What’s Your Happy Pill?

When my children were young, we always had happy pills on hand. If I’d had a tough day and wasn’t feeling my mommy best when I picked them up after work, I’d ask them for a happy pill before we got into the house.  Or if I noticed one of them wasn’t quite their exuberant self, I’d hand them a little happy pill to take on our way home.  Sometimes the pills were invisible; sometimes they were candy coated.

Of course, there isn’t a pill that magically takes away the bad and replaces it with goodness and light and as my two children grew up, we stopped playing the happy pill game.  Sometimes, I miss that silly little game.  It was such a great way to say “ I’ve had a bad day” or  “I see you’ve had a disappointing day.”  Our small happy pill ritual opened the door to hugs and further discussion.

I’ll admit that sometimes I think it would be nice to solve all the challenges, the disappointment of half successes or full on failures with a happy pill, but looking back on all those moments, I’m glad it wasn’t that easy.  If it was, I may never have learned I was strong enough to overcome challenges. I would not have learned how to pick myself up from failure and find a new or different way of achieving success.

Having said that, I believe that in some respects we do have happy pills available when we are feeling down, when things aren’t working our way, when we’re not sure we are on the right path.  My happy pills are memories that bring a smile to my face.  My happy pills are the many people in my life who bring me joy; my husband, my children and the rest of my family and family-in-law.  Instead of getting caught up in my problems, I choose to pop a happy thought into my mind.

 What do you do when you feel the world is against you? How do move your attitude from negative to can do?

Career Advice I’d Like to Give to My 20-Year Old Self

Do you ever wish you could go back in time and give  yourself a little hint of what’s to come?  Perhaps give yourself a little heads up on key turning points in your life that seem like a simple choice between options but is in reality a pivotal moment?   Wouldn’t it be nice to sit your younger self down and share some of the wisdom you’ve gained over the years.

If I had the chance, below are five things I’d like to tell my younger self.

1. Trust yourself more.  Parents, teachers, friends, supervisors, colleagues … there are so many people willing and eager to give advice, lots and lots of advice on what career path to follow, what jobs to apply for, what jobs to avoid.  This doesn’t mean ignoring the advice; it means weighing that advice against your own dreams, against your gut instinct and against your own personal reality.

2. Create  your own definition of success.  It took me quite a while to figure out that for me, success wasn’t defined by money, a title or an office with a door.  It wasn’t until I hit the magic mid-30’s, that I was able to clearly articulate what success meant to me, and with that knowledge, it became much easier to decide if an opportunity was right for me or not.

3. Manage your time. Oh, I wish I’d learned this one sooner!  The extra stress I put on myself because I put too many things off to the last minute; the opportunities missed because I could always get to it later; the merely “ok” work completed because I’d over-committed my time.

4. Take care of yourself.  I remember the day I broke down in tears on the job over a trivial issue.  It was day 21 without a day off.  I was holding down two jobs and going to school.  Between lack of sleep, grabbing some pretty poor meals on the run and the demands of school and work, I hit the wall.  I knew a change had to be made and I quit one of the jobs.  I wish I could say I learned my lesson then, but it took quite a few more years to figure out that I was doing myself and those around me a favour when I made sure to take care of my mental, emotional and physical health.

5. Being respected is more important than being liked.  I spent too many years trying to be liked.  I agreed with everyone or more honestly, pretended to agree with everyone.  I didn’t stand up for myself; I said “yes” when I should have said “no”; I hid my talents, my knowledge and my skills so that I wouldn’t come across as a know-it-all;  I let others take credit for my hard work. Usually standing strong, being confident, honest and assertive leads to being liked and respected, but if only one is possible, go for respect.

Of course, knowing my younger self, I’m not sure I would have listened to me!

What career advice would you give your 20 year-old self if you had the chance?

Your life one small step at a time

When I think back on my childhood, I received a lot of of messages that told me who I needed to be in order to be a good person, a successful person; messages that clearly told me what I needed to do in order to be accepted, to be right, to be normal.

I lived those message for many years; not because I believed all of them (I did believe, and still believe, some of them) but because it was easier to follow them than to take the time to get to know what I believed.  It’s hard to breathe when you are living someone else’s life.  With bills to pay, children who rely on us, the comforts that come with the world’s definition of success, it can be difficult, if not seemingly impossible, to live your life, fully, completely on your own terms.

