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Much has been written about the millennial generation – entitled, coddled, lazy, and self-absorbed. While some may agree with those descriptions, I do not. Let me begin by saying, I have 3 children, 8 nieces and nephews, and dozens of clients and friends who qualify as millennials.
Overwhelmingly, you are compassionate, have a global perspective, and a progressive outlook. And had Millennials been in charge of electing the next President, Hillary Clinton would have won the presidency by a landslide.
I am not writing to tell you who you should have voted for or to express any personal views; I am making a generational observation.
You are a generation of young women and men who were raised in a country much more diverse than your parents’ generation. You choose and remain loyal to your friends, regardless of their race, religion, or sexual orientation. You are “PC” because you’re informed and compassionate. Many of you were fortunate to grow up in communities so diverse that the depth of bigotry, hatred, and disenchantment that you saw during this presidential campaign was unfathomable.
And then, Trump won.
Your hope for another four years of social and environmental progress was shattered Tuesday night.
Many of you are protesting, some in the streets, others on social media. You have been told to just accept it and see how things play out. You have even been called sore losers.
Your protests are not because you lost; they are in support of your friends and family. You are angry and scared for them, and for yourself, and are searching for productive outlets for your anxious energy. I strongly believe that the passion and love behind your posts, signs, and marches is fuel for our future. Our greatest future leaders are amongst you.
Let me remind you that progress is not linear. Your most formative political years have been Obama’s eight-year presidency. From social justice and environmental standpoints, progress was rapid and substantial. It appears that many felt it was too much, too soon.
Our country may need a pause. We may need to take a collective breath and allow others to “catch up” to our societal shift. The country may even take a step back or two, or circle around a bit, before taking further steps forward. This is the normal course of progress and where your energy is needed. This is where your open minds, intellect, passion, and community can yield great results.
Ways to get involved – really involved:
· Don’t just write your congressmen, call them and express your concerns to a staffer.
· Attend congressional town halls.
· Don’t just donate to an organization you believe in, volunteer or serve on a committee.
· Create opportunities to unite your community.
· Step outside your circle of influence and solicit a differing perspective.
· Seek opportunities for further engagement and growth in an area you are particularly passionate about.
With patience and persistence, we will continue to move forward together. Keep talking, hugging, embracing, striving, learning, listening, and compromising. We are depending on you and I truly believe: Millennials, you’ve got America’s back!
Live well/Be well
Many awoke this morning feeling sad, scared, helpless, and marginalized. The United States Government was effectively overturned last night. It was accomplished ceremoniously, peacefully, and with full integrity. It wasn’t “rigged;” there was no bloodshed. Votes were counted and lines were drawn. Yes, it is good to be an American.
Many of us never truly considered the reality of a Trump presidency. We never believed the American majority could disregard his campaign of hatred, bigotry, and isolationism, for the sake of “change.” But the electoral majority did.
Growth is not linear and usually includes pain, setbacks, resets, and sometimes a mini-storm or two, but in the end, growth triumphs when we stay true to our purpose – when we continue to listen, learn, contribute, compromise, and work hard.
The antidote for a virus is an antiviral; the antidote for a bacterial infection is an antibiotic; the antidote for hate is love. The voters have spoken and Donald Trump will replace Barack Obama in that house on Pennsylvania Avenue. There will be change, likely a lot of it. We can and should challenge what we don’t like, but when we do it with love, we all feel better. Just as love is the antidote for hate, positivity is the only antidote for negativity.
In the wake of sudden and unexpected events our brain immediately goes into Fight, Flight, or Freeze mode. Our amygdalae (the part of the brain responsible for detecting fear) are in control when we are screaming at the TV, researching Canadian citizenship (yes, that site went down last night), or just laying in disbelief. Some of us did all of those things. But as the dust settles and the sun continues to rise in the east and set in the west, our prefrontal cortexes are back at work, saying “now what?”
