Having a Bad Day?

One of the things I teach my clients is that life is supposed to be 50/50. Yin and yang. Good and bad.

Whenever we experience a negative emotion we can take comfort in knowing that it is simply a part of life. That negative emotion allows us to fully experience the positive emotion and vice versa.

If we were happy all the time, we wouldn’t have the reference point to identify the emotion of happiness. To experience happiness,  you must also have an understanding of sadness.

On it’s face this is not a wild proposition.

But whenever we have a “bad day”, whenever we are feeling less than, this notion goes out the window.

In those moments, most humans look for something outside of themselves to feel better.

Ever reached for a glass of wine (or two) after a “really long day” to “take the edge off” or “wind down”? Ever plow through that whole package of Oreos because you were feeling lonely on a Friday night?

Those actions are intended to bury that negative emotion. It is our attempt to buffer the negative feelings of loneliness or disappointment. We may even be consciously thinking, “A glass of wine will make me feel better,” or “having a piece of cake will cheer me up.”

The problem with buffering is twofold:

once that cake is gone, the feeling will still be there.

Furthermore, this pattern will create only more negative emotion when your clothes fit a bit more snugly or the mirror reminds you that you aren’t happy with your body.

Buffering only leads to more negative emotion. Naturally, we attempt to buffer that emotion and on and on the cycle goes.

We are not taught as children to take ownership of our feelings. We are not taught to experience negative emotions as a part of life.

As children, we are often asked “Did so-and-so hurt your feelings?” “Let’s make you feel better. How about some ice cream…or a new toy?”

It’s completely acceptable in our society to believe that other people “cause” our feelings and that when we feel badly, we need to “fix it” (typically with external things).

It’s no wonder we have an obesity epidemic in this country and offices filled with people who drink too much, shop too much, or indulge in other unhealthy ways.

I support my clients to develop habits of acknowledging and fully allowing negative emotions. Had a “bad day” at the office? How about owning it and recognizing that you feel disappointed and frustrated and just experiencing those emotions?

When your life offers you the “bad” part of the 50/50, just take it and experience it.

Rather than drinking too much wine or eating too much cake and paying for that tomorrow or later on the scale, we work to recognize the yin and yang and life and allow ourselves to experience the darker side of life.

Negative feelings are like your childhood boogey man.

In the dark they seem so threatening and we are paralyzed with fear. We just want them to go away! But when we flip on the light switch we can see that it was just a coat rack and there is nothing to be afraid of.

Similarly, when we run and hide from negative emotions through buffering, they will always seem scary, like something we should avoid and cover up. When we can shine the light on our negative emotions and allow them to pass through us, they quickly fade.

By continuing to allow yourself to experience negative emotions, you no longer have to buffer. The fear of those emotions diminishes.

Imagine what you could do with your life is you were never afraid to experience fear, loneliness, sadness, inadequately, or guilt? How freeing that must be.

Are you buffering negative emotions with food, alcohol, shopping, etc.?

How would your life be different if you were able to eliminate over-drinking, over-eating or over-shopping?

What negative emotion are you covering up? Let’s find out. You might be surprised.

Selling Yourself Short

I have been thinking a lot about our emotions and how it is so amazing that those subtle, invisible vibrations in our bodies drive everything we do.

Everything we do is because of how we think it will make us feel.

Everything we don’t do is because of a feeling we are trying to avoid.

We don’t quit that toxic job because we don’t want to experience the negative emotions that might result–fear, confusion, doubt, embarrassment. We don’t leave bad relationships because we want to avoid the fallout–loneliness, remorse, regret, sadness. We want that big firm job because we think it will make us feel happy, confident, worthy, respected. We want a partner in life because we think it will make us happy.

Everything we do in this life is because we are chasing some emotion.

We are chasing the vibes.

Fortunately, all of our emotions are generated by thoughts. They are not implanted into us when we quit our jobs, get married, or blow a huge presentation.

They are created by the thoughts we have when those things happen. Thoughts that we are worthy, NOT worthy, a failure, we are good enough, etc.

How amazing is it to truly own our power and our ability create any emotion in this very moment?!

