Being Productive & Calm, as a Busy Woman

To all of the busy women, here are some strategies that can help you be productive and calm.

Does this sound familiar to you? Personally, as a busy person (have a young daughter, maintaining relationships, keeping the house tidy, running my own mental health private practice, blogging (for two websites), and preparing for ultramarathons), I struggle with being calm while I go about my day.

Here’s how it usually goes.

I’m usually productive in some way because there is always something that needs done. I tend to feel like things need to be done in an overly particular way. Tasks get done, it’s just not always how well (quality) or in the order that I’d like it to be, so I need to be flexible.

When there’s anxiety present.

Anxiety couples this feeling that something needs to be a certain way or lack of having an amount of control. Anxiety is also provoked when I feel overwhelmed by the amount of things that I need to do. It’s difficult being calm. I want things to be completed in a timely manner and done right. Sometimes, I aim for perfection, but I know that that’s unrealistic. I put a lot of pressure on myself.

How do I remain calm while I’m in a state of being busy and usually anxious?

• I practice time management
• Prioritize tasks
• Ask others for help
• Tell someone “no” when they ask if I can do something when I truly don’t have the time
• Mindfulness
• Slow myself down, so I can think clearly
• Stay grounded
• Self-care. Sometimes taking a full day for it!
• Exercise or run
• I focus on my strengths and goals (and the reasons behind them)
• I think positive (in general)
• I reframe my distorted thinking
• I write down affirmations

There are probably some other tricks that I use that aren’t coming to mind. Whatever I do, I choose to act in a more helpful and healthy manner. I choose to react in a way that is more calm.

How do I know which strategy will help?

I don’t 100% of the time know which strategy will help, but I do know that I can try two or three and see if they work. Overtime, it is easier to know which strategies will work and for what. If a strategy doesn’t help, no big deal, pick another. There are instances where anxiety is stronger and it takes a handful of strategies to help. Also, no big deal.

The strategies from this list are additional “to do’s”, but they makes life better and adds peace. This work becomes more effortless the more that I practice it. You can do this, too.

How do you practice being productive, yet calm?

Overlooking a small town in PA

Simple, Yet Powerful Ways to Manage Worry & Anxiety

This article is about four simple, yet powerful ways to manage worry and anxiety. Are you worried about how things are going to go for you? Do you fear that you won’t be able to handle potential problems? How can you make a tough decision not having all of the details? Here’s what you CAN do. You can take control of your mind by shifting what you focus on. You can choose to focus on your strengths and the things that you have control over. You can also challenge irrational thoughts of uncertainty and worry.

Handling being worried over how things are going to go for you.

Ask yourself:

Who do I want to be?

What quality of presence do I want to bring to any challenges I face?

Note the shift that occurs when you go from focusing on what will go wrong today to the person you want to be.

Challenge your fear that you won’t be able to handle potential problems.

One way to address this fear is to imagine yourself coping. Whenever you are worried about a problem that could happen, envision yourself skillfully coping with it.

What does that look like?

Recall a strength that you have demonstrated multiple times when you’ve risen to meet a challenge. Then, expect yourself to rise, bringing that same strength, resourcefulness, and determination to the problem that might challenge you today.

Pause & notice whether this time is different.

When a familiar worry or fear crosses your mind, this can be about failing or that something horrible will happen, notice that it has never actually happened.

It’s likely that your mind is ignoring all of the times that those worries and fears didn’t come true and that this time is different.

If this sounds like your experiences, then consider that the worry or fear is a false alarm, like the other times.

Make decisions even when there is uncertainty.

When you’re making a tough decision, all you can do is make the best choice for what you know right then and there.

Embrace the reality of not having all of the information and details today, not knowing exactly what the outcome will be.

Allow yourself to be free from the assumption that you’re responsible for knowing the unknown.

By choosing to focus on what is helpful, you can better manage your worries and anxiety. Always draw from your strengths and know that you will overcome any stressful situations that lay ahead because you have overcome things in the past. Challenge irrational and distorted thoughts, acknowledging and then reframing them. Notice the shift in thinking and how you feel afterwards. Practice these tips so that they stick to your mind and alter how your mind works. Have power over worry and anxiety.

