Regular writing can bolster the immune system, help you recover from traumatic events more successfully and ease stress and depression. Professor James Pennebaker, from the University of Texas in Austin
Soon after I sequestered myself to keep safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, I started a COVID-19 Diary. Inspired by The Diary of Anne Frank, at first I thought of the diary as a historical document and a remembrance for my great-grandchildren. However, I soon discovered the immediate personal benefits of expressing my frustrations, fears, victories, and disappointments.
Research by Professor Pennebaker and others suggest that those who regularly write in a journal or diary have a more vigorous antibody response to bacteria and viruses and produce less cortisol, a stress hormone. I can’t prove any reduction in stress or increased antibodies but I do know that expressing my thoughts in a diary has a calming affect on me as I clear my mind of negativity. I also use my diary to track progress on my soon-to-be-published book. It helps me stay focused and reminds me that I am making progress even if it feels slow.
Affirmation: I will continue to write in my diary.
Coaching questions request: What would it be like to start your own COVID-19 Diary? What are the possible benefits? Write about your feelings, activities, circumstances every couple of days for a week. Let me know how this exercise works for you.
You can pray or you can worry but you can’t do both. Vicki
Although people often say there are 365 “fear nots” in the Bible, technically it’s not true. In the King James Version, fear is spoken of over 500 times. If we expand our search to verses that encourage us not to worry or not to be anxious, it would be many, many more.
Fear, which frequently manifests into worry and stress, is not only contrary to faith but it can cause physical harm. Here are five tips to help you kick the worry habit:
- Set aside designated “worry time” — set a timer, consider what’s bothering you then move on when your time is up.
- Write down your worries then mark those over which you have control. Erase the rest.
- Spend less time online surfing the bad news.
- Have faith that _____________ (fill in the blank) will move forward even if you stop worrying about it/them.
- Stop procrastinating and take care of those things you’re worrying about that are within your scope of control.
Affirmation: I can kick the worry habit.
Coaching questions: What’s on your worry list? Which of the above tips speaks to you? Which one will you implement today?
Photo by niklas_hamann on Unsplash
Humans have an incredible capacity to deal with stress and pain and trauma. What we can’t cope with is not truly connecting with ourselves and our community. Sarah Wilson, author
In an age when busy is better and technology rules, we frequently have little time for quiet contemplation or real connection with others. As much as I enjoy the connection Facebook and other technology offers, there’s nothing as rewarding as talking face to face with a dear friend.
Most afternoons around four o’clock, I end the busy-ness of my day and take time to read in a quiet, comfortable place. Sometimes, I do nothing and just think. I reconnect with myself and calm the beast that drives me.
Affirmation: I make an effort to connect to myself and my community.
Coaching questions: What’s keeping you from truly connecting with yourself and your friends? What’s one thing you’ll do today to resolve this dilemma?
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
’Tis easier to prevent bad habits than to break them. Benjamin Franklin
About forty percent of our daily life is habitual action. Brushing our teeth, making our bed, drinking coffee, going for a morning walk, checking social media. When, where, what and how much we eat and even how we interact with our friends and family—all largely based on habits. According to Gretchen Rubin, author of Better Than Before: Mastering the Habit of Our Everyday Lives, “Habit is a good servant but a bad master.” Habits can help us make positive change but they can also be saboteurs of our progress.
Often the most effective way to adopt a new habit is to replace a bad one with a better one. Diverting a river is better than damming it up. Watch for triggers that might set you back including boredom and stress. Commit to at least sixty days to establish a new habit.
Affirmation: I can change my habits.
Coaching questions: What bad habit would you like to change? What good habit would you like to develop? What difference will it make in your life? Is the change powerful enough to pull you through sixty days of establishing a new path? Commit to it. You can do this!
Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author
When my late husband, Keith, literally dropped dead of a heart attack at the age of fifty three, I experienced first hand the “great and sudden change” Shelley is talking about. This year, we will all experience change–hopefully not great and sudden but one never knows. Basic self-care practices—good sleep, healthy food, exercise, taking breaks— can help you navigate future change more smoothly.
“Start making small changes when you’re not stressed,” says psychiatrist Henry Emmons, MD, author of The Chemistry of Calm. “Think of it like exercise. If you’re trying to get in shape, you don’t try to do a month’s worth of workouts in one day.”
The same is true when training yourself to deal with the stress response. The more you learn how to calm your mind when your stress is small, the better prepared you will be for the big change that will inevitably come your way.
Affirmation: I am ready for change.
