Here to the New Year in Good Cheer – Day 8 – Plan “H”

Cane golden retriever con cuffia e occhiali

Hey there, hi there, ho-ho-ho there!

It’s Day 8 of the Here to the New Year in Good Cheer Challenge.

Headlining today’s tips is the letter “H”.  Put your headphones on and click here to hear them.

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Hark the herald angels sing! Which begs the question, “Do you hear what I hear?” or am I hallucinating? Today I was hankering for a hack or a hook that would help you hoot and holler with happiness or at least hum along to a hassle-free hip-hop house party hit. I happened to hone in on recording this because caroling is out of the question. I can’t sing to save my life.

But I can hurtle through hundreds of “h” words in a horribly halting hammer-time haze. She who hesitates, complicates and hinders her hitch-hiking heros journey home for the holidays.

I’m recording this hurried and hobbled together blog post to humanize my written words. So huddle in close for hidden hints at what hooks the ear and hitches good cheer to the sound of one human humbling hearing and healing another.

I’m fully aware this may hurl me into humiliation and hamper my hopes of hatching a career in voice-overs. However, it’s what we do to help each other through the holidays. What will you hear today that highlights, hijacks, or harnesses your good humor?

I‘d love to hear what you heard in the comments below. If you prefer to hear these tips rather than read them, please let me know and I can make that happen for you. By the time we get to Plan “V”, I might just have some video for you as well. It never hurts to hypothesize!

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Here to the New Year in Good Cheer – Day 2 – Plan B

Black-and-white Macro Oxygen bubbles in water

It’s Day 2 of our Here to the New Year in Good Cheer challenge. Leading the charge for today is the letter B.

Today’s tip comes from Dan Pink’s book To Sell Is Human.  It was also inspired by my trip to the pool for a swim on Wednesday.

Become buoyant.

Buoyancy is the quality that allows you to stay afloat amidst a sea of negativity, rejection, discouragement, heavy traffic, crowds, or whatever brings you down.

Reciting the work of a leading researcher on positivity, Pink describes buoyancy as the “calibration between two competing pulls: levity and gravity.”

Levity is that unseen force that lifts you skyward, whereas gravity is the opposing force that pulls you earthward.  Unchecked levity leaves you flighty, ungrounded, and unreal.  Unchecked gravity leaves you collapsed in a heap of misery. Yet when properly combined, these two opposing forces leave you buoyant,” says Barbara Frederickson of the University of North Carolina.

I don’t know about you, but I span the emotional spectrum from levity to gravity every day. Sometimes every hour. Calibrating these pulls can take some practice. Pink suggests three things to help cultivate buoyancy.

The first is to practice interrogating self-talk such as “Can I figure this out?” as opposed to emphatically affirming self-talk like “I’ve got this!” Questioning if something is possible or doable opens you up to more creative options as to how to get it done.

The second is to allow yourself a proper ratio of positive to negative thoughts or comments (3 positive to 1 negative is where people seem to flourish) as you attempt to figure it out. Reality checks keep your dreams grounded. Humor does wonders as well.

And finally, an optimistic explanation of your results – no matter what they are – prevents you from playing the victim or taking rejection personally. That will help you get up and do it again. Amen.

Today as your emotions bubble up, remember Casey Kasem’s tagline, “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.” 

Be sure you don’t miss a day of  our Here to the New Year In Good Cheer challenge by signing up here. This allows you to pick up your Holiday Survival Guide and other goodies as we go.

I’d love to hear your comments below.

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Here to the New Year In Good Cheer – Day 1-Plan A

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Welcome to the Here to the New Year Challenge in Good Cheer Challenge. From now until December 31st I’ll be sharing some short tips to keep you humming through the holidays.

Because I can easily get distracted by shiny and/or stressful objects, I’m sticking with the full alphabet plan as our guide.

Today we start with Plan A.

I did a search on verbs that started with the letter”A” and assembled a few of them here. I used WordClouds to help me create a visual that allows various verbs to capture your attention, depending on where you look. Notice how the words are shaped to form the letter A?

