Lifestyle Change

Lean into Discomfort to Achieve Your Goals

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I’m not sure who in their right mind chooses to be uncomfortable, apart from exceptional people who understand that whatever we don’t face becomes our limits.

If you want things to really be different and grow personally and professionally, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

The feeling we associate with discomfort is fear or anxiety. As creatures of habit, we prefer safe and calm, but as you go after your dreams, it requires risk and uncertainty, which can be scary. People don’t always realize that any perceived fear can trigger your internal fear response, prompting avoidance or withdrawal. That fear response can look like: Overthinking, procrastination, headaches, unnecessary mistakes and trouble focusing, to name a few.

The more we back off in the face of discomfort, the more we reinforce our fears and limits. The antidote to that is actually to partner with our fear.

Making Friends with Fear

Declare a truce between you and that feeling you’ve been fighting for so long. I use a great book in therapy and often discuss with coaching clients, Visiting Feelings by Lauren Rubenstein. Essentially, it invites you to think of the feeling like a friend who is visiting- would you answer the door and ask what the hell are you doing here? Or maybe you are the type not even to answer at all? Maybe close the windows, slide down the couch and hold your breath as if the friend wasn’t even there? Hopefully, if an unexpected visitor showed up, you would open the door and get curious about why they came to see you or even get excited to engage in a conversation. With that same spirit of exploration, you can learn to befriend even the most difficult emotions with acceptance and equanimity, giving space for a more considered response to the feelings.

But won’t that make things worse?

Your anxiety won’t escalate if you acknowledge it as you take risks, embrace failure, mess up big time, and manage distress. It’s when we fight against it or run from it that we reinforce adverse outcomes.

Each time you face the fear, it reduces the emotional reigns it has on your life.

Let’s take a look at three approaches to intentionally confront the fear standing in between you and [enter goal, task, or project here].

  1. Just Breathe. Our conditioned response to fear is to speed things up. Your breath is the most powerful tool you own that can slow down your internal reaction. Use your breath to settle the excitement of seeing your friend (aka fear). Visualize each deep inhale, connecting you back to the moment, and each complete exhale providing relief.
  2. We tend to overthink and not act. Sometimes the more you accomplish, the more you feel like a fraud and doubt your abilities, but feelings aren’t facts. Rely on the facts, not your emotions or catastrophic thoughts. Instead, think about another time you were successful, what worked for you then, and how you could that possibly apply now to support continued action.
  3. Plan for the obstacles. You eventually will confront the beliefs and reactions that typically show up to hold you back. So plan ahead.  Try listing your fears or concerns and for each note your typical reactions that make it difficult for you to proceed. Now for each, write a plan of action to respond. A part of that plan should include acknowledging the fear and defusing it with a curious, good to see you attitude, as well as using your breath (you always have that with you).

It takes consistent work and awareness to notice and better respond to the experience of discomfort. Still, it is in partnership with that experience that you can take charge of your life and lose the fear of stepping outside of your comfort zone.

What’s your favorite way to handle discomfort? Let us know in the comments below.

Cheers to your success, Amanda Fludd.

Amanda Fludd, LCSW-R is a passionate advocate for positive workplace culture, supporting the ambitious mindsets of women through coaching, and improving mental health in all settings. The goal is to simply get you out of your head, so you can stress less, and focus on your success.

Make sure to register for “Catch your Breath” a free live mindful practice series for Minority Women Who Lead running through the end of July 2021. #minoritymentalhealthmonth #strongcommunities

4 Useful Ways to Ease the Stress of Change for Women Who Lead

The mass exodus back to normal has heightened stress levels, and it’s important to acknowledge that change can be stressful. If you are someone who gets upset and loses focus when things don’t go as expected or strongly dislikes change, automatically expects the worst, and struggles to adapt, this piece is for you.

 

Do you think we are ready to return to ‘normal’? 

Well, whether we’re fully ready, we have to be prepared and adapt. In the ever-changing landscape of life and work, adaptability is a crucial skill for managers, leaders, and anyone looking to navigate change successfully. Adaptable people tend to be happier and more content as they’re not struggling against the resistance of change, and can skillfully ride the wave.

