Just Ask

Listen to this blog: https://anchor.fm/meghan-greenwood/episodes/Just-Ask-erd89i

Perhaps it all started when 2 career homes became the norm? Or maybe when families no longer lived together as a community and instead, relied on a car to get from house to house?

Help.

A word that carries so much weight. A word that for some reason, we don’t like to utter. A word that immediately seems to paint us into a diagnosis: “What’s wrong with you?”, “Maybe you should quit doing XX?”, “Why can’t you handle it?”.

Needing help, no matter what the reason, is absolutely normal. We shouldn’t let fear of stigmas or judgement hold us back from asking.

Think about your job. Most likely, you’ve been asked to help someone – your manager, a co-worker, or a customer. For some reason, when we’re being paid to do it, we don’t question the asker.

However, when it comes to our personal life – domestic tasks, kids, family/marital issues, schooling, goals, and general overall happiness – it’s a huge hurdle to inquire. Maybe we feel like we don’t want to burden someone else with our problems; but more often than not, we feel guilty. Guilty that we can’t do it all ourselves.

As a working mom, I can especially relate to this feeling. We’re supposed to be able to do it all. We put on the cape in the morning and don’t take it off until the kids are tucked in, the dishes are washed, and maybe our hair is shampooed. But the burnout quickly follows. Attempting to do it all can cause stress, strain, and a resentful feeling towards folks that seemingly do have it all together (refrain from Instagram comparisons during these times!).

But life is hard. The everyday tasks can pile up if we’re having a rough time. And as much as stress management can certainly help, there’s still only 24 hours in a day. Set a conscious decision to take life more like a child would – by asking for help when needed. Ask a friend, ask a family member, ask a neighbor.

It certainly takes a village.

Normalize help.

Do Good, Feel Good

Listen to this blog: https://anchor.fm/meghan-greenwood/episodes/Do-Good–Feel-Good-erd87d

In the time of social distancing, it seems hard to make a connection – whether it’s with a tried and true friend, a long-distance relative, or with literal touch (I don’t know how many times I’ve had to hold back from shaking hands or hugging someone).

Despite these challenges, there are many ways to feed connection without being in the same physical location. They all center around the concept of doing good, feeling good:

  • Drop a line – the power of a written letter should not be overlooked. If you have a grandparent that is living in isolation, a friend on the other side of the world, or someone down the block that you used to see frequently, send them a short note. Written on a piece of paper. Via snail mail. I know it seems like an antiquated concept, but think about how much joy the receiver will get from a surprise in their mailbox. You could also send mail to a elderly penpal, women’s shelter, or children’s hospital – just make sure you read their current acceptance policies.
  • Give a gift – any range or style or cost. Sending a gift to someone you care about could be simply a thoughtful gesture or hold additional meaning – maybe they’ve had a rough few weeks, maybe they’re celebrating an important milestone, maybe you were inspired by something you saw. And gifts don’t have to be extravagant or even bought. Cooking a meal, crafting from scratch, writing a poem, picking a bunch of wildflowers, or simply offering your services to a friend in need (grocery pickup anyone?) are amazing, unexpected gifts.
  • Donate/volunteer – help a local, national, or international organization by volunteering your time & energy or contributing monetarily. Spreading the word about the organization to friends and family is also a huge way to do good for the community. Find an organization you’re passionate about and see how best you can donate, even if it’s only once a month.

One simple act could not only make another person feel that much better, but it can also boost your own spirits. Try it and let me know if it works for you.

A Body in Motion Stays in Motion

Listen to this blog: https://anchor.fm/meghan-greenwood/episodes/A-Body-in-Motion-Stays-in-Motion-erd851

Day in and day out. Slugging behind a computer desk, especially in the primarily virtual world. Posture failing, legs cramping, eyes drying. Sitting certainly lends to more sitting.

But we know the risks. With the promotion of X-minute breaks per hour, FitBits and other step trackers, and plethora of reports on the negative health effects of a sedentary lifestyle, why is it still such a struggle to get moving?

As Newton described, a body at rest stays at rest.

We are creatures of habit. If we continually remain in a seated position, it is harder and harder to get the body moving for a number of physical and mental reasons.

On the physical side, the body becomes weak. Muscles start to wither, blood flow to the brain is decreased, and the lungs compress, making it harder to breathe in enough oxygen.

On the mental side, lack of blood flow to the brain certainly adds to the sluggish, fatigued feelings. However, there has also been research noting the effects of inactivity and possible risks of anxiety and depression. Sitting for >6 hours a day is especially provoking.

