Boost Happiness Instantly with Gratitude

Boost Happiness Instantly with Gratitude
By Debbie Lyn Toomey, RN, Mindfulness Educator

I am a founding member of Thrive Now Boston, a non-profit organization that “designs ‘WOW’ experiences that bring people together and make them feel happier.” We just had our first event at historical Boston Commons. We called this special event, Grati-Tuesday.

Practice

Our intention was to inspire the practice of gratitude by asking people who passed by what they were grateful for. While some had no time for us, there were many others who were more than happy to write down their gratitude, get their picture taken with the gratitude they wrote on a piece of paper, and to add what they wrote to our huge gratitude banner.

Why did we kick off our first event with gratitude?  Easy!

Research

Gratitude is an instant happiness booster that has lingering results according to a Harvard research study. Gratitude has also been linked to better relationships and also longer life.

It was an amazing time for the other “Wow-ers” and me! That evening the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Boston Common was filled with people from all walks of life. There were people kicking a soccer ball around, children chasing a dog, tourists marveling at the rich history that Boston has.

Powerful

Although making this event happen took months of preparation, the hours that we put into putting this event together was worth it. My group and I witnessed the power and grace of gratitude in action. It was wonderful to see people’s faces light up as they shared their gratitude and to see them walk away with a big smile on their faces. Some of the gratitude notes that people wrote were:

FAMILY

FREEDOM

KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

DIVERSITY

… and so much MORE!!!

Try It!

Practicing gratitude is one of the simplest happiness technique there is. Here’s how you can get started. All you have to do is finish this sentence stem and keep writing until you have fully explained why you are grateful.

I am grateful for… (fill in the blank) ______________________________
because … ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I suggest that you continue this gratitude practice for one week. Notice how you feel after you do each daily exercise. If doing this simple gratitude technique boosts your level of happiness, then keep going. The longer you do this practice, the more you benefit. “Thank you” so much for taking the time to read this article.

I wish you all the happiness in the world!

To learn more about how gratitude can help you begin a new chapter of your life contact me for life coaching at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com.

Mindfulness: How to Gain a Sense of Freedom by                                 Living in the Present
Debbie Lyn Toomey, RN, Author, Mindfulness Educator

 

“By being totally immersed in the present moment we allow both the past and the future to stay where they are supposed to be.” DLT

Last week, I saw an old colleague and after catching up he excitedly told me about an audio book he just finished listening to called, Why Buddhism is True by Robert Wright. Knowing that I’m a mindfulness educator and researcher he eagerly shared with me what he learned.

 Freedom

Our conversation led to what we know about mindfulness and how practicing awareness in the moment can bring about a sense of freedom from our anxieties, fears, and worries. Freedom that brings enlightenment by simply being in the moment without distractions from our filters. Filters are the way we view life. They are created from our culture, family, and society.

In the Present

Both of us agreed that mindfulness is the practice of being in the present and that this awareness is more than consciously acknowledging the moment. Fundamentally, it’s allowing our senses to fully awaken to what is going on and observing what is happening without attaching any thought, feelings, or emotions to it.

Definitions

Two definitions of mindfulness embrace the mindfulness philosophies that my colleague and I were describing. The first is Jon Kabat-Zinn’s, definition of mindfulness as, “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present, nonjudgmentally.” The second, on the other hand, is Ellen Langer’s definition, “actively noticing new things.” Ellen Langer is considered the mother of mindfulness.

Get Started

Interested in how can you gain a sense of freedom from living in the present? Here’s how.

  1. Open: Be open to the mindfulness practice.
  2. Time: Set aside some time. Even 5 minutes can help transform anyone from being a sceptic to a believer.
  3. Begin: Start the practice by purposely paying attention nonjudgmentally.
  4. Observe: Be a spectator of your mind and notice what comes up.
  5. Notice: How did you feel not having to spend any extra energy on the past or the future? How did it feel to just be in the moment? How did you feel afterwards?

Be Patient

Trust that the more you practice mindfulness the more you can feel the freedom from feelings and emotions that we have about the past and the future.

Think of mindfulness as another muscle that you can exercise and strengthen that will give you more health and vitality.

