How To Overcome Stress

August 24, 2011 by  
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Photo By Angie Rubin

Sometimes it seems to me that the last few years of my life have been mostly about overcoming obstacles and stress.  This big cycle started in 2006 with my late husband’s cancer diagnosis.  From that point on I dealt with a transplant, health insurance, losing Chris, losing my savings, my father’s serious illness, and family turmoil.  So to me all those years were sink or swim.  I chose to swim.

In choosing to live, to thrive and find contentment in very tough times, I’ve had to change the way I dealt with feelings and situations.  I’ve learned to:

  • Take deep breaths throughout my day.  It helps release stress energy and it grounds me.
  • Be fully in the present.  Thinking how life used to be or thinking ahead doesn’t help any.  It only creates more stress.  I focus on now.
  • Deal with one thing at a time.
  • Realize although my difficulty and pain are unique to me, they are not unique to human existence.  Every single one of us goes through difficulties in our lives. That helps me stop feeling like a victim.
  • Step outside the situation at hand and realize that everything that happens in our lives – whatever it is – creates the opportunity for change and wisdom.  So what can I learn from what’s going on?
  • Rely on myself.  I’ve learned to listen to my own voice.  I have a better idea of what matters to me, what I can tolerate, and what brings me contentment.
  • In solitude, I’ve learned I’m never alone.   I have always myself and with that knowledge I can create situations that bring happiness and sooth the struggle.

Of course difficult times are just that; difficult.  But if we can find ways to better navigate them, we don’t have to lose hope and despair.  Keep the other side in sight and the journey becomes a path to wisdom and contentment.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

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Life Lessons

August 29, 2010 by  
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I have just watched the brilliant TED TALK (ideas worth spreading) below by Lewis Pugh.  Please watch as it contains important observations and lessons about life.

Pugh, is a 40-year-old former reservist in Britain’s special forces regiment, the Special Air Service.  He has gained worldwide attention for his extreme adventures, designed to dramatize the environmental threats to the planet.

Besides doing something important for the environment Pugh reminds us of how important it is to fully commit to that we want to achieve.

Read more

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A Problem

January 9, 2010 by  
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I am working on a problem without, up to this point, much success.  The problem is: I take things too personally.  It is as if it’s being done to me, just me and only me.

I’ll give you a simple example:  I had my house painted.  After they were done, the “chief” painter said he would come back to get his ladders and buckets which were laying on the grass in my backyard at another time.  I figured a day or so.

I had thought up to that point that the job done had been superb.  But two days later, I noticed the paint on the door was buckling and the holes, were the house numbers used to be, had not been filled.  So the holes were still holes.

I called the painter and left a message but got no return phone call.  As I had experienced before this painter has an inability to return calls, although he returned my first call about getting the job within 24 hours. Anyway, the following day I place another call to again tell him about the ladders, buckets, door and holes.  This time I was not so cheery; but still no return phone-call.

One day later, I again left a message, only this time as was really angry.  I had become incensed by this painter’s attitude.  How dare he leave his stuff in my backyard now for 5 days?  How dare he not return my calls?

I don’t know the answer to these questions but maybe if I had kept my cool I would have a better chance to get my door and the holes fixed.  Now I’m not so sure.  I should have understood that the problem was the painter and not me.  But my ego got involved and became more important to me to let him know he was messing up.  And of course I got worked up.

So this is the problem I’m working on.  I’m working on not making everything about me.  I’m working on not getting so pissed when things don’t work out exactly how I want them to.  I’m working on concentrating on my ultimate goal and not letting my bruised ego become more important.

Maybe next time I’ll be able to make the phone calls without being angry and maybe things will turn out better.

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A Gentle Reminder

December 17, 2009 by  
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While waiting in a crazy long line outside the airport to check my bag, I had a sinking feeling that I wasn’t going to make my flight. Anxiety intensified. Yet when it was finally my turn, the attendant told me to hurry, that I still might make it. Rushing inside it was like hitting a brick wall. I couldn’t even see the end of the line for security.