Here a few ideas (I am certain you will come up with many of your own):
- Let’s bring civility back to the dialogue.
- Let’s take this opportunity to model for our children an appropriate and constructive way to express differences.
- Let’s listen more
- Let’s support our leaders
- Let’s stand up for our neighbors, friends, and strangers
- Let’s continue to learn from history
- Let’s be inspired by our youth
There is growth ahead. We don’t know what it will look like or where it will blossom; we just know it will. Whether you voted for Trump, Clinton, or didn’t vote, no longer matters. We are here, right now. Each moment provides an opportunity to fight hate with love and negativity with optimism, to choose growth.
I hugged the crossing guard at my children’s elementary school today. Not because I had to, because I wanted to. My day has been better because of that hug and I hope his has too. Let’s spread the love.
Live well/Be well
This July 4th, Big Yoga Houston opened their studio for only one morning class—and the room was packed! They had every reason to expect a large crowd with their loyal following, but 97 yogis in one hot room may have exceeded even their greatest expectations. People were literally stacked mat-to-mat. As we sat waiting for class to begin, several of us had expressed reticence about the size of the crowd and the possibility of touching other sweaty bodies or them touching us. As several instructors squeezed extra mats between ours, we hoped that they would not be occupied by six-foot-plus sweaty guys! Our concerns of exchanging sweat with strangers were not conducive to inner peace and zen! Soon Nancy, one of the dynamic studio owners, managed to close the room door and began class by enthusiastically saying, “It’s crowded, so what! We’re gonna touch each other today, so what! It’s gonna get messy, so what!” Nancy encouraged each person to challenge themselves by adding “so what” to each thought or doubt that arose for them during their practice that morning. With that intention clearly stated, she began our practice by immediately having us place our sweaty legs on each other’s backs, our sweating hands on each other’s feet and balancing together arm over arm. It was an energetic, unique, and memorable practice. While the class was not what I had anticipated or thought I wanted, I left with an inner peace and zen created by a positive community and the nonjudgmental attitude of “so what!”
“So what” is not much different than other mindfulness practices. When we simply notice what we are thinking/feeling and challenge ourselves with “so what,” we are free to proceed however we see fit. I am stressed (so what)! I am hungry (so what)! I am angry (so what)! This sucks (so what)! At times we will choose to release a thought, at other times we will choose to explore it. Some thoughts will weigh us down while others offer opportunities for growth and expectation. “So what” is our pause. “So what” is our breath. “So what” is our opportunity to let go of destructive thoughts and feelings, and proceed feeling lighter, unencumbered andfree. And what could be a more appropriate mindset as we celebrate July 4th? Live Well/Be Well.
We have all had experiences in our lives that made us pause and say, “WHAT?!” I recently saw a post on Facebook that spoke to this experience on several levels. It read, “When something goes wrong in your life just yell, “plot twist!” and move on.”
Life is full of “plot twists” – those unexpected changes that seem to completely alter our intended and anticipated trajectory. Some twists are positive: an unexpected windfall, promotion, or fulfilling relationship. At other times, the twist is so violent that we almost feel as if we are a spectator watching it develop from afar. “Are you kidding me?” “This can not be happening!” “What now?!” These twists in our personal “ movie scripts” are oftentimes highly relevant and can leave lasting effects – both negative and positive. We are all familiar with PTSD, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, yet fewer of us are familiar with PTG, Post-traumatic Growth. In the throes of stress, one is much more likely to hear someone say “I’m dying inside” than, “It’s okay that I’m dying inside; I’m growing!”
