Using Your Time Productively: 8 Tips for Better Living During Stressful Times

How have you been managing your time during Covid? Most people are working, playing, eating, celebrating different occasions, and so on, from home. People are becoming more comfortable with ‘tele-everything’ and adapting to virtual platforms, both professionally and personally. 

No one is sure what the new normal will look like yet, and life as we know it will be different. That is not a “bad” thing, it’s simply different. From ordering groceries to ordering almost any product you can think of, many people are managing well. 

Doing something constructive with your time is important. Many of us thrive when we feel a sense of achievement and in learning something new. I have a client that is taking piano lessons, another client that is learning how to host virtual workshops, and another who has joined a group who share similar interests. My husband started a podcast.

The point is to take baby steps forward. Here are some things you can try. And if you have any other ideas, please share (susan@selftalkcoach.com).

Be Productive

Do one thing each day to move yourself forward. What about setting up a nice office space in your house or apartment?

De-clutter and organize your “stuff”

There are so many people de-cluttering and organizing that stores that sell the containers and storage are backordered. De-cluttering and organizing will allow you to think more clearly and feel more focused.

Spend quality time with your family

Staying in on a weekend as opposed to running errands, eating out, going to the movies, etc., can be a wonderful way to spend quality family time together. Try a board game, video game, or anything else that comes to mind. Be creative, especially with the holidays coming up. Is there something you can make, build or design together?

Positive mindset

Practice positive, productive thinking. You can look for the silver lining in all situations without being ‘Susie Sunshine.’ When we don’t have control over certain areas in your life, make the best of any situation that you can.  

Catch up with technology

It’s a good time to learn how to use technology if you are not skilled at it.

Books and games

What about joining a virtual book club or playing games?

Celebrate occasions

Why not celebrate a virtual birthday, graduations, or any milestones? Any joy is worth celebrating. 

Home gym

Stay in shape, physically and emotionally. There are many on-line fitness classes being offered. For example, I put the rubber flooring on the tile in an area in my home so that the floor was cushioned, bought some weights, a Pilates ring, jump rope, bands, and mats, and I watch a class or two several times a week. It gives me a great way to start the day and provides structure that I like. It’s a win-win! And it was inexpensive!

Like everything else in life, you can make good use of the time or you can complain. It’s your choice, choose well! Change is okay … it can even be better than okay!

Resilience and Flexibility in a Changing World

We are now in the seventh month of living with Covid, and we cannot say what our ‘new normal’ will be. There have been positives – people reaching out to help one another, and negatives – stress and anxiety that come from losing a job and income, declining health, and not knowing what’s next?  

As we try to navigate through each day, two attributes, amongst many, can make our lives easier: resilience and flexibility.  They have become a necessity in order to successfully get through each day. How resilient and flexible we are can determine the level of stress we take on (and how we deal with it), and our happiness.

Most people view resilience as bouncing back. It is more — resilience is not just about getting back up but about how long it takes to get back up. Are you staying down emotionally and physically and letting circumstances take the wind out of your sail, or are you looking at a situation or circumstance and learning from it and getting back on your feet?

Resilience is a thinking style. In fact, I view is like a muscle. We aren’t born resilient. We have to build our resilience the same way you build your arm muscle. If you want to strengthen and have muscular arms you need to work out consistently and build that muscle. It’s the same with resilience. You have to develop that muscle so that each time you metaphorically fall down, it takes you a shorter and shorter time to get up and bounce back.

Emotional resilience also means not letting others, situations, or circumstances dominate you so that you deplete your energy. Where you spend your time is where you place your energy, so be aware of where you place your thoughts. In fact, check-in with yourself so you are aware of whether your thoughts are productive or non-productive, and consciously make your thinking resilient. For example, when negative situations arise, think of choices and possibilities. A resilient mindset won’t let you think there are no options or choices.