Today’s tip is all about attitude.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to select a handful of these verbs and act on them today. Let them amplify your awareness and align your actions.

For example, some of my favorites are articulate, amuse, awaken, astound, and anchor.

By writing this blog post I’m articulating my thoughts as well as anchoring my intentions for our time together, awakening my curiosity as to how best to convey these concepts, and possibly amusing you and astounding all of us when you share your responses in the comments below as to how this small change in awareness impacts your day.

Make sure to sign up for the challenge here in order to get your free Holiday Survival Guide.  You’ll also earn points and get in on other free stuff only available by registering.

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Keep It Simple, Santa

Composite image of santa claus delivering gifts with bicycle

It happens every year. I vow to keep calm and carry on. And then the Christmas season comes  upon me with such a clatter I have to continually check in just to see what’s the matter.

What’s usually the matter is I have cluttered up my schedule and complicated things by attempting to do, be, or have too much in a tiny little window of time.

At the end of the year when all I really want for Christmas is enough peace on earth to reflect on a year well lived, I have to resist getting caught up in the buzz of busy-ness that creates a holi-daze.

Of course not everyone loses it this time of year. Some might even suggest it’s the most wonderful time of the year. I suspect they have a strategy. This year I’m going with Keep It Simple, Santa.

A co-worker tells me she limits shopping to four items for her immediate family.  She gets them something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.

I also know a few wise men and women who give the equivalent of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This roughly translates to something that recognizes the recipient’s divinity, purpose, and suffering along the way.

Admittedly last week was not one of my better weeks.  The story I was telling myself was not one that made me feel very good about myself or anyone else, frankly.

I’m a coach. I know better. I help people find a way out of their funk all the time. I have a toolkit of tricks, my own set of gifts from the Magi I wasn’t using.

Until I remembered that no matter how hard it is to be kind and generous and believe in the greater good despite any and all evidence to the contrary, it is the only way I want to go through life. I want to believe in good for goodness’ sake.

So yesterday I found my toolkit and took out my #1 tool – gratitude (gold). I started counting my blessings instead of the random boxes of holiday decorations strewn from one side of the house to the other. I told myself I get to make up whatever story I want to about my life and the people, places, and things in it. Why not choose something supportive, even enchanting?

Then I took out tool #2 – movement (frankincense).  I proceeded to do a week’s worth of Say It, Sweat It, Get It workouts and was sufficiently humbled but equally elated by the aftereffects. Doing them as intended for 5-minutes each day wouldn’t have been so shocking to my system as doing them all at once, but I was delighted to discover I still had it in me. I’m now a huge fan of Erin Stutland’s approach to fitness. She keeps it simple. (Not to be confused with easy.) And it was all for free! Now that’s supportive.

And you’re reading tool #3 – expression (myrrh). I wrote and wrote and wrote, slept on it, edited and edited and edited, and finally pressed Publish. Writing is how I make sense of my life. Yours may be cooking, skiing, restoring houses, collecting antiques, square dancing, mixing music, playing cards, whatever brings calm to the chaos.

All of these tools remind me of the first of the timeless truths on my Top Ten Tension Tackling Tunes to Keep You Humming Through the Holidays.  You are only one thought away from a new perspective.

In my grand attempt to end the year on a high note of grace, gratitude and goodwill, the goal is to keep it simple.  Or, as Kris Kringle shows us in Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, put one foot in front of the other.

What about you?  What strategies get you through the holi-dazeShare your favorites in the comments below.

 

Get Your Gobble On

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It’s here! My favorite holiday of the year.

A day set aside to feast with family and friends and give thanks for all the good gathered over the course of a year.

Since this year Bob and I decided to host this production at our place, I needed a strategy for getting my gobble on with grace and gratitude.  Keep Calm and Gobble On seems to be the best strategy so far.

Thanksgiving is the kind of food-centric holiday that could keep a Certified Eating Psychology Coach in business all year.  With every imaginable issue surrounding food and nourishment having the potential to rear its ugly head at the most inopportune time, it’s good to have a plan.