Try this practice for the next 2 weeks and journal your experience.

Contact me

If you need 1:1 coaching in how to begin and sustain your mindfulness practice contact me at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com today.

Five Simple Steps for a Successful Day

Five Simple Steps for a Successful Day

Debbie Lyn Toomey RN, author of The Happiness Result

Whether you work from home or not, what you do before you tackle your day can either make you or break you. These five simple steps will keep you from drowning due to feelings of frustration and overwhelm.

Just as you would pack an umbrella or wear a raincoat due to predicted rain, there are also simple steps to take to prevent you from sinking like the Titanic. It is possible to stay afloat despite knowing that you will have a crazy busy day.

Below are five simple steps for a successful day. They are:

  1. List – Set yourself up for success by writing down what your to-do list is before going to bed. This is a fantastic way to empty your mind and help you begin the next day with a solid plan. While it’s tempting to create lists within your list, keep your to-do task items to five or less. Begin by asking yourself one question. This principle is based on Steven Covey’s time management system of focusing your time and energy on the quadrant that you deem as being non-urgent and important to you. The topics that fall under this quadrant are building relationships, reevaluating priorities, planning, and prevention. Ask yourself this question. 

“What are the three non-urgent but important tasks for me tomorrow?”

  1. Star – Once you’re done creating your list, take a deep breath and ask yourself which of the five items is one that will create the greatest ripple of opportunities for you. Put a star next to that item and do it as soon as you can the next day. Doing this will help you feel ahead of the game and set in motion a more focused, organized, and successful day.
  1. Time – Once you’ve made your short list and placed the allotted time you want to spend on them, gamify your to-do list by trying to beat the clock. After you put the amount of time you want to spend on each task and stick to it. Doing this will keep you from dragging your feet and getting distracted. Beat the clock and do the task as fast as you can. Your prize is time. Use your extra time for self-care during that day.

Feel like a winner the rest of the day by completing your task list and having extra time to slack. Having time for slack in your schedule is something that Herminia Ibarra, author of Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader talks about that every great leader does. Slack is time that you spend doing something that is purposely unstructured to help you gain a new and fresh perspective in what you are supposed to do. This well-earned free time will help you go back to work with greater clarity and productivity.

  1. Celebrate – Once you are done with all of your to-do items, give yourself a high-five, hug yourself or shout out a big “Woo-Hoo!” It’s important to celebrate successes throughout the day so that you are able to feel that your efforts have been effective. Don’t wait for others to recognize your great deeds. Do it yourself. The more you do this, the happier you will be.
  1. Gratitude – While there is always something to do, it’s also very important to practice gratitude by appreciating all the good that you have done. A wonderful gratitude practice to do at the end of a busy day is asking yourself what are the three good things that happened that day. This will help ensure that your day was not only productive but also positive.

The little time you invest in doing these five steps will pay off in the long run. The more you do them, the more you can feel victorious in being able to ride the waves of your busy work day. To learn how to work more effectively and successfully, contact me for 1:1 coaching support at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com today.

Mindfulness and Happiness Through Art Making

Mindfulness and Happiness Through Art Making
by Debbie Lyn Toomey

 

Are you a doodler or a dabbler of any arts?

As a visual learner and self-taught artist, I’ve always turned to some form of art making activity to help me quiet my mind and soothe my spirit. I love creating anything with my hands. I love to draw, paint, take pictures, etc. I remember many years ago, in nursing school, I used art to help me study. I used to draw what I learned in my science classes to help me remember what I was learning. For me, using art this way provided me with a positive outlet to help handle my stress. The mindfulness and happiness I experience through art has always been a game changer for me.

Flow

Any form of arts therapy based exercises put me in the state of flow. The concept of flow according to positive psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is the secret to happiness. When you are in the state of flow, you are in “the zone.” The zone is where you are fully immersed in an activity and your whole being comes to life. It’s mindfulness in motion at its best! Being in flow, makes you lose track of time because of the combination of doing something you love and pushing yourself to the next level. Art making is one of my favorite mindfulness practices because it helps me get into the zone and makes me happier.

