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

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.

Free Positive Thoughts, Take One!

Print out and place this positive thoughts worksheet on your fridge, a bulletin board, work / office common area, etc… where ever you would like to choose a positive thought for the day. Share with your family, friends, and coworkers.

You can tear off the positive thought that you would like to carry with you throughout the day or week. – or stick it somewhere where you can frequently see it. Reflect on the positive thought and apply it, pay attention to how it can change your day and way of thinking.

Instructions

Download below.

Gerard Hiking Trail, Oil Creek State Park, PA

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.

Vision Board

Materials: Poster board or large paper; magazines; newspapers; printed out images from online; quotes; scissors; glue; pen; pencils; markers; stickers; glitter; tiny, lightweight objects (travel ticket; concert ticket; key chain; charm…).

Instructions: Ponder and visualize a long-term goal (a few months or years ahead). What does it look like? What are the details of your vision? Where will you be, what will you be doing and who will you be doing it with? Using your materials, cut out, print, draw, paste anything that could be a part of your board. Add quotes, mantras or positive affirmations to remind you of your long-term goal, and to motivate and inspire you. An extra element to consider is a letter-sized envelope. It can hold: tiny, meaningful items; a sticky note with a short-term goal (that can be accomplished in one day); sticky notes with something positive going on in your life; sticky notes with a memory that will make you smile. Glue the envelope to the side or bottom of your board. Everyday (or as frequently as you’d like), pull one thing out of the envelope. It adds a little extra fun and interaction. Do a “rough draft” of your board before gluing things to it, just to make sure that you are satisfied with the layout. Glue on the cutouts, pictures and objects. Let the board dry. Lastly, on the back of the board, add “reminders” (important things to remember). The reminders should be uplifting.

Vision Boards are fun and easy to make. They remind you of what you are working towards, your long-term goals, dreams, and aspirations. This motivational collage project is something that a child, adolescent or adult can create. Check out my Vision Board and reminders.

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 😊

My Positive Attributes

A positive attributes worksheet to help identify, give thought to and celebrate your positive qualities. Download, save and print. Print more than one worksheet, you have more than four positive attributes.

“Finish Stronger”

I came up with the name Finish Stronger Counseling from my experience and passion for running. To “finish stronger” means to end the session better than when it began. Think about training for a marathon. During training runs, sometimes the goal is to have negative splits (a faster pace per mile) and to push harder as the run progresses. “Hanging on” or maintaining mental toughness for the final stretch is also considered finishing strong. Keep in mind that finishing strong can look different for everyone.

Through these experiences, there is opportunity to learn something new about oneself and about running. The runner can gain empowerment, self confidence and strength. “I can because I did!” “I can do it again.”

If the session didn’t go quite as the runner hoped it would, they may consider the attempt a failure, but there are still things to take away from the experience. The runner has to CHOOSE to have a positive outlook and approach in what they take away from that training session. This bump in the road or “failure” is not an “end all” experience, it does not define the runner. Having that positive outlook and approach leans into the concept of finishing strong.

Runners can learn how to adjust and tweak weak areas and how to challenge themselves more. There is always room for improvement. When practicing pushing beyond the comfort zone, one can begin to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. The runner becomes more familiar with feeling uncomfortable and gets into the habit of finishing strong, which then transfers into other parts of life.

Just as finishing strong is to running, it can be applied to counseling. Through having hard work ethic, positive thinking, resilience, and appropriate interventions and treatment, a person may leave their counseling session feeling better, more knowledgeable and well-equipped than when it began.

Badwater Cape Fear Ultramarathon, Bald Head Island, NC