Dog Days of Summer

It’s hot. Everywhere. A Reuters release a few hours ago indicated that the Continental U.S. broke the heat record in the first half of 2012, so I am certain I am not crazy. At least not about that.

I have lived in paradise here in the Lowcountry for more than eight years, but I still haven’t gotten used to dealing with the heat, humidity and bugs that make me want to stay cooped up inside in the air conditioning in July and August. Pools are too warm to be refreshing. The beach is too hot, muggy and crowded to enjoy. It’s too hot to run, my favorite exercise…wah wah wah…I used to have a coffee mug that said “No Whining” but I accidentally broke it. Clearly I need to replace it.

For the last few weeks, I haven’t been writing at all, I am out of my exercise routine, and I wound up with a wicked summer cold. The last few days have found me particularly lethargic… Even Derby isn’t feeling well – as I write this he is taking a nap in my closet. Poor guy has a double ear infection, and is clearly not himself. We are quite a pair!

Derby napping in my closet

After a trip to the emergency vet yesterday to figure out what was wrong with Derby, I finally sat down to write and think about my state of mind and my state (and Derby’s!) of physical being. I was tired of feeling tired. I had crossed the line into self pity and general “mopeyness” (not really a word but still says it best)…and I knew I needed to work a few things out in my head and get a grip.

I asked myself – where is the fine line between rest and lethargy? Between healing and moping? Between relaxation and rumination?

For sure sometimes we need to allow ourselves the time and space to rest and heal – whether from illness, heartbreak or the like. But sometimes we wallow. Sometimes we mope. Sometimes we cross that line into inertia and don’t realize it…I was definitely there, and started to see things a little more clearly. Do you know what I mean? It’s the simple difference between taking a nap and waking up refreshed versus clicking through TV stations for two hours feeling tired and listless. Except on a grander scale.

As I thought about the questions, some answers started to percolate. I started to realize that the key for me is awareness, purpose, and intention. I realized that If I am aware of how I am feeling and why, I can clearly think about what I need, and I can start to take purposeful steps to meet those needs. If I need to rest, I can take a nap to take care of myself rather than feel guilty that I am restless on the couch channel surfing rather than being productive.

It’s as simple as being mindful rather than mindless. I can be mindful and be in a state of rest and healing…or I can be mindless and feel idle and lethargic. One gives me energy. The other zaps it.

Can it really be that simple??

Uh, no. So what gets in the way? Get ready for the list. I sat and literally wrote a list of what I labeled:

“Energy Suckers”

  1. Self doubt disguised as voices in my head that say “you can’t” or “you’re not good enough” or “you don’t deserve it.”
  2. Giving too much – not saying no.
  3. Resentments that I haven’t let go. Just like Florence sings… “I’m always dragging that horse around.”
  4. Fear paralysis. What if? What’s next?
  5. Self pity.
  6. Looking for validation from others – rather than from within.
  7. Unhealthy eating and/or drinking.
  8. Ignoring my feelings by brushing off any negative emotion rather than becoming aware of what it is and where it comes from.
  9. Doing too much – focusing on doing rather than being.
  10. Inertia – doing nothing yet not resting.
  11. Not engaging my brain – mindlessness v. mindfulness.

What zaps YOUR energy? Who and what are your energy suckers?

If you have been reading my blog for a while, then you know I like to flip things around, so…

Here is a list of my energy remedies, aka…

“Energizers”

  1. Getting a good night’s sleep. Or a great nap. I can learn from Derby – who by the way is still napping, but has now moved to the couch. He doesn’t seem to be feeling guilty – he is resting and healing.
  2. Writing. Nothing clears my head like writing does.
  3. Asking a friend for help. Or going to the doctor for a diagnosis and some medicine.
  4. Helping someone in need…and re-gaining perspective.
  5. Reflecting on my growth and lessons learned.
  6. Listening to music. Recent favorite song includes Shake it Out by Florence and the Machine and my newest Pandora addition, George Michael…
  7. Reading a book. Recent favorite, The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown.
  8. Exercising – yes, even in this terrible heat. Who says walking isn’t exercise? Derby and I went for a walk this morning, and I think we both feel a little better as a result.
  9. Creating something – by cooking something fresh and healthy or making jewelry.
  10. Laughter (remember my Belly Laugh post…).

What is on your list? What energizes you?

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What Do Your “Pet Peeves” Say About You?

As I sit in the USAirways commuter terminal trying to get home, dealing with an annoying 2 1/2 hour delay, I figured it would be a good time to reflect about my “pet peeves” since I am literally entrenched in multiples of my pet peeves at this very moment.

Generally speaking, I tend to be a pretty patient person. It takes a lot for me to get angry enough to get physically upset about something.  Plenty of things get under my skin, but I try not to lose my cool outwardly. That said, most of my pet peeves can still ruin my day if I let them. I often say I am slow to anger but easily annoyed. I can easily internalize my feelings, build resentments, and do a crappy job of managing my own energy and outlook on life if I get mired down by my pet peeves.

Since I am a fan of making lists, here is a list of my pet peeves in no particular order.

