Mindfulness: Decrease Your Stress with Mindful Listening –

Mindfulness: Decrease Your Stress with Mindful Listening

Learn Seven Steps for Better Communication

by Debbie Lyn Toomey

 

In college, many moons ago, I had an English professor who challenged me and said, “listen to your listening.” He said this on the first day of class wearing his summer straw hat and Hawaiian shirt. Professor Nelson was witty, authentic, and a lover of life. He captivated the class as he stood up on top a desk and recited his favorite butterfly poem. When he spoke, everyone listened. It was he who talked to us about the importance of effective communication. To my surprise, listening was the most important part of communication. I didn’t understand what he meant until years later.

Exchange of Energy

As I grew older, I realized he was right! Communication is not just about talking. It’s more than that. It has to do with the exchange of energy and words (said and unsaid) between the parties involved. When the mind, body, and spirit are engaged and when the parties involved are fully present for the other, mindful communication happens. Languages such as verbal, body, and intuition are part of our expression. The more we pay attention and listen to all these aspects of expression, the better.

Difficulties

With so many forms of languages available to us, why is it so difficult to communicate? Perhaps it’s because we have gotten into the habit of thinking we are too busy and feel that we can multitask while someone is talking to us. Maybe it’s because our attention span has dwindled to a mere
8 seconds. Or maybe, we are just so stressed that although we are hearing what the other is saying, we are not comprehending or remembering what was just said. Is being an irritating “squeaky wheel” the only way to be seen and heard these days? I hope not.

On the Go

Although our lives were supposed to be made easier by modern technology, it hasn’t happened. The level of stress that Americans live with has sky rocketed. We are constantly on the go and when we are not busy, we feel guilty. We feel like we always have to be doing something worthwhile with our time.

Source of Stress

Professionals in my corporate wellness training programs complain that communication is one of their sources of frustration and stress. This problem has caused feelings of resentment, staff-splitting, wasted time on valuable projects, and costly mistakes. Poor communication is confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be a contributor of workplace stress.

Invest a Few Minutes

One of the best ways to take care of the communication problem is to invest in a few minutes of mindful communication. Here are four ways mindful communication can benefit us.

1. Show appreciation to the other person by fully allowing the other to speak

2. Prevent misunderstanding that can lead to errors or hard feelings

3. Save time by knowing what is being said so that the right action can be taken

4. Foster positivity by modeling respect for each other

Seven Steps

Although communication has become a big problem during our lifetime there are ways to improve it by listen to your listening. Here’s are the seven steps for better communication:

1. STOP: Create the intention of fully listening to the individual

2. LOOK: Be curious and watch his/her body language

3. LISTEN: Listen to what is being said and unsaid. Listen to what your gut instinct is telling you

4. WAIT: Allow the individual to finish his/her thought or sentence before you answer

5. SENSE: Notice your body language. Adjust yourself so that you are fully face-to-face with the individual

6. SUMMARIZE: Repeat what you just heard to make sure you heard correctly

7. REPEAT: Repeat 1-6 as necessary until the message has been fully accepted and received

A Skill

Mindful communication is a skill that is worth cultivating to be successful in life. The more you practice it the easier it gets. To learn more about mindful communication and ways it can enhance your work and life, contact me at debbielyn@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com.

 

Five Self-Care Tips for the Sandwich Generation & Caregivers

Five Self-Care Tips for the
Sandwich Generation & Caregivers
By Debbie Lyn Toomey


Do you remember your first job?

I do. My first job was working at a local sub and pizza shop. It was great! I gained so much from that job that if I didn’t work there, I wouldn’t have had a Junior prom date, met my future husband, or learned how to make a killer sausage, pepper and onion sub. The wide range of multitasking life skills that I learned from making subs prepared me for what lay ahead in life as a wife, mother, professional, and daughter of aging parents. It helped me accept being sandwiched. I am a part of the sandwich generation, a generation that has her own family and aging parents.