Unfortunately, we are so much better at generating negative emotions (hello, negativity bias, thanks, biology)! Our brains are incredibly skilled at thinking negative thoughts that create negative emotions.

Want to feel sad? Start thinking about that friend/relative/dog you lost and how much you miss them. I miss their laugh, I miss the funny messages they would send on my birthday, I miss their companionship.

What to feel inadequate? Think about that time you botched that big presentation in college/high school/law school. Think about that time you totally blew that important deadline, forgot your mom’s birthday, got fired, got overlooked for a promotion you really wanted.

If we tell our brain to get to thinking about our inadequacy, it will get to work coming up with all sorts of evidence to demonstrate that you are, in fact, inadequate.

Whenever you choose to allow a thought into your head, you are giving your brain instructions to invest energy in that thought. Dear brain, today, we are going to chew on the thought, “I can’t do this” so please start explaining to me why that is true.

Realizing this alone, can transform your life.

If spend any ounce of energy thinking I will never lose weight, I don’t know how to do XYZ, I will never make a million dollars, I can’t get that job, I will never make partner, you are setting yourself up for failure. You hired a mercenary (your brain) to sabotage your dreams. If thoughts were fuel that could propel you toward your dream, you just dumped chocolate syrup in your gas tank.

That fuel will only take you to the land of lost dreams.

When you allow dis-empowering thoughts to entertain your brain, you block your innate wisdom.

Any energy your brain could have spent showing you how you could lose weight, how you know more than you think, how you could make more money, how you could totally get that job, make partner, and live the life of your dreams, is lost.

Instead of putting your brain to work showing you how much wisdom, talent, skill, and power you currently have, you allow your brain to provide you with a bunch of BS and you send it off to run the motions that keep you stuck.

The next time you catch yourself chewing on some disempowering thoughts, consider what it would be like to believe the opposite. To allow your mind some space to get to work showing you something new.

I can figure out how to lose weight

I can figure out how to do it

I know how to make money and I can learn how to make more

I am qualified for that job

I can absolutely make partner

Empowering thoughts allow you to access your innate wisdom.

Empowering thoughts allow you to examine whether those ugly thoughts are actually true. After all, they are only true if you choose to make them true.

The next time you think I don’t know how to…. Stop and ask your brain If I did know how to do this, what would I do first? …… You will be amazed at what your brain will offer you.

What type of fuel are you choosing to create the life of your dreams?

Whenever you are ready to take this work to the next level, join me in one of my 6-week programs that will show you how to create more happiness in your life, how to find balance, and how to start creating the life of your dreams. Sign up here.

You Can’t Do That

(and other nice things we tell ourselves)

We all have our baggage and ugly thoughts we carry around.

Even with all the skills I can teach you, you will never EVER do away with ugly thinking.

With practice, you can get better at shifting where possible. And, where that’s not possible, carry it with you.

My ugly bag of tricks includes these gems: What am I doing? You can’t do that. You need to lose some weight. You need to grow up. Your arms are terrible. You aren’t that funny. You are not nearly as cute as you think you are.

Join the human race and embrace your imperfect brain.

This who we are. We have ugly thoughts. All of us.

The question is, what are you going to do with yours? Are you going to carry them with you and soldier on or are you going to cozy up to them and tell them how right they are?

Our nasty thoughts about ourselves and our abilities are not isolated to us. We all do it.

We all have a choice about how we handle those nasty little gems. We can bow down to them or we can acknowledge our human-ness and pursue our dreams despite them.

The next time you see that person that seems to have it all together, I promise you they have their very own bag of garbage they are hauling around. Her brain is a dumpster fire sometimes too,  just like yours.

Stop beating yourself up when you realize your brain is causing all your problems. Get to work cleaning it up and being more present.

Recognize the ugly thoughts you are believing.

Stop running on auto-pilot.

Work through them, shift them, or acknowledge their presence and carry them with you to your success. Don’t allow them to be more important than they are.

They are just words in your head. Words you choose. Words you allow to be there.

You didn’t get the one faulty brain that was wired wrong. You got a human brain.

Welcome to the race.

Regretting that Law Degree?

