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One out of every eight children in the U.S. suffers from an anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.  If your child is one of them, read on to learn some simple nutrition tips that will help reduce your child’s anxiety.

1.  Basic Nutrition 101

Everyone who eats a healthy diet feels better, and so will your child with anxiety.  Before we get into specifics, here are some basic rules regarding the three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat.  It is important to have all three represented at each meal or snack.  The body most easily processes food when all three are combined, plus it will help your child feel properly satiated. (Remember, carbohydrates include any fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains.)  So, for instance, while an apple is very healthy for your child, it’s not a great snack on its own because it has no protein or fat.  Instead, pair it with peanut butter or cheese, which would add the protein and fat to the snack.

2.  Keep Blood Sugar Stable

Simple sugars are found in foods that contain refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup such as white bread, desserts, soda and juice.  Simple sugars spike glucose levels in the blood, giving a short burst of energy.  This short burst is immediately followed by a crash which can lead to increased anxiety.  This up and down, roller coaster pattern wreaks havoc on the hormone levels of adrenaline and cortisol, which can also exacerbate feelings of anxiety.  You can avoid this easily by opting for slow-digesting, nutrient rich carbohydrates that come from whole grains, fruits, or vegetables.  These will keep your child’s blood sugar levels nice and steady.

3.  Eat Enough Magnesium

Most Americans don’t eat the daily recommended amount of magnesium (350g).  Recent studies have shown a link between magnesium and anxiety.  Scientists believe magnesium acts as a sort of gatekeeper in the brain, making sure certain receptors don’t get too “worked up”. It also regulates the production of stress hormones.  Thankfully, the same foods you can feed your child to stabilize their blood sugar are often also rich in magnesium.  For example, whole grains like quinoa and buckwheat, leafy green vegetables, and seeds, nuts and legumes.

4.  Reduce Stress Hormones

When someone is stressed, they release cortisol into their body.  While this is beneficial to the body after a traumatic injury or during a life and death situation, chronically elevated levels of cortisol due to anxiety wreak havoc on the body.  It is important to minimize this as much as possible by avoiding foods that can trigger the release of cortisol, mainly processed foods with refined sugar and simple carbohydrates like white bread, rice and pasta.

5.  Don’t Forget the Omega-3’s

Omega-3 fatty acids are an important part of anyone’s diet for a myriad of health reasons, but specifically for the anxiety your child experiences, omega-3’s are known to have a protective effect on the brain.  They have also been shown to be great mood enhancers when consumed on a regular basis. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fatty fish like salmon, cod, sardines, shrimp and scallops, flaxseeds, walnuts, and soybeans.

For parents of children with ADHD, it may seem pretty obvious as to why time ‘outside’ would benefit their child.  Children with ADHD are served well by physical activity, a release of their extra energy.  But, what may be surprising is that the type of outside environment can greatly affect a child’s symptoms.

The Landscape and Human Health Lab, a multidisciplinary research laboratory at the University of Illinois that is dedicated to studying the connection between mother nature and human health, has recently conducted research studies on children with ADHD.  While the number of studies is small, they have consistently shown that time spent in “greenery”, AKA nature, has a restorative effect on children and adolescents with ADHD, and improves their attention skills.  In one recent study, 17 children diagnosed with ADHD were taken on walks in three different environments over the space of three weeks. After each walk, concentration was measured using the Digit Scan Backwards test.  Results showed that children with ADHD concentrated substantially better after a walk in the park than after walks in the city or a suburban environment.  According to one of the study’s researchers, Dr. Frances Kuo, they were able to concentrate “shockingly better”.

Thus far the lab has only studied nature’s effect on attention because theory suggests that nature helps restore attention fatigue, which would exacerbate symptoms in a child with ADHD.  However, based on their studies with children of the general population, there is reason to believe it may also help reduce impulse control issues as well.