1. Travel delays on my return trips home.This is obviously on my mind at the moment. I tend to be a pretty patient, calm traveler, but when it’s time to go home like tonight, something in me snaps, and I feel like a contestant on the Amazing Race dealing with “Roadblocks” and “U-Turns” in a race against the clock trying to get to my destination…my own bed.

2. Nay-sayers. I HATE when someone tells me that I can’t do something – or that they don’t believe that I can do something – or they won’t let me try. I hate it. Capital H-A-T-E. HATE.

3. Energy Suckers. These are the people who take more than they give back…these are the people who will exhaust me if I am not careful.

4. People who don’t follow through on their commitments. I find it incredibly frustrating when, despite every effort I make being clear in my request, someone agrees to do something and then doesn’t follow through. I would much rather someone say no to me rather than making a promise they can’t keep or have no intention of keeping.

5. Making the same mistake more than once. This is one of my own personal pet peeves about myself. I have little patience with myself if I make the same mistake AGAIN and didn’t “get it” the first time around.

6. Close-mindedness. I have always found it difficult to have a fruitful, thoughtful discussion with someone who refuses to consider another point of view. What is the point in even having a discussion with someone if their mind is already made up? It’s like talking to a brick wall rather than having a true dialogue.

7. Mean people. I don’t want to and feel I don’t need to elaborate on this one.

So – what is the point in thinking about all of the things that drive me crazy? This can be dangerous, right? I could so easily go down the rabbit-hole of complaining and self-pity. I do that often enough. I could keep adding to this list for hours!

But instead, today I am thinking about what my pet peeves mean about me. What do the things that drive me insane say about who I am as a person and what I stand for? This is an interesting way for me to look at those negative forces and flip them on their heads. To turn it around. To see them in a different way, and to get a different kind of energy – or fuel I like to say – out of them.

So here is the list again – seen in my new way.

1. I value my personal space. I like my home, and I like to be home. Though I am a social person, I like having healthy boundaries and time to myself.

2. I believe in possibilities. I thrive when I see options. I value having control and responsibility over my choices.

3. I value reciprocal, healthy relationships, in both my professional and personal life.

4. I value credibility – my own credibility, and credibility in others.

5. My personal growth and development is very important to me. I want to keep learning and moving forward in my journey, and to continue to make meaning out of my experiences.

6. I believe that I don’t always have the answers. I am open to learning new things and new perspectives by staying open-minded.

7. I believe that the “Golden Rule – treating others the way I want to be treated – is the simplest pathway to peace and serenity.

So now I am sitting here in the same noisy terminal. The delay is now 3 1/2 hours – but I feel pretty calm and peaceful compared to how I felt when I began this post. Maybe I can learn something from this experience the next time something or someone pushes my buttons.

What do your pet peeves say about you? What can you learn about yourself by spending a few minutes reflecting about why these things drive you nuts? How can you use a different perspective to change your energy, change your outlook, and see some new options for action?

Put Your Own Oxygen Mask on First

Passenger oxygen mask deployment
Image via Wikipedia

Have you ever really thought of why flight attendants tell us to put our own oxygen masks on first before helping others – including the ones we love? It can seem counter-intuitive, right? Wouldn’t your first instinct be to immediately aid your child or other loved one? Now imagine trying to help your child or other loved one while you are literally gasping for air. You won’t be much help for long…

In your daily life, at work and/or at home, do you find yourself sometimes “gasping for air?” Do you rush to the aid of others without taking the time to care for yourself first? Do you find yourself answering other’s needs at the sacrifice of your own? If you are a leader, do you have those expectations of the people that you lead?  

I see this dilemma EVERYWHERE with all kinds of people – men, women, mothers, fathers, both single & married people, working mothers & stay-at-home mothers. The term “work/life balance” is thrown around to describe those in the workplace that feel they don’t have enough time to do it all. I suggest that this problem of work/life balance is not about time management; rather it is about energy management.

Self-care gives you the FUEL (i.e. energy) you need to not only cope with life, but to actually enjoy your life. As a result, you can be more effective in both your work and personal life, fueled with more energy to tackle the constant challenges that life presents.

Tony Schwartz is an author, frequent writer and blogger for the Harvard Business Journal, and is President/CEO of the Energy Project. His Energy Project promotes the key idea that companies expect their employees to operate like computers – at continuous high speeds, over time, processing multiple things at once. But, as humans, we can’t sustain ourselves this way – the demand surpasses our capacity, and we fall into survival mode (i.e. gasping for air).  It states that as humans, we have optimal performance when we move between expending our energy and renewing our four “forgotten” energy needs: sustainability (physical), security (emotional); self-expression (mental) and significance (spiritual).

So, I then ask you – how can you move from survival mode (gasping for air) to self-care (energy renewal)? As a leader, how you can cultivate a culture that allows for energy renewal and optimal performance?

Here are some questions to ponder that may help:

How can you increase your awareness about your own energy management?

What “forgotten energy” needs are you neglecting?

What are some simple, achievable goals you can set for one or more of your four energy needs: physical, emotional, mental and/or spiritual?

What is your “story” about self-care and selfishness? How is that story preventing you from practicing self-care?

How can you become more intentional with how you expend your energy?