Just Looking for Attention: The Hunger Games

“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity. These words by Simone Weil remind us that whether one is a child first learning to listen, a teen attempting to break through the boundaries, or an adult finding and managing life’s meaning, we are all deep down inside in need of attention.  Human beings have basic fundamental needs: food, water, sleep and shelter; safety, security, routine and order.  All for survival’s sake.  Abraham Maslow argues that we also fundamentally need love and belonging, esteem and respect for self and others, and a sense of accomplishment and competency in order to find meaning and value in our lives.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

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Maslow, Abraham (1954).  Motivation and personality.  New York, NY: Harper & Row.

 Without love, esteem, connection with others and a sense of belonging to a “tribe” (family, school community, etc.) we are lost; we will not physically or emotionally survive.  These needs build upon one another in a hierarchical manner in that a need cannot be met until the need before it has been.  Maslow’s theory is based upon observation of adults; however in the fields of child development, counselling and education, it has been used to understand and prioritize programming and interactions with children.  This article looks to apply Maslow’s theory to children who are “just looking for attention.”

Maslow states that the most fundamental of needs are the basic physiological needs of food, water and shelter followed by safety, security and order.  The very next level of need is love and belonging, and this author believes that these requirements for connection are co-equal to food and safety making them far more powerful and motivating in survival than given credit for.

It has long been recognized that human beings are biologically predetermined to connect with others, and depend on social interaction. We have an innate desire to love and be loved as part of a group working together to meet our needs.  As observed in adults, Maslow places this need third in line behind physiological and safety needs; most certainly for children and youth, it comes first.  They require others to help them meet their safety and survival needs, and so without connection, love, belonging and a group identity, be it family, peers or community, it is difficult if not impossible for a child to attain the first two functions of survival.  This makes the need for connection absolutely essential for them, and at a subconscious and instinctual level, they know this.

When basic survival needs are not met, humans are left with two choices: first, go out and find that which can meet the need or second, perish.  It is a do or die scenario, and the human brain is wired for the former.  What does “go out and find it,” look like?  It can look like attention seeking behavior.  Behavior that says whatever it takes, seek out, access and keep safe that which is needed.  In infants this is crying for food or comfort and these behaviors and “requests” progresses developmentally into adulthood until we are competent and able to tend to our own needs.  Keep this in mind as we ponder the phrase “that child is just looking for attention.”

When a child does not have their needs met, be they physiological or emotional, their brain goes into “survival mode.”  One cannot circumvent the power of emotional needs as the brain prioritizes psychological needs over problem solving, abstract reasoning and all forms of trust or faith. While all humans experience this survival motivation and its subsequent seeking behaviors, children and youth especially depend on others to meet these needs, and so their “find someone who can help you” instinct is strong.  Survival mode is most obvious in times of starvation or danger, though also very present when one is, ostracized, criticized, undervalued, betrayed or alone. At these times, a state of “fight or flight” ensues: a biological repertoire of adrenaline, cortisol, muscle contraction, blood-flow priority and neurological messaging that enables one to fight or flee what is a perceived or actual dangerous situation.  Fight looks like aggression, behavior, emotion and all outward manifestations of dominance and power. Flight looks like withdrawal, avoidance, running away, refusal and recognition of weakness and vulnerability.  The majority of children and youth’s problematic or attention seeking behavior patterns can be defined as flight or flight and described in these terms.

Knowing this, adults need to interpret these behaviors and “requests” as products of a child’s brain in survival mode.  There are needs not being met.  They are out seeking the solution to this deficit albeit it in a less developed or mature way.  This is not surprising given that they are less developed and immature.  Thus, if a child is looking for attention, then give them some.

If one subscribes to the “give them some” philosophy, they are often met with objectives driven by theories of behaviorism and tough love:

“That child is just looking for attention.  If you give it to them, then the behavior will continue.  You are reinforcing it.”

