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Living Life by Design After COVID

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Stop. Stop right now. Consider for a moment the opportunity that stands before each and every one of us. We have a chance to change our futures and engage in life design after COVID and this great public health crisis.

Life is about to go back to “normal” after COVID. We’re about to go back to our jobs, and begin shopping, interacting, and living in a way that is closer to the way we lived before COVID. Imagine a world in which we no longer think day-to-day about the department of health warnings about masks, or checking the latest advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.)

However, we’ve been through a formative experience, and if you’re like me, you’ve learned a few things over the past few months. 

There are things you want to change. 

Alignments to be made. 

You’re ready to live the next chapter of your life by DESIGN, and not by DEFAULT. 

Friends, the time is NOW to do just that, and this episode will help you do it. 

This episode is the audio from a recent workshop we hosted for the members of our Starter Pack. Specifically, we walked through a 60-minute, hands on exercise to align the next chapter of your life with your unique values system. 

Now this exercise is just scratching the surface of what Life Design can actually do, but it’ll get you a heck of a lot closer to an aligned life than if you leave it up to chance…which is what most people will do. 

Don’t live this next chapter of your life by default. Dig in. Do the work. And live this next chapter by DESIGN. 

Join the Peak Mind Starter Pack by visiting this link & you’ll find the module containing the download for this week’s episode. Follow along with us, and let us know what you’re going to do going forward! 

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Blogs

What the World Needs Now: Acts of Kindness

Oh man! I’ve had that song “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love” stuck in my head. All. Weekend. I’m not sure why. It just popped in my head and has been on repeat since. It sure seems timely. It’s all I can think about… Plus, a few acts of kindness.

Right now, life feels heavy, and I find myself wanting to make it lighter, in some meaningful way.

So today, inspired by that little tune, I want to focus on a simple, concretely actionable thing you can do to make a real difference.

Do an act of kindness.

It sounds so simple, right? Maybe even silly, but it’s not. There are very real benefits to doing acts of kindness, benefits for you and for others.

Benefits of Kindness

Have you been feeling worn down, stressed, sad, angry, anxious, numb (or all of the above) lately? Doing a kindness for someone else is one of the single most reliable ways to boost your mood. 

It’s more than just a temporary bump in mood, though. Consistently doing random acts of kindness (even over a short period of time) can:

Increase:                                          

+ happiness

+ life satisfaction

+ self-worth and self-esteem

+ sense of calm

Decrease:

– depression

– anxiety

– stress

Don’t those sound like things we could probably all use right now? 

The benefits don’t end there, though. Doing acts of kindness affects your brain and body, too. From activating reward centers in your brain and releasing feel good hormones to reducing blood pressure and pain, kindness is linked to well-being, health, and longevity (Yes, living longer!). It’s like your body’s natural happy pill. Who knew kindness could be the key to optimal physical health? 

Here’s the real beauty in showing kindnesses, though: there are ripple effects.

Not only do you get a dose of mind-body goodness, but others reap similar benefits as well. Giving a kindness today results in a reduction of stress levels for not only you but those around you. 

Benefits for Others

Witnessing an act of kindness produces similar positive physical, emotional, and mental changes as actually doing the kindness. Think about that. The recipient of your act of kindness – as well as any bystanders – will be positively impacted, beyond whatever the act itself does. That’s a good return on (behavioral) investment!

Think about how your family members will benefit from your practice of kindness or even the group of people that will benefit all because of this ripple effect.

Some kindness ideas could be:

  • leaving a positive message on a sticky note
  • volunteering at a homeless shelter
  • putting coins in an empty parking meter
  • regifting a gift card
  • checking on an old friend on social media
  • writing an encouraging note to a loved one or just spending time with them
  • letting a busy person cut in line at the grocery store
  • making a care package for a retirement home
  • holding the door for a stranger
  • letting someone merge in front of you
  • picking up trash when you see it
  • bringing lemonade to your mail carrier on a hot day

All of these result in a contagious spread of happiness.  The power of kindness is immense! 

Moreover, kindness is contagious. People who witness a kindness are more likely to pay it forward by doing a kindness themselves. See what I mean about ripple effects?

Finally, think about the unspoken messages you’re giving by doing a kindness. Whether it’s for someone you love or a complete stranger, you’re saying “You matter” and “I care.” Those are powerful messages, ones that we need to remind ourselves of and ones that need to be heard, now more than ever.

So, go! Do kind things.

“When you are kind to others, it not only changes you, it changes the world.”
 – Harold Kushner
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Podcasts Uncategorized

How to Quarantine Like an Endurance Athlete

We’ve now been at this social distancing and quarantine thing for a few weeks, and it’s likely that people’s mood and mindset are starting to take a dive.

Above all, we’re here for you, and we’re cheering for you. You can do this. 