If you hop on the Google box and run a few searches relating to

I hate being a lawyer

What else can I do with a law degree

How do I know if practicing law is right for me?

You will get a boatload of hits and stories of woe from “recovering lawyers.” Law school and practicing law are like any good love story. You can’t really understand how amazing and yet how terrible it can be until you experience it yourself.

In my practice, I spent many a dark night wondering if I had made the right choice in going to law school. I cried in my office more times than I probably remember. I missed important events, skipped parties, and used work as an excuse more times than I care to admit.

I deeply empathize with those of you going through that turmoil. The feeling of hopelessness and pressure. That heavy, oppressive fear that you just spent thousands of dollars getting into a prestigious club only to quickly realize you want right back out.

Fancy degree, fancy office, fancy car, fat paycheck and miserable. Congratulations!

Ooof. The agony.

So, what do you do?

One of the things we coaches love to do is “question your most closely held thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions.” These are the words of my coach who makes me pledge to do this very thing at the beginning of every session.

Many of our most closely held thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions are really wolves masquerading in sheep’s clothing. They sound so nice and innocuous, even virtuous. Yet, pretty thoughts have a way of causing so much unnecessary pain.

I want to have a job I can feel good about

I want a boss who respects me

I don’t want to be treated like an idiot

I want to love what I do

We have so many thoughts like this that we are choosing to swish around in our brains. They are not facts. They are not gospel. They are only true because you are choosing to believe they are true.

There are people in this world (ESPECIALLY during this pandemic) that would be thrilled with a job. Any job. If they could go to law school and work for someone who yelled at them, treated them like an idiot and didn’t respect them, they would be thankful just to have a job.

There are people in this world who would rather have a job for a horrible boss making tons of money than a job with Willie Wonka making pennies.

There are people in this world who neither love nor hate their jobs; it’s just a job. It is not who they are, it doesn’t define them, it’s  means to an end.  It pays the bills. They don’t care that they don’t love it. They have other things to love.

If you want to believe that you should love your job, that is 1000% your right and your option. My only question for you is

How is that thought serving you?

Does it make you feel terrible? Does it make you jump from job to job constantly searching for something better? Does it inspire you to get out of bed every day?

There is no such thing as inherently good or bad thoughts. Thoughts are good or bad based upon the impact those thoughts have on you–how they make you feel, show up, act, and the results they drive you to create.

Last week, I had a mini-session with a women who was really grabbling with her career. She was trying to figure out what to do next. As we discussed her reasons for considering a change she keep coming back to

I just want a job that I can feel good about; that brings purpose to my life.

Lovely. Beautiful. Commendable thoughts.

They were making my client miserable.

Those thoughts made her feel anxious and panicky. They drove her to overly criticize every job opportunity and scrutinize every aspect of her work. She was creating an impossibly high standard for her career and it was wrecking havoc on her life as she jumped from job to job and career to career seeking that elusive “purpose”. It was blocking her ability to see and appreciate the good in any aspect of her life. Those thoughts were keeping her from being happy in ANY environment.

This applies to everything. Not just your job. Thinking about quitting your marriage, that relationship, that friendship? Whatever it may be, the first step is getting honest with yourself about brain.

What closely held thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions are contributing to your present strife?

Are some of your pretty thoughts blocking you from happiness? 

If you can get a handle on your brain and the role you are playin in creating your current misery, you can move into a space of greater clarity. From that space of clarity, you can make clear-headed, logical decisions about your life. Decisions that aren’t frantic, panicked or based in fear. Part of that process is examining some of your closely held thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions.

How are those beliefs/thoughts/assumptions serving you? Are they blocking your happiness?

You have the freedom to believe whatever you want but you must ask yourself whether those thoughts deserve real estate in your brain. It’s your future. What thoughts are you using to fuel your journey?

Overwhelm (it’s not the email)

You know that feeling….

It’s 4:30 on Friday you are just starting to timidly believe that you are going to get out of the office before 6pm, you start to allow yourself to get excited because you are meeting your law school friends for happy hour and your significant other will be joining you later and taking you out for dinner at your favorite restaurant. Finally, a fun Friday night with the people you love. It’s been a long week!