Given the understanding we have established regarding a child’s hierarchy of needs, the correct response to this objection is twofold.  First, it is true that for a time the behaviour will continue; however if the adult chooses to ignore or punish the seeking, the behavior will not only continue, but will escalate. It is being reinforced that if a child “asks” for help (keeping in mind that behavior is the language of children and youth), and the significant adult does not attend, they are reinforcing that the need cannot be met.  This will heighten the survival instinct and stress response (fight or flight) in that child, until the “do” in the “do or die” scenario is exhausted and the child gives up.  This may seem successful; however the quiet often comes at too high a price.

The second, more hopeful response to the “reinforcing negative behavior” statement is informed by the following.  When a person is starving, they will seek nutrition at all costs.  They are driven to find that which they need and will make choices and behave in a variety of unskilled, irrational or desperate ways to meet the need of survival.  They may hoard whatever scraps of food they are given, and may become selfish and narrow-minded focusing on only attaining provisions.  The solution to this hunger is not to withhold food but rather to feed them.

For a time, even after being given food, this individual is still in “survival mode.” Their brain mistrusts that this will always be the case and continues to protect life at all costs.  They will continue to hoard and seek out satiation, perhaps even over-indulging until a new belief that there is enough food and more will come is reinforced and evidenced repeatedly.

If a child is hungry, then feed them.  The basic fundamental needs of security, self-esteem and particularly love and belonging are no different.  A child seeking attention is starving.  Yes, at first they will continue to request that attention, and until their brain believes that more will come if they need it, they will protect themselves by continuing to seek more.  Give it to them.  If a child is “asking” you, then they are attempting to meet a need. After a time, once they can trust the need is being and will be met, the asking will stop.

Attention seeking behaviors are a part of a person’s innate “do or die” survival instinct, particularly in children and youth.  They are literally crying for help. Even a “cry of wolf” has a motivation.  For youth, the strongest and most fundamental of these is belonging and connection.   The way to meet a child’s need, and save their physical and psychological life is give them that attention and sense of connection and belonging.  It will be by far the most important thing ever done for them as they build their esteem and work toward actualization.  “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” Children are the rarest and purest form of humanity.  It just seems right that the two should find each other.

A.

The Pros & Cons of Procrastination

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“I never put off till tomorrow what I can possibly do the day after.”

This quote by Oscar Wilde is the exact definition of the art of procrastination: putting it off; waiting it out; placing it on the back burner.  Tomorrow is a wonderful time and an easy answer, and the day after tomorrow is even better!  There is a whole lot of motivational theory and time management principles that play in to why we procrastinate (because we all do for something some time), but in essence, procrastination is avoidance. Now I know there are readers saying to themselves, “oh, no, procrastination is {INSERT all sorts of positive justifications and reasons HERE} to which I say, I agree (see below), just hear me out!

In general, and especially in today’s pop -psychological world, avoidance is viewed as a bad thing (embrace your feelings and slay your dragons); however it serves a function too.  At a subconscious level, nobody wants to do something they won’t enjoy or they fear.  That’s human nature, so congratulations, you are normal, and your psyche is protecting you from the pain, discomfort, mistrust or boredom associated with “the task.”  Having said that, there is something to say for slaying your dragons and accomplishing things; different, uncomfortable, stressful, new or boring things and trying something new, gaining a sense of accomplishment or learning that we have to take the good with the bad are all important too!

In defense of human nature, I have created a list of all of the reasons it is totally okay to procrastinate.  Too bad for us, procrastination is often viewed negatively and the “cons” of it are quick to the tongue and many:  a person who procrastinates is wasting time and is often viewed as lazy, disorganized, rushed, ill-conceived and irresponsible.  Fair enough…..maybe.  However, it is only fair to list the pros of procrastination as well….if it wasn’t so, it wouldn’t be such a powerfully demotivating force.   The list below explains and justifies both sides of the pacing and pressure-cooking procrastinative personality who is driven and defined by coffee and all-nighters!

PRO: you get a LOT of other things done when you procrastinate.  It is amazing how many fridges get cleaned out, batteries changed, groceries gotten, emails written, Christmas lists made and driveways shovelled when one is putting of “the task.”

