Managing Your Perfectionist Tendencies

Managing your Perfectionist Tendencies is an important life skill,.Are you a perfectionist? There’s nothing wrong with wanting things in your life just so, wanting things beautiful, wanting everything done right, and wanting to work hard to achieve great goals. Each of us has our own view of what is perfect, but there is no overall standard for it. Holding ourselves to perfectionism as we see it can be detrimental to our own health and insisting on our own standard can be detrimental to our relationships with others. Managing your perfectionist tendencies can be an important life skill.

High Standards and Reality

Yes, high standards for yourself in every area of your life are good. You don’t want low standards to live by, but you cannot set high standards and expect perfectionism from each of them. There isn’t a perfect life – or even a perfect job or a perfect mate. Looking perfect or behaving perfectly are unrealistic. Things don’t happen perfectly.

Set high standards but don’t make their achievement be the ultimate measure of your sense of accomplishment and wellbeing. Learn how to re-evaluate those standards as needed to allow for small imperfections and flexibility. Consider that striving for perfection can mean you don’t realize many of the goals or plans you desire because you spend so much time and energy that it decreases what you can do.

Pressure and Perfectionism

If you believe that things must be just so, done this way, or appear that way, you are putting too much pressure on yourself. For example, if you cannot leave your home without everything being put away and all things looking perfectly clean, you might put a lot of pressure on yourself if you’re already running late.

If you take the time to clean up, you could be late for work, the kids could be late for school, and you could be so stressed as you are driving that you ruin your morning and theirs. Are those possible outcomes worth the clean house? Making choices with a larger perspective is important.

Mental Health and Perfectionism

You’ll drive yourself crazy if you want things perfect and don’t allow any room for mistakes. In fact, your own mental and emotional health can be affected with depression, anxiety and other impacts of stress. And you’ll damage relationships with people around you too.

4 Tricks to Keep Perfectionism in Check on a Daily Basis

Here are some tips to help in managing your perfectionist tendencies on a daily basis: 

  1. Prioritize

Perfectionists often spend far too much time trying to perform even mundane tasks perfectly. Take some time to consider what in your life you feel most strongly about being the highest quality. Then try to let go of other things as being subject to the ‘perfect’ requirement.

As you look at your daily activities, make decisions about when to do them and how much time to spend on them based on that assessment. Prioritize the most important things. This can decrease pressure and increase your satisfaction.

  1. Take Mistakes in Stride

If you’re a perfectionist, making a mistake can feel crippling and derail your productivity for the rest of the day. Practice taking your mistakes in stride and seeing them as opportunities to learn something for the future. Rather than dwelling on and feeling badly about it, focus on the future and how to avoid the mistake or improve the next time.

  1. Take a Perspective Break

Next time you find yourself panicking over a small detail that isn’t perfect or stressed about all you have to do perfectly that day, take a step back and give yourself a ‘perspective break.’ Simply ask yourself how important a task really is. By forcing yourself to assess its importance, you’ll be able to recognize when you’re obsessing over less important tasks and save time for working on the things that actually matter.

  1. Get a Friend’s Take

Another way to keep your tasks and problems in perspective is to ask a friend for their take on things. If you’re convinced that your room just doesn’t look right no matter how you arrange it, for example, ask a friend what they think. Their comments can show you if it’s your inner perfectionist speaking or what could be changed for a better result. This can make it easier to realize when the detail you’re stuck on simply isn’t a big deal or give you helpful input.

  1. Hold Yourself Accountable with Kindness

There’s nothing wrong with striving for excellence, but if that comes at a cost to sanity or self-esteem, it is not worth it. Staying kind and understanding about your own flaws and inconsistencies is key to sharing that generosity of spirit with others.

Replace your harsh and demeaning thoughts and self-talk when things aren’t ‘perfect’ with positive reinforcements. Give yourself a break by looking back at your track record of successes instead of the shortcomings. This can encourage you as you continue managing your perfectionist tendencies to make your life and relationships more enjoyable and fulfilling.

If you want to do more work in this area, I recommend this journal. The Perfectionism Journal is new in spring of 2022 and provides prompts, exercises and room for reflections. Check it out to see if it will be a tool for you. https://amzn.to/3Fm0PfK

 

I’m Carol Brusegar, author, photographer and curator of information. My focus is on gathering and writing on topics that enhance all our lives – regardless of our age. Topics include health and wellness, personal development, innovation and creativity, and a variety of helpful, practical tools and practices. I have a special interest in helping people over 50 years of age to create their 3rd Age – the next stage of their lives – to be the best it can be.

 

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Becoming More Adaptable in Challenging Times

Tips to Being More AdaptableWe are living in uncertain times. It’s not the first time, of course. There has never been a time when people could be certain exactly how their lives would play out. That’s life. We can’t possibly plan for every outcome, so we must adapt when we are faced with new realities. Becoming more adaptable has become extremely important as we have  experienced uncertainty in so many parts of our lives since the beginning of the pandemic. Flexibility has become more and more important; I previously wrote about that here: Developing a Flexible Mindset When Uncertainty Reigns

What have you learned about your adaptability during the past couple of years? Have you strengthened your adaptability muscles? Or perhaps you are experiencing fatigue from all the adapting you have done and would just like things to stop changing so much. As we move forward, the challenges continue and we are being called upon to continue to adapt.

