Posts

Relieve Stress

Best Way To Relieve Stress Immediately

There’s a method I’ve discovered as the best way to relieve stress immediately. I’ve shared it with my clients and use it in my home every day. It’s called the seven-minute rule. What is the seven-minute rule? I’m glad you asked. Before I tell you how it works can you relate to these scenarios?

You Can Relieve Stress Immediately if. . .

  • You come home from work after a stressful day expecting to relax. When you walk in the house, it’s a wreck. No one cared to pick up after themselves. They must be lazy, you think.
  • Piled up bills are laying on the kitchen counter. The TV is blaring. The children don’t notice you because they’re on their iPads. They haven’t done their chores or homework. Or, they could at least be outside.
  • Your spouse is stressed and gives you the crying baby. And also expects you to change the dirty diaper. In an irritated tone, you ask, “what have you done all day?”
  • Your voice is firm with aggravation. The family accuses you of being mean. But it’s the only way you can get your point across.

As a result, we end up with an “I-work-so-hard-all-day-and-no-one-cares” attitude. Whatever our story, we find ways to escape the stress. Some do it by working late. Others do it by spending hours on social media. Those methods and others provide an immediate reward: dopamine, the brain’s pleasure chemical.

But, it doesn’t take long before our relationships become more distant. Those who matter most seem like strangers. And in some cases, enemies. Then we make up stories in our minds about their intentions to make our lives miserable. The results produce no teamwork in the family. Nor do we have partnership in the marriage.

Don't let mismanaged stress make relationships distant. Otherwise, those who matter most seem like strangers. Click To Tweet

Here’s how to change that cycle.

Relieve Stress Immediately —The Seven Minute Rule

The seven-minute rule is a technique that transforms stressful situations. With consistent use, we can create relaxing and peaceful connections in family relationships. What we create in a family environment can benefit in other ways. It also gives us skills to create more productive work environments.

Here’s how it works:

  • Consider seven minutes before or after any transition as sacred space. What do I mean by sacred space? It’s the place in-between a relationship that holds only gratitude and heart-to-heart connection. Nothing else. There’s no irritability, demands, criticisms or other negative interactions. That includes confrontations, stern looks, sarcasm, and cynicism.
  • The seven minutes of sacred space and time is taking deep breaths. That sacred space means slowing down to be loving and respectful. It’s focusing on being compassionate and tender with our loved ones. Also, it’s being kind and gentle regardless of the environment. It’s having an attitude of curiosity rather than judgement.
  • Let the children know you’re happy to be with them. You love them just as they are. You might say to your spouse with light-hearted honor, “I can’t believe I’m married to you! I am SO blessed.”
  • It’s your choice to love unconditionally in that seven minutes of sacred space. You take time to connect and value your relationships.

Examples of the 7-Minute Rule to Relieve Stress

  • Set the timer on your smart phone for seven minutes after pulling up in the driveway.
  • Put a reminder on your dashboard with a 3” x 5” card that reads “7-minute rule”.
  • Take deep breaths in and out with a mantra such as this. Breathe in thankfulness. Breath out stress. Or say, “I breathe in appreciation and I breathe out criticism.” Take about three or four deep breaths with the same mantra. Use that attitude for the following seven minutes of sacred time.

As you enter your home, leave your stress behind. Use deep breathing and then look into the eyes of your children and spouse. Be interested in their world.

It’s as if you’ll be walking onto “holy ground” in those seven minutes. Use it to connect, appreciate, and see the world through the eyes of your loved ones. Be willing to live in the present.

Use the 7-minute rule to connect, appreciate, & see through the eyes of your loved ones. Make transitions sacred. Click To Tweet

Relieve Stress through these 7-minutes:

  • Before bed
  • When you wake up
  • Right before leaving the home
  • After you arrive at your destination
  • While sitting down for a meal
  • As you finish your meal

Any transition is seven minutes of sacred and holy space.

Try it out for a week, (7 days) and see how it works for you. I challenge you to try it for 30 days. And I’d love to hear your comments.

Here’s Your next step.

Sign up for updates for my book in progress: Beyond Messy Marriages

 

Unsplash photo by John Sekutowski

 

Chart Your Relationship Now

Holdinghands

Get clarity on your relationship.

Powered by ConvertKit
Fatherhood

Five Ways to Appreciate Awesome Fatherhood

It’s tempting for some of us to dismiss Father’s Day. Greeting cards for dads aren’t as popular as they are on Mother’s Day. But it doesn’t matter what your father stories are. When we take time to reflect, there are five ways to appreciate awesome fatherhood.