It appears that time spent in Mother Nature may do more for a child with ADHD than simply expend energy.  The following are some ways parents of children with ADHD might be able to utilize this knowledge to help their child:

  • Take walks outside in Mother Nature between tasks that require concentration, such as homework assignments.
  • Spend time outside when your child is displaying exacerbated symptoms.
  • Use regular Mother Nature time in conjunction with any therapies and/or medications to help optimize the results.
  • If you know ahead of time that your child is going to be asked to do something that is normally difficult for them because of their ADHD, try to work in some Mother Nature time directly before.
  • Expend excess energy AND get restorative, Mother Nature time by playing outside with your child in a green space like a park.

“It’s Not What You Said, It’s How You Said It”

Chances are, you have heard your spouse say this or something similar more than once over the course of your relationship.  Sometimes, he or she has misinterpreted your tone of voice and, in fact, there was no ill-will behind the benign statement you made.  But, often your spouse is fairly accurate in picking up the non-verbal cues that you may have been trying to stuff or hide.  And, while your statement may have been benign, the intention or feeling behind it was not at all, which is what your spouse picked up on.  After all, we all learned how to communicate and to understand each other long before we learned how to speak or understand language.

There is a common exercise utilized by acting teachers that demonstrates this very phenomenon.  The actors are given a 5 or 6 sentence script of open-ended statements that could mean just about anything.  For instance:

“Hello.”

“Hi.  How are you?”

“Fine.  And you?”

“I’ve been to the store.”

“Did you find what you needed?”

“Yes.  I’ll have to get going soon.”

“Alright.”

Then the actors are given a background story and an intention.  If you have ever watched this exercise done in person, the different messages and connotations these few benign sentences can hold are rather astounding.  Each pair of actors’ performance is completely different because their stories and intentions are different.

You and your spouse have your own unique story that is always evolving.  And, if you are a couple in distress, you might be harboring a lot of ill-will towards each other, which is natural.  While communication breakdown is often something that needs to be addressed, along with learning proper communication skills, the fact of the matter is all the skills in the world can’t mask ill-will and negative feelings toward your spouse. They will hear the intention behind the words, and know your real feelings.

So, what to do? How can you begin to address this underlying communication issue?  Goodwill towards your spouse is not a skill to be taught, but rather an attitude or perspective to be consciously cultivated.  Here are some tips:

  1. Consciously choose to focus on the positive in your partner.  Make a list of his/her positive attributes.  If you find yourself focusing on the negative, stop and switch it to the positive.
  2. Learn about your spouse’s emotional needs; what makes him/her feel loved and valued by you.  It may not be what makes you feel loved and valued, so don’t make the mistake of only showing love as you would like to receive it.
  3. Tender touch is a basic human need.  Affectionately and tenderly touch your spouse on a daily basis.  This will increase your feelings of goodwill, as well as your spouse’s.
  4. When your spouse does something that angers or displeases you, channel your internal dialogue into a more positive and healthy avenue.  For example, “This really bothers me and angers me, but I know he means well and does not want me to feel this way.  He is my friend and I need to love him and respect him even in this moment.”
  5. Keep a gratitude journal and make sure you always include things about your spouse for which you are grateful.  It can be certain qualities, something he or she did that day, or simply that your spouse is alive and well that day.

As a parent or guardian, you are constantly making decisions for your child. Some are big, some are small, some you agonize over for weeks and months, and some you make in the blink of an eye.  No matter what the decision, it is pretty safe to assume that if you are taking the time to read this blog, all your decisions are informed by your intense desire to do your best by your child.  Since choosing a therapist for your child is a decision that you could potentially agonize over for quite some time, here are some tips that will help you navigate through the process and feel confident in your choice.

