Just Do It, Unplug Now

May 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog

There is so much to write about unplugging but before I start typing away, let me make a disclaimer: I’m not a new age anything. There are no crystals under my bed and I don’t know if my house is Feng Shui acceptable or not. But I am a woman who has lived on this planet for more years than I care to share and who is in constant search of a meaningful life.

Having said that, I must now say I am a true believer of unplugging. We all know that “more” does not equal “better”. So why do we all have bought into this idea that if we aren’t busy and reachable 24/7, we are unproductive or even worse; things aren’t going to happen?

We have to realize that all this running around, holding on to mobile phones, computers, internet, and trying to keep up with everything, is leaving us, our families and friends behind. We are also jeopardizing the quality of our creativity, love and sexuality – life’s energy sources – because these feelings and inspirations need space, calm and attention to thrive.

Technology is a great advancement in human development but it is meant to be in addition to our relationships to ourselves and others and not instead of. The result is today we are a nation of stressed out overachievers without having become an ounce happier.

Every research done on happiness points to the following ingredients for achievement: a feeling of being loved and belonging, time to connect with others and nature, and a healthy relationship to self. But who can reach any of that if we can’t put our smart phones aside for even a moment?

If you are feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, you have to ask yourself is it worth being known as someone who is always on the go? Think about it and hopefully the answer will most likely be no.

Once you decide something needs to change the next thing is how, and here is the great thing: you don’t need to totally change who you are and what you do to decompress on a daily basis and have a more fulfilling life. What you need to do is find what is in your life that brings you calm and satisfaction and do it every day. I’m not talking about travelling to the Himalayans or spending a day at the spa. I’m talking about things that are easy and inexpensive to do.

For me decompressing is sitting outside in my yard and being quiet, even if it is only for 10 minutes. I have a very close relationship with my house so sitting outside and listening to the birds with my eyes closed, feeling the sun and the breeze grounds and brings me peace. I also love wine and food but if I throw some food on my plate and wine in a glass and eat and drink like I haven’t in a year, the magic is gone. So I unplug by taking the time to prepare and taste my food and my wine. I give it the attention and the intention to make it special.

These small actions have the power to slow me down and make me “be” in the present. And when I am in the moment, I don’t worry about the past, because it’s gone, or the future, because it has not happened yet. Being in the moment is healing and has the power to regenerate us. It is active meditation.

There is no race to be won; there is only life to be fully lived. Remember the old saying: “you can’t take it when you die”. What you do take is how you felt and how you made other people feel.

So when you have mastered the short time unplugs go for the gold and take a full day off by putting your phone and computer aside. It will be life changing.

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Go Ahead And Unplug

April 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog

boy and the sky

boy and the sky

We all know more does not equal better.  So why do we all have bought into this idea that if we aren’t busy 24/7 we are unproductive?  We have to realize in all the running around, mobile phones, computers, internet, we are leaving behind ourselves, family and friends.  We are also risking losing the quality of our creativity, love and sex- which are life’s energy sources – because these feelings and inspirations need space, calm and attention to thrive.

Information and technology are a great advancement in human development but they are suppose to be in addition to our relationship to ourselves and others and not replacements.  We have become a nation of stressed out overachievers without becoming even one ounce happier.

So if you are feeling stressed out and overwhelmed you have to ask yourself if it is worth it.  Can you adjust your life just a bit so you can actually draw energy and power from within?  Yes, should be the answer.  Carve out a little bit of time everyday to do what feeds you.  Is that meditation? A nice meal? A delicious cup of coffee consumed with time and attention? Is it playing with your dog or cat without thinking about the things you need to do?  Is it a glass of wine?  Whatever it is, an action (even if it is to lay down with our eyes closed) done with all of our attention have the ability to recharge us.

So go ahead and unplug.

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Tips For Managing Your Stress Hormones

April 1, 2010 by  
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fred_recent_headshot1

This is a reprint from Fred Krazeise’s blog, Empowered and Fit. In this article he breaks down a piece in Prevention   Magazine that details how cortisol affects us, and how we can affect it back! Oh, the power we hold….

When I meet with clients for the first time, one of the questions I ask is ‘How much stress do you have in your life?’ Often, a client will respond by saying she doesn’t suffer from stress at all. And I usually respond by saying, ‘Oh, really?’

We usually don’t realize how stress affects us, because our body does a good job of adapting to pressures put on it. And I think in our society (certainly here in the Washington, DC, metro area), we are often encouraged to wear stress like a badge of honor. We carry our Blackberry’s with us at all times, we don’t take vacation or time off, we work long hours, we don’t get enough sleep, and in these difficult economic times, many people are putting off seeing their doctors or otherwise caring for themselves. These factors and many more contribute to the rise of the “stress hormone”, cortisol.

