Saturday, August 23, 2014

Energy Zapper #4: Negativity!! 3 Tips for Staying Recharged!!

We are discussing Energy Zappers! What are they? Habits or social behaviors which are a part of our everyday life, but unfortunately they do very little to enhance our sense of well-being! Why? Because they deplete us! Take a look at our three precious zappers - Giving Advice , Drama , and Worry - before reading Energy Zapper #4: Negativity! Whether you tend to see the glass half full or whether you want to limit your exposure to individuals who drain your glass, read on!
Seeing the Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty?
First of all, let’s make it clear what we are talking about when we tackle negativity. Most of us must admit that we experience a bad day every now and then! Or, perhaps we just wake up on the wrong side of the bed! So, let’s give ourselves permission to have those whiny days! And, let’s also clarify that we are not talking about expressing our opinions or participating in passionate discussions in a civil and respectful manner. And lastly, we need to acknowledge that many individuals suffer from physical, psychological, and emotional disorders or are navigating through situational stressors/crises which not only affects their outlook on life but also make them susceptible for a myriad of mood disorders, especially depression.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at a working definition of Energy Zapper #4: Negativity!

A pervasive pattern of pessimistic thinking characterized by conversation 
which is critical, corrective, or complaining in nature.
 The pessimism is typically rooted in a restrictive mindset of
 “My way is the right way” or “That’s not the way I think it should be”.

Yikes!  Not an attractive aura to possess or to be around! And perhaps more importantly, not a healthy one! Why is that?  Contrary to what many of us believe to be true, how we feel does not determine how we think! This is important.

How we think determines how we feel. 
 Let me say it again.
 How we think determines how we feel.

Thus, when we dwell on the negative aspects of our life or when we continually embrace our surroundings with an attitude of pessimism, we not only zap our positive energy and well-being, but we also set ourselves up to feel a spectrum of toxic emotions. These emotions can range from mild disappointment, anger, resentment to major depression, rage, and extreme bitterness. As these negative emotions take over our being, we then begin to react and to respond to our environment in unhealthy ways.

Our negativity is most reflective of us through our attitudes and most obvious to others in our conversations. In our pessimistic persona, we respond to people and things with criticism and judgment. We find fault in how others are being or in what they are doing, and we tend to want to correct them or show them the right way. And perhaps, one of the most depleting characteristics – for both the negative person and for the listener - is the incessant complaining of how things should be.  

Although negativity certainly doesn’t discriminate from gender or age group, I notice that as I get older there is a tendency for seniors to adopt this zapper!  Because of a stream of health issues and of a continuum of losses in their lives, elders often have a hard time focusing on more positive aspects of their lives. However, it  is possible!

~ A Good Life ~

Just a few nights ago, my husband invited a lovely 83 year old man -Giovanni - whom he had met in a tea shop to have dinner with us.  Although Giovanni has many senior friends, his close family lives very far away and he does get lonely. Overall his health is quite good except for an increasingly serious decline in his memory. After my husband picked him up, Giovanni entered the house gifting us with a bottle of wine and a small package of macaroons. And, he brought over his favorite CD of Michael Bolton. As we ate our way through the appetizers, dinner, and desert of vanilla ice-cream and macaroons while Michael Bolton serenaded us in the background, Giovanni told us stories of his life, his work, and his family. He asked us questions too, sometimes more than once. And as he apologetically acknowledged his cognitive decline, he never once complained. In fact he said, “I’ve done well. I’ve had a good life. I have no regrets.” While my husband helped our gentle guest downstairs to take him home, Giovanni's words stayed with me - "I've done well ...I've had a good life... I have no regrets." 

Building on Giovanni’s positive outlook, let’s take a look at 3 Tips for Staying Recharged!

Tip One:  An attitude of gratitude!
Remember what we learned - how we think determines how we feel!  So, whenever you start to
Resentful or Grateful?!
dwell on the negative, stop that thinking and focus on something – anything – that you are grateful for! Say it over and over in your mind, meditate on it, journal about it - be thankful! Every time you return to your pessimism, replace it with gratitude! We cannot be resentful and grateful at the same time. Right now, choose how you want to think, feel and be!

Tip Two: It’s all relative!
It’s so easy to complain about minutia. We all do it – or at least most of do! We want things this way or that way, and we want it now! All we have to do is turn on our TV’s, computers, or radios and…what a reality check!! Most of us are so fortunate – we have nothing to whine about!!  And yes, there are horrible injustices all around us, but let’s do something positive and proactive about them. Let’s be part of the solution – not add to the problem with our negativity, depleting ourselves and draining others in the process! 