  1. Background Check: First and foremost, you want to be sure that the therapist you choose has the proper credentials and is licensed in the state that you reside in.  The two major licenses you will come across are LCSW and LPC.  An LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker and an LPC is a licensed professional counselor.  Both are valid licenses, just different educational routes.  We recommend checking that their license is in good standing through your state government’s website.
  2. Specializations / Experience / Continuing Education: Next, you’ll want to take notice of the therapist’s specializations and corresponding experience and continuing education.  This information can usually be ascertained from their website.  A person can be a great therapist, but if they never work with children, they will not be a good fit for your child.
  3. The Approach: How does the therapist approach therapy?  What is his philosophy?  How does she describe her role in your child’s life?  Some of this information will most likely be found on a therapist’s website, but we recommend digging deeper into the specifics that relate to the needs of your child during the first phone interview.  It is important to understand the approach so you can know whether it will fit with your child’s personality and needs.
  4. TRUST YOUR GUT: Above all, trust your instincts.  We highly recommend doing an initial in-person consultation with the therapist, your child and you.  At the very least, you should have an in-depth phone call where you can really get a ‘feel’ for him or her.  Then, listen to your gut and trust it.  No matter how glowing the referral, or how impressive the credentials, or how extensive the experience, if you don’t get the feeling that the therapist will be a good match for your child and your family, then move on and find a different one.  A therapist is only as effective as his or her relationship to the child.  If it’s not a good fit, it’ll never work and you’ll waste both your time and your money.

A recent article in USA Today highlighted two research studies, which showed that when overweight children feel ostracized or left out, they tend to eat more and exercise less.  Both studies were conducted at the University of Buffalo where scientists have been studying the effects of different situations on children’s food intake and activity levels for a few years now.

In both studies, the kids would play a computer game that replicated ball tossing.  One set of overweight and normal-weight children’s characters were excluded or ostracized in the game and another set of normal and overweight children’s characters were included.  For the research study centered on food intake, the children from both sets (excluded and included) had a chance to eat as much as they wanted for about 15 minutes after playing the game.  The overweight children ate 200 calories more when their video character was excluded from the game than when the character was included.  The normal-weight children didn’t eat more when their video characters were excluded or left out.  Assistant Professor Sarah-Jeanne Salvy, lead researcher for these studies, thinks one possible reason for this is that overweight children seek food for comfort after they feel ignored.

In the study that focused on activity level, the findings were that both the normal-weight and the overweight children were less physically active after their video characters were ostracized or left out.

The findings of these two studies speak to a snowball effect that could likely happen for children who are overweight or obese.  Overweight and obese children, unfortunately, are often left out, ignored, or ostracized by their peers in all types of situations, whether they be social or physical, like in gym class or on sports teams.  These types of situations can cause them to overeat and to be less physically active, which will cause more weight gain which, in turn, will lead to more situations of being left out or ostracized.  It is a vicious cycle.  How do we break it?

If you are a parent with an overweight or obese child, it is important to address the emotional issues underlying your child’s weight gain, as well as the tendency to seek comfort from food, sometimes called emotional eating.  For some children, it may be beyond the parent’s scope and ability to tackle this all themselves, in which case it may be necessary to seek the help of a licensed therapist or counselor in order to help your child fully deal with these types of issues.  Also, it would be wise to encourage any and all physical activity your child shows interest in.  They may feel too ostracized by their peers to be ready for any organized sports, but they could very well be up for a hike or bike ride with you, for instance.  Incorporating physical activity into family activities is a great way to increase activity levels in your overweight child.

On the other end of the spectrum, if your child is of normal weight, you could help tremendously by encouraging your child to include those kids who are often left out and ostracized.  It is hard for kids to do this completely of their own volition, because being accepted is so important to children and teenagers.  But if you can instill the important values of being kind, empathetic, inclusive, and non-judgmental, you will not only help the overweight children, you will also help your own child grow up to be a thoughtful, generous, kind, accepting adult.

