Fifteen Minutes

65147-stock-photo-blue-relaxation-dark-style-moody-artThe coffee break seems to be going the way of tea time – out of sight and out of mind.  There was a time when stopping for a cup of tea or coffee in the afternoon was a ritual for many people. It was the time to stop and take a breather from the work of the day.  Not so much anymore.

It seems we just don’t stop to take a breather at all feeling like we are so busy that to stop would somehow ruin our progress and stop our momentum.  “Too much to do, too much to do” as a mantra has replaced that long “ahhhhh” that came with the first sip of tea or coffee as we stepped away from the demands of the day for 15 minutes or so before returning to finish up our work.

Fifteen minutes out of the day, silent, pause or break time hand gesturea break, a breather, a warm, cozy cup in our hands and our minds have a chance to settle and our breathing a chance to slow.

When you think of it that way, you have to wonder if a 15 minute break is an impediment to progress or an improvement.  If 15 minutes can make you less stressed, more focused and relaxed, why have we traded that for 15 more minutes of stress, busyness and over functioning?  iStock_000010338713Medium

Fifteen minutes do not seem like a lot of time when you get that kind of return on investment, do they?

Maybe it is time to reinstate afternoon tea or the coffee break or whatever will help us to relax and renew ourselves.

Maybe it is time for another tea party revolt only this time fill our cups instead of Boston Harbor.


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At a celebration recently, a friend and I were lamenting about how often we have chosen not to attend a celebration or be part of a milestone because we were too busy or felt we had better things to do with our time.  The lament came as we confessed that we had learned the hard way that you cannot get that time back.  There is no way to do a ‘do over’ as kids say.  Once that celebration is over, it is gone.  The clock has moved on…tic-toc.  Multi-tasking woman

We knew we had missed significant things in the lives of family and friends and probably our own lives as well justifying missing it until it was too late to get it back.  Since relationships are important to both of us it seemed a bit of a contradiction that we would chance damaging a relationship in order to do some catch up.

For example, have you missed a wedding in order to catch up on lawn work saying you can go to the reception?  Or, what about missing that graduation of a special niece or friend because you don’t think you could bear sitting through another boring graduation speech and ceremony?  Or, how about not taking that trip for a relative’s retirement or birthday party because you felt you couldn’t possibly leave town?  Tic-Toc.calendar active

And once those events are over what do you have?  A mowed lawn, an afternoon without friends, a justification that leaves a bittersweet taste in your mouth…and no way to get that time back and no memories to store in your heart and mind.  Perhaps you also have some strained relationships.  Tic-toc.

Wedding PegAt the end of your life what do you think you will miss most?  The times you mowed the lawn or the look of joy on the bride’s face?  The non-boring afternoon without friends or the look of gratitude from the graduate when he/she sees you in the audience?  The thrown away invitation or the laughter of a celebration for a life well lived.  Tic-toc.

The funny thing about time is you can’t turn the clock back.

It’s tic-toc not toc-tic.

Don’t regret the time you didn’t spend.



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Once again I find myself in the midst of cleaning out and de-cluttering. I thought I had accomplished this two years ago when we moved out of our home into a condo.  However, although my space is bigger than I had before and because it is arranged differently, I find I am coming face to face with some very bad habits that keep me from being clutter free.iStock_000014942013Small

Paper, Paper everywhere!  Because I have a workshop and coaching business, I have handouts, articles and information that I use over and over.  However, when  do I decide to go through all of the paper and throw out what is no longer usable or unimportant for the current market?  From the looks of things not very often. As a result I have file drawers brimming with so much stuff that just thinking about the clearing out process gives me a major headache.just do it tomorrow

Pictures and frames seem to multiply in our home.  Of course, having 7 children and 11 grandchildren will naturally produce a slew of pictures.  How do I decide which ones to display and which ones to discard?  Obviously, I don’t because I have boxes and boxes of photographs, framed pictures and drawings.

Memorabilia is a major downfall for me in decreasing the volume of plastic tubs and boxes in my basement.  I still have my own Kindergarten report card along with my children’s.  Graduation announcements, prom programs, band trophies, even financial aid letters litter several boxes.  My children don’t seem to care about these things so why am I saving them?  After all, the memories are in my mind and heart and not on paper.

