Dr. Nikki Crawford

Pockets of Peace

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Feeling stressed? You’re not alone. 

According to a recent Gallop poll, “In the United States, about 55 percent of adults said they had experienced stress during “a lot of the day”, compared with just 35 percent globally”…this makes Americans among the most stressed people in the world. Not exactly the kind of thing we want to excel in. 

Your personal stress meter. 

One way to think about stress is in zones of red, yellow and green. Red, high stress, yellow on guard, and green calm. We likely move in and out of each zone several times a day. As you might guess, it’s good for our bodies and our minds to spend more time in the green zone, feeling calm.

Dr. Rick Hanson explains, “Green is the resting state, the home base, of the brain and body, characterized by activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, repair and refueling of bodily systems, and a peaceful, happy, and loving mind. In Green, we are usually benevolent toward ourselves, others, and the world.” So, more time in the green zone is good for us.

Sometimes we worry that it will take too much time and energy to address stress…another problem to solve…something else on our to-do list. 

Want to feel more green??? 

But here’s some good news, by building in small pockets of peace during the day, you can rest in a state of calm more frequently. Consider adding one or more of these short, easy strategies to create moments of peace each day.

  1. Focus on your breath. Inhale for several seconds then exhale slowly…(twice as long as your inhale), this actually helps your nervous system calm. You only need to do this for about a minute to bring your body back into the green zone.

  2. Pause before launching. Pause before you get out of bed, get out of the car, stand up from your desk, or walk into a meeting. Pause and take a deep, relaxing breath. Create the habit of taking a deep, relaxing breath each time you transition from one activity or place to the next.

  3. Be present…here & now. This is particularly helpful when you find yourself caught in the past or the future. Be in the present moment and remind yourself that everything is OK in this moment. It’s natural to re-hash and regret things you’ve said or done in the past…once you’ve done what you can to repair, there’s little else to do. Similarly, we don’t have much control over the future, and come to find out we’re not so good at predicting what will happen. So come back to now and notice your feet on the floor and the rhythm of your breath. 

BTW ongoing coaching may be a necessary piece of the puzzle to bridge the gap between knowing what to do when you feel stressed and actually regularly practicing what’s good for you. Please email me if you’d like to explore the infinite pathways to creating a more peaceful life.

Be your own expert

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Hello there!

I've been out of commission for several weeks and in my downtime I've noticed a couple of things:

  • Sometimes I see myself as a self-improvement project; and

  • Sometimes I outsource my power and wisdom. 

Advice on Facebook, magazine covers, TV, YouTube videos, from friends and colleagues rolls by. 

I read about what foods to eat, how to schedule time, what to wear, how to advance in a career, how to be in close relationships, on and on and on...

It seems my self-improvement tendencies can become a full time obsession. 

Sometimes I grasp. Grasp at the new and improved version of myself. And while changing my own behaviors in order to live a healthier, more spiritual and expansive life is cool...the notion that I need to FIX myself, and perhaps that FIX comes from someone else, doesn't feel enlivening or true.

What's it like for you? Do you feel different when you approach behavior change from a place of internal motivation and nudges...rather than look to an expert for correction?

Maybe it's helpful to recognize that we can be our own behavioral experts. Perhaps we don't need to outsource our wisdom or look to someone else for answers... AND, we've all had the positive experience of an objective partner who will offer new information, reflections and accountability.

So here's my 2-cents if you're considering behavior change: 

  • You can become the expert on how you best learn and integrate new knowledge.

  • You have your own wisdom and sometimes a coach can help you see it more easily.

  • One size does not fit all...we respond to support depending on our specific learning history and perspective.

  • Find a coach who does not position themselves as your savior or guru, but who walks along side and offers support when you ask.

Let me know what you think.

Behavior Basics, part 2.

As you learned in Behavior Basics, part 1, breaking big projects into small chunks and working in 25 minute sessions is a tested way to more easily work through big projects or seemingly difficult life changes.

The next piece of the puzzle for most of us is, where to actually begin. 

  • Where in this room should I start decluttering? 

  • Where do I start my journey to healthy eating?  

  • Where is an easy place to begin a habit of going to the gym?

  • Where to I start this job search?

The answer to all of these questions…start EASY….the best place to begin is where you WILL begin. Let that soak in. The best place to begin is where you will begin. 

Start with your sock drawer, look for healthy recipes, call two gyms to schedule tours, ask a friend to help you update your resume…small, easy steps.

