Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Stuffing yourself on Thanksgiving can add pounds
Stress for Success
November 23, 2010

I asked my husband what I should write about for Thanksgiving week and his immediate response was, “the turkeys in our lives.” After I stopped laughing I decided to focus on the real Thanksgiving turkey.

To stuff yourself or not to stuff yourself on Thanksgiving, that is the question.

There’s a part of me that says, “Oh what the heck, it’s only once a year.” Then the responsible-me remembers how miserable I feel when I overeat. Plus, my husband and I have Thanksgiving, Christmas, both of our birthdays and our anniversary from mid November to New Year’s Eve. So we can careen from one reason to overdo it to another and find ourselves on January 1 feeling like stuffed turkeys.

To counter this, in early January every year for two days, we eat nothing but apples. We purge ourselves of all of the stuff we’ve eaten since my husband’s birthday. It feels good. I’ve been doing it since the late 1960s.

But I also consciously remind myself throughout the holiday season how uncomfortable it feels to overindulge. Plus I don’t want the added weight to add up over the years, which would require that I shop for new clothes, something I hate to do.

Remembering Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean phrase, “Moderation in all things,” can help, too.

Think of this immoderate estimate of how many calories the average American eats on Thanksgiving Day:
* More than 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat! (Source: Caloric Control Council)
* The Council finds that most of these calories come from all-day snacking in front of the TV watching parades and football games.
* FYI: one pound equals about 3,500 calories.

The National Institutes of Health and the Medical University of South Carolina found that the average person’s weight gain over the holidays is just over one pound. So, it’s OK to eat anything and everything you want since one pound is not much, right?

But the researchers also found that 85% of study participants still carried that extra pound one year later. If you gain and retain an extra pound each year they’ll add up. Duh!

Striving for balance and moderation is usually good advice no matter the concern. So if you eat too much lefse (the Norwegian delicacy I make for my family) over the holidays try making it last longer than just for the holidays. If you drink too much alcohol maybe you should consider setting a limit on how much you allow yourself. If you feel uncomfortable when you overeat why not use a small dinner plate and fill it only once?

So, what, if anything, will you do to avoid overindulging on Thanksgiving? Whichever choices you make, make them conscious ones. Identify what would define moderation for you. Then over the holiday weekend and for the next month keep an eye on yourself (without obsessing) and set appropriate limitation on your excesses.

Above all, enjoy Thanksgiving and all that it represents.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html. Email her to request she speak to your organization at jferg8@aol.com.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Assess your emotions before a confrontation
Stress for Success
November 19, 2010

You swear you’re prepared to speak calmly and professionally to a coworker you believe is intentionally sabotaging you. But the second you open your mouth to say something, BAM! you’re practically yelling at him! The first moments of an encounter set the stage for the entire conversation and you know you’ve blown it. But how can you control your aggression?

Use advice from the great book, “Crucial Conversations” by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler (McGraw-Hill, 2002.)

Defensive emotions once engaged are difficult to turn off. And the more defensive you are the more convinced you are that you’re right, giving more fuel to your emotions. If you’ve blown it you may want to apologize and arrange to talk later after you privately take responsibility for your emotions. Here’s how.

Last week I wrote about the book’s advice to identify the other person’s behavior and ask yourself why s/he is behaving that way. Your answer is what actually causes your emotions, not the other person’s behavior. It’s vital to understand this so you can move beyond your defensiveness.

For example, you and I are working on a project together. I discover that you’ve met privately with our boss. Plus, when we both attend meetings you “hog” the time, making it seem like you’re in charge of the project, which you’re not.

“Why” do I think you’re hogging the limelight and excluding me from meetings? My answer: “Because you want all of the credit.” Doesn’t this assumption fuel my anger and resentment?

But just because I believe this doesn’t make it true. If my “why” answer is defensive and judgmental, which it is, I need to identify your behaviors and the facts of the situation before speaking to you.
* Fact/behavior: you had two meetings with the boss that I wasn’t notified of so couldn’t attend. You didn’t inform me later either.
* Fact/behavior: when we presented our idea together you spoke for several minutes while I spoke far less.

Separating the facts and your behaviors from my assumption that you want all of the credit balances me emotionally. I feel more in the driver’s seat of my own life, which decreases my stress therefore my defensiveness. I can assertively speak to you by using this formula:
1. State the facts from my point of view;
2. My interpretation of their meaning;
3. How I feel about it;
4. Ask if I understand correctly.

E.g., “Tom, you didn’t inform me of the meetings you had privately with the boss. This makes me think excluding me was intentional. I felt resentment and was hurt by this. Was I purposefully excluded and if so, why?”

Substituting my assumptions (“hogging” and “wanting all the credit”) with the facts of the situation including your behavior plus using this formula to address my concerns can help balance me so I’m less likely to become instantly defensive.

Next week we’ll look at additional ideas to improve your ability to handle your “crucial conversations.”

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html. Email her to request she speak to your organization at jferg8@aol.com.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Anger may be an emotional castle built on sand
Stress for Success
November 9, 2010

Do you avoid difficult workplace (or personal) conversations where you fear the outcome will be uncomfortable? If so, read “Crucial Conversations” by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler (McGraw-Hill, 2002.)