 

The Brain Behind Change

Our brain hates the unknown that comes with change, and that can show up as anxiety, which is your brain’s way of protecting you from the unfamiliar. However, that can mean saving you from a necessary or required action. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “stress is a response to a threat in a situation. Anxiety is a reaction to the stress.” The threat is that feeling of not knowing and the associated fear of what could happen in the future. Sometimes that fear is rational, and sometimes not. Sometimes it’s about something that will happen in three minutes (getting on a call to close a deal, for example) or in 30 years (having enough money to retire).

Depending on how you respond to your brain’s conceptualization of the fear can make change or transitions so difficult. It’s easy to feel powerless in these moments, but your power is in the ways you decide to navigate change.

You can decide how you want to think about the situation and what you want to do about it.

We can’t resist returning to work, going back to college, or whatever transition is on the horizon, but you always have a choice within the change. I’m not dismissing that it won’t be hard at times, but this is about being skillful so you can continue to live, lead, and enjoy life.

Let’s jump to 4 quick tips to navigate change and ease the fear of transition:

  1. Notice when an interaction or the thought of a situation upsets you and examine why. Acknowledge out loud any unhelpful thoughts going through your mind, then take those thoughts and challenge their accuracy to determine whether they represent reality. Perhaps you can then find another way to think about them that allows you to move forward.
    How you think or what you are ruminating over is often connected to the experience of procrastination, perfectionism, overwhelm, or feeling unmotivated. Learn to challenge and change the thoughts behind those responses.
  1. Successful leaders often react to anxiety by working harder, holding themselves and others to impossibly high standards, only to cause further stress or burnout in themselves and others. Examine your use of time and what you are asking of others. Putting in place a support infrastructure that includes breaks for you and your team and time to discuss expectations openly.

 

  1. Find a practice that eases your stress. Sometimes our minds operate like a runaway train. If you can quiet your mind for just a moment, you may notice there is always a fork in the road. One road allows your anxious thoughts to derail you, and the other will enable you to inject more positive thoughts and intentional actions.This can look like daily mindfulness practices, laughing, or sometimes more high-intensity activities like running or a good cardio workout. These practices short circuits the stress response by getting you out of your head, incorporating your body, and allowing the experience of stress, anxiety, and worry to subside.
  2. Don’t stay on your island; build connections. You are an expert at what you do, and getting things done is your superpower. However, we all will face the challenge of transitions and change that can make you feel alone or cause you to isolate and withdraw. Do the opposite. Instead, try coming out of your office and chatting with a colleague, or reach out via text, call a friend or  maybe even perform a quick act of kindness. Be open to also ask for help or outsource tasks to create more time and space for wellbeing.

 

In this time of crisis and change, where many are experiencing anxiety for the first time, it is an opportunity to develop our ability to adapt and contribute to a culture the prioritizes the importance of emotional wellbeing.

 

Amanda Fludd, LCSW-R is a passionate advocate for positive workplace culture, supporting the ambitious mindsets of women, and improving mental health in all settings. The goal is to simply get you out of your head, so you can stress less, and focus on your success.

Make sure to register for “Catch your Breath” a free live mindful practice series for Minority Women Who Lead running through the end of July 2021. #minoritymentalhealthmonth #strongcommunities

 

Recognize, Release, Respond: Try this Strategy to Navigate Seasonal Overwhelm

School is out, and the sun seems at the highest point in the sky, and so is our anticipatory anxiety. There is so much we want to do, see, and accomplish that our minds are like a runaway subway car bellowing through the city. I want to travel, finally, write a book, maybe read a book, take a course that has a book, think I need to schedule my physical, paint my living room, take a day off, and head to the beach, but oh my god- summer is almost over! And on and on and on until panic kicks in. Sound familiar?

Racing thoughts, unlike subway cars, often don’t come to a stop on their own, with our minds quickly advancing from a single topic to multiple unrelated ideas; it’s an experience that quickly disrupts your focus and raises your anxiety.

Racing Thoughts Like Subway Cars

Entrepreneurs and ambitious women who lead are no strangers to anxiety. They’re just as susceptible as the rest of the population, and dealing with it effectively requires a better understanding of mental health. While we’ve made significant gains around the stigma of mental health, we often don’t recognize its role in daily functioning, specifically how common anxiety is. An estimated 275 million people suffer from anxiety disorders. That’s around 4% of the global population, and according to the world economic forum, 62% of those suffering from anxiety are female (170 million).

