Next week you can try out some tapping with me. On Thursday, May 9th, at 10 am Pacific time/1 pm eastern, I’ll be the guest on a no-cost Zoom meeting, “Tapping to Free the Writer Within,” hosted by Ginger Moran, a published and award-winning writer and teacher who coaches people with a book bottled up inside who want to get it out.
I’ll be talking about using Tapping to release your creativity. We’ll do some actual Tapping to stop procrastinating and start taking action. And what we talk and tap on will be useful for any creative activity where you feel blocked, so don’t worry if you don’t have a novel you’re working on.
At the end of the call, you’ll also get access to a 3-part video series in which I teach you how to use Tapping to stop procrastinating, reduce your fear of getting outside your comfort zone, and break through money ceilings. So don’t miss this call.
Sometimes my clients tell me the reason they procrastinate instead of getting something important done is that they are just too tired to focus. Or be creative. Or even think. And I believe them.
This is a growing problem.
• There’s more and more stress in our lives.
• Stress interferes with our sleep.
• Lack of sleep interferes with our ability to think analytically, concentrate, and be creative.
So when you don’t get enough sleep, it’s harder to think. You might as well procrastinate!
If lack of sleep is one of the reasons you are procrastinating, I may have the answer. You can use Tapping in a specific way to get your brain to transition sooner from wide awake to sleepy thoughts. I show you how to do it in this video.
Use this technique the next time you can’t shut off your brain when your head hits the pillow. It just might help you get a good night’s sleep so you can get more done the next day.
To discover how to stop procrastinating for good, email me. We’ll set up a call to talk about what’s going on with you and see if I can help.
For this post I did something a little different. I shot a video on my recent trip on a cruise ship. I apologize for the quality—I know it’s not the best.
But the message is important, especially for high-achievers: If you want to improve your creativity—really, your ability to come up with new ideas for your work or your life—you need to stop working. You need to stop thinking about working. You need . . . a vacation.
By the way, if you watch to the end, you’ll meet someone very important to me, too.
Two women were struggling in different ways to get past their blocks to doing what they wanted. Their difficulties were insurmountable—to them. When I looked at their situations, however, their problems seemed self-imposed, and quite easy to change. Even without tapping.
“Angie” has a job she hates. She has been working toward getting certified so she can start looking for a bookkeeping job she will enjoy. But she has two more classes to take and won’t be finished for at least six more months. So she won’t be able to make a change for at least that long. And she can’t quit because she is the sole provider for herself and her ten-year-old daughter. She is frustrated that she can’t make a change now. Except maybe she can.
In last week’s tip I explained how we go into a fight or flight reaction when we perceive a threat and our brains’ higher functioning begins to shut down, whether that threat is an attacking grizzly bear, an angry boss, or even the economic news. The longer we perceive the threat, the less of our brain we can access.
Last week I focused on the importance of limiting your intake of media, especially the news, to lower the amount of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline in your body throughout the day. The more we hear about dangers from accidents, war, crimes and even financial distress, even when these things happen to complete strangers in another part of the world, the more our body pumps out those stress hormones. For that reason, just cutting back on your consumption of the news can drop the level of those hormones in your body, allowing you better access to the parts of your brain responsible for decision-making, creativity, language, and other areas critical for success in business (not to mention life).
But even when you’ve limited the amount of media in your life, you will still find yourself in situations in which you are facing a perceived threat. Let’s say your biggest client calls you up and tells you they are going to pull their account. This is a big threat, but not one that your flight or fight response can help you with. Indeed, that response will actually prevent you from reacting to the client’s threat in the best way you could. The stress hormones that start coursing through your body will block access to the very parts of your brain you most need in the moment—like critical thinking, impulse control, problem solving, maintaining relationships, and simply being able to find the right words!
Relaxing Your Body Stops the Flow of Stress Hormones
Last week I went to a two-day training for therapists (I’m both a therapist and a coach) about how to treat trauma and PTSD. I was pleased to discover some useful information that also works for people who are not dealing with major trauma in their lives. Today’s tip is the first of two important take-aways for my readers from that training.
Perceiving a Threat Ramps Up Your Body and Shuts Down Your Brain
When you perceive a threat, even a threat of the non-lethal type like those you might experience at the office, your body releases a number of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that prepare you to either fight or flee. Physically, your heart and breathing rates go up, your muscles tense up, and you get a lot of energy. This means you can potentially do big things, like the story of the mother who lifts a car off her child. But you can’t do them for very long as you quickly Continue reading “Too Much News Makes You Stupid: Turn It Off!”→
I want to share a technique that I use with many of my clients to get rid of all sorts of blocks to their success. The technique is called EFT, or simply “tapping”, and it’s growing in popularity, is being used around the world, and the number of studies documenting its effectiveness is mounting. Really, the only drawback to it is that it looks weird. Ah well, can’t have everything.
I’m going to teach you a simple version of tapping to use when you are feeling stressed. Stress can lower your ability to think and be creative, so it’s important to limit stress when you can. Before we start, though, go drink some water. No really, go. This won’t work if you are at all dehydrated. I’ll wait.