Source:
Seth J. Gillian, PhD.

Glacier Ridge Trail, Moraine State Park, PA

Calming Through Your Senses By Using Self-Soothe Skills

Self-soothe skills

Self-Soothe is about calming through the senses, and the goal is to engage your senses in behaviors that are relaxing.

As you practice self-soothe, allow judgements, stress, worries, and unhelpful thoughts to slide through your mind, and just be in the moment. This process will rejuvenate you and help regulate your body.

Commit to adding self-soothing strategies into your daily schedule.

Self-soothe skills (vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch)

Vision

What kind of things do you enjoy seeing? Seek out these visually pleasing things. Gaze at sunsets, nature, cityscape, aquarium, whatever is visually relaxing to you. You can also create your own artwork or take photos.

Take a few minutes to fully appreciate something, it can be as simple as leaves on a tree. Connect with it and take it in.

Hearing

Listen to soft music or go outside and soak up the sounds of nature.

Hear with your eyes closed and allow yourself to become immersed in the experience.

Smell

Choose household cleaners, perfumes, lotions, aromatherapy, essential oils, and candles that have pleasant smells.

Baking your favorite dish or dessert will fill your home with that smell.

Taste

A tip for taste is to eat a small amount of food one-mindfully, engaging all five senses.

Savor a piece of dark chocolate, a bite of a juicy apple, a spoonful of ice cream melting in your mouth, or the tanginess of a salsa.

Timing yourself to see how long you can draw out the experience is helpful for becoming immersed.

Touch

Ask a loved one for a hug or to hold hands. Snuggle with your cat or dog. Give yourself a facial, neck, or hand massage. Wear your most comfortable clothes and fuzzy, thick socks or wrap up in a warm blanket. Take a mindful bubble bath or a longer shower.

Resource

Lane Pederson, Psy.D., LP, DBTC

Connoquenessing Valley Heritage Trail, PA

Wise Mind: ACCEPTS Skill (Distress Tolerance from DBT)

Wise Mind: ACCEPTS

The ACCEPTS acronym has skills that helps keep you busy and distracted when you would typically be preoccupied by a crisis. It is easy to dwell on what is going wrong, by focusing on the ACCEPTS behaviors, you can get yourself through hard times.

The acronym

A: Activities
C: Contributing
C: Comparisons
E: Emotions
P: Pushing Away
T: Thoughts
S: Sensations

Activities

Activities keep you busy and your mind off of problems and behaviors. The behaviors that you are focused on are healthy and helpful.

To start practicing this skill, write a list of activities you enjoy when life feels better. If you’re unsure or need ideas, go online and search for activity lists.

Add the pleasant activities into your schedule and mindfully do them.

Choose an activity and enjoy it now!

Contributing

Contribute to others. It is a way to take your mind off of your own problems, to feel connected and useful, and to create positive feelings.

Examples

Do a favor; acts of kindness; write a thank you note; bake brownies to share; volunteer locally.

Create a list of ways to contribute to others and begin right away.

Afterwards, journal about the experience, reflecting on your thoughts and feelings.

Comparisons

Draw healthy comparisons between yourself and others. There are people living without necessities, who have gone through tragedies, or who have tremendous obstacles to overcome. Remembering that other people are also suffering, often in worse ways, allows for you to gain perspective of what you’re going through. This perspective also increases your feelings of gratefulness.

Emotions

Emotions arise from the things we do. You can change your emotion by changing your behavior.

When you’re depressed, do behaviors that lift your spirits. When you’re anxious, do ones that are relaxing. When angry, do ones that are calming.

Check-in with your emotions in the moment, and if you find that you want change, then choose to participate in a healthy behavior to change your emotion.

Pushing away

Pushing away means that you decide to revisit the problem at another time. Imagine putting the problem in a box, locking the box, and placing it on a shelf for later.

Thoughts

You cannot think about two things at once, so choose to direct your attention to the most helpful thought.