For thousands of years, we humans lived active, social lives set primarily in the great outdoors as hunters and gatherers and, later, farmers.  It is only in the past few generations that we have become an industrialized society that lives a much more sedentary, indoor existence; an increasingly less social existence as we continue to rely more and more on avenues like phone, email, texting and social media to communicate and stay connected with each other.   It is the exact opposite of what our lives used to be.  Today, through experience and scientific research, we are learning that this is not at all good for us; that, in fact, much of our mental and physical health issues, such as depression, chronic stress, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and mood disorders is caused by and exacerbated by this new lifestyle we’ve been leading these past few years.

I am not advocating a return to the Stone Age, trust me.  There is a lot that we have gained as a species in our evolution from then until now that I would loathe to give up, no matter what the benefits.  Rather, the challenge is now to find the balance of both worlds; to reincorporate into our new, industrialized way of living some of the old ways that we have lost to our detriment.

Recent scientific research has shown that cavemen (and women) were protected naturally from many of the conditions and issues we face today by three key elements of their way of living:  1.) the time they spent outside in nature 2.) their physical activity (exercise)  3.  an abundance of social, human to human contact.  The next question is how do we incorporate more of these elements into our lives now?  I know that many of you reading this post lead very busy lives.  Most of us are way too busy, myself included.  But this is too important to shrug off with “I’m too busy.”  Getting sick, either physically, mentally, or both, will surely make a bigger dent in your ability to accomplish your tasks than scheduling some time to exercise, spend time outdoors, and socialize.  The good news is that it doesn’t have to be a ton of time.  A few (4-6) hours a week will go a long way.

A great way to incorporate these key elements is to combine them.  For instance, you could go for a bike ride, a walk, or a run with a group of friends outside.  To be clear, it is important to be in as natural a setting as possible.  If you live in a city, find a park and do the exercise / physical activity there.  There is also a wonderful new trend of outdoor fitness classes.  They are usually group classes, which makes them social, and they often take place in parks and other natural settings.  For those of you who are in our area, Evolution Fitness of Cherry Hill, NJ runs a great outdoor class every Wednesday and Saturday.  Below is a short video of one of the classes.

Another way to incorporate these key elements is to bring them into activities you already do.  For instance, if you are someone who works on the computer a lot, why not bring your laptop to a local park and do your work there?  If you are someone who already exercises a lot, say at a local gym, why not exercise outside on the days you are not strength training?  You could run, walk, bike, or just do a stretch and recover workout.  If you get together with friends and family on a regular basis (which is great), maybe you could try to do more active, outdoorsy things with them like go on a hike and then have a picnic; or just have a picnic and play a game of touch football or volleyball or soccer.

Another great way to help incorporate these key elements is to do them “in bulk” so to speak.  This is geared more towards the being in nature and socializing elements, as it is not good to exercise for too long a period of time, and results will be best with shorter, more regular workouts.  But, say you have a “free” day, on Sunday perhaps, and you could spend 3 or 4 hours outside with friends or family, one hour of which could be doing physical activity.  That would do a lot to carry you through to the next week, leaving you able to spend maybe only 10 – 15 minutes each day outside, which might be more manageable in your schedule.

In conclusion, there are many different ways to incorporate these key three elements of nature time, human to human social time, and physical activity into your everyday life.   It is of the utmost importance to do so.  It will increase your health and happiness ten fold, and we could all use a little more of those things.  It’s all about finding the balance that works for you.

Parenting is not easy. Parenting a child with ADHD is that much harder.  It is hard on each individual parent, hard on their marriage, and hard for other family relationships, such as the parent’s relationship with the sibling(s) of the child with ADHD.  It is important to seek the professional help of a licensed therapist and/or psychiatrist if your child is diagnosed with ADHD.  They will be able to help you, your child, and your family best cope with it all.  Having said that, the following are some basic tips for parenting a child with ADHD:

1.  Parent Together

If you are lucky enough to have a spouse to help you parent your child with ADHD, take full advantage and parent together as a united front.  Most importantly, make all decisions together ahead of time and stay consistent.  The child with ADHD will respond best if he/she gets the exact same response out of each parent with whatever action he/she takes, good or bad.