If you still feel too overwhelmed to begin…look for an even easier place to begin…take a step back and wonder, “what’s the smallest, easy step I can take to actually move forward?”

Here's how this strategy has worked for me:

  • I began my PhD by getting clear on the application requirements.

  • I started to downsize from a big house to a small house by gathering cardboard boxes.

  • I started a meditation practice by attending my first group mediation class.

  • I started my own business by dumping my ideas onto poster paper.

These were the first steps that mades sense to me. I bet you have your own examples of times when you made a big change in your life by starting with a small step.  

Step after step moves us through amazing, life changing adventures. 

Behavior Basics, part 1.

If only I could….

How many times have we uttered this phrase?

If only I could ______, then I would ______.

But then….we get overwhelmed by the scope of what’s ahead, don’t know where to begin, worry we won’t stay on track or maintain the change.

Something about February has hit me hard and challenged me to reflect on bones of this business and my mission to help you find more peace and self-compassion. To support you to finally get unstuck.

Let’s look the Basics of Behavior Change so you can create what you want. Over the next few weeks I’ll touch on each of the basic truths about how to change your behavior whether you want to create new healthy habits, deal with the clutter in your home, find a job you love, or learn to speak French. 

The first basic, is to Chunk It

Chunking is a term we use in education. Thirty years years of working with adults to change their behaviors and support kids to do the same, taught me the power of chunking.

When you breakdown the bigger task or project into small, doable steps you can make change. Research tells us that 25 minute sessions are an effective way to deal with these small chunks. 

Whether it’s dealing with your physical clutter, getting your calendar under control or learning to play the guitar… the point is to stay engaged with the activity for 25 minutes at a time with short breaks between sessions. 

This changes the way we see a project…instead of an entire mountain we expect to climb in one big step, we see it's step after step...chunk after chunk.

Working in 25 minute sessions, with the focus on the next, small chunk makes behavior change soooo much easier. Loads of people I’ve worked with have found scheduling their work in 25 minute chunks to be a total game changer! The most common comments:
“When I see the project in small chunks instead of the whole thing, I can get started.”
“I can almost anything for 25 minutes at a time." 

Of course, one 25 minute session won’t likely complete your project, but multiple 25 minute sessions, over time, will. You will get the basement cleaned out. You will complete your taxes. You will feel the benefits of healthy eating.

It’s powerful to realize you can deal with whatever comes your way by breaking it down into small, doable chunks.

You can create the life you want, 25 minutes at a time.

Stay Tuned! 
The next basic of behavior change is figuring out where to actually begin your project...I will talk about this in my next video.

Create a new groove...in your brain


By using our attention we can support ourselves to create new habits and stick with them more reliably.

We can actually come to enjoy doing the things that are good for us in the long run. Because we enjoy the behavior, we don’t need to rely on inconsistent motivation...did I just hear a collective sigh of relief??

We can use our attention to re-train our brain, and basically, here's how: 

Step 1. Have the experience of what's good. Notice what you enjoy about your experience and you’ll actually retrain your brain to notice the good more frequently. It's not about rose colored glasses, it's about truly noticing what's already good.

Step 2. Enrich the feeling of the good experience. Stick with it, make the feeling even bigger, help it go deeper, help it linger. 

Step 3. Absorb the good feelings of the experience. Imagine you're a sponge. See if you can notice the goodness soaking in your body. Give yourself a little hug for making a choice that supports your higher good and future self. 

Sure, this takes practice and often some support, but I’ve worked through this with many clients and use it myself…I can easily say, it makes behavior change easier! 

Bonus...you just feel better when you're focusing on the good stuff that's true in your life. 

A snippet of Lea's story

When Lea and I began our coaching, she was interested in simplifying her life, letting go of the things in her home that no longer served her. She also wanted to create habits such as dealing with the mail, keeping her kitchen tidy and completing one task before moving to a new task. 

As she practiced noticing what was already goodenriching these feelings and absorbing them, it became easier for her to appreciate herself for the efforts she was making. Over time, the behaviors that felt so difficult in the beginning, became easier and even enjoyable

You can do this too. Reach out if you want to learn more about how.

Move from "should" to "want to"

You may have noticed…some of us have a much harder time gathering our grit and doing things that don't seem fun. It feels like a tough slog to get to the gym, eat healthy, declutter, deal with our mail, etc...

You might be relieved to know, there are natural differences in the bump of neuro chemicals we get when we do something good for us…so, if you struggle with follow through in several areas of your life, you may need to be more focused on letting the good feeling of making a helpful choice, soak in.

