01/ 17/ 2022

Stop the Spin and navigate your biggest stressors

Authors: Penny Finance, John Mark Shaw, Beth Lipton & Joanna Loewi

Sometimes, our thoughts feel a lot like riding too fast on a spinning carousel. Our mind takes hold of a particular thought and spins out of control. We want to help you stop the spin with practical tips to handle your biggest stressors, from parenting, work life, nutrition and finances. We’ve collaborated with Penny Finance, Joanna Loewi, John Mark Shaw and Beth Lipton to give you the tools to navigate these different areas of everyday life.

Take the Stress out of Finances 

8% of people stick to their New Year’s resolutions. We don’t want that to be you. The world will tell you to stick to a strict budget, or cut out avocado toast. Those things won’t move the needle.

Here are 5 steps to create 2022 money goals you’ll actually stick to:

1. Get specific

“By the end of this year I will save $1,000 to build my 2023 travel savings.”

P.S. We want you to pay more than the minimum on your loans, contribute at least a few hundred dollars to your 401k/IRA, and then start saving for the fun stuff. Your future self will thank you! 

2. Game plan

“I will set aside $83 per month to reach my $1k goal by the end of the year.” 

Break it down into smaller more obtainable steps. 

3. Nurture your nature

Maybe this means setting up a reminder or auto-transfer to move the money auto-magically. Or creating a savings account that you’re not gonna touch, no-matter-what. 

4. Hold yourself accountable

Set a reminder to check in on your progress halfway through the year (or more).

5. Trust the process

Be gentle with yourself when you fall off. You can ALWAYS get back on.

The ironic thing about finances is that planning and knowing your numbers truly takes the stress and anxiety out of it, yet most people avoid financial planning at all costs. Pick the big things that matter – that one savings goal or that retirement account – and do it. Forget about the monotonous, grueling budgeting process that is a major time suck and just no fun. 

Taking the stress out of Parenting

Parenting is an incredible, exciting, and also challenging adventure. I liken parenting during an almost 2 year long pandemic to trying to parent while blindfolded with your hands tied behind your back. The fear, the unknown, the added layer of anxiety and stress has made it just that. much. harder. I’ve been there and I am right there with you. While there are no magic wands to be waved, there are a few things you can do to lessen the load by a bit. 

To begin, take time to do a mental check in with yourself. When was the last time you hit pause and took a moment to just be alone with your thoughts? I encourage parents to set reminders in their phones throughout the day to support them in taking these short pauses. Sit in your car an extra 5 minutes, take slightly longer in the bathroom with the door closed, move away from your desk or your computer. Place your hand on your heart and take 3 mindful, intentional deep breaths (I like to breathe in for 5, hold for 5, and release for 5). Do a mental check in, “How am I doing? How am I feeling? What do I need right now?” 

It’s important in these moments to allow yourself to acknowledge and validate the feelings you’re experiencing. The conversation might sound like this, “It makes sense that I’m stressed/overwhelmed/exhausted, that I lost my patience, yelled, am not sleeping well. This feels impossible because it is an impossibly trying time to be a parent.” Think of this conversation as a way of giving yourself a hug and saying, “I see you. I hear you. You’re right. This is hard.” We often make the experience of being a parent that much harder for ourselves through the judgmental voices of our inner self-critics. Now more than ever it is important that we do our best to quiet those voices through exercising kindness and self-compassion.

Radical transformation occurs through the incredibly small and simple moments we carve out to give back to ourselves. Our tendency when dealing with so much chaos is to speed up and do more faster. However, the shift to experiencing more moments of peace happens when you consciously make the decision to slow everything down.   

Taking the stress out of work

The most powerful, important and effective way for you to manage your stress at work is to develop a mindfulness practice. 

Mindfulness is really about developing your capacity to use your breath as a tool to connect to peace and calm in the present moment.  We all have been given this innate capacity through the power of our breath, and while some may view this as a mystery, it is actually quite simple.

There are two key components of a mindfulness practice – a twice daily meditation practice and an in-the-moment tool for shifting your energy when you are feeling stressed. 

While there are many wonderful forms of meditation, the most simple and my favorite is mindfulness meditation, which is simply to focus on the breath.  Start by closing your eyes and sitting up straight in your seat, with your feet on the ground. (If you are more advanced and can sit in a more formal lotus/cross-legged position that is great, but not necessary – for me I am most comfortable on a chair, or couch.)