Participants

As a workshop leader and mindfulness educator, I introduce arts therapy based exercises to my participants. I use art making as another form of mindfulness to help people reduce stress. Mindfulness is being in the present moment purposely and with no judgment. And what better way to explain that definition than through art. I use art therapy based interventions as an avenue for people to add play to their day and to feel better.

Workshops

My signature workshops incorporate positive psychology, the science of happiness and mindfulness, for people of all ages. There is something magical about taking time for art that makes everyone excited. When I pull out the colored pencils and paper and explain the art making technique that I am about to cover, the room is silent and all eyes are on me. It’s a class that everyone absolutely loves! There is a general sense of relief when I explain that not only are they creating art but also experiencing a mindfulness state that reduces stress, increases focus, and boosts their sense of wellbeing.

Creative Process

Art making is not about having a perfect and professional looking master piece. It’s about the creative process that gives way to self-healing, personal transformation, and mindfulness. The process of creation is as important as the end product that reveals so much of what you are not able to put into words.

How to

Here’s how you can access mindfulness through art making and become happier.

1. Preference – Determine what form of expressive art you love. If you don’t have a preference, try doodling. Doodling is spontaneously drawing lines on a piece of paper. Doodling has been found to help with remembering and retaining information.

2. Supply– Have your supplies readily available and accessible. If it is out of sight, then it is out of mind. Keep it visible so that you will remember to do it when you need it most. Have extra supplies at work and in your bag. Set yourself up for success and keep your arts therapy based tools handy.

3. Exercise– When you are doing your arts therapy based exercise, notice the feelings and emotions that you have before, during, and after the practice. What did you learn about yourself and the situation that might have upset you.

4. Masterpiece– Study your art piece and non-judgmentally observe what you did. Are you getting any insights or inspirations? Are there any surprises from what you are seeing?

5. Write– Journal about your experiences to learn more about the art piece you have in front of you. You may start the journal by completing this sentence:

“This art piece is about…” Write for a few minutes until you feel you have flushed out as much hidden meaning as possible from what you just created.

6. Read– When you are done writing, read what you wrote. You will learn more from doing this.

Permission

If the pen is mightier than the sword then, next time you are stressed, pick up a pen (or colored pencil) and make your mark on a piece of paper and express yourself. Give yourself permission to take the time to do this. Pour your feelings and emotions in between the strokes. Notice how you feel during the whole process. The more you do this, the more you will gravitate to it as a stress reducing activity that makes you feel better and happier.

Great News!

If you love to color, my latest book is going to be ready soon! The Happiness Result Art Therapy Coloring Book – Express and Enjoy Yourself is going to be available on Amazon early next week – just in time for the holidays! Get one for yourself. It will be the perfect stocking stuffer for your friends and family.

For instant arts therapy ideas and inspiration, my online course that I created with master trainer, Patrick Howell is ready for you to access at a special price. It is called, Therapeutic Arts: Art Therapy Based Practice for Self-care, Stress-reduction, and Mindfulness. This comprehensive course will introduce you to more art therapy based practices. Here’s the link to help you get started https://www.udemy.com/artstherapycourse/?couponCode=NEWSLETTER .

I hope that you take advantage of the great resources that I provided for you to help you add more mindfulness and happiness to your day. See you in the class.

How to Create a Relaxing Space at Work for Stress Reduction within Minutes

 

The best way for us to sneak some time for self-care and stress reduction at work is to create a relaxing space that reminds us of what we love to do outside of work. That’s right. When we bring in personal objects that we are passionate about to work, it makes our work space less dreary and more inviting for us. The whole idea is to give our mind and body a way to mentally reflect, refresh, and relax. This special spot doesn’t have to take up our whole office or cubicle.

Prime Our Environment

Having positive and purposeful reminders of the feeling state that we want to achieve is the best way to do it. Priming our environment with inspiring images, empowering quotes, objects, and aromatherapy is a wonderful way to get started without breaking the bank. Priming, in this case, means mindfully using visual, kinesthetic, auditory, and olfactory reminders to help us achieve the feeling state that we want.