Appreciate Fatherhood from your closest relationship

Think of your closest relationship and how you can appreciate fatherhood.

For me, it’s my husband Joe. Even though he’s never been a father, he is a remarkable “Papi Joe” to our four grandchildren. Yes, you may have heard the joke about skipping parenthood to become a grandparent. That is the case with Joe. But he’s more than “Papi Joe.” Right now, he’s becoming a father! No, we’re not Sarah and Abraham from the Old Testament. But it’s taken the two of us to conceive my book about messy marriages. For a woman who’s birthed four babies, writing this book is like going through nine months of pregnancy.

Appreciate Fatherhood from those who’ve passed on

For some of us, our dads are deceased and we miss them during this season. This is the first Father’s Day without my step-dad, Bob. He passed away a few months ago. Within the last decade, I’ve grown closer to him. I miss seeing his smile and hearing his laughter during family gatherings. Although Bob knew me as an adult, my other step-dad, Jim, influenced my formative years.

I have few memories of my young dad, Bill, who died of cancer when I was small. But my Aunt Sara said to me, “He was my favorite brother who took time to understand me.” I believe it’s my dad who passed this trait onto me to become the counselor I am today.

Appreciate Fatherhood from the dad who gave you life

Some struggle with their birth dad abandoning them. It’s easy to hold onto grudges. But our hearts can make room to appreciate them. Our freedom to forgive doesn’t minimize offenses. Nor does it mean it’s OK to let an untrustworthy man into your life. But being thankful helps us live more truthfully.

From the heart-ache I’ve heard in my counseling office, not all situations make this an easy task. And it won’t happen amidst bitterness and busy-ness. Most of us need extra help from a counselor to learn how to have healthy boundaries. We can cultivate an attitude of appreciation.

Appreciate Fatherhood from dads who’ve given you children & grandchildren

Let’s recognize our sons, sons-in-laws, and fathers of our grandchildren. And for some, it’s challenging to wish an ex-husband, “Happy Father’s Day.” Yet they all deserve our appreciation. Take time to notice the love they give and ways they provide.

We can cultivate appreciation even though all relationships have periodic or sometimes chronic messes. Click To Tweet

All relationships have periodic or sometimes chronic messes. Yet, we can still appreciate the dads who’ve born us children. It’s important to know that previous marriages and relationships are not failures. We can gain wisdom and focus on the beautiful lives conceived and birthed from those unions.

Appreciate Fatherhood from dads who’ve influenced you

Take notice of those who’ve been like a dad to you. It might be an extended family member or other mentor.

For me, it’s been my grandfather. His long and beautiful life lasted 94 years. I’m now blessed with living history through my 99-year-old grandmother, his widow. Also, I appreciate my father-in-law from my previous marriage who is now deceased.

Although my Uncle Ken has grown children of his own, I appreciate his influence on me as a father figure. He’s the one who encourages me and gives me advice when I ask for it. And he’s the one who’s known me since birth and has modeled a godly marriage and family over the years.

There’s a Father I’ve not met face-to-face. And I’m not Catholic. But, I appreciate Father Richard Rohr who’s made an impact on me in the last few years. I can tear up reading bite-sized portions of his small book “Just This.” Another book, “The Divine Dance” speaks to me on several levels. Parts of my memoir are about how God used dancing to move me into His divine invitations.

Celebrate Awesome Fatherhood

You may be full of natural appreciation for the fathers in your life. Or you may be avoiding Father’s Day. But we can all take time to ponder the positive things. We all can celebrate fathers as we focus on these five ways.  Let’s appreciate awesome fatherhood no matter how it shows up in our lives.

Sign up for weekly emails & free updates

 

Featured Photo by Morgan David de Lossy on Unsplash

Turkey

How Not To Be A Turkey On Thanksgiving Day

 

Some of us dread gathering with extended family on Thanksgiving Day. Rather than focus on gratitude and enjoying the meal, we end up feeling like roasted turkey. But it doesn’t have to be that way when we learn how not to be a turkey on Thanksgiving.

Holidays are strong reminders of the way things used to be. We gather with those who know our quirks, history, and points of irritation. Relationship patterns are so automatic that we don’t realize our part in creating the mess.

Even the anticipation can be stressful. We’re uncomfortable with reminders of loss. Divorce, death, or manipulative relationships can make the tradition of gratitude difficult for some and unbearable for others. We think thoughts like, I wished we could just skip these next six weeks.

Relationship patterns are so automatic that we don't realize our part in creating the mess. Click To Tweet

Thanksgiving can trigger our grief and negative thoughts. Emotional and mental energy depletes us from the warm fuzzies of gratitude.