No don’t get me wrong, a little stress can be a good thing. Cortisol is produced by your adrenal system and it helps to regulate your blood pressure and immune system. It can help you increase your level of energy as well as improve your ability to fight off infection. According to an article published in the February edition of Prevention Magazine, just a little bit of cortisol can: …Continued

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The Impact Of Loneliness

March 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured

March 30, 2010 in raw foods by Srinivasan Pillay – www.radishgreens.com

A recent study of 50-68 year old men and women in Chicago, found that being lonely at the beginning of the study correlated with increases in blood pressure two, three and four years later. People with higher levels at the onset of the study had greater increases in systolic blood pressure. This effect was not accounted for by age, gender, race or ethnicity, cardiovascular risk factors, medications, health conditions, and the effects of depressive symptoms, social support, perceived stress, and hostility (Hawkley, Thisted et al.). This study was remarkable because it was not a cross sectional study but instead, people were followed over time. In an earlier study of people examined all at one time, this association was also seen. Why would loneliness lead to your blood vessels being more resistant to blood flow, or your heart straining more to pump out blood?

While the answer to this is not known, a few things about lonely people are worth noting. Did you know that lonely people are rewarded more by things than by the faces of pleasant people? (Cacioppo, Norris et al. 2009) That means that when lonely people see happy people, their brains do not respond with relief. Instead, they turn off. Things, which are probably less threatening, are more rewarding. Furthermore, the brains of lonely people are also more sensitive to unpleasant people. If this is the case, it is conceivable that they suffer at both ends-the heart and the brain. The brain, being less responsive to pleasant things, does not spend much time quieting down the heart or relieving it. And the heart, needing more effort to pump blood to the brain, actually deprives the brain of the blood it needs to relieve itself with pleasant things. What a vicious cycle!

It is no wonder then, that we become nervous when we are lonely, for our bodies are telling us that something is going wrong. We may rationalize all we want about being self-sufficient or about being able to take care of ourselves, and that is true but it seems that denial of loneliness is not really helpful. Your brain and heart know anyway.

In this era of self-sufficiency, single parents, one driver cars and an increasing reliance on superficial modes of connecting, we are jeopardizing our hearts and brains without knowing this. The tendency to act as though nothing is happening does not do much either.

So what should one do about loneliness?
Firstly, if you are lonely, instead of being ashamed, know and understand this deeply. Know too, that filling your life with events and people does not remove loneliness. One of the biggest causes of loneliness is not expressing yourself as fully as you can; not being the complete success that you can be. When people are in the zone, they are usually not lonely.

This is in part because being “in the zone” removes the observing self. Paradoxically, we are most alone when we are split into an observing and experiencing self — when a part of us provides a narrative about life. We are least lonely when the observing and experiencing self are one. This oneness is where we need to be operating from and this oneness is the place where loneliness cannot exist.

Whenever you find yourself having an internal observing narrative: “I am so stressed”, “I feel anxious”, “I can’t believe I did that” — recognize that this is the way of loneliness. The only way we can get our observing voices to stop talking, is to give our all to every moment in our lives; as challenging as that is, it is critical to removing loneliness.

My main message here: removing the observing voice from your head will make you feel much less lonely than having a hundred people in your life. Do this as a favor to your heart. Your brain will thank you.

References
Cacioppo, J. T., C. J. Norris, et al. (2009). “In the eye of the beholder: individual differences in perceived social isolation predict regional brain activation to social stimuli.” J Cogn Neurosci 21(1): 83-92.
Hawkley, L. C., R. A. Thisted, et al. “Loneliness predicts increased blood pressure: 5-year cross-lagged analyses in middle-aged and older adults.” Psychol Aging 25(1): 132-41.

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Take A Day Off

March 27, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog

I want to remind you to take a day off this weekend.  Either today or tomorrow please don’t work, don’t clean and don’t run around from task to task.

We must unplug and recharge to have satisfying and healthy lives.  Working non-stop doesn’t make us more productive and it doesn’t get us ahead of anybody else.  Working non-stop burns us out and creates stress in our lives.  Stress creates bad relationships and unhappiness.

Technology has in many ways made our lives and communication easy but it also keeps us “on” all the time.  If we don’t slow down we can’t appreciate the gifts life gives us every day.  If we don’t slow down we choke on a beautiful meal or on a complex wine which is meant to be savored sip by sip.