Coaching questions: Consider how well you handle change. What will you do to prepare yourself now to handle change more effectively in the future? What difference might it make?
More smiling, less worrying. More compassion, less judgment. More blessed, less stressed. More love, less hate. Roy T Bennett, author
Are you striving to replicate the perceived “perfect” Christmas of your childhood for your grand children? Perhaps you want to impress your in-laws or not be judged by them. Maybe good-enough just doesn’t measure up to your personal desire to control the situation and make everything exactly right.
It’s that time of the month to ask yourself, “What can I let go of?” Do I really have to make Aunt Susie’s rum balls? Who will I disappoint if I don’t? Accept the reality of not pleasing everyone so you can take care of yourself during this busy time. Loosen your attachment to an idealized past and create a good-enough holiday. Yourself will thank you and so will your children or grandchildren when you’re present for them and not a stress-out mess!
Affirmation: I can accept good-enough.
Coaching questions: If you’re stressed out right now, consider what you might delete from your activities, menu, gift-giving. What does a good-enough holiday look like?
It turns out what you watch, read, listen to and play can affect your mood, temper, and even how generous and kind you are to others afterwards. Elaine Shpungin Ph.D., founder of Conflict 180
If you are coping with significant change in your life, you may want to consider going on a media diet. Maybe you’re a fan of violent or dramatic games or shows. During a time of transition—the death of a loved one, divorce, job loss—when your emotions are close to the surface, you might opt for comedy instead.
According to research by the Mayo Clinic, laughter calms the stress response and releases endorphins. Also consider your social media exposure. Although you may receive support from your friends via social media, managing your own feelings can be difficult enough without comparing yourself to others.
Affirmation: I take note of my media habits.
Coaching questions: How is your media consumption affecting your actions or mood? If changes are needed, what steps will you take this week?
When you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying no to yourself. Paulo Coelho, Brazilian lyricist and novelist.
One of the important lessons I taught my clients when I was their Life Coach was how to say, “no.” So much of the stress, anger, and anguish of our lives comes from our inability, particularly as women, to say no to the requests made of us that we know will put us over the top or are requests to do something we don’t want to do. Having a list of no-phrases can be helpful. Here you go:
I’d love to but I’m just not able to right now—Thanks, but my schedule is full— I know you need help with that project but I just can’t fit it in right now—Maybe another time—Thanks for thinking of me.
If these lovely responses fail, and the assailant won’t give up, sometimes you just have to say, “Is there something you don’t understand about my answer?” Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that but hold your ground. Your sanity and the possibility of living a tranquil, or at least not insane, life depends on it. You’re worth it.
Affirmation: I can say no.
Coaching questions: What is your response to a request to which you don’t want to comply? Is it working? If not, practice saying no then the next time you need to be strong you’ll be prepared.
The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived. Robert Jordan, American author
Whether you’re recovering from the loss of your mother or another loved one, it’s times like these you must draw on your ability to be resilient. Resiliency is the capacity to adapt well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, or extreme stress. I found daughters who demonstrated resilience generally had these six traits in common. In addition, many resilient daughters called on their faith in God to sustain them.
1. The ability to sustain supportive relationships with family and friends.
2. A strong self-image and confidence in their strengths.
3. The ability to accept change as a part of living and didn’t see crisis as insurmountable.
4. Good communication and problem solving skills.
5. Practiced healthy self care.
6. Built on their past experiences and trusted that what they had survived made them stronger.
Another way to build resiliency is to anticipate difficult times like holidays, birthdays, THE anniversary, weddings. Acknowledging your feelings of sadness during these special times will help you move forward.
Affirmation: I am resilient.
Coaching questions: If you’re just learning to flex your resiliency muscle, what traits do you need to work on? What will you do today to build resiliency for the future?
Don’t try to force anything. Let life be a deep let-go. God opens millions of flowers every day without forcing their buds. Osho, Indian godman and leader (1931-1990)
If you know me, you know I’m generally a stress-free person. Balance and order have always been important to me mostly because I really don’t like to feel stressed. But last week several events caused stress to catch up with me. Everything that was stressing me turned out to be just fine. Just like the quote, the buds turned to flowers despite my stressing over them.
This experience reminded me to: Let go and let God, breathe, stay in the present, and organize the best you can then allow events to unfold as they will.
Affirmation: I will let go.
Coaching questions: What helps you combat the inevitable stressors of life? How’s that working out for you? If you’re living with more stress that you’d like to, what steps can you take to learn how to deal with the stress or eliminate the stressors?