Some ideas to try, crossword puzzles, read an interesting book, have an intriguing conversation, watch an action movie.

Do something to occupy your thoughts away from depressive thoughts, worries, and problems.

Practice in the moment.

Sensations

Direct yourself with healthy sensations.

Things to try, dance to loud music, eat a sour lemon slice, take a hot or cold bath, smell a strong scent, like peppermint.

These things wake up your senses in an invigorating way. Notice any changes in your experience.

Another idea, create a sensations toolkit, using your favorite ways to wake up your sensations. Use your tools.

Resource

Lane Pederson, PsyD, LP, DBTC

Occoquan Trail, Bull Run Regional Park, Fairfax County, VA

Distress Tolerance (DBT)

Distress Tolerance (Dialectical Behavior Therapy)

When people “cope” with stress and crisis, they find out ways (behaviors) that relieve stress, however, some of these ways come with heavy consequences. Examples of ineffective behaviors are drug and alcohol use, self-injury, gambling, spending money, and overeating.

We can learn distress tolerance skills to effectively manage the stress and crisis. These skills are more helpful than dealing with the consequences of the ineffective behaviors that make life worse.

Try it out

Make two lists, one is your ineffective coping behaviors, and the second is your healthy coping behaviors. If you’re struggling coming up with the healthy ones, keep thinking, because everyone has at least a few.

The goal is to work on eliminating the ineffective coping behaviors on the first list while developing the behaviors on the second.

This process is “doing more of what works”, replacing the ineffective with the healthy and effective.

Guidelines to improve distress tolerance skills

1. Practice the skills daily, even when you’re not feeling distressed. The skills tend to be enjoyable, so practicing shouldn’t feel like work.

2. Diversify the skills, try new ones, and practice every skill more than once because you don’t know which ones will “click” for you.

3. Organize a distress tolerance plan for when you’re in crisis and choose to follow the plan. It will keep you focused. Write down your organized plan on an index card. This would be your coping behaviors and any people who can provide support. Keep this card with you.

This index card plan works well for children while they’re away from home. Example: at school.

Distress tolerance skills to learn

• Wise Mind: ACCEPTS acronym
• IMPROVE acronym
• Self-Soothe skills: vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch.
• Radical Acceptance
• Everyday Acceptance
• Willingness
• Bridge-Burning
• Ride the Wave: Urge-Surfing
• Grounding
• Pros and Cons

This is general information on distress tolerance and the skills to learn to better cope with stress and crisis, the next step is to learn the skills themselves, practice applying them, watch for improvements, and make necessary adjustments.

Wise Mind: ACCEPTS

https://finishstrongercounseling.com/2020/08/12/wise-mind-accepts-skill-distress-tolerance-from-dbt/

Resource

Lane Pederson, PsyD, LP, DBTC

Connequenessing Valley Heritage Trail, PA

MINDFULNESS 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 GROUNDING TECHNIQUE

This is a popular grounding technique, and it is for everyone.

This technique engages all 5 senses, which reminds you of the present moment, and builds awareness. This is a calming technique that can help you get through tough or stressful situations. Taking a deep belly breath at the beginning and end of this activity can feel calming and will help prepare you for the next thing that occurs. As you do this activity, saying the things that you sense out loud will reinforce your present state of being and awareness because you are hearing in your own voice what your brain is telling you and what your body is actually experiencing.

Take a deep belly breath to begin.

5 – LOOK: Look around for 5 things that you can see and say them out loud.

Example: “I see a dog, a chair, a lamp, a window, and a cup.”

4 – FEEL: Pay attention to your body and think of 4 things that you can feel. Say them out loud.

Example: “I feel the dog, the cushion that I’m sitting on, the sun coming in through the window on my skin, and the carpet beneath my feet.”

3 – LISTEN: Listen for 3 sounds and say them out loud.

Example: “I hear the dog snoring, the air conditioner running, and the birds outside singing.”

2 – SMELL: Say 2 things that you can smell. If you can’t smell anything from where you are, you may move to go smell something or say your favorite scent.

