Three Tips for Tough Times

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This is the final week of classes at my university. Next week is final exam week. These are two of the tough weeks on a teacher or student’s calendar. And let’s face it. They’re sometimes tough weeks for anyone connected to teachers and students.

We all have tough weeks. Some are in retrospect, “Geez, that was a tough week,” but for many of us, we know when a tough week is coming. Holiday weeks are tough for a lot of people.

After 14 years of teaching, these two weeks every semester are still tough for me. And so, I have developed some tools to deal with them.

#1: Tell all friends and family that this week is different for you

I remember bursting into tears over something ridiculous a few years ago and yelling to my partner, “You have to leave me alone! You have to leave me alone! It’s finals!!!” He stood in shock and said “Of course. I understand.” And he did. Because he’d been through a few semesters and seen it. So, luckily, he cut me a lot of slack for a few weeks.

takeaway-40354_960_720I was emotional. I picked strange arguments. I was crabby. I couldn’t bring myself to cook a meal whereas throughout the rest of the year I loved to cook and eat at home.

It’s ok to have a week of all takeout where you cry inexplicably. Tell everyone it might happen. Let it be ok.

People can be so understanding when they know what’s going on. Tell the people you love this is a tough time for you. Watch the compassion flow back in your direction.

crook-1332306_960_720#2: Cancel or delegate all unnecessary obligations. Do not add anything new to your schedule.

If you’re a social person like me, you want to do fun things with friends and go to events. It’s just that, during a tough week, you might be crabby and super tempted to overeat and overdrink. You might use social events to procrastinate and avoid your tough week.

If you can, resist the temptation to start a downward spiral. I’ve gone down the party path, and I’m telling you that it makes a tough week tougher.

But you know what? Maybe you are trying to see how tough you are. In that case, go for it. Experiment. You’re not going to believe me until you try it. When you do, you’ll start to see the beauty of saying no. No, I can’t make it. I can’t do that. I’m going to give you the number of someone else who could help. I’ll see you in a week or two.

map-2527433__340#3: Love yourself fiercely through your week. Give yourself time and space. Pep talk the crap out of yourself.

Mindfulness practice really helps you to notice your thinking. Are you expecting yourself to be perfect? That’s not going to feel good. No one is perfect.

Are you expecting to be happy all the time? That’s not human or possible.

Are you mad at yourself for experiencing so much negative emotion this week? Try being compassionate. You are doing your best. You can make it. It’s all going to be ok. We all get stressed sometimes.

Are you tempted to deal with stress in an unhealthy way? You can deal with it in a healthy way. You can go to bed early. You can ask for help. You can skip a hard workout for an easy walk. You can drink a hot cup of herbal tea. You are going to make it.

Gorgeous, hardworking reader: We all have tough times. You can make it through. Alert your inner circle that you’re having a big week, eliminate or delegate all unnecessary stuff, and love the crap out of yourself through the process.

And then, repeat whenever you need the old 1-2-3.

Loving you out there. See you on the flip side of this week. I’m ordering some takeout. XO

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Feeling Stressed? Consider All the Free Things

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Lentils and Romanesco, charred broccolini and Marcona almonds, butternut squash and mushrooms, pork tenderloin and smoked heirloom tomatoes… the beautiful, savory dishes kept coming to our big table at Handle in Park City.

Mmm.

Mmm.

Mmm mmm mmm.

“This is so good,” I kept saying. “Wow. This is so good.”

We were a table of big gestures and big belly laughs and big love. It was a big beautiful birthday dinner for my friend Sara.

And then, after several hours of savoring, I waited for the bill that never came. I was told to put on my coat because we were leaving. Reaching for my wallet, my friend Betsy said not to worry. What?? My eyes were wide. Really?? She laughed her amazing extended hahaha laugh and said it was wonderful to see me, and she would text me later.

It turns out a man I had just met that night paid for our whole table. And my other friend bought several bottles of tequila for the kitchen staff. And I was the beneficiary of so much generosity and kindness.

santa-claus-1819933__340A free meal.

We all love a free meal. We love friendship and joy and laughter and beautiful, mmm mmm mmm food.

I texted Betsy frantically that I was so grateful. She replied, “I wasn’t expecting it either, but it made for a magical end to a fun night of laughter and friendship.”

Well said, I wrote. So well said.

