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Cultivating Wellbeing Professionally and Personally

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If the last 2 years have taught us one thing it is this: people’s lives don’t exist in silos. The experiences, stresses, and challenges people face in their personal lives bleed over into their professional lives, and vice versa. It has never been more apparent that we need to support people in a more holistic, human way than right now.

As we look to the future and anticipate yet another stage of change, I wanted to have a conversation about how we support our own wellbeing and the wellbeing of our teams and colleagues at work. To do this, I’ve enlisted the help of my friend, Ryan Wolf, Wellbeing Lead for Gallup.

During our conversation, Ryan and I dive into what wellbeing truly means. We talk about how it has changed in the last decade or so, and anticipate even more change in the coming few years. We talk about how critical it is for companies and employers to support their teams on a more holistic, human level, and we talk about how to go about it.

Finally, you won’t want to miss our conversation about our predictions for the return-to-office transition.

Additional Resources:

  1. Listen to a recent episode about how to design your WFH life: https://www.peakmindpsychology.com/blog/0331
  2. Want to help your team navigate change? Here’s en episode designed to hlep you do just that: https://www.peakmindpsychology.com/blog/0334
  3. Check out an article Ryan recommended about the 7 different types of rest: https://ideas.ted.com/the-7-types-of-rest-that-every-person-needs/
  4. Learn more about Gallup: https://www.gallup.com/home.aspx
  5. Connect with Ryan on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ryan-wolf-57260835/
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Achieving Peak Performance (without Burnout)

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What does it mean for you to “perform well” or “win” today? Have you ever stopped to consider that? One more question, as a high-achieving person or a top-performing person, have you ever stopped to consider times when it might be ok for you to show up intentionally looking to achieve at a B+ level?

These questions sound like heresy when we put them in the context of our traditional, high-pressure professional world. However, as we’ve learned from the pandemic and from some very high-profile athletes more recently, no one, even high achievers, is infallible.

Achieving peak performance is difficult enough to achieve once, but maintaining that level often leads to burnout.

If you are a human being with a body and a mind, you have limits. You have needs. And, you simply can not perform at 150% all the time. And today, we’re speaking with an expert who will help us sort through all of that.

Today’s guest is Lauren Ammon. She is a certified coach who works with athletes of all levels. She helps people acknowledge and recognize their own humanity. She helps people create as much psychological and emotional support for themselves as they do for their physical wellbeing.

This episode is for you if you’re the type of person who holds yourself to standards that are nearly unachievable. I know you’ll get some valuable insight and action out of this powerful conversation.

Additional Resources:

  1. Listen to my conversation with Gail Golden about Curating Your Life and Managing Your Energy: https://www.peakmindpsychology.com/blog/0242
  2. Check out our blog post “Creating the Conditions to Thrive:” https://www.peakmindpsychology.com/blog/Creating-the-conditions-to-thrive
  3. Connect with Lauren and grab a copy of her free resource: https://www.laurenammon.com/
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Using Micro-Behaviors to Reduce Anxiety

One of the most common things we get asked is how to reduce anxiety. Talk about the ultimate question! Anxiety is SO incredibly common, yet the tools to reduce it can feel so elusive. In today’s episode, we’re leaning on cognitive-behavioral theory to help us use micro-behaviors to reduce anxiety (or induce any emotional state you’re after).

During this episode, I give a quick overview of what cognitive-behavioral theory is and the interrelationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. I walk you through a great analogy developed by my incredible co-founder, Dr. Ashley Smith, to help you understand the true impact of this interrelationship in how you experience life. And finally, we turn to a practical way you can use small behavioral changes in your own life to influence your emotions in the direction you want them to go.

You’re not going to want to miss this one!

Additional Resources:

  1. Get the free guided experience I spoke about from Episode 338: https://www.peakmindpsychology.com/0338
  2. Get 15 practical ways to boost happiness: https://www.peakmindpsychology.com/blog/happiness-cheat-sheet
  3. Get another analogy to illustrate the powerful relationship between our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors: https://www.peakmindpsychology.com/blog/stop-feeding-the-dog-how-to-break-negative-self-fueling-cycles
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Uniting our World with Love

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The current state of the world has many of us feeling afraid, uncertain, and even disconnected. Given everything that is happening right now, it’s natural to have the impulse to pull away. To disengage. To disconnect.

