Tag Archives: self-help

Breaking Out of a Rut

In a Rut

Recognizing a rut

What does a rut look like and feel like?

“Stuck in a rut” is an idiom that means being mired in routine. The figurative phrase calls to mind the image of a wagon wheel hopelessly trapped in a deep rut on an unpaved road.    It feels like nothing is changing, that your life is the same all the time.  Basically, it is a fixed, usually boring routine.  You can be in a rut in relationships, at work,  in exercise or diet.  Ever had that feeling that you were going nowhere?  Just spinning your wheels?  That every day was the same?  When you are out of inspiration and ideas, you are stuck in a rut.  How can you get out of it ?  How can you get back to being creative, energetic, enthusiastic?

  1. Remember what you want.  Do you want to participate in a marathon?  Do you want THAT more than you want the doughnut at work?  How about free time on the weekend? Do you want that enough to do laundry during the evening during the week?
  2. Listen to your gut, your instinct.  I have found that when I feel a situation isn’t right for me, I should trust that feeling.  If something comes up that is a little out of your comfort zone, but you are interested in it, take a chance and do it.  You may find out something about yourself or your hidden abilities!
  3. Look at your to-do list and start on small tasks.  Clearing off your list can help make room for new ideas, new projects, and new ideas.  It can also give you energy, believe it or not.  Sometimes simply getting moving in ANY direction can help you refocus.
  4. Work on a self-improvement project.  No, I don’t mean a DIY house project or anything similar.  I mean, improve YOURSELF.  Read a book outside of your normal interests or even one on a subject you are interested in but don’t know much about.  Write a letter to the editor.  Take an online course; there are a lot of them available from mainstream universities online and FREE.  Take a class at the community college.  Go to a seminar.
  5. Talk to a friend or go out to dinner or a movie.  Sometimes getting out and about and spending time with others can get your mind off of the rut and help you break out of it.
  6. Get some exercise.   Not only may that spur new ideas and energy, it will improve your overall health and sleep.
  7. Break your pattern by doing something that you wouldn’t normally do.  If someone asks you to go to an ethic restaraunt that you haven’t been to or t see a movie of a genre that you don’t usually choose, say YES instead of no.
  8. Amazingly enough, helping someone else can help you.  If you simply cannot think of a way to get out of the rut, help out in a soup kitchen, clean out the closet and donate to a veterans’ group or local charity.Now what
  9. Don’t worry so much about mistakes.  If you try too hard to avoid failure, you will avoid success as well.  Learn from your mistakes; that is how you grow and develop good ideas and stimulate creativity, rather than stifling it.
  10. Remember that “this too shall pass.”  Everything passes, given enough time. If you are in a rut, remember that you will move through this; there will be brighter days ahead.
  11. Check your diet; sometimes eating too much junk, drinking too many things that are bad for you can make you feel stuck or uncomfortable.  Check it out and try eating a little healthier, changing a little at a time.
  12. Try a change of scenery – something simple like a walk in a natural area or as involved as a vacation.  Change your location and your surroundings.  Sometimes that is all it takes to jolt you back to creativity.  In addition, time away from the tasks at hand can give your mind the break it needs.
  13. Believe it or not, doodling helps.  Draw simple drawings or repetitive designs on a notepad for a little while.  Do it every day.  Do it when you are listening to someone or while watching TV. You will be surprised at how well this works to jump-start creativity.  Check out “zen doodling” or “zen doodles” or “doodle art” online – you will find a lot of ideas.
  14. Go for a long drive and listen to loud music.
  15. Listen to some TED talks.
  16. If your rut is diet, buy a new cook book.  Try a new type of food.  Try a new spice or ingredient.  Go to a new restaurant or try a new dish at your favorite restaurant.
  17. When you are at the grocery store, pick up a vegetable or fruit that you’ve never tried before.
  18. To keep weight loss continuing or to get off a weight loss “plateau,” change up your exercise routine.  Make sure you do different types of exercise: walking, basketball, racquet ball, aerobics, et cetera.
  19. Learn something new.  Pick up a new hobby, take an online course, go to a seminar.
  20. Set some goals.  Find something that you’ve always wanted to accomplish, set a goal and a time to accomplish it, and then break the goal down into smaller steps.  The goals don’t have to be large to start with; accomplishing anything, even a small goal, will help.
  21. If you are in a relationship rut, do something with your partner that is out of the ordinary.  If you don’t go to the theater, find something local and go.  Try out the local symphony.  Go to see a local sports team play.  Buy a conversation starter pack (cards with conversation starters) and try that.  Surprise your partner with a night out on the town – or even out of town!
  22. Attend a lecture with your partner – then go discuss it over coffee or dessert.
  23. Go out to dinner, try a new cuisine – and TURN OFF THE CELL PHONES!  Talk to each other, hold hands, go for a walk.

