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Stressed?

Stressed?

We keep talking about the negative effects of stress, and in fact, it’s become such a common complaint, we use it constantly. We say things like “I’m stressed out about my work/school”, or “Don’t stress!”. But that really isn’t possible, and it’s not even advisable in every case. Sometimes we need to stress out about things going on in our lives, because that’s the only way any of us ever makes a change. If we get too comfortable with the status quo, we don’t move, we don’t change, we don’t invent, we don’t dream, we don’t strive to do or be better than we are today.

 

Humans need challenge. Our brains are hardwired to seek and explore, but we’re also lazy. We need a reason to push ourselves and our limits. It’s only when things don’t work and we become stressed with a current situation that we scratch our heads and try to think of new ways to do things. When we’re stressed because we’ve come up against an obstacle, it’s our brain’s way of telling us to move, to do something about it.

 

Of course people don’t really like significant, really difficult life changes that come with high stress, like death, birth, moving, divorce, new job, new routines, and so on. On a good note though, these are the building blocks for growth, renewal, and awareness. We learn to cope with changes, and although we may actively seek some things we know are going to be stressful, like marriage, birth, moving, a new job, etc., we also fear the stress they’re going to cause. That kind of stress is good for us, so long as it doesn’t go to the extreme. Coping with stress and new situations is a good thing, because life isn’t and shouldn’t be static. Some believe deeply that even death isn’t static, since we (our spirit) go on in some manner. Life is about transition, which is a good thing. In the article, Coping With Change, on Mind Tools, it discusses the importance of coping and how to cope with change.

 

No, stress itself isn’t the problem, the problems arise when we stress too much over things we have no control over, or when our coping mechanisms fail us, or when we haven’t learned to cope well with change. There are techniques that can help us learn coping skills. In fact, many large organizations see the value in learned coping skills and now teach their employees how to use them effectively in the workplace.

 

Like everything in life, stress is only bad when the pendulum swings too far in one direction. The good news is, we can control our reaction to new situations, even when we have no control over the situation itself. Exerting that control to our reactions is one way people can reduce stress. As a writer, I experience many areas of stress, and could let it ruin my love of my craft. After all, writers receive actual rejection letters that stab at the very heart of our most precious work, and our hearts. I stress about making a living from my writing, I stress about whether or not my writing is good enough, whether or not I’m good enough, I stress about how to get the scenes and words to build strong characters and plots that readers will care about, I stress about finding a balance between my work and my life, I stress about disappointing my family, and so the list goes on. But I’ve learned to accept that stress is part and parcel of what I do and the life I’ve chosen. I try to put things into perspective via meditation, taking time away to enjoy my family and friends, and learning as much as I can about this business and craft of writing. Most though, I just cope, day in and day out. And when I need to, I allow myself to cry and experience the disappointments. Crying relieves stress. It allows me to let go and also express my deep feelings, and when I’m finished crying, I pick myself up and try again, or think of new ways to accomplish the outcomes I need.

 

Alerted!

Alerted!

Stress is also life-saving, since it signals the fight or flight response. That little voice in our heads that says “something’s not right” induces immediate stress. Our bodies tense, the hairs stand up on our arms or neck, and we become hyper aware of the people/things around us that might be triggering the stress. This primordial stress signal is present in every living thing. It’s what makes the deer lift it’s head and suddenly flee rapidly away from a perceived threat. It’s why some dogs become extremely agitated just before a major storm. They become stressed, they pace and whine. They try to alert their humans that “something evil this way comes”.

 

Stress is also catchy. If you stand near someone who is very stressed and agitated, it doesn’t take long before you become equally agitated, even if you don’t share their reason. It’s a collective response that’s designed to protect us from danger, and it’s something that isn’t planned. It just happens. The moment you remove yourself from the vicinity of the stressing person(s), you begin to relax. Unless of course there really is a train barrelling down the tracks toward you. Then, you still stress, and if you have a functioning brain in your head you MOVE!

 

So the next time you feel stressed out, take a few moments to ask yourself why. Take a close look at the cause, or trigger, then try to establish a plan for how to deal with it. Everything from the very simple, i.e. I’m stressed about finding a parking spot, to I need a new job, which means I’ll need to move to a new city and leave all my family and friends behin, and my spouse/children won’t want to go, requires some form of action. The beauty is, you get to choose the action, the response, to the stress. What an empowering thought. You choose!

De-stress

De-stress

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Change is inevitable

 

 

Woohoo, I’m working on my final edits for In The Spirit Of Love! It’s a ton of work, and at first glance, I felt a little overwhelmed with all the little red marks and comments my publisher attached to the manuscript. On second thought though, I realized it was my opportunity to clean up areas that needed cleaning, tighten sentences that were sloppier than they should be, and review – again, my finished product before sending it out into the big wide world.

It’s not often we get a chance for this kind of do-over. Or is it? As I sit, hour after hour going through the manuscript line by line, I couldn’t help but think about the parallels to life. How many times have we wished we could just go back and erase something we said or did? I don’t know about you, but for me, lots.

Just about everyone I know has regrets; things they’ve said, or didn’t say, missed opportunities, or things they’ve done that have hurt others (intentionally or unintentionally), but wish they could change.

