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On Life, Stress, and Happiness

August 4, 2017

Does your spouse make you angry?

Do your children drive you crazy?

Does your boss frustrate you?


Well, it’s all a matter of your perspective and focus. Let me explain.

Many years ago, when I worked at a hospital, I met a patient who lost her arm in a freak accident. To my astonishment, she was not upset by the loss of her arm. Instead, she felt blessed and grateful for being alive. Some years passed, and the hospital where I worked closed down. Many people lost their jobs and felt heart broken, angry, frustrated, and sad. It did not make sense to me back then. Why didn’t my patient, who lost her arm, feel upset, but people who lost their jobs felt so much pain?


Now I know, and the answer is focus.

In today’s world most of us feel stressed and unhappy because we want to control the world around us, including people, events, circumstances, and outcomes, and we can’t. When things don’t go the way we want or people don’t act the way we expect them to, we experience a sense of loss and pain, making us angry or sad. Interestingly, most of our sense of “loss” comes from something that’s not even real, like our unmet expectations.

Here is an example.

A friend of mine expected a promotion at work and made himself believe that he truly deserved it and would surely get it. However, the promotion was given to someone else instead. Of course, my friend became very upset. When his expectation was not met, he felt severe pain of loss, which lead him to feel angry and frustrated. He felt that he lost something that was not even real. However, my patient who lost her arm (something very real!) did not feel the pain of loss. Why? Because her focus was on her second chance to live and see her children and family again.

As a life coach, I can tell you that nearly everything you go through, you experience in your mind first. Your mind is the most powerful thing known to man, and yet, most people forget that. We forget that we have a choice. We can choose what we focus on. We can choose our thoughts, therefore our feelings those thoughts evoke, and, ultimately, our overall state. If you choose to focus on the loss and pain, that cannot serve you. However, if you think of each challenge as an opportunity and feel grateful for it, you can be on your way to a more fulfilling life. The more mindful you become of your choice of thoughts (and the words you think to yourself), the more peace and harmony you can bring to yourself and to those around you.

So, does your spouse make you angry? Do your children drive you crazy? Does your boss frustrate you? The answer is, no. It’s all in your head. Choose to feel grateful to them for giving you the opportunity to grow and become better. Feel thankful for each lesson you receive. After all, “it is not the happy people who are thankful, it is the thankful people who are happy.” Yes, there is much more to understanding happiness vs. sadness, to bringing more joy into your life and reducing the stress you experience, but this may be a good start. Just remember: you do have a choice of what thoughts you think, what emotions you experience, and what kind of life you want to live.

Q&A:

ON COMMUNICATION: HOW TO STOP ARGUING

August 14, 2017

Q: Last time, you explained why we feel stressed or upset about thigs, and you said that it has to do with the sense of loss when our expectations are not met. When we interact with others we sometimes feel upset over what they say or do. How can we resolve that?


A: When we argue or fight, it’s because we are communicating at the level of the ego. When we communicate at the level of our higher consciousness (you may call it spirit, soul, energy, whatever you prefer) we do not argue or fight with others. Yes, it’s very hard to put the ego aside, because it likes to be right. However, if you stop for a moment and ask yourself, “do I want to be right or do I want to be happy?” the answer is obvious. I always teach my coaching clients and students: let yourself be yourself, and let them be themselves. When you let another person be different and accept them just the way they are without trying to influence or change them, suddenly, communication becomes easier.


Q: So, how do you stop conflicts?


A: You do just that: stop. You make a conscious choice to not argue. It’s easy and hard at the same time, because your ego tends to get in the way. Your ego wants to control your world and everything in it, which is normal. However, this is where the shift in focus becomes very useful. And the more you practice it, the better you get at it. The moment you start feeling upset, you make a conscious decision to stop and give yourself a time out. Ask yourself, “what am I feeling right now and WHY am I feeling this way?” It’s OK to feel whatever it is you are feeling at the moment. The next question, you want to ask yourself is “what do I really want?” The truth is, you cannot control the other person, and you cannot control what they say or do. The only thing you can control is how YOU respond and what you choose to feel and do. For example, if your husband forgot to buy milk, and you got upset about that, what you really wanted was not the milk or for your husband to do whatever you asked him, but rather you just wanted to feel taken care of and happy.

So the next time you feel upset about something that someone else did or didn’t do, take a pause, and ask yourself, “what do I really want?”


Q: OK, so you can control how you feel, which is how you can stop being upset with another person. But what about the cases when the other person is upset with you?


A: The same thing: you realize that they are upset because of sense of loss over unmet expectations. The most important thing here is not to react, but to respond. There is a difference between reacting and responding. When you react, you get on the same level as them: their hurt ego. To respond in a constructive way, all you need to do is say this: “I am sorry. I understand. How can I make you feel better?” You can keep repeating these three short phrases until this person calms down. It works like a charm every time.

Overall, the key to effective communication with other is to find the good in every person. It’s there, and it does not take much to look and see it. It’s just a matter of practice.

Q&A:

About Your Needs...

August 29, 2017

Q: Can you explain what motivates people to act the way they do?


