I’m lazy. I like things to be easy. If you tell me that in order to get healthy I need to go on an anti-inflammatory diet where I have to give up, well, let’s just say, food, I won’t do it. It’s too hard to stop tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, flour, dairy, sugar, pasta, bread, and everything else that makes life worth living all at once.
I will not do it. Not one bit of it—much less the whole shebang.
I balk like a stubborn mule. Do you have a mule?
Mules don’t like overwhelm.
How my Physical Therapist unwittingly used a Japanese strategy to deal with my mule
I recently engaged a Physical Therapist for a repetitive strain injury. Typically I left it until I couldn’t move my thumb at all and was in agony. He helped a lot with the recalcitrant thumb, but it was something else he showed me that you may find interesting.
We discussed a health problem I had had for several years that caused breathlessness and left me exhausted after even the smallest amount of exercise. I was terribly unfit as a result. And mule-like I didn’t like going 3 times a week to the exercise classes my doctor insisted on.
My PT taught me just one thing—how to breathe. I mean really breathe. Big gulping deep breaths for minutes at a time. All day. Whenever I thought about it. He persuaded me to buy a fitness watch that would beep to remind me to breathe.
Breathe. I can do that. It’s pretty cheap and very easy. The Mule in me didn’t notice.
Well, gentle reader; I’m here to tell you it got me off the couch. After a few weeks I had more energy and was using the treadmill for more than 2 minutes before collapsing. I even got in a swimming pool for the first time in 5 years.
All because of breathing? Yes.
One thoughtful change had worked better than all the expert advice from umpteen doctor/chiropractor/acupuncture/massage therapist appointments pooled together. Oh, and kick in a portable oxygen tank that I never used.
What my PT had done for me, albeit unconsciously, was mimic a Japanese system called Kaizen.
A little background here is interesting
Hang in there with me.
In the years following WW2 the Japanese were exhausted and defeated—their economy destroyed by the devastating effects of war. Japan was in dire straits, yet within 30 years bounced back with one of the strongest economies in the world.
American businessmen traveled to Japan to learn their secret and discovered that the Japanese employed a method called Kaizen to get back on their feet. It involved making itty-bitty changes—not big ones. They tackled their huge problems one tiny step at a time, one week at a time. It worked. Spectacularly well.
Kaizen literally means ‘incremental change, continuous improvement’.
Start with the smallest and practice the easiest.
How does this apply to me, I hear you cry?
Simply this. If you make small, seemingly insignificant, but thoughtful adjustments in your life, slowly but surely everything will start to improve.
What about, if instead of those huge monstrous dietary deprivations, you gave up just one thing for that flipping anti-inflammatory diet? Let’s say sugar. Or pop drinks. Or cereal. Just one thing. Won’t kill you.
You can do that. Even I could.
Overly ambitious goals will trigger overwhelm and defeat. They don’t motivate.
Tiny changes will slip under the radar of the mule-mind.
So, let’s look at your goal or challenge
What is the smallest step you can take this week in relation to it? Can you do it for a week?
Treadmill for just 5 minutes a day?
Learn one Spanish verb this week and use it?
Give up sugar in your tea? See if you can stand stevia. Just for a week.
Don’t watch YouTube while you eat breakfast. (Not sure I can do that one. May be too challenging.)
Think tiny. Don’t go big. Think easy. Think small.
Ignore advice to ‘Go big or go home!’ ‘Go all in’, or ‘Make a 100% commitment if you’re serious! 98% is not good enough’. Bad advice.
Instead, go for 50% max. More or less willing to give it a go. What have I got to lose. Why not.
Next time you feel overwhelmed with an issue and all your myriad options, try Kaizen. You’ll be amazed. It’s unimpressive, dull, unspectacular, not at all sexy, but will get you results.
Let me know how you get on. I’m genuinely interested.
My approach to coaching is based on this philosophy. So if you want help getting that mule moving, or more info about Kaizen, contact me by replying to this email.
