Fix What You’re Tolerating to Create Space

If you’ve read the previous post, you know that putting together a list of the things you’re tolerating in life can result in a daunting list. The first time I did it, my list was close to 200 items. I worked on the little ones first, because getting something done in 10-15 minutes made me feel like I was making progress, not just from the task itself but from the process of crossing out items on my tolerations list. It meant that I was tolerating less in life.

What I wasn’t expecting, though, was that no sooner would I cross off one of the more moderate-sized items, than I’d realize that there were a handful of items that either popped up or I had forgotten about. It meant that although my tolerations list got low, it still existed. I realized that it was a flow—some things off, some things on the list. That ebb and flow, as long as I did a reasonable job of making sure I was taking care of things rather than putting up with them, meant that my overall stress level reduced just enough that I was able to sit back and look at the bigger picture.

Looking at the bigger picture is the key aspect of this exercise. Yes, you’ll feel better about taking care of the little things—the gnats and mosquitos of life, as one of my former counseling clients put it, but you’ll also be creating room in your life to take a more serious, more careful look at the bigger stressors in your world.

What you’ll find is likely to surprise you. You are likely to see that it really isn’t the thing you THINK is making you crazy that is really the cause of stress in your world. Instead, it’s almost always something underlying the surface problem. Bad bosses, delinquent children, poor relationships…there’s always something else fundamental to how the situation got to where it is for you. Knowing that there’s something deeper and that you can find it is life changing, because it opens up new doors and new options for change.

What Are You Tolerating?

Despite good intentions, this is the about the time when New Year’s resolutions begin to crumble and fall by the wayside. Undoing old, bad habits or adding new, healthy ones is a challenging business, and it takes more than grim determination to create change that lasts.  This is especially true for those who have chosen to destress their lives in the new year.

Too often, this is because we go about making changes the wrong way.  The big things in life seem to be the source of unremitting stress, yet those big things—a bad boss, unchallenging work, lousy financial situation, or crummy relationship/lack of relationship—often are only symptoms of the true, underlying issue. And that’s why destressing by overthrowing your whole life or big chunks of it doesn’t work—first, it’s daunting to make such big changes and second, some unconscious part of you already knows that the real problem has little to do with what you consciously believe needs fixed.  The real secret to feeling better and having a better life lies unnoticed amid a heaping pile of stress, worry, and anxiety.

This year CAN be different, though.  You can get to the source of stress in ways that create calm in your life and a sense of rejuvenation that those who rely on willpower alone will never find.  Neurofeedback, obviously, is a tremendous, long-lasting way to calm the body and relieve stress so that you are not always over-responding to life’s hassles.  To get started or to find out more about this step to transforming your life, contact us to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to learn what neurofeedback can and cannot do.

As great as neurofeedback is, though, it cannot reduce or eliminate the crazy from your life all by itself.  You have to take additional steps, and those steps are much simpler than you may think.

The secret is NOT to try to shift the big issues in your life, since those are likely not really the problem in the first place; rather, the best place to begin uncovering why we’re really stressed out is with the little things that drive us nuts. As one of my psychotherapy clients used to tell me, it isn’t the big things in life that really cripple us, it’s the gnats and mosquitos that make facing the big things so hard.  So, let’s start with the little, annoying things.

Grab a piece of paper or open a word processing document and start listing all the things that bug you. What are you tolerating in your life that you don’t need to tolerate?  We’re not talking big picture things like nuclear proliferation or immigration crises.  Look at the little things instead.  Is there a pothole on your commute to work that rattles your fillings every day?  Can you never find a pen in your house when you want one?  Is that junk drawer becoming a junk room?  Does your most practical pair of work shoes hurt your feet?  Are you eating out too much and want to cook more at home?  Whatever it is, write it down.  Make your list expansive, make it pretty and colorful if you’re the artistic type, and include every little thing that drives you crazy over the course of a week. Almost all of us could get to 25, but I encourage you to aim for 50, or even 100 items.