Here are 8 tips for becoming more adaptable. Some may be your usual ways of adapting, some may be new or forgotten concepts.

Have a Guiding Light

Life throws all kinds of surprising situations and obstacles in your path. If you have a guiding light or a purpose, you will find it easier to adapt and get back on track. Even if your short-term goals and plans are derailed, you will know your general direction and adjust accordingly. Perhaps your guiding light/purpose has shifted in these past couple of years. Find ways to keep your purpose before you in the midst of changes.

Have a Flexible Comfort Zone

We all crave some stability and things we can count on. It is the foundation from which we live our lives. However, it’s possible for that to become a rut, a place that we refuse to leave. When we are forced to leave our comfort zone as we have in many ways recently, we create new ones. Moving forward, be intentional about keeping your comfort zone flexible. Do some different things regularly so you will be more comfortable when outside factors mandate changes.

Practice With Low-Stake Activities

Adaptability is like any skill. You can hone and strengthen it through repeated use. If you aren’t good at rolling with the punches, try starting small. Becoming more adaptable can be making as simple as changing your route to work. And those changes provide new experiences that can be enjoyable.

Commit to Learning

Life always includes learning. A hallmark of adaptability is having a wide spectrum of knowledge. By making lifelong learning a priority you are building adaptability into your life. You will find it much easier to adjust your approach if you have the skills and knowledge you need.

 Stay On Top of Current Events

While watching the news every night can be hard, you should strive to stay on top of current events and trends. Spotting an emerging trend that might affect you will help you prepare for any adjustments you have to make. It also raises your awareness of opportunities that are important for your health and wellbeing.

Accept That Things Will Not Always Go As Intended

Life is going to be full of disappointments and mistakes. This is especially true if you are regularly forced to adapt to changing circumstances. Even the best-laid plans can be affected by forces out of our control. The key is to redefine these things from personal failures to opportunities to learn new things and try something else.

Say “Yes” More Often

People are often told they should “no” more often. Setting healthy boundaries is important. However, there are things we may need to say “yes” to more often also. By accepting new and different challenges, you will be training your adaptability.  Becoming more adaptable includes being intentional about what you say “yes” to as well as what you decline.

Let Go of Attachment

The idea of attachment is a key tenet of Buddhism. Our inability to detach from our ideas of how things should be can hold us back from a fulfilled life. This is good advice for those who struggle with adaptability. When you let go of your idea of how things need to be, you make it easier to adjust when things change.

 Becoming more adaptable is an ongoing effort. We always want stability and things we can count on. Balancing that with a desire for self-initiated change and ability to adapt to changes put upon us is a goal of life.

If you would like to explore more aspects of this, check out:

How to Survive Change . . . You Didn’t Ask for: Bounce Back, Find Calm in Chaos, and Reinvent Yourself by M.J. Ryan

I’m Carol Brusegar, author, photographer and curator of information. My focus is on gathering and writing on topics that enhance all our lives – regardless of our age. Topics include health and wellness, personal development, innovation and creativity, and a variety of helpful, practical tools and practices. I have a special interest in helping people over 50 years of age to create their 3rd Age – the next stage of their lives – to be the best it can be.

Visit my Amazon Author Page to see the books I have available.  

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Being in a State of Flow – High Energy and Focused Productivity

Being in a State of Flow – High Energy and Focused ProductivityFLOW is used in two ways in our psychological lexicon. As go with the flow – relax, allow life/the universe to flow through you and as in the zone, a state of flow – a mental state of high energy and focused productivity and enjoyment in the process.

As I think of flow, I think of rivers, which illustrate both usages. My experience is of these rivers – the Yahara that flows lazily through my hometown in Wisconsin, the majestic Mississippi as it flows through Minneapolis, my home for 40 years, and the Cumberland that flows through Nashville where I lived for ten years. Each of these rivers flow freely in some parts of their length and are controlled by dams at points. Where there are dams, the water that is harnessed for a purpose before returning to a more placid flow again. The state of flow is rather like that.

How often do you feel “in the zone” or in a state of flow? For many of us, it is less frequent than we would like. The exciting thing is that we can in fact create it on demand by following some guidelines and practicing them!

This concept of flow was recognized and named in 1975 by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyl. This is how he described it in an interview with Wired Magazine: “The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

When you are in a state of flow, work becomes effortless. And it doesn’t just happen at work. You may get into the “flow” while you’re working on projects around the house or working on a writing or artistic project. No matter what you’re working on, “flow” can make you feel amazing… almost like you have a super power.

Attributes of Flow

Flow is a State Of Mind

“Being in the flow” is a state of mind. That means you control getting into it. Pay attention to what happens to your thinking, your feelings, and your surroundings when you get into the flow naturally. This will help you when it’s time to get in the flow on demand.

