Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Take stock of past year before setting your sights on next
Stress for Success
December 27, 2011

How was your 2011? Did you accomplish your 2011 New Year’s resolutions like lose those ten pounds or save more money?

In approaching the New Year we typically think of what we’ll resolve to do in the next year. However, first taking stock of the year you just lived helps you better plan for the next.

At the beginning of 2011, if you had answered the following “magic questions” what would your answers have been?
· What did you want more of? E.g., more time with family, more energy, more savings
· What did you want less of? E.g., fewer arguments, less TV watching, less debt

Your answers make up your desires and wants; your potential goals. Write your answers as they would have been last January.

Next, assess how you did in reaching your goals. Then determine how important each was and still is to you.

If you didn’t make progress on your objectives, why didn’t you? Were your sights set too high? If so, cut them down into more digestible, bite-size targets: instead of losing 20 pounds shoot to lose ten.

Determine how badly you wanted to accomplish them. I believe ultimately we do what we truly want to do. So if you vowed you wanted to have fewer arguments with your spouse but that didn’t happen, what might you be getting out of the continuation of the arguments? Are you a controller and convinced you’re right and s/he’s wrong and it would be going against your own beliefs to back down so you keep arguing? To prove you’re right? Or do the arguments supply the drama you grew up with and grew accustomed to? An absence of this might make you feel uncomfortable.
Also, look at how the goal above is phrased: “to want fewer arguments,” versus “to have fewer arguments.” The former is a desire, the latter requires changing your behavior. Make your new 2012 goal into a specific, measurable behavioral change: “To decrease arguments with my spouse by 50% by June 2012.” This requires you to start by counting how many arguments you presently have before you can begin to decrease them by 50%. It also requires you to have a strategy of how to stop arguing. What is that strategy? Will you deep breathe each time you feel your blood pressure go up with him/her to calm yourself? Will you program yourself to stop arguing, like, “I respond calmly and avoid arguments.”

The truth is, if you don’t really want to accomplish your goals you won’t. And holding onto an unattained goal is stressful. So, set yourself up for success by creating goals:
· You truly want to accomplish;
· That once you achieve them you’ll feel better about yourself;
· That are realistic and measurable;
· That are written down on paper;

The New Year can be a symbolic new beginning and a potentially good time to commit to desired, realistic and rewarding change.

Happy New Year.

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, December 20, 2011

Positive life values can ease holiday stress
Stress for Success
December 20, 2011

Are holiday shopping, cooking - not to mention working - exhausting you?

To make this hectic time less overwhelming let your positive life values serve as your problem-solving and decision-making compass.

Your values determine what you think is right and wrong. They help you plot a course through your stressful world with greater clarity and purpose versus allowing prevailing winds dictate your actions.

Your values determine your character and affect everything you are and do. For example, a store clerk gives you too much change. Valuing honesty over money means you'll return it.

You need clear values and an unwavering commitment to them according to "Stress: Living and Working in a Changing World," by Manning, Curtis and McMillan. They believe "arrested development" occurs when you fail to complete any of the following requirements:
· Know your values
· Cherish them
· Declare them
· Act habitually on them

Consciously choose which values you want to guide your behavior such as:

Acceptance of others as they are
Personal growth
Personal power
Physical health
Quiet time
Respect for self/others

If you value quiet time but have a house-full of guests consciously allow your values of family and relationships to prevail during their stay. You’re not giving up your quiet time value; you’re just choosing to temporarily accentuate relationships.

To de-stress when someone pushes in front of you, consciously remind yourself that you value “patience” and “acceptance of others.”

Diminish becoming frenzied as you madly dash around making final preparations by focusing on those you’re doing everything for. Ask why you’re doing it, which exposes your values:
· “It brings me joy to please those I love.” Values of “pleasing others”, “love”, and “relationships” are present. As the pressure mounts, remind yourself consciously of these values to de-stress.
· Answers can also uncover stressful values like perfectionism or meeting others’ expectations of you. “I’m doing this because I should; because no one else does it as well as I; if I don’t no one else will; everybody expects me to.” If pleasing others is fear-driven it’s a negative value that can only lead to holiday stress.

Ask yourself, “What do I want to do (vs. have to do)? What do I prefer happen (vs. what should happen)?” To free yourself pursue what you want and prefer vs. what you should or have to do.

Before potentially stressful events, identify which values to honor. For instance, you and your nemesis attend the same Christmas party. Your typical reactions to each other are competitive and defensive. To honor the values you want to display repeat a mantra over and over affirming them: “I respect him and accept him as he is.” Repetitively recite this to yourself before and during the party to act in accordance with your values.

Look ahead to the stressful holiday challenges. Consciously choose the positive values you want to express to serve as your behavioral compass.

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, December 06, 2011

Domestic violence from the victim’s point of view
Stress for Success
December 6, 2011

October was Awareness Month for both Breast Cancer and Domestic Violence (DV). Since it’s difficult to be noticed while competing with breast cancer awareness I’m focusing on domestic violence this month.

To increase understanding of DV I’ve enlisted the help of Abuse Counseling and Treatment (ACT) community educator Christine Kobie.

During stressful times, family arguments over such issues as housework, finances, parenting styles, or sex tend to increase. How each person handles their issues determines whether the conflicts become opportunities to strengthen their relationship or become a matter of power and control. Quarrels accompanied by alcohol and drugs can escalate violence. A relationship becomes unhealthy when jealousy, money, coercion, insults, threats, manipulation or physical violence are used to win arguments or to control the other person.

Those affected by domestic violence go into a survival mode, which creates an overall stress consuming their entire being. Physical signs of stress can include changes in eating patterns, body aches, fatigue, headaches, and of course pain from actual physical abuse. Emotional and psychological effects may include feelings of numbness, isolation, depression, confusion, and constant fear, while being hyper-alert.

Societal opinions and ignorance regarding abusive relationship dynamics often blame the victim creating a fear of judgment from loved ones. One client reported feeling as if everyone knew her secret; her neighbors, friends, family and co-workers. Victims often isolate themselves for fear of someone getting close and finding out the truth of what is going on in the home. When there’s noticeable evidence of violence the victim invents believable excuses for those around her.

Victims of DV can become paralyzed by their fears and worries over increased violence, keeping the peace, the effects on the kids, saving enough money to move to a safe place, and finding the strength to keep trying. It’s common that children are used as pawns in a game through threats to take them away.

Domestic violence also impacts employers when an employee misses work due to an injury. Some abusive partners also create problems by repeatedly calling the workplace, showing up and causing a disruption or by not allowing the employee to leave for work, forcing her to be late or to miss work. The victim is usually in a constant state of fear of losing her job; getting fired means financial dependence giving the abusive partner even more control.

The stress of living with family violence can be alleviated through:
· Counseling: many clients find common ground with others in their session. ACT provides counseling, helps create safety plans and offers emergency shelter for victims, their children and pets. The 24-hour hotline is (239) 939-3112.
· Daily journaling, reading, warm baths and walks outside help clear the mind and relax the body.

Christine Kobie, international speaker and ACT public educator, teaches healthy parenting and violence prevention throughout Lee County to parents and in schools, medical settings, and detention centers. Christine has appeared on many local and national radio and talk shows. Schedule a presentation or request more information by emailing her at ckobie@actabuse.com.

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.