CON:  You are avoiding something which tells your brain that “the task” is to be…avoided.  Your brain (ever the animal) then interprets said task as dangerous, poisonous, threatening, maddening, saddening or destructive.  The more often you avoid, the more often your brain attaches these emotions….this is going to make it a weee bit tougher to call on said brain to be all of a sudden creative, accepting and embracing of “the task” when the time comes.

PRO:  You brain is designed for survival, and so you will.  Whether by avoidance or by conquering “the task” your mind will give you whatever you need to survive (i.e. the project completed).  This looks like success; however most often, you have done only the bare minimum or just enough in order to finish.  Consider how many times you say to yourself “whatever” or “good enough” as you write, build, create or complete at the last minute.

CON:  Along with said emotions and interpretations noted above which begin to accompany every thought regarding “the task”, and the impending deadline, you are flooding your mind and body with stress hormones.  When the TIME COMES it’s do or die which feels a lot like fight or flight to your brain.  Adrenaline, cortisol and the like are stress hormones and add to inflammation, irritability, high blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety, gastrointestinal issues, etc.

PRO:  If you’re lucky, after time the project or task is cancelled or no longer required and you saved yourself a lot of work.

CON: If you’re not lucky, the deadline gets moved up and you get thrown into a coffee-driven all-nighter complete with lots of junk-food, panic and ‘splainin to do.

PRO:  You have time to think about and consider your M.O. and gather all of the required information.  New information may come along or a new method may be discovered; a new idea may spontaneously come to you while you wait to start…a better idea, so I should wait……just in case.

CON: You cannot be very creative or make any adjustments at the last minute.  You get it done.  Even when you are on a role and ideas start flooding, they are on paper before your brain or imagination has had time to work with it.  We know that over time ideas evolve and grow and new “aha moments” bubble to the surface.  If you’ve waited to start, there’s no time for the ideas to finish creating.  Scratch that:  the ideas keep growing and coming, but you had to hand it in, so it’s too late to make additions.

PRO: There is some truth to the “I work better under pressure mantra.”  There are studies that show a “sweet spot” for anxiety and drive that enable our brains and show up and provide a peak performance when there is something at stake.

CON: This better under pressure thing only works when everything else is ideal and the universe presses all the “perfect condition” buttons in your life.  You can’t get sick.  The power cannot go out.  You cannot be needed to watch children or clean up dog crap.  Your car cannot break down or internet crash, not your car crash and your internet break down.  Your mom can’t need you to fix something or your boss need to help with a different project.  You can’t break a tooth or get sick (I said that one twice cuz your running on adrenaline and it’s going to happen…..).  If you can be absolutely certain that everything else in your life is going to be ROCK solid, then by all means….wait until the last minute and CRAM!  On another note, the “work best under pressure brain showing up with a peak performance thing” really only applies to things you WANT to accomplish.  Those tasks you are ever-avoiding will still be only as good as they’ll ever be.

If you struggle with procrastination keep this in mind: the hardest part is the start.  The rest will come.  Say it over and over to your brain…if you can get past the first step, then you are well on your way.  Your brain gets into “the task” and takes over.  This is often accompanied by the adrenaline rush and a tease of that sense of accomplishment.  Just start.  Take baby steps (anything is overwhelming if it’s a ginormous undertaking?!).  I always like to start with a quote…find what kick-starts your “go” and it’ll be tomorrow before you know it!

A.

Empathy: What to Say When You Don’t Know What to Say…

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“I know exactly how you feel….”