According to these authors an organization’s effectiveness is strongly determined by its employees’ willingness to have crucial conversations. They found in the:
* Worst organizations poor performers are ignored then transferred (sound familiar?);
* Good organizations supervisors eventually handle problem situations;
* High performing organizations’ employees willingly and effectively speak to someone who fails to deliver on promises. Everyone is held accountable regardless of their level. How radical is that?

Difficult conversations usually trigger your stress cycle, therefore defensive behavior (my words not theirs,) bringing out your worst behavior (their words). What’s your worst behavior? It’s not pretty, is it? You’d probably be as embarrassed as I to have people you respect see you act that way.

To move beyond your automatic, defensive reactions and your worst behavior determine what – or who – is actually causing your problem. Is it really that co-worker who aggravates you so or might it your own interpretation of that person?

I’ve frequently written about how your negative judgments of others trigger your worst behavior. These authors approach this formula differently. This may help you see that your own interpretations determine your emotional reactions and behavior.

Their advice is to ask yourself why the other person is behaving as he is. A simple example is from a program I recently presented, “Collaborative Communication.” During our lunch break an attendee had to wait a long time at a Subway shop where there was only one employee working. He was doing his best and actually, according to my attendee, was doing quite well. He waited on four people at a time, taking each sandwich through the same steps together. All four customers had to wait for all four sandwiches to be made together.

Upon his return to our classroom, my attendee explained his own impatience was because the employee was disorganized (negative judgment). In my attendee’s mind it was the employee’s disorganization that made him impatient. Another attendee offered a different perspective. She suggested that the Subway employee probably didn’t want to take off and put on his plastic gloves repeatedly so made multiple sandwiches together. My attendee thought this seemed a likely explanation and said he probably wouldn’t have been impatient if he’d looked at it that way.

In other words, the label “disorganized” is what caused the attendee to become impatient, not the Subway employee’s system.

Who drives you the most nuts? Why is that person doing what he’s doing? Your explanation, your “why,” triggers your emotions therefore you reaction. The other person doesn’t make you feel as you do, therefore cannot be responsible for your reaction.

To have an important conversation that you’re now avoiding, prepare for it by asking yourself, “What’s your problem person’s behavior and why is he acting that way?” Next week I’ll address how to handle your negative why.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html. Email her to request she speak to your organization at jferg8@aol.com.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

To be happy consider strengths
Live, appreciate your strong suits
Stress for Success
November 2, 2010

Dr. Martin Seligman, University of PA author of “Authentic Happiness” and Positive Psychology pioneer, says happiness is strongly enhanced by three factors, the first two were covered in previous articles:
* Feeling better about your past;
* Thinking more optimistically about your future;
* Experiencing more contentment in the present, this week’s focus;

To be happier in the moment Seligman advises you to avoid “shortcuts to happiness:” sensory experiences accompanied by strong emotions (ecstasy, orgasm, thrills, delight,) like eating hot fudge sundaes, having sex or watching spectator sports. These “pleasures” give you upticks in happiness but fade quickly.

It’s much better to seek “gratifications,” which are activities you do for the sake of doing them. They involve thinking and require stretching your skills to improve.

Gratifications will bring you greater ongoing happiness when they are an expression of your “signature strengths.” (Take Seligman’s VIA Strengths Survey @ www.authentichappiness.org to discover your own.) All of these strengths are very positive. Living your life expressing your top five or so makes you much happier - so much so that you can stop focusing on fixing what’s “wrong” with you. Wouldn’t that be refreshing? These strengths include:

Wisdom and Knowledge: Courage:
Curiosity Valor
Love of learning Perseverance
Judgment Integrity
Social intelligence

Humanity and Love: Justice:
Kindness Citizenship
Loving Fairness

Temperance: Transcendence:
Self-control Appreciation of beauty
Prudence Gratitude
Humility Hope

For example, my top five strengths identified by taking his assessment two years ago and again recently, are:
* Integrity;
* Curiosity;
* Zest;
* Loving;
* Gratitude;

These strengths have strongly influenced my choices, thereby my happiness.
* Integrity: Hopefully those who know me well would say that I have integrity. Just a small example is that lying is virtually impossible for me. I also deliver what I promise, etc.
* Curiosity: I love my work and have great curiosity in all the workshop and speech topics I present (not to mention this column.) In fact, I won’t present topics that don’t interest me.
* Zest: Researching areas that fascinate me gives me great zest or energy and passion for presenting information to others.
* Loving: I’m fortunate to have a wonderful husband and great friends and family. Throughout my entire life I’ve had abundant loving relationships.
* Gratitude: All of my life I’ve been a very grateful person, which is an effective buffer against depression, according to Seligman.

I truly have a great life; and not because of money or possessions nor quick pleasures – although I do love watching MN Vikings’ games. My happiness and contentment come from living what is to me an interesting life; one of my own choosing and designing, therefore authentic.

Identify your own signature strengths by taking Seligman’s assessment, then figure out how you already live these and consciously appreciate that. Seek even greater happiness by looking for additional ways to express your strengths. If authentic happiness is your goal, living your strengths is your strategy.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html. Email her to request she speak to your organization at jferg8@aol.com.