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Peaks and Valleys Versus Resilience and Adversity!

Managing the peaks and valleys in our lives can be an ongoing challenge! And as much as we want to be at our best (peak) we know that adversity (valley) will rear its ugly head sooner or later, so the questions are: how long do you find yourself in a valley, and what is your level of resilience while you are in it?

The time that you allow yourself to reside in the “valley” can be hurting you and your business. When you are not feeling “up” or good about life, it affects your interactions with others from the tone in your voice to the expression on your face and the tension in your body. These negative emotions can cause you loss in productivity, missed opportunities, and emotional turmoil (decrease in self-confidence, self-doubt or fear).
Unknown to some is the knowledge that we all have the ability to manage and therefore change our emotions for the better, in the moment, at any time. Hence – emotional intelligence, or resilience.

Here are three things you can do to get yourself out of that Valley faster:

1. Define which emotions you are feeling and then question the validity of those emotions. Are your emotions a reality or a perception? (Perceptions can be deceiving)

2. Reflect on your beliefs about the situation. Are they your own beliefs or are you acting on the belief of others? What fact(s) are you basing your beliefs upon?

3. Don’t allow yourself to suffer any longer. Take effective action now! Take charge of your emotions, change your thoughts, and increase your resilience to escape from that valley quickly!

Even the most successful people experience adversity in their lives, the difference is their level of resilience.

 

“Any fact facing us is not as important as our attitude toward it, for that determines our success or failure.”

                                     ~ Norman Vincent Peale 1898-1993, Minister and Author

Posted in Awareness of Others

Breathing As A Bridge

It is thought by many cultures that the process of breathing is the essence of being. A rhythmic process of expansion and contraction, breathing is one example of the consistent polarity we see in nature such as night and day, wake and sleep, seasonal growth and decay and ultimately life and death. In yoga, the breath is known as prana or a universal energy that can be used to find a balance between the body-mind, the conscious-unconscious, and the sympathetic-parasympathetic nervous system. Unlike other bodily functions, the breath is easily used to communicate between these systems, which give us an excellent tool to help facilitate positive change. It is the only bodily function that we do both voluntarily and involuntarily. We can consciously use breathing to influence the involuntary (sympathetic nervous system) that regulates blood pressure, heart rate, circulation, digestion and many other bodily functions. Pranayama is a yoga practice that literally means the control of life or energy. It uses breathing techniques to change subtle energies within the body for health and well-being. Breathing exercises can act as a bridge into those functions of the body of which we generally do not have conscious control.

An example of how life affects physiology
During times of emotional stress our sympathetic nervous system is stimulated and affects a number of physical responses. Our heart rate rises, we perspire, our muscles tense and our breathing becomes rapid and shallow. If this process happens over a long period of time, the sympathic nervous system becomes over stimulated leading to an imbalance that can affect our physical health resulting in inflammation, high blood pressure and muscle pain to name a few. Consciously slowing our heart rate, decreasing perspiration and relaxing muscles is more difficult than simply slowing and deepening breathing. The breath can be used to directly influence these stressful changes causing a direct stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system resulting in relaxation and a reversal of the changes seen with the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system. We can see how our bodies know to do this naturally when we take a deep breath or sigh when a stress is relieved.

The breathing process can be trained
Breathing can be trained for both positive and negative influences on health. Chronic stress can lead to a restriction of the connective and muscular tissue in the chest resulting in a decrease range of motion of the chest wall. Due to rapid more shallow breathing, the chest does not expand as much as it would with slower deeper breaths and much of the air exchange occurs at the top of the lung tissue towards the head. This results in “chest” breathing. You can see if you are a chest breather by placing your right hand on your chest and your left hand on your abdomen. As you breathe, see which hand rises more. If your right hand rises more, you are a chest breather. If your left hand rises more, you are an abdomen breather.
Chest breathing is inefficient because the greatest amount of blood flow occurs in the lower lobes of the lungs, areas that have limited air expansion in chest breathers. Rapid, shallow, chest- breathing, results in less oxygen transfer to the blood, and subsequent poor delivery of nutrients to the tissues. The good news is that similar to learning to play an instrument or riding a bike, you can train the body to improve its breathing technique. With regular practice you will breathe from the abdomen most of the time, even while asleep.