A hallmark of anxiety is the impact on your thinking process and physical response. It can look like:

  • Thoughts going a mile a minute
  • Trouble sleeping at night and a mind that is not able to “shut off”
  • Procrastinating on tasks
  • Second-guessing your abilities
  • An inability to relax, tension headaches, sweaty palms, racing heartbeat

 

Related: Why Mental Health Plays a Role in the Success of Your Business

 

What’s important to know is while this can directly impact your ability to get things done, there are things you can do to solve the stress of anxiety and still enjoying the summer (or whatever season it is).

Embrace the power of Curiosity 

By learning to tune into your experience around anxiety, we can short circuit your reaction to it and establish a new neural pathway to boot.

Recognize. I encourage clients to think about or recognize what they are thinking about. Start to notice the thoughts driving your worries and stress. Ask yourself is it helpful? How does this make me feel in my body? Do I need to think about this right now?

Focus on your thoughts, and with less judgment.

We are sometimes our worst critics, but try curiosity over judgment. Getting curious about your experience will help you shift from reacting to responding, and interrupt your typical operating system, which creates the opening for something better.

Release. Letting go of what no longer serves you takes courage, but change and growth are just outside your comfort zone. Find and release the thought of worry by imaging it floating away like a balloon. For the physical feelings of anxiety, like fear and tension, breathe deeply into that spot until it expands and then exhale, letting it go. Let go of what’s familiar, whether a limiting belief or an old way of responding.

Respond.  Once you begin to slow your thoughts and settle your automatic physical response, you can create space to act from a more intentional space. Here you can write out your clear goals for the next few months, or even for today or in the next hour. Or maybe decide to speak and act from a more mindful space. Or finally, make a clear request with the shadow of intense emotions and most importantly, take a new action.

 

Which of the 3 r’s will you focus on for the rest of this week? Share in the comments below.

 

Amanda Fludd, LCSW-R is a passionate advocate for positive workplace culture, supporting the ambitious mindsets of women, and improving mental health in all settings. The goal is to simply help you get out of your head, stress less and focus on your success.

Make sure to register for “Catch your Breath” a free live mindful practice series for Minority Women Who lead beginning July 19th, 2021. #minoritymentalhealthmonth #strongcommunities

 

Why Mental Health Plays a Role in the Success of Your Business

Mental Health is a workplace issue

Mental illnesses from a macro viewpoint are associated with higher rates of disability, absenteeism, and unemployment. Emotional experiences like depression and anxiety often interfere with a person’s ability to focus and complete tasks and have even been reported to reduce cognitive performance about 35% of the time. While the impact may not rise to the level of a clinical diagnosis for most workers, they are still susceptible to stress and burnout, seriously affecting their ability to contribute meaningfully in their personal and professional lives.

 

Data from several countries worldwide indicate that mental health problems are behind a considerable number of employees dropping out of work, particularly as we navigate returning to work post-pandemic. It’s the elephant in the room that can no longer be avoided, with Covid-19 having a lasting impact on the workforce. It was hard before, it’s a crisis now, and we are at a juncture that requires us individually and collectively to shift our work culture and prioritize mental health. 

Mental health was a massive issue in the workplace before the pandemic. It was hard before, and it’s a crisis now. 

 

Workplace Well-being

Mental health is something we all possess. When it is good, we have a sense of purpose and direction and feel that we can cope with whatever life (and work) throws at us. But just as our physical health fluctuates, so too our mental health. This is even true for solopreneurs or entrepreneurs, with one study out of the University of California finding that out 49% of entrepreneurs surveyed had at least one mental illness, and about one-third struggled with two or more conditions like depression and anxiety.   

Emotional challenges at work can contribute to: 

  •   Decreased productivity and performance
  •   Reduced engagement with one’s work
  •   Decreased physical capability 
  •   Poor communication with coworkers
  •   Increase in employer mental health spending with behavioral health claims responsible for a 20% increase in that area.

At any one time, at least one in six workers are experiencing common mental health problems (some studies have it as one in five), and it’s no surprise that these adults are tasked with dealing with their mental health in the workplace. Depression contributes to about 400 million lost workdays annually. Poor mental health costs US employers up to $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year, and within the UK, mental health problems in the workplace cost the economy approximately £70 billion annually. 

Good mental health enables not just the individual to thrive but the business. The WHO has estimated that for every $1 invested into the treatment and support of mental health disorders, business see a return of $4 in improved health and productivity.

 

Tips for Managers, Leaders & Colleagues

Some common signs that can surface in colleagues who are struggling with their emotional well-being:

 

1. They exhibit (or often talk about) physical symptoms, such as tiredness related to disrupted sleep or persistent headaches. 