Here are six practices you can do to make Thanksgiving a time of gratitude.

1. Practice adequate rest

Most of us disregard the basic foundation of our mental, emotional, and relational health. We push ourselves to make things just right to impress our guests. Our ability to handle stress is depleted without a consistent habit of seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Adequate cycles of sleep provide our brains the fresh charge of energy for clarity and awareness. Without proper sleep, we’re not able to cope well in stressful situations.

2. Practice deep belly breaths

Slow deep belly breaths help calm impulsive words and actions. It only takes ninety seconds of deep breathing to slow the fight/flight/freeze area of the brain that lights up when we’re triggered. We’re able to access rational thoughts when someone says a mean or hurtful comment. Ancient wisdom teaches us to be quick to hear and slow to speak. (New Testament – James 1:19)

Most people unintentionally harm others because of their own unhealed emotional wounds. With rest and deep breathing, you can control your reactions. You can stop your part of a charged incident.

Deep belly breaths give you ability to reason beyond reactivity. You create neuropathways in your brain that opens up awareness. You’ll be aware of your own body reactions. Emotional triggers affect both our bodies and our minds.

Quiet the racing thoughts and stories in your head that may not be true. Even if they are true, deep belly breaths slow you down enough to gain insight into yourself, the other person, and the incident.

Make it a point to process later through journal-writing or an appointment with your therapist. Your well-being depends on you keeping resentment from building.

Deep belly breaths give you ability to reason beyond reactivity. Click To Tweet

3. Practice your smile

We have mirror neurons in our brains that aid our social connections. When we interact with others, we reflect their gestures, tone, body posture, and behaviors. They reflect us. We smile back when they smile at us. It’s like looking in a mirror.

A smile has the power to disarm another’s frown. Some of us were born smiling while others naturally have stoic faces. A person who looks grumpy might really be concentrating. Or they may be unaware of how they appear to others. Be conscious of how others see you. Practice smiling around those who frown. See if their frown softens with your smile.

A smile has the power to disarm another's frown. Click To Tweet

4. Practice accepting change

Any change is difficult as we thrive on comfort and security. When our loved one has died, or we’ve experienced divorce, or we’ve moved our family across the country, it’s important to grieve. How we accept change is unique to each of us.

We are meant to grow and change throughout our lives. People, relationships, and circumstances are continually changing. Welcome the reality that our lives will never be stagnant. They’re not suppose to be. It’s part of our humanity to grieve the loss of a loved one and celebrate the birth of new life.

5. Practice what belongs to you

It’s important to know what’s yours and what belongs to another. Your emotions are yours alone. All of us are responsible for our own resilience, emotions, and decisions.

  • Avoid fighting another person’s emotional battles.
  • Let go of another person’s loneliness, anxiety, or uncomfortable feelings.
  • Recognize when others take on the victim role expecting you to be their savior.
  • Spend less time with those who drain you.

Give yourself permission to let go of others’ expectations of you. You were only meant to handle your own emotions. Others are responsible for themselves.

6. Practice the present moment

When you practice the present moment, you’re living that moment to it’s fullest capacity. This could be the single most empowering advice for us all. Hyperfocus on the unfinished business of the past or continuous worry of the future steals away the only time we have in the moment.

Imagine yourself standing still in the middle of a stream. You’re aware of the past like the water flowing toward you from upstream. You’re aware of the future like water flowing beyond you downstream. You feel the cool stream flow around you. Yet, you’re standing still in the present moment.

Don’t be the turkey

You now know how not to be a turkey on Thanksgiving. Begin your six practices of gratitude.

1. Practice rest
2. Practice belly breaths
3. Practice smiles
4. Practice accepting change
5. Practice what belongs to you
6. Practice the present moment

Your next steps:

 

Sign up for email resource: 10 Ways to Build Trust in Communication

Family Stress

5 Ways to Relieve Family Stress During Holidays

Family stress during holidays can range from mildly challenging to overbearing.  Sometimes it’s traumatic losses such as  divorce, death, or past trauma. Or invisible tension from emotional abuse, arrogance, manipulation, negativity or other issues.  Our personal history can make us vulnerable to reactions and old relationship wounds. We end up with feelings of dread.

These five ways to relieve family stress takes courage, practice, and planning. For some, it takes professional help. If you find yourself overly stressed at the thoughts of being with family, here’s five things to consider.

  1. Be open and curious about different perspectives.

We’re not even aware when we bring our internal stories and judgments into our heads about others and ourselves.  We all desire to be heard, understood, and validated. It’s challenging for us to hold the viewpoints and experiences of another when theirs is radically different from our own.  

