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Accepting uncertainty-- We can be happy without all the answers

Accepting uncertainty-- We can be happy without all the answers | Cultural Trendz |

“The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably deal with.” ~Tony Robbins

I’ve recently begun to feel as though I am at a crossroads in my career and, as a result, have been feeling very uncomfortable.

I love what I do, working with clients and mentoring new therapists, however, I’m also a mom to two little ones and am feeling the ache of the impermanence of their childhood. This has left me wanting to spend more time at home with them and, therefore, possibly working less.

If you would have asked me when I was twenty-five years old, I knew with absolute certainty that I would never want to be a stay-at-home mom.

In fact, most of my life has been colored by a laser-sharp determination and an absolute knowing of what my next step was going to be. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and a lot of a control freak!

Today, I’m sitting in a much different place; today, I’m sitting in uncertainty. I don’t know what the next step will be for me.

There are so many unknowns at this point: do I want to work or do I want to stay home, what other options do I have, where can my practice grow from here, where can I grow from here, and so on. My automatic response to this uncertainty is to obsess endlessly until I figure it out.

However, what I’ve come to realize is that all of my ideas of “knowing” actually block me from the truth more than they reveal it.

Uncertainty makes us feel vulnerable and so we try and escape it any way that we can.

We convince ourselves that we are fortune tellers and can therefore see the future. We make ourselves crazy, spinning our minds through the same handful of scenarios we come up with, over and over again, never feeling any closer to some sort of resolution.

However, it seems a great paradox of life that it is actually through embracing the uncertainty that we thrive. Our lives are greatly determined by what we do when we get uncertain.

Without uncertainty, we might never grow because we would never be pushed beyond our comfort zones.

Many of us have experienced staying in a soul-sucking job or an unhealthy relationship because the uncertainty of leaving those situations created more anxiety than the certainty of staying in those unhappy situations.

Many people do not end up following their true passions because it is seemingly impractical, or because there is a large degree of perceived uncertainty associated with following that path.

There are no guarantees when we step into the unknown. But it is in these periods of discomfort that life’s most important adventures can arise.

Making peace with uncertainty requires courage, faith, and trust that you will in fact be taken care of, that no matter what happens, you’ll find a way through it, that you don’t have to have all of the answers today.

Contrary to popular ideas, not knowing exactly what will happen next in our lives is okay. In fact, it is actually liberating.

The ability to let go, not know, and not try to totally control what will happen next is a necessary skill for living happy, joyous, and free.

Most spiritual practices ask us to consider the possibility that there is a power greater than ourselves at work and, therefore, it is okay to let go of the reigns sometimes.

I have found it easier to let go in many circumstances when I’m able to recognize that I’m not the only force at play, that there are circumstances far beyond my control that are impacting life and what the future holds.

If we fixate on “solving” problems, we tend to get tunnel-visioned and we walk around with blinders on, failing to see the possibilities.

We can’t embrace a new uncertain future when we are fully attached to our old lives or an idea of how we think something should be.  

I have found that when I am in that anxious, fearful state, where I’m trying figure it all out on my own, that noise in my head that is trying to control everything will often drown out my intuition.

When we accept that things are unknown, that we don’t have all of the answers, we can see that teachings are always available if we are paying attention. When we trust, let go, and embrace the uncertainty, that noise in our own minds subsides.

Ironically, the quietness created by letting go of the need to know then allows contact with our own intuition, and we actually get clearer direction from within our own hearts and we can feel more certain about this direction.   

I’ve heard it said that the furthest distance in the universe is from the head to the heart, but it is in stillness that we find this path. It is in the quiet space that we can get out of our heads and connect more deeply with ourselves, thereby allowing ourselves to be open to the possibilities when they arrive.

I have found meditation to be an incredibly useful tool to facilitate this connection. Carving out time in my day specifically for getting quiet and getting still has allowed me to find some peace with the fact that, for today, I don’t have all the answers of what’s going to happen next.

I’m able to set mindful intentions for myself to remain present and aware throughout my day, within the context that I am proceeding onto a new path in my life. With fearful dialogue in my head quieted, this skill is enhanced and I am open to new possibilities.

I will continue learning to listen to my heart, which let’s me know that I am okay even though I don’t have all of the answers.

And you are too.

Vilma Bonilla's insight:

Good insight.

Ivon Prefontaine's curator insight, February 26, 8:05 PM

We have to be happy without all the answers. There are always more questions and uncertainty than their are answers. That is what makes it interesting.

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How Successful People Stay Calm

How Successful People Stay Calm | Cultural Trendz |

The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control.