Easy and effortless beats difficult and challenging every time.
Prefer to listen to this blog—while you drive, while you work, while you exercise, or even while you cook? Try this audio; it’s eyes and hands free! It’s only 6 1/2 minutes, but if you’d like to download an mp3 to load onto your phone, right-click control-click on the mac) HERE.
Let’s be honest—we all experience stress. We all experience problems. Some big, some not so big. The big stuff:
A health issue that won’t go away.
That huge debt that keeps you tossing and turning at night, leaving you exhausted.
That deteriorating relationship. It’s been on a downward spiral for some time now. You need to make a decision soon.
That friend/partner/family member who is drinking again.
The not so big stuff:
The noisy neighbor.
The barking dog.
The new person in your group who talks too much and is spoiling it for all of you.
That high school friend on Facebook with political views that are driving you crazy.
The weird thing is, the big things and the not so big things can be equally stressful. There’s no accounting for what causes us unhappiness. We can sometimes sail through major life changes, and fall apart when someone is rude to us.
Whatever it is, stress and worry can steal your energy and put you through an emotional wringer— leaving you unable to cope with everyday life.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a way to deal with problems that dissolves the stress—even if it doesn’t necessarily dissolve the problem?
A way to handle stress that gives you a new point of view and sense of perspective?
Something, anything, that helps you cope? Feel more peaceful? And works immediately?
Good news! There is a way. I call it my Quick-Fix Stress Manager.
Let me share.
I first came across this set of 3 questions years ago, in the 1990s, when I was a hot-shot business trainer and this meme was making the rounds in training circles.
I remember going all cold with the ‘aha’ moment I experienced because of its simplicity and brilliance—as I was simultaneously overcome with jealousy that I hadn’t thought of it first. But I think the Buddha was first, and Seneca a few hundred years later. It sounds a lot like the Serenity Prayer written in 1951. Perhaps it’s always been around.
It’s simple, easy to remember; at the same time profound.
Here was something I could actually use—not just a clever sound-bite.
And definitely this was something that could help me with almost every problem I encountered. A true ‘across-the-board’ solution, kind of like an umbrella over anything in my life I found difficult to deal with.
Here we go:
The next time you are feeling anxiety, stress, worry or experiencing something disturbing, ask yourself these 3 questions:
1. Can I change it?
2. Can I accept it?
3. Can I walk away from it?
Note: You are working to find a yes somewhere here; otherwise you’re in for trouble. Expect to implode shortly.
Let’s look at this more closely:
1) Can I change it?
If you can change it, or at least do something about it, and it is somewhat under your control—take action. Any action. Then stop worrying about it. You are doing your best. Action is the absolute best stress reliever. Go on that march. Write that Senator. Donate. Make an appointment. 2) Can I accept it?
If you really cannot change it, and there is nothing you can do to affect the situation, can you accept it or resign yourself to it? Can you learn to live with it? If so, surrender to reality. You can’t change those election results. You can’t live that person’s life for them. Accept what is, and then let go the stress. Drop it now—it’s not serving any purpose. 3) Can I walk away from it?
If no to both of the first two questions, then the third option is —can you walk away from it? Get out, break off the relationship, move away, change jobs. You know that partnership is never going to work. You know you’ll never be happy living in Kansas. You can’t live with someone who is mentally ill if they won’t get treatment. Get out, now.
Walk away. You can’t change it and it will never be acceptable to you. It’s ok; you’re not a selfish monster, just realistic. You can always move to Antarctica.
Walking away can mean physically, as in leaving the scene, or emotionally and mentally. Sometimes we may not be able to move away or get on a plane, but we can just decide to switch off. It may be your only option for survival.
This Quick-fix Stress Management tool works for any issue or problem. It gives you a reframe, and a way to let go and move on.
These are your choices. You can work with 1, 2, or all 3.
If you can do all 3, then so much the better.
