LESSONS FROM A RIVER

August 16th, 2017 No comments

Jean, Linz Budapest

Lucky me, I got to go on a Viking River Cruise up the Danube River, starting in Budapest and ending in Passau, Germany. What amazed me was how the river affected everything. First thing in the morning I’d open my curtains and see it flowing by. We ate breakfast looking at the gray-green water swirling around us (sorry, but the Danube isn’t blue) and at the other ships going by. We got off the boat and did walking and bus tours, but then, happily came back to our boat. And at night, as I was falling asleep, I could feel the force of the river as we cruised.

One night I had trouble sleeping so I got up and opened the curtains. I gasped as I was faced with total blackness. My poor husband thought I’d hurt myself, but when I burst out laughing he realized I was okay. We were in a lock and were so close to the walls, I could touch them. And then, as if by magic, in the morning, we were at a new  port.

It was always there. It sustained busy boat traffic and was lined by parks, forests, old churches and castles in the surrounding hills. It never stopped moving but invited me to stillness. I loved being up on the top deck, just watching. As it rushed by on its way to the Black Sea, its simple lesson was be here now. Discover. Enjoy.

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“NOT MY CIRCUS, NOT MY MONKEY”

July 26th, 2017 2 comments

not my circus

Maybe you’ve heard this wonderful Polish expression before, but I just came upon on and love it! It is the best advice for those of us who like to solve problems. Who are compassionate. Okay, even maybe a little bossy. Every time I say it aloud, I laugh, which we all know is the best medicine. But the great thing about this phrase is that it helps me step back and make a choice–get involved, not get involved? It helps me remember that I’m not running things. It puts me in my right place. And if I were going to get a tattoo, which I’m not, I would have these words imprinted on my arm, or running up my leg. If I were a composer, I’d turn it into a song. So, being just me, I’ll share it with you.  I hope it makes you giggle and helps you through your day.

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YOUR HAPPINESS RECIPE

July 11th, 2017 1 comment

I was reading an article recently about mood boosters, and one of the suggestions–familiar to all my stop burnout buddies–is to practice gratitude. But when the dog pees on the floor, you have a problem paying a bill,  your children act up, work piles on more work, how can you be grateful? How can you get yourself out of a really bad mood?

This made me realize that each of us has a happiness recipe–something or some things that lift our spirits, make us laugh, give us perspective. One friend of mine uses humor, and her laughter muscle is so well developed, that she can laugh at almost everything. I find that being outside, taking a walk or zipping around on my bike, makes me feel better. Not 100% better, but less likely to snap. For others it’s giving back, and for still others it might be writing in a journal or painting a picture or taking some amazing photos.

Challenge:  take five minutes today, no matter how busy the day is, to think about  your happiness recipe. When you look at all the burnout busters, we know the things that help, whether it’s exercise, wine, time with grandchildren, giving back. The trick is to give yourself the time, the gift of turning yourself around. Ready for the challenge? Can you take a swim after work, or go the park for a picnic with your kids? Have a clear image of what works for you. Here’s mine–floating in the water with my twin grandsons! IMG_2765 (1)

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A LESSON FROM SUMMER

June 21st, 2017 1 comment

I love all the seasons, but being a bit of a speed freak, summer is a good season for me as it slows me down. I’m content to sit outside and enjoy the warmth, listen to the birds, mess about in the garden. It’s exciting to harvest the first vegetables, and this year, thanks to a lot of rain, my roses are amazing. Summer is also a nostalgic time for me as I remember my childhood summers:  long days of swimming, playing with my cousins and brother and sister, eating outside, going barefoot, hanging my legs over the side of my father’s boat as we explored the Connecticut River.

One of the lessons I’ve learned from summer is that slowing down doesn’t mean dropping out. In fact, taking time can allow the things that are most important to surface. For example, yesterday I had an endless of list of things to do to continue promoting my book, but because I wasn’t in a rush, because I sat outside and thought about what really matters to me, I decided that those things could wait. And instead I worked on a new book–one for children–called “Bella and the Cat Who Thought He Was A Dog.” And this story, came from an amazing thing my childhood cat did when one of our dogs was attacked by a neighbor’s dog. He rushed into the fray, scratching and biting the other dog, until he fled howling.