However, the field of positive psychology shows us that it’s our interconnection to other people that drives much of our happiness and wellbeing. Beyond that, it’s our interconnection with other people that has the power to heal the divisive wounds at the heart of so much of the turmoil we see in the world today.

Today we’re speaking about interconnection with this week’s guest, Juan Lee. Juan is an author and teacher on the powerful principle of love. For over 30 years, he has studied organized religion to find the elements that unite humanity and share the message with those who need it. Based outside of Washington DC, Juan is a decorated US Air Force veteran and author of Love Made Simple.

Tune in today to be reminded of the importance of your role in humanity. My hope is that you leave this episode feeling optimistic and reengaged.

Additional Resources:

  1. Listen to a recent episode about uncovering what you truly desire in life: https://www.peakmindpsychology.com/0338
  2. Check out our blog post “Social Connection: A Key to Happiness:” https://www.peakmindpsychology.com/blog/social-connection-a-key-to-happiness
  3. Connect with Juan and grab a copy of his book: http://juanleetheauthor.com/about-the-book/
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Combatting Burnout When You’re Tired As F*ck

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BURNOUT. It’s a topic in the news almost daily. Given the stress we’ve all been under over the last 2 years, burnout is at an all-time high. But is it? Really?

I mean, I agree that we’re burned out, but my instinct tells me that we’ve been that way much longer than we realize. The pressure of the pandemic has brought it to the surface more clearly, but the burnout itself is a tale as old as time.

Today we’re talking about burnout with the perfect guest. Caroline Dooner is a writer, humorist, and ex-professional actress & singer. She started writing about our relationship with food 10 years ago on thef*ckitdiet.com, after radically healing her own relationship with food. All of that became “The F*ck It Diet” book, geared towards helping others heal. Her second book, “Tired as F*ck,” is about her burnout & two years of rest, after years of running herself into the ground. 

This episode is part validation, part instruction manual, part permission slip, and part call-to-arms. It is time we start caring for ourselves as the human beings that we are. I hope this episode and Caroline’s book help you do just that.

Additional Resources:

  1. Listen to my interview with Dr. Margaret Rutherford about perfectly hidden depression: https://www.peakmindpsychology.com/blog/0161
  2. Listen to this episode focused on role engulfment: https://www.peakmindpsychology.com/blog/0276
  3. The link between self-compassion and self-care: https://www.peakmindpsychology.com/blog/0275
  4. Connect with Caroline & her work: thefuckitdiet.com/tired
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Discover What You Truly Desire in Life

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My dad passed away from cancer when I was 11 years old. That one experience impacted me in all the ways you’d expect: grief, uncertainty, struggle. But, it was an unexpected lesson I learned decades after his death that was the true impact.

I learned the importance of living life by design and not by default. Of living life in a way that is aligned to who I truly am, rather than living to fulfill other people’s desires and expectations. I learned how precious this 1 shot at life is, and that I need to be responsible for crafting the road ahead.

Today we’re diving into the Life Design process and focusing on the first couple steps in the process. The Stanford University Life Design Lab calls this process crafting your Odyssey.

In today’s episode, I’ll talk about my personal journey to discovering the importance and power of life design. I’ll give you a high-level overview of the whole process, then we’ll dive deep into the first couple of stages.

As a bonus, I’ve created a free activity for you all to help you begin to craft your own odyssey. Visit www.peakmindpsychology.com/desire to get free, immediate access to a guided visualization and workbook to help you get a clearer picture of the life you’re hoping to design. It’s my gift to you.

Your life is important and you need to create a life you deserve. Please choose to live it by design, not by default.