Your Energy Levels Are High

The next thing you’ll notice when you get into the flow state is that your energy is really high. You’ll be able to focus and make progress on whatever project you’re working on for a long time – until you’re either disrupted or exhausted.

You’re Highly Focused

The next big sign of being in the flow is that you are very focused. Tasks that usually take you hours, get done in half an hour. Email, social media, the phone, Netflix, or the pile of dishes in the sink suddenly aren’t the big distractions they usually present. You’re hunkered down, focusing on the task at hand with your blinders on.

You’re Having Fun

Last but not least you’re having a lot of fun when you’re in flow. It’s exhilarating and time is flying. Being focused and getting a ton done in a short amount of time makes you feel incredibly accomplished and proud. Endorphins start to kick in and you do feel a bit like a super hero.

How to Intentionally Get Into Flow

Flow does happen to us occasionally without our intention. It’s a wonderful gift. Even better, we actually can generate it on demand. Getting into a state of flow is a bit of a personal thing. It works a little differently for each of us because we are all motivated by different things and various factors help us get into the flow.

Mindset

As noted at the beginning, your state of mind or MINDSET is key to this whole process. Getting into a state of  flow is mostly about getting out of your own way and allowing it to happen.

It’s important to not let yourself get distracted and to build your confidence that you can indeed become adept at getting yourself into the flow on demand. It will take practice – like any new skill.

Being motivated, inspired and excited about a project is perhaps the largest factor in getting into a state of flow. Spend a couple of minutes thinking about why you are doing this particular project. It may be a passion project of your own, an assigned work project, or even something you don’t necessarily want to do (filing taxes, perhaps?). Whatever it is, there is a reason why you are doing it. For things in the must-do category, find a stronger, more emotional reason to help you get motivated, stay focused and on task. What deeper benefits will you have from completing any of these items? As you proceed, keep reminding yourself of this inspiration.

Use Deadlines

Having a deadline can help you get into the flow because it forces you to cut out all distractions and gives your mind no choice but to focus on the task at hand. It may not be the most pleasant way to get into the flow, but it is frankly one of the most effective ways.

Give it a try. Pick a task. It can be something small and easy for practice. Then set yourself a deadline. If you can make it a real deadline all the better. For example, tell your friend that you can’t meet her for lunch until all the filing is done, or promise your kids to take them to the park in 30 minutes, but tell yourself that you have to finish writing the blog post you’ve been working on first.

In a future post I will address more about using this tool to enrich our life experiences. In the meantime, you may be interested in the most recent edition of the book that elevated this concept into popular culture:

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi  

I’m Carol Brusegar, author, photographer and curator of information. My focus is on gathering and writing on topics that enhance all our lives – regardless of our age. Topics include health and wellness, personal development, innovation and creativity, and a variety of helpful, practical tools and practices. I have a special interest in helping people over 50 years of age to create their 3rd Age – the next stage of their lives – to be the best it can be. 

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HABITS, ROUTINES AND RITUALS – CLAIMING THEIR POWER IN TIMES OF CHANGE

Many of our habits, routines and rituals have changed over the past two years as we adapted to the reality of the pandemic. They may have changed repeatedly. As we move forward again, it is an ideal time to look at how we can adapt or create these practices for our current situations.

Habits, routines and rituals are related but distinct practices that can be formed and nurtured to simplify and enhance our lives. The more aware and intentional about them we are, the more effective they can be. Note: There is a flip side too! We can easily fall into habits, routines and rituals that are negative or more of a rut. Identifying the negatives and ruts and strategies for breaking out of them is a separate topic. The focus of this article is to look at these practices and how to use them effectively.

What Makes Them Helpful?

Why are positive habits and routines so helpful to us? It has to do with our brain capacity. Did you know that we all have a finite number of decisions that we can make in any given day? You may have noticed that it gets harder to make decisions toward the end of the day. Habits and routines help reduce the number of decisions we have to make and thus free brain space for more creative and productive thinking and also reduce daily stress.

Habits

It’s hard to argue that humans are indeed “creatures of habit.” Habits are necessary for us to navigate our lives successfully. Think of all the things you do by habit – things you do repeatedly and automatically, often almost involuntarily or unconsciously. Brushing your teeth morning and night, adjusting the thermostat as you head for bed, getting your morning coffee, turning on the morning news show on television, or whatever your particular automatic actions may be. Something triggers you – also likely subconsciously – and you take that action.

Routines

And then there are routines. Often the two are confused or used interchangeably. They are however distinct. Routines are a series of habits or activities that you combine for specific parts of the day or certain repeat situations. For example, the things you do between the time you awaken each morning and the time you are settled into your work, home or school activity for the day. Or your fitness or exercise routine. Or a writing routine if you are a writer/journaler. Or a study routine for students. You may have different routines for weekend days than weekdays.

