stress

The Rumination Antidote

Do you find yourself continually lost in thought? Do you find that as you go about your daily business at work, at home, or out with friends, negative thoughts seem to intrude into your consciousness and distract you from being present in the moment? Do you find that your mind swirls uncontrollably as you recount past negative experiences, one after the other? Once you start, do you find it impossible to stop and feel as though your mind has completely taken over?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you could suffer from rumination. Side effects of rumination include anxiety, depression, stress, fatigue, health problems, selfishness, and sour relationships. If you are prone to ruminating, don’t worry. The good news is that you’re not alone — and I know the secret antidote!

For many years, I myself suffered from rumination. When something bad happened in my life, I found it nearly impossible to move on from it because I felt like my mind kept mulling it over and over and over and over. Even if something bad happened three years previously, my mind would ruminate about it like the bad event had happened yesterday. There was no escape! I felt like my mind was continually holding me as a prisoner. For many years, I felt helplessly enslaved to my own mind.

It took me a long time, but eventually I realized that the situations that happened in my life were not the problem. The problem, I discovered, was that I kept ruminating about the negative situations in my life. It was the ruminating that paralyzed me from moving forward, not the events themselves.

Once I understood this, it took me awhile before I discovered the secret antidote. Eventually, I discovered the antidote in a book called How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie. In this book, Carnegie describes the critical thinking method, which is by far the most invaluable piece of advice that I have ever received in my life. By practicing critical thinking every day, I was soon able to gain control of the thoughts that continually swirled around in my mind and I was able to think of solutions to move forward. Not only that, but I could actually take action; as a result, I could cease thinking about the same problems over and over again.

So how does it work?

Good critical thinking skills employ the following steps:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. What is the cause of the problem?
  3. What are my goals?
  4. What are all solutions to the problem?
  5. What is the best solution to the problem?

All you have to do to unpack a problem– ie) controlling the swirling thoughts that ruminate around in your mind– is to sit down and write out the answers to these questions on a piece of paper.

Absolutely revolutionary. What. A. Genius!

Not only does the critical thinking method allow you to remove the thoughts from your mind, but it also allows you to unpack the problem and actually think about solutions to the problem. In addition, it helps you to reframe your mind from one of negativity (thinking about a problem) to one of positivity (thinking about your goals and solutions). Huzzah!

Once you practice critical thinking, then you will start to really think through the decisions you make. Eventually you will become so good at this that you will start to make really good decisions on your own. Consequently, you will rely less on other people’s advice and perspective and rely more on your own. As a result of this, you will build a self worth and a trust in yourself simply because you have the knowledge that you can make great decisions all by yourself.

When you think about it, rumination is actually a combination of 1) anxiety, 2) unforgiveness, and 3) victim mentality. People who ruminate frequently are paralyzed with fear of taking action because they do not know how to avoid repeating the same negative event or circumstance again in the future. People who ruminate frequently are simply blaming other people or circumstances for their own misfortune in life. They do not know how to move forward because they are stuck in the same bad circumstances from the past, as bitter victims.

As I learned, the best way to un-stick yourself from the past is to learn how to forgive the people who hurt you and to cultivate an accountability mindset. Learn how to examine the situation from both sides to determine what role you played in causing your own current situation of misfortune and then learn how to grow from it. Improve yourself to be better or to act differently so that you can avoid similar misfortune in the future. Lastly, cultivate a mindset of accountability and responsibility.

Remember: You, and you alone, are responsible for your current circumstances and your life. If you do not like something, then think critically about it and then take action to change it. This is the secret antidote.

 

Advertisements

Become a Master of Time Management

For some people, time management comes very easily. Starting from the time that they first crawl out of the cradle, they already know how to be early for things, wake up in the morning, and set up a schedule with all of their activities neatly aligned and time-blocked. These people know how to plan very effectively. These people also know how to correctly estimate how much time it realistically takes to do everything.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I am not one of these fortunate people who came out of the womb with all of her ducks in a row. Time management skills are not a talent that have ever come easily to me. For the past two years, I have agonized and struggled to become even  proficient at this, let alone become a master. That being said, the good news is that if I can learn it, anyone can! Read on for the tiresome fruits of my labor my tips.

Step #1: Figure out exactly how long it takes you to do everything.

I’m not even kidding. Become attached to your watch, or your phone, or however else you tell time (a sundial? is that even still a thing?) and write down how long it takes you to go to the gym, clean the kitchen, brush your teeth, commute to work, scroll through Facebook, etc. You may need to do this a few times to get a consistent idea of how long each activity actually takes you.