Tied into resilience is flexibility. Being flexible results in handling change in a way that things go more smoothly, and it means you see options that give you choices – that “go with the flow” attitude. The next time there is a strong wind, notice how some trees are flexible and bend, while other trees snap because they aren’t flexible.

My 95-year-old mother is an example of resilience. She wakes up each day, no matter how she’s feeling physically, and she has an attitude to keep moving forward. Her failing health does not deter her … or the fact that she has seen very few people since Covid hit. When I ask her how she does stay so positive, she says you do what you have to do to keep pushing ahead. She has bounced back from so many health scares and has made a choice to make the best of life. And believe me, she is no Polly-Anna. She is incredibly resilient!

With a future looking like we’ll all be living with a “new normal,” hang in there. Stay safe and be well. It is a time for us to all come together and live peacefully.

Be Creative and Use Your Imagination During the Pandemic … And Don’t Pressure Yourself!

People are sheltering to protect themselves and their loved ones from the spread of the coronavirus. Whether you are quarantining with others, or alone, use your imagination and be creative to stay mentally and physically healthy. Creating helps us feel better. 

Constructively Vent and Get Outside

I’ve got clients telling me if they have one more video call, they’re going to scream! Screaming might actually be a good idea. It’s good to get it out in a constructive way. 

Find your own space to ease the burdens of being tired and frustrated. Whether that space is inside or out, there is nothing wrong with a good scream. Many people also find that simply being outside can help clear the head. That space can make it possible to be more creative. 

What Inspires You … Take Action and Make it a Reality

 Music

Another client told me he and his family love music. Each is playing the instrument they play, or singing, and trying to make it ‘band-worthy.’ While they may not make it to a real stage, it can be fun to dream! 

If you enjoy music, and it’s a stress-reducer for many, there’s an online concert venue called ‘StageIt’ where artists perform live shows from their laptop that are never recorded or archived. ‘StageIt’ allows both the artist and the fans to be part of the show. Check it out! 

Writing

Some people find inspiration in writing. It doesn’t have to be long or a masterpiece. Get your laptop or a pen and notebook and start writing. Become your creative you.  Write a story.  The exercise itself can be amazing!

Another idea to keep you focused is to write out some goals:  put pen to paper and write down one short-term and one long-term goal. Visualize what you want to achieve and write brief steps on how to make it happen. 

Cooking and Baking

For all of us, cooking and baking can be a great outlet. Whether you create new recipes or use old recipes, you can have fun and enjoy it! 

Try Something New or Restart Something You Had Put Away

Remember that old model plane you were gluing together or that painting you started? What about the book club you’re in but haven’t read the past two books? Now is as good as time as any to develop a new hobby or rekindle what you started. There are many games online today that you can access and be as involved as you like!

Brainstorm Ideas

This might be a very good time to set personal and professional goals you would like to reach, and then brainstorm some ideas with friends, family or colleagues. What would you like to accomplish, short-term or long-term? Keep it simple. It doesn’t have to be hard.

Physical Exercise

It is also very important to be physically fit. You may have been a member of a gym or played team sports. Keep in mind you can do things outside like running or walking. Something I did recently was to set up an in-house mini gym. I take on-line fitness classes. I have also purchased light weights, mats, a jump rope, and bands. I’m taking everything from cardio and aerobics classes to barre and stretching. Where there’s a will, there’s a way! Whew!

One word of caution is to not pressure yourself. You can’t force creativity. Check in with yourself and accept where you are. Let that be your starting point. After all, life is about cycles. Day gives way to night, the tide flows in and out and so on. Be kind to yourself and do your best.

Making Adjustments and Choosing to Stay Motivated During Covid

By now, most people realize that there is no end in sight for the Coronavirus. One day the numbers go down in people contracting the virus and then a surge is announced with numbers going up. No end in sight can result in people feeling down or anxious, and while that is one choice, there are other perspectives. 