When we are focused, or at least trying to focus, on work for >6 hours per day in a seated position, our concentration starts to wane, our stress levels increase, and the notions of isolation may also be enhanced. All of these factor into feelings of anxiety. Furthermore, with sedentary lifestyles, sleeping becomes a challenge. And lack of sleep certainly fans the flames of depression.

On the contrary, it is not recommended to put insurmountable goals on your plate. Don’t promise that you’ll run for 30 minutes 5 days a week, especially after being primarily sedentary for months, if not years. The likelihood that you will make this change overnight is slim, and disappointment in yourself is not a good motivating tool.

Instead, as Dr. Rangan Chatterjee suggests, take the 5-minute change approach. Tell yourself that you’ll exercise for 5 minutes per day, ideally during your workday. This can be a short walk around the block, a few lunges, a couple of yoga poses, a set of reps with hand weights, or some jumping-jacks for a burst of cardio. You can even bundle this exercise with something work-related (if you must), such as taking a call or listening to that training video you’ve been putting off. And with time, you may be able to increase the duration. But if not, 5 minutes still counts…and is certainly better than nothing!

Adopting this method may not only help curb your workday sitting habits, but it could also be a nice boost for your days off. When you find yourself sitting and not doing work, try 5 minutes of movement. I have a feeling you may want to keep going once the body is in motion.

Need someone to help you out of the slump? Let’s chat about being an Accountability Buddy.

Strategically Placed Razors

Listen to this blog: https://anchor.fm/meghan-greenwood/episodes/Strategically-Placed-Razors-erd82a

Managing kids, work, a home, and side hustles is taxing yet invigorating. The joy I get from each lights the fire to keep going and to do it all well…however, there are certainly pieces that fall through the cracks.

For example, I most definitely have ignored an email, or 10. My LinkedIn notifications are overflowing, I have yet to sign up for autopay on several accounts, and I never seem to be able to delete and organize my Inbox. However, if I deem it high priority or personally important, I respond – the convenience of having a phone attached at all times with email accessibility.

Similarly, my drawers/cupboards/closets/etc are neat but certainly not organized. They also could use a good purge. But as long as I can find what I need, it’s just a slab of wood from an outsider’s perspective.

Regarding the kiddos, I am typically scrambling to get their bags ready for school. There are days when they eat breakfast in the car. I also tend to be lax on brushing their hair, ironing their clothes, or keeping precise drop-off times. And that calendar of daily events for school? I sometimes glance and prep. Nevertheless, they are fed, clean, and for the most part, generally happy. And keeping some baby wipes and changes of clothes in the car never hurts.

And when it comes to my self-care, I may have dropped the ball once or twice…and learned my lesson for it. No longer do I rely on remembering to actually shave my legs. Considering the antiquated task is dull, relentless, and takes a long time, I tend to avoid it. Until summer. Then, I feel overly cautious about forgetting. To remedy this cognitive lapse, I strategically place shaving razors in purses, in the middle console of my car, and most likely in a few coat pockets over the years. While water (or a bathroom) may not always be accessible, the on-the-go drive shave has saved me many an embarrassing moment in shorts.

So next time I get a comment from a friend about how they can’t believe I’m able to juggle it all…well, I’m not, really. I take shortcuts to get it done. And keep supplies on demand for when I do forget.

My grandfather always left his medication, breakfast, and other important items on the kitchen counter, instead of utilizing the drawers. Now I know why and will never criticize for it.

Be Still

Listen to this blog: https://anchor.fm/meghan-greenwood/episodes/Be-Still-erd7sq

Meditation, mindfulness. These words are commonly used in contemporary media, but are often surrounded by an aura of unknown. What exactly does it mean? Do I have to buy into expensive products or classes? Will I be able to do it? Can I really benefit?

While meditation in and of itself ranges in practice, frequency, and intensity, the foundation – mindfulness – can be incorporated in every thing you do, every day.

As defined by Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.

Being present. Being still. Not letting the mind wander but instead, focusing on all of our sensations while we are doing something.

For example, when is the last time you actually ate a meal? I mean, really tasted the flavors on your tongue, listened to the chewing, smelled the aroma, looked at the colors on your plate, perhaps touched the items? If you’re a multi-tasker or easily distracted (like me), your mind is probably on to the next item on the agenda whilst scarfing down dinner.

Mindfulness can not only help us to slow down the chaos, but it can most definitely bring an awareness and appreciation of the little things around us – The little things we often take for granted or don’t even realize are crucial to our everyday.

And this practice can easily translate across actions, with little to no cost. It’s a matter of paying attention and being fully engaged in what we’re doing.

Perhaps a hard sell for the technologically-driven world we live in, but certainly one worth at least trying.