Jim Rendon, writer of “Post-traumatic Stress’s Surprisingly Positive Flip Side,” reports that personality traits such as optimism, extroversion, positive affect and openness to experience have all been associated with PTG. While PTG does not begin to alleviate suffering (nor make anyone yearn for it), it allows for growth to occur within the context of loss and pain. Jonathan Haidt, author of The Happiness Hypothesis, shares that although traumas, crises, tragedies, and losses come in thousands of forms, people have been known to benefit from them in three primary ways:
- Broadened and strengthened self-concept
- Enhanced and valued personal relationships
- Realignment of priorities and philosophies
While an extreme and devastating example of a “plot twist,” 9/11 victims and rescuers directly involved in that fateful day often report making enormous life shifts, valuing new relationships, and growing in countless way in the years that have followed. So too, it is not uncommon for those who suddenly lose a job, divorce, or receive a devastating medical diagnosis to begin to understand that they are much stronger than they realized which cultivates the confidence necessary for them to conquer future challenges.
This growth does not happen instantaneously; it is a gradual increase in confidence as a result of taking on more responsibility, being held accountable, learning a necessary skill, stepping (or being thrown) outside one’s comfort zone, developing personal strength, and seeking and receiving love and support.
Common experience and empathy create a strong foundation for PTG, which is fostered when honest concern and love is expressed, shared, and welcomed. A realignment of priorities and philosophies commonly includes helping others to successfully navigate their plot twists, as well.
As with any good film, the twist often evolves when least expected; so embrace the current moment for all that it is, and do your best to enjoy the ride, continuing to grow with each twist.
Live well/Be well.
Whether you are a student, parent, empty-nester, or young professional, September reminds us that summer is over and our lives are resuming a “normal” pace. Many of us welcome routine and the structure it provides, increasing our productivity and connectedness. Yet as we move into fall, we may feel anxious about the expectations and challenges ahead.
Will I succeed? Will I fail? How can I get it all done? I thought I would be in a different situation by now. I didn’t accomplish all I planned over the summer.
Our goals are often overwhelming, sometimes making our progress feel too insignificant to measure. It is common to feel “frozen” and unable to begin the tasks at hand. We make excuses, “I’ll start tomorrow.” “This” must happen before I can do “that.”
The Buddha shared, “Drop by drop is the water pot filled. Likewise, the wise man, gathering it little by little, fills himself with good.” Drop-by-drop. Little-by-little. Step-by-step. Significant change is the accumulation of small steps. First we must start; then we must persist.
Each day is an opportunity to progress toward a desired outcome. Some days will feel (and in fact may be) more productive than others, yet at the end of the day how do we measure our progress? Sometimes it is obvious: we complete a project or scratch something off the to-do list. Other times, our trajectory can be difficult to even recognize, much less, quantify. Scott Crabtree of Happy Brain Science, shares ideas for assessing progress in “Structure of a Progress Report.” He identifies the following seven areas of contemplation each week:
- Most meaningful: What was your most meaningful encounter or accomplishment?
- Deepest connection to others: Who did you connect with that supports you and your efforts? Who did you support?
- Biggest mistake: What mistake did you make and what opportunity for growth resulted?
- Learned the most: What did you learn and how will that knowledge propel you?
- Improved the most: In what way did you improve this week? (Personally? Academically? Professionally?)
- Most progress toward goals: Where did you make the most progress this week?
- Next week’s priorities: What is your next step? What will be the next drop in your bucket?
These questions are tools to acknowledge personal growth and movement towards goals, whether concrete or abstract. When we take a moment to track our progress, we create a momentum shift, motivating and energizing our journey forward. Crabtree’s “Structure of a Progress Report” proves that progress is always happening; it is time we celebrate it!
Let’s recognize the significance of ALL progress: drop-by-drop, step-by-step, the pot will fill!
Live well/Be well
I am a news junkie. I watch The Today Show as I get dressed in the morning, listen to CNN, NPR, and CNBC as I travel to and from work, and read online articles as my “water cooler” time. My day is finally complete if I catch NBC Nightly News followed by the 10 o’clock local newscast. Wow, writing that down is frightening!
But this week, I made the conscious decision to turn it off. Not all of it, but much of it. The murders, terrorist attacks, bullying, racism, bigotry, name-calling, and finger-pointing. It was bringing me down. I felt strangely guilty for tuning in less; the victims of these recent shootings and their families don’t have that choice. But I also recognized that by watching, evaluating, and discussing the events of the day, I wasn’t helping anyone either.