Once you’ve thought of everything that bugs you, refine the list. There are multiple ways to do this, but the best two approaches for our purposes are either prioritizing the easiest ones to fix or the ones that annoy you the most.  However you choose, make a top 10 list.  Then, give yourself a short timeframe in which to address those things—depending upon what they are, a week is probably a good amount of time for things like washing scuffs off a wall or adding adhesive grips to the back of a picture frame that never hangs straight.  Go for it, and see what happens.

Addressing tolerations may seem like a backwards way to start reducing overall stress, but it actually works well, because having fewer minor things bug you creates space for pleasure. That, in turn, can create energy for you to tackle still more tolerations, or perhaps begin to face the bigger stressors that are invisible to you right now.  Either way, it’s real progress!  Next time, we’ll address what to do once you’ve finished your first set of tolerations.

Neurofeedback and Improving Reading Skills

Every now and then, I run across a study that is particularly exciting.  An article in the latest issue of the journal NeuroRegulation is among those findings that are worth sharing.  In it, researchers report that they were able to increase the reading level of students with learning disabilities by more than an entire grade level using a short course of neurofeedback.  Granted, it was just one study with a small number of participants under laboratory conditions, so the improvements may be better and have come faster than typical results might be, but the findings point to a promising method of helping children for whom reading is a struggle.

You can read the article for yourself here:  http://www.neuroregulation.org/article/view/15893.  The jargon may be a bit confusing to a lay reader, so feel free to call me if you’d like to explore what it means in more depth.

Reducing Anger, Creating Calm

Most anger management programs talk about triggers and ways to control one’s anger. That’s all well and good, but the truth is that anger and rage flare up in a tiny fraction of a second, making it difficult if not impossible to stop an outburst. The key is to stop the anger before it starts, and that requires more than just vowing not to let that temper get out of control again. Besides that, it’s practically impossible to eliminate all triggers (though it IS nice to imagine our crazy Northern Virginia traffic without all the bad drivers).

Fortunately, neurofeedback is an excellent way to calm the body and therefore reduce angry outbursts. Sessions can help soothe something called the autonomic nervous system so that the body is no longer in fight, flight, or freeze mode. If you’re calm and your body is relaxed, anger cannot exist as the same time.

Because neurofeedback is a teaching tool that helps the body to create new electrical patterns, trainees set themselves up for a lifelong skill. This means that rather than having some short-term solution, people who use neurofeedback create conditions for responding more calmly long term.

If you’re curious to learn more about how neurofeedback might help you, call or email for a complimentary information session.

Focused Acts of Kindness

I was going to write about stress management this month, but one of the ultimate stressors, violent and terrorist-triggered death is front and center in the wake of yet another mass shooting.

As we search to find meaning and sense in the senseless, most of us look to the easy and obvious solutions. We must do something about gun control. We must provide mental health care. We must fix racism. We must write and pass laws.

Is it any wonder that nothing gets done when we’re wringing our hands and asking others to do something, yet we do nothing and take no responsibility for getting that something done?

It’s all a charade, and I think, deep down, we all know there’s more to a solution than passing a few laws. Sure, regulating guns at least as well as we regulate driving privileges is a good idea. It might even preserve a few lives. But gun control alone won’t solve the violence in our society, no matter how worthy the cause. And, absolutely, taking care of those who suffer from mental health illness is important and a worthy cause. We’re likely to prevent even more deaths, largely by preventing suicides, if we help ease the suffering of those who suffer quietly with depression, anxiety, and even psychosis.

Let’s not kid ourselves, though. Gun control and mental health care aren’t going to fix the problem. At best, they can resolve a few symptoms. The real problem is this:

We have created a culture in which we have glorified the neglect of one another. We have taken our national myth of the rugged individualist too far. It’s become an every man for himself (and every woman for herself) society.

We’ve done it to ourselves in hundreds of little ways. We compete too much and cooperate too little. We connect with our own tribe and demonize The Other. We deny the basics of food and shelter for the poor and most vulnerable in our country. We forget that we are social animals, which means we aren’t properly socializing our youth to maintain society. Most get by, but those who get left along the margins can and will behave in anti-social ways. Add guns and the glorify of making a splashy impact, and you have a perfect prescription for mass shootings.