Additional Resources:

  1. Get free access to the visualization and workbook that accompany this episode at www.peakmindpsychology.com/desire
  2. Learn about the difference between mindfulness meditation and visualization: https://www.peakmindpsychology.com/blog/0316
  3. Read our post on Increasing Employee Engagement: https://www.peakmindpsychology.com/blog/increasing-employee-engagement

Stanford graduate students have used this process to design career paths that lead the world. But like them, design can be a part of your life.

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Using Brain Science to Become a Better Parent

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Being a parent is tough. There’s no doubting that. Helping children grow and develop into resilient, resourceful, independent adults is no easy task.

But, have you ever stopped to think about the role that brain development plays in the way in which you parent your children? Parenting science has come a long way over the last few decades, but recently, combining personal experiences with new knowledge can lead to amazing results.

As it turns out, much of the challenging behavior we encounter when parenting especially young kids can be tied back to their brain development at that stage. Depending upon what stage they’re in and what “brain” they’re in, the way we react to challenging behavior and the way our children respond to us will differ greatly.

Today we’re speaking with Allana Robinson. She s Parenting Coach and CEO of Uncommon Sense Parenting, as well as a Registered Early Childhood Educator, Mom of two, and military wife. Allana supports parents of toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners in understanding WHY their children are misbehaving and how to fix it without yelling, shaming, or time-outs.

During this episode, Allana gives us a simple yet accurate picture of young children’s developing brains. She talks about how to recognize when children are relying on different parts of their brain and uses color-coding to make it quick and easy to understand. Finally, and most importantly, Allana talks about how we can adjust our response to our kids depending upon what “brain” they’re in.

As a parent of two young children, I got so much out of this episode, and I know you will too!

Additional Resources:

  1. Listen to my interview with Doug Noll about the role of emotions in conflict: https://www.peakmindpsychology.com/blog/0321
  2. Learn how to cultivate a better mother-daughter relationship with Dr Michelle Deering: https://www.peakmindpsychology.com/blog/0324
  3. Sign up for Allana’s free class: https://www.allanarobinson.com/freeclass/
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Improve Your Mental Wellbeing with Process Based Psychology

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The self-help and personal development space has EXPLODED over the past handful of years, and that explosion in content and complexity has left us asking one, simple question:

How DO we live the best, most aligned life possible?

Today we’re digging into this big, complex question with some cutting-edge research on process-based psychology.

Health problems and mental illness are often intertwined. Good mental health extends beyond positive feelings, but spending time taking small steps can improve your physical health and wellbeing as well.

Recently Dr. Steven Hayes and other researchers on his team examined over 55,000 research studies to uncover the 30 or so core processes that we can focus on in order to improve our mental wellbeing and the way we experience life. That’s what we’re digging into on today’s episode.

Today’s guest is Dr. Diana Hill. She is a clinical psychologist and co-author of ACT Daily Journal: Get unstuck and live fully with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Through her online teachings, executive coaching, clinical supervision, and private therapy practice, Diana encourages clients to build psychological flexibility so that they can live more meaningful and fulfilling lives. She is the founder and host of the new podcast show Your Life in Process and a co-founder of the Psychologists Off the Clock podcast. Diana blogs for Psychology Today and offers regular workshops in compassion and ACT for clinicians and the general public.

In this episode, we talk about what process-based therapy is. We talk about some of the core processes included in it and how to use them to thrive in our lives. We get face to face with some of the most basic processes of mindfulness and our relationship to our thoughts and how we can use these processes to pivot into taking the actions we truly want to take in our lives…rather than the ones that are holding us back.

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Social Connection: A Key to Happiness

Social connection – the authentic joining, however brief, of my humanness to yours – is a key contributing factor to happiness. The truth is, these days, we are constantly connected…to the Internet and to others’ carefully crafted social personas. In this digital-age we have more “connections” than we’ve ever had: tons of Facebook friends, oodles of instagram followers, the Twitterverse, all proffering bits of validation in the forms of likes and shares. We text and email constantly, yet a third (or more) of us are lonely – and that was before COVID.