As I grew up in another country and have family living all over the world, I intimately know how other people live.  While the whole world is plugged in nobody is as plugged in as we Americans are.  We work seven days a week and maybe take one or two weeks off a year while the rest of the world takes a least four weeks off a year.  We have very few national holidays while other countries have double or triple the amount of holidays.

Relationships need attention.  We need to slow down and spend quality time with our friends, family and mostly with ourselves.  How can we check within if we continuously go from being super busy to super stressed?  Life needs creativity and creativity needs space to flourish.

Last March 19th and 20th, from sundown to sundown, a national unplug day, was promoted by the Sabbath Manifesto.  Below are the principles they promoted.

The Ten Principles

01. Avoid technology

02. Connect with loved ones

03. Nurture your health

04. Get outside

05. Avoid commerce

06. Light candles

07. Drink wine

08. Eat bread

09. Find Silence

10. Give Back

Please join me in taking a day off every week.  This ancient concept of rest is as important as anything else we might think of doing for our health and work.

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The Lost Practice Of Resting One Day Each Week

March 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured



Rest, and be revived.

He that can take rest is greater than he that can take cities. – Benjamin Franklin

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist.

Ask any physician and they will tell you that rest is essential for physical health. When the body is deprived of sleep, it is unable to rebuild and recharge itself adequately. Your body requires rest.

Ask any athlete and they will tell you that rest is essential for healthy physical training. Rest is needed for physical muscles to repair themselves and prevent injury. This is true whether you run marathons, pitch baseballs, or climb rocks. Your muscles require rest.

Ask many of yesterday’s philosophers and they will tell you that rest is essential for the mind. Leonardo da Vinci said, “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer.” And Ovid, the Roman poet, said, “Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.” Your mind requires rest.

Ask most religious leaders and they will tell you that rest is essential for the soul. Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Baha’i, and Wiccan (among others) teach the importance of setting aside a period of time for rest. Your soul requires rest.

Ask many corporate leaders and they will tell you that rest is essential for productivity. Forbes magazine recently wrote, “You can only work so hard and do so much in a day. Everybody needs to rest and recharge.” Your productivity requires rest.

Physicians, athletes, philosophers, poets, religious leaders, and corporate leaders all tell us the same thing: take time to rest. It is absolutely essential for a balanced, healthy life.

Yet, when you ask most people in today’s frenzied culture if they consistetly set aside time for rest, they will tell you that they are just too busy to rest. Even fewer would say that they set aside any concentrated time (12-24 hours) for rest. There are just too many things to get done, too many demands, too many responsibilities, too many bills, and too much urgency. Nobody can afford to waste time resting in today’s results-oriented culture.

Unfortunately, this hectic pace is causing damage to our quality of life. We are destroying every sense of our being (body, mind, and soul). There is a reason we run faster and work harder, but only fall farther behind. Our lives have become too full and too out of balance. Somewhere along the way, we lost the essential practice of concentrated rest. We would be wise to reclaim the ancient, lost practice of resting one day each week.

To get back into balance, just consider the countless benefits of concentrated rest for your body, mind, and soul:

§  Healthier body – We each get one life and one body to live it in. Therefore, we eat healthy, we exercise, and we watch our bad habits. But then we allow our schedules to fill up from morning to evening. Rest is as essential to our physical health as the water we drink and the air we breathe.

§  Less stress – Stress is basically the perception that the situations we are facing are greater than the resources we have to deal with them – resources such as time, energy, ability, and help from others. We have two choices, either reduce the demands or increase our resources. Concentrated rest confronts stress in both ways. First, it reduces the demands of the situation. We have no demands on us as long as we have the ability to mentally let go of unfinished tasks. Secondly, rest reduces stress by increasing our resources, particularly energy.

§  Deeper relationships – A day set aside each week for rest allows relationships with people to deepen and be strengthened. When we aren’t rushing off to work or soccer practice, we are able to enjoy each other’s company and a healthy conversation. And long talks prove to be far more effective in building community than short ones on the ride to the mall.

§  Opportunity for reflection Sometimes it is hard to see the forest through the trees. It is even more difficult to see the forest when we are running through the trees. Concentrated rest allows us to take a step back, to evaluate our lives, to identify our values, and determine if our life is being lived for them.

§  Balance – Taking one day of your week and dedicating it to rest will force you to have an identity outside of your occupation. It will foster relationships outside of your fellow employees. It will foster activities and hobbies outside our work. It will give you life and identity outside of your Monday-Friday occupation. Rather than defining your life by what you do, you can begin to define it by who you are.