Readjust and Release!
Tip Three: Readjust our restrictive mindset! Release the regret! 
We started out by explaining in our definition that negativity is rooted in a restrictive mindset  such as “My way is the right way” or “That’s not the way I think it should be”. First, readjust your restrictive mindset. Replace your thinking with phrases such as "Although it's not the way I would want it to be, this works for someone else" or "Although I don't agree, he/she has a right to his/her opinion". Secondly, it is my experience that individuals who have navigated from a negative position have alienated or at the very least created a distance between themselves and their friends, loved ones, etc.  It’s never too late to take care of businessidentify and own any hurt you may have caused; acknowledge your regret and release it.  Let it go! Apologize to those who need it and deserve it.  Most importantly, re-energize your being by implementing an attitude of gratitude and keeping things relative! Remember who and what is important! Let the rest be.

And, just a quick note for individuals working to stay energized in an environment of negativity! Revisit  Energy Zapper #3: Drama .The 3 Tips for Staying Recharged will work for Energy Zapper #4: Negativity!

In closing, I so look forward to having Giovanni over for dinner again soon. I know it will be a pleasurable evening filled with wise words and worthy subjects... and Bolton songs!  This young 83’s presence not only completes our dinner table, but his aura complements our souls.


Next time, Energy Zapper #5: Shame!


Friday, August 15, 2014

Energy Zapper #3: Worry! 3 Tips for Staying Recharged!

We are discussing Energy Zappers! What are they? Habits or social behaviors which are a part of of everyday life, but unfortunately do very little to enhance our sense of well-being! Why? Because they deplete us! We've already discussed Energy Zapper #1: Giving Advice! and Energy Zapper #2: Drama! If you haven't read them, go back and do so. You might find them helpful in keeping yourself energized!Today we are going to tackle Energy Zapper #3: Worry! Even if you are not a worrier, please read on. You might be able to help the worrier in your life!

Are you a Worry Bee?

I'm convinced that we are either born worriers or we are not! I'm a Worry Bee and my husband is a Cool Cat! When it comes to worrying, he cannot relate to my busy mind and I cannot relate to easy going attitude! An example of a conversation between us might go something like this:

Me: Honey, the car is making a weird noise. Don't you think we should take it in and have it
Are You A Cool Cat?
looked at?
Dan:  Hmmm, maybe. Let's give it a few days. I'll listen to it. We'll see.
Me: Yes, but what if something happens when I'm driving it? That worries me.
Dan: Ok, I'll check it out. If something doesn't sound right, we'll take it into the shop?
Me: But when? If we don't take care of right away, we could make it worse?
Dan: Holli, don't worry. I'll go check it out in a few minutes. And then we'll go from there.
Me: (still worrying) Okay.

If you are a worrier, can you relate to this? For Dan to tell me not to worry is like me telling him not to get hungry! It just happens naturally. Unfortunately, worrying accomplishes nothing! It does not serve any purpose or produce a positive outcome! Worrying is a real Zapper! Let's take a closer look at it.

 ~Worrying is an obsessive pattern of fearful thinking and feeling 
about the unknown or what might happen ~

Worrying, I believe, is based in fear. Worriers attempt to assuage their fear by trying to anticipate and control their surroundings. This many times creates a hyper-vigilance which can lead to anxiety and nervousness. Chronic worriers often feel depressed, fatigued, frustrated, and even angry. The sad irony about worrying is although it is an instinctual coping mechanism we utilize to calm our fears, it is actually cultivating a more chaotic and depleted spirit. Clearly,worrying has no health benefits.                                                                                                                                                  
For years, I argued the point with my husband that it was because of my worrying that things got
done on time and done well. Wow, did I give worrying way too much credit! Why? Because contrary to my beliefs, worrying did not make me a more efficient or productive person or a better mom- wife - therapist, it just made me more stressed! Not a healthy return on my investment into this negative way of being!

Okay so let's get down to business and examine 3 Tips for Staying Recharged! These three cognitive exercises work! But, you have be patient and diligent as you implement them until they become as natural to you as your worrying!

Tip One: Stop The Thought and Replace It!
Stop and Replace the Worry!

As you go about your day and start to worry - Stop The Thought! Visualize yourself actually identifying the worry, stopping it, scooping it up, and tossing it out of your mind! Then, immediately Replace It with a positive thought! Remember, we cannot think too opposing thoughts at the same time! Some examples are:  This is going to work out! There is no reason to worry - I've know she will be safe. I can't control them; I can only control my own thoughts! I'm letting it go! If the worry comes back, repeat the exercise! Keep practicing. It will get easier.

