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By Polly Campbell on May 2, 2016
By Polly Campbell on April 27, 2016
The Science Fair is Thursday and it about killed me.
Sweet P had to conduct an experiment –hers lasted five days — record her observations, write and revise the data, then put it all on a massive poster board in a way that didn’t look dumb.
This is like a 42-thousand-step project.
Weeks of work. And the whole time I had to fight to stay out of the way.
It was her project. And while I supported, answered questions, and wielded a mean glue stick when ordered, she planned, experimented, photographed, cried, organized, railed, designed, wrote, rewrote, rewrote, cried, glued, cut, printed and last night, she finished. On her own.
Tough not to take over. Help her more. But more than anything on this planet I want Sweet P to know her own power. I want her to learn to trust herself. To know that when things get hard, (and oh sweet girl they will get hard), that she can figure a way through. That she can be challenged and beaten and scared and confused, and still cope, because she is that capable.
I feel like when we step in, or step in too soon we are sending a message to our kids that they can’t cope. That we don’t believe in their ability to handle things. This robs them of the opportunity to learn, to gain those coping skills they’ll need for everything else. But it also steals from them their success, because when they soar, they will believe it’s only because their parents prodded, protected, pushed them along the way.
In Sweet Ps opinion, she’s faced some tremendous challenge already in her nine years (What? I no cellphone, but all my friends have them…. ) But with our love and support and suggestions she’s dealt with them in a way that ultimately left her feeling stronger and more successful.
In my opinion, Sweet P is getting some grand learning opportunities while the stakes are still low. Her life will not be ruined by a messy science project or forgotten lunch. As long as I don’t bail her out, she’ll find a way to eat and it is through these little challenges that she’ll learn to cope with the big stuff.
I don’t always do this well, leave room for her to make mistakes. Sometimes I feel frustrated and panicked and I want her to do it my way. It’s hard to watch her struggle. And for sure there have been times when I’ve stepped in because she is nine and the situation called for a grown-up. But mostly, I love and encourage and suggest and advise and leave it for her to figure out.
It isn’t easy to do, but remembering to do these three things can help.
1. Wait, and see what your kid can do. Our kids need to have their own experiences, even when it is uncomfortable and slow and oh-my-god-just-get-the-shoes-tied. Even when they handle it differently than we would like, they must be responsible for some of the decisions and the outcomes of those decisions.
They must learn to keep going, even when it’s hard. Often, when Sweet P asks for help I’ll wait a moment or two to see what she does next. I’ll offer to help right after I go to the bathroom or take out the garbage and by the time I get back she’s usually worked through her homework challenge or figured out how to reach the bowls from the cupboard. If she is still struggling, I’ll ask her to show me what she’s working on. Or we’ll brainstorm ideas. Usually, I just need to get her thinking and she can find her way through. She’s learning to be a creative problem solver.
2. Offer suggestions, examples, encouragement, but not the answers. Don’t cut his pancake, watch and see how he does first. Shoes keep coming untied? Show her how to do a double knot, and let her figure it out. Problem with a classmate or teacher? Offer a suggestion, or encourage him to set up a meeting with the teacher and let him take it from there. Our kids are much more capable then we give them credit for. Step back, see how they handle their business, before taking it over.
3. Freak out in private. I do not always do this, sometimes I don’t have the discipline. But, I’m working on this wholeheartedly. Instead of micro-managing, offering too many opinions, talking in a “tone,” I take lots of deep breaths and watch how things unfold, quietly offering ideas or “things to think about.” Then, I leave. I actually must walk out of the room so I don’t start rolling my eyes or biting my nails or offering advice.
I take a timeout, go to the bedroom, hit my head against the wall and lament that she will never, ever be able to hold a job because she can’t even get her shoes to stay tied. Then, after a bit, I return, usually to find she’s already taken care of business.
I want Sweet P to explore, engage, create. I want her to have fun, to see adversity as something she can manage and grow from. I want her to have the confidence to pursue her dreams even when the risk of failure is high. I want her to trust herself so that she can also trust others.
I don’t need to take her troubles away – it’s much better for her if I don’t. I don’t need to fix or manage her hardships. But, I will stand alongside her as she deals with them, and in the end, I’ll be there to celebrate her successes.
And people, the science project is now complete.
By Polly Campbell on April 25, 2016
“I just want a little power!”
Yelled my 9-year-old as she stomped to the bedroom in anger.
What she really wanted was to eat candy at 8:32 p.m. and stay up too late and things did not go well when I said “No.”
What she does want is the right to decide how she spends her time, lives her life. The freedom to choose.
I get it. We all want to have a say in the lives we live.