Suggestions to Get Started

For the sake of offering different types of settings, I will use the example of the hiker, the ocean lover, the gardener, and the sports lover in the following examples. Here are four easy suggestions to get started in creating a relaxing workspace for stress reduction within minutes:

1. Visual (Seeing)

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”

~ Helen Keller

The Hiker – Have pictures of the mountains and the hiking trails.

The Ocean Lover – Have a picture of you on the beach or a boat.

The Gardener – Have a picture of you with your prize plant or vegetable from your garden.

The Sports Lover – Have a picture of you at a sports game.


2.
 Kinesthetic (Touching)

“Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has

struggled with in vain.” ~ Carl Jung

The Hiker – Have a piece of rock from your latest hike.

The Ocean Lover – Have a big shell or starfish.

The Gardener – Have either a real potted plant.

The Sports Lover – Have a ball from your favorite sport.


3.
 Auditory (Hearing)

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”

~ Bob Marley

The Hiker – Listen to acoustic music or country music.

The Ocean Lover – Listen to island music or ocean sounds.

The Gardener – Listen to music that you like to listen to when gardening.

The Sports Lover – Listen to music like the Rocky theme or music that is used during the game.


4.
 Olfactory (Smelling)

“Stop and smell the roses.” ~ Walter Hagen

The Hiker – Have a scent of evergreen or cedar.

The Ocean Lover – Have the scent of the tropics that has the coconut or lemon scent.

The Gardener – Have scent of lavender, rose, or peppermint.

The Sports Lover – Smell the leather from the ball that you have.


Inviting Workspace

Creating your special relaxing space and priming your environment can show off your personality and can help you feel more comfortable. The more inviting you can make your work space, the easier it will be for you to mindfully take a few minutes to stop, reflect, refresh, and of course relax.


Learn More

To learn more on how you can reduce your stress and increase your sense of well-being creatively at work contact me for coaching at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com. Also, for those of us who enjoy coloring de-stress, my coloring book, The Happiness Result Art Therapy Coloring Book – Express & Enjoy Yourself is going to be available at the end of October! Visit www.TheHappinessResult.com to get your copy.

 

Five Steps to Unleash Your Inner Superhero

Five Steps to Unleash Your Inner Superhero and
Defeat Work/Life Stress
by Debbie Lyn Toomey

Which super hero is your favorite?

Super Man?

Batman?

Wonder Woman?

My favorite is Wonder Woman. Besides being beautiful, brainy, and bold, she embodies so much of what I believe in. For my birthday this year, I asked my 12-year old son, Max, to give me a Lego Wonder Woman key chain. I was so excited the day he gave it to me because now I can carry around a little reminder of how I can unleash my inner superhero to help me defeat work/life stress.

Scratches

One week later, while Max and I were waiting in line at the grocery store, I happily pulled out my new key chain to show him. He examined it closely and immediately said,

“Oh no, it has scratches on it!”

Although, I was surprised that he noticed the tiny scratches on it, I was even more surprised with the reply I gave to him.

Honey, she wouldn’t be Wonder Woman if she didn’t have scratches on her.”

Scars

As we walked across the parking lot over to our car, I thought about what I had just said to him. It made me think about how the adversities that many of the comic-strip super heroes faced allowed them to fully discover their unique power. Then I reflected about my own internal scars that were caused by dealing with life. Some of them were a result of failures, rejections, and feelings of inadequacy.

Strengths

These permanent imprints have become my well-earned badges of honor. They came from moments in my life where I chose to persevere, forcing me to awaken my inner super allies; my inner strengths and talents. Without these negative obstacles and conflicts, I would have never had the chance to discover how strong I am. I wouldn’t have known what I was really made of. These were epic moments that made me resilient in dealing with life’s ups and downs.

Soar

As mortals, we may not wear capes but we can soar to the top of our game. Here are five ways to unleash your own inner superhero so that you can defeat work/life stress.

1. Reflect- Think about your life in the past year and reflect on your challenges. Determine what you did in all cases that helped you rise above the circumstance.

2. Recognize- Watch for patterns in what you did and how you did it. The more you recognize your strong and positive actions the more you can “own them” and be proud of them. You can consider these positive attributes as your strengths.