No, you don’t.  Even if you’ve experienced the very same thing….it’s different.  You aren’t me.  You don’t have my personality or my support systems or my coping strategies (or lack thereof).  You don’t know what it reminds me of or makes me fear, and you don’t have the same feelings or hopes going forward.  We may have the same plot, but it’s not the same story…

So how can we help?  As caring and connected friends, family members, colleagues or classmates, we are often faced with the loss, chaos, tragedy and sadness of others…and we want to help!  We are genuinely hurting for them and are caring human beings that aim to comfort, to heal, to fix.  We share our own experiences in hopes of showing empathy, progress or finding common ground. We turn to comforting phrases (time heals all wounds….) and actions (casseroles, pies and greeting cards) in hopes of feeling we have somehow helped; but the truth is, there often isn’t “comfort” to be found for us or for them.  There isn’t a “reason” that makes sense and comfort food brings little comfort.  Don’t get me wrong….kindnesses will always be remembered, no question. Continue showing you care, but I also give you the gift of what to SAY…

When we find ourselves hoping to help, there is a powerful way to comfort.  In Psychology, it’s called “validation”…and it is the heart and soul of the counselling process.  It is the foundation from which we can build.  It opens us to our vulnerabilities and in that we find our resilience.  Everyone else calls it empathy.  But empathy isn’t always knowing exactly how someone feels in any given situation…it’s recognizing what it must be like to feel that way….even if it isn’t me or it’s never happened to me.  It’s getting that you might not get it, but you care about THAT person, so you care all the same.  It’s being totally and completely present with that person while they hurt.  It sounds like this:  “I’m sorry this happened….it must be so difficult for you.”  In a genuine, thoughtful way.

Yessssssss……it really is.   When a person hears this type of phrase they find relief….someone understands that this. just. sucks.  It’s hard.  Thank you…that’s what I needed someone to understand.  I don’t need a solution.  There likely isn’t one.  I don’t need to make meaning or try to find the “reasons” everything happens for.  I’m not made whole by similar situations or advice.  Memories and music and musings are meaningless, when what I really want to hear is “this must be so hard” followed by, ” I cannot fix this for you, but I can be with you while you go through it.” I finally feel heard.  My heart connects with yours and says, “ya, you totally get it.” Even if you totally don’t get it, you get that it’s hard and it’s not fair and it sucks and it’s confusing and you’re sorry that I have to go through it.  I clearly hear that I am not alone (which is the worst part…not just physically alone, but alone in the understanding of what it’s like to……..)  Those things help.  Every time. Trust me.

It seems to simple right?  Just “be” (normally and in the routine of life) with them as they go on the journey of grief or learning or change?   Say, “I’m sorry that happened….that must be really hard for you” when the time is right (silence is golden also…..never underestimate the power of quiet).  Be and say these things over and over in various forms….validate that whatever it is, it’s hard.  Let them know that you are here to listen.  Let them know that you cannot imagine what it would be like.  Tell them if they ever want to talk about it, you’ll try to understand and help with whatever they ask for.  Leave them alone if they want to be alone.  Stay with them if they want someone near. Find the balance between the normal and the new normal…

Even with the best of intentions (perspective, faith, hope, grace, ?), the following statements are not helpful……yet.  Someday, yes (that’s why they are so popular and comforting to the rest of us), but not just yet:

Everything happens for a reason

Time heals all wounds

When one door closes, another opens

I know exactly how you feel

You think that’s bad, one time I…..

It’ll all work out for the best, you’ll see

Something better is coming along

This is actually a blessing in disguise

They are in a better place

You’re strong….you’ll be fine

Instead try the following as you see fit:

I’m sorry this is happening

This must be so hard for you

I can only imagine what you are going through

I’m here if you’d like to talk

What’s the hardest part?

It is hard when it just doesn’t make sense

I will be here with you as you go through this

On a final note, we often say “Let me know if I can help” which is thoughtful.  However, if someone is struggling, they often don’t know what to ask for nor do they want to burden others.  It can be easier for them if you give specific suggestions as to things they might need.  Food is good, time is better. Both is perfect.

If you have a genuine heart and the right intention, they’ll know…

A.

Sticks & Stones: Negative Self-talk

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If day in and day out, I said to my friends or family members:

“I don’t know why you even bother, you’re never going to accomplish……….”

Or

“You’re stupid, lazy and good-for-nothing, no wonder you can’t…….”

And on and on and on, they probably wouldn’t want to be my friend much longer?!  And rightly so! But, we’re stuck with ourselves, and often that’s who’s talking to us like that!

