Making a Change

Making a change

Stress is not a bad thing. In the right amounts it can motivate us to take action, accomplish tasks, and even improve performance. When stress is chronic or to a degree that interferes with functioning, though, it may be a sign that change is needed.

I frequently help my clients to better manage their stress, and I have found the model of  the “Four As” of stress management to be very useful: Avoid, Alter, Accept, and Adapt. When acceptance will simply prolong and increase the stress, when altering the situation hasn’t worked, and when adapting will change you in ways that are in conflict with your values and fulfillment, avoiding or removing yourself from the stressor may be the best option. Make a change!

Avoidance usually gets a bad reputation. And, to be fair, avoidance of stress often leads to stunted growth and development. If you never get up in front of a group of people to give a presentation just because it is stressful, you may not be advancing in your career. On the other hand, staying in an unrewarding and even punishing situation can lead to negative health effects, stress disorders, and even depression. Avoidance used excessively may be the easy out and counterproductive, but when removing yourself from a stressor is the best option, it takes courage to belly-up and make the change.

Know when to make a change!

My own example of making a change came several months ago when I found myself in a job that was unfulfilling, restricting, and did not support my values. I had been unhappy for years, but I had reasons for staying – mostly financial. Finally, after many discussions with my wife and a long period of planning, I began taking steps toward making a change and leaving the position.

How did I know it was time to make a change? The position no longer aligned with my values and priorities. I did not have the flexibility I needed to nurture and attend to my family relationships, nor did I have the time, opportunity, or freedom to pursue my own personal interests or professional development. I found myself so consumed with stress that it took all of my free time just to unwind from it. In short, my values and priorities were being challenged and my growth was being stunted.

Resigning from a secure, full-time position for a more flexible private practice was far from easy. It took careful planning, lots of support, and an abundance of courage. In the end, making a change was not the simplest judgement to make,  but since that crucial decision, it has led to less stress, greater life balance, and more opportunity for success.

My challenge to you is to reflect on your own life stresses and ask yourself, “Is it time to make a change?”

-Alex

Journal Prompt: Pick one source of stress in your life right now and review the Four A’s of stress management. Which approaches will lead to the best outcome for you? What values or priorities are being threatened by this source of stress, and what values and priorities will be nurtured by taking the approach you’ve decided on?

 

It’s Been Awhile…

Photo May 30, 7 57 45 PMHello and Happy 2018! With the new year we often find ourselves reflecting on our lives and things that we have done well, let slide, and aspirations for the future.

In the spirit of honesty and moving forward, Alex and I let our jobs take over a bit in the past few months and weren’t doing our OTHER job of proper self care and taking time for regular reflection. We aspire to share more and share more often with you through this blog, and look forward to seeing what the year brings.

Are there any particular self care topics you would like to see us cover this year?

Journal Prompt: In reflecting on the past few months, what have you done well? Let slide? What are your aspirations for the near future? 

xo,

Moira

A Return to Gratitude

Bourne Pond 3.JPGSometimes we need a reminder to return to the things we’ve done in the past to take care of ourselves emotionally now. This week I had planned to post a follow-up to Get Outside! following an amazing backpacking trip with my brother in the Lye Brook Wilderness of Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest – we had a great time bonding over some of the things we love to do outdoors like hiking, fly-fishing, and just being out in nature. A few days following our return, though, my brother experienced an acute medical condition that proved challenging to treat and ultimately required surgery. While waiting anxiously for updates as he went through the process of diagnosis and treatment, I was reminded of the need to fall back on a perspective of gratitude when life throws something difficult and unexpected your way. Rather than attempting to push myself through writing something about our time outdoors, then, I decided that I would instead post about the benefits of gratitude. This decision to share openly about my own story and what I have been actively doing to manage it feels like a more authentic expression of myself.

On gratitude, a couple of years ago I accepted a challenge to track my gratitude daily for 7-10 days. Each day I listed three (3) things for which I was grateful that day. At first it felt a little awkward. I felt silly when my source of thankfulness came from something as trivial as, for example, getting to eat my favorite food. Other days my reflections felt more meaningful. For example, when I listed a family member’s words of encouragement as a source of gratitude, I felt supported and cared about by others. Ultimately, carrying the practice of gratitude forward over a full week helped me to establish the habit of looking for and noticing things to be grateful for, and has given me the confidence to always be able to find something positive in my life when things are tough.

