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Become Worried Well : 5 Steps To Gaining Control Of Your Worry

“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”- Mark Twain

Worry is the silent killer of life’s enthusiasm, energy, and promise. Many of us spend a great deal of time, needlessly in our own heads, worrying about things that usually never happen. Granted, sometimes they do happen, but almost never in the manner or severity worrythat we imagined. Worrying is something that humans do instinctively, a hardwired mental activity that we believe prepares us for some anticipated disaster. It is a part of our evolutionary development that was more beneficial when we had to worry about running out of food, abrupt changes in the seasons, and occasionally being slaughtered by predatory beasts. While it can still serve a purpose, it is usually a time waster, an energy suck, and it has the potential to lead to physical and emotional illnesses. To maintain physical and mental wellness, modern man must learn to harness this basic human instinct.

The difference between anxiety and worry is that worry is about anticipating some way to handle a future event that has not yet happened. Worry is specific, anxiety tends to be more general. Worry frequently becomes anxiety, as the specific event we are worried about takes upon a life of its own and generates physical symptoms resulting in a storm of emotions, creating a feeling of powerlessness and loss of control. These physical symptoms are interpreted in an “impending doom” kind of way and many other areas of functioning become impaired.

Humans, being tribal animals, often share these worries with significant others, family, and friends. The typical advice we receive is “Don’t worry about it.” Brilliant isn’t it? When worrying gets to be too overwhelming, a person can break down physically, losing sleep, overreacting to every day routine events, and suffer impaired levels of functioning in multiple areas of their life. Ironically, worry tends to impede a person’s ability to deal with the very thing that they were worried about in the first place. Occasionally, people will seek out professional advice in the form of primary care physicians, financial advisors, and even coaches and counselors. Quite often counseling involves trying to find ways to stop the worry from occurring. Unfortunately, this usually fails and a person believes that counseling doesn’t work and develops an “I tried that and it didn’t work” attitude towards the whole process.

Worry does serve a purpose. It prepares us for what might happen and helps us to imagine contingencies for how we will deal with the difficult events if and when they happen. When it is simply an exercise in catastrophizing, or is not accompanied by an action plan of how to cope, it is a complete and utter waste of time, physical, mental, and emotional energy. “Don’t worry” is a great idea, but virtually impossible for most thoughtful people to accomplish. We have to learn to work within the parameters of our natural inclination to worry as a way of planning for the future.

The reality is that humans are programmed to worry. To cope with this, acceptance in working with this tendency must be considered. Remember, the purpose that worrying serves is to prepare us for events that we fear might happen. Learning to “worry well” is the challenge. Worrying well is a skill that, like most behavioral skills, can be learned with a little patience and diligent practice. Here are some steps to take to become one who worries well:

1. Set aside a “worry period” each day. It should be a specific time of day and have a sit worryspecific duration. For example, every day after work sit down and worry for 15 minutes. After that 15 minutes go about the rest of your evening, but you are not allowed to go back to the troublesome thoughts of that 15 minute worry period. It’s very subtle, but what you are doing is learning to confine, thereby gaining some measure of control over your worry.

2. Identify your worry. What specifically are you afraid might happen in the future? Some are afraid to even think about what their fears are here. The belief here is “if I don’t consider it it won’t happen.” This usually doesn’t work and the event of concern takes upon a life of its own.

3. Delay your worry. As you go about your day and find yourself beginning to worry, take note of your concern and, if necessary, write it down. In that moment remind yourself, “No need to think about this now, I’ll deal with it later.” Again, what you are doing is learning to confine control your natural inclination to worry.

4. Do not allow the worry to consume you at any other time during your day except for your worry period. Focus your attention mindfully on the tasks of your day. Get engrossed and involved in the routine and events of the moment to postpone worrying until the appropriate time. Remember, you’ll deal with it later, but you will deal with it. If this is difficult to do, have a set of strategies that you can fall back on to delay your worrying. Things like, going for a brief walk, calling a friend, checking your emails, doing some deep breathing – anything that refocuses your mind on something other than the disturbing thoughts. A strategy that I have been suggesting to my clients that many like is to think of their worries as a program on a computer that is their mind. When the disturbing thoughts pop up, they click an imaginary button minimizing that program. The program continues to run in the background, but they don’t pay attention to it. During their worry period, they will open that file and attend to it then. This visualization seems to resonate with a lot of people, allowing them to function in the present moment.