Where it goes is anyone’s guess, but it felt good to complete it and submit it to my publisher. As I told a classroom of high school seniors a few months back, there are many ways to give yourself the gift of time. One habit I’ve taught myself, is to arrive for appointments about ten minutes early. I know, I can already hear you thinking to yourselves–That’s crazy. I can barely make it on time! The challenge I gave the seniors was to do it for a week–get to school ten minutes early. And then notice how the day goes. Notice how your relationships change. Be aware how kindness blossoms when you’re not in a rush. It’s summer. Take a deep breath and enjoy it.

 

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WHY NOT A LITTLE CHAOS?

June 6th, 2017 2 comments

I don’t know about you, but in my world, “chaos” is a bad word. It’s something I try really hard to avoid with my spreadsheets, calendars, lists (yes I know I wrote about this in my last post). I even plan our menus for the week so that I don’t have to run to the store at the last minute.

But last week, my husband, who volunteers at a local animal shelter, fell in love. There was something about this puppy that got to him. The next day, we brought Bella, our ten-year-old therapy dog to meet the puppy. She basically ignored him so we thought, “Oh, this will be easy.”

It’s not. Last Thursday Rudy came home. He was so frightened in the car that he threw up and pooped. Once we got him cleaned up, we walked both dogs so that they could meet again on neutral territory. Bella was puzzled but okay. But once Rudy came into the house (and he’s only allowed in the mud room and kitchen until he’s house trained), Bella snarled at him through the gate. She wasn’t any friendlier outside, but now, day six, we see small signs of detente. We had them both loose in the back yard and there was some avoidance, but no snarling. The ice might be melting. Our cat, Henry is stunned but won’t defend himself when Rudy knocks him over. Yes, we’ve got chaos. But it’s strangely okay.

I’m trying to take a kind of Zen approach to it all, to see what happens and to untangle myself from my normal expectations. Okay, not much work gets done. So what if the kitchen floor is dirty? He’s sweet. He likes to fall asleep in my arms. Maybe charm really is stronger than chaos. One day I hope he’ll be a therapy dog like Bella. I hope he’ll be able to comfort people who are hurting. Yesterday, when Bella and I were at our local hospital, we visited a boy in the emergency psych ward. He was only 11 and was in a room by himself. I asked him if Bella could get up on his bed and he nodded. She curled up next to him. He touched her velvety ears and for those few seconds, I thought he looked less alone and unafraid. After several minutes, we said goodbye, and as we walked past the armed guard outside his door, I knew we would make it through the chaos.

 

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DITCH THE LISTS!

May 17th, 2017 2 comments

harbor

Okay, why is there a photo of beautiful Stonington harbor in a blog about not letting lists run our lives? Because this is where I live, and when I free myself from the “must’s”, “should’s”, and “gotta’s”, I can sit quietly and look as the harbor fills with boats.

A little background. Come late fall, most of the boats are gone. By December it’s empty as the cold winds sweep through. But here we are in May, and the boaters are a hopeful bunch and are busy getting ready for the summer season. It’s like a migration and the tall masts are back, swaying in the spring breeze.

We talk a lot about mindfulness and how important it is to be present. And those of you who have attended my “Stop Burnout!” talks, know it’s a powerful stress buster. But here’s the catch for me. I’m a doer, a list maker, and I love the satisfaction of checking things off my list. And the things I don’t get done are like mosquitoes–they follow me around, they buzz in my ear, they demand attention. But yesterday as I walked my dog, Bella, I made a conscious decision to ditch the lists, to stop and smell the lilies of the valley that are growing at the side of the road, and when we got to a huge boulder, we climbed up it and sat in the sun. We stopped. We weren’t in a hurry.

