The dangers of being good

You like to get things done, solve problems, and cross things off your to-do list. At work, this is great. You get praise for your organization, decisiveness, and ability to accomplish tasks. But when you apply these same skills at home, you get frustrated because the work is never done, the kids are never content, and you are the only one trying! You try to let go & relax but it’s hard! When it’s time to sleep, your productivity keeps going. You stay up worrying about all the things you still have on your to-do list. You are a good person: hard working, self-sacrificing, and responsible. You enjoy feeling like you are a good, hard-working parent and people can depend on you. So what’s the problem?

The problem is BALANCE. Even though your head might think, “This is a good way to be” “Everyone else is doing it just fine”, your body is telling you different. We all know a “body in motion tends to stay in motion.” So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that “A Mommy in stress, tends to stay in stress” and “An analyzing, thinking brain, tends to keep analyzing & thinking all through the night.” To be hard working and responsible all the time, in a 24/7 connected world, is too much for our systems. We can do it for a little while, but when it becomes a habit, we forget how to switch gears.

Productivity feels good but as I sit and write this, I can scan my room and tell you 20 things that “need to be done” (dusting, taxes, shoes & games away, return item to friend, read article, put poster board away, turn off light, replace bulb, return library books, water plant, and on and on and on…. ). This “fixing” energy can dominate my life so that I forget how lucky I am and how perfect and lovely my home and family are. If I’m not careful, everything becomes a problem to be solved.

When we don’t deliberately seek activities that balance us out, our subconscious sneaks it in. Binge watching Scandal late at night with a bag of chips is a sneaky attempt to restore balance. You would never spend two days at a spa with girlfriends but you’ll drink wine every night in an attempt to feel balanced. Our subconscious mind knows we need to goof off, play, receive, relax, and reward ourselves. If you don’t do it consciously, balance will happen without your permission through illness, pain, anxiety, weight gain, and depression.

Whether you look at it as yin & yang, male & female energy, or left & right brain, there is no denying that our bodies yearn for balance. Now that I’ve learned to listen & respect what my body tells me, I no longer deal with the physical pain of my 20’s and the anxiety of my 30’s. We have to stop trying to earn the “hardest working parent” award and make time for frivolous fun! Your health, sleep, joy and well-being, depend on it! No one else is going to do it for you, you’ve got to create it for yourself.  I spent two nights, by myself, at Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa when I felt over-worked & over-tired. Having someone else cook for me, bring me food, and clean my room, delightful! Wine tasting, yoga, massage, hiking, a clean hotel room, HEAVEN!  Wouldn’t you rather be parented by someone who feels delighted, pampered, and appreciated, than self-sacrificing? At home, I make time hiking, yoga, acupuncture, hot tub, massages, time with girlfriends, Survivor and The Bachelor. Don’t judge me, join me! The key is to do it deliberately, often, and with full joy and no guilt! How do you DELIBERATELY create balance in your life? How does your body create it for you when you aren’t looking?

Give AND Receive.

Work AND Play.

Focused AND Pointless.

Practical AND Silly.

Execution AND Expression.

Busy AND Slow.

Intellectual Stimulation AND Intellectual Rest.

Wired AND Grounded.

Your kids can do both, let them show you how.

That it’s time to eat chocolate in bed and watch Mad Men

Are you overwhemled?

Keeping busy with a long to-do list is normal for Moms today but December can push our holiday cheer into chaos and crazy. Even if our schedule isn’t filled, our brains are busy with voices shouting, “I should be doing more, I should be better, there’s something I’m missing,” or we put it onto others “He should be helping me more, their expectation are too high, this is too much!”

Although I agree society expects Moms to be responsible for too many things, I don’t believe “worshipping busy” is a helpful place to dwell.  Feeling overwhelmed is not fun and just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean we should join in.

Overwhelm usually leads to one of two results:

You run away from the yucky feeling. Thinking about all your to-do’s drains your energy, leaving you mentally and physically exhausted. You feel unmotivated and you find yourself spinning in activities that seem productive but really aren’t (TV, surfing the web, reading, or if you’re like me, really slow housework while complaining). Running away from a negative emotion keeps us stuck. We aren’t getting things done and we aren’t fully resting.

You never stop working. Productivity is your middle name. You take pride in your accomplishments at the end of the day. But there’s a problem, humans aren’t meant to live with constant busy-ness. The little voice in your head that yearns for rest gets ignored. You judge others for their lack of drive while secretly yearning for a break. Physical illness or pain creeps in as your own personal life coach, trying to steer you towards a more balanced life.