We have an innate psychological NEED to feel a sense of belonging and closeness with others, yet the average American adult has fewer close friends now than a generation ago.

Perhaps that’s because we move farther away and more frequently. Maybe we’re “too busy” with other demands and don’t have the time or energy to prioritize socializing. Or maybe we don’t know how to genuinely connect anymore; we’re scared and out of practice, and a pandemic certainly didn’t help. 

Regardless of the reason, loneliness is an epidemic. 

 Loneliness is something I’ve struggled with over the years. “I need more friends and better eyes” (I’m visually impaired) is, sadly, a frequent sentiment in my junior high journal entries. 

As a socially anxious teen, I desperately wished I could be friendly and outgoing but was so worried about being negatively judged that I censored myself. I had friends but lacked self-confidence, and lacking confidence leads to wearing metaphorical masks and putting up walls that separate us from others. 

No more masks and no more walls. Over the past several years, I’ve adopted some practices that have made a tremendous difference in my overall happiness level and quality of life (e.g., having new experiences regularly, embracing vulnerability, intentionally building new beliefs through deliberate actions, mindfulness). But seeking out connections — and, more importantly the mindset shift that drives that quest — seems to have had a truly profound impact.

The Mindset Shift

The importance of actively pursuing social connection crystalized for me a few falls ago after an evening of unlikely interactions. I went to Irish Fest on my own to join a meet up group that essentially ended up with me being the fifth wheel on a double date. Fortunately, at that point in my life I had a pretty high tolerance for awkward, so I decided to embrace the situation and try to get to know those people. After parting ways, I took the streetcar home. Energized from the evening, I found myself playing tour guide to a mom and daughter visiting from out of state then deep in conversation with a man from a very different walk of life. Once home, I reflected on how unexpectedly happy I felt and drew some essential conclusions.

I realized that every single person whose path I cross is a potential connection. I don’t know if the person next to me is my future best friend, the love of my life, my next business partner, or just a drop of connection to remind me that I am not alone, that I am a part of humanity. That night illustrated the power of being open to connecting with others, even for fleeting moments.

The Uber Attitude Adjustment

Because Uber is my primary mode of transportation, I am pretty constantly in close quarters with strangers, faced with the options of conversing or sitting in silence (realistically, burying myself in a tiny screen). My tendency to opt for the former is continually reinforced. I’ve had drivers who unexpectedly inspire me, introduce me to new genres of music, technology, and restaurants, make me laugh, and broaden my horizons culturally and philosophically.

One in particular left a lasting impression a few years ago. Obinna, a young African man, dramatically improved my day and changed my outlook. The conversation started like any generic small talk: “The weather is beautiful today!” “I know! I’d much rather be outside enjoying it than going to the office, especially because I don’t usually work on Fridays.” Joke about trading places. Question about why I’m working on a different day than usual. “Well, I just got back from Iceland so am making up some missed time.” “ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? You just got back from Iceland and you’re complaining!?!?” my driver, smiling, almost shouted at me. “Wait, what?” I thought. I expected a big reaction to Iceland. That’s been pretty standard. But he’s chastising me about complaining? Wait. I AM complaining. What the heck?

He continued, “You work so you can be ballin’ and go on awesome trips! Be grateful that you get to do that!” You know, Mr. Uber, you’re right! My perspective shifted immediately. I have patients today. My work has meaning, and seeing them allows me to live this lifestyle that I am cultivating and enjoying, and I AM grateful! I felt my mood lift, dread replaced with excitement. This young man, this complete stranger from a different continent, changed my day in a way that had ripple effects.

Not everyone with whom I interact has a noticeable positive impact on me, but many do. Rarely, though, have I regretted talking to someone. Usually worst case is a neutral experience. Nothing gained, but nothing lost. Regardless of the exchange it, frankly, feels better to be friendly.

What Gets in the Way of Connecting?

In a word: JUDGMENT. Fear of and of others.

Fear of Judgment

Humans are inherently social creatures, and the threat of being ostracized or shunned by the herd triggers fear or anxiety. Therefore, we worry about being judged or rejected by others.

