Gratitude Practice: Cool Tool #42

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, 
but the parent of all the others.”
  Cicero, ancient Roman philosopher

thanks noteWhile the U.S. Thanksgiving celebration is a one-day affair, Facebookers have been spending the entire month sharing thanks in their posts. Nice to read the appreciations for things ranging from the mundane to the sacred.

Gratitude is a foundational spiritual principle. And nothing says “attitude of gratitude” better than a practice that reminds you to count your blessings on a regular basis.

 I am grateful for…

Research confirms what anyone with a gratitude practice will tell you. “Gratituders” (I just made up that word. Do you like it?) are happier, less stressed folk.   

 Some people use a journal to list the things that they value. Others express their appreciation verbally or send letters of thanks.

My practice consists of writing a list of gratitudes and then emailing them to the eight women in my gratitude circle. One-woman emails almost daily. Others only send an occasional email.

 For me, knowing that I’m going to write my list down means my brain goes looking for things to appreciate.  

 Recent gratitudes have included being grateful for:

  • Being inside where it’s warm and toasty
  • Water
  • That my partner is taking my car in for service
  • My appreciative clients
  • Access to delicious healthy foods

 While I send my list somewhere between 3-6 days a week I’m always on the lookout for things I could include on the list.  I also get ideas from the women in my group (some of who I’ve never met.)

I find the practice particularly helpful on days where I feel down, stressed, or crabby. I especially make a point of composing and sending my list to shift my energy on those days.

 Your gratitude practice? Do you have one? What is it?

If you want to start your own gratitude group simply ask your Facebook friends if they want to participate. Or ask here. It only takes two to get stated.

Thanks for reading and commenting. Just might make my gratitude list today.  😀

 

Vacation from Your Business: Cool Tool #38

I didn’t take a single day off for rest and renewal during my first year of full-time self-employment. Even though I loved my new profession, my clients, and being my own boss I ended up depleted.

At the end of that year I treated myself to a week at a yoga workshop in Mexico. The first three days while everyone else body surfed or walked the beach I sat in a hammock and stared at the ocean. You know, that kind of vacant, not very bright staring. It was all I could do.swings at beach

From that hammock I vowed to never again let myself get that depleted.  

Why no vacation for me?

Because I was afraid I wouldn’t make it without a paycheck. Now I know that being successful (in my business and my life) means I must take regular time away from work.

This year I rested, swam, and paddle boarded in Troncones, Mexico for a couple of weeks, added some vacation days to a conference trip to Vancouver, B.C. and Seattle, and spent a week with family in the midwest.

But those weren’t my only renewal periods. I highly recommend mini breaks in addition to longer times away. Yesterday I took advantage of a break between clients to walk to a local park and play on the swings. It was our last day of sunshine for months and kids were in school so I had my choice of swings.

Do you need a get away?

The best time to plan your get away is before you’re stressed and crabby, before you have to push yourself through your days, before you find yourself doing anything but work.

But, hey, if you’ve let yourself get depleted as I was and ocean staring is not in your near future, consider an emergency mini-retreat.

And if you need further enticement here are a few more benefits of time away from work.

  • Stress reduction
  • Enhanced job performance
  • Increased creativity
  • Improved physical and mental health

A day off to hike or read a novel, a day trip to a local day spa, a girls night out…  What renews you?

 

 

 

 

Powerful Pose to Relieve and Align Achy Forearms: Cool Tool #34

Here’s a test for you. Pick a couple of “typical” days over the next week. Then keep track of how much time you spend with your arms forward of your body, your fingers and hands curled.

It’s the position you assume when using a computer, driving, creating some types of art, cooking, using an elliptical machine with arms… If you’re like most people it will be quiet a few hours.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that position. It’s just that your body is more adapted to variety rather than repetition. When you use the same muscles again and again, especially in a static position they get tired, shortened, and sometimes misaligned (along with your bones.)

Unfortunately this kind of muscle use doesn’t give you muscle definition. Instead you can get muscle soreness and nerve pain in addition to numbness, weakness, and damage. In my work as a massage therapist many of my clients experience discomfort in their shoulders, forearms, and wrists. You might hear names like carpal tunnel, thoracic outlet syndrome, or tendinitis.

The repetition is stressful to your body and the resulting pain and discomfort brings a psychological stress. You can’t be as productive. You might even get crabby. You might have to restrict your activities. No one wants to have to give up his or her playtime.

 One of the best things you can do is stretch regularly. For every 30 minutes you spend in the shoulder forward, arms extended posture spend at least a couple minutes stretching in the other direction.

Prevention isn’t sexy. I get it. But feeling good and being able to work and play without pain and discomfort are very sexy.

Here’s one stretch for while you’re at your desk or sitting in traffic. Give it a try and let me know what you think. 

And then check out the next cool tool for a stretch for your off work time. 

 

Be Gentle with Your Mistakes: Stress Cool Tool # 29

I realized yesterday that I’d skipped over Cool Tool #29.1 + 1 = 3

Poor #29.