5. Eliminate a worry when you no longer feel it bothers you. As you gradually delete worries, you’ll find that the worry period is a great time to brainstorm some practical solutions to what has been bothering you. As you come up with potential answers, you’ll find a decrease in tension and improved confidence in what you can control. Some worries will remain, but to a lesser degree of intensity.

Whether or not to worry is, ultimately, a choice. If you are a natural worrier, then try these strategies and notice the positive benefits of worrying well. Don’t let worry rule your emotions. While worry can never be completely eradicated, learning to worry well while continuing to function at an optimal level will give you the ability to live your life with less tension.

If you found this article helpful, my book Fear Factors: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy To gladGet Control Of Your Anxiety, Worry And Fear will give you the skills to reclaim your life. It is available for instant download here: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00LRJF0W6

There is nothing so wretched or foolish as to anticipate misfortunes. What madness it is in your expecting evil before it arrives! – Seneca

John

P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

 

Cognitive Behavioral Strategies For Improving Your Willpower

willpower – (noun)
1. the ability to control oneself and determine one’s actions
2. firmness of will

Most humans living in first world nations are control freaks, whether they admit it or not. AntWe become used to things happening when we want. Much of what we do is automated and preplanned. We set timers, alarm clocks, have notices buzz on our iPhones, and frequently can find ways around hard work. In most instances, we have control and mastery over our environment. Unfortunately, the last frontier of control for 21st century man is our ability to motivate and control ourselves and our actions. It would appear that willpower is the last remaining frontier for modern man.
I’m sure all of us can relate to being determined to do something and then not following through. Exercise routines, diet, and simple acts of self-discipline and denial can become overwhelming when confronted by a lack of willpower. Willpower is the secret sauce that separates successful, happy, and fit people from the rest of the pack. Some people are blessed in that they have enough willpower to attain their goals without a lot of thought. Others, not so much. Lack of willpower is one of those “if only,” thought processes that keeps us from attaining a lot of the things that we would like to have, be, and do. Research indicates that if you’re in that 90% bracket of people who feel they don’t have enough willpower, then you can create it. Willpower, like any other human behavior, can be improved through a systematic study of the relation between mind and body. Like they used to say about the Six Million Dollar man, “We can rebuild him.”

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a perfect strategy for you to use to improve your willpower, or even create some if you have absolutely none. Nobody has absolutely none, but at times it sure can feel that way. CBT trains mind and body to act in a more rational, realistic way. Proper thinking and correct behaviors are the critical factors in most things that humans do, and utilizing willpower is no different. The way we think and feel will determine what we do. Building willpower is a product of correcting maladaptive and ingrained thought processes and then acting in ways that we are consciously and thoughtfully choosing.

Here are some mindbody strategies that will get you going in the right direction:
1. Get enough sleep. It’s absolutely impossible exert any willpower over any aspect of your life if you are fatigued. Many people erroneously think that having willpower means to be able to function while sleep deprived. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most people believe that they can get by with less than eight hours, but very few can. Nothing erodes drive and willpower more quickly than being tired. Willpower is analogous to a muscle, it only has so much energy and strength that it can exert. Being sleep deprived is probably the number one reason that people do not have enough willpower. While there will be some variation from person to person about how much sleep is the optimal amount, shoot for eight hours. Virtually no one should get less than 6.5 hours per night, and for most people over 8.5 to 9 hours is too much.. Vince Lombardi was right, fatigue does make cowards of us all.

2. Keep yourself in good physical condition. When the body is not fit and strong, it sends Weightlifting-02signals to the brain indicating weakness and this sets off thoughts that reinforce powerlessness. The “I can’t” thoughts start and willpower evaporates quickly. If a body is fit and strong, the opposite tends to occur. Your body is the vehicle that carries you through life and the brain is the engine that drives it. It doesn’t work well if your mind and body are not in sync. A combination of adequate physical and mental energy is key. If you have a daily regimen of exercise that challenges you physically, then you are used to sucking it up and doing what you have to do despite not feeling like it. Your exercise routine doesn’t have to be a killer, but it should be enough to push you physically and mentally. If you’re used to doing this with an exercise routine, this will carry over to having willpower in other areas of your life. Your routine can be simple, but it must be a challenge for you.

3. Do some kind of meditation practice. Meditation teaches the brain to focus on specific things and maintain focus. Willpower is nothing more than a type of focus that you maintain on a specific task. As little as five minutes a day has been proven to yield positive changes in as little as eight weeks. And, if you are someone who struggles with the idea of meditating, there’s good news, the worse you are at it, the better it is for building your willpower. Start by finding a comfortable place to sit, set a timer for five minutes and focus on your breathing. When you get distracted return to your breathing, and when you get discouraged remember that the more difficult this is for you, the better it is for your willpower.

