By Guest Contributor on August 3, 2016
Guest contribution by Wendy Quan
Before we launch into the question that can make your day more positive, ask yourself:
- Do you believe that thoughts affect emotions?
- Do you believe that emotions affect your life?
When I ask these questions to a room of people, most hands inevitably rise, along with expressions of contemplation and gentle head nodding. Your thoughts are constantly streaming all day long, and creating your perception of life’s experiences. If you pay attention to your thoughts during the day, you may notice that these thoughts are plentiful and jump from subject to subject, or that you are ruminating about a particularly bothersome subject. There is a term in mindfulness called the ‘monkey mind’ which quite fittingly describes when your thoughts bounce around between topics.
The one question I ask my audiences, which is really very simple, can make a very big difference in people’s lives. Catch yourself as often as you can during the day, and ask yourself this question:
“Do I need to be thinking about this right now?”
When you ask yourself this question, you will observe your current thought and hopefully become aware if that thought is useful or not. There certainly is ‘functional thought’ which is productive and useful, like planning. But many of our thoughts are ruminations about something that may be bothering us, or worrying about something coming up that hasn’t even happened yet.
When you ask yourself “Do I need to be thinking about this right now?” you become more aware of whether the thought is productive or is just stressing you out. For example, if you are worried about something but have already made up your mind as to how you are going to deal with it, there is no reason to keep thinking about it. By catching yourself with this phrase, you can make a conscious decision that you will now move on from that thought and think about something else (hopefully more positive!).
Give this one easy question a try and see what difference it makes for you. Chances are you will be happy to see that it helps you have a more positive day.
Wendy Quan, founder of The Calm Monkey, is the industry leader helping organizations implement mindfulness meditation programs and combining change management techniques to create personal and organizational change resiliency. She trains passionate meditators to become workplace facilitators through workshops and online training.
Wendy is a certified organizational change manager who has been recognized as a pioneer by the University of California, Berkeley and the global Association of Change Management Professionals. Her life’s purpose is to help people create a better experience of life.
By Guest Contributor on October 1, 2014
Guest Contribution from Dr. Thara Vayali
Stress is ubiquitous. We are in constant interaction with elements of life that challenge us. This is normal. Stress burnout occurs as a result of consistent challenge without strong pillars of resilience. Over the last few months, I have outlined four pillars that foster the ability to bounce back from burnout:
- Foundational Confidence;
- Sense of Purpose;
- Social Support; and lastly
This month’s post – focused on Adaptability – marks the last in the collection of exercises that, when done regularly, can assist in building resilience. How we react to a stressor will depend greatly on the balance of these four pillars.
Before identifying a healthy adaptable nature, let’s explore the kind of adaptability that detracts from resilience. I call this the ‘Yes in us’. A ‘Yes in us’ encourages us to make statements like “Whatever you want” – even if we have a preference, “I don’t care” – even when we do, or “That’s okay” – even when it isn’t, and the most pervasive “Sure”.
Wanting to accommodate others can lead to exhaustion. Responding positively before having honestly assessed a response is not adaptable, it is passive and conflict avoidant. These traits are the antithesis of resilience.
The ‘Yes in us’ may make us seem adaptable, but it is unfortunately out of balance with our purpose and confidence. Lopsided tendencies rarely help stability.
- Excess accommodation can build resentment for being taken advantage of.
- Excess focus on purpose and confidence can create isolation from projecting an obstinate nature.
There is a point between malleable and stubborn where healthy adaptability lies and resilience thrives.
Adaptability is how we regulate our emotions in new and/or unexpected situations. When we are unable to recognize our temperament and reactivity in a challenge, a temper tantrum ensues – yes, even in adults. These tantrums are much more than the classic ‘losing your cool’ description.
Temper tantrums are extreme emotions displayed out-of-proportion to the situation at hand. Tantrums occur when we are frustrated/angry/sad/disappointed/scared and do not have the words or opportunity to communicate our feelings.
Tantrums exist in a wide range of adult actions such as, but not limited to:
- Road rage
- Inconsolable crying
- Yelling at a pet/object/child
- Rash decision making
- Binge eating/drinking
- Dwelling on and holding grudges
- Silent treatment
- Punching/Breaking items
Managing severe adult temper tantrums is beyond the scope of this article, but we can use mindfulness techniques to help us understand the behaviours and emotions that regulate us.
There are six main traits that determine our adaptability. Listed below, they are paired with questions that help you check your tendencies. I call this the PRO/ACE acronym.