Welcome back. Okay, the first step is to write down the feeling you are working on. I’ll be using the word “stress,” but if “overwhelmed,” “underwater,” “scared” or some other word captures what you’re feeling better, please use that. Next, on a scale of 0 through 10 (0 is not at all, 10 is as bad as you can imagine), write down how stressed you are feeling right now.
It’s time to do the actual tapping.
1. Karate Chop. Take two fingers of one hand and tap on the karate chop point on your other hand. That’s the fleshy part on the side of your hand under your little finger. You’re tapping about as hard as if you had a push-button phone with a sticky button. So, you’re not whiffing it and you’re not leaving a bruise, but it’s solid. Now, while tapping on that point, we’re going to say something three times. Repeat after me: “Even though I’m feeling really stressed, I deeply and completely accept myself . . . Even though I’m feeling really stressed, I deeply and completely accept myself . . . Even though I’m feeling really stressed, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
2. Eyebrow. Now tap right where one of your eyebrows starts and say “This stress.”
3. Side of Eye. Tap on the ridge of bone on the side of your eye. “I am stressed.”
4. Under the Eye. Tap about and inch below your pupil under your eye. “I’ve got too much going on.”
5. Under Nose. Tap under your nose. “And it’s real.”
6. Chin. Tap on the line on your chin. “I’ve got good reasons to feel stressed.”
We could use two fingers for the next spots, but it will take too long to find them, so let’s do this the easy way.
7. Collarbone. Make a fist and, with the flat part of your knuckles, tap on your collarbone where a man would knot his tie. “I’m really stressed.”
8. Under Arm. Take all four fingers and tap under your arm, about four inches down from your armpit. “All this stress.” 9. Top of the Head. Finally, tap with all five fingers on the top of your head and say: “I’m so stressed.”
Okay, stop tapping and take a deep breath. Great. That was a single round of tapping. (By the way, all you really need to say as you are tapping around the points is “this stress,” but I like to keep it interesting.) Check in with your stress level. Is it still the same number you started with, did it go up, or down? Write down the new number. Usually the numbers go down, but sometimes they go up. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just means you are accessing something you’ve been pushing away and now you’ll be able to tap it down.
Time for a second round of tapping:
Karate Chop: “Even though I have this remaining stress, I deeply and completely accept myself.” (Say that two more times.)
Eyebrow: “This remaining stress.”
Side of Eye: “There’s a lot on my plate.”
Under Eye: “I’m not sure how I’ll get it all done.”
Under Nose: “So of course I’m stressed.”
Chin: “Anyone would be.”
Collarbone: “Still, the stress isn’t helping. It’s actually making it worse.”
Under Arm: “Maybe I can let go of some of it.”
Top of Head: “I’m letting go of some of that stress now.”
Stop. Breathe deeply. Check your stress number now. You can keep doing rounds of tapping until you get that number down to zero or until you have to do something else. Usually just a few rounds is enough to get the stress way down from where you started so you can think better and get more done.
There’s lots more you can do with tapping, but sometimes all you need is a quick boost. I hope that was helpful.
Two weeks ago a client came to me with an all-too-familiar problem: she was completely overwhelmed with all she had to do and couldn’t find a way to change what was going on. “Maria” and her partner were building a startup and were giving it their all. They worked from early in the morning until bedtime. Meals were eaten standing up while filling orders. Weekends were down to half a day. There was no time for friends, and phone calls with family were limited to ten minutes each week. And still she had projects on her To Do list that she simply couldn’t get to.
Last week I promised to tell you about something that can increase your productivity thirty-one percent. Here it is!
A month or so ago someone sent me a link to a video of a TEDTalk by Shawn Achor, a former professor at Harvard who went on to found a corporate strategy firm that researches and applies the principles of positive psychology within organizations. The video is a lot of fun and worth watching if only for the laughs. But there’s more to it than just the jokes.
Near the end, Achor says something that should make everyone from the CEO of a Fortune 500 company to an independent professional sit up and take notice:
“If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a “Happiness Advantage,” which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than a brain at negative or neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, what we found is that every single business outcome improves. Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral, or stressed.“
According to Achor, then, our usual way of thinking that “If I only work harder, I’ll be more successful and then I’ll be happier” is completely backwards. Instead, if we put the focus on being happier, we are more likely to be successful because of that “Happiness Advantage.”
I find this fascinating and not a bit surprising. Think about it. When you’re in a good mood, don’t you get more done almost effortlessly? And when do those great ideas come to you: when you are under deadline pressure or worrying about whether you have enough clients or when you’re relaxing in the shower?
Of course, the trick is figuring out how to get happier. A good place to start is the exercises Achor’s firm puts employees of its clients through for twenty-one days in a row to get those big productivity gains, which he rattles off at the end of the video:
Every evening write down three new things from the day that you are grateful for.
Journal about one positive thing you’ve experienced in the past day.