4. Maintain a well-balanced diet and be more aware of good nutrition. Excess simple sugar, carbohydrates, and too much alcohol can erode your willpower very quickly. Low blood sugar is the silent assassin that kills willpower and is the cause of mood swings. Your diet should be a combination of plant-based nutrition and good, clean, proteins in the form of lean meats, fish, and chicken. Vegetables are, for most adults, an underutilized source of good nutrition. That Danish and coffee mid-morning, or that continental breakfast, can be a willpower killer. That heavy lunch has the potential to wipe out your willpower for the rest of the day. Beware of what you consume.

5. Breathe, breathe, breathe! Fresh air is the most important, and least considered, thing that you consume. Be aware of your breathing and the quality of the air around you. Even if you work in an enclosed building in the middle of a congested city, there’s probably some place you can go during the day to gulp down some better quality air. An oxygenated brain is going to make better decisions and be more able to stick to the tasks before you.

6. Give yourself daily willpower challenges. Force yourself to do something every day that you want to do but just don’t feel like. It might be that phone call, it might be cleaning that filthy bathtub, it might be that exercise routine that you’ve been thinking about starting. It can be anything. Just do it! Afterwards to give yourself a pat on the back and acknowledge that you did something you didn’t feel like doing. Rinse and repeat as often as possible.

7. Don’t over think things. Too much thinking and intellectualizing kills willpower. If you are prone to a lack of willpower or procrastination, your brain will find a reason why you don’t have to or should do something. Be aware of analysis paralysis. George Patton said that a decent plan executed today is much better a perfect plan executed a week from now. General Patton was a man who knew a little something about willpower.

8. Plan ahead. Having a plan for how you will cope with those “I don’t feel like it” thoughts that you know you are going to have is important. The strongest force in nature is the desire to return to the way things were. Willpower is no different. You have to elevate your baseline of willpower by having a strategic and well thought out plan of attack. Plan ahead for how you will change your self talk, body language, and behavior to push through these moments of weakness and doubt. Positive visualization, where you see yourself in your mind’s eye doing the difficult thing, prepares you to do the right thing when doubt and weakness sets in. Be ready for it.

9. Practice delayed gratification. Learn to do the difficult things first and the easier things later. By tackling difficult and challenging tasks first, you make everything else easier. If you maintain a daily “to do” list, tackle the harder things first. This sets you up in a positive way to get the rest of the list accomplished, and subtly reinforces a self image of a person with a lot of willpower. Self-help author Brian Tracy says if you’ve got 3 frogs to kiss, start with the ugliest ones. Good advice for someone trying to build some willpower.

Willpower is the combination of mind, body, and spirit. If you weren’t blessed with it at birth112164_Kelly_Gneiting_world_record_holder, build it yourself. Diligent practice of these nine steps is not time-consuming, but it will dramatically improve your life.

“You cannot be disciplined in great things and undisciplined in small things.” – George S. Patton

John

P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Embrace The Suck : Coping With Life’s Unsavory Moments

“Embrace the suck!”- Anonymous

We live in a very exciting time in human history. We have access to everything on the planet, or at least it seems that way. In developed nations, we have access to medical care that would have been science fiction as little as 50 years ago. Our phones have become our libraries, televisions, maps, calendars, calculators, and shopping malls. We have so much at our disposal that we feel we are enjoying a full and complete life. We talk about people “having it all,” but does anybody truly have all aspects of life in the 21st century?

Every once in a while something happens that in previous generations and times would have been a routine event. Some of these routine events would be absolutely disgusting to the typical 21st century resident of a developed nation. Just the other day there was a deerpicture on the Internet of a 14-year-old girl from Oklahoma who had shot a record-breaking, 16 point white tail buck deer on her father’s ranch. The picture was not on the Internet more than an hour when a protest movement from people who thought it was barbaric and disgusting began, and the whole story went viral within a few hours. While the 21st century has the luxury of being outraged, this would have been cause for celebration 150 years ago, meaning that a family would be able to consume meat as a source of protein throughout the upcoming winter. Ironically, many who were outraged and shared that image with their Facebook friends probably had a steak dinner that night, a fast food hamburger, or some type of animal based protein source themselves. What is it about actions like procuring your own meat that we find distasteful?