Most people don’t realize it, but as we go about our daily lives we are constantly thinking about and interpreting the situations we find ourselves in. It’s as though we have an internal voice inside our head that determines how we perceive every situation. It’s the soundtrack to our thoughts, and our brains are listening very carefully, no differently than it listens to the words of others and has a reaction, emotion and brain/ memory firing according to what it hears (think the act of learning, conversation, sweet nothings, commands, etc). Some of our self-talk is a neutral easy-going kind of banter (“I think I’ll have waffles,” “cute shirt,” or “I wonder what Mary is up to tonight?”); but then there’s the dark side…

Have you ever noticed yourself talking down, criticizing, or holding yourself to an unrealistic expectation? Of course everybody has their bad days, where they do something foolish, feel awkward or regretful and then move on, but generally we should be doing a lot more cheering ourselves on than bashing ourselves for our mistakes! Life is t-o-u-g-h and we are all just doing the very best we can….we need to remind ourselves of THAT, and not of every single time we fail. There is a time and place to challenge yourself, but that should not ever replace recognizing that you are trying, succeeding, growing and learning too. If you find yourself constantly judging, critiquing, and generally hating yourself, you are at risk for lower self-esteem, decreased activity and productivity, depression, inability to concentrate and a negative outlook on life which will poorly reflect on you and negatively affect your relationships and responsibilities….which will likely begin the negative-self-talk-cycle all over again!

If this all sounds too true to you, you aren’t alone. Although it’s sad to say, we tend to be our own worse critics. We tend to be able to see the good in others (our friends, family members etc.) and dwell on our own less positive points, and it is hard to recognize our good side and pat our own back…especially for just trying or being brave or keeping calm. There is no question that in rough world, we have to be on our own side! So how can we possibly start to change the way we treat ourselves? Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Be gentler with others. The way we treat other people is a direct reflection of how we feel about ourselves; the ability to forgive or have patience extends to others and yourself and it’s a great habit to get into….once you are easier on others, it’s easier to be easier on yourself!Ÿ
  • Actually believe that no one is ever perfect. Even the people you think are perfect are not. Trust me. You need to allow yourself room to grow and learn and make mistakes sometimes. Apologize and forgive yourself when things go really really wrong. The act of forgiveness is difficult but also can give a sense of freedom and growth.
  • Try to concentrate on the positives. This is FAR easier said than done, but we need to recognize and appreciate our efforts and our positive traits especially on days when we feel the worst. This takes time and practice, and we need to remind ourselves a lot, but there are positives and life’s “little” things and gratitiudes can take us a long way too!
  • Set realistic expectations of yourself. Don’t set yourself up to fail, if there is something that you feel you need to change then work towards it but don’t expect yourself to accomplish the impossible or to make major changes in a day.
  • Take a step back. Try to look at yourself through someone else’s eyes. Sometimes it’s easier to see your good points if you think about how your friends or family view you. Ask yourself, “how would they describe me? What qualities do I have they appreciate?”
  • Work at ways to build your confidence. Often, it is when we are feeling insecure, judged, vulnerable, anxious or undervalued that we use negative self-talk. Work at learning about situations, building your skills, recognizing your strengths, practicing and building a support system in order to feel more confident and competent in these situations.
  • Be around people that are nice to you! Often, we repeat the messages we hear from others (or worry others might be saying). Choose friends, colleagues and social situations that celebrate and support you! Nobody needs frenemies and they’ll bring you down long after you leave their presence. Stick to those whose words will uplift and bring joy to you no matter what kind of say you are having!
  • Have a “go-to” mantra or phrase that you can repeat during stressful, negative or difficult times to replace negative thoughts and keep calm in your mind. Create your own meaningful phrase or use a popular quote that makes you smile or feel positive! Some examples are:

* This too shall pass

* You have enough. You do enough. You are enough

* I’m doing the best I can and that’s enough for today

* You are smart. You are important. You are kind.

*I think I can, I think I can…

*Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.

*Faith does not make things easy. It makes things possible

* I will try.