For instance, you can remove yourself from a nasty situation, and try your best to change it from a distance, at the same time accepting the reality of what is and feeling OK with it.
You may not be able to walk away from that health problem, but you can work to change it and accept what is at the same time.
You may not be able to walk away from that election result, (unless you unplug and become a hermit), but you can take what action you can, and accept what is, in the meantime.
You don’t have to like it, but if there is nothing you can do, you don’t have to let it ruin your life either.
The key is to let go of the worry and stress. Remember this: Nothing works well when you are stressed. Everything works better when you are calm.
You can’t argue with that. So make it your aim to let go of stress.
Try my Quick-Fix Stress Manager. I wish I had made it up. Really. I’d be a millionaire. So put it in your tool-box and use it next time you need it. And checks made out to Margaret Nash gratefully received…
I had a major-meltdown yesterday and I’m not especially proud of it. I like to think I’m in control most of the time, and the mantra I use to keep a check on my natural warrior-like tendencies is, ‘I am calm, confident, and in control’. This works pretty well most of the time.
If I feel the need to shout at other drivers it’s always with the window closed, and I keep a beady eye on my moods to make sure they’re not going to impact others in a negative way.
Aren’t I good? Well, not so much. Yesterday the stars conspired against me; I lost my cool and exploded over a small but ill-advised remark made by my hapless husband.
Yikes. He retreated with the dogs to another part of the house and left me to stew. Which I did…. for about 5 lava-like minutes…and then remorse set in.
I spent the rest of the day feeling guilty and that I had let myself down. What had happened?
First World Problems
Get the hankies out.
OK so my car started breaking down on the way to a doctor’s appointment for which I was already late, I was in a hurry and forgot to eat, I couldn’t find a parking place and had to run, was late, and then the doctor wanted me to come back later, and despite rapidly lowering blood sugar I didn’t stop to pick up lunch on the way home because, you know, car trouble, and someone else was waiting for me there, and once home I tried to order food from my favorite delivery service, and the line wasn’t working, and then I tried ordering from a not so favorite pizza delivery and they weren’t answering, and I couldn’t prepare anything because my kitchen is currently being torn apart for remodeling.
Enter husband who makes unhelpful suggestion when I’m in a state of enhanced agitation and low blood sugar. Bless his heart. Bet he wished he had rephrased it.
Not one of these #firstworldproblems on its own would normally even make me blink, but when they all came at once I found I couldn’t cope. Stress! Where were my personal development resources when I needed them?
Rescue Remedy delivered via a book
This morning, still smarting from my failure to behave as an enlightened human being, I read something in a book by Michael Neill, super coach extraordinaire, which totally explained my lapse of civility. He helpfully suggested what I can do in the future to avoid it happening again. I want to share.
Neill says that in recovery there is an acronym called H.A.L.T., which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. When you notice yourself experiencing any one of these feelings, then HALT what you’re doing and take care of yourself.
I was feeling ALL of them yesterday when I lashed out. Hungry—yep, angry—yep, lonely—yep, in that I didn’t feel supported, and tired—tick, tick, tick, tick. Now I’m not one to scrimp on self-care, but this just got all out of hand before I knew I was in dangerous territory.
Neill says that when you notice any of these symptoms of stress to simply stop and take stock. Whatever you’re doing isn’t going to go well when you’re in any of these states.
I could have stopped and eaten, rested, taken a deep breath, and canceled some of those appointments. Reminded myself to relax. Get a taxi. But mainly, eat something before blood sugar drops.
So the simple advice is to be aware of what is going on in your body before it’s too late. What do you need? How can you take care of yourself? Do it now. Tame that hungry lion into a peaceful kitty.
This is going to be a new mantra for me. H.A.L.T. Lesson learned. Stop that hissy-fit in its tracks. The remorse and guilt are not worth it.
Have you had a meltdown due to hunger, anger, loneliness, or fatigue?
Try H.A.L.T. next time and let me know how it works.