Take a moment to fully be in the moment.

Hang In There

Listen to this blog: https://anchor.fm/meghan-greenwood/episodes/Hang-In-There-erd7ig

We are nearing 6 months. Six months since our lives were uprooted from ‘normal’ and pushed into the unknown. It’s still hard to fathom, it’s still hard to wrap my head around what this will mean for the months/years to come. I am hopeful, yet a part of me is also feeling guilty – 6 months is nothing compared to the devastation of war, cancer, the Great Depression.

But still…

For the vast majority of us, this enormous change came out of nowhere. We were blindsided and continue to be with each passing week. While we can certainly still live with mitigation in place, I think we all need to grieve in order to persevere.

According to David Kessler, we are experiencing many forms of grief due to the pandemic, especially anticipatory grief – uncertainty about the future. The best we can do right now is go through the grieving stages: denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance.

Acceptance is likely going to be the hardest step. Loss of jobs, connections, school, activities, etc, is difficult to accept. As a staunch type A, the loss of control is certainly the hardest for me.

That being said…

Acceptance can be THE control. Allowing ourselves the time to go through the grieving process and then coming to a state of affirmation is not defeat or surrendering. It is taking back control.

While we can absolutely miss the past and wish for life as we knew it, I think in order to push forward, we need to consider this our new beginning. Our baseline.

Let’s grow from here.

Need someone to talk to? Contact me about my Accountability Buddy program!

Separate In-Home Destinations

Listen to this blog: https://anchor.fm/meghan-greenwood/episodes/Separate-In-Home-Destinations-erd788

Getting tired of your own 4 walls? Is the feeling of staying home unmotivating?

It’s time to look at your home with a fresh perspective.

You likely already do different tasks in each room – the kitchen for cooking, the bedroom for sleeping, the living room for watching TV. But now that we are in the home more often than not, does your work space sometimes spill over into the kitchen? What about places for you to unwind? Are those also taken over by the chaos of the week? Or have you never really thought about it before, since you were able to leave the home to decompress?

The fix: separate destinations. Nooks, if you will, within your own home. Places where you’ll only do XX. Purposeful and more importantly, visually tricking the brain into believing you are somewhere else outside of the home.

For example, I love to read. A simple corner of a room will suffice. Comfy chair, perhaps a small table for a drink, and you’ve created your reading destination.

The same applies for fitness. Maybe the thought of working out at home is less than appealing. Create a separate destination. A yoga mat, some free weights, and a place to put your phone (for music or streaming) are all you need. Instant gym.

How about a place to make or just relax? Throw a few pillows on the floor near a window. Add a small vase of flowers for extra comfort. Now knit, meditate, or do whatever will make you feel good.

Simple and affordable ways to take time “away” from home.

And now the trickiest part to the idea of separate destinations….(drum roll, please)…

Don’t mix.

If possible, keep your work space separate from your home gym space. Keep your reading nook separate from your bed. Distinct destinations will make your home feel more organized and provide little escapes in a time where travel is frowned upon.

However, I realize that’s not always so easy…

…but don’t give up.

Think outside, a small spot in your garage, a small slab in your basement, hell – even the bathtub! Make a space for just you.

Divine Dissatisfaction

Martha Graham
Copyright: © Barbara Morgan – http://www.agefotostock.com

Listen to this blog: https://anchor.fm/meghan-greenwood/episodes/Divine-Dissatisfaction-erd74o

How is your celebration of small victories going? Have you had a chance to live in the present and/or reflect on everything you have accomplished? I hope you have attempted this practice and found it fruitful.

For all right-sided brains, some additional advice to get you through.

As a creative person, you’re probably used to reflecting on your products. Whether it be a book, a song, a craft, a dance, a sculpture, or a painting, you likely have looked at it and thought, ehhh – this could have been better.

Instead of putting yourself down for these moments of negative savoring, it’s important to realize that this inherent. True artists are wrought with criticism (mostly constructive), because this is how we grow and continue to create.

For example, can you imagine what would have happened if after Steven Spielberg finished “Jaws” he thought to himself, “This is my best”? We would have never been graced with “ET”, “Schindler’s List”, “Saving Private Ryan”, or countless other cinematic masterpieces. This is not to say that every creation needs to be your worst, or have a multi-million dollar return, or that Spielberg actually criticized any of his aforementioned movies; but the idea persists.

Martha Graham, an awe-inspiring dancer, choreographer, and visionary, said it best. “No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than others.”

Never fulfilled is thus put into a beautiful context. Unrest is not to be seen as a detriment, but instead, an important part of the process. The driving force behind making. The reason for doing what you love to do.