P – Persistence – Patience without perspective equals frustration. Under what circumstances do you become impatient with a person/place/situation? How long do you wait before making difficult decisions?
R – Reactivity – How well we self-regulate our impulses. When you feel an emotion arise, do you express it immediately (reactive) or let it metabolize before expressing (responsive)?
O – Order – Methods that are unyielding to the unexpected will collapse, but spontaneity without steady structure will explode. How would you describe your need for/resistance to order?
A – Awareness – Context appropriate communication. Can you assess the climate of a situation and tactfully speak up for your needs in a group?
C – Creativity – Managing potential problems & solutions. When an obstacle arrives can you stay on task and still envision new ideas under pressure?
E – Empathy – A balance of rationale and compassion. Do you bend for another’s needs, or armor yourself against another’s pleas?
There is not one right way to be a PRO/ACE. Too much of these traits in any direction will de-stabilize our adaptability.
In different contexts, we may notice our traits shift. We will all have something, at some point.
It is our job – using mindfulness techniques – to acknowledge the weaknesses in our temperaments and reflect on how we can address these traits. The adaptability exercise may change daily. Us
Exercise to diffuse your temper like a PRO/ACE: three minutes at the end of each day, before talking to anyone about your day:
Start a three-minute timer on. Lie down. Recall the PRO/ACE acronym (or print it out and take a peek). Choose one trait that was challenged in your day. Close your eyes.
Inhale & Exhale deeply, three times.
“Today, my __________ (patience, reactivity, sense of order, awareness, creativity, empathy) was challenged. Tomorrow I will be more or less ____________ (patient, reactive, orderly, aware, creative, empathic)”.
Inhale and exhale deeply, three times.
That’s it! Everyday – that’s the hardest part.
Changes in habit occur most effectively with small and frequent repetitions. Build resilience with confidence, purpose, support and adaptability – slowly. If we can learn the tools to bounce back from burnout, we might make burnout a thing of the past! Step up to your challenges with a varied and adaptable toolbox.
Previously, we had the expertise of Dr. Geoffrey Soloway as the author of our Mindful Moments column. This new column continues to explore mindfulness through the lens of a new guest contributor, Dr. Thara Vayali.
Thara Vayali is a Naturopathic Doctor & Yoga Teacher in Vancouver and is also a UBC alumnus. She is obsessed with intestinal and immune health, hormones, and pain-free bodies. She is the creator of Change Natural Medicine: Budget conscious, membership based health consulting.
By Miranda Massie on September 9, 2014
Happy September, and welcome back to another academic year at UBC! I feel very privileged for the opportunity to work for such a wonderful organization and on such a beautiful campus, located on the traditional unceeded territory of the Musqueam people.
Despite our glorious natural surroundings and abundant opportunities to learn and grow, this time of year can often prove overwhelming for staff, faculty and students alike, resulting in rising stress and lowered defenses to cope effectively; essentially, hindering our ability to be resilient.
Webster’s dictionary defines resilience as the ability to become strong, healthy and to adapt and adjust to adversity or change. This broad definition unfortunately does not offer up much in the way of concrete tools or actions. The key is learning how to make resilience work for you.
This month, I have decided to start small by focusing on one aspect of resiliency in which I can take an active role: maintaining perspective.
My dance studio has a framed quote that hangs on the wall. It has been there since I can remember, at least 17 years, and often goes unacknowledged but not unnoticed. The faded square of embroidered needle point reads, “I once complained that I had no shoes, until I met a man with no feet”.
The concept seems so simple, but it is easy to lose our perspective when feeling stressed or overwhelmed. We forget to acknowledge others and the difficulties they may be facing outside of the time we spend together at work. We become focused on the micro aspects of our jobs and often forget the big picture. We stop asking for help when it is needed, or accepting it when it is offered. We can lose perspective of what truly matters to us as individuals and as human beings.
Changing and managing our perspectives is a method of positive thinking that has been found to act as a buffer against stress. Developing and maintain a positive perspective on life can lead to an increased ability to be psychologically resilient, something that will certainly come in handy as we embark on a new academic year.
This month, when stressors are starting to mount and demands are high, I invite you to try to maintain some perspective. Take a step back, think about where your situation fits in the larger picture of the campus, your community and our world. Take a breath; give a little nod to what you feel fortunate for in your life, and then try again. Our perspective is something we truly have ownership of and in today’s world that is a beautiful thing.
All my best,