I get that.  Most people get that.  So … if right now, you are feeling trapped in a life that is not your own, first figure out what you want your life to be and then put together a plan to get there … one step at a time.  It’s not always about making a huge leap. Sometimes it’s about taking one small step.

Stress and bubble wrap

Stress. The word alone is enough to make some people start feeling like the world is closing in on them.

There are numerous studies and research papers that talk about the impact of stress on our lives, on our society and on business productivity.  While the exact numbers vary, depending on which white paper you are reading, all of those reports and studies have one thing in common…numbers are rising.

A higher percentage of people are visiting their doctor for stress-related ailments and complaints.  When stress is not managed, we get sick more often.  The flu and the cold keep us at home in bed more often.  As stress levels continue to rise, we are entering hospitals for stress induced heart attacks, diabetes and cancer.

Businesses are seeing higher absenteeism rates and even when employees do show up, they are showing up in body but with only half their mind present. The other half is still in the car in the parking lot trying to figure out how they are going to get through to lunch.

When we learn how to manage stress, when we control the stress instead of allowing it to control us, we enjoy richer, deeper, stronger relationships.  We work better, we feel better … we live longer.

The question becomes, how do we do that?  What can we do to bring our minds, our lives back to a healthier place?

Know yourself:  There are too many people working in jobs they don’t enjoy because someone told them they should do it or because of the status associated with the job.  Perhaps they are not working at a job or in a field of their choice because they don’t want to appear unsuccessful in the eyes of their friends, family or sadly, in the eyes of total strangers.  Work takes up a huge amount of our lives.  The stress we put upon ourselves each and every day, when we go to a place we don’t want to go to, is enormous. Within each of us is our own definition of success, our own picture of what a fulfilled life looks like.  Go after that vision; don’t let other people’s vision of success define your life.

Live in the moment:  Try to truly experience what you are doing now, rather than worrying about the work you left behind, or chores you should be doing.   Stop worrying about all the things that could happen.  Stop hanging on to and rehashing poor decisions or errors made.   When you do that, instead of dealing with the stressful situation once, you are living it over and over again.

Get organized:  Getting organized is more than just creating a filing system or cleaning up a storage room. Get rid of clutter; get rid of things you are hanging onto “just in case”.  When my husband and I downsized, we had to get rid of stuff, lots and lots of stuff. And you know what?  We haven’t missed any of it.  Absolutely hold onto some treasures; pulling out pictures, children’s artwork, whatever your treasure is, invites joyful memories and sharing time, two other great stress relievers.

Be realistic:  Much as we might like to think we can do it all, we can’t.  What can you reasonably accomplish in 24 hours, knowing you need to set aside time to sleep, to exercise and to eat?  Taking care of yourself physically makes it easier to accomplish more, so don’t eliminate those from your schedule.  Then, if you think you need 45 minutes to get something done, give yourself an hour so you don’t get stressed out when you run into a complication.  Create a “must do” list and a “if I have time” list.   Take an item off the “if I have time” list if you don’t need that extra 15 minutes you gave yourself for the other project.

Take a few deep breaths.  Stress is a chemical response to a perceived danger or threat.  Deep breathing forces you to stop, to focus on your physical reaction.  A few deep breaths reduces blood pressure and muscle tension, two physical reactions that need to be managed in order to get back to a state of mental calmness.

Meditation, humour, talking to people in your support network … all these activities help to reduce stress.

And when all else fails, grab some bubble wrap!   Something about the mindless act of popping the bubble, hearing the popping noise and then moving on to the next bubble, until there are no bubbles left to pop, brings my stress levels down every time!

What are some techniques you use?

The World Beyond our Comfort Zone

“Look both ways before crossing the street.”

“It’s better to be safe than sorry. “

“We’ve always done it that way.”

“Don’t rock the boat.”

Many of us were taught to play it safe. Being what we are now is safe.  Staying where we are is comfortable. The problem is that when we don’t move forward, when we choose to stay where we are right now, we become stagnant, we become stale, we become bored.

Becoming the best we can be means pushing past the barriers of our comfort zone.  It means daring to dream, to hope, to create a vision for our future.  It means being willing to let go of what has become too comfortable, too easy, too common place.

It means opening up our hearts and our minds to change, to possibilities and to opportunities.  And sometimes it means closing our eyes, taking a deep breath and leaping off the cliff towards a stronger, more fulfilling future.

 “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” ~ Neale Donald Walsch