2. Withdrawal from the team, more isolative.

3. Loss of interest in work, sadness, or constant worry

4. Noticeable irritability or conversely complacent 

5. Reference to increased alcohol consumption

6. Procrastination, indecisiveness, slowed productivity (missing deadlines and deliverables).

7. Absence may increase, or alternatively, they start to work much longer hours, starting early or staying late.

 

Employers are uniquely positioned to encourage employees to get help if they are experiencing issues with their mental health. Not only that, most workers want their employers to champion mental health and well-being in the workplace.

 

Employee/Self Care is Key to A Thriving Workplace 

Five small changes that can be made with little effort and improve employee well-being: 

1. Flexible hours. Discuss with your staff a reasonable plan to reduce their stress while navigating return post-pandemic. One size does not fit all.  

2. Enforce working hours. This can be done by limiting out-of-hours work and encouraging reduced email access outside of office hours

3. Increase supervision and team support: If possible, avoid employees working in a solely isolated way. If they are working from home extensively, make sure there are regular check-ins not just on work but also on challenges that impact the work.  

4. Share resources: Provide support services, share available resources like EAP information, child care options, and how to access staff members or consultants who have training in mental health and workplace stress. Make sure support is widely and regularly communicated. 

5. Promote self-care breaks: That may include reminders to eat healthy, group walks, or quiet time at the end of meetings. 

 

Other ways companies are investing in corporate wellness:

1. Changing company cultures – Get intentional about creating a culture of understanding and openness around mental health. This can mean HR programs taking steps to prevent burnout and build employee resiliency. It could also mean supervisors being mindful of and allowing employees to speak openly about mental health challenges or even implementing mandatory self-care time. Some companies have even implemented paid or unpaid mental health days from work, and staff is encouraged to utilize it before they feel overwhelmed or emotionally unwell. 

 

2. Incorporate a Wellness Menu – If wellness is not a regular part of the culture, invest in it. Progressive agencies are mandating self-care, and a part of that is providing options for staff to pick from during the workweek, such as the 30 mindful mornings or wellness workshops I recently facilitated at a Law Firm in NY. Other options include training on topics such as overthinking and productivity, stress and the body, or trauma-informed care. 

When the agency prioritizes care, it sends a message to the employee that your wellness matters, and that is often reciprocated back with increased productivity and a reduction in turnover. 

 

It will take all of us to help alleviate the impact of COVID-19 related stress and the emotional impact it continues to have on ourselves, colleagues, and communities. Our Mental Health Consultant Team can support you in your journey to promote workplace well-being and raise mental health awareness in the workplace or to personally develop yourselfGet in touch to find out more.

You can find additional resources from The American Psychiatric Association (APA)  here or when emotions are significantly impacting functioning refer colleagues to therapy here: Psychologytoday.com, Cliniciansofcolor.com, Therapyforblackmen.org, and Openpathcollective.com.

 

Amanda Fludd, LCSW-R, Psychotherapist and Corporate Mental Health Consultant

What’s Getting in The Way of Your Happiness?

Are you happy? Most of us want to be, but your nature to demand a lot from yourself, and sacrifice sleep to fulfill one more obligation may be sucking the joy out of the room.

 

Happiness is often connected to achievement- with financial, family, and career ranking high on the list.  The assumption is often with success you will automatically become happier.  As we’ve seen recently with the decisions of Naomi Osaka, success does not guarantee lasting happiness. Work hard, do [exceptionally] well, and feel good, is a faulty equation, yet, we continue to pursue it.

Think about it, you probably got the most praise in life when you did something great like excel at a sport, graduate from school, got that promotion or got married, had kids, and found your white picket fence. Or maybe you remember the disappointment or shame you felt when you did not meet the expectations of others, like being asked why you aren’t married with kids at 38, or in need of a mental health day. Which experience do you avoid like the plague?

This is the beginnings of achievement equating to contentment, and our natural response to seek what feels good or conditional happiness.

Take a second and swallow that pill.

Conditional happiness is based on external circumstances and events, and how you decide to respond. A response that desperately seeks to avoid discomfort by searching for external validation, attention, and general feel-good moments that cannot be sustained.

Why? Because life and people are unpredictable.

The one predictable thing you have control over is you, but you might be what’s getting in the way of your happiness.