I gave a talk to a group of high school seniors on Monday, and I asked them how many of them either rush into school just as the bell is ringing or are late? All the hands went up. I then challenged them to get to school ten minutes early for a week. To do it and pay attention to how they feel. How does that relaxed time change the whole day? How does not being in a rush foster kindness?

Yeah, I know, most of them won’t try, but maybe you will. Maybe, like me, you’ll find some special moments where the lists are in the background, out of the way. Give it a try!

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IT FINALLY HAPPENED!

April 19th, 2017 No comments

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Look what the tree in my side yard decided to do. It’s a miracle after a long winter. As a speaker who helps groups stop burnout and who shares stories of my therapy dog, Bella, and her amazing work, I was thinking who needs words when there is something like this tree bursting into pink blossoms? Take a moment today to notice what this new season has to offer.

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STRESS? ME? JOIN THE SPRING CHALLENGE

April 6th, 2017 No comments

I was reading an article by Paula Davis Laack–a leader in the stop burnout world–and she suggested a number of quick ways to work on managing stress while at work–while under pressure. So instead of telling you her ideas or mine, (but here’s the link if you want to read them for yourself:  https://www.pauladavislaack.com/ and click on “Get Strong Now”), I thought it would be fun to see what ideas you have.

What you can do today no matter what you’re juggling? Can you take ten deep breaths on the way to the rest room? Can you close your eyes and quiet your mind before you eat lunch? What works for you? For those of you who have attended my stop burnout talk, remember the power of gratitude. Is there a problem you’re struggling with that you can look at differently, realizing that it’s also an opportunity?

Lastly, remember that stress is a motivator. It’s also a good part of being alive, often bringing out our best efforts. So watch what you tell yourself. Instead of repeating, “Oh, I ‘m so stressed out,” try replacing that with “I’ve got some challenges that are taking me to interesting places.” Is that too corny? Tulips

Yes, I know it’s really fun to complain, so you can give yourself some of that too, just don’t let it become a habit. Please share your ideas. I know they’ll be a gift to others.

P.S. It’s gray and rainy here in the Northeast so I’m thinking tulips!

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HOW TO GIVE WINTER A PROPER GOODBYE

February 28th, 2017 2 comments

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Here are snow drops, bravely blooming on this last day of February in Connecticut. My mother always looked for them and for skunk cabbage in the marshes just when winter seemed to be lasting forever. They were a sure sign that spring was on its way, even though there might still be snow on the ground.

This got me thinking about change, and what winter things I might want to do before the real spring arrives. So instead of just waiting for spring, I thought it would be interesting to see how to say goodbye to winter. Let’s look at two categories:

Girl stuff:  girls like to clean out closets, reorganize drawers, get junk out of the basement, have a clear inventory of what they have, and in small ways and large, create order out of chaos. Time Magazine, in the February 27th/March 6th issue, has a wonderful article by Scott Sonenshein on “How to create more from what you already have.” As he writes:  “the science of stretching offers an effective, more fulfilling alternative that invigorates us to do more without needing more.” And he adds at the end of the article:  “You already have everything you need to succeed. Just stretch.”

That is exciting. It’s like yoga for the mind. It taps into our creativity, and the fun of improvising. Okay, now on to the boy stuff:  boys often like to build things, fix things, figure out how things work, split wood, make noise, make a mess, be outdoors. And of course many girls like these things too, just as many boys may be really good at cooking, cleaning, organizing.

Think of one thing you can do today that helps you say goodbye to winter. It might be doing something that you won’t want to do once the weather is nice outside. It could be giving yourself time to look at the seed catalogs and start planning your garden. Or it might be seeing what kind of soup you can make with what you already have in your kitchen. Just like the brave snowdrops that make me smile every time I see them, find something that gives you the same kind of lift as a warm, spring day.

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HOW TO SPEND A SNOW DAY

February 10th, 2017 No comments

Henry (our cat) and Bella (our dog) know how to enjoy the perfect day when outside winds are howling and the snow is drifting against the house. A good lesson, don’t you think? No stress or burnout!

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