Stop, Listen, and….Respond

by Jess Welch

 

Stop, Listen, and… Respond

As a wife, friend, and health coach I tend to want to solve. I want to fix. I crave the ability to alter someone else’s life experience so it is more meaningful and fulfilling to them. I went into this field to “help people.” So quickly I learned that my wanting to help people was really wanting to find solutions to problems that people cannot find themselves. Who doesn’t want to be the magic genie to make someone’s goals and dreams come true? However, that is always not the best way to help.

Too often, I find myself hearing stories that someone is experiencing similar to one I have personally experienced and stop listening. “I have the solution!! I have been there!” I want so badly to connect with clients and friends based on similarities that I forget the most important step.

Listening. Fully listening then responding in a way most meaningful to the person you are communicating with, not to you. This basic format of conversation is simple: Step 1) Listen Step 2) Respond. But what does that look like? What should that look like?

For anyone accustomed to conversing in a way to fix or make connections based on similar experiences, I look at this task as being as difficult as changing diet, starting a new exercise regimen, or quitting smoking.

Let’s dive deeper. Listening doesn’t always mean listening. Attention doesn’t always mean attention. I can be having an in-person conversation, have my phone out texting someone else, and be thinking about all the housework I need to do. Our world is designed to encourage multi-tasking so it is only natural that we do that while listening. However, meaningful connections are missed if we cannot figure out how to be in the moment and be present. This affects the person speaking as well as you.

Evaluating your response in moments of crisis, pain, or even contemplation for the party you are speaking to is the key. I am victim to this; I want to fix. My job is not to fix as I am not an expert in everything my loved ones or clients may be experiencing. So instead of trying to find the ultimate solution, we must respond in a way that is helpful and lets the person know you are quite simply… there for them.

Often our responses contain one of two things: sympathy or empathy. Understanding the difference between the two is essential. Sympathy tends to set us apart from one another. It is looking at someone rather than being with someone. Empathy is allowing yourself, and that person, to be in this situation together. I’d love to encourage everyone reading to allow that to sit with them.

Strategies for mindfulness and expressing empathy are vast and can vary depending on who you are and what works for you. Just like one exercise may work for me but not for you, trying different strategies will eventually lead you to one that is most effective for you. A couple mindfulness tips to try would be: putting your phone away, making eye contact, repeating what someone has said in your head, preparing yourself prior to a conversation with a few deep breaths, allowing yourself a break from all you have going on. A couple empathetic tips to try would be: reflective responses (taking out questions or personal experiences and repeating what a person has said in a different way), avoiding pity, make observations instead of evaluations, offer a chance for more to be said from the individual speaking.

Remember: Listen and Respond. Help by being present rather than presenting solutions. And try different strategies of mindfulness and empathy to help get there. I know you will see changes in your work and home relationships by trying this.

 

Five Tips For Loving Yourself

The concept of self-love has always been hard for me to grasp because I spent so long at war with myself. I always equated self-love to having the perfect body, and because I could never achieve that (Newsflash: No One Can) I felt that I could never truly love myself. I spent a lot of time looking for love and validation in other people, which put me in some really unhealthy relationships. It wasn’t until I realized that I am capable of living in a state of love all on my own that my life started to change for the better. We spend so much time focusing on our relationships with other people that we often forget about the one we have with ourselves. We’re willing to jump through hoops to please others, but how often do we do that for ourselves? We would never fathom putting up with an abusive relationship with someone else, but how often do you talk down to yourself on a daily basis? How often do you really give thought to your relationship with yourself? If you haven’t done that in a while, I suggest taking some time out to really tune into that relationship. Is it good? Is it bad? Is it abusive? Once you’ve tuned in to the current state of your relationship with yourself, here are some tips to improve that relationship, and to cultivate the self-love you need and deserve.

  1. Create and Commit to a Morning Routine

Mornings are powerful. You can make or break your day by how you spend your morning, so why not dedicate some serious time to it? When we spend our mornings rushing to get out the door we set ourselves up for a hectic day right off the bat, but if we slow down, and take our time getting ready for the day ahead, it’s much easier to take that mindset with you the rest of the day. Wondering how you’re going to find extra time in the morning to slow down? Start with just five minutes. Set your alarm five minutes earlier than you normally would and start from there (without pressing snooze!)

  1. Self Care

This one seems like a no brainer, but you can understand where this gets hard. Showering, brushing our teeth, doing our hair, all of these things have become second nature to us at this point, but sometimes when we’re down on ourselves, or spend an entire day in bed these things get pushed to the back burner. Make self care a priority in your life. No matter what your day looks like, make sure you’re taking time out to physically take care of yourself, and when you do that, take a little extra time to do something special. For me, putting on lotion is a big one. It’s something small and simple, and something most people do without even thinking about it, but I often skip it because I’m in a hurry. When I get out of the shower and moisturize, I feel like I’m doing something good for myself, and that’s really important. It’s not anything huge, but it’s something small I can do on a daily basis to show myself that I’m worth the extra time, and I care about myself.