Example: “I smell the candle burning and the fabric softener on the chair throw.”

1 – TASTE: Say 1 thing that you can taste. If you can’t taste anything, then you can say your favorite thing to taste.

Example: “I taste the toothpaste mint from when I brushed my teeth.”

Take another deep belly breath to end and notice how you feel.

Download this technique below to store on your device or to print it out and share!

Great Falls Park, McLean, Virginia

Dialects (DBT)

What are dialects?

Dialects relate to our theories and ideas, in terms of the OPPOSITE way we think. Here are some thinking patterns that we all experience, and get caught up in, it does us no favors to become stuck!:

▪︎ “All-or-nothing” thoughts.
▪︎ “Either-or” thoughts.
▪︎ “Black-and-white terms.”

Instead of thinking this way, we should think in terms of seeing the shades of gray, between black-and-white thinking. Practice being flexible and find middle-ground options in your behavior. Trying to see the opposing side.

Examples

▪︎ When in conflict, find something to agree about in the other person’s perspective.
▪︎ Instead of procrastinating on a task, break the ice with one or two small steps.
▪︎ Make a list of at least five positive qualities you (or someone else you are down on) have.

If you’re stuck in the above thought patterns, try the opposite.

Look at the other side of things. We often default to the negative side of situations or ourselves. We can be critical and harsh. Look at the opposite side of the dialect.

Ask yourself

▪︎ Is there a silver lining or hidden opportunity in the problem that you are facing?
▪︎ What strengths, skills, resiliencies, and resources do you have? Play to your strengths.

A favorite quote of mine by Arthur Ashe, which is relatable, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

▪︎ What skills can you improve to better manage a crisis? Aim to be more skillful, trying a new skill can be helpful, too!

See other perspectives

There is no position in existence that accounts for every perspective. Think about other people’s perspectives and ideas that are the opposite of yours. Look for the pebble of truth in those perspectives and ideas. Where is the middle ground between the opposite perspectives?

Make gradual changes

Changes are often more gradual than dramatic, life changes slowly overtime. Reflect on a problem. If the problem were less severe or resolved, what are some behaviors that others would notice you doing?

To begin making gradual changes, practice those behaviors.

Examples

• If you’re feeling depressed, add daily exercise.
• When struggling with social anxiety, initiate a conversation with someone.
• When isolated, reach out to friends and family to talk.

Exception rule

This dialectical technique supports positive change. Think about your history and the times when helpful and healthy behaviors were prominent. Do more of those helpful and healthy behaviors now. Do more of what works!

Examples

• Keeping a planner or journal.
• Make self-care a priority.
• Engage more actively in your social support.

Embrace the things that are not problems

We’re easily preoccupied with our problems. You could write a “Gratefulness List,” or you could write a fun list including hilarious and dramatic problems that you don’t have.

“Not a problem” list examples

• I am not kidnapped and being examined by aliens.
• I don’t have smallpox.
• I am not lost in the desert.

Having compassion

It’s easy to feel powerful emotions, such as anger and disgust towards people, especially if we don’t like them because of mean, rude, and unskillful behavior.

The next time you’re in this situation, it can help to practice compassion by imagining what circumstances lead that person to be unkind and unskillful.

What unhappiness exists for such people?

Try practicing compassion the next time you feel hurt, upset, and wronged by somebody.

Being flexible

Our thoughts and feelings are often too rigid, causing us misery. Learning to be flexible and to “go with the flow,” will bend and not break those thoughts and feelings.

Consider other perspectives and practice being more flexible in situations, flowing with reality rather than imposing your will against it.

Resources

Lane Pederson, Psy.D., LP, DBTC

Positive Affirmations to Get Through a Crisis or Difficult Time

The types of thoughts that we have can make a big difference in the way that we handle going through a crisis or difficult time. An affirmation is a short and simple statement that is used to bring subconscious thoughts conscious. As thoughts become conscious, we can begin to take control of our way of thinking.