Routines require more intention and effort to complete than simple habits. The series of things you do each morning may or may not actually be a routine. They may just be a series of actions that you take, not necessarily in the same order each day, maybe adjusting freely depending on circumstances. Or it actually may be a routine that has a sequence that you don’t change, in a firm timeline. Doing this gives you satisfaction and a launch for the rest of the day. If that is upset, your day doesn’t start well.

What are the routines that will be most helpful for you right now? Are there changes in what you are doing that will enhance your life?

Rituals

Sociologist Robert Wuthnow says, “rituals are any actions or events that have symbolic meaning beyond their instrumental value.” These meanings can be personal or collective and expressed alone or with others. They also have some unique characteristics. As Gustava Razzetti says in his Fearless Culture blog:   “A ritual is a sequence of activities  that are performed in a particular place and according to a set progression.  A ritual must have a clear beginning, middle, and end.”

Many of us have experienced religious rituals – the pattern of a regular service or gathering, a specific liturgy, sacraments such as baptism and holy communion. Both faith and other types of groups have rituals for particular times of the year. For example, I’ve been part of a burning bowl ritual on New Year’s Eve to burn the bits of paper on which each person has written what they want to leave behind from the previous year. Clubs and civic groups have rituals to begin and end meetings, how new members are added, and more. These are intended to solidify belonging and group identity.

We may have family rituals around family meals or holiday meals, how we put beloved pets to rest, how certain milestone birthdays are celebrated.

Individual rituals are used by many performers and athletes to prepare for an event or appearance. They are all intended to get the person into the right mindset/frame of mind to be able to perform their very best.

Creating rituals is a life-enhancing process that we can all participate in. The disconnection that we have all experienced during the years of the pandemic has made us more aware of ways we connected with others and how much we have missed them. This awareness is an impetus for many people and groups to recover, reinvent or create rituals as we move forward.

Elements of Ritual to Enhance Routines

You can also add an element of ritual to some routines to provide meaning and focus. Picking up a specific pen is a signal to you that you are beginning your writing routine. Putting it away is the end of that meaningful session. Putting on your best walking/running shoes or a particular baseball hat is a signal to begin your walking or running routine.

Such actions become triggers and motivators. Even if you aren’t feeling very much like doing the routine, taking that action can get you started without the mental conflict or feeling the need to engage great will power. Once established, it becomes a key to opening up that experience every time. And that helps you do the things you want to do with more ease.

Habits, routines and rituals are tools that we can use in many areas of life. They are especially helpful as we experience change, external and internal – as we all have in the past two years. As I researched and wrote this article, my interest in learning more grew. There are so many dimensions to be explored. If you also are intrigued with the possibilities, I recommend checking out these books:

Atomic Habits  by James Clear  Atomic/atom-sized/tiny habits to change many aspects of life are the focus of this book.

Daily Routine Planner  Use this planner including worksheets to create routines for all parts of the day and more.

The Power of Ritual  by Casper Ter Kuile.  Learn how to turn everyday activities into intentional rituals that will nurture your soul and transform life.

 

I’m Carol Brusegar, author, photographer and curator of information. My focus is on gathering and writing on topics that enhance all our lives – regardless of our age. Topics include health and wellness, personal development, innovation and creativity, and a variety of helpful, practical tools and practices. I have a special interest in helping people over 50 years of age to create their 3rd Age – the next stage of their lives – to be the best it can be.

 

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Gratitude is a Big Deal – But Why is That?

GratitudeGratitude is a big deal. It’s good for all of us, as we feel it, express it and share it. In the month of November, there is a big push for it on social media and elsewhere. Perhaps it’s part of your reflections at the end of a year or whenever you are regrouping. Nurturing it as part of our daily lives besides those occasional bursts is beneficial in many ways.

Gratitude IS a big deal. It is part of our relationships, our connection with our higher power, and how we view the world. Numerous studies have identified the benefits of having an attitude of gratitude. Note that this is not an occasional expression, but an attitude or a mindset that is part of our way of living life. Here are five benefits identified in studies:

Benefit #1 – Gives More Patience

Researchers at Northeastern University have found that people who felt grateful for the little everyday things in their lives were more patient and better able to make sensible decisions, compared to those who didn’t feel thankful on a daily basis.

Benefit #2 – Improves Relationships

Feeling grateful toward your partner, other family members and friends (and their gratitude to you) can improve numerous aspects of a relationship, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Theoretical Social Psychology. This includes stronger feelings of connectedness and overall satisfaction between you.

This extends beyond our close relationships. A 2014 study discovered that thanking an acquaintance for a kindness more often than not makes them seek a deeper relationship with you. It doesn’t matter how small the kindness. Simply acknowledging little deeds leads to new relationship opportunities, and of course, more happiness.

Benefit #3 – Improves Health

Gratitude increases optimism, and optimism has been proven to boost the immune system. According to a study by Harvard Medical school, those who are optimistic live happier, healthier, longer lives.

