Creating Order in an Upside-Down World

Worth Reading – From Off the Web

By Debra Kessler, Psy.D.

In the past, staying at home was a privilege, a day off, a stay-cation or just an opportunity to relax. However, we are now in a truly strange time. It is mandatory that we stay home and it doesn’t take long for the novelty to wear off. Kids who have complained about getting up in the morning to go to school are now missing it. Technology, which before offered a joyful escape, is now being used for EVERTHING (meaning school work). The opportunity for time together doesn’t resemble the anticipation that would come normally come from a vacation. With the rest of “normal life” has been put on hold, staying at home has never been filled with such dread. Going to school, work and other activities have been removed from our schedules and we are confined in terms of physical and social breadth. Some call it chaotic, disturbing, frightening and depressing.

As we are faced with the challenges inherent to such a new world order, I have become aware that what set structure and order has now has faded away. Now there is no difference between days. Monday is no different than any other day of the week. On a more granular level, there is no demand to go bed at night at a certain time as there is nowhere to go in the morning. It is as if time stands still while we wait, looking for when this uncertainty will end. In the meanwhile we do everything we can to not be part of the story as the virus sweeps across our country and the nature of our social fabric.

So, in this unique time, we are called on to approach our lives in a new way. While we may feel disorientated, this is the moment for us to shift from the demands imposed by the outside world to setting our own rhythms. With the dawning of this awareness, a world of opportunities opens. First, we want to keep the broad architecture of our days consistent. Even when we don’t need to be anywhere in the morning, consider keeping your wakeup time the same day to day. Once up, follow the morning routine as if you were going to be out in the world. Similarly, keep a bedtime routine to avoid disrupting your sleep rhythm and set an outline for your days. Next, consider how you can set one day apart from the next. For example, you might assign chores to particular days- laundry, vacuuming, dusting, cleaning bathrooms, and grocery shopping each on their own day. Larger family tasks like cleaning out the garage, closets or paper stashes can be saved for the weekends, as you would do in normal times. You could also consider making specific meals on designated days of the week to further differentiate one day from the next.

This upheaval also opens the door for new things to emerge. Like the rays of sun that can peak through the clouds, there are unexpected moments of light. We can take the opportunity to reach out to friends we have lost touch with because of the hectic pace of our lives. Consider building a new habit of mindfulness, noticing the present moment. Use your newfound time to be deliberate about noticing the sights, smells, tastes, sounds and touch you experience. While we often brush past these aspects of experience, slowing down to notice these things becomes a resource to rely on. Practicing mindfulness can keep us grounded in the present, rather than getting lost in memories or being carried away by fears about the future.

We now notice that what we formerly thought was essential drops away. Our priorities are now reshuffled. No longer rushed to get dinner on the table between scheduling demands, we have time to explore new recipes. Now is also a good time to add self-care into your routine. Exercise is known to help with management of stress, invaluable in such a challenging time. Consider scheduling a daily 30-minute walk. With time to stroll the neighborhood, we have an opportunity to make new connections and build a sense of community. Plan a daily appointed time to meet in the street, standing six feet apart, to share ideas, a laugh or to find out what each other may need.  This time of crisis drives a resetting of priorities where disagreements that may have separated us in the past can now melt away as there is more that unites us as we all face the same enemy. Practice appreciation for those who provide essential services, doctors, nurses, maintenance, mail, trash, delivery, grocery store employees. Even missed celebrations, birthdays, graduations or anniversaries can be honored in a new way by reaching out. Homemade signs and cakes can lead to new traditions.

Finally, finding new ventures can build a sense of control in this upset world. Consider what you can do for others. From sewing masks to reaching out to those in your community who may not be able to get groceries on their own, doing for others is uplifting. This can also be a time to take on a new goal or challenge to build your confidence. Learn a new language, take an online class, teach yourself how to knit, work with wood, or build something new. Rather than stagnation, this unexpected pause in the flow of life can open the door to opportunities to discover and grow new skills building confidence and resilience. It is when our metal is tested, that we grow our character, turning fear to confidence, vulnerability to taking control, and our upside down topsy-turvy world to one that is ordered, nurturant and remarkably growthful

How To Make Stress Become a Friend

Worth Reading From Off the Web — Excerpts from

A major study concluded that people who experienced a lot of stress but did not view stress as harmful were no more likely to be negatively affected, and, in fact, had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study, including people who had relatively little stress.

The researchers estimated that over the eight years they were tracking deaths, 182,000 Americans died prematurely, not from stress, but from the belief that stress is bad for you.

That is over 20,000 deaths a year. Now, if that estimate is correct, that would make believing stress is bad for you the 15th largest cause of death in the United States last year, killing more people than skin cancer, HIV/AIDS and homicide.

Okay. Some bad news first. People who experienced a lot of stress in the previous year had a 43 percent increased risk of dying. But that was only true for the people who also believed that stress is harmful for your health

So this study got me wondering: Can changing how you think about stress make you healthier? And here the science says yes. When you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to stress.

How to make stress your friend

Symptoms of stress — pounding heart, sweaty palms, hyperventilating, etc., — what if you viewed them instead as signs that your body was energized, was preparing you to meet this challenge? That is what one group of participants were told in a study conducted at Harvard University. Before they went through the social stress test, they were taught to rethink their stress response as helpful: That pounding heart is preparing you for action. If you’re breathing faster, it’s no problem. It’s getting more oxygen to your brain. And participants who learned to view the stress response as helpful for their performance, well, they were less stressed out, less anxious, more confident, but the most fascinating finding to me was how their physical stress response changed.