Ever since then, I have felt so happy about the kindness of strangers. And I have contemplated all the free meals I have been gifted with. Some of my favorites were free pizza or a free bagel. Last week, I bought my class free pizza and it was so fun.

It’s fun to get a free meal, and it’s fun to give one too.

Have you ever gotten something for free? Something wonderful and unexpected?

card-1835447__340Take a moment and remember: What have you received for free? Look around you: How many wonderful things are free?

I sat down this morning and started making a list of all the amazing things I get for free. All the resources in my community that are free to everyone. All the things going on at my university that are free to everyone. All the beauty in nature that we all marvel at that is free free free free free.

Of course, cynics will say that there is a cost to someone. But how often do you give thanks for all your benefits? How frequently do you acknowledge all the gifts that people are giving or trying to give you?

What are the gifts that people give to you? Are you receiving them? Are you appreciating them? Can you see them everywhere?

Beautiful, gorgeous, holiday reader: ‘Tis the season for gift giving… but it doesn’t have to be contained to a holiday and a time of year or even a special occasion. People are giving you gifts every day: Do you accept them? The world has resources to offer you: Are you finding them? Your community is reaching out to you to join them: Are you listening?

Look for the gifts in your life. Surprise! They are everywhere. Some are delectably and deliciously generous, and some are small and subtle.

Open your heart to the gifts that people want to give. Accept them. You are worthy.

Loving you out there. Mmm mmm mmm. XO

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Thank Your Challenges

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Sometimes, around the holidays, people say, “This has been a tough year,” or “This has been a really challenging year.”

Have you been challenged this year?

Difficulties facilitate growth. Rejection is redirection. Challenges create change.

This year, if you’ve had difficulties, try saying, “I have grown a lot this year. I have learned a lot this year. This has been a year of tremendous growth and insight.”

sunflower-187985_960_720Every day can be a good day.

Every year can be a good year.

Sometimes it is a challenge to calm your mind. To slow your breathing. To return to the present instead of mining in the past or fearing the future.

Challenges create change. Try to stay present today as you give thanks. And then cultivate that practice as often as possible.

Grateful, thankful, happy holiday reader: Thank you for reading. Thank you for practicing the art of staying present. Thank you for growing. Thank you for changing. Thank you for all you do to care for yourself and others.

This is a beautiful moment. This is a great day. This has been an amazing year. These are times of growth and insight.

Happy Thanksgiving. Loving you out there. XO

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Obsessing Over Your Mistakes? Be Kind to Yourself in a 5:1 Ratio

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This semester, I teach one class in one building, then run to a second class in a second building, then run to a third class in a third building. When I first saw my schedule, I thought I was going to be in hell this semester. Except, there’s a little bit of heaven in every hellish situation.

Because I run from class to class to class, I have little time to do what I usually do: obsess.

Do you ever have a conversation and then immediately obsess over how you could have said something better?

Do you ever do something and then immediately think of all the ways you could have done it better?

Yeah, me too. That’s my entire life. Except this semester, as I run from place to place to place, I don’t have much time to do it. And then, by the end of the day, I’m so tired that I’ve forgotten most of what I said anyway. And then I fall into bed.

And you know what? It’s been so good for me.

achievement-3772064__340John Gottman is a famous relationship researcher who has found that, in the best relationships, there is a 5:1 ratio of compliments to criticisms.

I try my best to treat other people really well. I treat my students well and I try with my friends and family to be kind as much as possible.

And right now, I don’t have a partner, so it’s just me and me. I’m seeing that that relationship could use a better ratio. I’m noticing that, when I have a lot of time on my hands, I spend it being mean to myself.

Reviewing my life and pointing out flaws. Reviewing my past and thinking I could have done all of it, every moment of it, better.

Do you ever sit alone and beat yourself up for the past? How does it feel? Yeah. Makes you want a glass of wine, huh?

It’s hard to accept that the past is over and we can’t change it. So… now what?

We change. We evolve. We learn and we grow. It’s called evolution, and we can help our own evolution or beat ourselves up for it.

swallow-3584915_960_720I’m learning to help my own evolution with a simple tool: I’m being nice to myself in a 5:1 ratio. I’m being in a relationship with myself that has a 5:1 ratio. I’m going to love myself like crazy in a 5:1 ratio.

Since developing a mindfulness and meditation practice, I can catch myself being mean. I can feel it and recognize it. When I start telling myself that I should do more and be better and achieve more, I feel it. And then I stop.