By adopting positive affirmations, we can build a more resilient brain, allowing us to better cope through tough times. Over time and with repetition, our thoughts can change our brains, and even our cells and genes. This process of the brain changing is called neuroplasticity. Affirmations activate the brain’s reward center. – I’ll include a link to an easy to read article that explains the science at the end.

Choose a few affirmations that you feel are most relevant to the crisis or difficult time. You may also create your own. You can download and print out this sheet and place it somewhere in your home or at your workplace. If the affirmations are visible to others, maybe they will benefit? Another idea is to write them on a sticky note or index card. Since sticky notes don’t take up a lot of space, good spots to place them are, on a mirror, refrigerator, or work computer.

Repeat the affirmations a couple times per day to yourself and read them out loud. Reading them out loud is effective because you’re hearing them in your own voice. Neuroplasticity occurs overtime, so give the process time to unfold before you give up on it. The best time to practice the affirmations is when you feel

Let me know if you have any questions.

Affirmations

  • I remain calm in a crisis.
  • I am slowly becoming the kind of person who can survive this storm.
  • I am free of anxiety and am living a calm life.
  • When circumstances change, I will feel all the more grateful for what I have.
  • I am replacing my negative thoughts with positive thoughts.
  • I am attracting positive energy into my body.
  • I am safe and in control.
  • I’m not going to be struggling my whole life.
  • I’m not alone in this world.
  • The situation I’m currently dealing with is only going to make me stronger, wiser and powerful.
  • The feelings of panic are leaving my body.
  • My mind is clearing and I am in control.
  • My body is calm.
  • I find joy in moving forward.
  • I choose to shine, not to suffer.
  • I have what I need to get through this.
  • Problems are opportunities for growth.
  • I am able to see what needs to be handled first move through the rest after that.
  • Living according to my values is what really matters.
  • I acknowledge all the good in my life because I know that this is the foundation for all abundance.
  • I move through life with easy and grace.
  • Life is as good as I make it.
  • I have the power to change the world in a positive way by being myself.
  • Failure is part of the road to success.
  • Good things are going to happen.
  • I am confident that I will get through this.
  • I will always remember how far I have come, not just how far I have to go.
  • I will start where I am, use what I have and do what I can.
  • I know that I can do it.
  • I make wise decisions.
  • Everything will be okay.
  • I’m human and I can learn from my mistakes.
  • I face problems bravely.
  • I am strong.
  • All I can do is my best.
  • Everything that I have gone through has helped me grow.
  • This life is mine to live and I’m going to make the most of it.
  • I’m not going to quit.
  • Things always get better with time.
  • Happiness begins with me.
  • I am resilient and capable.
  • I’m grateful for everything that I have.
  • My mental health is improving.
  • I can deal with it.
  • I feel free and happy.
  • I have abundant energy, vitality and well-being.
  • Five years from now, this won’t matter as much as I think it will.
  • Everything will be okay.
  • I inhale confidence and exhale fears.
  • I’m thriving and make the most of every moment.
  • I’m in a safe space.
  • I’m letting go of my stress.
  • I’m not getting discouraged.
  • I have a positive mindset.
  • Things in my life will start to be better.
  • I am holding my head up high.
  • I breathe in relaxation, I breathe out tension.
  • I can get through anything.
  • I welcome challenges into my life.
  • Challenges are opportunities to learn and grow.
  • I’m stronger than I think.
  • I am getting stronger everyday.
  • I am a strong and capable person.
  • I can handle feeling uncomfortable.
  • I am in control of how I think, feel and behave.
  • Hard times do not get the best of me.
  • I have the ability to overcome every obstacle.
  • I will not let fear take control of me.
  • I release all negativity from my life.
  • When I have done all I know how to do, I choose to let my mind rest.
  • I’ve been knocked down before and I can get back up again.
  • I welcome fear as a sign to be careful, but choose to let go of it when it no longer serves me.
  • I have faith in myself and my future.
  • I have confidence in my skills and knowledge.

Resources

https://thebestbrainpossible.com/affirmations-brain-depression-anxiety/

Download this list of positive affirmations below. There are two pages.

Theodore Roosevelt Island, Washington, D.C.