Here are 5 ways to break free from overwhelm.

1. Pretend you are 90 years old and looking back on your life. What goals would you like to have accomplished? What will you regret? Use these answers to prioritize your list.

2. Learn to leave things un-done. It is impossible to do everything, let alone do it well. Pick a few things you really don’t care about and do a terrible job. Feed your kids cheetos for dinner. Take no photos this year. Drive your laundry to a dry cleaners. Eat off paper plates.  Post a Christmas Card on Facebook and be done.  Celebrate the freedom that comes with imperfection.

3. Pick 3 things. Trying to hold too many things in our brain leads to overwhelm. Choose 3 things you will be proud you accomplished at the end of the day and every time you hear yourself think, “I have so much to do!” remind yourself, “No, I have three things to do.” Notice how much calmer and focused you feel.

4. Take 5 minutes and fully engage your senses.  Eat or drink something and notice the temperature of it.  Pay attention to the texture, the complexity of taste, the smell, the feel of it.  Let it consume your attention and you’ll notice how it quiets your mind.

5. Give yourself permission to REST. Fully indulge in a movie. Sit over the heater vent and tell your family you are going to ignore them while you read for an hour. Schedule a day to yourself and let the wind carry you wherever you want to go. Banish all the “shoulds” and allow yourself to be YOU without guilt and pressure.

If you want more help managing overwhelm, schedule a free, 45 min. initial call to see if coaching is right for you.  If you live in the Walnut Creek area, join my Life Coaching Group this January where we’ll learn to make friends with time.Are there things you want to do with your life, but can’t figure out how to fit it in?

Do you have a hard time feeling motivated?

Are you too busy with too much to do?

Do you want to feel a sense of purpose and direction in your days?

Are you tired of feeling tired?

Click here to hold your spot in our Tuesday group 10am – 12pm starting January 7th.  $20. suggested donation.

The Opposite of Play isn’t Work, it’s Depression

Can you feel the enthusiasm?  New lunchboxes, new pencils, new classrooms and the back to school excitement is here.  But a look at the statistics for today’s kids tells us this optimism will turn to stress by October.  How do you keep the relaxed and joyful days of summer, even after the school year begins? The answer is so simple you won’t believe me.  So let’s take a look at the problem first.

Many kids today struggle with motivation, joy, self-acceptance, social and life skills. With suicide rates rising and occurring at younger ages, it’s not a problem we can continue to ignore. Anxiety and depression are higher than ever in teens and increasing in YOUNG children! Why?
1. Kids today think the world is a scary place and they have no control to change it.
2. Too much structure: school-work, organized sports and screen time are all about following OTHER people’s ideas.
3. Less and less time spent in nature.
We’ve got a serious problem in the health of today’s kids and teens, not to mention an inability to prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow, which require creativity & drive, not repetition. The success of the movie Race to Nowhere shows you parents know it, see it, and need help changing it. But the solution is simple.
It’s PLAY.

Self-directed, imaginative, social, outdoor PLAY.
The benefits of this kind of play are HUGE! But somehow, in our drive to make kids smart achievers, we forgot that the best way to be successful in life is to FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU LOVE TO DO then SPEND LOTS OF TIME DOING IT.  PLAY helps us discover who we are and what we enjoy. PLAY teaches us how to solve our own problems and exert power over our lives. When you PLAY you are in control of your environment, (something my corporate clients know is important).  PLAY teaches that life isn’t about success and failure but about participating for the sake of it. It gives us ACCESS to ourselves: our feelings, thoughts, preferences, abilities, etc. PLAY allows us to discover who we are and who we are meant to be. It gives us the feeling that life is good and all is well. Allowing your kids to initiate and pursue their own interests is as crucial to their well being as feeding healthy foods.

But if you are like me, it’s easier said than done.
My neighborhood is full of single-family homes with sidewalks, basketball hoops and nice families, but nobody’s outside! My kids are not the outgoing type so outdoor play only happens if it’s me initiating it, and I’m busy! TV, video games and ipads keep my kids quiet and out of my hair. And when I say no more, I have to listen to them whine & fight. The pressure to put my kids in organized sports comes at me from all angles.