Benefit #3 – Improves Sleep

Feeling grateful can help you sleep better and for longer. This is most likely because you have more positive thoughts before you go to sleep, which can help to soothe the nervous system. If you are going to make a daily gratitude list, or keep a gratitude journal, studies have shown that it is best to do this right before bed.

Benefit #4 – Eases Depression

Recent studies have shown that by practicing the “three good things” exercise daily, you can see considerable improvements in depression and overall happiness, sometimes in as little as a few weeks. The activity prompts you to think of three good things or moments that happened during the day. It interrupts the gloom and downward spiral that depression creates.

According to another study, even a one-time act of thoughtful appreciation produced a 10% increase in happiness and 35% reduction in depression.

Benefit #5 – Gives You Happiness that Lasts

Numerous things can give you a boost of happiness, from a compliment to a sugary treat. Unfortunately, these kinds of instant gratification can quickly disappear and leave you craving more. Gratitude, on the other hand, is something that can lead to a much more sustainable form of happiness because it isn’t based in that immediate gratification, but rather a state of mind. If you take the time to regularly express gratitude and thankfulness for the things in your life, you are more than likely to see long-lasting happiness. I wrote earlier about this here: http://carolbrusegar.com/gratitude-beyond-lists-moment/

Cultivating and sustaining an attitude of gratitude can have these benefits and more. If you already have this mindset and approach to life, you may appreciate its benefits even more now. If you would like to build an attitude of gratitude into your life, find more inspiration and tools to help you accomplish this.

Let’s start with a simple monthly Gratitude Wheel. This is free, downloadable and printable. Each day, fill in a spoke of the wheel with what you are grateful for that day. At the end of the month you will have a visual that you can tape up where you can see it or put in a notebook. I love the visual as an option to the lists that gratitude journals provide. Download it here:   http://carolbrusegar.com/Gratitude-Wheel

Perhaps a daily reading will provide inspiration for you. Consider one of the 365 Days of Gratitude compilations of the Community Book Project. There are two completely different volumes.

365 Days of Gratitude 2022

365 Days of Gratitude 2021

Gratitude is a big deal! May your attitude of gratitude enhance your life every day!!

I’m Carol Brusegar, author, photographer and curator of information. My focus is on gathering and writing on topics that enhance all our lives – regardless of our age. Topics include health and wellness, personal development, innovation and creativity, and a variety of helpful, practical tools and practices. I have a special interest in helping people over 50 years of age to create their 3rd Age – the next stage of their lives – to be the best it can be.

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Thanksgiving Ideas, Resources, and Gratitude (With a Free Gratitude Journal)

Planning for ThanksgivingThanksgiving 2021 is a shaping up as closer to what we used to have, since many of us are now vaccinated. Precautions are still very important and we can make modifications that will keep us safer and perhaps even discover things we enjoy that we’ve not done before as we gather.

Last Thanksgiving I shared a collection of online resources to engage and entertain children and the whole family for the day and the entire weekend. There are great things to download and print, games, learning opportunities, recipes, and more. Plan for enjoyment:   https://carolbrusegar.com/thanksgiving-free-online-resources-entertain-family/

Gratitude is Powerful

Through these past months of the pandemic, everyone has had their life disrupted in some ways. The severity of that impact has varied greatly. All of us feel loss of a variety of people and things. There’s a lot of pain and sadness, depression and anxiety. Many of us will find it more challenging to be thankful right now. Yet the very intention to identify, acknowledge and celebrate can be therapeutic in the midst of extraordinarily challenging times.

Gratitude is powerful. It can shift our thoughts and mindset and open us to more positives. It can inspire us to do things to enrich others’ lives. Expressing our gratitude to people who have enhanced our lives and supported us through difficult times helps both us and those to whom we communicate.

Adela Rubio describes 3 reasons that gratitude shifts our energy: It shifts your focus to the present moment, creates a new orientation, and establishes a indelible connection with Source. “Gratitude is a powerful transformation tool. It changes you and the world you live in!”  https://adelarubio.com/3-reasons-gratitude-shifts-energy/#

Perhaps there is no more important a time than this to structure a gratitude time into our lives. It can be as simple as having a small notebook or some paper clipped together where you write five things each day. As the days pass and you look back, you can see where you have been and what has touched you. Another approach, recommended by Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD and professor at the University of California Riverside, is a weekly gratitude exercise. Once a week, perhaps Sunday evening, reflect upon and write down five things for which you are grateful. For some, daily expression becomes boring and routine; weekly can be more meaningful.

Or you can take a more structured approach with prompts for you to write about each day (or less frequently but regularly). I offer you this free, directly downloadable 30-day Gratitude Journal to get started (or to resume a left-behind practice).  30 Day Gratitude Journal

Z. Colette Edwards, MD, MBA has written a post that includes multiple aspects of gratitude. It was written this year and reflects our current reality in the midst of the pandemic.  Dr. Edwards is a physician and life/executive/wellness coach who blends traditional medical and integrative perspectives in her work.