  • What are 5 things that you did well today?
  • What are 5 things that you appreciate about who you are?
  • What are 5 things that your friends would say about you?
  • What are 5 things you are proud of?
  • What are 5 things that you did to take care of yourself today?
  • What are 5 things that you are really good at?
  • What are 5 things that you like about the way you look?

Beautiful, gorgeous, hard on yourself reader: The most important relationship of your life is the one between you and you. Be kind in a 5:1 ratio. Don’t give your critical inner voice so much air time. Crowd it out in a 5:1 ratio. Be supportive to yourself in a 5:1 ratio. Be encouraging in a 5:1 ratio. Be the best partner you could ever want for you.

You know what? I’m glad I wrote this blog. I’m proud that I’m willing to be vulnerable and share my struggles. I like that I write this blog thinking of you. I appreciate that I try my best to be a good person to others. I do the best I can with the tools I have.

What are 5 things you appreciate about yourself today? Practice that ratio.

Loving you out there. In a 5:1 ratio.

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I’m Feeling Unmotivated and I Need Help

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“I feel so unmotivated,” my student said. “There’s so much to do, and no matter what I do, it doesn’t seem to make a dent in what I need to get done. I get so frustrated. Then, I watch Netflix, and then I feel guilty for doing that. I don’t know what to do.”

I said, “I understand.”

He said, “So what do I do?”

I said, “You give yourself a break.”

He looked at me, unconvinced. The whole class looked at me like I was a teensy bit crazy. Give ourselves a break? DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH WE NEED TO GET DONE???

YES, I DO. I know how much you think you need to get done. I know that our whole nation thinks there is so much more you should be doing. And I know that the good old NOT DOING ENOUGH train of thought is a very popular ride. I’ve been on that crazy train. Every stop is frustration station.

man-1246277_960_720How do you get off a crazy train? You don’t need a meditation retreat. You need a minute. Give yourself a break.

Slow down. You have a minute. Take a minute. Take a deep breath. You can speed up that crazy train, and you can slow it down.

Tried, true, and well-traveled neural pathways are called “trains of thought.” They move fast because you practice them. My crazy train sounds like this:

You are never doing enough. Never skinny enough. Never good enough at your job. Never good enough to your friends. Never get your dog enough exercise. Never make enough of a difference in the world. Always screwing things up.

AAAAAAAAAAA THAT FEELS TERRIBLE. UGH UGH UGH. Are you ready to get off that train? Well, before a train can switch tracks, you need to slow it down.

Deep breath. Exhale. Another. Take a minute. Slow it down. Practice this:

It’s ok. I’m feeling frustrated. That’s ok. My smart brain is running old programs. My busy brain is tired and afraid. I can be compassionate with myself. I can observe my thoughts. I can question my thoughts. Are they true? I know I am ok right now. I am ok right here. 

cat-914110_960_720This past weekend, I heard Tama Kieves speak. She said that when you get upset you’re like a shy kitten hiding under the barn. How would you deal with a shy kitten hiding under the barn? Would you yell at it?

No. You soothe a shy kitten. You coax a shy kitten. You put out a saucer of warm milk.

I said to my student, “It’s ok that you’re watching Netflix. Watching Netflix is legal. There’s nothing wrong. You are calming yourself down. Let that be ok. Let yourself relax. When you relax, you will think of a better idea. You will calm down and make a plan. You will calm down and focus. You will calm down and reach out to a friend. You will calm down and seek out help. It’s all ok. Everyone in this room can relate to you right now. You are brave. You can do this.”

Hey, kitty cat: I know you think you have so much to do. I know you think you aren’t doing enough. I know you don’t believe me when I say it, but you really need to give yourself a break. Who you are right now, today, is enough. What you do every day is enough. Enough is enough. Refuse to judge and shame and ridicule yourself. You don’t think that way.

You give yourself breaks. You let your crazy brain calm down. You stay on your own side. You know that, from a calm place, you always find a better way.

Slow down, step back, deep breath. Over and over again. All day long. For the rest of your life.

And maybe… just maybe… you might even start to realize that you are way better than ok. You might even realize you are doing more than enough. You might even realize that your brain just wants to protect you. You might realize that you are becoming mindful and compassionate and courageous and brave.

You may even start to believe that you’re purrfect. Oh, yes. Mmm hmm. That feels right, shy kitty.

Meow.

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There is a Pathway Through This

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“Who here is good at delivering bad news?” I asked my class.