§  Increased production – Just like resting physical muscles allows them opportunity to rejuvenate which leads to greater physical success, providing our minds with rest provides it opportunity to refocus and rejuvenate. More work is not better work. Smarter work is better work.

§  Reserve for life’s emergencies – Crisis hits everyone. Nobody who is alive is immune from the trials of life. By starting the discipline today of concentrated rest, you will build up reserves for when the unexpected emergencies of life strike… and rest is no longer an option.

Properly developing a discipline of concentrated rest requires both inward and outward changes. Consider these steps to reclaiming the lost practice of weekly rest in your life:

1. Find contentment in your current life. – Much of the reason we are unable to find adequate rest is because we are under the constant impression that our lives can and should be better than they are today. This constant drive to improve our standing in life through the acquisition of money, power, or skills robs us of contentment and joy. Ultimately, rest is an extension of our contentment and security. Without them, simplicity and rest is difficult, if not impossible. Stop focusing on what you don’t have and start enjoying the things that you do.

2. Plan your rest. Rest will come only from intentional planning and planning rest will come only if it is truly desired. Schedule it on your calendar. Learn to say no to any tasks that attempt to take precedent. Plan out your day of rest by choosing creative activities that are refreshing and encourage relationships. Understand that true rest is different than just not working. As the Cat in the Hat wisely said, “It is fun to have fun but you have to know how.” Avoid housework. Plan meals in advance to help alleviate cooking responsibilities. And by all means, turn off your television, e-mail, and blackberry.

3. Take responsibility for your life. You are not a victim of your time demands. You are the creator and acceptor of them. Refuse to complain or make excuses and start changing your habits. Remember, you are only as busy as you choose to be. Leave “if only” excuses to the kids. If needed, alert your employer about your desire for rest and tell them you will be unavailable on that particular day.

4. Embrace simplicity. Embrace a lifestyle that focuses on your values, not your possessions. It is difficult to find rest when the housework is never finished, the yard needs to be mowed, or the garage needs to be organized.

5. Include your family. It is much easier to practice the discipline of concentrated rest if your family is practicing it too. The fact that this gets more difficult as your kids get older should motivate you to start as soon as possible.

6. Live within your income. A debtor is a slave to his creditor. It is difficult to find rest for your mind when you are deep in debt. The constant distress of your responsibility to another may preclude you from truly enjoying a day off. It is possible; it’s just more difficult. Don’t overspend your income, live within it.

7. Realize the shallow nature of a results-oriented culture. If you live in a results-oriented culture where productivity alone is championed on every corner, rest is counter-cultural. And thus, the saying goes, “If you rest, you rust.” Rest may even be seen as a sign of weakness by others. Unfortunately, that view of humanity’s role in this world is shallow. It is true that many of the benefits from concentrated rest are not tangible; but then again, only a fool believes that all good things can be counted.

Rabbi Elijah of Vilna once said, “What we create becomes meaningful to us only once we stop creating it and start to think about why we did so.” The implication is clear. We could live lives that produce countless widgets, but we won’t start living until we stop producing and start enjoying. Capture again the lost practice of resting one day each week and start truly living.

Read more from Joshua at his blog, Becoming Minimalist, subscribe to his feed, or check out his new ebook, Simplify.

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Stillness Is A Powerful Action

February 21, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured

Find stillness in chaos.

“Activity conquers cold, but stillness conquers heat.” ~ Lao Tzu

Post written by Leo Babauta. SSS

It’s a bias of our culture that stillness is regarded as lazy, as being stuck in inaction, as a negative.

It’s not. It’s an action, and a powerful one.

What’s more, it can change your day, and in doing so change your life.

You’re in the middle of a frazzled day, swamped by work and meetings and emails and interruptions, or hassled by kids and phone calls and errands and chores.

You pause. Stay still for a minute, and breathe. You close your eyes, and find a stillness within yourself. This stillness spreads to the rest of your body, and to your mind. It calms you, centers you, focuses you on what you’re doing right now, not on all you have to do and all that has happened.

The stillness becomes a transformative action.

Stillness can be a powerful answer to the noise of others. It can be a way to push back against the buzz of the world, to take control. It can remind you of what’s important.

How to Practice
Stillness, oddly, doesn’t come naturally to many people. So practice.

1. Start your day in stillness. Whether it’s sitting with a cup of coffee as the world awakes, or sitting on a pillow and focusing on your breath, stillness is a powerful way to start your day. It sets the tone for things to come. Even 5-10 minutes is great.