2.  Maintain a Positive Outlook

A child with ADHD can be very trying and difficult.  It is crucial for you as the parent to maintain perspective, a sense of humor, keep calm, keep focus, stay hopeful and take it all in stride.  Above all, believe in your child.  Trust that they can and will learn, change, mature and ultimately succeed.

3.  Stay Healthy

It is near impossible to adhere to the second tip without adhering to this third tip.  Parenting requires a ton of energy.  Parenting a child with ADHD requires a ton more.  It is absolutely imperative that you take care of yourself.  Exercise regularly.  Eat nutritious foods.  Take a multi-vitamin.  Sleep 8 – 10 hours a night, preferably at the same time every night.  Schedule R & R time and stick to that schedule, no matter what.  Seek and accept support.

4.  Establish Structure

Children with ADHD respond best when they have structure.  Create that structure and stick to it.

5.  Clear Rules -  Rewards and Consequences

Children with ADHD need consistent rules that are clear and spelled out for them.  They respond well to an organized and upfront system of rewards and consequences.  But remember, rewards and consequences lose their value unless you follow through with them.

6.  Praise Your Child

Children with ADHD are often scolded.  Take extra care to notice and praise good behavior to help counteract that imbalance.

7.  Exercise, Nutrition and Sleep

We’ve already discussed the supreme importance of these three things for you, as the parent.  But they are equally important for your child with ADHD.   Children with ADHD often have excess energy.  Exercise, in any form, will help focus and release this energy.  Beyond the energy release, exercise has been proven to improve concentration, decrease depression and anxiety, and promote brain growth.  It will also help your child with ADHD sleep better at night, which will in turn reduce the symptoms of ADHD.  Scheduling an hour of quiet, “down-time” before bedtime will also lead to better sleep.

A child with ADHD will be helped enormously by proper, steady nutrition.  Feed your child healthy, nutrient dense foods every three hours or so.  This will keep blood sugar stable, as well as help brain function and mood.  If your child suffers from the sugar rushes and crashes that are associated with a poor diet, it will be much harder to concentrate and behave appropriately.  That is true for all children, but especially those with ADHD.

Resources:

LiveStrong.com, ADHD Parent Coping Skills

HelpGuide.org, ADD/ADHD Parenting Tips

ADHDHelp.net, ADD: How It Affects Families

ADHDChildParenting.com, How ADD Affects a Family

Teen Suicide & Prevention

Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for teens today.  That is a scary statistic.  The National Institute of Health believes that there are as many as 25 teen suicide attempts for each one that is completed.  That makes the first statistic even scarier.  Teen suicide rates have risen 200% since 1960, yet another scary statistic.  Fact of the matter is, teen suicide is a serious issue and a serious problem that needs to be continuously addressed.

Studies show that clear warning signs precede 4 out of 5 teen suicide attempts.  It is important to note here that many teen suicide warning signs are also indications of depression.  To be clear, you may not see all the warning signs display themselves in the teen.  Instead, watch for a combination of two or three signs as an indication of depression and possible suicidal thoughts.  Here are some of the warning signs:

  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Disinterest in favorite activities
  • Withdrawing or isolating oneself
  • Substance abuse, illegal and legal
  • Complains more frequently of boredom
  • Changes in eating/sleeping habits
  • Reckless “death wish” behaviors
  • Self-injury
  • Neglects hygiene and appearance
  • Increase in physical complaints (aches, fatigues, migraines) possibly due to emotional distress
  • Feelings of being trapped, no way out
  • Perceived burdensomeness, others “better off” without them

The following are warning signs/indications of a suicide plan:

  • Verbal cues and hints, such as:
    • “ All of my problems will end soon ”
    • “ No one can do anything to help me now ”
    • “ I wish I were dead ”
    • “ Everyone will be better off without me ”
    • “ Nothing is going to change or get better ”
    • I just want to go to sleep and not wake up ”
  • Teen begins giving away favorite belongings
  • Throw away important possessions
  • Appear extremely cheerful or calm following a period of depression
  • Creates suicide notes

The three most important aspects of teen suicide prevention are:

1.)  Support / Being Involved

2.)  Awareness / Education

3.)  Professional help

These 3 aspects are like three legs of a stool.  Missing one, the stool will fall over.