Plenty of research on the benefits of gratitude can be found by doing a simple google search, including research on the psychological health benefits of gratitude by Dr. Robert A. Emmons Ph.D. But many people do not need convincing; the health benefits of gratitude have become so accepted that phone app developers have been working to make it more convenient and easily integrated into daily life.
If you feel the need for any more evidence or explanation, try the challenge for yourself!
Journal Prompt: List three things for which you are grateful each day for 7-10 days. As an alternative, try journaling about any of these 5 questions from Dr. Alice Boyes.
-Alex

Beyond the Comfort Zone

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Wading through the bay and trying not to think about all of the creatures I might step on, I feel the paddle sliding through my sunscreen-greased, sweaty hand. I grip the paddle board and slowly hoist myself onto the board and up on my knees. I can’t tell if the board is shaking from my quivering limbs or from the tiny ripples of the water. Either way,  I have to stand up. It’s time.

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As someone who usually errs on the side of caution and has a genetic predisposition for anxiety, my “comfort zone” is a pretty big space. I like knowing what I’m getting myself into and plan for a variety of outcomes in a given scenario. When it comes to physically challenging activities in unknown places, I feel especially timid. In the past few months I have done some soul-searching about why I have these boundaries and small ways I could push them. Have you ever noticed how doing something really small to challenge your normal boundaries can actually translate into feeling more confident and capable (insert self care siren here)?

During the yearly beach vacation with my extended family, I happily observe my cousins and their kids dive through the crashing waves and paddle board along the shore of the bay. It’s not that I’m afraid to engage, per se, it’s just that I’m comfortable where I am, with my toes planted firmly in the sand. When my sister told me that she and my cousins were taking the kids paddle boarding, I told her to count me in.

As you can probably tell from the triumphant pose the mystery paddle boarder is striking in the picture above, I did it! I won’t go into all of the details about the before and during–the most important takeaway for me was the after. Even though most people would probably paddle board without a second thought (basically everyone I was with and their five year old kids), to me, the feat of actually standing up on the board and meandering my way through the ripples of the bay was like completing a marathon. Beyond the adrenaline and pride coursing through me, my family was SO proud of me. They know me and accept me for who I am, and wouldn’t have been disappointed or even said anything to me if I didn’t end up paddle boarding. But let me tell you, when I stood up and paddled away, I heard my cousin Peter yelling to my sister “MAEVE! She did it! Take a picture!” Paddling outside of my comfort zone not only fostered self-confidence, it reminded me of what an amazing support system I have.

I found these articles really interesting about one’s comfort zone and how there is a level of “optimal anxiety” which leads to all sorts of positive outcomes like increased productivity and creativity. There also is a point at which pushing oneself too far outside of the zone can be detrimental. Check them out and leave a comment to let me know your thoughts!

The science of breaking out of your comfort zone

10 ways to step outside of your comfort zone

Journal Prompt: How can you push yourself out of your comfort zone this week? Write about how you feel before and after this experience.

xo,

Moira

Know Who You Are

What goes in your self care toolbox depends a lot on your personality–what are your likes, dislikes, strengths…what makes you tick? One of the fundamental ways of taking care of yourself is knowing yourself. Even if you already are 100% confident in your ENFJ personality type or know all of the ways to take care of your introverted self, humor me….there is always something more to be learned about your personality.

I really like this free personality test based off of the Myers-Briggs model. It breaks down your personality into a four letter code (16 possible types) that include the following:

  • Extraverted (E) or Introverted (I)
  • Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
  • Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
  • Perceiving (P) or Judging (J)

The best part about this test is that the results explain the strengths of each personality type based on your answers. I’ve always thought of myself as an Extrovert with Introverted qualities, and the test was spot on–based on its algorithm, the test showed that I am 12% more extroverted than introverted.  For me, socializing and being goofy with friends gives me energy and sparkle, but there comes a point where I need an hour of sitting in my room watching Netflix alone. This test is a good reminder that one of my tools for when I’m feeling stressed is to give myself a break from others and just chill.

Journal Prompt: What is one thing you learned about your personality type? How can this translate into better caring for yourself?

xo,
Moira

P.S. Here’s another fun link about pop culture personality types–I’m Sansa Stark! Who are you?