Play Out The Worry!
Tip Two: What's The Worst Thing That Could Happen?
This exercise may sound a little strange, but it works! Whatever you are worrying about, play out the worry until you cannot go any further with it. It actually starts to sound ridiculous! Let me give you a simple example.

Me: Honey, when our guests come over for dinner, I'd like to eat outside, but I'm worried it might rain.
Dan: Well, let's plan for that. What's the worst that could happen?
Me: It starts raining and we have to bring everything in. And the dinner might get ruined.
Dan: That's true. But what is the worst thing that could happen?
Me: Well, I guess if the dinner was a mess we could order pizza. But, what if our guests don't want pizza?
Dan: Then, we can all go out to eat! What is worse than that?!
Me: I give up! (and start laughing)

Although I realize this might not work for more serious issues, so much of worrying is about insignificant stuff and this works well. Try it! And by the way, you don't need another person to do this exercise, just play it out in your mind.

Tip Three: Trust In The Past! 
This, I think, is the best exercise. I have used this hundred of times and I continue to use it! This is important! For most of us, the things we worry about NEVER come to fruition! Let me say it again, the things we worry about NEVER come to fruition! What we feared would happen, doesn't! So, turn to your experiences and Trust in the Past!  As you start recalling different examples of when you were worried and stressed about a situation, remember your truth -  It all worked out! You got through it!! Give yourself credit! Replay these validations again and again, recharging yourself in the process! Feel yourself as you let go of the fear ~ and trust in what you know.

In closing, many years ago I came across a Swedish Proverb that has stuck with me. It helped me in letting go of my worrying.  I hope it will help you too!

~ Worry Gives A Small Thing A Big Shadow ~

Start today ~ Start  now.
Don't let your worry overshadow you any longer!

 For more helpful tools and resources, visit Holli Kenley.
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Next blog, Energy Zapper #4:  Negativity!

Until then, I'd love to hear from you! What are your Energy Zappers?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Energy Zapper #2: Drama! 3 Tips for Staying Recharged!

We are discussing Energy Zappers! What are they? Habits or social behaviors which are a part of our everyday life, but unfortunately they often do very little to enhance our sense of well-being! Mostly,they deplete us! If you missed last week's blog, please take a read Energy Zapper #1: Giving Advice ! Today, we are going to discuss Energy Zapper #2: Drama!  To be honest with you, I thought this was going to be an easy Zapper to blog about! However, as I have been thinking about it all week, I realized that like a brilliant cut diamond, drama is multi-faceted! At first glance, its attraction is obvious. However, there is much  more to it than meets the eye! As we get started, let's take a look at a few common connotations of drama as we narrow down a definition that suits our purposes.

First, drama has always been and continues to be source of entertainment! Whether it is our favorite TV shows, movies, music, theatre, books, sports, news...and so on, we love not only the art of performance but the creative narratives and imaginative expressions within them. And whether we are drawn to them or not, reality shows have capitalized on manufactured drama, creating a cultural phenomenon!

Secondly, drama has a clinical connotation. Diagnostically, it is referred to as Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD). Although  most of us can be histrionic on occasion, as is true with the other Personality Disorders, an individual with HPD exhibits a pervasive pattern of excessive emotionality and attention seeking beginning in early adulthood and the behavior is apparent in different settings. Although there are numerous criteria that describe a histrionic personality, individuals with HPD are overly lively, dramatic, enthusiastic and unusually open about personal issues - all in an effort to draw attention to themselves. What also distinguishes HPD from extroverted or out-going persons is that if they are not the center of attention, they will typically do or say something dramatic to return the focus of attention on themselves. Although qualities of HPD may be attractive at first, they tend to wear thin or become difficult for others to manage over time. Without minimizing the relationship difficulties of HPD individuals, it is important to note that personality disorders develop as a result of childhood experiences as a means of coping with one's environments.

And thirdly, drama is often used in describing and/or stereotyping  the dynamics of a given familial unit, cultural system, or ethnicity where there are elevated and animated levels of interaction. These dramatic features are typically associated with other characteristics such as loudness, laughter, love, and loyalty to one's heritage or lineage. Some of our most popular TV shows and movies are based on dramatic norms within a culture, and we find enjoyment in them!