There are many things that modern man has the ability to pay someone else to do for baby-changingthem. Occasionally, an event passes your way that you have to deal with yourself. As a dad, you have to change your child’s diaper yourself, because your wife is not home. Or, you have to bandage up a gaping wound from a cut your child received on the playground and get her to the emergency room at the nearest hospital. Your toilet backs up, and your basement is filled with sewage. Your 13-year-old dog has been suffering for months and needs to be put down. If you’re honest with yourself, in most cases your immediate response is, “Who can I pay to do this for me?”

While life is inevitably going to throw a lot of things your way you have to deal with that are unsavory, disgusting, or even considered barbaric by modern standards, there are times when you can’t rely on someone else to do these things and the best course of action for you, family members, and love ones is to deal with it yourself. During times like this it is difficult for many of us because we have no personal frame of reference and no philosophical tradition, such as Buddhism or Stoicism for example, to draw strength from. When events like this happen the only course of action is to embrace the suck, meaning to literally embrace the difficulty facing you in the present, challenging, moment and do what needs to be done.

Earlier generations didn’t even have to think about this, they were conditioned by a lifetime of exposure to events that have become anesthetized by modern technology. When faced with this kind of a challenge, the critical element is not what we are doing at that moment, but how we think about and process those events. The expression, “embrace the suck,” is used frequently in the military in order to get soldiers to do things that most of us would be incapable of due to the way that we are acculturated in the modern world. The expression, three simple words, is consistent with Zen Buddhism, Stoicism, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Each of these points of view would argue that it is not the events themselves that are repugnant, but our interpretation of those events that are the critical component of how one handles them. Realistically, you have no right to be disgusted about the deer kill, unless you’re a vegetarian. You really haveyeller no right to be disgusted by that dirty diaper, unless you yourself have never filled one. And, I wonder if there would be as many dogs or pets in the developed world if we had to treat their medical needs ourselves and ultimately put them down at their end stage of life. (Remember being traumatized by the Disney film Old Yeller?)

Most of us don’t have the time, or maybe even the interest, to study philosophy or engage in cognitive behavioral therapy. We can, however, benefit from some simple strategies such as to remember to “embrace the suck” and just do what needs to be done at that time and in that situation. If we practice this philosophy regularly, such as on Monday morning when you don’t feel like going to work, or on weekends when you have a bunch of housework to do that you don’t feel like doing, or like making a difficult phone call that you’ve been putting off, then we build resilience that makes us more capable of dealing with bigger things in life when they come our way. Looking for times, places, and events when we literally have to “suck it up” and do what we have to do makes for a more resilient and hearty human being.

What would you have done if you lived in an earlier time in human history? Many people think that they never would’ve made it, that they would have rolled over and died of starvation because they were incapable of procuring their own food, slaughtering their own animals, and coping with horrific diseases. In reality, you probably would have been a lot more resilient than you would imagine, because you would be a product of the times and the challenges that you faced. Our capacity for resilience and mental toughness is largely determined by the environment in which we find ourselves. As a person living in a modern first world nation, one of life’s challenges is to build your own resilience by creating your own mental and physical challenges. Modern life just doesn’t give us enough of these naturally.

Remember this expression, “embrace the suck,” and use it often when there are things you must do that you don’t want to. Embracing these difficulties just might be the way that you embrace a more fulfilling life.

“Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.” – Seneca

John

P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Winning During Cold Season : How To Prevent And Battle The Common Cold

“A family unit is composed not only of children but of men, women, and the common cold.”- Ogden Nash

It’s that time a year again, cold season. Over the next six months the average adult will have 2 to 3 bouts with it, the average child will have 7 to 12 episodes, and it will be the Coldnumber one reason that Americans miss work or school. If we don’t get a cold, we will be constantly reminded of the season by those around us that are sneezing, sniffling, and coughing all. More than a few of us will be kept awake, either by our own coughing or that of a family member. It’s pretty hard to escape its impact. It turns out that the common cold is pretty common.

The common cold has plagued mankind ever since Adam and Eve were forced to put on clothing. No one knows exactly how it started, but it has been the subject of medical records since the time of ancient Egypt, the earliest recorded instance being in the 16th century BC. The first recorded use of the word “cold” to describe it occurred in the 1500s, due to the correlation between cold weather and people developing the symptoms of the disease. People have battled this affliction ever since, with little success. After its onset, a victim is looking at between seven in 10 days of struggling with its effects before it passes. In developed nations today it is relatively benign, but it can develop into pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. In the ancient and medieval world, it was often a cause of death in both adults and children.