Story Time

On Fridays, Dr. Ashley and I have a weekly call where we hash through business-related items for Peak Mind. At that very moment, I was making lunch for my kids. My 4-year-old was yelling in the background for her sandwich, and my 20-month-old who refused to go to bed the prior night was scream-crying while attached to my leg.

It was a hurricane of stress and activity.

Ashley, being the amazing psychologist that she is, paused and said, “So, how are you doing?”

My response might surprise you.

I said, “Honey, I’m 8 miles into a marathon. Now is not the time to start concentrating on how bad my feet hurt.”

And it occurred to me, the way I’ve been coping with the difficulty, pressure, and stress of this time is to approach it the way I learned to approach very long runs. There is a very specific mindset trick that I learned from so many years of pounding the pavement, and I want to share it with you today.

Quarantine is an endurance event

The marathon, my endurance event of choice, is an incredible physical challenge, but what many people don’t realize is that it’s more mental than physical.

Endurance events require you to do just that: ENDURE.

Endure much longer than you’d like to endure. It’s called endurance training for a reason. You train not only to maintain fitness, but to keep going past the point that you think is your limit. To continue when you’re hungry, thirsty, your joints ache, your feet are blistered, and your body is begging you to stop.

Endurance events require you to get to that point…your breaking point…the point where you think you have to stop….but then keep going. Endure.

Yes, there is a physical training component to marathons, but what people don’t realize is that the physical training is the easy part. Show up, do your miles. 

The truly difficult part is the mindset work that is required to continue to make yourself push further and further past your breaking point.

The situation we’re currently in is not unlike a marathon. We’re being asked to do something uncomfortable for a much longer duration than we’d like to be doing it. Because of that, here are a few things I’ve learned from my years as an endurance athlete that are helping me endure through this time as well.

I hope they help you too.

The key to enduring is to acknowledge, but not obsess

A marathon is exactly 26.2 miles. That is longer than anyone wants to run in a single day.

In between you and the finish line are hills, exhaustion, pain, hunger, thirst, self-doubt, and fear.

There will be moments that have the potential to feel just as overwhelming as my story about talking on the phone with Ashley. This is true for marathons and it’s certainly true for the endurance event we’re all involved in right now.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from my days as a marathoner is to acknowledge your circumstances, but do not obsess over them. 

Notice the pain, but don’t dwell on it.

Notice your fear, but don’t dwell on it.

Notice the chaos around you, but don’t dwell on it.

Instead, notice it, acknowledge it, and intentionally move your attention elsewhere. Sounds a lot like mindfulness, doesn’t it?

Because here’s the thing, if there’s one sure-fire way to make the pain, fear, uncertainty, or chaos feel EVEN BIGGER, it’s dwelling, obsessing, and focusing on it. Allowing your thoughts, mood, and feelings to be uncontrollably dragged down by it. 

Your mind IS your biggest asset in an endurance event.

When boredom, isolation, overwhelm, sadness, or fear begins to creep into your mind, acknowledge it, then re-focus.

Focus on the finish line. 

This will end. This is not long term. This is not high intensity training. This is all about pacing. You will not have to stay at home forever. 

Remind yourself that, although the road ahead is long, it is finite. You WILL reach the finish line, and you’ll be more grateful for your “old life” because you’ve endured this time without it. Think of this as a piece of your training plan for the rest of your life. 

A quick note on pacing

One of the little known facts about endurance events is that pacing is key. 

Your goal on race day is to run at about 60-70% for a looooooooong time. 60-70%. That’s it. 

In this endurance event, your #1 goal is to pace yourself. Make forward progress, but be constantly aware of your energy store.

Protect it.

Finally, a quick note on race cadence

This part is going to be tough to read, but I feel responsible to write it because I want you to be ready for what is to come.

Endurance events have a very predictable cadence. There are 4 phases:

  • Phase 1: FUN!!! The gun goes off, you’re feeling rested, refreshed, and good, and you bounce off the line and spend the next 5-8 miles smiling and high-fiving little kids along the race route.
  • Phase 2: Meaning. Around miles 8-10, things start to get a little hard. In this phase, cope by focusing on meaningful things, like the bigger reason why you run, gratitude for your body, etc.
  • Phase 3: Hitting the wall. Right around mile 20, many marathoners hit “the wall.”  Everything hurts. Your mindset and attentional control is CRITICAL in this phase.
  • Phase 4: The finish!!! 

My prediction is that we are about to hit our first wall. Here’s why:

  • Phase 1: We had fun with quarantine. We made the best of it! We had the push-up challenge, people posted fun photos with their kids and the delicious meals they were making.
  • Phase 2: We’re here now. People are focusing on more meaningful activities like sewing masks, cutting out hearts for their front windows, and supporting healthcare workers.

This means, if race cadence prevails, the wall is next. Be ready for it. 

My challenge to you

My challenge to you over the next 1-2 weeks is to keep your head in the game.