We can learn a lot from children…check out this little girl who’s got positive self-pep-talking down to an art! Enjoy the smile:)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kKswLd65Ws

The Work-Life Tug-of-War

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“Things are getting better and better and worse and worse faster and faster” ~Tom Atlee

This is the world we live in.  Everything is happening very quickly, and the argument as to whether this is a good or bad thing will keep many occupied at coffee shops and photocopiers for a long time to come.  Like or lump it, we are living it.  We are surrounded by a world that wants innovation and efficiency, and that means we need to design, create, produce and evaluate every minute of our days….regardless of our calling.

The long-time common response when someone asks “how are things?” has been “good.”  I am starting to notice (with myself certainly and more often with others) that a more common response lately is “busy.”  Things are busy.  Things are happening faster and faster and there is more and more of it to do and to care about and to wonder and to try!

No matter what your career, family situation, volunteer experiences or daily “to-do’s, we’ve all found ourselves busy.  We have also all craved the precious and just out of reach “down-time.”  Also known as “me-time” and “out-of-office.”  In a world of smartphones, tablets, Wi-Fi ad video-conference though, I think the “out-of-office” is becoming less and less respected.

So, how can we possibly try to strike a work-life balance when we are required to keep up?  If one takes time for oneself are they sacrificing promotions? Recognition? Opportunity and possibility?  It might seem so, but if you don’t have a work-life balance (i.e. if work IS your life) you won’t last long.  First of all, you get sick.  Your body sends clear “I give” signals that look an awful lot like heart disease, high cholersterol, diabetes, headaches, ulcers, and on and on and on.  Too often, these signals are ignored or quieted with prescriptions, caffeine, alcohol, Ambien and protein smoothies, all of which have a time and place for a SHORT time and place, but not because you are working too hard…not good enough.  Once your body is done with you, your mind takes over the distress signals.  You have trouble concentrating.  Your creativity dwindles.  Your people skills decline.  You get cranky and unproductive.  You become miserable and lonely.  You become TOO invested (believe it) in your job and you lose perspective…not the things you listed on your resume.  Better and better and worse and worse, faster and faster.

Those highly invested in their careers are struggling to buy this….they will eventually, unfortunately.  Those recognizing these things for what they are, I have a few ideas for you on how to slow down and get a little leverage in the tug-of-war:

  1. Just because you have “free time”, does not mean that you are available. If someone asks if you are able to attend or organize or volunteer at an event, and you have the empty block of time, that does not mean you have to say yes.  A little empty time in your schedule is good for you for a number of reasons.  The most obvious is “balance.”  Secondly, it gives time for you to do something you WANT to do or ENJOY (What???) and finally, it gives “fudge” room in case life happens and you need time to address a crisis or problem that arises.  I often tell people it is great to be busy and going all the time as long as all is well…as soon as life happens, there isn’t enough time to be busy!  Another thought on “free time: if you get some “by accident” (someone cancels a meeting or is a no-show, etc)…leave it empty.  Don’t jump to fill it.  Enjoy it.
  2. Keep it Organized.  Make a list or use a calendar or have a day-timer.  There are any number of apps and software possibilities to find what will work for you.  Your mind is an expansive and awesome resource, but it is paying attention to a LOT of things you don’t even realize, and it decides FOR you what is important to remember and what can be remembered later….like at 3AM.  Just a note: your own subconscious desires, values and attitudes help it determine these priorities.  Get a calendar of some sort and use it.  I would even recommend colour coding it to get a good picture of your work-life balance! This is a bit of work on the front end learning how to use it and remembering to use it, but in the long run will be invaluable to you.  Secondly, the whole point is to get it OUT of your mind right?  Having a calendar and being organized not only externalizes all that data, but gives it a place outside of your head….this helps your mind to relax a wee bit, because it knows, it’s been written down and there is time scheduled to do that.  Just a note, if it’s not on the calendar, it probably won’t get done (this is especially true with things like a fitness routine, date night etc….you have to schedule them in if that’s the lifestyle you live!)
  3. Learn to say No.  There is not much more to say about that. It isn’t easy, but it’s an important skill.  You can do 100 things half-assed or you can do 5 things really well.  If it isn’t required of you or interesting to you or a value you hold dear….just say no.  On that note, don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.  There are some things you will want to do with 100% gusto and with spectacular amounts of work and investment so that they turn out second to none.  And then, there are some things that can be “good enough.”  Have a look at which is which for good sense of where your priorities lie.
  4. Sometimes, time is more valuable than money.  This may have 2 meanings for some: yes, first-off your children and spouse and friends would much rather spend time with you then have gifts or treats.  I’m talking more about the second meaning.  There might be some things that you can “hire out” to relieve your stress.  Most of us take a lot of “pride” in being a do-it-your-selfer.  But that’s about you and not the others in your life or your “other” self who wants some down-time.  Maybe, a housekeeper?  An accountant? A lawn company? Someone else to make the birthday cake or iron you clothes?  Just something to consider, as there is NO question that time is more valuable than money.  There is always more money to be had.  Time is something we are losing every day and there’s no changing that or getting more of it.  It is by far the most valuable thing we have…and our relationships and our health remind us of that often (hopefully sooner than later…)
  5. Put first things first.  Your brain is organized into priorities, and the first of these is survival.  This includes food, water, sleep, exercise, safety, and shelter.  Your mind needs this foundation in order to be productive.  Make sure you are eating and sleeping and exercising.  Your brain considers these a must.  Second, is belonging, emotion, relationships and love.  Without these things, your brain again begins to worry about survival and happiness (which are far more important to your brain than the bottom line).  If you are healthy and have your basic physical and safety needs met, and if you are in healthy and loving relationships and are HAPPY, then your mind opens up to creativity, logic, possibility, abstract thought, innovation and the understanding all of the mysteries of the universe…your job description fits in there somewhere!  But you have to have had enough sleep to access it. And, you will find more joy and reward in your work if you allow for it.

There are all sorts of other ideas that you know: prioritize, meditate, communicate with your friends and family, find a job you love, ask for help etc.  Most importantly, and sometimes the very hardest part, is to forgive yourself for needing and wanting down-time…..you will be ahead of the game in the long run if you can appreciate and understand that it’s okay to have “life” win every once in a while.

 

 

An Attitude of Gratitude

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“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”  ~Melody Beattie

Being thankful is essential to our soul. When we recognize and appreciate our blessings, abilities and opportunities, we have respect for their value and purpose in our lives. We feel able to share with others. There is also research to suggest that taking time each day to pause from the hectic lifestyle and pressures we place on ourselves to be at peace with what we have and have accomplished can have positive impacts on both our mental and physical health reducing levels of stress and disease, changing outlook, providing moments of quiet and gaining perspective.

Being grateful can also sometimes be difficult. We are engaged in a world where there is always more! We aspire, dream, grow, create, acquire, build and move forward at incredible pace. Things are getting better and better and worse and worse faster and faster….and we need to be in and on and around that, or…..?

Realize that now, in this moment, we have….enough. It’s okay to have dreams, it’s okay to aspire to grow, to learn, to evolve and to achieve big things but it’s also important to celebrate yourself, to celebrate your accomplishments, to celebrate the present moment and to celebrate your life. With gratitude comes happiness and with happiness comes gratitude. While dreaming and aspiring and moving are all positive, we also need to take some time to notice, appreciate, reflect. Take a few moments in your day to be grateful. There will always be things to hope for, but there are also things to hold precious: health, love, memories, honesty, determination and ability….and they are the very foundations that will enable you to dream, aspire and reach….

Some ways to begin showing gratitude are listed below….see if they help to change your outlook!
◾Have a gratitude “journal”. Write a bit each day about what you are thankful for
◾ Write a blog or Facebook post about gratitude or thankfulness
◾Make it a topic of discussion at the table. Ask others what they are grateful for!
◾Set aside a few moments (like first thing in the morning or right before bed) to list 3 things you appreciate or are glad for today!
◾Make an effort to tell the people in your life what you appreciate about them
◾Place decorative and inspiring quotes or notes around your home reminding you to be thankful.
◾Google or search our literature or poetry about gratitude…here’s a poem below to start you off!