Exercise. (The most effective kind of exercise here is the kind that gets your heart rate up. People who study this kind of thing recommend exercising four to five days a week, half an hour at a time. That is ideal, but I usually recommend just doing what you can even if it is only ten minutes here or there. It’s a start and it can raise your mood.)
Once a day write a letter or email praising or thanking someone in your social support network for something they’ve done.
Now, some of you will watch this video and come away unconvinced. The idea that success, particularly monetary success, is the road to happiness is so ingrained in our culture that it can be hard to wrap our minds around the idea that we will be more successful if we teach ourselves to be happier first. So for you doubters out there, I’ve got some more research.
Some of those positive psychology researchers looked at people who get raises or win big prizes. What they have found is that the initial boost to the person’s mood lasts only as long as it takes him to get used to his newfound status—from a few months to, at most, a couple of years. Most people go back to their pre-winning mood, reverting to what has been normal for them, within about six months. (The only time that having more money improves someone’s mood over the long term is when it moves them out of poverty and up into a middle-class lifestyle. That kind of change can make a huge difference.)
So it turns out that having a shorter commute actually leads to higher levels of happiness than getting a raise. Yet most people take the raise over the commute. Go figure.
Please note that happiness is not the same as the absence of unhappiness. A neutral state does not get you Achor’s “Happiness Advantage.”
However, if you find yourself generally down or stressed out you will probably have more difficulty getting to that happier state. If it’s bad enough, of course, get yourself to a therapist. Now you know there is a good business reason for taking care of that problem.
If you don’t need a therapist but could raise your mood or lower your stress a bit, you could try my 3-Legged Stool: (i) exercise (yep, this one does double duty in getting you past unhappiness and into the happiness realm); (ii) eat right; and (iii) get more face time with your social network. There is a lot more I can say about this. Since it is so important, I’ll devote next week’s tip to giving more details about the 3-Legged Stool.
Over the last month or so several of my clients have been blocked at work by their stress. The reasons they have been stressed are very real: an unsupportive boss; financial setbacks; fights with spouses; personality conflicts at work. They knew they needed to take action to resolve their issues, so they did what made sense—they thought about the issue over and over trying to come up with an answer. Unfortunately, that just increased their stress, which kept them from accessing the parts of their brain that could solve the problem.
When you are stressed, your focus narrows. This is great if you have a deadline and need to get that presentation ready. It narrows even more if you are in danger—say a tiger is chasing you. This is also great, since you don’t need to do calculus then, you need to focus everything you’ve got on running like crazy to get away from the danger. The trouble with stress is that sometimes it turns off the areas of your brain that handle higher thinking in order to escape danger when the “danger” is something like an irate customer. Just when you need to be able to think rationally, even creatively, to fix what is happening, all you can do is go over and over the problem, getting more and more stressed and tense.
So what do you do when you’re on that hamster wheel? The counter intuitive answer is to first get rid of the stress so that you can then deal effectively with the situation causing the stress. The good news is that this can be easier to do than you would think.
To get my clients to let go of their stress, I did EFT (a technique involving tapping on acupressure points) with them. If you are curious, you can read more about how to use EFT to reduce stress here. [ However, if you don’t want to take the time to learn to use the technique, you still may be able to get similar results. What you need to do is take a break.
There are a lot of ways to do it. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Go for a bike ride.
Listen to upbeat music.
Take a nap.
Dance to party music.
Call a friend.
Call your mother.
The main thing is to change what you are doing so you stop thinking about what is stressing you out. The most effective ways to do this that I’ve found are taking physical action (so run up and down the stairs a few times), change your scenery (get out of your office and walk around the block), and listen to happy music (but stay away from heartbreak ballads or frenetic electric stuff). By all means, combine them if you wish. Pop in your headset, get out the tennies and walk to the next neighborhood.
Even if you can’t leave your desk you can still let go of some stress. Just do deep breathing, which forces your body to relax. When your body relaxes, your mind follows. Here’s how: close your eyes, take a breath that goes all the way down to your navel, leaving your shoulders and chest still. Let it out easily. Now take another. And another. That’s all there is to it. Simple and effective.
Taking a break is a short-term fix. Sometimes that’s all you need. It’s the equivalent of “sleeping on it.” You stop thinking about something and the answer comes to you.
But I know that sometimes the stressor, or what is stressing you out, is unavoidably in your life for the long term. There is no “answer” that will make it go away. Still, unless your stress is helping you (and it almost never does) you will do better if you can let go of your stressful reaction to the stressor. For long-term stressors I suggest three main approaches: (i) half an hour of exercise, the kind that raises your heart rate, four to five days a week; (ii) face time with people who, when you’re with them, you feel good about yourself; and, (iii) EFT. I’ve noticed that both exercise and socializing with your peeps tends to take longer to have an effect than EFT — and you have to keep doing them, unlike EFT — but they have the great advantages that you can start right away and do them on your own.
So now you know what you need to do if your stress is blocking you. Good luck, and please let me know if you have any other ways you have found to let go of your stress.
Next time I’ll tell you about something that can increase your productivity thirty-one percent. And it won’t hurt a bit!