We can talk about changing rules and regulations and, yes, those are necessary steps, but we must do more. Fortunately, the something that must be done is not overwhelming. It’s not something that only large and powerful groups like elected officials or the National Guard must do because it’s too big for any one individual. In fact, it’s the opposite. ONLY the cumulative effect of individual actions can change our culture in ways that diminish the glorification of the taking of human life or other violent terrorist acts. Only individual action can create a sense of community in which even those on the margins can feel a sense of importance and belonging.

Every major religion on the planet teaches the solution of individual action. A major piece of the solution is right there in front of us, pervasive even if we happen not to be religious. It is the solution of loving our neighbor, of treating others as we ourselves would like to be treated and as we deserve to be treated.

It sounds facile to many, I realize, but it is in fact one of the hardest things any human can ever undertake. Noticing, respecting, thinking about, and being kind to the people around us is hard work, especially when it’s people we think are weird, wrong, jerky, or otherwise offensive.

Plus, if simple kindness is hard, intervening when there is a problem or suspected problem is even harder. It takes an amazing amount of courage to take many of the actions that could truly make a difference. We risk exposing ourselves. We risk feeling like we’re butting in where we don’t belong, because our society tells us to mind our own business. The line around what is not our business is too large in a society that values extreme individualism.

A few years back, there was a trend toward what were called random acts of kindness. We need to revive that trend, only we need to have focused acts of kindness. It will require stepping outside ourselves to pay deep attention to the other people in our lives. If we pay attention, we each will be able to tell what needs to be done. Will we make mistakes and butt in where we should not? Of course. But, most of the time, we’ll be making a positive difference and modeling to others, especially our children, that caring matters, and that caring involves doing more than posting a sympathetic Facebook post.

Imagination can take us so many places, because there are endless ways to ease others’ suffering, even if just a small bit for the moment. Some steps may be huge. I personally would love to see someone form a non-profit that specializes in providing low-cost mental health care to teens and young adults, regardless of background. However, most things that can be done are so small as to be almost insignificant, especially to a jaded observer. But, they all matter, because together, each act adds up to toning down our excessive individualism toward a happier medium in which caring for others is expected and rewarded. It will change our culture. The truth is, our small acts won’t fix everything, they certainly can’t eradicate the presence of sociopaths bent on destruction who have always walked among us.  However, our individual acts of reaching out to others are the best way to heal our terrorized, angry, and violent society.

What is Brain Training?

All about Brain Training or NeurofeedbackPeople often ask, what is “Brain Training”?  Is it like calisthenics for my mind?

So, what is brain training?

Well, brain training, also known as neurofeedback, is a tool that, over time, creates new patterns in our brains and helps reshape old, negative habits that can unintentionally undermine us or hurt others.  It is the signature service that we at Lifeworks offer in our Vienna, Va. office.

What is a session like?

Each brain training session is administered by a professional who uses portable EEG devices and sensors called electrodes to measure faint electrical brain wave signals in the trainee’s skull. These signals are forwarded to a computer, where sophisticated software analyzes the data and rewards the brain (often in the form of a tone heard via earphones) when it produces the desired changes to the electrical patterns. Researchers believe that the brain responds to these rewards by creating new electrical patterns, similar to learning skills such as riding a bike or reading in a foreign language. Slowly, over time, trainees can teach their brains through brain training new — and lasting — positive habits and self-regulation. The training, typically 40-60 sessions of 45-90 minutes for optimum results, is painless, safe, gentle, and done in private.

Watch a video about brain training

To watch a video demonstration of brain training, click here.

Learn More!

The Backwards Approach to Resolving Stress

We all know, or think we know, solutions to the stress we feel in our lives. Most of the solutions are written about in pithy magazine articles or in click-bait postings such as “The Top Ten Tips for Stress Reduction.” You probably could recite many of them off the top of your head: get a good night’s sleep, eat right, go for a walk, reduce your caffeine intake, talk your troubles over with a friend, have a glass of red wine, light some candles and take a bubble bath, go to the gym, drink more water, have a massage.

These are worthy pursuits, and most people will find that at least one or two of these techniques offer brief, almost immediate respite from the day’s troubles. But, few of us actually do what these articles tell us to do. How many stressed-out people really make a habit of getting a decent amount of sleep the majority of the time? How many get the recommended number of fruits and veggies more often than not? How many exercise on a regular basis?