Side note: commuting to work (or commuting anywhere for that matter) does not take the exact amount of time that it tells you it does when you research your route on Google maps. Not only do you have to drive there (the amount of time that you researched), but you also have to walk from your house to your car. Then you have to put all of your stuff into your car. Then once you arrive in the work parking lot, then you have to walk from your car into the office with all of your stuff. Then you have to punch in, get coffee, and be “early” to impress the higher-ups. Translation: a 15-minute commute on Google maps actually takes at least 30 minutes, if not more. And that’s not even accounting for traffic jams, lane closures, road construction, and detours.

Once you know how long it takes you to do everything (realistically), the next step is to organize everything you need to do.

Step #2: Organize everything.

It’s not just about deciding what time of day that you should do certain things on your list. It’s about also thinking realistically about what time you actually gravitate towards doing certain things. If you do not take the time to do this, chances are you will not be very successful in following through on your schedule (unless you have super-human long-term consistency skills, accountability skills, and emotional stability).

For example, you might have the best intentions to wake up at 5 am to work out. But will you? Or will you just end up hitting the snooze button 30+ times because you’re not a morning person and you don’t want to wake up, and then get mad at yourself for not following through on your commitment to yourself (guilty)? Maybe you will be more successful if you put your workout after work instead, because then you would be working in your strength zone (being a night owl). Working with yourself, instead of against yourself, is key.

That being said, this step in particular takes quite a bit of practice if you are not used to thinking realistically about what order you should do different activities. You may need to create different versions of your schedule, try them out, and then revise/tweak them until you find a progression of activities that actually works well for you and your energy needs.

Step #3: Managing your to-do list.

Before I studied time management skills, I always felt completely swamped and overwhelmed by what I coined “annoying phone calls” – aka spending three hours on the phone with some company trying to resolve a conflict or issue and then having it turn into a huge ordeal/crisis each time.

Pro tip: call at a time when not many other people are calling. At first I thought that calling in the morning was best, but in reality almost all other people also call in the morning. Generally people think that they are being smart and so they try to call before they have to go to work, but because everyone else also thinks that they are being smart by calling in before work, it simply does not work. I’ve found that calling in the early afternoon (1 pm) is best. If you call at 1 pm, not only are you calling in after all the lunch break callers are finished, but you also have the benefit that the person you’re speaking with also probably just took their lunch break and is now in a great mood, therefore actually wanting to help you. Problem solved.

In addition to refining the timing of when you call, also make sure to divy the calls and errands up into small chunks each day so that they are not so overwhelming. Invest in a daily planner and write yourself a note to call your credit card company on Monday, the insurance company on Tuesday, the bank on Wednesday, etc. What I find helpful is to spend a little bit of time thinking and planning your errands and phone calls for the week each Sunday and then divying them up into your personal planner.

Step #4: Actually completing the household chores.

For those of you reading this who aspire to some day hiring a personal assistant to take care of all this #$*%, I feel you. I am one of them. If you have a spouse or a roommate who actually enjoys doing these things (just like natural time managers, some people come out of the womb and actually enjoy cleaning. Again, I am not one of them.), then I am somewhat jealous of you but also wish that you would be more selfless and help that person out. If you already have a personal assistant who does it, I hate you.

If you don’t have an obliging spouse or roommate and you do not have a personal assistant, the good news is that once you have steps 1-3 down, step #4 should be a piece of cake. Once you know how long it takes you to clean the bathroom, clean the kitchen, do laundry, clean your room, change your sheets and towels, water your plants, back up your computer, update your iPod, go grocery shopping, cook meals, do your budget, do your tax log, and do your mileage tracker, then you are already in pretty good shape. Knowledge is power.

The next step is, of course, to organize (step #2) and divide and conquer (step #3). When do you feel more inclined to complete these chores? Some people prefer to lump-sum all of them and dedicate their whole Saturday towards doing it. Other people prefer to split it up and do some of it each morning before work. Other people split it up differently and do some chores on the weekdays and some chores on the weekends. Again, no two people are alike and you can totally customize this to your strength zone.

Step #5: Handling a crisis.

Ah, the crisis. This one will be very quick. Is it really a crisis, or are you just procrastinating on the work that you actually need to do???!

Ahem.

Step #6: Prioritization.

Once you generally know how to schedule according to your strength zone, and once you have all the annoying bits in check so that you can truthfully refer to yourself as a Responsible Person, then the next step is to prioritize and fine-tune your schedule so that you are working every day to achieve your life goals.