Despairingly, on the verge of tears I just couldn’t ask if anyone would let me in front of them. Lots of people were missing their flights and tempers were on a short leash, which I understood. Would I appreciate someone ahead of me letting people get in front? Why should they make their flight if it meant that I could then miss mine?

When I finally made it to the end of the line standing there was a student I befriended in one of my classes. She had shared with me her journey of being raised by a single mom. When she was still a young girl, her father passed away. Mature beyond her years, I remembered being humbled by this girl’s strong optimistic attitude. It was obvious that her memories with her dad reflected quality time together.

I needed this gentle reminder. Quality time is more important than quantity of time. Be thankful for the time we are given with people in this life. Focus to not spend time on what we don’t have anymore. Cherish our memories which are for a lifetime…

We do not remember days, we remember moments.
Cesare Pavese

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Learning From Dissapointments

October 6, 2009 by  
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The details are irrelevant, so I won’t waste your time going into them. Suffice it to say that I recently suffered a not really unexpected disappointment.

What I will say, to put it in perspective, is that it wasn’t a devastating loss or tragedy, but it was something I clearly cared about and was involved in quite publicly for many years.

As is my style, I got ahead of the story and announced the circumstances of my disappointment to everyone who would listen. I find that lessens the impact on me emotionally by making it more mundane and I also prevent forcing people I speak to, who already know from other sources about my outcome, from making the choice of acting as if they don’t know or figuring out how to approach the subject with me.

My father-in-law, a very bright, goal oriented man in his 90′s felt it necessary to say the polite equivalent of “I told you so.” My sister-in-law, a woman in her 80′s who had been working her way through a personal tragedy with inner strength and courage she didn’t even suspect she had, said without hesitation, “I’m so sorry. Are you OK?”

These were knee-jerk reactions, unplanned, unrehearsed, simple popping out from  somewhere inside.

I have been fond of both of these people and have respected them both for what they have accomplished in their life, and I was disappointed in one, and pleased by the other.

But it is what I felt afterwards that was the thing that lasts. My father-in-law was clearly the more needy one. He had to find some kind of vindication for him in my misfortune. I felt no sympathy for him, but he had probably lived a very unsatisfying life if he could never enjoy his own accomplishments and needed the comparison with what he perceived as the failure of others to validate himself. My sister-in-law had obviously found herself in a place where she could see beyond her own travails and live in a world where love and caring prevails. Her chances for moments of happiness had been mirrored by her unflagging optimism and joy in the good things in her life.

It is ironic how much one can learn from disappointment.

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Seeing Beauty

August 29, 2009 by  
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Reading CNN.com about Jaycee Lee Dugard, 

(http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/08/29/california.kidnap.mental.health/index.html) the child kidnapped at age 11 and held in a shed for eighteen years, when at the end of the article I read the following from Elizabeth Smart, the Utah teenager kidnapped in 2002 for nine months and reunited with her family in 2003 at age 15:

On Thursday, Elizabeth Smart told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that after the reunion she spent lots of time with her family and advised survivors to not let “this horrible event take over and consume the rest of your life. Because we only have one life and it’s a beautiful world out there.”

“I would just encourage her to find different passions in life and continually push forward … [and] not to look behind, because there’s a lot out there,”

Her statement reminded me of a quote I had read by Anne Frank; “I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.”

How is that young women that have gone through such aggression can still see beauty in the world?

I think because it is a choice.  Letting the obstacles and the inhumane in life take over our spirits is more damaging than the actions perpetrated against us.

Our spirit or soul or energy, whatever you want to call it, belongs singularly to each one of us and we have at each moment the ability to choose how to look at life.

Jaycee has a long road ahead of her.  It is daunting to me how she could ever find peace and happiness but I know Elizabeth Smart is right when she says “…continually push forward…[and] not to look behind, because there’s a lot out there”.

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