Be Accountable Not Blaming
To feel that freedom though, we also have to be accountable. We have to be capable. We have to get up off the couch and rescue ourselves from the beliefs holding us back.
We must stop blaming and making excuses. We must stop waiting for others to change or fix things for others to take care of us. We’ve got to get up and do it ourselves.
And when we do, when we exercise this kind of accountability, we are showing off our authentic capability.
It doesn’t have to be rough or stomping angry or alienating or abrasive. It is simply a declaration of our own capability and then a commitment to working with that. To solve our problems, get help when we need it, create the life we want, and take responsibility for the life we are creating.
Personal Power, Capability, Self-Efficacy
Albert Bandura and other psychologists calls this belief in our own ability to do what we need to do to solve, succeed, survive — self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is at the root of our persistence, grit, optimism, resilience. It is at the root of our authenticity and autonomy.
This is what I want Sweet P to know — her to know her own capability. I want her to trust in her ability to get out of a jam, solve a problem, handle the upset, and create fantastic, amazing, enlightening experiences in her own life.
I’m not saying she won’t feel upset or afraid or tired along the way. Of course. We all feel that way at times.
Life can be upsetting and frightening. We don’t always know what to do, how to get it right, but if we trust in our ability to handle it, we will figure it out. And there is power in knowing that.
Often this comes from experience. We do the thing we were afraid of, we handle a setback, overcome and adversity and we start to accumulate some evidence that we are capable, that we can influence outcomes, that we are okay.
For our kids to gain this experience then, this evidence of their own power, we have got to get out of the way. This is a toughie. I want to keep her close and safe. But, truly, the only way to really do that is by letting her know in little doses, what it is like to be uncertain, or afraid.
To not swoop in and take care of her, but to leave her room to take care of herself. To not solve her problems, but stand next to her in support as she solves them herself.
This is what I’m working on.
Still, no candy at bedtime.
So how am I working on this? How can we teach self-efficacy to our kids? Tune in Wednesday, and I’ll share some tips.
By Polly Campbell on April 20, 2016
Change how you look at your life and you will change your experience of it.
Are those circumstances you face, or problems? Obstacles or opportunities? Are you upset, angry, fearful, or simply curious about what comes next?
All of these things can be true in the very same moment, but, the words you choose, the labels you assign, will determine whether you see possibilities or problems. I’m going with the possibilities.
By Polly Campbell on April 18, 2016
Things have not gone according to The Plan. You know the one with every minute booked so when something comes up, like say, tooth and jaw pain that makes it feel like someone is chiseling an ice sculpture in your mouth, you feel super frustrated and icky and everything is just hard and slow.
It is just so frustrating and irritating when unexpected events just march in right in the middle of our day, and rattle us around crossing out the plans we had (despite the fantastic penmanship on the To-Do List) and loading the list with other things we never wanted to do in the first place.
But here’s the thing: Life is unexpected. Right? We delude ourselves into thinking we are in charge, that there are things we can control and then someone we love dies. Just like that. Or we get hurt or sick or we lose the client, or divorce the partner. There is never a good time for this crap and then it happens and we have to deal with it anyhow.
Not what we had planned. Not what we wanted. But we can do it.
This week was a tough one for many people I know and love. So much we can’t control, so many things we didn’t want. But we can always choose our response.
Right between the hurt and sadness and frustration and pain, we can also choose to love and be grateful and get curious. We can choose to learn and explore to connect deeply with others. To be true in our strength and vulnerability. And when we do, we remind ourselves that we can cope with any uncertainty. And there is a measure of comfort and peace in that. A knowing that even in our deepest grief and greatest pain, we’ll get through even if we don’t feel like it just now.
And there is the knowledge too, that the same uncertainty that hands us grief and illness and loss, also hands us love again, and new opportunity, and friends who keep us upright when we can’t do it ourselves. Those things are unexpected too, and they are also here for us.
Hang in there, gang. I know it’s hard going sometimes but that’s okay. We can do it.
By Polly Campbell on April 13, 2016
By Polly Campbell on April 11, 2016
By Polly Campbell on April 6, 2016
Traffic jams, household chores, bills, bosses, bullies. There is no shortage of stressors in life.
And it’s not getting any easier. I’m married, raising a 9-year-old daughter, working full-time and caring for a geriatric cat during a cray-cray presidential campaign. Don’t think stress is going to disappear for any of us, anytime soon.
But while there are lots of stressful things going on I don’t get all that stressed out anymore. I’m learning to respond to it differently. I use my 10 easy-peasy strategies to manage the moment rather than get stuck in the stress.
Do I still freak out, worry, stress? Of course. But I’ve gotten a whole lot better at NOT doing that and that has made me healthier, more patient, productive, creative, and happier.