The first aspect, support / being involved, is imperative because unless you are actively involved in your teenager’s life, you will never be able to catch any warning signs or changes in behavior.  If your teenager does not feel your support, he/she may feel more alone and hopeless and helpless.  The second aspect, education / awareness is imperative because if you don’t know the warning signs, you might miss them no matter how involved or supportive a parent you are.  Finally, the third aspect, professional help, is imperative for if/when you discover your teenager is depressed or suicidal.  Suicide is not something a family or teen can “handle” themselves.  It requires the licensed professional help of counselors, psychologists, and/or psychiatrists.

There is a non-profit organization right here in New Jersey whose mission it is to educate parents, teachers, and teens about teen suicide.  It was started in 2005 by the parents of Jimmy Ganley, who committed suicide in 2004, and it is called The Ganley Foundation.  Below is a link to their mission page that features a video excerpt from an ESPN special that tells their story.  It is heartbreaking and hard to watch, but it hammers home in a very real way how crucial it is to bring awareness to teen suicide and prevention.

http://ganleyfoundation.org/about-us/our-mission.html

If you, or anyone you know, is contemplating suicide, below are some hotlines you can call for immediate assistance:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

National Suicide Prevention Hotline
1-800-273-TALK (8255)

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/Default.aspx
Veterans, press 1 to be routed to the Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline


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Kristen Brooks Hope Center – National Hopeline Network

1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)

http://www.hopeline.com/


Here at The Listening Center, we are big admirers of Rachel Cosgrove.  For those who have not yet heard of her, Rachel Cosgrove is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, co-owner of a successful gym in California called Results Fitness, columnist for Women’s Health magazine, and best-selling author of a fabulous book we highly recommend, The Female Body Breakthrough.  (If interested, you can learn more about Rachel by visiting her website http://www.rachelcosgrove.com.)

Recently, I caught a video of Rachel on You Tube taken during her visit at Todd Durkin’s gym, Fitness Quest 10, also in California.  The video focused on a talk she gave to some of the members at the gym, focusing on the themes and messages of her book, The Female Body Breakthrough.  At one point, Rachel described for the audience the 3 major components to achieving overall health and fitness.  (Bare in mind, these 3 components apply to men as well.)  She used the analogy of a stool, each component comprising one leg.  They were:  exercise, nutrition and mindset.  If one leg of the stool is weak or out of balance, then the whole fitness stool is off kilter, unstable, and out of balance.  What struck me the most about the talk Rachel Cosgrove gave that day at Fitness Quest 10 was what she said about the importance of one’s mindset:

“… {I} realized the women who really made that change long-term, and lost the weight, lost the clothing sizes, and were able to do it and keep it off long-term, and really change their bodies for their LIFE, were the ones who were able to change their mindset.”

Makes sense, right?  It’s something many of us have learned in some aspect of our lives – maybe not health and fitness, but we can all instinctively understand that lasting change only comes when our mindset has also changed.  Those of you who are Biggest Loser fans have seen this theme play itself out season after season.  Every single Biggest Loser contestant in every single season needed to, at some point, face and come to terms with whatever it was in their mindset that had caused them to become obese.  For some, it was a self-image issue.  For others, it was an emotional issue.  Still others were a combination of the two and even other issues I haven’t touched upon.  Universally, they ALL needed to change their mindset to achieve the lasting success they desired.