  1. Date Yourself

I love this one because it’s fun! Often times we think that dating is strictly for people in relationships, but let’s take a second to break down that idea. We go on dates with our partner to spend time with them and enjoy their company. If we think about the idea of having a relationship with ourselves, don’t we also deserve that time alone to enjoy our own company? At first, this can sound scary, it’s really hard to be alone with your thoughts, especially if you aren’t used to it, but once you get used to the idea it can be extremely therapeutic. Take yourself out to a restaurant you’ve been wanting to try. Go to that museum you’ve been wanting to check out. That art opening? Take yourself! When we constantly look for other people to experience things with, we’re sometimes subconsciously settling. We’re worrying about whether or not the other person will enjoy the activity, instead of just spending our time in the moment enjoying it ourselves.  When you do things on your own, you only have to do things that YOU like and enjoy. You can be present in the moment, form your own opinions on the experience, and I believe that’s really important in discovering our true selves. I challenge you to try it once a month. Even if it’s just an hour at a coffee shop you’ve been wanting to try. I promise you’ll end up loving it, and looking forward to your monthly date.

  1. Exercise

Ok, I won’t spend much time on this one, because we all know how important exercise is, but because it is important, I wanted to touch on it. We all know that exercise releases endorphins, that natural chemical that makes you feel good, and self-love is all about feeling good. Many people get caught up in the word exercise and write it off because they don’t enjoy lifting weights or running, but exercise can be anything that gets you moving and increases your heart rate. Yoga, walking, rollerblading, dancing with your kids, all of that is exercise, so find something you really enjoy doing and dedicate just thirty minutes to it a day.

  1. Meditate

Meditation has started to become more mainstream, which I’m loving, but I still feel that people have a skewed idea of what meditation is, and the time it takes. Put simply, meditation is just focusing on the moment that you’re in while you’re in it. Seems simple and complicated at the same time, right? I promise you, once you start it won’t be as complicated as it seems. There are a million ways that you can go about meditation, but if you have access to a smartphone, I recommend trying the Headspace app. It’s available in the Android marketplace or on the iTunes store, and the app itself is free to download. Once you download the app you can get ten days for free, which I think gives you a really great base, and a good idea of what meditation looks like. After the ten days, you can continue to use Headspace by paying for a subscription, or you can start meditating on your own with your new found skills. If you don’t want to mess with Headspace, there are also tons of resources on YouTube that you can check out, but I really believe that Headspace and apps like it (Calm, Aura, etc)  give you the most education about meditation, and lays it out beautifully with really zero effort on your part, outside of the whole meditation part of course.

So, now that you have a few tips on how to make your relationship with yourself the best it can be, try them out! Set some goals, maybe focus on just one of these each week. Start to create a healthy relationship with yourself and see how your life changes!

 

Work Stress & Self-Care

How does one cope with too much work, little help, and no time to do their mounting tasks? Through coaching I consistently hear employees tell me about low job satisfaction. Work is their number one source of stress in their life and carries out into other areas leading to low life-satisfaction.

“I have no time to work out.”
“If I had one word to describe my eating habits it would be ‘quick’.”
“Work is constantly on my mind, distracting me from time with my family.”
“I blink and my entire day is gone.”

And as much as a simple answer could be to quit their jobs, it isn’t so simple after all. Everyone has bills to pay, relationships they have made within the workplace, and face the risk of starting over while many may enjoy large pieces of their jobs. So we have this complex issue of increased stress leading to increased risk factors for things like cardiovascular disease, decreased fulfillment, and no real answer to fix it due to life’s high demands.

Because this blog is not for my recommendations of the complex situation for employers to aide in creating a lower stress environment for their employees, I am going to focus on you: the workers. How do you keep up with life’s high demands inside and outside the workplace? How do you develop healthy habits and keep a job you may have worked quite hard to obtain?

Developing healthy coping strategies takes cognitive effort. If it were something you could do outside of cognitive thought, you probably would have been doing it already. As a species, we run as efficiently as possible already but unfortunately this is a piece we still have to think about. However, once we develop the strategies needed for self-care, it becomes less necessary to be intentional about it and more habitual.

Now, I break up stress into two separate categories: the first being that immediate stress, the “here and now” stress, the “my chest hurts and my head is spinning” stress. The second being that mounting and constant stress, like a consistent dull noise in the back of your head. Below you will see some ideas to help cope with each type.

The immediate stress:
• Remove yourself from the situation for five minutes
• Close your eyes and take 3 slow breaths: 7 seconds in, 10 seconds out.
• Plug in your music and listen to one song you love
• Get a stress ball
The consistent stress:
• Go for a walk, exercise
• Get enough sleep
• Limit Caffeine intake
• Plan a weekend
• Do something you enjoy; volunteer, read a book, etc.

Coping with the consistent stress helps decrease the times of that “immediate stress” feeling. So developing a good self-care plan will lower those intense feelings. Now, you’re probably thinking – “Jess, if I have time I would have already been doing this! This doesn’t answer my question at all.” My answer? Find five minutes in your day. Then find ten. Increase your moments of self-care by five minutes a week until you can somehow find 20-30 minutes in your day. This does not need to be all at once, scatter it if you need to. But I promise, once you do you will not regret it! Your physical body, your emotional body, heck – even your work will all thank you!

 

-Coach Jess