The Benefits of Keeping a Journal and Journal Prompts

Choosing a Journal

When choosing what to write in, consider all of your options and what best suits your needs. A journal can be a spiral-bound notebook, which is an easy to find and cheap option. Combination code or lock and key journals can provide privacy and are usually well-made. A journal can be kept electronically in a secure computer. It is convenient to access and saves your hand from becoming cramped in writing position.

Benefits

  • Relaxing and stress relieving.
  • A coping tool.
  • A way to vent or express emotions and thoughts.
  • Makes your thoughts more apprehensible.
  • Improve and train your writing.
  • Sharpens skills.
  • Set and achieve goals.
  • A way to become more organized.
  • Develop improved understanding of yourself and situations occurring in your life.
  • Allows for creativity.
  • Provides you with a way to reflect and consider new ideas.
  • Record new ideas on-the-go.
  • Allows self-reflection.
  • A place to keep memories.
  • Boosts memory.
  • Provides you with a record of events, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. You can use this record to track patterns over time, which can lead to problem solving.
  • Can help you feel a sense of accomplishment.
  • You will learn new things.
  • Can provide you motivation and inspiration.
  • And many, many MORE!

Instructions

Use your journal however you’d like! Decorate it and add pictures. Slip a photo of a favorite memory, person or pet inside. Write in different colors or use black ink. When you start a new journal entry, include the date, so that you have that information if you ever need it. Write about your day freely or choose a prompt. It might take you a little time to get used to writing, you might encounter writer’s block, and you may struggle to find what time to write. Don’t stress, it’s okay! Writing should become easier overtime and this isn’t meant to be stressful, it is meant to be therapeutic and enjoyable! Aim to write everyday because it will help develop a habit and really reap those benefits. If you end up writing most days of the week, that is still good, just keep in mind that you might get out of habit of keeping your journal if you don’t write frequent enough.

Download the journal prompts below.

Safety Plan on an Index Card

Materials and instructions

Materials: an index card; colored pencils; markers; crayons; stickers.

Instructions: this crafty project is for children and adolescents who need a little reminder of their most effective coping skills or ways to help them to stay safe when they are feeling overwhelmed or escalated. Having a safety plan written on an index card is accessible, can be kept hidden to protect privacy, or shown to a trusted adult (teacher or family member) when additional support is needed.

A safety plan can contain any number of coping skills or strategies that will help de-escalate a reaction to a situation. I like to ask children and adolescents to choose five things that they find most helpful to do when they feel like they are losing control or feeling unsafe. Five is a good number because it gives a variety of options to choose from. The child or adolescent can choose what they feel will be best option for in the moment.

When creating the card, sometimes figuring out coping skills and strategies is challenging and requires children and adolescents to really think; an adult who knows the child should help come up with ideas. These need to be things that can be used immediately, in the here and now. Try to avoid requiring any specific toys or equipment because that requires extra effort. The things also need to be very detailed and specific. Being detailed and specific will promote brain change and way of thinking. Write the coping skills and strategies on the index card and decorate it!

Examples of coping skills and strategies:

  • Counting to ten in my mind while taking deep, easy breathes.
  • Notice five things in the room and what color, shape or texture they are.
  • Sing a song.
  • Think about my favorite memory.
  • Think about my favorite pet.
  • Use a fidget toy.
  • Read a book.
  • Listen to music.
  • Think of a positive self affirmation.
  • Curl and uncurl my toes ten times.
  • Draw.
  • Stretch my legs and arms.
  • Dance.
  • Puzzle.
  • Ride my bike.
  • Notice three scents and where they are coming from.
  • Feel the texture of my clothing.

Where to keep the safety plan

This card can be kept in many different places, but keep it easily accessible, which means carrying it around:

  • In a pocket.
  • In a desk, locker or lunch box at school.
  • In a backpack.
  • On the refrigerator or a mirror at home (better if there are two or more are created).
  • Kept on a coffee table, dining room table or night stand.
  • Used as a bookmark.
My safety plan example, displayed on the refrigerator. Being completely transparent, these are my coping skills of choice 😊