In the past I would have felt shame and embarrassment. Along the way I had ingrained the message that mistakes were bad. I can’t say that I’m never embarrassed about forgetting something these days. But at least I have more perspective.

The Human Element

Somehow I learned that we all make mistakes. It’s laughable to think I wasn’t aware of this simple truth. I’ve never read Richard Carlson’s Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, but I love the title.  What a great de-stressor to not worry over things you can’t change.

 Here’s what I do with my mistakes these days.

  1. Get perspective. Is this mistake life threatening? (So far I haven’t uttered a yes to this question.)
  2. Is there a way to rectify my mistake?  If I get a yes, then I take action. If my answer is no, I move onto question #3.
  3. Is there anything I can learn from this mistake? I teach a business class at Oregon School of Massage. I left home without my class notes, student homework, etc. one week. Whoops. So now I park my bag where I have to step over it to leave. No more forgotten bag.
  4. Forgive myself and move on.

What a great de-stressor this process has been for me. It frees up energy for doing things more in align with my purpose and goals like writing blog posts.

How do you handle making mistakes? Any tips to add? I’d love to add your suggestions to my tool bag.

PS. Coaching serves as a supportive way to learn from mistakes and create new helpful patterns. Your initial consultation to learn more and see if we’re a good match is free. 

 Book Your Session

Get Focused: Business Stress Cool Tool # 32

I’ve expounded on the virtues of unfocused time. So what about focusing?focused eye

Busy, busy brain.

That busy brain of yours focuses on stuff all the time. You focus on:

  • the great conversation you had with a client
  • the deadline, once so far away, but now running at record speed towards you
  • the great laughs you had with a friend over dinner
  • the health concern that is probably nothing, but might be something scary
  • the creative idea for you business that just popped into your head
  • the fight you had with your partner
  • the vision you hold for you business and life…

The power of focus comes from getting clear about what you want and then spending more time thinking about that thing then the other stuff.

Easy?

Not always. That conversation that just didn’t feel right keeps playing over in your head. You second-guess a decision you made. You doubt your ability to pull off a project.

The downside about focusing on the stuff that doesn’t feel good is that, well, it doesn’t feel good. It creates stress in your life. And you enhance your chances of attracting the very thing you don’t want into your life.

 Focus Wheel

When my monkey mind is dancing with thoughts in the “I don’t want this” category I like to use a tool from the Abraham Hicks materials. You’ll find a focus wheel particularly useful when you’re struggling with the belief that what you desire is attainable.

Here’s an example:

You‘re ready to launch a new program or service. Every time you think about it you find doubt creeping in. Sometimes it doesn’t creep. It thrashes about and leaves a big mess.

Let’s shift that. First draw a circle. Put the object of your desire, in this case your new program or service, in the center. You can write words or find an image that represents your desire (or both.)

Then draw a series of circles around that central circle. In each of those circles write a statement that relates to your central desire. But make each of the additional statements a thought that you do believe.

If your original statement is “My new service is successful beyond my hopes and dreams” you might write, “My intuition guides me each step of the process.” Whatever you choose should feel good. You should feel soothed as you read it.

When you find yourself focusing on doubts, past failures, obstacles…pull out your focus wheel. Read each of the supportive, easy to believe statements you wrote. Then read the central statement. If you’re like me, your focus will have shifted from stress and doubt to “of course I can do this!”

Bottom Line

Focus when it serves you. Be looser with life and with your business when that serves you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on focusing. How do you use it? What are your tips?

 

Focus: Less is More Stress Tool # 31:

Picture a 1950’s era home movie. Grainy footage shoot by a less than stable hand. You see a pair of smiling blurry image of childgrandparents open their front door and step on to their small concrete porch.

First a boy, maybe six years old, walks up the steps and gets embraced by grandmother and then grandfather. A girl, younger by a few years, follows suit.

And then you see something move in a blur in front of the camera. 

The second time you see the blur you realize it’s a third child, similar in age, but moving at 8.5 times the speed as her siblings. Eventually she makes her way back to her grandparents for her turn at hugs. 

That blur was I. 

Present Moment

Right now if you’d look over my shoulder at my computer you’d see I have five browser windows, four programs, and three word documents (and a partridge in a pear tree) open.

In other words focus has never been a strong suit of mine. 

The Joys of Being Unfocused

I’ll admit that, at times, more focus would serve me. But I also know that not being focused has its place too. Many creative people find that dinking around with non-essential tasks calms and prepares them for their essential task. 

Picture a writer organizing her desk or a coach chatting on the phone with a friend before getting down to the days tasks. It’s much like a warm up before hitting the gym. 

Unfocused time allows for creativity, spontaneity, and rejuvenation.

As a non-focuser I’m delighted to know tidbits of info like this cool tool.

Focus Creates Stress

Physiologically you can see (no pun intended) that when hunting for dinner our Neanderthal relatives (and I don’t mean the ones you celebrate holidays with) would have to focus their eyes to spot and shoot their prey.

 Now picture yourself sitting in front of your computer, texting, watching TV, reading… Lots of eye focus involved in your day too, right?