A: All of us do what we do and act the way we act, because we are trying to meet our needs. This brings up the topic of the six human needs. The first fundamental need we all have is the need for certainty. You need to know that there is going to be food on your table, roof over your head, you have a job, and your kids are taken care of. We are talking about your sense of stability. However, the second need kind of contradicts the first one, because that is the need for uncertainty or variety. This is why we want to travel, fall in love, go on an adventure. There are healthy ways to meet the need for variety. For example, every time you go to an amusement park or see a movie, you are going on a very safe adventure. It’s also important to be aware of unhealthy ways to meet that need, such as alcohol or drug abuse, committing a crime, or having an affair. You are much better off meeting your need for variety by going on vacation, learning new languages or skills, or reading new books. So go ahead, try a new class or workout, meet new people, buys new clothes, or get a new hobby.


Q: Alright, if certainty and variety are our fundamental needs, what comes next?


A: The third need we have is the need for love and connection. We have to feel that we belong with someone. This is why we want to have a family and close friends, we form social groups or attend support groups. However, Mother Nature has a sense of humor, and made the fourth need the opposite of that. The fourth need is the need for significance, and because of it, each of us wants to feel special and important. Psychologists call it ego. You don’t need to look very far: people place photos of the foods they eat, places they visit, and an enormous number of “selfies” on social media. Why? They want others to pay attention, so they can feel important. We all need to feel that we matter. And again, there are healthy and unhealthy ways to do that. For example, a bully is meeting his need for significance in an unhealthy way by putting others down. At the same time, if you have an important position at work, or you coach little league, or you are helping an elderly or disabled person, you become important to them, and meet your need for significance this way. Look for ways to be important to someone (or a group of people) in a positive way.


Q: OK, so once the four basic needs are met, are there advanced needs?


A: That’s right. The last two needs are considered advanced, because we go after them once we have certainty, variety, connection, and significance. These two advanced needs are the need for growth and the need for contribution. Growth is something we must constantly engage in, learning, improving, and evolving. Tony Robins said “if you are not growing, you are dying.” It’s true for everything in the world: if a tree is not growing, it’s dying. If your relationship is not evolving, it’s dying. We have the need to constantly develop, whether it’s intellectually (learning new things), spiritually, or emotionally.

Finally, we have the need to contribute to this world, become part of the bigger picture. This is why many of us want to leave a legacy, publish books, build estates, establish foundations, and spread knowledge. As a teacher and a coach, this is my way of contributing to the world: by sharing my knowledge and making positive impact on others’ lives.

Now, how are you meeting your six human needs?

On Burnout and Fatigue

September 28, 2017

Q: Many people around these days complain of feeling tired, although they believe, they are living a healthy lifestyle. Why is that?


A: We live in a society, where we praise each other (and ourselves) on successful multitasking: you could be driving your car and making a business call, while chugging down an energy drink for “lunch.” A busy mom sometimes has to combine babysitting with grocery shopping and with phone calls, or a workout with reading and answering emails. If you think about this, it’s very stressful. When you are stressed, your adrenal glands release cortisol, the stress hormone, which can stir havoc in the body. It suppresses your immune response, making you more prone to infections, colds, flus, acne, cold sores, and other issues. It disrupts the sleep-awake cycle, causing sleep disturbances at night and fatigue during the day. It causes you to gain weight and put on fat! And to top it off, it causes premature aging and puts you at risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, heart disease, and stroke.


Q: What about getting enough sleep? Does that add to the problem?


A: That’s correct. We are a severely sleep deprived society. Some folks are proud of “surviving” on 5-6 hours of sleep. They get up at four in the morning to get to the gym, because they have to squeeze in the daily workout before they get to the office at 8 AM, and in the meantime, they don’t understand, why they are not losing any weight. Well, the answer, again, is cortisol! To your body sleep deprivation is another form of stress, in response to which it will release more cortisol, and we have just mentioned that cortisol makes you put on fat. So, you can spend hours exercising, but if your cortisol is elevated, all your efforts will be counteracted by the simple physiological response to the stress you are imposing on your body. Make sure to give the body what it needs first: enough rest, food, and water, before increasing its load with strenuous workouts and multitasking. Want to know how much sleep you need per night? Use this very simple test: if you feel sleepy during the day, it means you need more sleep at night.


Q: So, as a life coach, what would you recommend to our stressed, sleep-deprived, multitasking society?


A: Well, what I recommend takes conscious effort and some planning, but my answer is two words: slow down. Start practicing kindness toward yourself. Focus on “here” and “now.” Allow yourself to do one thing at a time. It’s OK, if it takes a bit longer, and others will understand if you don’t answer the phone while driving or don’t reply to their email immediately. They will simply adjust to your way and deal with it. Mindfulness and meditation has become so “in” lately for a reason. We are so obsessed with multitasking and overachieving that we must be reminded to take a deep breath and just be in the moment. Stop living in the future or in the past all the time.

If you don’t have any experience meditating, just do this: set your smartphone alarm for twice a day (let’s say, at 10 am and 4 pm). When your alarm goes off, you will simply observe yourself doing whatever it is you are doing. Pretend that you are looking at yourself from another corner of the room and just watch yourself be for a few minutes. You don’t need any special music, you don’t even need it to be quiet or close your eyes. Just be wherever you are, doing whatever you are doing, only observing yourself doing it. This little exercise will make you really calm down and refocus your thought process. With time, you will realize that many things that go on around you are just noise. You will redefine your center, and gradually, you will find yourself being more energized, harmonious, and kinder toward yourself and others.