While no cure for it exists, there are a number of ways that it can be prevented, with prevention being the only real “cure.” Ways that the common cold is spread are controversial. Growing evidence suggests that, at least among adults, it is spread primarily through the inhalation of viruses through the nose and nasal passages. In children, the virus is more likely to be spread by contact with wet nasal discharge, something that would occur in schools, day cares, and in settings where children are in physical contact with each other. Of course, it is a good idea for both adults and children to engage in frequent handwashing and smother their coughs in handkerchiefs, or in their sleeves. Coughing into your hand or fist is no longer recommended as an effective way to stop its spreading to others.

cold lvatrDespite the name “cold,” the temperature has nothing to do with its onset or spreading. Cold weather merely brings people together in close proximity indoors, thus allowing the virus to spread more efficiently, as there is more person to person contact during the winter months. While the symptoms of a cold can develop any time during the year, it is far more likely to occur during the next six months, which many refer to as “cold season.”

There is a saying among physicians that a cold typically last seven days with treatment, and one week without it. Most over-the-counter and home remedies do nothing more than manage the symptoms, making them more bearable, but they do little to speed up the process of recovery. Your body adjusts and your immune system takes approximately 7 days to build the necessary antibodies to drive the virus from your body. The best “cure” for the common cold is the same as it’s been for thousands of years, prevention.

What determines whether or not you get a cold is the health and condition of your immune system. If you have been exposed to that virus before, you are now immune to it. People who work in healthcare settings, teachers, and people in medical fields often will be sick frequently with colds during their first few years on the job. After a few years however, their immune systems become stronger and they are less susceptible to seasonal colds. For everyone else, your susceptibility to colds is largely a product of the health and condition of your immune system and overall health and wellness. It turns out that the best way to prevent colds during cold season is a healthy lifestyle that you maintain during all seasons of the year.

The American College of Sports Medicine has a number of suggestions for how to prevent the common cold – keeping the immune system healthy by following a healthy diet, minimizing mental stress, and lowering levels of fatigue by obtaining adequate sleep and rest. Of course, they recommend keeping your weight at an optimal level, and a program of exercise. They are quick to point out, however, that the immune system is highly stressed when calorie deprived. They suggest that, if you aren’t fit now, you begin gradually and slowly. Many people think of the autumn months as being too late in the year to get into shape, but according to the College of Sports Medicine, nothing could be further from the truth if cold prevention and wellness are your goal.

The College of Sports Medicine has conducted numerous studies that show a direct correlation between exercise and cold prevention. One study of 700 recreational runners showed that 61% of them were less prone to the common cold, while only 4% of the 700 reported being prone to them and that 90% of the 700 agreed with the statement that they “rarely get sick.” Naturally, recreational runners may be more healthy at baseline, so ACSM conducted a second study to assess the impact of walking, rather than running, on the health of groups of young and elderly women. Women in the exercise groups walked briskly 35-45 minutes, five days a week, for 12-15 weeks, while the control groups remained physically inactive. The results were similar to those reported by the recreational runners – walkers experienced about half as many days with cold symptoms as the sedentary control group.

Other research indicated that the immune system enjoys a temporary boost during and after periods of moderate exercise. It does return to its baseline after a period of time, but daily exercise was shown to boost the immune system enough so as to have a preventative effect on the development of the common cold, reducing the risk of infection over the long-term. Studies of elite marathon runners indicated that moderate exercise is far better for the prevention of the common cold that excessive and extreme amounts of exercise. Runners who ran 20 miles a week or less got a positive boost in their immune system, while those who run 60 miles a week are more susceptible to the common cold.

The College of Sports Medicine also found that moderate exercise while sick has no negative impact on recovery and may actually be beneficial. The key word here is moderate. If you exercise regularly and are in good shape, then brief bouts of walking while fighting off a cold can be helpful in reducing the amount of time that you are out of walk-snowcommission. If you are a runner for example, then walk when symptomatic. If you are one who trains with weights or does resistance work, then calisthenics and light stretching is the way to go when you are coughing and sneezing. As a general guideline, if the symptoms from the neck up, then exercising while sick is a good idea. If you have a stomach virus, or flu-like symptoms, then exercise is out of the question. Of course, consult your physician if you have any doubts about what’s going on with you.

Don’t take this cold season lying down. If you are living an active lifestyle, then good for you. Be sure to continue, not allowing the seasonal changes to change your program of wellness. If you haven’t been as active as you should be then start slowly with walking and light exercise. You’ll not only build fitness on the outside, but a stronger and healthy immune system that just might keep you in action during cold season.

“It seems almost everyone you meet has a cure for the common cold – except your doctor.” -McKenzie

John

P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

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