Instead of dispensing advise on counting calories or carbs or suggesting you exercise til the turkeys come home like so many well-intentioned articles do at this time of year, I’m going to politely ask you to ignore those messages (since most of them lead to guilt and shame) and pay special attention to this one (since it might lead to an epiphany).

As difficult as it may be, do not numb out, check out, or let food or drink take you out of your discomfort in the moment. Stay present.  Be mindful.  Amazing things occur when you are aware enough to notice them.

Granted, if you are surrounded by your closest kin, you may have moments where you want to drink yourself silly or stuff your emotions like the bird you may be eating.  Or you may be so tense or hyper you rush through your meal without digesting anything but the non-stop stimuli coming at you from every media outlet available.

I get it.  There is a lot going on.  Most of it out of your control, I might add.  So please, stay calm.  Relax into the wonder of it all. Or if that’s not possible, wonder how to relax into it all. Stressing out gives you indigestion at best,  gas at worse.  And then you’ve got a whole new family legacy to live down.

What would it be like to simply trust your body and allow your belly to inform your brain what it needs to feel truly nourished?  What if you could just breathe into the meal, take your time savoring the food and the conversation, and ease into any emotionally volatile territory without full armor?  What if you could acknowledge the time away from work or your daily routine, allow yourself to be interested in the people you are related to, and celebrate the sacredness of the tradition itself?

This day is different from all other Thursdays.

Not just because we are encouraged to eat more and shop more than at any other time of year.  But because this is something we do in this country that unites us and reminds us we came from a collaborative crew.

The logistics and effort involved for so many people to get where they are going and have something to eat when they arrive is mind-blowing. Travelers, grocers, producers, retailers, advertisers, chefs, assistants, truck drivers, hospitality folks, entertainers, waitstaff, housekeepers, neighbors, pet-sitters, the list goes on and on.

It takes a village to get our collective gobble on. Whether that be a small one, a virtual one, or a global one, it’s all so impressive. For that village, and my tribe in particular (if you’re reading this, that means you!), I am most grateful.

I’d love to hear how you are getting your gobble on in the comments below.

 

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This Thing Called Love

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Valentine’s Day defines February in much the same way Christmas defines December.  Whether you’ve jumped on the love bandwagon or not, you’re bombarded with images of a world ruled by romance and populated by passionate partners.

It’s not that I’m against love.  Oh no.  I’m all for it.  I believe love is a many splendored thing and, like Burt Bacharach, what the world needs now is love, sweet love.

It’s just that the idea of love that’s been sold to us needs a little revision.  From fairy tales to scary tales (“reality” tv like “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette”) to promises of soulmates and twin flames, how can the real possibly compete with the ideal?

For me it’s the imperfections that endear another to me.  I’ve had my share of “perfection.”  It’s intimidating, exhausting, and self-indulgent, not to mention impossible to maintain.

What I absolutely adore in others are the things that make them unique.  Things like sneaking private code words into a public presentation.  Or consoling an elder by singing show tunes, mesmerizing a history class by reciting the Gettysburg address in its entirety, knowing how to solve story problems or anything to do with algebra, naming the constellations with confidence, caring deeply for the environment, or always making time to give a dog a bone.

I also adore this uniqueness in inanimate objects.  Last night I fell in love with the sunset.  Not just because it lit up the sky with shades of red, orange, and magenta, but also because it created a kaleidoscope of colors reflecting off the clouds in the opposite direction.

Up until then I was feeling tired, cranky, and creatively challenged.  Once I stopped and marveled at the sunset, I felt energized, inspired, and deeply loved.

The thing about love is that we so often limit it.  There is no lack of love. There is only a lack of awareness of it in its many forms.

It is freely offered to us in a smile from the toll booth attendant, a bird landing on our windowsill, a door held open by a stranger, a warm breeze blowing at our back, a cat napping next to us, a toddler being tickled, or a song sung soulfully by a street musician.

Yet we don’t expect love from life in general.  We expect it from those we love.  And we usually expect it on our terms.