When you ask parents what is their greatest hope for their child? It’s always the same….happiness. Every parent wants their child to be happy and PLAY is what creates that sense of well-being. Here are some practical tips to create an environment that encourages a LIFETIME OF JOY.
1. Back away from the children. By hovering and directing their play experiences (or hiring a teacher/coach to do it) they don’t learn to control their own world. Let them struggle, make mistakes, invent their own rules & figure it out.
2. Initiate a neighborhood playgroup or street party. Collect emails and schedule “play in the street” days if your neighborhood is as quiet as mine.
3. Teach your kids how to call up a friend and ask them to play. Practice it and praise their initiative.
4. Limit screen time! TV and video games distract a child from their emotions. Kids need to experience boredom, disappointment, frustration and failure and then find ways to soothe it and make it better. Think of it like serving vegetables, nobody likes it but it must be done. Limit and commit, no matter what their ages.
5. Go camping with other families or (my favorite invention ever) go to family camp. Free time outdoors encourages more imaginative play with more creative problem solving than free play indoors.
6. Invite other kids and families over and play “the old fashioned way.” No video games, cell phones or TV, and let the kids figure out how to invent their own fun.
7. Tell the teacher you aren’t going to do homework because it stresses out your child and takes away from valuable play time. (I did. It was hard, I was nervous the whole time.) Remember the schools are here to SERVE YOU, not the other way around. If enough parents do it, they’ll change their policy.
We are out of balance and it’s time to change. We need to enjoy living for life’s sake, not because it’s leading us towards someone elses external goal. What feels like PLAY to you? Do that more and set a good example.  It’s for the kids!

There is nothing you have to do right now.

Somehow we Moms have bought into the idea that because we have the opportunity to “do it all”, we should not only “do everything” but do everything well and at the same time!   There is an expectation, perpetuated by the media, but also by ourselves, to contribute to the family finances, keep a tidy home, cook healthy meals, volunteer, keep children clean and healthy, stay fit and active, dress fashionably, look good, have good friendships, healthy family relationships, satisfying sex lives, and raise respectful, bright, athletic, talented children who also do everything well.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to speak at the Mothers of Multiples Conference and we looked back in history and noticed that never before have so many expectations been put on mothers.  I think it’s no coincidence that rates of anxiety and depression have gone up in women and in children in our country at the same time our “Supermom syndrome” has escalated.  Well Supermom is getting tired and it’s time to change the expectations we put on ourselves and other Moms.

Moms love to talk about how busy they are.  “I’ve got to do this.”  “I’ve got to that” but the common denominator all my clients are looking for is PEACE.  Not happiness, not excitement, but peace.  An escape from the mental churning, multi-tasking, ruminating and busy-ness that seems to dominate our days.  Moms today often feel disconnected from their lives because they are disconnected from themselves.

do nothingThe solution?  Do NOTHING.

I know what you’re thinking, “I’ve got stuff to do”  “People need me” or “I hardly get anything done as it is, and now you want me to do nothing?”

Doing nothing gives you access to yourself.  It tunes you back in to WHO YOU ARE , WHAT YOU WANT and WHY YOU ARE HERE.  It’s so easy to lose oneself in motherhood but you cannot find peace around you, if you cannot create it inside you.

The tricky part is GIVING YOURSELF PERMISSION to do nothing and not allowing your brain to start “should-ing” all over your quiet time.  “I really should be doing something else right now.”  “This is a waste of time.”  “This shouldn’t be so hard.” These thoughts can make our quiet time stressful.

To keep your brain occupied, while your body is still, try this, my most favorite mantra, “There is nothing I have to do right now.” This is one of my favorite thoughts because it is always true.  There truly never is something that you HAVE to DO right now.  (I hear my 13-year-old son, in my head, arguing this with me, but it’s true!  You don’t even have to breathe right now.)  When I think “There is nothing I have to do right now” my body immediately relaxes and shifts out of my head and into the present moment.  When I can focus on my own body in the present moment, peace is accessible.  I am accessible.  My senses come alive.  I am awake and fully alive in this moment and that is where joy and contentment become available.

My family and I have started honoring a Sabbath.  Five hours on Sundays with no technology, no distractions, no “shoulds” and no “have-to’s”.  Just the opportunity to become alive in the present moment and do whatever we feel like doing.   It’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever made them do.  (You can imagine, as a life coach, I make them do all sorts of goofy things.)

I’d love for you to join me, on my DO NOTHING movement, and let me know how it goes.  Start with 15 minutes a week, or 5 minutes a day, if that’s all you can spare.   Schedule it on the calendar “from 9-9:15pm I will sit and do nothing.  No reading, no TV, no talking, just being fully available to listen to myself.  Try it now, for 30 seconds, “there is nothing I have to do right now” and breathe in the truth of it.