With life, we hopefully learn, and as Oprah Winfrey says, “When you know better, you do better”. Well, I’ve learned a hell of a lot, and I know I could have done better in a lot of areas. As parents we’re always second guessing ourselves. There are always ten thousand things we wish we’d done differently or better. Being a parent means learning to live with guilt and regret, but most of us get enough right to raise reasonably sane and productive adults who contribute to society, love themselves and value the importance of family, religion and doing the right thing.

But what about actually making a change? What about do-overs in life? Well, we may not be able to go back in time and change the past, but we have full control of changing the present and the future. We can make amends to those we’ve hurt, we can apologise for hurtful words or deeds, we can choose to make different decisions and thereby change the future. We can even choose to change the world if we want.

I recently attended a large incentive and rewards trade show in Toronto and was fortunate enough to attend a seminar by keynote speaker, Scott Harrison, Founder & CEO of charity: water. I really hadn’t paid any attention to who was speaking, I just went to the seminar because my boss asked me to. I came away with a deep appreciation and respect for this young man who was able to pull off one of the greatest do-overs I’ve heard of. Going from popular event promoter in New York City living a carefree life of parties, booze, drugs, and irresponsibility, Scott made a decision to change his life, and thereby changed the course of many lives. I sat in that packed amphitheatre and listened to his story and was amazed at what one man could, and has, done to make a difference in his own life and for so many others. Wow. Very cool. I encourage everyone to check out Scott and his organization to learn more about this 100% fixable global problem of insufficient clean water.

I think too often we think we can’t change things, we can’t change ourselves or our direction in life, or that our efforts and deeds don’t matter. We can, and they do. Every day we make decisions on how we want to present ourselves to the world, how we want to interact with our fellow human beings, and how we contribute to this life and planet.

It’s true we can’t change our past – it’s done and over, but we can change our outlook, our direction, and our future. For sure not as easily as I edit my manuscript, but in editing the words on a screen, I’m reminded of the bright possibility of tomorrow, and of the do-overs yet to come.

 

 

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Hold close the beauty of each day

Well, I’ve gone and done it. I’ve taken on a new position as Business Development Manager for Strategic Incentive Solutions, a Canadian/US incentive and rewards marketing company. I’m pumped, I’m excited, I’m ready to rock and roll. I’m  ready to get out there and kick butt. But…

Having committed to this writing gig, I also acknowledge that I have to fine tune my time management. No longer can I devote my time soley to my writing, but allocate blocks of time to successfully work at both. Each is time consuming and comes with it’s own set of demands. As I dive into the sales pool again and surface, I know I have to stay motivated in each area in order to make them work. But how to accomplish that task?

Motivation is a funny thing. Typically, humans aren’t motivated to change unless given a reason – an incentive if you will. After all, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Well, you might want to fix it if the same old same old simply isn’t working for you any longer, or if there is an incentive to change or take action. For example, most people will motivate themselves to get up in the morning and go to work because the incentive of a pay cheque waits at the end of the week (or whatever pay period you have). Going to school? The obvious incentive is to gain education and thereby hopefully secure a good job in a field of interest, and get paid for it. What about writers who write a book, article or journal? Again, the motivation might lie in wanting to get paid for the work we do.

But there are other motivators and incentives, as well as the inherent rewards. What about the social aspect of work and school? I remember my children at around the age of eight or nine years old telling me their motivation or incentive to go to class wasn’t getting education – far from it. They were motivated to get up and out the door by the prospect of seeing their friends and playing with them, or doing something neat like a school trip, or being leader of the class for the day. Later in life, when we start working for a living, yes we need that pay cheque, but we also crave the social aspect of working with others. Most of our friends are cultivated from work or the work place, so we want to go there and interact with others.

Then there’s the motivation to succeed, to improve and to grow for it’s own sake. I know I personally am often motivated to do something because I enjoy the challenges, or the learning experience. Every time I take on a new project, I learn more about the subject matter, and about myself. When I travel, I love seeing the truth of the place beyond the commercial glitz (I’m not averse to commercial glitz and enjoy that too!). I love discovering neat little out of the way places, or talking to the locals. So, even though I’m terrified of alligators, I’ll hold a baby one (yep, me big chicken) and go to an alligator zoo to get up close and see the criters, because I’m motivated to learn and see something new.

That brings me to recognition. Most people also seek recognition of what they do, whether in the work place or on a personal level. Recognition can be as simple as a heart-felt “thank you” from a boss, coach or trainer, or it can be as elaborate as getting an all expenses paid vacation to a fabulous destination. In fact, experiential rewards top material merchanise or gift card ones by far, every single time.  Recognition can also come through fame; by attaining that level of notoriety whereby you are recognized by peers and the world at large for what you’ve accomplished, which can be it’s own motivator.

In fact, studies have shown that when employers recognize and reward their empoyees, the confidence in the company increases, production and sales increases and loyalty increases. Getting paid and just having a job aren’t enough to motivate people to do their best, to remain with a company, or strive to excel. When employers and managers see the value in those who work for them, and when teachers, coaches and trainers understand the true merit of incentives and rewards, then, and only then, will they see the kinds of performance they need to reach certain goals. I call this a “thoughtful team work approach”.

The fact is, people are motivated by a variety of factors. Each is as valid as the other, and every person is subject to his or her own motivators. Our jobs as human beings is to find what motivates us to change or do something proactive and use it to our best advantage. In fact, to borrow a military saying, “to be the best we can be”.

Question: What motivates you to achieve success or reach a goal, and how do you act on that motivation?

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The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap

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