Most of us feel guilty when tragedy strikes, often because we feel powerless to do more to stop the carnage. Some people mourn in silence; others turn to prayer or public gatherings, share their thoughts on FB, and talk to their friends.
I had to accept that our global information-rich society is never without its injustices, tragedies, and disasters. It is important to know what is going on in the world and my community, but with the realization that somewhat shielding myself from the 24/7 newsfeed is equally important.
I too feel a great deal of responsibility to do all that I can to bring light into our world, but I must start with my community, clients, family, and friends. By understanding my limitations, my impact will be greater. I can’t eliminate racism or hatred, but I can try to share my best self with those I encounter each day. I can be kinder and more inclusive. I can notice times that my thoughts or actions do not reflect my best intentions. I can listen more. I can strive to be beacon of light in the darkness – a voice of love and reason.
Live well/Be well
No one is immune from Mental Health challenges. That’s right, no one. May is Mental Health month and what better time to dismiss the notion that someone is immune from having a mental health flare-up. I know, we all want to deny it; it is not cool to admit any sort of mental health imperfection because we fear judgment.
Why is that?
Why is it perfectly acceptable to say, “I was out with a stomach bug or sinus infection?” “I have a headache” is as common as “It’s a hot day.” Yet, no one wants to admit, “I feel anxious today.” “I’ve been feeling pretty down this week.” “ I feel out of sorts.”
Per The National Alliance Mental Health, 1 in 5 adults in the US experiences mental illness in a given year – and that is “mental illness.” What if we are just having what I like to call a “mental health cold?”
A “mental health cold” is similar to a stuffy nose or upset stomach, when compared to the flu; it’s annoying, and makes us feel uncomfortable, irritable, and slightly reclusive. Those days when it takes far more energy than it should to get out of bed or make a phone call, or I come home and literally don’t want to move. It may be triggered by hormones, circumstances, or something as benign as the weather. It can last a few hours or a day or two; we know when it is here and happy to see it go. Our families and friends are probably pretty happy too!
I don’t believe there is anyone reading this blog who hasn’t felt down, slightly anxious, or uncomfortably irritable. Then why are we so reticent to acknowledge it?
“If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.” Brene’ Brown
Research has consistently shown that the happiest people report having a community of trusted friends. True friendship is grounded in authenticity – being real with one another. When we are feeling sad, we need to just own it. If we are anxious going into a social situation, instead of not going, we need to be real and invite someone to go with us. If we are feeling lonely or isolated, call someone! When we share our challenges, we invite others to do the same, fostering authentic relationships that make us all healthier and happier.
As humans, we experience highs, lows, pleasures, and discomforts. When we recognize that mental health is a universal part of who we are, it becomes part of the conversation. Uncomfortable emotions can yield positive outcomes. A healthy amount of stress and anxiety can motivate us to work through the discomfort and find our way out, while normalizing a very human condition.
Most of the time, discomforts or “mental colds” pass with the passage of time, some extra sleep, physical activity, or time with loved ones. When symptoms linger or worsen, and affect our daily lives or long-term goals, we may need professional consultation.
As Mental Health Month draws to a close, let’s commit to seeing our minds as the beautiful, powerful (while unpredictable and imperfect) center of our body, soul, and spirit. Let’s bring Mental Health out of the shadows and into the conversation.
Live well/Be well
March is a pivotal month for students; as temperatures warm and days lengthen, focus can be difficult. The month begins with exciting weeks anticipating and planning Spring Break, followed by the difficult return to reality – projects, due dates, and exams.
