De-stress

Cultivating Peace

                As I was pondering what to write about for this month’s blog, I thought about all of the negativity and conflict surrounding the election, all of the horrible acts of violence we see on the news, in movies and video games and all of the unspoken violence that occurs behind closed doors.  I also thought about all of the conflict that arises when families get together for what is supposed to be enjoyable family time during the holidays and I thought of peace. How can we find and maintain peace during stressful times or when we are inundated with violent images, words and behaviors?

                The first thing I thought of was shutting off all electronic gadgets that bombard our senses with so much violence.  Our brains need a break from all of the negativity and violence.  We have become so accustomed to seeing and hearing it that we have become desensitized to it.  We don’t realize how much those images have been absorbed into our psyche and affect how we feel and how we respond to the world.  We have become less compassionate toward ourselves and others.  We have learned to shut down our feelings because if we allowed ourselves to feel the pain we witness through the media every day, we would have difficulty functioning.  We may find ourselves in tears curled up in a ball with blankets over our heads, withdrawing from the world.  Although we may not go to this extreme, there are many ways that we withdraw.  How about those electronic gadgets that everybody carries with them, constantly looking at them and answering every little beep, buzzer, whistle or musical tone?  Don’t we use them as an escape from the violence and pain?  We may use them to escape, but do we find the peace we are seeking when we are scrolling through emails, social media feeds and watching YouTube videos?

                The next thing I thought of was the beautiful fall weather, the crisp air, the golds, reds, purples and oranges of the leaves as they turn and let go of the branches to which they have been bound.  We enjoyed a day trip to Indian Cave State Park yesterday.  Although we missed the height of the fall colors, it was still relaxing to get out in the fresh air and see the natural beauty that we forget exists when we are cooped up indoors with all of our indoor comforts and distractions. The crunching leaves underfoot as we hiked up a steep trail, the smell of campfires, watching the squirrels scurry around collecting acorns and nuts for winter, the birds flying overhead, woodpeckers looking for food in dead trees, the river current carrying fallen leaves downstream, and the absence of traffic noise brought a sense of peacefulness and calm to my family.  My son commented, “We need to do this more often!”  He is a “millennial” and is accustomed to being on electronic gadgets, but out there, he got a break.  There is no Wi-Fi and the cellular connections are limited.  Disconnecting from technology and connecting with nature can offer a sense of peace.

                The last thing I will address is taking time for yourself, to have fun, to have quiet time doing something you enjoy, to get lost in something creative.  In other words, slow everything down, stop doing so much and just “be” in the moment.  I had a professor, Kent Estes, who once said to me, “Kolleen, you are a human being, not a human doing.”  I have remembered this and have used it often as a reminder to myself and to my clients.  We are bombarded with so much information every second of every day that our senses have become overloaded.  In order to find peace, we need to take a step back from everything, take a look inside ourselves to check in and get in touch with who we really are, breathe deeply and remind ourselves that “all is well.”

                As we prepare to go to the polls next week and we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends, take time to relax and connect with your inner peace.  If you haven’t tried meditation, this may be a good time to try it out, even if it is just for three to five minutes a day.  Unplug, literally, from all of the negative images and commentary that steal your peace of mind and spirit.  As one of my childhood favorite church songs says, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

Cleaning Out the Clutter, Part 2

(written for the ASTD Newsletter, July 2014)

Last month, we cleared out clutter in our environment.  This month we are going to address some of the psychological and emotional benefits to clearing out clutter.  As you read the article in the attached link at the bottom of this article, I hope you will gain some ideas that you can put into practice right away and that will offer you peace.  

One area that hasn’t been addressed in this article or by last month’s blog is the electronic clutter we accumulate.  In this day of technological gadgets, it is easy to forget the toll they take on our minds and emotional energy.  We are bombarded by email, text messages, Facebook notices, social networks, etc.  Our lives are constantly interrupted by notifications on phones, tablets and computers.  All of these interruptions interfere with our productivity and our relaxation.  This is all electronic clutter which has to be dealt with and takes us away from what we really want to be doing. 

When do we get a break in this age of electronics where we are expected to be available 24 hours a day?  The truth is, we don’t get one unless we take one!  Schedule time to respond to your emails and texts, but don’t let it consume hours of your life every day.  Then schedule time to be disconnected so you can plug into the present moment!  All electronics have an “off” button, but we forget we can use it.  I was reminded of this while we were on vacation to the Grand Canyon last week and how refreshing it was to not be able to get any cell phone signal!  I apologize to any of you who tried to reach me and didn’t get a response, but it was nice to get a real break to focus on myself, my family and the beautiful scenery.  Try it and see how refreshed you feel after unplugging for a day, an evening, a morning or a weekend.

This article was published in the Journal Star which obtained it from the Dallas News.  Here is the link:    http://www.dallasnews.com/lifestyles/health-and-fitness/health/20140512-getting-rid-of-the-clutter-helps-increase-inner-peace.ece

 

If you would like more information on cleaning out your clutter, we offer presentations and small coaching groups on this topic as well as one on one coaching.