Acknowledge the way you’re feeling but work hard to move your attention to other things.

This quarantine is an endurance event. You are being asked to endure longer than you’d like to.

Your actual limit is so much further than “the wall” will lead you to believe.

You CAN endure.

We’re here for you

Please know that we’re here to help you thrive through these uncertain times. We’re cheering you on!

And please be sure to be there for yourself! Self-care is critical! You wouldn’t show up to a marathon without eating or sleeping or doing the things you need to do to make sure you’re in tip top race shape. 

The same goes for now, too! You need a solid, effective self-care routine to help you show up in tip top shape, mentally, physically, emotionally, and energetically. Self-care [by Design] can help you do just that. 

 
“It is only in our darkest hours that we may discover the true strength of the brilliant light within ourselves that can never, ever, be dimmed.”
 – Doe Zantamata
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Podcasts

Parenting During a Pandemic

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If you’re a parent, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that these are very difficult times. During this global pandemic, parents are being asked to simultaneously do multiple different jobs at the same time, and the expectations and evaluations we’re placing on ourselves can be crushing. Pandemic parenting leaves adult feeling overwhelmed.

I recently stumbled upon a meme on Facebook, of all things, and I knew that I had to reach out to its author to ask her to come on the podcast.  

Here’s an excerpt from that meme: 

Working, parenting, and teaching are three different jobs that cannot be done at the same time. It’s not hard because you’re doing it wrong. It’s hard because it’s too much. Do the best you can. Prioritize your mental health.

Such compassionate words that so many of us need to hear right now. Words written by this week’s guest, Dr. Emily King.  

Dr. Emily King is a Licensed Psychologist and Heath Services Provider in private practice in Raleigh, North Carolina. She specializes in working with children and adolescents with anxiety, ADHD, and Autism Spectrum Disorders. Dr. King received her Ph.D. in School Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

In this episode we touch on: 

  • The importance of self-compassion in times like these 
  • How you can use anchor points in your routine to help everyone feel more comfortable where they’re at in their day 
  • The unique needs that kids might have during these times and how we can help them thrive through them. 
  • What self-care looks like and how we can cultivate it to help us show up as our best 
  • How to cultivate more compassionate, open communication with our partners and spouses during this intense time 

I know you’re going to appreciate this conversation with Dr. Emily King. Please share this with another parent who might need some compassion during this time. 

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Podcasts

Maintaining Social Connection During a Pandemic

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We’re in an unprecedented time of “social distancing.” Many of us are experiencing the effects of spending time away from family and friends, and loneliness is one feeling so many of us are having. It’s important as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves to maintain social connections.

Human-to-human social connectedness was perhaps one of the hardest elements of the pandemic for those that were not infected. Even for those that had received the COVID-19 vaccines with low co-morbidity risk factors, public health advisories by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) limited the ability to gather. For close friends, social networks were not enough to truly connect with people but with the risk of a dangerous, infectious disease, options were limited. With mounting anxiety and depression mental health concerns, the need to connect for real and not just on social media because more important than ever before.

Because of this, I’m thrilled to welcome Peter Montoya back to the podcast. Peter was actually with us for a past episode that you can access here. Peter is a best-selling author, a keynote speaker, and the CEO of Thrive Union. Most importantly for today’s conversation, he’s an expert on social connection. 

In this very candid conversation, we talk about some important topics and share our own personal experiences: 

  • The importance of social connection and how much we actually need 
  • The different levels of social connection and how they influence our well-being 
  • How we can meet our social needs during this time of “distancing” 
  • What the silver lining of the pandemic has been 

No matter what your circumstances, I want you to know that I’m thinking about you and this community often. Please don’t be a stranger. Reach out and let me know what other topics you’d like me to cover during this time. 

I’m here for you! 

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Blogs

Mindfulness to Combat Judgments

As the centers for disease control and prevention (CDC) loosens its standards, states and municipalities around the country start to re-open, and we are thrust into yet another highly uncertain time. Our lives were shaken up like snow globes when the novel coronavirus first reared its nasty head. Now, just as some of the snow is starting to settle and we are getting used to sheltering in place, things are being upended again. Only this time, the uncertainty seems to be met with heightened anger.

We’re trying our best to use the available information to predict the future so that we can make informed decisions about how best to proceed, and people have strong opinions on what the right course of action is now. The reality, though, is that no one knows for sure. Buzzwords like SARS COV-2, and Wuhan, China, are heard among feisty internet trolls, while talk of Covid-19 vaccinations and Covid-19 pandemic are heard through inter office chatter. The truth is, there is a lot going on and too much to pay attention to. Our focus should be on practicing mindfulness, and not getting wrapped up in the escalating tensions that this easing of restrictions brings. 