Only one hand in the room went up.

“Ok, only one person.”

The rest of the room sat in an uncomfortable silence. I asked my lone ranger, “Why do you think you are good at delivering bad news?”

He said, “I think it’s because I’m solution oriented. I can stay calm. I know that, whatever the situation, there’s a pathway through it.”

The words resonated throughout the class, like a ringing bell.

My heart opened to the answer and I went to the board and wrote:

There is a pathway through this

“Wow,” I said, “What a beautiful mindset. What an incredible way to think. That’s the way leaders think, and I love it.”

There is a pathway through this

The most common career trajectory of college students is leadership. Some of them are excited and prepared for leadership. Others are not quite ready. Some will never rise to the role of leading others.

And yet, even if you never become a leader in your career, you will always be the leader of your own life.

Learn this leadership mindset:

There is a pathway through this

forest-438432_960_720Inspirational leaders paint pictures of beautiful pathways. Motivational leaders excite others to follow pathways. Grounded, mindful leaders stay present on pathways. Transformational leaders see pathways where there are none. They have future dreams. They trail blaze. They ground break. They part seas.

Even on your darkest days, there is a path. You only need a little light to see it. If you have trust and faith, you take a few steps forward in the dark. Sometimes, you can confidently walk forward. Sometimes, you get so exhilarated that you run.

Have you been feeling disheartened lately? That’s ok. It’s human and we’ve all been there. There is a pathway through it.

Have you had your heart broken? That’s ok. It’s human and we’ve all been there. There is a pathway through it.

Have you had trouble getting through the day? That’s ok. It’s human and we’ve all been there. There is a pathway through it.

Beautiful, human, brave leader reader: No matter where you are, there is a path forward. There is a solution ahead. There is a dream you can use as a guiding light. There is a trail, or there is ground to break. You have choices. You have time. You are exactly where you need to be on your path right now.

You are the leader of your life. Shine a light into your darkness.

Loving you out there, gorgeous. Deep breath. Look. Can you see it?

There is a pathway through this.

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Today was a Good Day Full of Good People Doing Good Things

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This morning, my friend was in her car across an intersection from me. She turned, I turned, and I ended up stopped at a red light behind her. Then it was furious waving and heart hands and jazz hands, and then she jumped out of her car, ran back to mine, and hugged me through the window.

Wow. A hug through the window on the way to work! I needed it. It was delivered with a huge smile and warm love.

My friend is an athletic trainer and yoga instructor who helps people for a living, she is also in grad school to design curriculum for schools. In her free time, she volunteers to help kids ski and help women overcome their fears of mountain biking .

In short, my friend is a good person who has many achievements. Yet the achievements don’t make her a better person than anyone else. They are just expressions of who she is and what she loves to do. I have had family members in jail who are good people who made mistakes. They should be held accountable for their mistakes, as should we all. And yet, they are not bad people. They made mistakes from disconnected places of pain.

Good people make mistakes. That includes 100% of us. And still, we are all worthy of forgiveness and love.

Life is full of good people doing good things. It is teeming with good people doing good things. Everywhere I look there are good people doing good things. I work at a university where researchers and students and staff are working tirelessly to do good research and help more people and solve any problem you could possibly identify.

Good people and good deeds and good solutions are not on the news in fair representation. Drama trumps all the good happening in the world.

clouds-3030063_960_720Good people doing good things are the norm.

Here is the most important news story of EVERY DAY: Today was a good day full of good people doing good things.

What is your reality? What is your truth? It’s what you choose to think and believe.

I have never met a bad baby. Most people would agree. I have also never met a bad person, because I don’t choose to believe people are bad. I choose to believe that people are sick or have been hurt and are crying out as adults in the human desire for attention, understanding, love, and help.

Social media and television are not reality. They are entertainment mediums made up of stories. Stories are not all true.

What do you consume and believe? Is it true? Really?

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful reader: Every day of your life is a new opportunity to have a good day with good people and do good things. Every day of your life is a new opportunity to make the choice to love others and be compassionate and supportive. Every day of your life is a chance to see what might come through your front window if you allow people to hug you and connect with you.

No matter what their past, no matter what they have said or done, no matter how unworthy you think people are, there is a deeper truth underneath. We are all good people. We are all worthy of forgiveness and healing and love.

Start by giving those things to yourself. Watch your life change from good to great.

Loving you out there. Keep up the good work. XO

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