken. What emotions are attached to it? For what and whom are you grateful during that time in your life?
  • Snuggle under the afghan and watch movies – all day!
  • Sort the 1000+ photos still on your phone and send them off for processing or organize them into an on-line album. You’ll be so glad you did.
  • Play a board game (you still have some around, I bet!)
  • Write a gratitude letter to someone special in your life. Take your time.
  • Read a good book.
  • Phone your Mom (or Dad, or Aunt, or Sibling, or Good Buddy) – just to chat.
  • Meditate; you’ve always wanted to try it, right?
  • Play charades with the whole family; the kids, although hesitant at first (depending on their age) might just like it!
  • Take a nap – on the couch – or wherever you darn well feel like it!
  • Cook dinner together. Make everyone responsible for one part of the dinner. Make it a ‘no rules’ experience (i.e. start with dessert…in fact, it can be all dessert!!)
  • Cuddle with your partner; who knows what that might lead to… it’s all good for you at any stage of life!
  • Go outside! There is something vero relaxing about walking in the rain. If the temperature is warm, skip the umbrella!

I’d love to hear your rainy day ideas. What gift has a change in plans provided for you?

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker and Author, Deri’s message reinforces that positive habits are the pathway to a happier and healthier life – at work, at home and at any age! www.derilatimer.com