“He’ll think I’m dumb.” “She’ll reject me if she knows the real me.” “I must be the only one who XYZ.” “If I share my real opinion, they won’t like me anymore.” “What if I embarrass myself?”

We are hard-wired to escape or avoid anxiety-provoking situations. In this case, that may mean avoiding putting ourselves out there or risking potential rejection. Have you ever held back or censored yourself because you were concerned about what someone else would think about you? Be honest. I know I have.

Judgment of Others

We pre-judge others on the basis of exterior appearances and our own beliefs, and those judgments put up barriers to connecting. Our expectations about others influences how, or even IF, we interact with them.

Nowadays, I find myself embracing strangers (when safely possible)…sometimes to the chagrin of those around me. On a trip a few years ago, a friend messaged to virtually introduce me to his friend who was traveling in the same city. Yay! A friend of my friend has to be cool, right? I immediately followed up with her to set up a time to get together. My travel partner, one of my dearest friends, however, had a completely different reaction when I told her we were meeting for brunch. “What? What if she’s weird?” Moment of tension as the difference in our underlying mindsets about new people became obvious. (Side note: brunch was quite enjoyable.)

How to Make It Happen

I realize that being friendly or outgoing or open or authentic or whatever word you want to call it is sometimes easier said than done. The good news is, though, it CAN be done! Here are some key points to keep in mind.

If fear of being judged holds you back:

Ask yourself these key questions:

  • You can’t control what other people think. Why bother?
  • What’s the worst thing that can happen? You let someone see the real you and they reject you? That sucks, sure, but it won’t kill you. Wait, before you move on, consider what’s the best thing that could happen? You put yourself out there and others accept and value you? What would that experience do for you? Confidence up, insecurity down. Sounds good to me!
  • What are five other things they could think (could’ve thought) in that moment?

Know that it gets easier with practice. That’s a concept called graduated exposure — baby steps of putting yourself out there and testing out how others respond.

If your own judgments and expectations get in the way:

Step out of your own judgments and try people on, so to speak. Did they match your expectations and assumptions?

Make a qualitative shift in how you approach interactions by having the goal of connecting rather than alternative goals like changing the other person, being right, getting something out of it, or protecting yourself from possible threat. For example, I had a super engaging and respectful conversation with a flat earther because I chose to be open to trying to understand his perspective rather than trying to prove him wrong or writing him off all together. While we don’t share fundamental philosophies, I still got a boost of energized happiness from that connection. Finding commonalities, especially with people who don’t necessarily look or act like you, can restore your faith in humanity and help you feel like you’re a part of something bigger than you.

If you’re still not convinced that connections come in unlikely forms, take it from Norah and Mr. Dan:https://www.youtube.com/embed/Hzpnk3PvZbY

I challenge you to embrace the mindset that everyone is a potentially worthwhile connection. Doing so has been transformational! It has exponentially increased my openness to interacting with others. It has translated into more frequent conversations with a much wider variety of people and helped to reduce feelings of loneliness, even when key players in my life are far away or haven’t entered yet. 

The other unexpected outcomes? I have gotten increasingly comfortable being vulnerable, which allows for more authentic connections as well as more self-confidence and acceptance. I am also generally more compassionate and find myself getting less annoyed with others. All in all, I’m just happier, and I’m thrilled to connect with you.

 “I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
– Brene Brown
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Questions to Build Self-Awareness

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Many of us believe that we are self-aware, but when we actually assess people, only about 10-15% of people actually are. Shocking huh?!

Self-awareness is a skill that sits at the center of so many psychological strength concepts, and that is what we’re digging into today.

Be forewarned! Today’s episode is an episode that you DO, not an episode that you passively listen to. It’s meant to deepen your awareness of yourself by asking you questions meant to uncover nuance, insight, and connection. This one is for you if you’re ready to go DEEP.

Grab a journal, grab a pen, go for a walk, and liberally use the pause button on this one. Carve out some time, and dedicate it to getting to know yourself on a deeper level.