Note: Using and learning proper breathing techniques is one of the most beneficial things that can be done for both short and long term physical and emotional health.

The benefits of abdominal breathing
Abdominal breathing is also known as diaphragmatic breathing. The diaphragm is a large muscle located between the chest and the abdomen. When it contracts it is forced downward causing the abdomen to expand. This causes a negative pressure within the chest forcing air into the lungs. The negative pressure also pulls blood into the chest improving the venous return to the heart. This leads to improved stamina in both disease and athletic activity. Like blood, the flow of lymph, which is rich in immune cells, is also improved. By expanding the lung’s air pockets and improving the flow of blood and lymph, abdominal breathing also helps prevent infection of the lung and other tissues. But most of all it is an excellent tool to stimulate the relaxation response that results in less tension and an overall sense of well-being.

Abdominal Breathing Technique
Breathing exercises such as this one should be done twice a day or whenever you find your mind dwelling on upsetting thoughts or when you are experiencing pain.

• Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. When you take a deep breath in, the hand on the abdomen should rise higher than the one on the chest. This insures that the diaphragm is pulling air into the bases of the lungs.

• After exhaling through the mouth, take a slow deep breath in through your nose imagining that you are sucking in all the air in the room and hold it for a count of 7 (or as long as you are able, not exceeding 7)

• Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. As all the air is released with relaxation, gently contract your abdominal muscles to completely evacuate the remaining air from the lungs. It is important to remember that we deepen respirations not by inhaling more air but through completely exhaling it.

• Repeat the cycle four more times for a total of 5 deep breaths and try to breathe at a rate of one breath every 10 seconds (or 6 breaths per minute). At this rate our heart rate variability increases which has a positive effect on cardiac health.

Once you feel comfortable with the above technique, you may want to incorporate words that can enhance the exercise. Examples would be to say to yourself the word, relaxation (with inhalation) and peace and love (with exhalation). The idea being to bring in the feeling/emotion you want with inhalation with exhalation.

In general, exhalation should be twice as long as inhalation. The use of the hands on the chest and abdomen are only needed to help you train your breathing. Once you feel comfortable with your ability to breathe into the abdomen, they are no longer needed.

Abdominal breathing is just one of many breathing exercises. But it is the most important one to learn before exploring other techniques. The more it is practiced, the more natural it will become improving the body’s internal rhythm.

_________________________________________________________________________________
Further Resources
• An excellent book to help explore more advanced breathing techniques is Conscious Breathing by Gay Hendricks. (Bantam, 1995. ISBN#: 0553374435)

• An excellent audio called, Breathing: The Master Key to Self-Healing by Andrew Weil discusses the health benefits of breathing and directs the listener through 8 breathing exercises. (Sounds True, 1999. ISBN#: 156455726X)

• We encouraged enrollment in a yoga class through a local community or fitness center. Most well trained instructors will educate how the breath is used to enhance well-being with yoga practice.
Adapted from Integrative Medicine, D. Rakel, WB. Saunders, Philadelphia, PA. 2003.

Posted in Reference

Patience is a Virtue – How Much Do You Possess?

We all have patience to some degree or level, but just how much we have on a day to day basis is the real question? Have you ever consciously thought about your patience level, and how it affects those around you at work, and in your personal life?

A lack of patience goes hand in hand with intolerance of others, and that’s a pretty negative state to be in. So let’s ask ourselves now: on a scale of one to ten (1-10), one being low and 10 being high, what would you rate your level of patience at? How serious do you think not having patience is to sustaining healthy relationships with your employees, colleagues, clients, friends, family and just as importantly with yourself?

Here are a few examples of how we sometimes lose patience: waiting in line; driving; working with difficult employees, colleagues, clients, your boss; not getting your own way (that’s a popular one).

A continuous lack of patience creates intolerance towards others and/or situations, and can cause a spiral affect in your life, if you let it. It can cause personal pain; mentally, physically as well as emotionally; it can create conflicts with others; it can cause high levels of tension and feelings of stress; it can cause you to lose friends, spouse, partner and family; you can lose sleep, lose your appetite, or eat too much and gain weight, and possibly become ill. Yet we tend to just accept the fact that we don’t have patience; we dismiss it, and carry on as if there is nothing we can do about it.