While our opinions and, ultimately, decisions about how to move forward within our own lives may differ, we share one thing in common: we are afraid. Afraid of getting sick, of people dying, of a resurgence in cases that will extend stay home orders, of financial insecurity, of losing access to basic needs like food and shelter. 

Bottom line: uncertainty breeds fear.

And fear can drive judgment and hostility, which I’m pretty sure won’t help any of us. Anger isn’t going to increase collaboration or productive problem-solving. It’s going to lead to blaming, defending, and a bunch of other unhelpful junk.

Which brings me to the point for today. 

Watch out for Judgy McJudgerson.

Our brains are wired to judge. It’s one of those default, built in short cuts that helps them process information quickly. It’s also one of those default, built in short cuts that causes lots of problems.

Our little internal Judgys like to add their stamp of approval (or disapproval) to things and in doing so add fuel to the internal fires of anger (or sadness or guilt or shame or jealousy or whatever).

It’s important to understand, though, that those judgments, those declarations of “good” or “bad,” are a product of our mind and not an objective aspect of reality.

Let me say that another way. There’s a difference between a fact and an opinion, right? It’s the same difference as between an observation and a judgment.

Mindfulness to Combat Judgments

One powerful psychological strength tool at your disposal is mindfulness, which can be simply defined as focusing on the present moment without judgment. One way to use this tool is to differentiate between observations and judgments. Check your mind’s internal commentary for facts and opinions.

When you see someone handling things differently than you would, old Judgy is going to take over and say “That is different. Different = bad.” That’s a judgment, a short cut, an opinion.

Instead, an observation is “That is different.” End of story. 

Judgments open the door for a host of other (often not so helpful) inner commentary to arise like, in this case, name calling and blaming. The result on you? Likely unnecessary anger or stress.

Now, I’m not advocating that we take a completely “You do you” approach to COVID. I am all for critically consuming information and deferring to the experts who have more knowledge and understanding about the factors at play here and trusting their guidance. What I am advocating for, though, is building psychological strength in the face of adversity. As we like to say at Peak Mind, “You are a human with a brain.” In this case, that also means you’re judgy. So am I. But we don’t have to live by default. We can actively shape the way our minds work and definitely how they influence us.

A Challenge for You

This week, I challenge you be on the look out for Judgey McJudgerson. It’s everywhere, and it can be sneaky. Catch your mind’s judgments and strive toward more factual observations. You’ll probably be shocked by just how prevalent judgments are in your thoughts. That’s ok. It’s natural but also changeable.

The importance of being mindful and combating judgments extends far beyond COVID, but why not start working on it now? You can build mindfulness and learn more effective yet simple strategies for reigning in Judgy inside our ASCEND program. 

“Can you look without the voice in your head commenting, drawing conclusions, comparing, or trying to figure something out?”
– Ekhart Tolle

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Podcasts

Surviving and Thriving through the Upcoming School Year in the Era of COVID

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“I’m so worried about the upcoming school year.” 

“I’m already struggling to be a good mom and a good employee. Now I have to be a good teacher too?!” 

“I have such high standards for myself. I’m afraid of my perfectionism as school starts again.” 

“I’m afraid for my health and for my child’s health.” 

“I feel like I’m choosing my job over my kid’s health.” 

Do any of these sound at all like the thoughts and feelings you’re having right now as the 2020 school year approaches? So many of us are facing such uncertain and difficult times as we attempt to figure out how to handle the school year as our country is still gripped by the COVID-19 epidemic.  

Luckily, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have cited fewer COVID-19 cases, and because the majority of the population is fully vaccinated, serious cases are limited; deaths rare. But this school year goes beyond rapid testing, COVID-19 tests, and wearing masks. Indoor masking is the least of concerns as students and staff return to public schools. The mental stress facing school communities as they aim to comply with what the CDC recommends and managing frustrated parents at school district meetings puts health and safety in a sad second place. At high schools, COVID is an even larger risk due to the independence of older students, and large classrooms with close contact.

We’ve heard from you loud and clear that you are looking for psych strength resources to help you cope through this year, and that is precisely why we recorded this episode. 

This episode is NOT an episode to teach you “10 Quick Mindset Tips to Force Yourself to Think Positively” or “5 Ways to Fit it All In and Do It Perfectly.” 

This episode is grounded in reality. In the reality that many of us will be facing a very difficult school year.  

But, here’s the thing. While there are many circumstances that are outside of our control as the school year opens up, we do have control over a few things. How we react. The boundaries we set. What we choose to be important and how we focus on it. The way we treat ourselves in the process. 

This episode is for you if you’re looking for some psych strength building techniques to help you thrive through this school year. Thriving through adversity is a real thing. It doesn’t mean that you have an EASY time. It means that you grow as a person, even when times are tough. 

You can do this. We’re here to help. 

Please reach out to us if there is anything else we can do to support you as school reopens, and do share this episode with someone who needs it.