 Try an experiment. Focus on a point and notice what happens to your breathing, to your muscles, especially in your head and neck. Now let your gaze go soft. Don’t focus on anything for a few breaths and notice the change.

When focused you probably noticed some tension around your eyes, maybe in your jaw, forehead, neck, chest, or shoulders. You also probably noticed that your breath became shallower.

And when you shifted to your peripheral vision you noticed a relaxation of muscles, a deepening of your breath, didn’t you?

Use this soft eyes technique on a regular basis during your day for a quick de-stressor and tension releaser.

Share your experience here.

Read the next post if you want to know some reasons you should focus.

 

Business Stress Cool Tool # 19: Breath Awareness

Breath awareness is one of my favorite de-stressing tools. Three cool things about breath.52 Cool Tools

  1. Ever present. It’s true that if you stop breathing all your stress will go away. But as long as you’re still breathing, you’ll have this tool at the ready to help you de-stress.
  2. Free. No cost to install or maintain this tool.
  3. Reminds you that you’re connected to something larger. You can’t breathe in isolation. With every breath you’re recycling breath that’s been breathed by your loved ones, your irritating neighbor, a petunia, your dog, Buddha… No such thing as a virgin breath.

 By altering your breath you can feel more relaxed, more energized, more confident, more present, more intuitive… But before you start changing your breath, get acquainted first.

 I’ve included a 4-minute breath meditation.

It’s something you can listen to often. What did you learn from your breath?

Join my email list here.

 

Cool Tool #14: Protection in a Bottle

You want to be authentic with your clients. You know that when you bring your vulnerable self to your work you get better results.

But showing your tender underbelly to clients can feel scary.

 What’s a Conscious Entrepreneur to Do?

 One of my favorite tools for protection is frankincense (Boswellia carteri.)

 Why do you think the wise men brought this precious resin to baby Jesus as a birthday gift? I can just hear the wise men asking their wise wives to head out to the market and pick up a little something for the baby. I’m guessing it was the balm of protection along with the resin’s ability to connect one with their spiritual self that made it the must have gift for baby Jesus.

 To produce the oil the tree is scraped. Then the tree produces a resin to protect itself. Smart tree. Emulate the tree and you’ll have some protection of your own.

Frankincense and You

Some people burn the resin. I use the oil that’s distilled from the resin. So what do you do with the oil?

 You can sniff the oil from the bottle. You can dilute it in a blend with either water for a spray or oil to use on your skin. I have a blend that contains frankincense that I use in my office to create a sense of protection. In a blend you won’t need much of this oil to impart it’s signature smell.

 This comforting oil smells warm, sweet, and woodsy. Recovering Catholics be forewarned. One of my clients had an aversion to the oil because it reminded her of her less than pleasant Catholic upbringing.

 Other Uses

This protector of your spirit is a multitasking winner. The fragrance can help:

  • Connect you to your spiritual self.  
  • Move you into mediation.
  • Still busy emotions.
  • Release connections to your past that get in your way.
  • Soothe stress and anxiety.

Have you used frankincense? Share your experiences here.

Cool Tool #13: Get Help for Your Business

Time and money.help sign

Ever been stressed as a business owner by time and money? When these two bad boys tango your stress multiplies.

Today’s cool tool is a magician. It will help you with lack of time and money dilemmas all at once.  That’s pretty cool, don’t you think?

The Business Gurus’ Time/Money Advice

Any business guru will tell you to spend your time on the things you do well. Then hire help for the areas that you either struggle with or at best, competent.

Those three hours you spend on getting the graphics right for your brochure are three hours you could spend working with a client, developing materials, marketing your business, getting a massage… If you’re skilled with graphics, love doing that kind of project, or really want to learn the skill, then go for it.

But if you’re choosing to do it yourself because of the other big stressor, money, then I have a great resource.

Meet Fiverr

If you haven’t been introduced, Fiver.com is a site where you can purchase or sell all kinds of services for $5. Even the most cash-strapped business owner can come up with five bucks.

 You might be surprised at what people are willing to sell for $5. Here are a few offerings:

  •  Logos developed
  • Post flyers
  • Advise on marketing strategy
  • Edit a document
  • Set up a website

 Too Good to be True?

I tried it out as a buyer and have been very pleased with the results. I’ve used two different sellers and found the service fast and professional. Here’s the graphic I had made for my “52 Cool Tools blog post event.”52 Cool Tools

I’m sure you can get some dud services. The truth is I’ve paid much more than $5 for service that weren’t great. For me the dollar amount takes away some of the risk.

 Another Downside to Fiverr?  

You could waste all the time you save from outsourcing your project by surfing the site. You’ll find unusual offers like:

  •  Having someone juggle sharp objects while they yell your message
  • Put your friend’s face on an object
  • A song written based on a craigslist ad.
  • Have someone meditate on your financial abundance

 And if you don’t find the gig you fancy, you can post your suggestions and see if you get any takers.

 Share your Fiverr experience here. I’d love to hear about it.