I often bear witness to this as I listen to my clients articulate how hard they push themselves to be what someone else wants them to be, and although successful, it comes with busy minds that won’t shut off, deep self-criticism, and unhappiness. Sound familiar?

Are you looking for more happiness daily? If the answer is YES, book a 15-minute complimentary session with me to find out how I can help YOU.

Let’s take a look at how else your response and reactions may be getting in the way of your success.

 

Ways you get in the way of happiness

 

Five Things Getting in The Way of Your Happiness

1. Fear

This emotion is a significant barrier to happiness. Fear is a sign that your mind believes something is wrong, and we often think that something is wrong with us. This kind of unrest creates a thick fog between you and the possibility of happiness. You end up questioning whether you’re really good enough to be where you are, tend to over-analyze for days, and second guess yourself.

It’s important to address issues that cause feelings of fear and resolve them. There’s no room for happiness where fear resides.

2. You Pick Yourself Last for Your Own Team

You’ve spent so much of your life trying to hit all the right milestones, and making everyone else comfortable and not rock the boat, that you forgot to get out of the boat and enjoy the swim.  All your decisions have been based on what would make other people happy, or even successful and to do that you’ve turned your needs, wants and voice so far down that you no longer know what defines you.

Who would you be if you took all of those roles and titles away (Manager, Wife, Mom, Doctor, CEO, Professor, The Go to Best Friend, Problem Solver)? The thought of what life may be without the title may provoke some natural discomfort, but the only authentic way out of this dilemma is to start to shift the focus from what has defined you, to find who you are.

Start with asking yourself how do you want to be defined? Explore what you enjoy, what makes you happy. Take a look at your calendar and see where you could plug in more time to discover you.

3. Feeling Undervalued

When you feel that your time, effort, and contribution to the world lack value, you’ll find happiness to be elusive. It’s draining to be in relationships that take more from you than they give. It’s time to figure out why you’re still there and what you may still need to learn as you work on your exit strategy.

4. Overthinking

Some thinking is useful, like learning from mistakes or making plans for the future. Most thinking is not, such as daydreaming about how you could quit your job today, reliving arguments, replaying choices you’ve made- thinking about what else you could have done or said, or putting off working on projects that really matter.  To experience a more fulfilling life, try paying attention to not only your feelings, but also to your thoughts. Your thoughts contribute to how you feel; feelings contribute to how your respond (or don’t respond).

The beauty of your thinking is there are ways to learn to get out of your head and prioritize what’s on your mind.

5. Negativity

When unhelpful thoughts accumulate in your mind, along with feelings like anger, hurt, disappointment and shame, it not only impacts how you show up in the world- but it can also trigger larger problems like anxiety, stress, and depression. Anxiety and depression struggle to coexist with happiness.

Determine the thoughts, behaviors and actions you can control in your life, and do your best to work on that.

Sometimes the biggest obstacle in your life is, well, you. To build a life that supports happiness you have to work on the place where most of these obstacles reside, within your mind. Take the time to learn new approaches to cultivate and use your mental muscle in a way that works for you.  With practice, intention, and strategy you can let go of self-criticism, overcome your need for control, navigate disappointment and find balance. . .maybe even happiness.

 

“Be happy with what you have and are, be generous with both, and you won’t have to hunt for happiness.”

– William E. Gladstone

 

How do you prioritize your happiness?

I hope this post has given you some insights into yourself, so you can work on changing the particular reactions and patterns that get in the way of you living your best life.  You deserve to be happy. I would love to hear in the comments how you prioritize happiness.  For some of us, that means gently unpacking what hasn’t worked and trying on something new.

If you want to take action now, in a meaningful way (beyond spa dates, and affirmations) try our Performance Academy with a few key tasks and the right amount of accountability to move you to calm, confident, and content.

 

Hi, I’m Amanda Fludd. I’m here to help you get out of your head so you can stress less and focus on your success.

 

Lean into Discomfort to Achieve Your Goals

I’m not sure who in their right mind chooses to be uncomfortable, apart from exceptional people who understand that …

4 Useful Ways to Ease the Stress of Change for Women Who Lead

The mass exodus back to normal has heightened stress levels, and it’s important to acknowledge that change can be stressful. …

Recognize, Release, Respond: Try this Strategy to Navigate Seasonal Overwhelm

School is out, and the sun seems at the highest point in the sky, and so is our anticipatory anxiety. There is so much we …