Then your office phone rings and it is your best work friend in the middle of a complete pre-working-all-weekend cataclysmic meltdown. Just as you are about to begin telling her not to quit, you can do this…. “that” partner darkens your doorway. You quickly get her off the phone, promise to call her back, and internally cringe as the partner asks you if you could take a look as these “few sections” of this Stock Purchase Agreement blah blah blah, “I just emailed you with a link to the diligence room”, hands you a 60 page SPA and promptly exists. You glance at his email and it asks for a response by tomorrow morning (Saturday for those of you not tracking…). Then your phone lights up, it’s your boyfriend asking you where the dog food is and could you make sure to put milk on the grocery list. Also, what should he wear tonight? As you are just starting to process what just happened, your paralegal shows up and jumps right into discussing a project you gave her a week ago that she is “struggling with” as she launches into a long and detailed explanation and plants herself in your office chair and you sit there, dumbfounded wondering what the heck she is talking about, how can I get her to stop talking without screaming…and what the F just happened?

Then it sets in.

For me, overwhelm feels like hot compression of my chest and a ringing sound, like after a bomb goes off and your ears are trying to adjust. It’s the worst.

We’ve all been there. In the moment, it’s easy to believe that all of these “things” happening to us are what is causing that sickening, tight feeling. The truth is that none of that is true. That feeling is caused 1000% by your thoughts. You are doing this to yourself.

The email saying “I need you to respond by 11am Saturday” is not making you feel that way. In fact, that circumstance alone is not particularly anxiety-inducing. It’s just words. On a page.

What is anxiety inducing is the thought “There is no way I’m going to get this done in time…I’m going to have to cancel all of my plans…I really needed tonight, I really needed this break, it’s been such a long week…I’m so tired of this BS…I can’t believe you did this to me, AGAIN!…I don’t have time for all of this…how am I going to get all this done?!…you didn’t even think to ask me if I have time!…

THOSE nasty little sentences are what get your heart racing. It’s not the events going on around you. It’s not the email.

Add to it, thoughts about the other circumstance “C’mon Karen, you have a meltdown every week, I don’t have time for this…if I don’t call her back when she needs me, I’m a terrible friend…I have to call her back, she is so upset…I don’t have time to call her back, I need to figure out what I’m going to do…I can’t deal with her right now…she is so dramatic…she is going to hate me if I don’t call her back..” and then the thoughts about the boyfriend “Seriously, why can’t he find things on his own?! I’m at work, I don’t have time to tell you where everything is, look for it yourself, GDI!…can’t you pick up some milk and while you’re at it, get the other groceries, why do I have to do everything!?

You end up with a ton of emotions racing through your body at the same time: fear, anger, guilt, anxiety, judgment, shame, indignation. These ingredients cause overwhelm, like a pot boiling over, your brain can’t handle the sudden influx of feels!

This cacophony in your brain is what is creating that feeling of overwhelm. It is not your boyfriend, your tearful colleague, the partner, or the email. You are doing it to yourself.

So how do we turn down the noise and sort through overwhelm?

First, recognize that it is your thoughts doing this to you. It is not the circumstances. That email does not reach out of the screen and make your heart palpitate. It’s impossible. So let’s look at the real cause: you have to get the thoughts out. This leads us to step 2:

Step 2: Exercise the demons.

If you had a bat in your attic, you wouldn’t simply close the door and continue to let it bang around up there. You would get it out and then figure out how the F it got in there. Take 5 minutes to breathe and write down every single thought that is banging around up there — get them out. Do not judge them. Do not censor them. Just get them into black and white.

Step 3: Look at them! Separate the thoughts from the facts. You are lawyer, you know facts when you see them. Cut out all the adjectives, adverbs and subjective statements and isolate the facts. Highlight them. Then look at all the lovely thoughts you are having about those facts.

Step 4: Lawyer them to death. Challenge each of those thoughts. Argue it. Question it. Present the opposite side. If you are thinking “If I don’t respond to that email by tomorrow at noon, I am going to get fired,” ask is that true?

Argue with yourself–If I don’t respond by tomorrow at 11am, I am NOT going to get fired and here’s why…. 