Sandwiched

The term “sandwich” generation was coined by social worker, Dorothy A. Miller MSSW. She described them as a generation of adults who are “sandwiched” between their own parents and their grown children and subjected to mental, emotional, or financial stress. The Pew Research Center states that, “one out of every eight Americans between the ages of 40 and 60 care directly for an aging parent while an additional seven to ten million Americans help their parents or other aging relatives even from a long distance.” This number is expected to increase due to the number of aging baby boomers.

Full

Don’t get me wrong! I am not complaining. In fact, I consider myself extremely lucky. My life is full. It’s wonderful to live close to my parents because we get to look out for each other. For example, my three boys help out with the garden, snow shoveling, and heavy lifting. At times, I make extra food to drop off to my parent’s house and vice a versa. It’s a win-win situation. I get to look after all the people that I love closely. I consider it an act of love, a duty, and a blessing; not a burden.

Burnt

Life is good when everyone is healthy. It’s not so good when someone gets sick or needs surgery. I remember getting a case of “walking pneumonia” after helping to take care of both my mother who had her first hip surgery and also my father who needed emotional support. The stress from worrying about my parents, working a full-time job and taking care of my own family made me get sick. It wasn’t until I saw the doctor weeks later, after feeling weak and short of breath, that I found out I had pneumonia!

Stress

The stress of it all made me sick. I felt worried about my parents. I didn’t sleep well from working different shifts at the hospital and also from being worried. I became impatient and irritable with my family about little things because I was tired. I would cry when no one was around because I didn’t want people to think I was weak or afraid. This negative spiral of stress and worry eventually made me ill. I will never forget that time because it was then that I realized how important self-care is for caregivers.

Five Tips

My bout with pneumonia gave me a self-protective and self-loving view of health for the caregiver. Here are five tips that can help the sandwich generation or caregivers become more stress resilient:

1. Positivity: See this time in your life as special because you are at the peak of your life. A time when you know better and can do better for those you love. The more you see the good in this situation the better. It will fuel your spirit instead of making you feel bitter and burdened. See all the good in your life.

2. Sleep: The more sleep you can get the more you will be effective and emotionally fit. Sleep is your best ally during these stressful times. Take naps when needed. Close your eyes and rest.

3. Savor: Open your eyes to all the love you have around you during this time in your life. Be grateful to have your kids, your spouse, and your parents around. Someday, someone will not be there and everything will change. Open your eyes and your heart.

4. Outlet: Give yourself permission to feel angry, frustrated, or resentful. You are human and these are normal feelings to have when something is not right in your life. A great way to let go of these emotions is talking with someone who cares about you. Give yourself permission to be human.

5. Exercise: Physical activity is great outlet for stress. It is a great use of your energy and it will make you feel better about doing something proactive towards your health. Take walks or go for a run to clear your mind.

Privilege

Next time you are eating at the dinner table with those you love, think about how lucky you are because life can change in a single moment. It’s a privilege to be a part of the sandwich generation because it’s an opportunity for me to help out my parents and also a way for me to further demonstrate to my boys how families take care of each other. I hope you enjoyed these the five tips. If you need further support on how to take care of yourself during these difficult times, contact me at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com for coaching.

Mindfulness: 5 Ways to Overcome Barriers of Effective Communication By Debbie Lyn Toomey

 

Mindfulness: 5 Ways to Overcome Barriers of Effective Communication

By Debbie Lyn Toomey

What?

Huh?

What did you say?

These questions are what my aging parents ask me when I am talking to them. My mother, a three-time cancer survivor, lost most of her hearing from the side-effects of the chemotherapy, and my father lost his from aging. I have to be mindful when I talk with them so that they are able to hear me. That said, what if you are trying to converse with someone who has great hearing but who is not fully listening to you? Don’t take it personally. It’s not you. Nowadays, there are many obstacles that get in the way of effective communication. Here are three noteworthy barriers to consider and five solutions to help you become more successful at verbal communication.