Therefore, small victories for the right-sided brains boils down to separation of product from fulfillment. Artists should still strive to celebrate the products they’ve created, but remember that it will likely only push you to do more.

So, no, you’re not mad…just hungry. Make sure you get a few bites here and there.

Make Small Wins a Thing

Listen to this blog: https://anchor.fm/meghan-greenwood/episodes/Make-Small-Wins-a-Thing-erd71g

Day in and day out. We undoubtedly hold ourselves to a standard higher than any generation before us. Working, parenting, managing, creating…none of it ever seems like enough. And self-care, do we even find it worthy of our time?

If this hits home, then you’re not alone. Our time is stretched so thin (even during a pandemic) that the everyday wins are likely unnoticed and most certainly forgotten. When we finish one thing, it’s on to the next. No moments of relaxation, savoring, or peace.

As a society, we tend to disregard the small wins instead of realizing how incremental they are to reaching our big goals. And this is detrimental to our motivation.

Reported by Dr. Jude King, small wins can be incredibly powerful. They not only pave the way towards big accomplishments, but they literally activate our brain’s reward centers. With this stimulation, the brain dumps motivating juices (dopamine and testosterone) that keep us energized to tackle the next activity. Basically, the more little things we do, the more big things we can eventually achieve.

We need to make savoring the small wins the norm. And I’m talking about the SMALLEST of victories. Washed the clothes AND put them away. Cooked a meal AND cleaned the dishes. Texted a friend AND planned our next visit. Applied for a job AND didn’t doubt every entry before clicking submit.

All of these little wins shouldn’t be disregarded as routine. They shouldn’t be ignored or pushed off as expectations. Life is chaotic and the bar is set way too high. Let’s take it down a notch, for our own mental health.

Need a Boost?

Listen to this blog: https://anchor.fm/meghan-greenwood/episodes/Need-a-Boost-erd6u3

Productivity is a subjective term. While your job or schooling may require you to hit certain milestones, each person sees their achievements in a different light. Some people are not satisfied until everything on their to do list is complete, whereas others are happy with fulfilling their major outer obligation for the day (e.g. going to work).

Regardless of the gauge, it’s pretty reasonable to assume that most people want to feel productive. We want to feel that we have achieved our goals and contributed, no matter how big or small. We also probably don’t mind the feeling of getting things done. Any achievement provides a small hit of dopamine in our brains, making us feel even more motivated to do more.

So how do we increase our productivity? Several science-based methods may help you in your quest:

  • Plan.
    • Scheduling may seem like a lot of work up front, but it’s been proven time and time again that the most successful folks have almost every minute of each day planned (check out Deep Work by Cal Newport)
    • To easily implement this into your life, try picking a day of the week – perhaps Sunday evening or Monday morning – where you take 15 minutes to schedule your week on a paper or electronic calendar. Include items for work, home, self-care, and pleasure. Making a plan can remove the anxiety surrounding those items.
    • To do lists are also a great motivating tool. Deemed the ‘Zeigarnik effect‘, we tend to remember things we need to do more than things we have already done. By creating a list, we’re even more likely to not forget. Additionally, the simple act of crossing off an item on the list fills us with a sense of accomplishment and even more importantly, is a visual of what we have achieved.
  • Set attainable goals with reasonable deadlines.
    • While it may seem hard to break down big goals into meaningful pieces, it is critical for making progress. We won’t lose 50 pounds over a month’s time, we won’t write a novel in a week. These things take effort and incremental steps are important for getting us there.
    • Take the largest goal you have and break it into timely pieces. Set sub-goals each week to achieve that big goal in XX months.
    • Deadlines are arbitrary. We need to understand our own capabilities and give ourselves grace & time when life throws curveballs into our plan. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a step. Goals aren’t all or nothing and timelines can typically always shift.
  • Reward yourself.
    • Like the ‘treat yoself’ paradigm made popular on Parks & Recreation, it’s ok to reward ourselves if we’ve achieved what we set out to do. In fact, it can help us be even more motivated to do it.
    • Rewarding doesn’t mean exuberant shopping or doing the opposite of what we achieved. For example, if you’re trying to stop smoking and doing a great job, rewarding yourself with a pack of cigarettes isn’t the best strategy.
    • Choose something you like to do. Perhaps listening to a great podcast or soaking in a tub. Once you’ve completed your goals (or sub-goals) for the day, give yourself a reward of a nice hot bubble bath and a 30 minute podcast episode. Hold yourself to it (and don’t give in if you HAVEN’T achieved your goals for the day) and you’ll be more inclined to do what you need to in order to jump into that inviting bubbly.

If you’re ready to boost your productivity, let’s chat!