So, with the help of a home organizer who is logical and skilled in her sorting process, I began once again to weed out.   I am happy to report that I have made great progress.  I have downsized from 11 packed file drawers to 6 drawers where the files actually move apart from each other!  I have emptied 9 plastic bins and have not refilled them.  My basement has never looked so open and organized.  And I am not done yet.

And, one of the biggest tips my organizer gave me was this:  Begin by emptying out the entire area.  Then, after going through each box, bin or file decide what you want to put back in.  Once that is done remember that each time you put something new into one of your storage spaces it is going to be one more thing you have to empty out the next time you begin to de-clutter – oh, yes, it is an on-going process.  “Do not”, she instructed me, “keep anything that you don’t want to have to clean out next time.  stop signAnd, if you do save it, is there something else that has outlived its usefulness that you can take out before you add something new”?

As I do the physical work of de-cluttering I am thinking her advice is useful for all aspects of my life from my business, to my relationships, to my every day choices.  “Don’t add anything that you will have to spend a great deal of time getting rid of later”.  Good advice.

Now to apply that advice and see what happens.



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Take a Deep Breath

I’ve been taking  a lot of deep breaths lately.  Seems I have been in the midst of a lot of extra stress.  Things like…

  • A two-day car trip from Atlanta while I had the stomach bug and I was driving
  • Unpacking and repacking trying to get settled
  • Professional speaking engagements as soon as I returned
  • Car trouble
  • Family events and commitments
  • Planning for a community event

what's nextAnd this was just in the last two weeks…silent, pause or break time hand gesture

So I’ve been taking lots of deep breaths.  I love this simple de-stress technique.  It requires no special equipment except lungs.  It takes only a few minutes and can be done anywhere.  No one even knows you are doing it and you feel so much better afterwards – no sweat, no work out clothes to wash and no need to reapply makeup. 

One of the things I love to do with my deep breathing is to focus on what I need on the inhale and exhale.  For example, on the inhale I say to myself “slow” and on the exhale “down”.  Or, inhale “you’ve”, exhale”got this”.  Taking the breaths in deeply and holding them for a slow count of four and exhaling the same way allows me to think about what I want to achieve.  The end result is my mind and body get in synch.  Oh and make sure the inhales fill your chest and your belly expands.iStock_000010338713Medium

Happy Breathing!


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Three Ways to Stay True to Yourself

just do it tomorrowA recent article listed the top 5 regrets of people who were in the last stages of a terminal illness.  These regrets had nothing to do with unfulfilled bucket lists but rather reflected regret that the truly important things in life had been usurped by the more urgent and the more comfortable.  Their deep reflections on their regrets came at the end of their lives when it was too late; however, they leave us their wisdom so we won’t make the same mistake.

And as I read this list I realized two things.  One, I could have some of the same regrets should my life end today and second, each of these regrets if allowed the light of day would have resulted in healthy stress (growth, energy, momentum) rather than dis-stress.

The first regret was Not Being True to Myself.  Being authentic can be difficult particularly if you are a person who doesn’t like to rock the boat or call attention to yourself.  And for others circumstances seem to make being true yourself almost impossible.   Mothers and fathers will often tell me that they can’t just ignore the needs of their children or their work for that matter because what they do in these roles is key to their lives.  And underlying their protests is guilt.  How can they be true to themselves when others depend on them?

So stress builds and for many the feeling of losing oneself in  service to others grows as well.

I know because I have been there.  And what I have learned about remaining authentic and true to myself is this.  I don’t have to lose myself just because I have responsibilities.  It wasn’t an easy lesson and it took hard work to change to a more authentic life but it was so worth it.

Here are three things I have learned…and am still learning…to do:

stop sign1.  Stop when my body says stop.  If I am going to be true to myself, I have to respect  the vehicle that supports and carries me.  When my body is tired or hungry, my stress level increases.  If I ignore these signs, then I am of no use to anyone especially myself.

2.  Stop saying Yes when I mean No.   The fear of disappointing others or being seen as less than committed to a project or relationship often leads me to say yes when I really want to say no.  And a “maybe” is as good as a yes in many situations.  I had to learn that saying no to something also meant saying yes to something else.  And that something else was often myself and the things that truly excited me.  There are ways to say no that are gracious and well received. This can be a growing edge but the result lowers the stress of doing things you don’t want to do.