The heart is synonymous with love.  It’s no coincidence that both “hear” and “art” are contained within the word heart.  There is an art to love that requires us to hear, open, allow, touch, feel, see, taste, experience without fear.

We’ve all had our share of heartaches, heartbreaks, and heart “attacks.” No one willing signs up for these.  Yet in my experience, the greater heartbreak is not to love at all.

Though you may choose to celebrate Groundhog Day, Presidents’ Day, your birthday, anniversary, or the new moon with more exuberance than Valentine’s Day, if you allow love to sneak up on you in small, unsuspecting ways, you might just find it every day.

I would love for you to share your perspective on love in the comments below.

Top Ten Tension Tackling Tunes to Keep You Humming Through The Holidays

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It happens every year. We start out the season with visions of Christmases past when we were younger, things were easier, and our lives were manageable. This year we vow to re-create the magic. We’ll shop early, get organized, entertain lavishly without gaining an ounce, attend every school program and office party, and enjoy all the pleasures of the season.

This vow lasts until the reality of relentless schedules, impossible expectations, extra activities, and crowds at every corner bring this vision sharply into question. Then the question is no longer how will we celebrate but how will we survive?

The good news is we always survive. The bad news is we don’t always utilize the stress management techniques we perfected by the end of last holiday season. However, this year we have a new strategy.

It’s called tunes and tips. When you hear the tune, let it trigger the tension-tackling tip. And what better songs than Christmas carols to keep you humming through the holidays?

1. ‘Tis the Season to Be Jolly…

If you’ve lost your sense of humor, find it immediately!  Stuff happens and you need to keep your wits about you.

Create a stress relief kit that contains anything that conjures up calm for you. Suggestions include a foot massager, a packet of herbal tea, island getaway brochures, funny photos, your favorite music, or an emergency clown nose. Or find an app for your phone that helps you relax and is at your fingertips when you need it.

You are only one thought away from a different perspective.

2. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let it Go…

You don’t have to wish for that fluffy white stuff to perfect the holiday picture. But it is wise to acknowledge that there are certain things that are out of your control, like the weather. What is in your control is your reaction to events.

Letting go of your expectations of how events should unfold, how people should behave, and what should happen allows you to be present to what is actually going on.

3. Dashing Through the Snow…

Movement is essential to your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Since Santa supposedly has your new exercise equipment, now may not be an opportune time for you to start a fitness program. But you can easily incorporate movement into your day.

Having to park three miles away from any place peopled with shoppers gives you an excellent opportunity to squeeze in a little aerobic activity. Carrying your purchases back to that same location might be considered strength training.

There are a myriad of ways to work in a workout.  Get creative and have some fun sprinkling your day with activity sprints.

4. Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire…

Too many of those nuts, candies, and homemade delights can tip the scales out of your favor. Notice how you eat, drink, and be merry. If you are eating Christmas cookies to handle your woes or drinking Jack Daniels to prevent Jack Frost from nipping at your nose, the combination of indulgences could wreak havoc on your health.

People tend to put on an extra pound or two over the holidays, which isn’t a big deal if it comes off in the New Year. Unfortunately, for many it becomes the new set point that inches up year after year.

To guarantee that you don’t become one of those weight bearing statistics, plan for party temptations by eating a healthy snack before you go.  Once there, fill up on food for thought instead of food from the party platter.  Pay attention to the decorations, check out the entertainment, or visit with the bearded man and his little friends.

5.  Making a List and Checking It Twice…

Don’t expect your already overloaded mind to remember any more than your way home and the names of your immediate family members. Count on lists to remind you of those things you have determined you must do. Make as many lists as necessary and review them before taking action. Prioritize, organize, scrutinize, and compromise, if necessary.

Even if your superpower is finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list and you love to mix and mingle with the masses, make sure to shop when you are well-rested and well-fed. Shopping when fatigued, famished, or  frazzled can lead to costly buyer’s remorse.

6. Deck the Halls…

Surround yourself with things that bring you joy. Designate a room, corner, or cupboard as your own. Then decorate that space as only you know how. Bring a bean bag elf to the office or hang mistletoe in the cafeteria. Your spirit needs nourishment and encouragement. Be sure to give yourself the time and a place to celebrate what is sacred to you.