I seen this so many times, (and done it myself) we procrastinate doing these "good for us behaviors” and then, layer on self criticism because we procrastinated. Geez, a super unhelpful, double whammy.

There are ways to shift our attention away from what we're not doing and focus on creating a good life. We can create new habits and routines, leaving procrastination behind, and harsh self judgement behind. 

You can create the life you want...(even it doesn't seem possible right now). 

You can learn to love the things that are good for you. 

You can move important behaviors from the "should" column, to the "want to" column. It’s absolutely possible.

Let Peace On Earth Begin with You

2017 Harris Poll survey

2017 Harris Poll survey

For most of us, the holidays are a sweet time to revisit traditions that connect us to our home, families, friends and spiritual practices.

At a deep level we know these connections can increase our sense of well-being

But often, we also experience the stress that comes with weeks of shopping for perfect gifts and brace ourselves for the influx of stuff into our already full house.

The research is clear, although our consumption of material goods has doubled in the past 50 years, our happiness levels have flatlined.
 

Here’s an interesting bit of info…in a 2017 Harris Poll survey found nearly 7 in 10 Americans said they would skip exchanging gifts this holiday season if their friends and family agreed to it. 

Did you catch that? Of the 10 sitting around the holiday table, 7 of us would have been all too happy to skip spending time and money on buying gifts.

AND 60% said they would spend more time with friends and family if they didn't have to worry about gifts.

Spending more time with family and friends…a solid alternative to lonely, late night online shopping and crowded malls.

So instead, here are ideas to help you spend time together:

1. Togetherness. Together, research and choose one of the micro loaning non-profits such as kiva.org to support small businesses throughout the world.  
 

2. Find a Good Cause. For those who have everything, check CharityNavigator.org to find a highly rated charity that supports a cause this person is passionate about. Check out local shelters for those who are homeless or offer food to those who are food insecure.

In Kansas City? Don’t forget about our local harvesters.org a community food network; they are happy to have monetary donations and hands-on help.


3. Plan Family Nights. Gather around the kitchen table and create a monthly family night for the year. Maybe a movie night, visit a new restaurant, library event, live theater, local and regional state parks, bike ride to breakfast, streetcar ride or city tour, museum visit, volunteer work, art class, or a family cooking class. Most cities are full of amazing opportunities.

Start a conversation NOW to explore how to create new traditions focused on using your energy to create experiences together.

This new way of living through the holidays may be just the connection and relief and you are looking for. This year, peace on earth can begin with you.
 

Happy Holidays! 

Nikki

Honey...the kid's don't want our stuff!

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I'll be on Fox 4 in Kansas City the morning of November 8th around 9:00 am to address one of the conundrums I hear regularly..."my parents want to give me their stuff, but I don't want it." 

The early Baby Boomers have entered 70s and are downsizing or moving to assisted living which means there is stuff to get rid of. So what are they doing with the house-full of possessions they’ve curated over the past 50 years?

Many of these folks want to give their things to their adult children who often don’t want it or have space for it. These Items include oak dining room sets, china, crystal, silver, and collectables, none of which are highly valued by the next generation. 

What accounts for this generational difference in values?

In the past these items signaled to friends and family that you had arrived…which was heavily promoted by increased sophistication in marketing and new ways to access credit beginning in the late 1940s. Sometime In the 2000s we started on a more minimalist trend.

Although we still consume plenty, we're not interested in the kinds of furniture and household goods our parents have collected. With easy and cheap access to manufactured goods, we buy what we want without waiting to get the dining room set from our parents. 

Additionally, with many more women in the workforce "homemaking" no longer includes using dishes that can't be put in the dishwasher, silver that needs to be polished or collectable plates that must be dusted. Our priorities have shifted...what we value has shifted. 

What kinds of problems are caused by these shifts?

Because this is the first time in our history there is a kink in this chain of passing down stuff, both parents and adult children are struggling. Aging parents may feel hurt when kids don’t want the items and children may feel a sense of obligation to take things they don’t want and won’t use.

What are some ideas to make this process easier for both parties?

Start the conversation now, before a health or financial crises forces a quick resolution. For many, sorting through possessions feels like a life review; you don’t want to rush this process if you don’t have to.

Consider getting outside support from someone like me. Tomorrow I am meeting with an elderly couple and their adult daughter to have this very conversation.

Or borrow and idea from my own creative mother...a table in the garage with things she is ready to pass on. When we are home to visit, we take what we want and leave the rest, guilt free. 

Please reach out with questions, thanks! Nikki