The choice I’m making for myself, and in guiding my clients, is to focus on staying motivated, being productive, and socially connected. While we all have to make adjustments in life, health, and business, we must also hold onto whatever is positive.

Here are a few tips that are easy to follow:

Don’t be a news junkie – If you’re addicted to the new, there’s a good chance you’re feeling down. Try to minimize the amount of time your spending listening or watching the news. Don’t watch or listen before you go to sleep because that’s what you’ll be processing the whole night.

Set goals each day. Even if you’re productivity is not at its peak right now, the sense of accomplishment feels good, no matter how small it is! 

Make sure you are taking breaks throughout the day. While working at home is difficult for some (ability to focus and be disciplined), overworking can be an issue for others. Making a schedule can help you integrate your work and personal life.

Watch your energy level. Be aware whether you are feeling depleted or energized so that you can make the appropriate adjustments to your life.

Plan Face-Time or Zoom calls to stay socially and professionally connected.

Take care of your fitness. If you can spare some room, try an at-home fitness area. Order a mat, some hand weights, and bands for the legs. There are online fitness classes or make up your own routine.

Follow the guidelines with social distancing and stay healthy. 

 

 Put Structure into Your Day

Many people’s lives have been turned upside down due to the Coronavirus. As the “quarantine” continues, the impact on our lives can create chaos. Putting more structure in your life might help. Being constantly at home with your spouse, kids, pets, combined with a lack of social interaction can add up to that upside-down feeling.

Moreover, for working parents who are now teleworking, childcare can be a problem. If your child is used to you working out of the house, and now you are working from home, setting boundaries will be very helpful. 

In the early 1990’s when working remotely was not the norm, I was a single parent. I worked from my home. My girls knew not to disturb me during my office hours unless it was necessary. Think about what boundaries and limits you can create that are age appropriate for your kids. Ask yourself, What boundaries can I set up?

Another potential issue to handle is the new form of communication with others – video calls. Most people are, or have become familiar with Zoom, and it seems we are all getting familiar with holding meetings through that process. I have several clients who are going from virtual meeting to virtual meeting. I’ve observed that several meetings I’ve attended start up to 5-7 minutes late for various reasons, the least of which is getting used to.” Further, these meetings tend to just go on and on, taking up much more time than was anticipated.

My suggestion, which I have found successful … try to schedule meetings where there are 15-minute breaks in between so you are fresh and present for each call. How far apart are your virtual meetings? Can you space them out on your calendar?

Being home so much more than before can grate on your patience. Notice how you are all doing, such as mood and level of energy. 

The lack of social interaction can also make you feel lonely, especially for extroverts. Keep up with your relationships … FaceTime is great for this! Celebrate your special events like birthdays … set up a virtual party!

How we look and what we are wearing are absolutely factors in how we feel. Get dressed and do the best you can if you haven’t been able to get your hair styled. Make sure to exercise, eat healthy, and get a good night’s sleep.

Make the best of this situation. I know “what ifs” un-nerve many people. Take life one day at a time. In reality, that’s what we all have. One mindset I have is to view this as a retreat instead of a quarantine. I am not being a “Pollyanna.” There are clearly things we have no control over, so why not make the best of it? You will feel better! 

Being Productive at Times of Uncertainty

Realistically, we all need to take things one day at a time. It is easy to do to be looking into the future, but you should not be thrown by the uncertainty that lies ahead. As my mother told me 40-years ago, we make plans and prepare for the future, and that’s a positive thing to do, but, sometimes a higher power has something else in mind. The truth is none of us really know what’s ahead, so we should not count too heavily on today’s circumstances.

Make the most of each day, even if you are quarantined. Because I find structure helpful, I made a schedule for myself that consists of morning fitness classes (online of course), then showering, then a healthy breakfast, and after that, telework coaching sessions with clients. In my area of work, most of my clients wanted to meet by phone, FaceTime or Zoom, so that wasn’t a big leap. 