Many people use this time of year to reflect on the current year and make goals, set intentions, and strategically plan for the new year.  Be sure to schedule some down time amidst all the hustle and bustle to envision, dream, think, contemplate, relax, pray, or hang out in nature.

7. I’ll Be Home for Christmas…

Many families are spread out over the country. This can present not only logistical challenges, but financial and emotional ones as well when you attempt to make it “home” for the holidays.

Determine if the benefits of being home are worth the stresses you may encounter getting there – especially if you are organizing this pilgrimage for your household. If home is where your heart is, then may the force be with you in your travels! But if traveling makes your heart weary, know you can create the feeling of home wherever you are.

By volunteering your time at a shelter, visiting a nursing home, or helping serve meals at a community center, you might help create the feeling of home or family for someone who no longer has one.

8. All I Want for Christmas Is…

What do you really want? What will having this item do for you? How will it satisfy your soul? What about those on your list? What might they really want? Can you give it to them in a more authentic or direct way? Is it possible for you to make something or do something that brings them more joy than the buying an expensive gift that busts your budget?

Gifts of listening, laughter, and sincere compliments are always appreciated but not always afforded to others.  When you really listen and don’t interrupt, daydream, or plan your response, the gift of listening is priceless.

Same for the gift of laughter.  Clipping cartoons or sharing articles, blog posts (like this one!), tweets, or funny videos lets your recipient know how much you value the times you laugh together.

When a compliment is simple, sincere, and specific to the person such as, “You really worked hard on this project and it shows in your client’s feedback,” or “That was a hilarious interpretation of The 12 Days of Christmas,” it benefits the giver as well as the receiver.

However you say to another,  “I see who you are. I get you. I’m glad you exist in my universe,”  is a gift indeed.

9. Silent Night …

I know what I’m about to write is a radical suggestion, but for your own good, I’m going to write it anyway.  Unplug from your electronic devices for one night and plug in to the gifts of the season.

From the sound of carolers outside your window to the squeals of small children on Santa’s lap to the brightly colored lights decorating the streets where you live, sense the beauty that surrounds you. See, hear, taste, touch, and smell the sensations of the season.

Sometimes all you need to do this is a silent night.  Remember, you have the right to remain silent.

10. Joy to the World…

In the end, it all comes down to attitude. Maybe you harbor an inner Scrooge who threatens to declare, “Bah humbug!” on all this festive frenzy. Keeping him in check may require reframing your beliefs about what you “should” do, “must” do, or “have to” do as a choice, something you “choose to” do.

Although you may be a creature of habit, you are also an evolving creature.  What gives you meaning and brings you joy one year may not the next. You may decide some traditions are simply not worth the energy it takes to carry them out and invent new ones to suit your lifestyle.

When life becomes a choice instead of a chore, the world looks a lot brighterand you have more energy to spread that joy around!

BONUS CUT:

As much as I’d like to end this post on a Joy to the World note,  I do want to acknowledge that the holidays can be a very difficult time for many people.  For years, I dreaded them.  Here’s a tip for those of you who have a hard time with holidays for any number of reasons.

I’ll Have a Blue Christmas Without You…

Despite the festive feel of brightly colored lights and pretty packages under the tree, the holidays can bring up intense feeling of loss, longing, not belonging, depression, and wanting something other than what you have.

You may feel guilty for not enjoying the holidays or for being here when others are not and consequently overspend, overindulge, or over-schedule yourself to escape your feelings.

However, denying your feelings causes them to come back and bite you when you least expect it. Give your feelings the time and attention they deserve. Find someone to talk to or write in a journal. You don’t have to go through this alone.  Connect with others who share your struggles.

I wish you whatever you need or desire to feel loved and appreciated this holiday season.

Please share this with anyone who could use some stress reducing strategies to get through the holidays.  And feel free to share your tried and true tips in the comments below.

 Thank you for reading.   Happy, Healthy Holidays to YOU!