Join me, this Mother’s day, in supporting other Moms to celebrate NOTHING!  Let’s encourage each other to take pride in the accomplishment of BEING instead of DOING.  It may take courage, but it’s the only way to hear that still, small voice inside.  The quiet voice that tells you “there’s more here for you” and at the same time says “in this moment, all is well”.

Helping kids with empathy

News of the shooting in Newtown, CT. is vibrating through my body.  I can feel the weight of it: the suffering, fear, shock, desperation, anger, and grief.   It shows up in me as real, physical pain:  stomach ache, headache, tension in my neck, jaw, abdomen, crushing chest, and a feeling like boiling blood I know well as anxiety.  I live on the opposite side of the country and yet I am connected to those parents, teachers and kids at Sandy Hook Elementary in a very real way.  When I was a kid, and heard tragic news like this, I didn’t know how to handle my emotions.

Whether the scary stuff on TV was real or imaginary, as a kid, it felt the same.  I was afraid, but I didn’t know what to do with my fear.  It seemed the right thing to do was to “feel bad” for others.  My big, empathic heart couldn’t handle the guilt, grief and fear.  This wasn’t my pain or my problem, but somehow I thought that if I suffered, I could alleviate the suffering of others.  If I joined them in grief, if I carried the burden with them, I could lessen it.  I was wrong.  All this got me was decades of chronic pain, anxiety and a fear of bad things happening. I tried writing notes and donating money, but it never felt like enough.

Tragedy’s, like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School, are opportunities to teach our children healthy ways to deal with their emotions.  It can be hard to notice if your child is reacting in these ways but asking them what they feel, and what they do with that feeling, is a good place to start.  Many kids (and adults) will cope by….

  1. Worrying, pulling-back from life, living small and fearfully, breathing shallowly, just in case a threat shows up.  Constantly staying in fight or flight, when there is no immediate danger, is horrible for your emotional and physical well-being and does nothing for those suffering. You can read more about my results of living this way. This adds more fearful energy to the world, which causes us to do things like horde weapons of mass destruction and maintain the right to bear arms against our neighbors and classmates.
  2. Get Mad – We can be angry at the shooter, the NRA, video games, the president, the lack of care for mentally ill, anyone.  For many people, anger is more comfortable than fear so they stay here, hoping it will lead them to productive action.   This is the “fight” response, in action.  It feels good to use it and get the energy out, but adding more of this angry/fearful/fighting energy to the world is just going to result in more violence.
  3. Get Tough- Many times, big hearted kids (and adults) will grow tough exteriors to mask the really deep feelings and negative thoughts they think about themselves.  They ignore, act cool, like they don’t care, deny their own dark side, and try to act perfectly, sometimes even self-righteous. (The emotion will be looking for a way out so don’t be surprised if they explode at a dead cat in the road or missed soccer goal).
  4. Guilt/Sadness – Somehow we get the idea that if we suffer along, it helps alleviate the burdens of others.  When I feel sad and guilty, that just adds more suffering and depression to the world.  Instead, feel the grief and guilt in your body and transform it into love.  Hug your kids, appreciate your life, but do it from a place of love, not fear.   (You’ll know the difference because love feels expansive, fear feels graspy and scarce).

In order to send love to Newtown, Connecticut, you have to feel it in yourself first.  The first step for all of us is to acknowledge and label their emotion.  When a big, scary, yucky feeling gets named, it diffuses it and makes it easier to manage.  Ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” or “What am I trying NOT to feel?”  Is it anger? sadness? guilt? fear?  Then acknowledge that no one is perfect, nor were we meant to be.  We all have the potential for darkness, given the right brain chemistry and environmental circumstances.  Look for something you have done or said you feel bad about and forgive that part of you.  (Notice where you feel the guilt in your body and what color it is, then breathe into it and relax around it until you can transform it into a color that feels like love, seems weird but it works).  Once you can forgive yourself for your shortcomings, you can fill it with love.  From this place, you can then send gratitude and love out to the world, the victims, the troubled soul of the shooter, everyone.  Pet your dog, sing Christmas Carols, cook something delicious, make a list of things you love about yourself and your kids.  Do whatever you can to shift to the state of gratitude and peace.  The world doesn’t need more suffering.  The world is hungry for love.  Take this opportunity to role model for your kids how much power they have to feel and send LOVE.