Part of the reason we don’t do these things is that the so-called solutions feel like luxuries. We’re too busy to try them, because we’ve structured our lives in ways that deprive us of the precious minutes we need to restore and rejuvenate ourselves. Another reason we don’t implement these ideas is that we’re not that good about creating new habits. It takes a lot of commitment to go to bed an hour or two earlier, no matter what a chipper author has to say on the matter. But, perhaps, the biggest and most significant reason we don’t consistently do the recommended things to reduce our stress levels is that we know those efforts are only temporary, half measures that get at the symptoms of stress rather than meaningful steps to get at the root causes of stress. What’s the point of spending time and money on something that doesn’t give long-term relief?

The truth is, we’d be much more likely to scrimp and save time and money to get that monthly massage if our stress levels were manageable and we were doing it because we knew it was a healthy way to maintain our body rather than coming at it as a desperate way to grab a few moments of relief in an otherwise overwhelming life. We’d be more likely to take steps to create new habits in our lives if the change was worth the effort, and we know deep down inside that however worthy the goal of a good night’s sleep might be for our health, sleep alone won’t solve our stress.

We have it backwards. Those stress reduction tips are important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, yes, but we’re much more likely to take good care of ourselves when we’re not overwhelmed with stress. Good habits are the outcome of reducing our stress, not the main path to reduced stress.

This is not to suggest that we give up and stop our healthy habits, just because they aren’t a stand-alone, long-lasting way to reduce stress. By all means, eat your fruits and veggies, move your body, and rest well. Maintain your good habits. It’s folly to do otherwise. However, it’s time to tell yourself the truth about the causes of stress and their long-term resolution in our lives. Reducing stress is different and simpler than we generally realize, and in the next few posts will explore some ways to achieve this.

Don’t Tinker with My Brain!

One of the things I hear most often about neurofeedback is the concern that by working with the brain, we may somehow be changing an individual’s personality—or core self—and harming their cognitive skills. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Neurofeedback is a teaching tool. It rewards the brain for making gentle changes in the same way we are rewarded with satisfaction when teaching ourselves a new skill. Think of the changes that neurofeedback initiates as being similar to the changes to the brain you’d make if you were trying to learn a new language. The only difference is that instead of remembering colors or numbers, your body is remembering new patterns of response to life.

Your core self isn’t damaged. In fact, many people notice that their best selves come out when they undertake brain training; feeling better often leads to being better, being more at ease and able to focus and engage the world. It makes sense when you think about it. When you’re better rested and less stressed, you’re more likely to be patient with people in your life rather than snapping at them, you’re more likely to get things done in a timely manner rather than missing or being coerced into meeting deadlines, you’re more likely to get pleasant responses from people when you yourself feel pleasant. When you are calmer and more focused, you may even perform better in school—there have even been studies showing an increase in IQ that came from neurofeedback training.

The bottom line is that many people are intimidated by neuroscience, but each of us consciously and unconsciously changes our own brains every day as a result of how we choose to spend our time. Making the choice to spend time on teaching ourselves how to be better selves suddenly doesn’t sound all that intimidating.

Welcome to our New Blog!

Welcome to the blog space for Lifeworks Consulting. As part of upgrading our website, we’re adding in a blog so that we can share with our clients and friends some of the insights we’ve learned over the almost decade we’ve been in the field. Our focus will be on how advances in neuroscience shape personal growth and development, but you’re likely to see information on a whole host of related topics.. The plan is to share information from recently published journal articles, book reviews, and add in a bit of commentary, too, and we hope you’ll find here both education and inspiration. Let us know what you think!

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Welcome to the new website!

Welcome to Lifeworks Consulting’s  Website!

Please take a few minutes to look around!

This is a great opportunity to learn more about Neurofeedback,  and explore Mindfulness & learn about Reiki.  You might also be interested in looking at some of the resources we have identified.

Sound good?  Hear what some of our clients have to say!

If you’re looking for more information, or would like to schedule an appointment at our Vienna, Va. office, please contact us.

Our office is located at:

380 Maple Avenue West, Suite 203
Vienna, VA 22180  {find us on the map}
703.728.6087

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