What if you don’t have any life goals? Well, get some! Become passionate about something and go for it. Develop some #ambition (or in my case, #BlondeAmbition).

Once you have a list of your goals, you will need to spend some time planning the sub-steps (or “deadlines,” if you prefer) in which you will work to complete them. Once you have the sub-steps identified, then you can determine the daily habits that you need to put into place in order to get yourself there. Then you can update your schedule accordingly to include your daily habits. This may require some juggling and shuffling in other areas in order to prioritize your daily habits, but it will all be worth it in the end. Trust.

Help! All of goals seem to collide with each other and there are simply not enough hours in the day for me to complete everything!!! What do I do???!!!

This was me for a very long time, so I feel you. The good news is, I worked my way through it, and so can you. In my next post I will cover this topic in more detail.

Anyway, there you have it! If you follow these 6 Steps consistently and work to improve, then you will become a Master of Time Management in no time.

The Six Main Self-Care Areas for Adults

If you’re like most adults, you struggle greatly with finding balance and meaning in your life. You might be asking yourself, “Who am I, really? What is my purpose in life? How can I serve and give back to others? How am I supposed to accomplish my life’s purpose at the same time as working a full-time job, managing my home, maintaining good relationships, and taking care of myself?”

Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, the majority of us were not taught how to balance our lives in school, nor were we taught how to create a meaningful life, legacy, and impact for ourselves. That being said, don’t let this deter you! Regardless of what age you are, there is always a chance to start fresh and change your life in a positive direction in order to produce the best results possible. All it takes is some prioritization, focus, determination, and diligence, and balance will be yours. As long as you maintain an eagerness to learn and a willingness to change your mindset, then the world will truly be your oyster.

So what is the best way to get started? There is a lot that goes into balancing your life, as well as many questions to ask. “How much time should I spend working? How do I build my financial empire? How often should I cook and clean? How often should I go to the gym? How often should I see my friends and family? How often should I work on my to-do list? How do I make good decisions? How do I manage and prevent crises? How often should I take a break, relax, and de-stress?”

Those are just the questions that apply to your life in the moment. There are also larger-scale questions to think about, such as, “how much time should I spend thinking about life in the moment vs life in the big picture? How do I achieve my goals in life at the same time as taking care of myself properly? When is it appropriate to be selfless and when it is it appropriate to be selfish? How much of my time should be spent trying to excel in this life, vs how much should be spent preparing for the next life (in a spiritual sense)?”

If a there’s a lot that goes into balancing your life, and there’s a lot of questions to ask, where do we even begin? How do we even begin to tackle this complicated problem?

To start with, I will share with you the six main self-care areas for adults. In order to achieve balance in your life, you must master the following areas:

  1. Self-Care. If it is your goal to serve and give back to others in life, then you must first be able to serve and give back to yourself. Take care of yourself mentally, physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually, and see your ability to help others soar. Self-care is the foundation for living a lengthy, prosperous, and vivacious life.
  2. Mindset and Attitude. If you would like to maintain healthy relationships with others, you again must first start with yourself. Cultivate an abundance mindset of selflessness, patience, grace, empathy, and forgiveness (after all, isn’t this the attitude that you would like others to take when they relate to you?). Take the time to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses as a person and work to improve yourself as needed.
  3. Much of our stress in life comes from unhealthy, toxic relationships. Become a master of good conflict resolution, boundaries and standards, expectations, laws, and rules of society in order to maintain good relationships with others. Be prepared to snip or limit the time you spend with others if necessary.
  4. Learn how to make better decisions in your life that will achieve the optimal result. Employ critical thinking skills (what a lifesaver!) to navigate personal and professional issues. Learn how to prevent crises from happening in your life and how to mitigate them once they do.
  5. Time Management. Much of our stress in life comes from poor time management skills. Take back control of your time, instead of having your time control you. Organize your schedule, to-do list, goals, thoughts, and mind. Streamline for better efficiency and set realistic goals for easing yourself into your schedule. Allow time for planning and reflecting in order to improve your system.
  6. In addition to better managing your relationships and your time, you should also spend some time in self-discovery mode. Much of our stress in life comes from lack of alignment with ourselves in our lives. Spend some time determining who you are, what you stand for, what your purpose is, and what your goals and dreams are. Once you know all of this, just go do it! Seek full alignment with yourself and start today.

With a complete mastery in all of these areas, you will significantly manage and reduce the amount of stress you feel in your life. Not only that, but you will be on track to achieve greatness in your life and you will be able to set out to help others. There is no better balance than being relaxed, healthy, happy, and set on a vision!