If you’ve followed my work, you’ve read some startling research summaries that explore the havoc stress can wreak on one’s physical and mental health (such as the Yale study, which found that prolonged stress causes degeneration in the area of the brain responsible for self-control). The tricky thing about stress (and the anxiety that comes with it) is that it’s an absolutely necessary emotion. Our brains are wired such that it’s difficult to take action until we feel at least some level of this emotional state. In fact, performance peaks under the heightened activation that comes with moderate levels of stress. As long as the stress isn’t prolonged, it’s harmless.

New research from the University of California, Berkeley, reveals an upside to experiencing moderate levels of stress. But it also reinforces how important it is to keep stress under control. The study, led by post-doctoral fellow Elizabeth Kirby, found that the onset of stress entices the brain into growing new cells responsible for improved memory. However, this effect is only seen when stress is intermittent. As soon as the stress continues beyond a few moments into a prolonged state, it suppresses the brain’s ability to develop new cells.

“I think intermittent stressful events are probably what keeps the brain more alert, and you perform better when you are alert,” Kirby says. For animals, intermittent stress is the bulk of what they experience, in the form of physical threats in their immediate environment. Long ago, this was also the case for humans. As the human brain evolved and increased in complexity, we’ve developed the ability to worry and perseverate on events, which creates frequent experiences of prolonged stress.

Besides increasing your risk of heart disease, depression, and obesity, stress decreases your cognitive performance. Fortunately, though, unless a lion is chasing you, the bulk of your stress is subjective and under your control. Top performers have well-honed coping strategies that they employ under stressful circumstances. This lowers their stress levels regardless of what’s happening in their environment, ensuring that the stress they experience is intermittent and not prolonged.

While I’ve run across numerous effective strategies that successful people employ when faced with stress, what follows are ten of the best. Some of these strategies may seem obvious, but the real challenge lies in recognizing when you need to use them and having the wherewithal to actually do so in spite of your stress.

They Appreciate What They Have

Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for isn’t merely the “right” thing to do. It also improves your mood, because it reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23%. Research conducted at the University of California, Davis found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood, energy, and physical well-being. It’s likely that lower levels of cortisol played a major role in this.

They Avoid Asking “What If?”

“What if?” statements throw fuel on the fire of stress and worry. Things can go in a million different directions, and the more time you spend worrying about the possibilities, the less time you’ll spend focusing on taking action that will calm you down and keep your stress under control. Calm people know that asking “what if? will only take them to a place they don’t want—or need—to go.

They Stay Positive

Positive thoughts help make stress intermittent by focusing your brain’s attention onto something that is completely stress-free. You have to give your wandering brain a little help by consciously selecting something positive to think about. Any positive thought will do to refocus your attention. When things are going well, and your mood is good, this is relatively easy. When things are going poorly, and your mind is flooded with negative thoughts, this can be a challenge. In these moments, think about your day and identify one positive thing that happened, no matter how small. If you can’t think of something from the current day, reflect on the previous day or even the previous week. Or perhaps you’re looking forward to an exciting event that you can focus your attention on. The point here is that you must have something positive that you’re ready to shift your attention to when your thoughts turn negative.

They Disconnect

Given the importance of keeping stress intermittent, it’s easy to see how taking regular time off the grid can help keep your stress under control. When you make yourself available to your work 24/7, you expose yourself to a constant barrage of stressors. Forcing yourself offline and even—gulp!—turning off your phone gives your body a break from a constant source of stress. Studies have shown that something as simple as an email break can lower stress levels.

Technology enables constant communication and the expectation that you should be available 24/7. It is extremely difficult to enjoy a stress-free moment outside of work when an email that will change your train of thought and get you thinking (read: stressing) about work can drop onto your phone at any moment. If detaching yourself from work-related communication on weekday evenings is too big a challenge, then how about the weekend? Choose blocks of time where you cut the cord and go offline. You’ll be amazed at how refreshing these breaks are and how they reduce stress by putting a mental recharge into your weekly schedule. If you’re worried about the negative repercussions of taking this step, first try doing it at times when you’re unlikely to be contacted—maybe Sunday morning. As you grow more comfortable with it, and as your coworkers begin to accept the time you spend offline, gradually expand the amount of time you spend away from technology.

They Limit Their Caffeine Intake

Drinking caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is the source of the “fight-or-flight” response, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favor of a faster response. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re responding to a curt email. When caffeine puts your brain and body into this hyperaroused state of stress, your emotions overrun your behavior. The stress that caffeine creates is far from intermittent, as its long half-life ensures that it takes its sweet time working its way out of your body.

They Sleep

I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present. Stressful projects often make you feel as if you have no time to sleep, but taking the time to get a decent night’s sleep is often the one thing keeping you from getting things under control.

They Squash Negative Self-Talk

A big step in managing stress involves stopping negative self-talk in its tracks. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that—thoughts, not facts. When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things, your inner voice says, “It’s time to stop and write them down.” Literally stop what you’re doing and write down what you’re thinking. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity.