A person’s issues with food can often be tied to emotional issues.  Food is a substance that can be abused as a means of escape like any other.  Unlike any other, however, it is not a substance that can be abstained from, as one would abstain from drinking alcohol if one were an alcoholic.  Everyone needs to eat, after all.  This means that you have to completely change your relationship with food, as well as heal the emotional issues that caused your food addiction in the first place.  Sessions with a licensed counselor, ideally one who is holistic in his/her approach and who is open to working in conjunction with others who can also help you on your journey, such as a nutritionist and trainer, could be instrumental in changing your mindset for lasting success.  Some issues run too deep and too wide to grapple with and decipher all on our own.  Getting the help of a therapist during your journey will help create that lasting success you desire.

Another common mindset issue that needs to be changed in order to achieve the health and weight-loss you desire is negative self-image and self-talk, coupled with low self-esteem.  Far too many of us say very mean things to ourselves – and believe them!!  No wonder we feel awful, and hopeless, and discouraged when we constantly tell ourselves that we are fat, and ugly, and sloppy, and lazy, etc., etc.  All this negative self-talk only causes us to turn to food even more for comfort.  Make a promise to yourself right here and now that you will cease the negative self-talk and replace it with positive talk.  You will tell yourself that you are beautiful, and fit, and healthy, and productive.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe it at first.  In fact, you can count on not believing it at first.  After all, you’ve had years of conditioning yourself to believe just the opposite.  However, the more and more you replace the negative talk with positive, the better you will begin to feel and the more you will believe the positive vs. the negative.  Eventually, the negative voice will grow weaker and weaker until she/he ceases to exist.

To sum it all up, changing your mindset is the key to making any lasting change you seek in your life.  While this post has focused on it in terms of weight-loss and health, your mindset is the key to success in any endeavor you take on.  It should be your first priority.  If you find that you are unable to effectively change your mindset, do not be afraid to seek help.

If you were to Google “get comfortable with being uncomfortable”, you would be hit with page after page of people advising you to apply this concept to all areas of your life.  Some will focus more on how it can help you in business, others on its benefits in exercise and health, others for its effect on relationships and social life, and still others on how it benefits you, the individual.  But, while the focus may change, they will all say the same thing:  Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is the key to success.

We are creatures of comfort, naturally.  Most of us resist change because we don’t like feeling uncomfortable.  But, change cannot occur in any aspect of our lives until we leave our comfort zone and switch up the status quo.  When you are uncomfortable, you are pushing your boundaries, trying new things, stretching yourself to do something you have not yet done.  This is the source of growth and change.  In your workouts, for instance, pushing yourself outside your comfort zone translates into achieving that next level of fitness, whatever it may be for you.  In your relationships, being vulnerable and uncomfortable is how you create true intimacy and form new bonds.  In your career and business, taking risks and working on things you haven’t “mastered” yet is how you will grow your business and advance your career.  Being uncomfortable leads to growth and change.  Ever went through a big growth spurt as a kid?  Remember how uncomfortable (and sometimes even painful) your body felt right before?  Discomfort before growth and change is a universal principle that can be applied across the board in all areas of life.

So, how does one get comfortable with being uncomfortable?  Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?  Here’s the thing.  While you will never be completely comfortable with the discomfort – how could you be? – you can become more and more accustomed to “dealing with” the feeling and, eventually, embracing it.  Our normal reaction to feelings of discomfort is to avoid what is making us uncomfortable, to push back and resist it, to procrastinate, or eat too much, sleep too much, drink too much, become moody, and many other unhelpful coping mechanisms.  Instead, try something different next time.  When you feel yourself tensing as a result of discomfort with whatever you are facing in that moment, pause and check in with your body.  Pay particular attention to your breath.  If you are tense, your breathing will most often be shallow and short.  Consciously take a few deep breaths in through your nose, sending the breath way down deep into your belly and lower back.  Visualize yourself harnessing all that nervous and uncomfortable energy with each deep breath.  Then, once you feel more centered and in control, use that newly harnessed energy to follow through and accomplish whatever it was that was taking you out of your comfort zone and into uncharted territory.  One day in the not-too-distant future, when the growth has occurred and you’ve expanded your life, you’ll be happy you did.

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