As we tackle Energy Zapper #2; Drama, I would like to offer this definition:

A pattern of relational behavior characterized by exaggerating and catastrophizing information for the purposes of drawing attention to oneself and creating disequilibrium among others.

Please read it again...and focus on the words exaggerating (stretching the truth) and catastrophizing (making it worse than it is). 

A pattern of relational behavior characterized by exaggerating and catastrophizing information for the purposes of drawing attention to oneself and creating disequilibrium among others.

What separates this kind of drama from healthy, lively, animated storytelling or relational exchange is not only the individual's pattern of untruthfulness and the worsening of facts, but it is also the individual's motives for creating turmoil or disturbance within an existing peaceful unit. Perhaps right now, as you think about this definition, one or more friends, relatives, or work associates will come to mind. And, you might be saying to yourself, "Ughh...that person always causes so much drama." 

Healthy or Unhealthy Drama? 
As I mentioned in last week's blog, I have struggled with each of the Energy Zappers in one way or another - mostly working on minimizing them in my way of being. At the same time, I realize that we are all so very unique, and thus, each of the Energy Zappers affects us all differently. However, I do want to offer an unusual insight into the anatomy of drama which I believe holds true for almost all of us!

At first glace or exposure to drama, we are attracted to it!
 Seeing it, hearing it, and even participating in it feels good - at least in the moment! 
That rush...that heightened sense of interest...that urge to want to know more pulls us in! 
And then, because of those elevated sensory emotions along with those sensational details,
 we eagerly anticipate and desire more! 

The tricky part of drama is knowing whether what pulls us in and excites us is energizing in healthy ways or if it is really depleting our being. And perhaps, it is both! As we look at 3 Tips for Staying Recharged, you will have to be the judge! 

Tip One: Be aware of drama - all kinds! 
As we've already discovered, drama is all around us!  It's a part of our culture! It's in our families, our romances, in our places of work, and all over the social  networking sites! It is everywhere! So, be aware of its ubiquity by keeping your drama antenna up! Then, go on to Tip Two!

Tip Two: Know yourself!           

As you become more aware of the drama around you, begin to identify it as being either healthy or unhealthy for you - not anyone else, just you! What do I mean? Let me give you an example. My sister and I have a little saying about how each of us responds to drama. She's like a duck - everything pretty much just rolls off her back. If she is in a situation or relationship that involves drama, she handles it with respect and reason. Afterwards, she can walk away and leave it behind her.
On the other hand, I'm like a sponge - when I am around drama, I absorb all the negativity and toxicity of it. I feel like I have to wring myself out in order to feel well again! Another example is a friend of mine who shared with me that she is sort of in-between.  She said, "After I've been around drama, I feel like I've been wrapped in a smelly old blanket! I just have to shake it off! And then, I'm fine!" So, know yourself. Whether you are a duck, sponge, or in-between, keep a pulse on your being and then move on to Tip Three!

Tip Three:  Decide on your degree of exposure or level of participation!
Although there are some exceptions, most of time we can control our level of participation in drama or our exposure to drama. It's up to us to make healthy decisions for ourselves. Keep these two boundaries in mind:

  • Boundaries regarding exposure. I often say, the degree of exposure to someone or consumption of something is a predictor of the degree of consequence - either positive or negative! Do what is healthy for you! You decide how much or how little you want to spend time with someone or do something that you know will involve drama. And you know how it will affect you!Take care of yourself. Set solid boundaries around your degree of exposure to and consumption of drama and implement them!    
    Set & Implement Boundaries!
  • Boundaries regarding participation. Drama can be happening all around you and you can choose not to participate. Of course there are the obvious choices of leaving the room, or walking away from the situation, or turning off your electronic devices, etc.  Or, you can implement two communication tools - reflect and redirect. By calmly reflecting back a drama-infused comment in a rational manner (so the individual knows he/she was heard) and then redirecting the conversation to a different topic usually will curtail drama, at least for the moment. Try it out. If it works, great! If the drama continues, implement stronger boundaries such as excusing yourself from the conversation or exiting the situation. You are not being rude; you are taking care of yourself!

In closing, there is no denying that much like the brilliant cut diamond, drama - at the very least -entices us! As you work on Staying Recharged, ask yourself ~

 Does drama connect with my being causing my spirit to sparkle and shine?
Does drama consume my energy contributing to the suffocation of my serene existence? 

~ Whatever You Decide...

 ...Know Yourself and Honor Your Health ~

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Next blog:  Energy Zapper #3: Worrying!

Until then, I'd love to hear from you!  What are some of your Energy Zappers?!

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