10 Easy Ways to Ease Stress
1.Get Gratitude. You knew I was going to say this because it’s one of my faves. Probably because this is the absolute easiest, most powerful way to tweak the moment just enough to feel better and less stressed. It also changes our physiological stress response by dropping our blood pressure and boosting immune function so we really do feel physically better. To practice gratitude notice something you are grateful for and express your thanks for it. It’s hard to get your freak on when you are focused on the goodness that is all around.
2. Optimism. Realistic optimism helps us get stuff done, which means we are not sitting around getting stressed out. Optimism is more of a behavior than an attitude, so when things feel HARD,STRESSFUL, SCARY, UNCERTAIN – choose some behavior that will help you do something to improve that circumstance. Call for help. Go for a workout. Take a break. Create a new solution. Believe you can make a positive difference and then do something to make it happen. When we do this we feel more capable, positive, powerful, and a whole lot less-stressed. Even if you are having negative feelings adopt a “well-I’ll-give-it-a-try” attitude and behave your way to better feelings.
3. Chunk it. So much to do, so little time to do it, right? That feeling alone is a major source of stress for me. So, to counteract that, when I’m feeling overwhelmed by a large project or long to-do list, I break the tasks down into chunks by organizing them into short 20 or 30 minute work intervals.
For example, when writing my books, I break the book into chapters, and chapters into small sections, then I work on one of those small sections for about 20 minutes, before I taking a break or moving on to something else. Just 20 minutes.
This feels manageable to me and not nearly as stressful as contemplating writing a whole book or taking on a whole project.
Chip your big projects off into small chunks and take them on a few minutes at a time. You’ll wind up with a lot of work done, without a lot of stress.
4. Park It. Last week when I was feeling overwhelmed by my To-Do List my Creativity Coach, Andrea Mather told me to Park It. This really worked for me. I always have a pile of notes, books, studies, and other not-ready-to-throw-away stuff on my desk. Stuff piling up all over. I’m not ready to discard this stuff, but they are also not priorities or things I can get to every day. Instead of shuffling them around, which winds up causing me stress because of the clutter, I parked them. I took those notes, ideas, loose papers and Post-its put them in a folder, and filed the folder.
I pull that folder out twice a week to deal with the time-sensitive stuff and I can let the rest of it go. It no longer occupies space on my desk or in my head. I don’t worry about forgetting either, because I know I’ll circle back to that folder when I have time.
5. Seek Awesome. Awe actually goes to the root of several of the things that can cause stress AND it elevates our good feelings. Win/Win.
When we experience awe, we feel more generous and connect with others in a positive way, which helps improve relationships and ease stress there. It also changes our perception of time and makes us feel like we have more of it, which helps diffuse frantic feelings and boosts well-being. AND it alters the physical stress response in our bodies so we feel calmer.
Seek out the awesome. Identify the amazing things already working in your life (your heart beating without conscious thought, the bird on the branch outside the window, the stars) and you’ll be less stressed.
6. Invoke your curious nature. Wonder is an antidote to worry and plays well with awe. Next time you are ruminating, stressing, worrying, ask yourself “I wonder how I can work through this in a positive way” and feel your brain and body respond to the inquiry. We are creative problem solvers by nature, when we pique our curiosity by doing something different or noticing something new we tend to find greater meaning, enjoyment, and purpose — stress-fighters to be sure.
7. Try a ritual. Our brains and bodies feel better when we are doing something familiar. This is why we tend to gravitate toward habits and routines and we feel stressed when that routine is threatened. Uncertainty freaks us. But, a ritual, an established go-to behavior can help us during those times of change and uncertainty by creating some familiar, healthy behaviors that can pull us from the firy feelings of stress before we become trapped in them.
Here’s how you do it: Choose a set ritual to use when stress threatens. This should be a three or five step process, that can easily be replicated. For example, taking a deep breath, naming three things you are grateful for, and then saying “Thank You” aloud before going back to work is a good ritual. Or taking a deep breath, and slowly, mindfully washing your hands for 30 seconds, while saying what you are letting go of. Or lighting a candle and repeating an encouraging quote.
One of my rituals is to stand up, stretch and take 100 deliberate, slow, methodical steps around the house (I work at home but you could do this anywhere) and with each step, I’ll give thanks aloud (or you can do this silently) for a different thing, person, happening. I love this ritual. It is easy to do. Slows down my breathing and other stress reactions and reconnects me with the positive.
8. Reach out. There are plenty of times we need to vent, or share our experience with another. Do it now. Send a text or email or call up a friend and say “Hey, I just need to vent this, to get it out, and be done with it.” Keep it short, no need move into complaint mode, but often just by sharing our stress aloud to someone we trust, and being validated for it, can help us move beyond.