Dr. Edwards includes a list of 20 Ways to Celebrate Gratitude which focuses on things we can do to express our gratitude to others, which has benefits for both ourselves and the recipients. For example, “Email or text notes or drawings to healthcare workers” or “Verbally thank the grocery store clerk who is stocking shelves non-stop or checking one customer out after another, and thus putting themselves at risk.” Here is the full post: https://peopletweaker.com/hcr-blog/gratitude-during-difficult-times/

Yes, it is a Thanksgiving like no other. Cultivating gratitude in yourself and encouraging it in others can be a powerful positive force now and for the weeks and months ahead.

Here’s a book with 105 short essays on gratitude. Each is written by a different author with a unique perspective and story. It’s a great thing to pick up and read an essay or two when you need a boost.  A Gift of Gratitude

 

I’m Carol Brusegar, author, photographer and curator of information. My focus is on gathering and writing on topics that enhance all our lives – regardless of our age. Topics include health and wellness, personal development, innovation and creativity, and a variety of helpful, practical tools and practices. I have a special interest in helping people over 50 years of age to create their 3rd Age – the next stage of their lives – to be the best it can be.

        Follow me on Twitter!     Follow me on Instagram!   Follow me on Pinterest!    Follow me on Facebook!         Visit my Etsy Shop!

 

 

Feeling Overwhelmed? Quiet Your Mind With a Brain Dump

OverwhelmedDo you find yourself feeling overwhelmed? Maybe occasionally, maybe more often? As we move into a new season within the reality of the COVID pandemic, it’s easy to feel like it’s all too much. Things are still uncertain and subject to change at any moment. Conflicting opinions and beliefs about our current reality cause stress and many emotions.

Finding calm can be next to impossible when you have a million thoughts swirling around in your head. It’s stressful when you have so many details going on inside your brain. These rambling, disorganized thoughts are always with you and it can seem like there’s no escape. Here’s one simple trick that can help you to overcome that helpless feeling. It’s called a brain dump, and it truly is as easy as it sounds. Using this technique relieves the pressure of an overcrowded mind.

What is a Brain Dump?

A brain dump is simply taking what’s in your brain and transferring it to another place. This place can be onto a piece of paper or into digital form like a computer app or word processing program. What’s important is that you clear your mind of all the clutter so that you can think clearly again. Dumping the excess thoughts and information from your brain to a different storage location frees up valuable space. It also unloads a heavy burden and diminishes your feeling overwhelmed. You’ll feel a lot freer once you’ve experienced this process.

When to do a Brain Dump 

Consider doing a brain dump at any of these times:

  • When you feel lost, confused, or like your life has no direction.
  • When you are under a lot of stress or your anxiety is worsening.
  • When you feel out of control in your life and you don’t know how to gain control back.
  • When you have been living a chaotic or disorganized life.
  • When your ideas are getting lost among the other thoughts.
  • When your to-do lists are too long, and you can’t keep up with them.
  • When you start becoming irritable or moody for no other good reason.

Benefits of a Brain Dump

Benefits to performing a brain dump include:

  • Clearing your head. Just seeing the information in front of you gives you a sense of control over it. Your brain is cleared, kind of like a computer cache. There’s now more room in it so that it will function better.
  • Allowing you to see options. Once you have taken all those thoughts from your head and placed them in a place where you can see them, you then have a lot of options. Information is far easier to sort when it’s right in front of you than when it’s swirling around in your mind.
  • Helping you organize what you have extracted. You can now organize information into a format that makes sense, process things and make plans. Now it’s much easier to manage all the components of your life. It will be easier to gain focus and to be more productive in your home and work situations.

How to do a Brain Dump

Performing a brain dump to reduce your feeling overwhelmed

is easy.

First, choose your format. If you prefer pen and paper – perhaps in a journal – that’s great. Writing things down by hand can be therapeutic, and it can help you to retain information. Perhaps you prefer using an electronic tool, which also offers benefits and gives you digital records.

I’ve written previously about using mind-mapping a way to declutter your mind and reduce overwhelm: https://carolbrusegar.com/using-mind-mapping-to-declutter-your-brain/ You may explore that and other possibilities and then decide.

Second, set aside some quiet time, at least half an hour. Write down everything that’s in your head: thoughts, feelings, frustrations, responsibilities, stresses, etc.  Keep going until you can’t think of anything else. Try to use the time you’ve allotted, but don’t frustrate yourself if you truly can’t think of more.

Third, come back to the information later to categorize and organize it in a way that makes more sense. What’s important is that you remove the clutter from your mind, and then find a way to organize and process it all. Here are some suggestions of categories to include as you sort.

To aid in clearing the clutter, include 1)  a “parking lot” category where you place thoughts, ideas, tasks, etc. that you want to set aside for now. You can review them later to see if you want to do anything with them. 2) a “discard” category where you dump things that are extraneous, destructive or just the lowest of priority.