I take 15-minute breaks between clients and typically step outside to get some fresh air. Food deliveries come around dinner time, so the ritual is to disinfect them and put the groceries away. That in itself feels like a workout! I’m sure you have experienced this yourself.

How are you spending your days? How are you keeping up your morale? What is your concern about the ‘new normal?’

Here are a few tips to reduce your stress: 

  1. If you like structure, make yourself a schedule and stick to it;
  2. Try to accomplish one thing professionally and one thing personally each day; 
  3. Take baby steps each day: to keep you moving forward, so you don’t feel stuck (set goals for yourself);
  4. Look to the future and the past but don’t get stuck there; be present and in the moment … there are no “should haves, would haves, could haves or what ifs in the present;
  5. Be creative with your time – find ways can you increase time with family, friends and relationships in your life.

Note: Feel free to reach out to Susan to learn more about how her expertise in self-talk, resilience, and life and career transition can support you.

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I hope you’ll join me for my Talk Yourself into Success webinar in February!  I’ll share positive self-talk strategies and resilient techniques that will lead to a flourishing, thriving life, both personally and professionally. Register here! 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Have a Career Plan?

Some people are clear about their career plan while others are not so certain. Wherever you are on the continuum is fine. There’s no right or wrong or good or bad. It is simply where you are. 

People move vertically, laterally, change fields, start businesses, and so on. 

Here’s a simple step that will help you focus and gain clarity. I successfully use this with clients even if they have no idea what to pursue. 

Think about: 

1. Where am I now: What strengths, skills, and values do I have?

2. Next, where do I want to go? What do my strengths, skills and values align best with?

For example, think about when you have a location to get to and you’re not sure how to get there. So you go to Google maps, plug an address into the ‘from’ and ‘to’ and, presto, step-by-step directions pop up. 

In any career search, or for that matter, life search, it helps if you know yourself. In addition to your strengths, skills and values, explore what you enjoy doing and what experience you have. Also, what has meaning to you? What’s fulfilling?

If you have an idea of what you’d like to do, see if you can shadow someone who is doing that. You can also find a mentor who can answer your questions and guide you. 

If you aren’t sure, embrace the career search. It’s exciting to brainstorm options and possibilities and to see the potential of what and who you can be! 

I have a client, Donna, an attorney for the past fifteen years who now wants to make a change. Donna has done well, but she is burned out. She wants a change! We are exploring things she is interested in and the hobbies she never has time for because of the hours she works. Donna is very artistic and creative, and she is thinking about creating a business combining her skills and passion.

So wherever you fall on the continuum, embrace it! Your future is up to you…and you deserve to live your best life! Having a positive self-talk and being resilient will help you go through any transition. In fact, I want to invite you to my upcoming webinar series, “Talk Yourself Into Success and Get the Outcomes You Desire.”

You won’t want to miss out on the confidence and positive self-talk strategies, resilience techniques, and life and business blueprint that will guide and support you in navigating through life’s decisions and transitions.

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I hope you’ll join me for my Talk Yourself into Success webinar in February!  I’ll share positive self-talk strategies and resilient techniques that will lead to a flourishing, thriving life, both personally and professionally. Register here! 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purpose – What Can You Contribute Bigger Than Yourself

In my last article, I wrote about reflection. Looking back on 2019 and looking forward to 2020, I believe living a good, meaningful life is contributing to a cause bigger than yourself. 

What has meaning to you? What’s important to you? What do you care about? What lights you up? What can you do that you will thrill you to make an impact beyond the world of you? Be proactive and make a plan to assure you accomplish what you set out to do. 

One way to go about this is to check in with your personal values. Your values are who you are at your core and they drive your decisions. At different stages of your life your values change in priority. 

Recently I was watching a special on Prince Harry and his family. He was talking about his mother’s (Princess Diana’s) legacy and her quest to eradicate landmines in Angola.  