Be Thankful

“Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,

If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don’t know something

For it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.

During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations

Because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge

Because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes

They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary

Because it means you’ve made a difference.

It is easy to be thankful for the good things.

A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are

also thankful for the setbacks.

GRATITUDE can turn a negative into a positive.

Find a way to be thankful for your troubles

and they can become your blessings.”

~Author Unknown

Setting your Sails for the Winds of Change

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Change is something we cannot completely control, and a part of life that is inevitable. While it sometimes uncomfortable or even a little scary, often it can bring about positive growth opportunities. It is an important part of “learning” and life. Part of the work in transitions, is helping people to navigate and understand change, and do it in such a way that is comfortable, positive and forward moving. There are a few ways to take an event or lifecycle experience, and create an atmosphere that is easier, helpful and “smoother” in the process of transition from one idea or thing or place to the next. Some of the strategies that can be used in any time of change follow:

*Find routine. Any sort of predictability in times of unknown or questioning can provide comfort. It is helpful to stick to familiar and routine oriented activities whenever possible. For example, if the family has always had a certain meal or outing together weekly (say Sunday nights) this can continue even in a new house or community.

*Determine the things that are within and those that are outside of one’s control. Try to focus on those things to which you have some influence. It can become hopeless and frustrating to focus on things that cannot change, which will only add to overall angst and fear. For example, if you need to move for work to a new community, rather than focusing on that, begin to focus on the choices you are in control of in the new community (i.e. the house you will live in, the activities you will participate in, or the school your kids will attend).

*Find the positives: Taking a situation that feels scary or unknown, and that is somewhat uncomfortable will inevitable cause a person to grow. We often tend to focus on those things that we are worried about or unfamiliar with. Try instead to take any positives or “silver linings” from the changes, however small they may be (i.e. I will never have to wait at “such and such” red light again or now I live closer to Tim Horton’s).

*Honor the uncomfortable feelings you are having and try to identify what is behind them. It is often helpful to “name” the things you are worried about or fearful of in times of change. For example “I am afraid I won’t be able to make any friends.” This will help with the next step. Once you can name the fear or negative emotion it is easier to communicate with others and work towards solutions.

*Work at finding solutions or ways to cope with the feelings and unknowns. If you know you are afraid of making new friends or not being able to find a new job etc. it is important to begin to problem solve through various things to try or ways to handle these possibilities (i.e. if I can’t find a job, I will ______ or _______ or _____. If I have trouble making friends at my new school, I can try to _____ or _____ or _____). Having these tools or possible solutions will lessen fear.

* Learn as much as you can about the situation. Knowledge is power, and thus if you are presented with something that is out of your control, or makes you feel powerless or worried, it is important to learn as much as you can about it, the possible outcomes, the potential positives and negatives and how this change will affect you. This will help to be better prepared for it when it comes. For example, try to learn about the new school or community, or what to expect as you move away from home. The more you understand and are ready for the change, the better able to “handle” it you can be.

*Remember times you have experienced “change” (even in small forms) in the past, and were able to come through it, even if you had to adjust some things. Remembering these times will help you to build confidence that you have experienced things like this before and done well.

*Keep in mind all things pass: Once the major change occurs, and you begin to adapt and learn the things you need to in order to enjoy the differences, you will again be more comfortable in your situation. Keep in mind that you will have accomplished one more thing, and while the process if often difficult or scary, it will come to that point of understanding and acceptance eventually and in your own time.

*Surround yourself with help and supports. Try not to do everything yourself, and in fact take it easy on your mind and body as they are trying to adjust and figure things out also. It can be exhausting to process and understand change never mind all of the things you actually have to do (i.e. find a new job, move, rearrange schedules etc). Be sure you have emotional support. Change can be difficult and scary, and it can be helpful to have someone walk through the process with you, and help you to understand various pieces of it…..that’s what friends are for!

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