Screen Time

The more you understand the about barriers, the more you will be able to use the right skill to enhance your relationships and increase your success. According to a Nielsen report(2016), the average American spends almost half the day on a screen. To be exact, an average US adult devotes about 10 hours and 39 minutes a day consuming media. This number is expected to increase. Whether it be a phone screen, computer screen, or television screen, it is still something that people compete with to get the undivided attention of others.

Age of Distraction

Another barrier is our decreasing attention span. More and more people are taking medications to help with their ability to “focus.” Why? Because we are living in the age of distraction. Distraction from technology that we have for personal use and professional use. In 2015, Time magazine wrote an article about Microsoft’s report on attention span. It was an article that caught the attention of the world showing that a goldfish has a longer attention span than the average human. It stated that the attention span of an average human has decreased to eight seconds mainly due to the widespread use of smartphones.

Pet vs. Master

While it might sound comical at first to have a simple house pet win over its master, the truth is not funny! In the 2015 Microsoft report, a goldfish was able to sustain its attention for 9 seconds. One second more than its highly-evolved competitor. Moreover, this report shared that our attention span has deteriorated from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds today. 2000 was around the time of the mobile technology revolution.

CPA

Another cause for the impaired communication is our need to stay in the know of what is going on all the time. This is what Linda Stone in 1998 coined continuous partial attention (CPA). Unlike the heralded act of multi-tasking where we are trying to do more than one activity at the same time to be more efficient, CPA relies on the need to not want to miss anything. This need to not miss out on any new connection or news makes us feel as though we must be constantly connected to media. According to Stone, CPA makes us feel alive when we are connected and plugged in. CPA is another barrier that inhibits our ability to fully listen and engage with another person.

Still There?

I hope I haven’t lost you yet. Are you still reading this article? If you are, thank you! Because I have 5 solutions to help you overcome these barriers so that you can have more effective communication and connection with people in your life. Some might think that what I am about to share are all common-sense-solutions. They are right! But as I mentioned in my book, The Happiness Result. More time, More health, More love, More success, common sense is not so common these days.

5 Ways

The key to all of these solutions is mindfulness. The more we create purposeful actions toward better communication, the better our interactions will be. The 5 ways for better communication are:

1. Mobile device: Put your mobile device away when you are about to talk with someone. PERIOD.

2. Eye contact: When you are talking with someone, make sustained eye contact with the individuals for about 3-5 seconds. Eye contact, according to James Wirth, social psychologist, provide us with some of the strongest information from social interactions. Be mindful and make eye contact.

3. Listen: Be silent when the other person is talking with you. Avoid interruptions like giving your opinions right away. Use this silent time to actively and empathically listen to what your mind and heart are telling you. Listen to the words being said and watch his/her body language (active listening) and try to pick up on his/her emotions (empathetic listening). Shut up and listen up.

4. Summarize: Once the individual is done speaking, rephrase or summarize what you heard. This will ensure that you fully understood the content of the conversation and show the individual that you were engaged with the conversation. Show you care and summarize.

5. Concise: Remember you have only 8 seconds to captivate someone’s attention. Therefore, speak clearly and concisely. The clearer you are expressing yourself, the less likely a misunderstanding and misinterpretation will happen. This is one of the basic elements of being a competent communicator. Get to the point.

Keep Practicing

Next time you feel that you are not being heard or people are not listening to you, be mindful of the common obstacles that stand in the way of communication in this age of distraction. Try the 5 mindfulness solutions that I shared with you and above all else, keep practicing. Effective communication and mindful listening are skills. They require practice in order for you to master them.

To learn more ways to add more time, more health, more love, and more success in your life, get a copy of my book, The Happiness Result. It will give you 7 awesome skills to live your best life. Click here to get the book www.TheHappinessResult.com.