Cleaning Out the Clutter

(written for the ASTD Newsletter, June 2014)

Spring is nearly over, but it is never too late for some spring cleaning!  Have you ever noticed how much better you feel and how much more energy you have when you clean up some clutter, such as cleaning off your desk or filing a stack of paperwork?  We all know we feel much better in a clean environment, but did you realize there is research to support what we already know?  Clutter drains our energy making us less productive and more stressed.  Clutter can cause depression, anxiety, tiredness, lethargy, and shame.  There is also research to show a correlation between weight gain and clutter.  Clutter affects the way we feel about ourselves and the way others see us.  Clutter can cause confusion which keeps you from being able to focus on the things that are most important to you.  Clutter drains you of valuable time because you spend so much time looking for misplaced items such as keys, a piece of mail, shoes, etc.  Clutter also costs you money as bills get misplaced, late fees accrue, and you buy items to replace the items you can’t find.  Clutter interferes with our relationships as we may be embarrassed to have others see our mess or they may choose not to be around because they are uncomfortable in the messy environment.  Clutter can affect our self-esteem, especially when we feel overwhelmed and frustrated that we just “can’t seem to get a handle on it” and manage it more effectively.

So why do we let the clutter build up?  In the winter, we tend to “nest” by surrounding ourselves with comforting items like winter clothing, but in the spring those same items zap our energy.  This is why so many people do “spring cleaning” – to regain their energy by reducing the clutter.

Another reason people let the clutter build up is they get out of the habit of putting things in a home when they are done using them.  It doesn’t take long for a stack of mail or a pile of clothes to build up if they aren’t dealt with regularly.  Sometimes this problem begins because people haven’t taken the time to assign their possessions a “home” so they have no place to put them out of sight.  They land on flat surfaces such as tables, chairs, countertops, desktops, etc.  Seeing all of this clutter when you enter a room causes you to feel stressed, fatigued, drained and overwhelmed to the point that you don’t know where to begin.  So you don’t.  And the clutter continues to build.   This feeds the cycle of procrastination, depression and stress until people get to the extreme point of physical illness or relationship problems that cause them to face the clutter head-on.

So where is a good place to begin?  There is no right answer to this question because each of us has our own way to tackle it.  I recommend starting small.  Choose a spot that you declare “clutter-free” and create that space to give you energy when you are feeling overwhelmed.  It could be a space like a bathroom, or even the cupboard under the sink, or smaller yet, would be a drawer in the bathroom.  When you have success on a small level, you gain momentum and have more energy to tackle the next space.

When you have selected your small “clutter-free” zone, start looking at the stuff in that space and sort it into 3 piles (keep, donate, throw away) asking yourself these questions:  1. Do I love it or use it?  If you don’t love it or use it, you move to the next question – 2. Can someone else use it or enjoy it?  If the answer is no, move to the 3rd question – what has no use any more and needs to be thrown away?  When you can narrow down your “keep” pile, you feel free as you gain more space back in your life.  Continue to sort each area using the same 3 categories – keep, donate or throw away and before you know it, you will feel lighter, less stressed and more energetic!  This process raises your oxytocin level – the feel good chemical which makes this process good for your health as well as making it easier to find things, giving you more time back and reducing your stress.

Start small, continue moving through one area and one room at a time, sorting into the 3 categories.  Assign everything that you keep to a home and spend 15 minutes a day to put things back in their homes if they have strayed.  Make sure these homes are logical and easy to maintain (such as keeping keys near the door) or you will end up having the same areas growing into clutter piles, again.  Organize the remainder into nice containers so you can feel relaxed and enjoy the beauty of your environment.

The most challenging part is to maintain it on a daily basis.  Set schedules for daily, weekly and monthly cleaning and organizing tasks.  Sarah Felton of “Messies Anonymous” recommends following the 30 second rule – if it will take less than 30 seconds to put away right now, do it immediately!  (This includes putting away shoes, mail, etc.)  Pay attention to your “hot spots” which are the places clutter tends to accumulate for you.  Clean these areas each day so they don’t become a problem.  Once everything has been assigned a home, make sure you put things back as soon as you are done with them.  If you can keep up on it a little at a time, (15 minutes a day) you won’t feel overwhelmed with a mountain of clutter, again.

If you are interested in further reading, check out these sites:  http://www.care2.com/greenliving/how-clutter-affects-you.html and http://stress.about.com/od/lowstresslifestyle/a/clutter_3.htm

Next month, we will look at clearing out the clutter in your mind and electronic devices.

Kolleen Meyer-Krikac, owner of Balanced Life and Wilshire Business Suites, located in Lincoln, NE is a certified life coach and professional counselor in private practice.  She facilitates workshops, is a public speaker and enjoys helping people to “Dream, Plan, Achieve” the life they have always wanted.  You can reach Kolleen through this website, Linked In, Facebook or by calling her at (402)499-5547.

If you would like more information on cleaning out your clutter, we offer presentations and small coaching groups on this topic as well as one on one coaching.