2. Take regular stillness breaks. Every hour, set an alarm on your computer or phone to go off. Think of it as a bell that rings, reminding you to be still for a minute. During this minute, focus first on your breathing, to bring yourself into the present. Let the worries of the world around you melt away — all that is left is your breath. And then let your focus expand beyond your breath to your other senses, one at a time.

3. When chaos roars, pause. In the middle of a crisis or a noisy day, stop. Be still. Take a deep breath, and focus on that breath coming in, and going out. Find your inner stillness and then let your next action come from that stillness. Focus on that next action only.

Let stillness become your most powerful action. It could change your life.

“Through return to simple living Comes control of desires. In control of desires Stillness is attained. In stillness the world is restored.” ~ Lao Tzu

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Are You Stressed? Take The Quiz And Do Something About It

August 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured

Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand. It can be caused by both good and bad experiences. When people feel stressed by something going on around them, their bodies react by releasing chemicals into the blood. These chemicals give people more energy and strength, which can be a good thing if their stress is caused by physical danger. But this can also be a bad thing, if their stress is in response to something emotional and there is no outlet for this extra energy and strength.

Take this simple test below to measure your stress level and then read some suggestions on how to better manage your life.


Rate yourself as to how you typically react in each of the situations listed below. There are no right or wrong answers.

4 = Always
3 = Frequently
2 = Sometimes
1 = Never

Enter a number in the box for each question. When you complete the questionnaire, add up you total number of points and type it in the box. An answer key is provided below. 1. Do you try to do as much as possible in the least amount of time? 2. Do you become impatient with delays or interruptions? 3. Do you always have to win at games to enjoy yourself? 4. Do you find yourself speeding up the car to beat the red light? 5. Are you unlikely to ask for or indicate you need help with a problem? 6. Do you constantly seek the respect and admiration of others? 7. Are you overly critical of the way others do their work? 8. Do you have the habit of looking at your watch or clock often? 9.Do you constantly strive to better your position and achievements? 10. Do you spread yourself “too thin” in terms of your time? 11. Do you have the habit of doing more than one thing at a time? 12. Do you frequently get angry or irritable? 13. Do you have little time for hobbies or time by yourself? 14. Do you have a tendency to talk quickly or hasten conversations? 15. Do you consider yourself hard-driving? 16. Do your friends or relatives consider you hard-driving? 17. Do you have a tendency to get involved in multiple projects? 18. Do you have a lot of deadlines in your work? 19. Do you feel vaguely guilty if you relax and do nothing during leisure? 20. Do you take on too many responsibilities?

TOTAL

arrowAnswer Key

If your score is between 20 and 30, chances are you are non-productive or your life lacks stimulation.

A score between 31 and 50 designates a good balance in your ability to handle and control stress.

If you tallied up a score ranging between 51 and 60, your stress level is marginal and you are bordering on being excessively tense.

If your total number of points exceeds 60, you may be a candidate for heart disease.

Learn how to manage stress

You may feel like the stress in your life is out of your control, but you can always control the way you respond. Managing stress is all about taking charge: taking charge of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your environment, and the way you deal with problems. Stress management involves changing the stressful situation when you can, changing your reaction when you can’t, taking care of yourself, and making time for rest and relaxation.

Strengthen your relationships

A strong support network is your greatest protection against stress. When you have trusted friends and family members you know you can count on, life’s pressures don’t seem as overwhelming. So spend time with the people you love and don’t let your responsibilities keep you from having a social life. If you don’t have any close relationships, or your relationships are the source of your stress, make it a priority to build stronger and more satisfying connections.

Tips for reaching out and building relationships:

  • Help someone else by volunteering.
  • Have lunch or coffee with a co-worker.
  • Call or email an old friend.
  • Go for a walk with a workout buddy.
  • Schedule a weekly dinner date
  • Take a class or join a club.

Learn how to relax

You can’t completely eliminate stress from your life, but you can control how much it affects you. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the opposite of the stress response. When practiced regularly, these activities lead to a reduction in your everyday stress levels and a boost in your feelings of joy and serenity. They also increase your ability to stay calm and collected under pressure.

Invest in your emotional health

Most people ignore their emotional health until there’s a problem. But just as it requires time and energy to build or maintain your physical health, so it is with your emotional well-being. The more you put into it, the stronger it will be. People with good emotional health have an ability to bounce back from stress and adversity. This ability is called resilience. They remain focused, flexible, and positive in bad times as well as good. The good news is that there are many steps you can take to build your resilience and your overall emotional health.

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