3. Remember- Have reminders of your strengths. Whether it’s a powerful quote, an image, or a Lego key chain of your favorite hero, use something that will align you to your best self.

4. Read- Once you know your strengths, read more about how you can strengthen them. If you haven’t already, take courses or learn from a coach or mentor about how you can make them your own super powers.

5. Reap– Ask people in your life to list your positive attributes. Reap the positive words that they use to describe you. Compare their list with yours. Notice the similarities and notice ones that you did not think about but agreed with. You can consider the similarities as your top strengths in this case and the others your lesser strengths.

Support

Use all of your strengths. They will help you deal with work/life stress. The more you learn how to unleash your super-hero-self, the more you can beat work/life stress and become your own hero. To gain support and learn more about how to become the best version of your super self, email me at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com to see how we can work together.

This Job Made Me Fat! 10 Tips to Manage Your Workplace Stress

This Job Made Me Fat!

10 Tips to Manage Your Workplace Stress
By Debbie Lyn Toomey

PSST, between you and me, have you gained weight since you started working?

I did. It happened when I worked as a fulltime nurse many years ago. I gained 20 pounds, but fortunately I found ways to get rid of the weight. I blamed my weight gain from the chronic stress I was experiencing. Back then, I had to work different shifts with varying work schedules. I developed crazy eating habits. The busier and more overwhelmed I got, the less healthy I ate at work and the more I ate at home. Emotional hunger took over and I ate comfort food to help me feel better about myself and how I did at work. The bottom line, the more I had on my plate at work, the wider my waist line got!

Emotional Hunger

What is emotional hunger? In a nutshell, it’s eating to comfort the suffering that is experienced within. Unlike physical hunger where the stomach is empty, emotional hunger feeds the feelings of stress or emptiness inside. Regardless of the distress, comfort food or drinks are used to “nurse” and ease the discomfort. Job stress can lead to weight gain. In fact, research has shown that workplace stress is linked to unhealthy lifestyle habits that lead to smoking, obesity, and lack of exercise.

On the Go

As a staff nurse, I had no eating pattern because of the nature of my job. I worked day and evening shifts. I worked every other weekend and some holidays. My work shifts ranged from eight to sixteen hours depending on the week. When I worked, I had little time to eat or enjoy my meal. I was constantly on the go and in demand. I found solace in the fact that I could always get a decent meal and snack when I got home no matter how late it was. The heavier I got, the more I took comfort in hiding my growing weight by wearing loose fitting and unstructured scrubs.

We All Have It

Workplace stress is real and escalating. Job demands are high in all industries, not just health care. According to a survey that Career Builder, did amongst 3,031 workers ages 18 and over, 2 out of 5 workers have gained weigh in their current job due to stress. Let’s be real, there will be days when we have to shorten our breaks or eat on the run to get a big project done but that doesn’t have to be the way to operate all the time.

10 Simple Ways to Manage Weight from Stress

Although stress levels are up, there are many techniques that we can use to help us feel good and look good at work.

Here are 10 simple ways to manage your weight despite workplace stress.

1. Drink the recommended 8-10 glasses of water a day. Hydration is important for our brain and body. Water increases the performance of our brain. Have a water bottle with you in the office.

2. Jot down your big and small wins during the day. This will make you feel good about yourself. This will help you focus on the good things that you’ve done during the day.

3. Pack your food the night before and plan on high protein snacks. Protein bars and nuts work really well to curb the appetite. Pack more for busy days.

4. Walk as much as you can at work. Take the stairs and park far away from your building. Ask a colleague to be your lunchtime walking buddy.

5. Listen to relaxing music or music that enhances attention at work. This will help keep your stress at bay and make you more productive.

6. Put chewing gum in your mouth instead of high calorie or fattening food. Chewing gum helps with focus.

7. Notice the triggers that make you upset and stressed at work. The more you recognize them the better you can avoid them or prepare yourself ahead of time.

8. Sleep. The more sleep, the merrier you will be. If you can, try taking a 10minute power nap from time to time.

9. Talk with a close friend and vent. Don’t let your stress eat away at you. Find someone you can trust.

10. Eat your meals. Although there might be days when a meal is a handful of nuts and a bag of carrots, be grateful and acknowledge them as your meal so that you don’t feel deprived and feel you can eat extra portions later on the day.