It takes being intentional to be curious about another who is different than we are. Being open and curious instead of an “I’m-right-and-you’re-wrong” attitude. Curiosity and openness is the beginning of humility and understanding. Click To Tweet

  1. Take deep breaths.  

When someone does or says something that instantly stirs your insides, take three deep long breathes – easier said than done. We’re triggered by an embarrassing comment or an unintentional put down. Without knowing it, your brain tells you wordless messages like: “Youre not safe. Youd better walk away. . . or fight.  Stand your ground. They are the enemy.  Heart rate and blood pressure rises. The fight, flight, or freeze reaction strikes like lightning.

Deep breathing slows all this down. It only takes 90 seconds for the neuro-pathways to connect with the reasoning part of the brain. Three or four deep belly breaths help make this happen.

Rational thoughts about the same offense may sound like, “I must have been misunderstood . . . they may not be aware of how I just experienced them .  . . I’ve said impulsive things before . . . this reminds me of _______ . . . I wonder what’s really going on. . .”

  1. Be intentional about positive thoughts and actions.

We need about eight positive interactions to cancel out one negative. You’d be surprised at how contagious our thoughts and actions are. Most of us don’t realize how we invite others to respond negatively to us. We’re unaware of our own facial expressions, mood, and tone.  Our internal thoughts affect others. Attitudes show up like a proud peacock.  

  1.  Look for divine encounters.

Be willing to look for a loving and welcoming God in the midst of relationships. I believe divine encounters happen in the present moment and among relationships with others.

My favorite way of doing this is being with my little grandchildren and seeing the world through their eyes. It’s easy to be with them because they’ve not developed the defenses that grown adults have learned. Of course, it’s challenging to see the little girl or boy inside a grown adult’s body.

When we see a hurt child underneath another’s stern gestures, we can choose to make loving eye-contact. Too often our own child wounds keep our gaze away in fear.

Imagine allowing conflict with another to be an invitation from the Holy Spirit to grow and heal. Honor the other person with the viewpoint of meeting God in the interaction. You open yourself up to transformation!

  1. Be willing to say “no thank you.”

In some cases, family stress can be poisonous to one’s emotional and mental well-being. If you struggle with overwhelming anxiety, it’s necessary and appropriate to say “no thank-you” to family gatherings. Some situations are so severe that it’s important to get professional counseling. Get help with how to say no and make alternate plans in a way that nurtures your soul.  

Remember to practice: be open, take deep breaths, have positive thoughts, look for divine encounters, and say “no thank you.” May your family stress be turned into opportunities for awareness, positivity, and personal growth. 

Questions to Ponder

What has been most challenging to you in the past?

What is one take-away for you from this list of 5 ways?

 

Recognize Manipulation – Grow Up

One of my childhood memories was playing school with my dolls and stuffed animals as if they were my students and I was the teacher. I used to dress up my barbie doll in different outfits and played with make-believe scenes of my choosing. Somewhere along the line between my elementary self and my growing adult self, I let go of the fantasy world.

Many adults choose to stop growing in their self awareness and continue to make-believe in real life. Refusing to accept another person’s emotions, opinions, or personhood is like using human beings as wind up toys. Marriages and family relationships are plagued with tension, conflict, and abuse.

It’s easier to judge others who are different. Unspoken rules of “don’t talk, don’t feel, don’t have an opinion if it’s different than mine” are the norm for those who consider family members as objects. Phrases like, “You make me angry” or “It’s all your fault” or “I wouldn’t be this way if you didn’t do that” are all examples of an adult who lives in make-believe. Christian versions may sound like, “God wants you to forgive and forget” or “I’m the head of the house and you’re supposed to submit.”

Accepting responsibility for growth, awareness, and change is missing in one who believes everyone else is to blame for his or her difficult circumstances. Like living as the director of a play, those who manipulate expect individuals to act their part. Family members who express different opinions are seen as obstacles. They are treated as wind-up toys rather than real people with real needs.

I appreciate how Fred Rogers gave young children clarity between his real neighborhood and his neighborhood of make-believe. In one episode of the television show Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, his pleasant voice respectfully says, “You see, children can grow up to be adults; outside and inside.”

May you embrace the reality of inside growth. Begin to see your partner’s differences as opportunities for self awareness. Consider the relationships closest to you as gifts from God to align with reality about yourself and others. Embrace the value, worth, and dignity of each person you encounter. Recognize Manipulation. Grow up.

 

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. I Corinthians 13:11