Nothing goes away until

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Filed under Goals, Lists, Self-Improvement

Finish each day…

Finish every day and be done with it.

You have done what you could.

Some blunders and absurdities

no doubt have crept in;

forget them as soon as you can.

Tomorrow is a new day;

begin it well and serenely

and with too high a spirit

to be cumbered with

your old nonsense.

This day is all that is

good and fair.

It is too dear,

with its hopes and invitations,

to waste a moment on yesterdays.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

What a great reminder to let go of mistakes, not to dwell on problems that are  minor but frequently seem like major mountains in the moment.  Who doesn’t need to remember this at times?

I posted this at work because I have a tendency to really obsess about mistakes I make at work.  Well, you know, I work in a bankruptcy department working with data.  To be honest, if I make a mistake (which I will, being human and all), nothing truly life-threatening will happen.  This isn’t to say that I need to NOT make mistakes, but it does mean that I need to not stress so MUCH about the mistakes I make.  I try to learn from the mistakes I make, so that in the future I won’t make the SAME mistakes over and over.    But this is a good reminder that we should all let it go.  Let go of the silly things, the irritating things that happened over the course of the day.

Tomorrow is a blank slate, a fresh beginning.  Take what you learned yesterday….and run with it.  🙂

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Filed under Self-Improvement, Uncategorized, Writing

Before you pull out your hair…a few ideas on stress management

Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or suspense.  It can also be difficulties that cause worry.  There are two basic types: acute stress or chronic stress.  Acute stress is short-term; it is the body’s response to something that seems dangerous.  Examples would be accidents or near-misses.  Chronic stress is something to continues for long periods, like stressful situations or events.  A separation or a bad work situation would probably result in chronic stress.  When you are stressed, your body goes reacts as if it is under attack or in danger – this is the fight-or-flight response.  It causes your body to produce hormones that speed up your heart, make you breathe faster, and give you a burst of energy.

It is entirely possible to exhibit symptoms of stress and think that you are simply sick.  Symptoms of stress are numerous and vary from person to person. There are physical symptoms such as headache, heart palpitations, chest pain, stiff neck, and back pain, as well as upset stomach and nausea.  Note that some of those symptoms are indeed symptoms of other issues and may need the attention of a doctor – chest pain, in particular!  Other symptoms are emotional: anxiety, lack of focus, depression, sadness, anger, restlessness, feeling insecure and irritablity.  Burnout is also a symptom of stress.  You may also exhibit behavioral symptoms, which may include changes in eating patterns (either more or less), drug or alcohol abuse, social withdrawal, crying spells, and relationship conflicts.  It is important to pay attention to what your body is telling you!  If you ignore high levels of stress, you can truly make yourself sick.

And that brings us to the effects of stress – which are numerous and can be serious.  It can affect your immune system, literally making you more likely to get sick – and to get sick more often.  If you have a chronic illness, it can make those symptoms worse.  It can make skin problems like acne and psoriasis worse.  It can cause nagging headaches, forgetfulness, and decreased productivity at work.  You may feel tired all the time, irritable, and may be quicker to lose your temper.

Who is most susceptible to stress?  People without strong support netowkrs, those who are poorly nourished, and people who don’t get enough sleep.  Other groups that show a higher liklihood of suffering from the effects of stress include those with chronic illnesses, children, teens, working parents, and seniors.  Many of these groups have stressors that tend to be related to life transitions such as more and more responsibility, the change from not having children to having children, and retirement and growing health issues.

Speaking of stressors – what causes such levels of stress?  Well, stressors can be either pleasant or unpleasant events.  Both sets can cause tremendous levels of stress.  For example, significant life adjustments like marriage, divorce, separation, birth of children, and gradation are all sources of stress, even if some of them are happy occasions.  Buying a house is another example – it is a happy event, but the paperwork, the legal documents, the move are all stressful.  Stress can also come from daily routines: sitting in traffic, getting the children up and ready for school in time for the bus, deadlines at work, and running kids back and forth to after-school events can all cause stress.  Unrealistic self-expectations – like expecting perfection – can certainly be stressful.  Interpersonal relationships, including both work/social relationships and personal relationships, can cause a lot of stress.   Common stressors include balancing work and family, anger management, legal issues, financial problems, health issues, family problems, addictions, caring for an elderly relative, school, and career changes.