Find that friend who will listen, go to a support group, counselor, or coach. Someone who will allow you to blurt out your concern, then let it go.
9. Look outside, or better yet get up and go outside. Simply looking and nature, or even pictures of green landscapes turns our stress response on its ear and leaves us feeling better and more hopeful. So, when you are feeling upset stare out the window, or go for a stroll outside at lunch, or eat on a nearby picnic table, or pull up a beautiful naturescape for your monitor’s wallpaper and reconnect with the green in your life.
10. Be kind to someone else. Tough to worry about our own troubles when we are helping someone else with theirs. Give yourself over to an act of kindness. When you do something to make another feel better you will feel better too.
By Polly Campbell on April 4, 2016
Last week was spring break and my fourth grader was couchside. I am THAT mom, the one who no longer cares if she plants herself in front of Austin & Ally repeats if it means I can get 22-minutes of uninterrupted work done.
But it feels a little frantic too. Moving between my roles as mom and writer and cat feeder and housecleaner-upper and all the other things I do each day.
Last week I felt the stress and by the time I ended up at my desk to work, I wasn’t as focused as I needed to be.
I was bitching about this as I have every spring break since the beginning of time – seriously, I’m bored with myself. Juggling different roles is old news to every woman I have ever met so enough already – but, I was complaining just the same when I was reminded of Productive Relaxation.
Never in my life have, NEVER EVER would I have put those two words together. But makes total sense.
What is Productive Relaxation?
Productive Relaxation does not mean you lay back on the couch and maw down on Doritos, although, frankly, I see nothing wrong with that. At all. But it does mean to take more frequent breaks, find ways to get the sleep you need – more than six hours, people – even if that means taking a nap. You stop eating lunch at your desk. You work in 90-minute intervals and then take a short break to do things throughout the day to refresh and restore your energy.
And in the end, according to researcher and author Tony Schwartz and others, you’ll get A LOT more done.
Stress is Costing Us and Killing Us
According to q piece in the New York Times, one-third of us eat lunch at our desks, more than half work over their vacations and we are sleeping six hours or less a night.
That means we aren’t taking the time to restore and rejuvenate the way we need. In other words, we are operating in a sustained stressed state and that is costing us and killing us.
Stress causes the release of cortisol. Sustained, high levels of cortisol contribute to autoimmune disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease and other illnesses like colds and flus. People who are stressed out, get sick more often, have more sleepless nights (not a good thing) and a higher risk of depression and other mood disorders.
The National Institutes of Mental Health report that lost productivity due to employee illness and medical appointments costs corporations more than $260 billion (!!) a year.
How Stress Shows Up at Home
Stress also causes us to snap at our kids, eat more comfort food (high levels of cortisol make it hard to regulate our weight too) and make more mistakes. In short, we (OK, Me) are much less effective and productive when we are freaking out.
So this whole notion of Relaxed Productivity is awesome, right? Relax. Curb the stress. Take more breaks. AND get more done in your day.
One of the studies suggests that we do this by taking 90-minute naps. WHAT?! Ummm, yeah, sleep would definitely help, but I don’t think I’ve slept 90-minutes total since my daughter was born nine years ago. So what can we do?
Harder we Work, Less we Accomplish
How can we manage our stress and capture this kind of relaxed productivity in a lifestyle that doesn’t allow for a trip to the Bahamas every other week or a 90-minute siesta every afternoon?
This is what I’m working on. To ease the everyday stress we’ve got to create practical habits — things we can do right in the middle of the day while commuting to work or grabbing coffee — that remind us to take a break and a breath throughout our days so we can recover emotionally and physically, and get more done.
So often, we toil away, work through lunch, rarely taking breaks thinking that we can get more done this way. Nope. Our productivity drops the longer we sit at our desks. We also tend to make more mistakes. And creativity – the stuff we need for innovation, problem solving, even conflict management evaporates.
We start off alert. We are all about seizing-the-day-and-then-some. But this go get’em mode fades and at the end of 90-minutes we are toast. Mentally wasted and needing a rest.
So take one. Get up at the 90-minute mark. Stare out the window, go for a quick walk around the block. Move. Take deep breaths. Do a gratitude exercise. You’ll feel so much better and you will do better in the next 90-minute interval at work.
Try it. Work for 90-minutes, then do something different for 15 or 20 minutes, then get back to work. Betcha feel better and get more done.
On Wednesday, I’ll share some things you can do during those 15 minute breaks to restore and build this kind of relaxed productivity into your day.
By Polly Campbell on March 30, 2016