Prince Harry went to Angola and walked in his mother’s footsteps, following the exact path she walked. By honoring his mother’s advocacy against landmines, which became something near and dear to his heart, he completed their mission. Paraphrasing the prince, he found doing this work “satisfying, fulfilling, and of service to others” while honoring his mother. 

What would you find satisfying and fulfilling? My belief is we are all here to serve. How we go about it is a personal choice. What is your purpose?

Reflection is a Great Teacher  

It’s a new season. Don’t fall back, move forward! What do you want to improve in this new season and as you move forward to a new year? Nothing you think of is too big or too small.

Now is a great time for reflection. Going into 2020, do you want to, and can you do what worked well for you this year? What do you want to change? What do you envision for yourself in 2020?

Reflection can be very powerful and can provide you with a measure of self-awareness and understanding of how you came to be where you are. Reflection gives you information such as the whys and hows of the past year that you’ll be able to evaluate. Knowing this can impact the decisions you make. You will also learn more about yourself and what you’re capable of.

While reflection can be on the more serious side, the winter season and the holidays are also a time for fun. Here are some ideas for you and your family and friends.

Holiday Tips

  1. Watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
  2. Start a new tradition, something that has meaning
  3. Take some home movies to capture your time together
  4. Go around the table and ask each person to say one thing they are grateful for
  5. Play some games good for all ages – Twister; or Charades; or Mad Libs; or holiday Family Feud; or maybe coloring or Scrabble
  6. Be present with your family and friends, no technology
  7. Live with an open heart

Take Command of Your Life #1

I hope you’ll join me for my Talk Yourself into Success webinar in February!  I’ll share positive self-talk strategies and resilient techniques that will lead to a flourishing, thriving life, both personally and professionally. Register here! 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tips to Learn How to Deal With Stress

Have you ever been around a moody person? You never know what type of behavior you’re going to get, or what might trigger the person. Several times in the past week I have heard clients say they feel like they are “walking on eggshells” … not a pleasant way to live. Easing some things in your life can reduce stress. The impact moodiness has can cause stress. Setting healthy boundaries and limits can reduce stress.

Recently I was in line at Whole Foods when I saw the cover of Time magazine promoting The Science of Stress:  Manage It, Avoid It. Put it to Use. One of that themed concept was an article that stood out to me called Simple Ways to Manage Your Mood, by Audrey Noble. 

Noble gave statistics about stress. She noted that a Gallup poll found 8 out of 10 Americans are afflicted by stress. She continued that according to the American Psychology Association, the top three stressors were (1) the uncertainty of the nation’s future, (2) money, and (3) work. Workplace stress accounts for nearly $200 billion in health-care costs, according to Forbes.

Noble pointed out that there are healthy ways of dealing with stress in your professional and personal life. Here are a few tips:

Focus on Intention

Direct your emotions about upcoming goals or obligations toward positive feelings instead of focusing on the negative. Practice feeling that emotion so you can carry that mindset whenever stress starts to arise.

Set Realistic Expectations

We are living in a world where bigger and better is pushed in every aspect of our lives. That sets us up for failure. People feel they’ll be less stressed if they get a better ‘this’ or a bigger ‘that’. Set realistic expectations. Focus on finding gratitude for the things we have in our lives that fulfill us.

Find a Confidant

Get an outside, objective perspective from someone with whom you feel that you’re in a ‘safe space’. Being able to confide in someone can reduce stress.

Change Your Mindset

Intentionally activating positive heart emotions such as care, appreciation, compassion and ease decreases stress. The key is learning how to react positively to negative stressors.

Write It Down

Once you’ve identified what triggers you, write them down. Writing things down can be a therapeutic mode of expression. Once they are written down, share them with someone you feel safe with at work or personally.

Seek Peace and Love

Spend five minutes a day to find something that brings you serenity. Listening to music or finding a quiet time can help. Surround yourself with caring friends or family. Do things to elevate your mood.