So what can you do to increase your level of patience you ask?

Here are three suggestions to start with:

1) Take a moment to breathe deeply, a minimum of three times.

2) Eliminate judgement of others
There is the belief that all people are created equal, BUT not all people are raised equally with ; the same guidance, direction and values as you or I.

I tend to reflect on this belief often when I encounter unpleasant people because we don’t truly know what is going on in someone’s life, or what values or lack of values they have that makes them behave the way they do. If you can draw on compassion, kindness and empathy in place of frustration, anger, and judgement, you may be able to accept others for who they are, and then focus on changing your emotional attitude towards them.

3) Healthy self-talk
Each time you feel you are losing your patience with someone; tell yourself to stop, and then ask yourself; what is going on with this person right now? What can I do to help him/her? How serious is this? Nine times out of ten we get upset and lose our patience because we are not getting our own way. Yes, really!

This is from the Heart Math Institute: Love in your heart (inner ease technique)

If you are upset for 5 minutes – it will last for 6 hours. The hearth math reverses this feeling.

Do this process three or four times a day for the next few weeks. You can do it with your eyes open, in a meeting, in line at a store, anywhere. It becomes your default state.

Step One:
Place palm of both hands over your heart area. It starts the flow of oxytocisn – which is a love hormone when we bond, (when a woman gives birth this hormone is released) or fall in love with someone. This starts the flow.

Step Two:
Heart breathing – imagine you are breathing through the center of your heart.
Inhale and exhale through your heart. Picture it or feel it. Imagine the breath in and out.

Step Three:
On each inhale imagine you are breathing in love. Exhale normally. Breathe in love, ease and compassion. Take in love compassion, let if fill with all these emotions.
Put your hand down and open your eyes.

Increasing your level of patience, even a bit at a time, will help you feel better. The next time you find your patience wearing thin, try taking those deep breaths to help you become more tolerant of others.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Plato

Posted in Self-Awareness, Self-Management Tagged with: , , ,

Our Emotions Are Contagious!

Have you ever noticed when you interact with people for a period of time, that their emotions have an effect on you? Well, psychologist’s research has proven just that; our emotions are contagious!

As we know, our emotions are revealed to others through our verbal and non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, posture, words and tone of voice. So for example; think of a crowd at a rock concert, or think of a funeral – as soon as you walk into the concert hall or the funeral parlour you can “feel” or sense the mood or emotions in the atmosphere.

If you are responsible for others as a leader (at any level) your emotions are of even greater importance to those around you and can have a major effect on them.

From a business perspective: think back on the last time you walked into a company, a boardroom or an office meeting; what emotions were you projecting?

The moment we interact with another person or persons, we project our feelings outwardly towards them, and these people in return are recognizing or perceiving those feelings. Those emotions (positive or negative) can have an impact on the behavior of others which can last for a moment, an hour or even indeterminately.

Let’s say you are in a business meeting with a number of your employee’s. If you are calm and composed, then those around you are inclined to feel calm and composed as well; they are able to think clearly, are more creative, can make better decisions, and can be more cooperative.

Now think about the impact you could have on those same employee’s if you are feeling negative emotions such as frustration, annoyance or anger. People sense something is wrong and for some it puts them on the “defensive”, they become more cautious, possibly shut down and hesitant to speak up or respond to your questions, thoughts or ideas for fear of retribution or appearing ignorant.

Psychologists have shown that our thinking can be managed or changed to help serve us better; that we have the ability to re-program our own brain. So if we are able to learn how to change the way we think then we can change limiting beliefs, or behaviours that are not helpful to us, and we can do this by increasing our levels of Emotional Intelligence.

Research has proven that our brain will trigger us to experience the same reaction to a recurring incident each and every time as if it were the first time. That’s what psychologists refer to as being “programmed” (when brain neurons fire together they are wired together). Ongoing discoveries are being made every day with regards to neuroplasticity or neuroscience. An insightful and interesting book on that subject is “Buddha’s Brain” as it speaks to us in laymen terms about the actual process our thoughts, mind and brain go through; the mechanics of our brain. It proves that when our mind changes, our brain changes too. It was researched and written by Rick Hanson PH.D. Neuropsychologist and Richard Mendius MD Neurologist.