You can bet that your statements aren’t true any time you use words like “never,” “worst,” “ever,” etc. If your statements still look like facts once they’re on paper, take them to a friend or colleague you trust and see if he or she agrees with you. Then the truth will surely come out. When it feels like something always or never happens, this is just your brain’s natural threat tendency inflating the perceived frequency or severity of an event. Identifying and labeling your thoughts as thoughts by separating them from the facts will help you escape the cycle of negativity and move toward a positive new outlook.

They Reframe Their Perspective

Stress and worry are fueled by our own skewed perception of events. It’s easy to think that unrealistic deadlines, unforgiving bosses, and out-of-control traffic are the reasons we’re so stressed all the time. You can’t control your circumstances, but you can control how you respond to them. So before you spend too much time dwelling on something, take a minute to put the situation in perspective. If you aren’t sure when you need to do this, try looking for clues that your anxiety may not be proportional to the stressor. If you’re thinking in broad, sweeping statements such as “Everything is going wrong” or “Nothing will work out,” then you need to reframe the situation. A great way to correct this unproductive thought pattern is to list the specific things that actually are going wrong or not working out. Most likely you will come up with just some things—not everything—and the scope of these stressors will look much more limited than it initially appeared.

They Breathe

The easiest way to make stress intermittent lies in something that you have to do everyday anyway: breathing. The practice of being in the moment with your breathing will begin to train your brain to focus solely on the task at hand and get the stress monkey off your back. When you’re feeling stressed, take a couple of minutes to focus on your breathing. Close the door, put away all other distractions, and just sit in a chair and breathe. The goal is to spend the entire time focused only on your breathing, which will prevent your mind from wandering. Think about how it feels to breathe in and out. This sounds simple, but it’s hard to do for more than a minute or two. It’s all right if you get sidetracked by another thought; this is sure to happen at the beginning, and you just need to bring your focus back to your breathing. If staying focused on your breathing proves to be a real struggle, try counting each breath in and out until you get to 20, and then start again from 1. Don’t worry if you lose count; you can always just start over.

This task may seem too easy or even a little silly, but you’ll be surprised by how calm you feel afterward and how much easier it is to let go of distracting thoughts that otherwise seem to have lodged permanently inside your brain.

They Use Their Support System

It’s tempting, yet entirely ineffective, to attempt tackling everything by yourself. To be calm and productive, you need to recognize your weaknesses and ask for help when you need it. This means tapping into your support system when a situation is challenging enough for you to feel overwhelmed. Everyone has someone at work and/or outside work who is on their team, rooting for them, and ready to help them get the best from a difficult situation. Identify these individuals in your life and make an effort to seek their insight and assistance when you need it. Something as simple as talking about your worries will provide an outlet for your anxiety and stress and supply you with a new perspective on the situation. Most of the time, other people can see a solution that you can’t because they are not as emotionally invested in the situation. Asking for help will mitigate your stress and strengthen your relationships with those you rely upon.

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Three things that maintain anxiety

Three things that maintain anxiety | Cultural Trendz |
Avoidance, Reassurance, and Distraction. Three makers of Anxiety.


How many times have you had the same conversation with someone over and over again, and then became frustrated again and again because they did not follow your advice? I hear about this happening all of the time actually. I hear about it from therapists that I train who tell me how frustrating it is to work with anxious patients.


Now, I will agree that it can be frustrating to work with some anxious patients, but it does not have to be. In fact, some of the best therapy in the world was designed to treat anxiety disorders. So, treating stressed and anxious people is not all that difficult if you know what you are doing.


So, I am going to let you all in on a little secret—I am going to tell you what to do to overcome your stress and anxiety. It is just a few simple steps and you will be able to make great strides in helping yourself to overcome your fears. And, if you need any extra help from a therapist, that is fine too, as I will also tell you where to find good help.


Instead of talking about what is stressful or what is leading you to feel anxious, you would be better off stopping these three behaviors:


1.       Avoidance: If you avoid what it is you fear, you will teach yourself that the only way to be safe is to avoid what you fear. This is a recipe for disaster, because you will just avoid more and more things over time instead of learning how to handle what it is that bothers you.


2.       Reassurance Seeking: If all you do is ask everyone you know if everything will be OK, you will never learn how to handle things on your own. This is also a tricky scheme, because if someone tells you that everything will be OK, and then it turns out not to be, you can blame them for it not turning out well because they lied to you and told you that everything will be OK.


3.       Distraction: If you do have to face whatever it is you fear and you distract yourself from it, then you never actually learn how to handle it and you maintain your fear and convince yourself that the only reason you are safe is because of the distraction that you did.


These three things are actually called safety seeking behaviors, and they are all performed in order to feel good right now instead of feeling good later on. That may sound like a good thing, but it really is a very poor way of coping because people soon become so reliant on these coping strategies that they live only to feel good in the moment and do not do what they need to do to be well in the long run. In future posts we will break the safety seeking behaviors down more in depth and talk about how to overcome them...