I hope these suggestions help you keep your cool and your weight under control in the midst of your busy days at work. To learn more about how you or your team can manage your stress, contact me at INFO@HEALTHANDHAPPINESSSPECIALIST.COM to learn how I can help you. Here’s to your health, happiness, and success!

 

1440 Minutes Per Day

A Guilt-free Self-care Tool: Your Edge to Greater Health, Happiness, and Productivity.

By Debbie Lyn Toomey RN, CIPP

I am so busy that I don’t have time to enjoy the nice weather.

I am so busy that I don’t have time to read a good book.

I am so busy that I don’t have time to take a break.

I am so busy that I don’t have time to yadda, yadda, yadda.

If you are like so many others who are stressed from working hard and have little time to tend to your basic needs, then you are not alone. It’s important to take time throughout the day to take care of yourself so that you can become more positive, productive, and have greater peace of mind. It’s simpler than you think. Instead of removing yourself from work to take care of your needs, all you have to do is infuse micro-moments of guilt-free self-care so that you feel good and are able to do good.

1440 minutes/day

I hate to break it to you but no matter how busy you are, you
do have time for self-care. If you don’t claim it, nobody will do it for you. Did you know that you have exactly 1440 minutes a day? So, why not mindfully take a few minutes of self-time so that you can work smarter instead of harder.

Self-Care is “Self-Time”

Some hardworking people haven’t fully grasped the importance of self-care at work. They don’t understand that it is a key component of stress management. Some feel it’s a selfish act or that it’s a waste of time. I disagree. As a Health and Happiness Specialist, I believe that self-care is our edge to a greater health, happiness, and productivity. For those who have a difficult time understanding the significance of self-care, try viewing it as self-time to collect yourself mentally and physically and to take care of your basic needs so that you can be fully present and impactful for the rest of the day.

Self-Care Restores Health

While nobody has the ability to stretch time we do have the power to make time for ourselves. Whether it is 2 minutes of quiet time or one personal day, it’s important to take time to restore your mind-body health. Micro-moments of self-care quiet our busy minds and refuel our bodies.

Self-Care Makes Us Happy

A little bit of self-care can go a long way. It can shift our mentality from feelings of sadness to happiness. Think of the last time you heard your favorite workout tune while sitting in traffic. How did it make you feel? Although you weren’t working out, didn’t it make you happy and feel re-energized? The few minutes that you took listening to that song was self-care! Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. It just needs to be claimed and appreciated every chance we can take it.

Self-Care & Productivity

My new tagline is “Happy Person. Healthy Workplace.” Positivity in the workplace is created by happy workers (leaders included). In order for happy workers to exist, the workplace must make it the expected culture of the workplace for its employees to take breaks and to take time for self-care. According to the Harvard Business Review (March, 2015) Positivity in the workplace leads to greater productivity in the company. Many companies like Google, Yahoo, and Proctor and Gamble are investing money to provide their employees with wellness programs for stress reduction because they understand the importance of having a healthy and happy employee and their impact on the company’s bottom line.

The Edge

Even though you may not be working for companies like Google or Yahoo, here is a quick tip that many of my clients enjoy. I like it because they can do it anywhere and anytime. You can do this technique while getting ready for the day, waiting in traffic, or sipping from your first cup of coffee. All you have to do is to remember to do it. You can begin right now by asking yourself this question.

“What does self-care look like for me today?”

Once you answer the question, allow it to be your self-care promise to yourself that day. Every day may be different depending on what you are doing and who you are with. Self-care for you might be going outside for a 5-minute walk to clear your mind and get some fresh air or it could be closing your office door and turning off all electronics for 5-10minutes for quiet time. Or it could be taking deep breathes on your way to your next meeting. Trust in the answer that comes to you and notice how much better you feel during the day.

Just Ask

Asking this question is simple yet powerful and it can make a huge difference in your day. Try this guilt-free self-care tool for the next week and notice how much better you feel. If you are interested in learning more ways to boost your health, happiness, and success visit www.HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com to learn how we can work together.

 

 

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.