 

So the saying “I was just made this way” no longer means I have to stay this way! We have the power to change our own “programming” our own behaviour.

 

 “Self-discipline begins with the mastery of your thoughts.

If you don’t control what you think, you can’t control what you do.”  ~ Napoleon Hill

Posted in Awareness of Others, Relationship Management, Self-Awareness, Self-Management

Are You Able To Say No When You Want To?

So many of us feel the need to say “Yes” to a request due to guilt or obligation? But what we may not realize is that by saying “Yes” when we really want to say “No” can cause us feelings of stress.  And if we continue to say “Yes” then we are continuously increasing our level of stress.

What is your belief system that has you saying “Yes” when you want to say “No”?

  • a need to please
  • afraid the person will be upset if you say “No”
  • peer pressure: don’t feel you can say “No” to your boss, partner or spouse
  • you are a high energy person who feels you can do everything
  • you automatically say “Yes” out of kindness, without thinking

Whatever your reason for not saying “No”, why not try the following suggestion:

Promise yourself that you will not say “Yes” immediately to any request, even if you know you are able to.

Once you create the habit of not saying “Yes” in the moment, you are giving yourself the time to formulate a kind means to decline the request, if you wish.

Are you still not sure you can do this? Try thinking of it this way: by saying “Yes” to someone else’s request, you are actually saying “No” to your own wants and needs.

So what do you say when someone asks something of you? Kindly inform the person that you will get back to them later as you need to check and review your schedule. Yes, it’s that simple.

If they pressure you to check your schedule immediately, gently inform them that you want to be sure you have taken into account all other projects or meetings you have on the go, before you commit to another one, and that you will get back to them. Stick to your guns! Do not let someone else’s emergency become yours. You are simply giving yourself the time required to determine if the task or project will be something you have the time to do, or even want to do, and without overloading your own schedule. This is where you want to pay attention to your inner guidance system, your emotional energy.

You may experience the benefits in the following way(s):

1) Increased confidence

2) Reduction in your workload (home or work)

3) Control of your own schedule and life

4) Reduction in levels of stress

 

You cannot bring what you want to you if you are feeling stress. Stress or any tension at all is something you have to remove from your system.” Rhonda Byrnes ~  The Secret… joy for billions

Posted in Self-Awareness, Self-Management Tagged with: , ,

Awakening Your Social & Emotional Intelligence to Adversity!

As a small business owner managing the peaks and valleys in our lives can be an ongoing challenge! Now as much as we want to be at our best (peak) we know that adversity (valley) will rear its ugly head sooner or later, so the question is:  how long do you find yourself in a valley, and what are you doing while you are in it?

Read more ›

Posted in Self-Awareness, Self-Management

How Self-Aware Are You About Procrastination?

Procrastination – there’s that word we all know and dislike so much. It’s a negative word, and it can create such negative emotions. We complain about procrastinating, we know we are procrastinating, and yet we still continue doing it!

So the question to ask ourselves is “WHY”? Why do we continue to procrastinate when doing so can cause us to hold back, and not take that next step to an important goal or dream?

Read more ›

Posted in Self-Management Tagged with: , ,

Self-Awareness: Trust In Yourself

How well do we really trust ourselves? And just as important, how can we trust others, if we don’t trust ourselves?

We make many decisions throughout our lives, and some of those decisions can haunt us. We worry about whether we made the right choices; we worry about what others will think, hence the struggle with our “negative inner dialogue” continues.

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Posted in Self-Awareness, Self-Management Tagged with: , , , ,

Avoiding Burn Out!

Burn out is a long state of exhaustion, and a symptom of stress that appears to be widespread in our society. Most often it stems from our jobs or business and then filters itself into our personal lives.

What are the signs that we may be burning out?

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Posted in Self-Awareness, Self-Management Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Building Healthy Relationships Through Active Listening.

Everyone wants to be heard! It’s true isn’t it? We all want to feel that people are actually listening to us.

How many times have you been in conversation with someone and had difficulty really listening to what they were saying or trying to say? Maybe it was because you had a hard time staying focused?

Read more ›

Posted in Awareness of Others, Relationship Management, Self-Awareness, Self-Management Tagged with: , ,

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