Vilma Bonilla's insight:

Psychology Today is one of my fave mags. This particular post provides some simple steps to help overcome fears.


Click on the image or title above to read full original post. ~ V.B.


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Easy ways to beat everyday anxiety

Easy ways to beat everyday anxiety | Cultural Trendz |

Technically, anxiety is apprehension over an upcoming event. We anticipate the future with sometimes scary predictions that don’t necessarily have any basis in truth. In everyday life, anxiety’s physical and emotional symptoms can mean an increased heart rate (and even heart attack), poor concentration at work and school, sleeping problems, and just being a total Crankasaurus Rex to family, friends, and co-workers.

Anxiety and stress are physical and emotional responses to perceived dangers (that aren’t always real). And since most of us aren’t running from tigers or hunting and gathering in the woods, it’s often the little things that put us over the edge: an over-loaded email inbox, morning rush hour, or losing those keys before running out the door. Luckily, it’s easy to beat this kind of stress with just a few easy changes added throughout the day.
Note: If you feel like you might be dealing with a serious anxiety disorder, please talk to a medical professional about treatment. There are lots of options available to manage your symptoms. But if you’re looking to reduce daily anxiety, these 15 tips will get you on your way to being calm and collected in no time.

Cool as a Cucumber—Your Action Plan
1. Get enough sleep. Inconsistent sleep can have some serious consequences. Not only does it affect our physical health, but lack of sleep can also contribute to overall anxiety and stress. And sometimes it turns into a vicious cycle, since anxiety often leads to disruptions in sleep. Especially when feeling anxious, try to schedule a full seven to nine hours of snooze time and see what a few nights of sweet slumber do for those anxiety levels throughout the day.

2. Smile. When work has got us down, it’s a good idea to take a quick break to get some giggles on. Research suggests that laughter can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, so consider checking out a funny YouTube clip to calm those jittery nerves.

3. De-clutter the brain. Physical clutter = mental clutter. A messy workspace can make it more difficult to relax and make it seem like our work is never-ending. So take 15 minutes or so to tidy up the living space or work area, and then make a habit of keeping things clean and anxiety-free. It’ll help us think rationally, and there won’t be as much room for anxiety.

4. Express gratitude. Studies have found expressing gratitude helps reduce anxiety, especially when we’re well-rested. Start a gratitude journal to get in the mindset of appreciation, and out of the mindset of being overwhelmed.

5. Eat right. Anxiety can throw our bodies totally out of whack: Our appetite might change, or we might crave certain foods. But to give the body the support it needs, try eating more of foods that contain nutrients such as vitamin B and omega-3s, plus some healthy whole-grain carbohydrates. Studies have linked vitamin B with good mental health, and omega-3s may help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Whole-grain carbs help regulate levels of serotonin, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter that helps us remain calm. And even though our cravings might be telling us otherwise, research suggests that eating sugary and processed foods can increase symptoms of anxiety.

6. Learn to breathe. A useful tool to prevent panic attacks, the breath is also a great marker of where your anxiety level is at throughout the day. Short, shallow breaths signify stress and anxiety in the brain and body. On the flip side, consciously breathing, plus lengthening and strengthening the breath helps send signals to the brain that it’s okay to relax.

7. Meditate. By now most of us have heard that meditation is relaxing, but what scientists are also discovering is that meditation actually increases the amount of grey matter in the brain, essentially rewiring the body to stress less. A number of recent studies highlight the positive effects of meditation on anxiety, mood, and stress symptoms. Meditation is also a way to observe the brain, letting us figure out how our mind generates anxiety-provoking thoughts. And understanding the brain’s thought patterns can help create distance from those thoughts.

8. Create a vision board. If the future seems big and scary, try changing the thoughts about what lies ahead. Sometimes the mere act of setting concrete goals can take the edge off anxiety about future unknowns. Take an hour to produce a vision board that creates excitement about projects and possibilities to come. And for those who aren’t the crafty type, try making an e-vision board using Pinterest for some Pinspiration. While making the board, try using the T.H.I.N.K. tool: Is my thought true, helpful, inspirational, necessary and kind? If not, dump the thought.

9. Play around. Kids and animals seem to have an innate ability to play, without stressing about their overflowing inboxes. Until business offices give us recess breaks, we’ll have to take responsibility for our own playtime. Offer to take a friend’s dog out for a walk, or babysit for an afternoon to get out of your head and let the careless creatures lead by example.

10. Be silent. Plan for a time when you can completely disconnect. Start with increments of time that seem sustainable and doable for you, even if it’s just five minutes. That means phone off, no emails, no TV, no news, nothing. Let other people know they won’t be able to reach you so you can veg worry free. There’s some evidence that too much noise can boost our stress levels, so schedule some sacred silent time am