Now, how do you deal with all of this stress?  First of all, if you are showing physical symptoms, if you are depressed, please seek help.  There is NOTHING wrong with getting help when you are struggling.  Talk to someone, a friend, a relative, a doctor.  Secondly, take a look at what is causing your stress.  Is it long-term?  Is it short-term?  Look at the problem you are facing and break it down into smaller, more easily faced parts.  Brainstorm ways to fix the problem or to make it simpler.  Other ideas for dealing with stress or getting a little relief include:

  • Take a 15-minute break from what is stressing you.  Walk a way and come back to it when you are calmer.
  • Write out what is worrying you and set it aside for 15 minutes.
  • Look at the worst-case scenario.  If that happened, how bad would it really be?  How likely is it to really happen?
  • Sit outside in the fresh air and sunshine for a short period – about 15 minutes.
  • Read something funny.
  • Delegate when you can – ask for help.  People who care about you frequently want to help.
  • Are you stressed because you are too busy or are overcommitted?  Well, look at changes you can make.  Decline some of the requests.  Set aside time for yourself and your family.
  • Set aside 10 minutes when you walk in the door in the evening to unwind before jumping into housework and household routines.
  • Declutter – clutter can cause stress.  Clean up in small increments: one area at a time.
  • Look at what really needs to be done and prioritize.
  • Ask yourself, “In 100 years, how important will this be?”
  • Ask yourself if there is anything you can do to change the situation.  If not, why worry? Let it go.  If you CAN do something, then DO it instead of worrying!
  • Talk to someone!  Get advice – or simply talk.  You may want to let your friend/listener know if you simply need to vent.
  • Help someone else – it will help take your mind off of things.
  • Make sure you get a good night’s sleep.  It helps you deal with things better and stay calmer – and it helps you stay healthy!
  • Watch your favorite movie or read your favorite book – use it as an escape for a little while.
  • Before you make a major change, weigh the pros and cons.
  • If you’ve made a mistake, look at what you can do to fix it.  If you can’t, apologize if appropriate and look at ways to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  Then let it go.
  • Take a deep breath and count to 10 before reacting.
  • If you are stuck regarding a specific issue, put it aside and move on.  Think about, or work on, something else and give your subconscious time to work.  You’d be surprised at how often you’ll get an idea when you are least expecting it.
  • Focus on positive achievements, positive changes, and surround yourself with positive people.
  • Cut back on caffiene – it will help you feel less on edge.
  • Learn to allow yourself an extra 10 minutes to get places.
  • Get up 10 – 15 minutes earlier in the morning to make your morning less harried.

Websites that I found helpful

  1. http://www.mindtools.com/smpage.html
  2. http://www.helpguide.org/mental/stress_management_relief_coping.htm
  3. http://www.mftrou.com/stress-management-techniques.html
  4. www.time-management-guide.com
  5. www.conqueringstress.com

My sources of information

  1. http://www.medicinenet.com/stress_management_techniques/index.htm
  2. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress-management/MY00435
  3. http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/default.htm
  4. Sources of stress:  http://ohp.nasa.gov/cope/stress_sources.htm

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Stress Relief for the Holidays

I have been thinking about this a lot recently. I have got to find a way to make my holidays less stressful. There are so many sources of stress these days: commercialization of holidays, work (or lack thereof),

  1. Focus on what is important and let the little things slide.  I know this isn’t easy.  I’m still working on this myself, but I realized over Thanksgiving that it was much more important that I got to see my 90+ year old grandmother and that she got to see my young children than the fact that everyone in the family is harping on the job situation for my husband and how I should fix it.  I’ve been trying to focus on her joy rather than the negatives and the stress.
  2. Draw boundaries where necessary.  Sometimes people don’t realize that they are offending or bothering you.  You may need to let them know as gently as possible – or you may have to be blunt.
  3. Get away from the situation if you can.  Sometimes you simply need a break from the situation.  Step back for a little while.  Do something that relaxes you.  Come back to the situation when you are calmer and can deal with it rationally or calmly.
  4. Do something nice for yourself.  Soak in the tub.  Get a pedicure. Find a quiet spot and read your favorite book for 10-15 minutes.  Talk to someone else about the stress or ask for some assistance, depending on what is stressing you.  Get away from all of the activity for a little while; find some quiet time.  Get up 15 minutes before everyone else so that you can get a quiet, slower start to the day.  Go to bed 15 minutes early for some peace and quiet.  Try meditating for 15 minutes before bed.
  5. Cut back on holiday activities.  I know that if you travel somewhere for the holidays many people probably want to see you, but you can overextend yourself easily.  Try to arrange a get-together in one place of as many people as possible to avoid having to drive around through your entire visit.  And know your limits – simply say “No, I’m afraid I can’t make it over this time.  I’m sorry but we’ll have to visit next time.”