Spring cleaning may conjure the image of a middle-aged woman clawing through an avalanche of to-go containers after opening her kitchen cabinet. For a student, however, spring cleaning has a different and relevant significance. When we clear our physical clutter, we clear our mental clutter as well. When we organize our rooms, work spaces, e-mails, and assignments, we create physical, mental, and emotional space for clearer thoughts and priorities. Cleaning at this point in the semester signifies a reboot. You have not returned to campus to ride out the semester, instead you are creating a fresh beginning with renewed energy for these very important final weeks of the school year.
- As soon as you return from Spring Break, go into your room, set a timer (2 hour minimum), put on some energizing music, and start clearing your clutter: pack it up to take home, throw out, or give away.
- Next, organize and clear out your e-mail accounts. Unsubscribe, delete, set up folders and filters.
- Once complete, organize your weekly schedule in an hourly planner or e-calendar (Sunday morning through Friday afternoon). Your schedule should include desired bed times, class times, study blocks (designating location, time and duration), meals, and workouts. Friday night and Saturday are all yours – no calendar required!
- Next, take an inventory of all remaining assignments and exams and put them in your planner at their due date and time.
- Lastly, break papers, projects, and exam prep down into smaller parts and designate pre-planned study blocks you will use to complete each task.
This may seem overwhelming, but it can be done in a matter of just a few steps! Taking these few hours will set the foundation for a very successful, and far less stressful final push!
For further information or personal coaching, go to http://www.sharifishwellness.com or contact Shari Fish Wellness 713-899-6159 or Shari@sharifishwellness.com.
Recently, my daughter invited me to join her at an Orangetheory Fitness class. I was reluctant; no, I was scared. It had been many years since I had stepped outside my comfort zone and I knew that was exactly what would happen at OTF. On the other hand, I couldn’t say “no” to any opportunity to spend time with my daughter, especially at her suggestion. So, I went.
My only goal at that first class was to survive and make it to brunch! That was it, brunch. As it turns out, I actually enjoyed it and since that time, I have returned to class with Stacy a number of times, always with the promise of a shared breakfast and coffee following.
This week, while coaching a college student, I found myself drawing from the primary premise of an OTF workout. Each workout includes time on a treadmill when you are instructed to run/walk at various levels of intensity: Base pace (challenging but sustainable), Push pace (uncomfortable), and All Out pace (very uncomfortable). The OTF workout is a perfect metaphor for college life – for all lives. There is a place in our lives and our workouts for all three paces, but finding the right mix is key.
Each of us has a Base pace where we spend much of our time. It is comfortable, relatively routine, and predictable. A Base pace day is restorative and necessary, but relatively unremarkable. After a while, base pace days are redundant, safe, and ultimately unsatisfying. We begin dreaming of, or looking for, something more.
That’s where Push pace comes in. Push pace is achieved once we have added something to our base – we made time to help a friend or colleague, poured our heart into a pending project, or accepted a part-time job. We got out of our comfort zone in an effort to create something new. The discomfort of a Push pace is manageable for a period of time. We are energized, focused, and determined! Ultimately our pace will calm, signifying the completion of the push, or perhaps a higher base pace has emerged as result of our efforts. Boosted confidence, elevated energy, and personal growth are natural byproducts of a Push.
Then there is our severely uncomfortable and unsustainable All Out pace. We are seldom there by our own volition. Something or someone has sent us there and we want out as soon as possible. We are cramming for an exam, in an emergency room with a family member, or completing a marathon (or on a treadmill at OTF :)). When we are in All Out pace we must remain fully present and completely focused. Our only needs are our most basic needs – to breathe and keep going. We get through an All Out period by monitoring our breath and our thoughts. We avoid total meltdown and panic by remembering the times that we have been challenged before and succeeded, recognizing the impermanence of the situation, and having the confidence of knowing that we will once again return to Base.
Just like on the treadmill, when we finish an All Out in life, we have no option but to take a few recovery breaths in an effort to restore our mental and physical strength. That “breath” may look like a slow walk, a day on the sofa with a good book, a weekend getaway, or gap year. But always with the knowledge and fortitude to return to Base and ultimately Push once again.
Live well/Be well