Now, in a typical stress response, your heart rate goes up, and your blood vessels constrict. And this is one of the reasons that chronic stress is sometimes associated with cardiovascular disease. It’s not really healthy to be in this state all the time. But in the study, when participants viewed their stress response as helpful, their blood vessels stayed relaxed. Their heart was still pounding, but this is a much healthier cardiovascular profile. It actually looks a lot like what happens in moments of joy and courage. Over a lifetime of stressful experiences, this one biological change could be the difference between a stress-induced heart attack at age 50 and living well into your 90s. And this is really what the new science of stress reveals, that how you think about stress matters.

So the next time your heart is pounding from stress, think to yourself, “this is my body helping me rise to this challenge.” When you view stress in that way, your body believes you, and your stress response becomes healthier.

Now I want to tell you about one of the most under-appreciated aspects of the stress response, and the idea is this: Stress makes you social.

To understand this side of stress, we need to talk about a hormone, oxytocin.

Oxytocin is a neuro-hormone. It fine-tunes your brain’s social instincts. It primes you to do things that strengthen close relationships. Oxytocin makes you crave physical contact with your friends and family. It enhances your empathy. It even makes you more willing to help and support the people you care about. But here’s what most people don’t understand about oxytocin. It’s a stress hormone. Your pituitary gland pumps this stuff out as part of the stress response. It’s as much a part of your stress response as the adrenaline that makes your heart pound. When oxytocin is released in the stress response, it motivates you to seek support. Your biological stress response is nudging you to tell someone how you feel instead of bottling it up. Your stress response wants to make sure you notice when someone else in your life is struggling so that you can support each other. When life is difficult, your stress response wants you to be surrounded by people who care about you.

Because of this hormone’s social component, your stress response becomes healthier, and you actually recover faster from stress. I find this amazing, that your stress response has a built-in mechanism for stress resilience, and that mechanism is human connection.

For every major stressful life experience, like financial difficulties or family crisis, that increased the risk of dying by 30 percent. But that wasn’t true for everyone. People who spent time caring for others showed absolutely no stress-related increase in dying. Zero.

And the harmful effects of stress on your health are not inevitable. How you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress. When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience.

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Creating A Mindful Workplace

Worth Reading!

Toxic emotions disrupt the workplace, and mindfulness increases your awareness of these destructive patterns, helping you recognize them before they …

Mindful Workplace

How to Eliminate Suffering

img_0914You can eliminate war for one human being — You!

Worth reading – from Off the Web! (edited for readability)

Byron Katie is known world wide for her wisdom about ending human suffering. She says,

“Hurt feelings or discomfort of any kind cannot be caused by another person. No one outside me can hurt me. That’s not a possibility.”

That’s a bold statement. Many of us react instantaneously to such (seemingly) outrageous claims.

Someone asked Katie:

  • What’s the best way for someone who has suffered – such as a child who was beaten or a person who was raped – to make sense of this philosophy?

Katie replied, “Identify and question what they were believing in that cruel situation as it was happening.”

When children (or adults, for that matter) believe the thoughts they are thinking during and after a painful event, they suffer.

It is not the painful event that causes their suffering once the event is over; it is their thoughts about the event.  

The event is in the past; the thoughts , and resulting feelings, are in the present – thoughts of shame, anger, humiliation, depression, unworthiness, resentment, and so on – yet it is only in the present that we live.

Children have no way to question these thoughts, so they can’t help but suffer over them. It’s not their fault that they suffer. They just don’t know that suffering comes from believing their painful thoughts. This is why without inquiry, it’s so difficult to overcome a trauma.

The things that upset us will stay with us as long as we still believe what we were believing in that situation.  Whether in childhood, or yesterday – time doesn’t matter. Inquiry can break the spell.

The Work is not a philosophy. It’s a way that will let you discover that all suffering has been a misunderstanding

  • Should a person ignore or glide over such things?

Katie replied,

I was never able to do that. The way I became free was by not ignoring or gliding over such things. I had to face them, to look back on those terrible and seemingly unjust situations that I suffered as a child, and as an adult, to write them down and question the thoughts I had at the time. I had to travel back and to see in my mind’s eye that situation, no matter how terrible it was, and to fill in a ‘Judge-Your-Neighbor’ Worksheet. I had to fill out one Worksheet for each situation. I do this by remembering as much as possible of what I was seeing, feeling, thinking, and believing in those moments.

I used to suffer when those images would arise in my mind, and now I don’t. In fact, all those old memories bring a sense of compassion, freedom and gratitude, and never suffering.”

Of course you should suffer when you remember those situations –  since you are believing your thoughts.
Our children learn fearful and angry beliefs from us, and they, like us, have no choice but to live what they believe. What are we teaching through our own negative, fearful beliefs?

She continues,

My job is to end the injustice in my world, the war inside me, and that has made the world a better place, since there is one less violent, angry person in the world now.

If I am at war with reality, I’m continuing in myself the very thing that I want to end in the world. A sane mind doesn’t suffer. Through inquiry, you can begin to eliminate war for one human being: you.

For more information on The Work of Byron Katie, go to