I really think that holidays should be less about stress and driving around and seeing absolutely everybody and more about really enjoying the time you have with the people you do get to see.  If you spend more time in the car than you do visiting with people, you are going to be stressed.

I realized this holiday that I really  have to look at what I’m doing wrong.  This was the most stressful holiday I’ve ever had.  I enjoyed very little of it and there has to be something I can do to avoid a repeat of it.  The things I listed above are some ideas I’ve had about my own experiences.  I also realized that I set myself up for some of my stress; I tried too hard to please everybody and neglected my own needs.  That has got to change for the next visit.  Take some time to look at what you didn’t like about the last holiday and think about what you can do to improve it.

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Filed under Health, Uncategorized

How to Recognize Depression

Depression can be a major problem at this time of year.  Holidays can be a huge source of stress and pain for some people, resulting in depression.  Sometimes depression isn’t obvious, either to the depressed person or to the people around them.  Two major things to look for include are:

  • Loss of interest in normal daily activities
  • Periods of feeling down, hopelessness, and sadness, or crying more than normal

Mind you, you or the person you think is depressed may or may not exhibit both of those things (or variations of them).  For example, I realized that I was apathetic about daily things, former favorite activities (like hobbies), and I felt hopeless at times, but I rarely cried and I rarely felt what I would call sad.

Other symtoms of depression include the following:

  • Sleep problems, including either sleeping too much or not enough
  • Eating changes: either eating more than necessary or not eating normally
  • Impaired concentration: lack of focus, inability to concentrate or difficulty making decisions
  •  Less interest in sex
  • Difficulty remembering things
  • Agitation:  you may be easily annoyed, irritable, and/or restless
  • Fatigue:  your body movements may slow down.  You may feel weariness and lack of energy daily.
  • Depression can also result in gastrointestinal problems (constipation, diarrhea,  indigestion), headache, and backache.  Many people suffering from depression also exhibit signs of anxiety.
  • Male depression can result in different symptoms.  For example, men rarely cry as often as women.  Other symptoms of male depression:
    • Violence
    • Anger and frustration
    • Losing weight without trying
    • More risk taking
    • Alcohol or substance abuse
    • Isolation from family and friends

Sources of information:

Mayo Clinic

 NIMH

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Filed under Depression, Health

Ways to Manage Stress

You can’t eliminate all stress from your life, but you can learn to manage it. Some stresses are good, like weddings, the birth of a baby, promotions, and some are bad, like layoffs, divorces, deaths, and so on. Symptoms of stress include anxiety, feeling scared, irritability, and moodiness. You can also become forgetful, have trouble concentrating or focusing, and have low self-esteem. Behaviors include stuttering and other speech problems, changing eating patterns (either losing your appetite or overeating), grinding your teeth, increased use of alcohol or drugs, and crying for no apparent reason.There are some things you can do to manage the amount of stress in your life. For example, time management can be an issue. If you are perpetually running late to things, that can be stressful – particularly if you get to work late on a regular basis. Most bosses don’t appreciate that. You can adjust your schedule in ways that make it possible to get to work in a timely fashion:

  1. Go to bed 15 minutes earlier and get up 15 minutes earlier.
  2. Lay out your clothes the night before.
  3. Be sure that everything you need to take with you is in one place the night before.

Pay attention to what stresses you. Do you get stressed in traffic? If so, why? Is it because you are running late? If it is, look at ways to adjust your schedule – or ways you can manage your time better in the morning. Are you stressed by a crying child? Are you just overtired? Can you call someone to help you and give you a break? Put the child down somewhere safe, like a crib, for 10 minutes and take a small break. Are you stressed about a big project? Break it down into smaller steps, then break those down into smaller steps and continue this process until you have manageable steps to follow to finish the project.

Look for ways to strengthen your physical reserves. Be sure to get a good night’s sleep as often as you can. Go to bed earlier and go to bed at the same time every night; you should find that you feel better if you stick to a routine. Get exercise as many days a week as you can; a recent study found that even 30 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week helps. Eat healthy meals; you’ll feel better if you avoid fast food and junk food as much as possible. Watch your caffeine intake; it can increase nervousness and cause irritability. Don’t forget to laugh – watch a funny movie, read a funny book, watch comedians…laughter can be very helpful. In addition, try keeping a journal or just writing out what you are feeling or going through; you don’t even need to keep it if you don’t want to do so. Sometimes the simple act of writing it out will relieve stress.

Some resources online:

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Filed under Health, Self-Improvement, Women's health