3.  Stop taking on responsibility for someone’s emotional state.  And this is connected to number 2.  I have no control over how someone will react to me or my words.   I only have control over my own reactions and responses, which, if I am honest, take enough of my time and energy. Adding another human being’s complex psychological make up to my plate is a recipe for a main course of stress.  I have a mantra that I repeat when I get caught here…”it is not my job to manage their emotions.”

If I arrive at my deathbed exhausted from being overly responsible for things other people could have done and carrying the burden of trying manage emotions other than my own, it will be a clear choice on my part. exhausted car However, because I have the gift of the words of the dying and because I can take the time to reflect and refocus my life, I can also choose to arrive on that day having been true to myself.  After all, life is a terminal disease and none of us gets out alive.  However, we do have a choice as to what regrets we will leave behind.

Here’s to authenticity!


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Multi-tasking womanSometimes taking time for your self is nothing but bunk!  It just can’t be done.  There are certain times and circumstances that just take up a lot of your time and there is nothing you can do about it.  Moms with young children understand this.  Women who are pushing a deadline along with children, home and outside activities into an already overcrowded schedule know this.  And even the retired know that life happens in big doses from time to time.

I’ve just come off a big push that brought with it its own kind of stress.  There were few opportunities for a ‘time out’ just for me and after a couple of weeks of this, my body, mind and spirit cried UNCLE.  Realizing there was nothing that was life or death on my schedule I took a deep breath and decided to get creative with my schedule.

So this past week has been a week of recharging.  Long nature walks, a massage, sejour-relaxation-id612coffee with friends, dinners out and a concert or two.  An extended exhale after what seemed like an interminable inhale and I am refreshed, restored and raring to go again.

I think sometimes we go to extremes.  We fall into either/or thinking.  Either take time for myself and feel guilty or don’t take time and become exhausted or worse Young Woman Blowing Her Nose in Bedsick – which also makes us feel guilty.   Instead, if we accept that we can’t do it all without stopping  nor can we always stop while doing what we have to do, then we can take the perspective that we will stop when we can.  It becomes a both/and without the guilt.

Most will live in tension between the doing and being side of life until the day we die.  It is what responsible, mature adults do.  However, if we can be creative in that tension we will find ways to see the big picture, take a break when it is most needed in times of uber busyness, and sprinkle in shorter intervals of rest and recovery in less busy times.  It will keep us in that both/and mode where life can flow much more easily without so much stress, guilt or anxiety.

-reading-nook_________________________________Now, I’m off to read a chapter before I start dinner.


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The Stress Book

pressured personLately I have been experiencing an abundance of stress.  Now this may not seem like a big deal to many of you. Life is stressful after all.  However, on the stress scale none of the biggies were going on.  So I began to wonder why despite a relatively calm period in my life when work was smooth, finances were good and friends and fun plentiful what was going on?

In order to sort it out I started writing about it.  I’m not a great journaller.  I have good intentions but often only turn to one of my many half-finished journals when things are really confusing and I need to sort stuff out.

Little did I know that what I was doing/have been doing is creating a ‘Stress Journal’ or as I think of it ‘The Stress Book of My Life’. Detectives create a ‘murder book’ with each homicide they have to solve where they keep all the details of the crime in order to put together a cohesive and coherent picture hoping it will lead them to the killer.

Well, my stress book is much the same.  In it I record all the details, conversations and insights I can around the stress I am feeling.  What caused it?  How did I feel?  How did my body react?  What did I think about or tell myself?  iStock_000014942013SmallWhat did I do either in reaction to it or in order to respond to it?  As I write I usually begin to see a pattern or find a clue that leads me to a better perspective on what has triggered the stress in me.  Many times it is eye-opening and I have the culprit or perpetrator – Me and some old, unresolved issue that was triggered.

Since I have discovered this more intentional way of sorting through my stress I am also finding that I am much more able to identify the stress as it happens and before I do damage to a relationship, my body or my spirit.  balance stonesI would encourage you to start a Stress Book of your life.  Like the murder book it could prevent a ‘killer’ from being on the loose in your life.  And sooner, rather than later, it will have fewer and fewer entries as you begin to recognize and respond to stress on the spot.



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