Very simply start by taking some deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth through pursed lips.  Long, slow, easy breaths. Then after some time you can switch to breathing out through the nose, but always in through the nose – this signals safety to your nervous system and allows you to relax.

Your goal is to do your best to focus your attention on the sound of the breath.  You will inevitably get distracted by thoughts, which is natural and normal, but just return to the breath and allow yourself to relax.

Try starting by doing this for 5 minutes in the morning after you wake up, and 5 minutes at night before bed.  Over time you can increase the time to 10, 15 and if you feel called, 20 minutes.  I do 10-15 minutes twice per day and that works for me.  But the key is to start small.  This will create a baseline of inner calm and peace which will serve as your foundation throughout your day.

The in-the-moment, throughout the workday reset mindfulness practice can be done in a couple of minutes anytime you need it, and it has three steps. This is something you can do multiple times per day, any time you find yourself feeling stressed or anxious.  On a normal day you will find it useful to do it once to three times per day, or more if you have lots of challenges going on. 

Step 1 – Recognize – The first step is to recognize that you are feeling stress and thinking stressful thoughts. You can’t shift what you are not aware of. Your morning and evening practice will cultivate your inner noticer – the Buddhists call it the witness, or the observer – which is your ability to notice your thoughts and feelings.  So step 1 is to notice you are stressed.

Step 2 – Refresh – You refresh your nervous system and energy, by taking deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth, as we spoke of above.  Do this at least 5-7 times.  Nice deep breaths – this will shift your nervous system from a fight or flight to a rest and create response.  Great if you can go to your desk for some privacy, but you can do this quietly anywhere when necessary.

Step 3 – Replace – Replace the thoughts you have been thinking, the thoughts of worry or concern, with thoughts of gratitude (something you are grateful for), thoughts of something you are proud of (a win you have had), or a thought of your vision for what you would love to create – like a healthy, abundant, successful year in 2022, and one element of it, perhaps a great vacation or new home or some achievement.  If you choose something from your vision, your job is to imagine the experience and feel it as real.

These new thoughts will shift your emotions into a more positive state. After you are feeling a positive shift from this, take one action that is an expression of feeling better – send an email, reach out to a client prospect, work on your project, do some research, and reach out to a colleague to express your gratitude for something they have done for you. By taking an action, you ground your new energetic state, and you will feel calm, peaceful, happy and confident, every time.

Take the Stress Out of Healthy Eating

One of the biggest barriers to eating healthy is confusion about what that really means. Eat less meat? More meat, but better? Is dairy ok, or gluten? Do I need an elaborate meal plan?

The thing is, healthy eating doesn’t have to be difficult or confusing. Whether you choose to incorporate meat, dairy, gluten, or any other category of foods or not, one of the best ways to eat healthier is to minimize processed foods. Just a few simple tweaks can really make a difference. Here are a few examples: If you snack, instead of a protein bar, grab a couple of hard-cooked eggs, or an apple with some unsweetened almond butter, or a little plain yogurt topped with chopped cucumber, a drizzle of olive oil and a little salt (or sprinkle your yogurt with a few cacao nibs and a small handful of berries). Whenever you’re about to reach for something that comes in a crinkly packet, grab a whole food (or foods) instead. Plan ahead whenever possible, so you have those foods on hand.

Another thing to remember is that your meals don’t have to be complicated, or Instagram-worthy. A piece of fish or steak with a simple salad, tossed with olive oil and lemon juice, can be ready in 10 to 15 minutes and makes a satisfying, nutrient-dense meal. On the nights when you think you don’t have enough in the fridge to make a meal, put together a snack plate made from leftover odds and ends. Have fun with it. A little chicken, a spoonful of rice, a piece of cheese, some olives, a few different vegetables–it’s like making your own little charcuterie board, and it can be a really fun, tasty and healthy meal (plus, you can feel good about using up the food and not wasting it).

Finally, let go of the idea of being perfect. What even is perfect anyway, when it comes to food? You’re going to order takeout sometimes, you’re going to eat sweets sometimes. Instead of setting yourself up for failure by swearing off all treats forever, factor indulgences into your life. Choose the ones you really enjoy and allow yourself to savor them. Food isn’t the enemy; it’s one of life’s pleasures. When you let yourself really enjoy the things you love on occasion, you won’t need those indulgences as often, and you’ll be really satisfied when you do have them, because you’ll be focused on how good they are, not guilt or shame. 

  • Written by Beth Lipton, Health Coach & Recipe Developer
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