To capture useful ideas, thoughts and possibilities, use one or more categories like ideas, projects, priorities, etc. If you would like a FREE downloadable and printable Idea Journal to facilitate this, go here:

Idea Journal

Some people choose to do this when they feel a clear need, as described above. Others find it good weekly practice, which can keep things from building up so you are feeling overwhelmed. Once you have done this at least once, you will be able to see what might work best for you. You’ll find you feel more refreshed and can think more clearly after your brain dump session.

Amazon has a selection of brain dump notebooks, notepads, journals, etc. Brain Dump if you’d like more tools.

 

I’m Carol Brusegar, author, photographer and curator of information. My focus is on gathering and writing on topics that enhance all our lives – regardless of our age. Topics include health and wellness, personal development, innovation and creativity, and a variety of helpful, practical tools and practices. I have a special interest in helping people over 50 years of age to create their 3rd Age – the next stage of their lives – to be the best it can be.           

Follow me on Twitter!  Follow me on Instagram!  Follow me on Pinterest

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Nature and Fractals Reduce Overwhelm and Stress

Fractal 1Many of us have times of overwhelm and stress during these times of uncertainty. It may be only sporadic or more pervasive. Overwhelm is the consistent state of feeling in over your head, overburdened, and unable to sustain manageable control over the various expectations in your day. It has a domino effect. Usually beginning in one area of life, it can extend to all areas as the body begins to fatigue from the chronic stress.

If your overwhelm becomes more than occasional, you may notice that you develop chronic headaches, stomach aches, body aches, and can’t seem to get enough sleep.  These are symptoms of adrenal fatigue and your body’s natural reaction to chronic stressors.

Mother Nature’s Surprising Antidote to Stress and Overwhelm

As we continue forward, it’s helpful to expand our strategies for coping with the stress, not only of the immediate but of all the unknowns of the coming months. Most of us find that being out in nature is one of those strategies. What is it about a stroll in the woods or going for a walk along a country lane that seems to bring a sense of inner peace?

Or perhaps walking barefoot on the beach, watching the waves and collecting seashells brings much joy into your heart.

Is it simply because you’ve “got back to nature”? Is it because you are outside breathing fresh air for a change instead of being stuck in the stress box you call your office?

Those are all true, but there is another perfectly natural one-word explanation for why you feel so calm and content. FRACTALS! They’re all around you, wherever you look.  They are even inside you – your body is full of fractals: Your veins, nerves and even your bronchial tree is fractal.

What are fractals and how do they reduce stress?

The simplest way to describe a fractal is a pattern that repeats itself over a decreasing scale.

Take trees for example. The branches are copies of the trunk, only smaller.  The smaller branches are copies of the larger branches they stemmed from. Twigs are copies of the smaller branches. Each part of the tree is a smaller copy of the whole.

If you were to look at a snowflake under a magnifying glass before it melts, you would see that it is made up of the same complex repeating pattern.

Since the beginning of humanity, we have been surrounded by fractals.  They are Mother Nature’s building blocks and our evolutionary comfort zone. More examples include fiddlehead ferns, broccoli, aloe vera plants, crystals, angelica flowers (and many others), lightning, and seashells.

How do you use fractals for stress relief?

  • Don’t spend so much time inside. Get outside more. Stand and watch the clouds, or sit on a park bench and watch the trees swaying in the breeze for a few minutes. Do some deep breathing and fill your lungs with fresh air while you’re there. You’ll soon feel your stress melting away like a snowflake that lands on a surface.
  • If you can’t go outside when you feel your stress levels rising, just look out the window for a few minutes instead.
  • Add fractals to your indoor environment and take breaks to view and appreciate them and their soothing patterns.  These can be houseplants like fractal succulents or aloe vera. They can be seashells that have those patterns.
  • Fractal art and other man-made fractals, according to research, are equally effective. You can just as quickly lower your stress levels by watching a fractal screensaver on your computer for a few seconds or watch a video like this one:
  • Fractal Coloring Books can serve this purpose, too. These are distinct from mandalas and are labeled as such. Here are some examples:

Yes, it might seem incredible, but studies have shown the calming effects that fractals have on the mind really do take effect very quickly.

Fractals are all around, hiding in plain sight. Focus on them and relieve your stress and overwhelm!

I’m Carol Brusegar, author, photographer and curator of information. My focus is on gathering and writing on topics that enhance all our lives – regardless of our age. Topics include health and wellness, personal development, innovation and creativity, and a variety of helpful, practical tools and practices. I have a special interest in helping people over 50 years of age to create their 3rd Age – the next stage of their lives – to be the best it can be.

 

Follow me on Twitter!     Follow me on Instagram!   Follow me on Pinterest!

Follow me on Facebook!         Visit my Etsy Shop!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Journaling: Explore the Possibilities With My Free eCourse

prismAre you a journaling devotee, beginner, skeptic, or critic? Have you actually tried it or just been aware of it around you? What are your opinions about the practice?

I have come to see journaling something like a prism – a tool that can provide clarification by helping us focus on particular aspects of our lives.

Depending on what we wish to look at, there are different styles and techniques to explore.

