Stop Controlling to Lower Anxiety

“Remind yourself that you don’t have to be in charge – that, in fact, it’s impossible for you to be in charge.” ` Wayne Dyer

We charge a lot of things. We charge batteries and credit cards – we charge ahead and take charge of meetings – we charge devices and hope to be in charge of our own lives. But, we are less in charge than many of us prefer to realize.

Being in charge sounds like the best way to live life but what if the opposite is just as good? Some people think that letting go is the opposite of taking charge? Letting go is the opposite of holding on – reception is the opposite of being in charge.

Instead of controlling people or events you receive them, as they are. Reception is the precursor to gratitude because you won’t be grateful for something you never receive. Being in a state of reception can be something that feels totally open and without any expectations or it can have just enough structure to allow for some personal comfort.

Life is lived somewhere between the opposite poles of enjoying freedom and needing structure. That space is where we can either lean into structure to the point of controlling, with an outcome of more anxiety or leaning the other direction into freedom from requirements.

One Thing To Do: Find your sweet spot between the structure that gives you a sense of security and the freedom that allows opportunity by practicing reception this weekend.

Dawna Daigneault

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Mental Energy Can Be Better by Monday

“We’re drowning in information and starving for knowledge.” -Rutherford D. Rogers

Taking a break from technology can be a good experience but when you dive back into the technological sea of information you may feel like you’re drowning on the first day you return.

The amount of information you are being flooded with may seem normal but it may also be too much to deal with on a daily basis. You will feel flooded by extraneous data. Then when something really personal and important goes wrong you may have no energy left to deal with it. The information overload  makes your brain ache – you feel like shutting down. You may have to miss work – not because you have a virus but because you are overworking your own mental and emotional circuitry leaving no room to solve real problems.

We are drinking from a technology fire hose all day long. Even if you are not chewing and swallowing every bite being fed to you – you are still having to make decisions about what you taste. If someone followed you around throughout the day saying, “Taste this, now taste this, now this…” You would feel overwhelmed and frustrated that someone was pushing you to try things and use your limited thinking energy to make hundreds of small decisions about tasting things that have little value to you at the time they are presented.

One Thing To Do this Weekend: Erase 5 things from your phone or computer that pester you with a constant stream of less than important information.

Dawna Daigneault

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Your Reach can be Better By Monday

“Reality knows nothing of your plans, and it comes up with ever new ways to pester you. According to recent research, you are bound to meet twenty-three frustrations today (up from thirteen a decade ago).” – Piero Ferrucci in The Power of Kindness.

How you meet with the frustrations which show up today will make a difference in how frustrated they will leave you. Flexibility is something everyone thinks they understand but psychological flexibility isn’t as well known.

The idea of being physically flexible can be seen in a gymnast who is able to twist and turn effortlessly in floor routines, on balance beams and even between uneven bars. It takes years of practice to become a skilled gymnast. The amazing flexibility of the prepared gymnast can seem super-human to those of us who sit behind a desk and therefore, seem out of our reach. Psychological flexibility also takes practice but becoming adept at it doesn’t require a gym.

We may be inflexible because our parents didn’t know how to teach the skills of flexibility. Rigid rules and punishments may have trained a lack of flexibility in our thinking and/or feelings. We may have been given a routine to follow which has allowed some limited success but it didn’t include an internal compass for self-awareness.

The ability to think about more than one option and really consider how to navigate the different potential outcomes of various probable options is being psychologically flexible. That is a mouthful to say but it is a simple process to move yourself from one self-centered thought to considering how we are all connected; self, partner, family, friends, community, country, to continent.

One Thing to Do: Mental stretching is the purposeful reaching with your thoughts past where they usually end. It is like expanding the idea that something only affects you into the possibility of how that same something could change life for others. Reaching from outcomes about “just me” to an impact on “we” is one mental stretch worth practicing.

Dawna Daigneault

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Your boundaries can be better by Monday

Better By MondayDo you patrol your fences or wear your armor?
Personal boundaries are often invisible but protect our emotional and spiritual space like a sturdy fence around a yard. Some boundaries can create needed distance, like a fence, but a different kind is more like a suit of armor, worn tightly to protect our greatest vulnerabilities. The personal boundary of the armor variety has to be stronger to allow us to get close to others, but the very strength of it can sometimes shield us from others as well as protect us from them. Safety can come at a cost when it comes to interpersonal relationships.
Which type of boundary is better? The fence boundary is great for meeting new people in a new place. Random social interactions or being on a team at work are situations where good fences make for positive and productive relationships. The distance these provide can make learning and observing easier while letting people choose how and when to show up to others. You may prefer a wide plot of land between you and a stranger while at a party but with a clear and reliable fence up you can choose to open the gate to someone who shares some of your interests. (And they can do the same for you, assuming they too have a reliable fence of their own.) You also control who stays outside the gate and why.
Generally, this fence is built with a combination of queues you offer (or withhold from) others. How readily you join in a conversation, smiles or affirming and animated gestures when someone else is talking, requests for more information can all be signals you send or receive that create a sense of space that is preferred and maintained – a safe space. However, this type of boundary can be exhausting to patrol – especially if the fence covers a wide diameter around your personal space, with lots of conditions and unending requirements. In this case, for example, a person goes to a party and sits alone, not wanting ANY engagement from or with others.  This fence is so wide and distant no one can get in.
The positive thing about armor is that it is worn close and can let others have more access to you, get closer, but while you are still protected and feeling safe and secure. You may not be ready for complete transparency but you can reveal and receive more when you have your in-close boundary on, your armor, and this can help you remain engaged with the world, not fenced in by it. Personal boundary of the armor variety also gives you a sense of safety when trust hasn’t been established between you and someone new. It also is made of words, gestures, and actions…all of which protect you from sharing more of your story with someone before you feel secure. And it helps them to learn about and know you at your pace, not theirs, respectfully but firmly.
One Thing To Do: Make a short list of words (phrases) that can create your version of a healthy boundary for you and that would be helpful for others as well:
 “I’m not sure I feel like talking about that right now.”
“Thanks for the interest but maybe some other time.”
“No thanks – not right now.”
“I’d love to talk about that but not really right now.”
“That would be good to discuss but when I feel abler to, later on perhaps.”
Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Better By Monday: Do you Lift or Lean?