Journaling has been a way for people to express themselves for centuries. Its current popularity can be seen in a Google search for “journaling” that returned 47,300,000 results!! This clearly indicates that there a lot of people providing lots of information on this broad topic which has many subtopics and categories.

Perhaps you are wondering what all the fuss is about and would like an overview to see what the possibilities are for you. Or perhaps you have journaled and are interested in expanding your view of the varieties and potential of journaling.

I invite you to sign up for my brand new free ecourse, “Journaling: a Prism to Clarify and Enhance All Aspects of Life.”  It is an overview that can give you some new options for using journaling. It includes some free sample journals to try.

Go here to sign up and you will receive it via email in 7 parts over 14 days. You will also have access to a Facebook group on the topic. http://carolbrusegar.com/journaling-prism-to-clarify-and-enhance-life/

Your first lesson will be available immediately upon signing up.

Check out a couple of my previous blog posts related to journaling.

The first is about 4 major purposes to journal: https://carolbrusegar.com/journaling-as-a-tool/  I talked about personal growth, self-discovery, gathering ideas and brainstorming solutions, and capturing life experiences. Journaling provides a great tool for these things.

Another great use is to nurture and increase our creativity. https://carolbrusegar.com/journaling-techniques-to-boost-your-creativity/

The Power of Empathy – “I Feel You”

Empathy“Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself. – Mohsin Hamid

 

Perhaps you have heard people use the phrase “I feel you” as they listen to some heartfelt sharing from another. Perhaps you have used that shorthand expression for EMPATHY.

The dictionary definition for empathy is “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.” That definition goes on to include that you can have this connection and understanding even when others have not fully explained their situation to you. In other words, you are tuned into the plights of others, and you can react in ways that show you understand what they are going through even when you don’t know all the details.

I can’t think of many other things more needed in our world today, full of fractures and divisions, than empathy. Clearly there are people with stories that need to be heard but even more important is to be able to genuinely say “I feel you” in response to them. And it goes beyond that. It’s part of a cycle so beautifully described in these words by Stephen Mattson:

“Imagination leads to empathy, empathy leads to understanding, understanding leads to action, action leads to experience, and experience leads to wisdom – which leads to even more imagination.”

Mattson notes that the cycle begins and ends with imagination because “When you can’t imagine, you can’t empathize, understand, or relate with the actions, struggles, pain, suffering, persecution, and trials of others — you become apathetic, unmoved, stoic, and inactive.”

The impact of our ability to empathize with others’ situations and experiences is huge. It begins with those closest to us and can ripple beyond. Can you imagine the impact if more of the decision-making at all levels were based on conscious efforts to imagine and empathize with the situations of all the people affected in a given situation? The lack of that is clear to us as we look around. As Charles M. Blow has said, “One doesn’t have to operate with great malice to do great harm. The absence of empathy and understanding are sufficient.”

Practicing imagination and empathy also supports our own emotional and social wellness. How can being empathetic make you a happier, healthier, more well-rounded person?

You Can Be More Accepting of Others

When you have empathy, you recognize that everyone is entitled to their own experiences, that we are all different, and that you cannot change others. Acceptance of others’ differences, views, feelings, and thoughts means you do not judge them for these differences but instead are empathetic to how those differences impact their lives and experiences.

Empathy allows you to see others as unique instead of wrong, to value their perspectives, and to appreciate what you might be able to learn from others.

You Can Give Up Trying to Control Others’ Feelings

It is not possible to tell someone else how to feel, or to control others’ reactions. Everyone has a right to their own perspectives and emotions, and when you have empathy, you are able to see and appreciate this. This acceptance of others’ emotions is the key to empathy, and when you develop acceptance and empathy toward others, you have mastered a vital life skill.

Your Relationships Will Improve

When you have empathy, you learn how to treat other people with the care and compassion you wish others would use when they interact with you. Empathetic people also work to understand and respond to the needs of others, which they, in turn, will likely reciprocate with you.

Empathy helps you deal more effectively with interpersonal conflict, which means there will be less friction and strife with those you care for, and you can even learn how to better motivate those with whom you live and work.

You Can Share More Fully in Others’ Joy

Empathy does not have to be limited to understanding the challenges and turmoil of others. Empathy can also include understanding and responding to the joys and good events in others’ lives.

Learning to be happy for others is actually a skill you need to practice, as our brains are hard-wired to respond to others’ distress but naturally do not respond as strongly to others’ happiness. But, learning to do this not only helps you connect with others more fully, but it also can enhance your own perspective on your joys and blessings in life.

Final Thoughts

Empathy is your link to yourself as well as other people. Going far beyond sympathy, empathy is our ability to have the “I feel with” experiences regularly. Through imagination and personal experience, we are able to relate to others on a deeper level.

This skill is one that should be cultivated throughout one’s life, as it is essential for personal development. There are many books on the topic to explore, including some for children. Can you imagine the long term effect of having truly empathetic people in charge of our organizations and government. Cultivating this in ourselves and the younger generations can be a path to long term change.

Books on Empathy for Adults and Children