Better By MondayMonday isn’t always given the respect it deserves. Disagreeable mumbling by more than one not-ready-for-work sleeper is heard. The sunlight sneaking between the blinds into the bedroom window doesn’t bring the delight of a new day it brings the burden of another day to endure.

The sun doesn’t seem to warm the morning air with hope but lights it up with anticipatory anxiety. Problems are waiting for us. Stress of different shapes and sizes line the halls of the schools our children attend, the streets we drive down, the rows of offices in our buildings and we don’t have solutions.

Even if old problems are left in the past, new problems seem to always be just ahead. We don’t always benefit from thinking about getting ahead because sometimes we can only get through. A sea of daily stress with endless days of rowing can feel unrewarding and unmanageable. But are all the moments in a day made up of problems, pain, stress and frustration?

What if we could give each other a moment away from feeling our problems? I know you’ve heard of Random Acts of Kindness (which work well) but have you considered making those into small acts of compassion/ kindness you can do throughout the day? By looking for the opportunity to show compassion in small ways during the day you give yourself a break from feeling your own stress and co-create a stress relieving moment with others.

SACK someone’s stress by showing grace, interest, empathy and/or patience in a moment of need and you get a day filled with more meaningful moments. Look for the moments where you can show a little compassion. Monday through Friday will feel lighter because you are lifting instead of leaning away.

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault Ed.S., LPC.

Better By Monday is a blog about one thing you can do, over the weekend, to feel a little better by Monday.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Better By Monday: Courage Holds the Hand of Fear

In ancient times courage was one of four primary virtues, the others being wisdom, temperance and justice. Courage was seen as the most critical as it was thought the other virtues relied on the presence of courage before they could show up. In personal transformation work, such as counseling, courage is vital to progress. It’s not something found just in a moment of high anxiety or fear but is always there, awaiting access by any of us at any time.

“To summon our courage” is a wonderful phrase that gives away its true nature. It’s not always present, with us, but can be brought forward any time or in any situation. We DO, however, need to call for it and we DO need to pay attention to its voice.

Summoning courage has many recipes. For some it springs from commitment to something that has deep meaning. It energizes them to the point of actively (and easily, for them) demonstrating to others what they care about or what gives them purpose in their life. Without a depth of meaning you can engage some actions but they are more likely rooted in compliance, not commitment. And while there are thousands of charities or political causes with reliable supporters, not all of those people have a deep connection to their own true meaning and purpose which compels them to take time off from work to march in a demonstration or show resistance.

The other important aspect of courage worth thinking about is that it’s not at all a “me against you” concept. While dramatic literature and religion can often rely on narrative devices which emphasize courageous acts and conflict (man kills bad guy, saves girl etc. etc.) the more profound and powerful kind of courage is when we confront ourselves – who we are and what we might become – and question the whys and wherefores of life.

We can then undertake the fear-laden work of questioning the makeup of our character and embedded nature. It’s only when we summon the courage to take on our own certainties, beliefs, and long-held convictions that real change and new learning and personal growth can occur. When we stop thinking of win and lose for us in relation to others and dedicate ourselves to learning about what’s within that we can truly begin to change our wellbeing, sense of safety and self-worth, and how we engage with everyone every day – all for the better. And it’s well worth it, this tough internal work, because after this courageous journey comes contentment and compassion. And, not coincidentally, these are precursors to building the capacity for genuine love for yourself and then others.

Courage is not about being devoid of fear. Rather, it’s being aware of fear and still moving forward anyway. Contrary to popular misconceptions, it’s perfectly fine to reflect on your life and even make big decisions WHEN you are afraid, just not BECAUSE you are afraid. There’s a difference. The latter is blind reaction; the other is being fully present, focused, and committed. Best news of all is we all have the capacity to activate our own courage and let it lead us through life’s challenges – inside and outside.

Dawna Daigneault

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Better By Monday is a blog about one thing you can do, over the weekend, to feel a little better by Monday.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.