For each thought, ask “how is this thought serving me right now?”  Is it helpful for you to think, If I blow this off he is going to be pissed! What’s point?!

The majority of these thoughts are not serving you. Sure, some of them might be true but what is the upside of thinking them and focusing on them?! What is that getting you?

Is it helping you get the work done? Is it helping you triage the situation? I doubt it.

You don’t wander around telling everyone about that time you completely missed the deadline on that IRS filing for a client. It might be a fact but what is the point of carrying it around with you?

Just because it might be true, doesn’t make it useful.

Ask yourself “So what?

If I have to cancel my happy hour with my friends, they will be disappointed….so what? Will they stop being your friend? Can they handle being disappointed? Will it kill them to be disappointed? Will it kill you to allow them to be disappointed? Asking yourself “so what?” forces you to examine the worst case scenario and look at all the drama your brain is offering you. Stop with the drama and start really looking at the reality of the situation. Your friends will understand. They will get over it. They might be sad. They are grownups and they can relate. So what if your perfectly planned Friday night doesn’t work out? So what?

For each thought in your head argue the opposite. If you are thinking “I have to call my friend back, she was in tears!” Challenge yourself to argue the opposite. Do you really have to call her back? What if you didn’t? Do you really need to spend all night working on the SPA review? Can you make an argument that you can do it more efficiently (once you clear all this junk out of your brain)? Do you really need to cancel all your plans or are you just being dramatic?

Whenever we are feeling overwhelmed it’s because we have a series of competing thoughts in our brain that each are causing some form of negative emotion. Those thoughts and feeling converge and we lose our $#!+.

Stop blaming the circumstances around you for those feelings.

Own your role in this. Recognize the source of your feelings and get to work watching and questioning your thoughts. You are lawyer. People pay you to argue. Put that fancy degree to work and start arguing with the ridiculous statements in your head.

Don’t be a pawn to your own drama. You got this.

Whenever you’re ready, there are three great ways to take your work on your career and your brain deeper.

  1. Sign up for one of my 6-week programs that will take you from overwhelm to happiness.
  2. Sign up for a 12-week program that not only provides you with the tools to improve your happiness but more concrete tools to transform your legal practice.
  3. Sign up for free coaching consultation.

Learn more here.

Mansplaining

Mansplaining is a pejorative term meaning “to comment on or explain something to a woman in a condescending, overconfident, and often inaccurate or oversimplified manner.” Author Rebecca Solnit ascribes the phenomenon to a combination of “overconfidence and cluelessness”. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

We’ve all had those moments of incredulity “are you seriously explaining this to me? Do you really think I’m that stupid?!

Man-splaining. Oh how I love that word. For so many women, that word alone causes immediate eye-rolls and increased blood pressure. Our minds begin to spin with examples of circumstances when some clueless human of the opposite sex robbed 10 minutes from our lives to explain to us something that we were already fully educated on or something that 99% of the population fully understands but for some reason they have concluded that we are deserving of mental training wheels. It is infuriating. I’ve been there.

When mansplaining meets your workplace and furthermore, a workplace predominantly staffed by men, mansplaining takes on a whole different personality and meaning for all parties.

The problem with mansplaining is that our knee jerk reaction is to make it mean something negative about ourselves.

He clearly thinks I’m an idiot.

Wow, does he really think I don’t know how to do this?

He can’t possibly believe I’ve never given a presentation, right?!

In reality, mansplaining has more to do with implicit bias and assumptions about each other than it has to do with your intelligence level.

Rather than allowing these thoughts to brew and ignite female indignation and fury, a better solution is to approach those experiences with curiosity and genuine interest in the relationship. You cannot combat mansplaining or implicit bias from a place of wrath. Believe me, I’ve tried. In this day and age, everyone is interested and invested in being better, more accepting, and aware of their blindspots.

First things first. You have to develop an awareness of what you are making it mean you get mansplained.

Are you making it mean that they think you are dumb? That you aren’t good at your job? That you don’t measure up?

This step is critical because if you interpret mansplaining to mean that the other person thinks you are incompetent, my guess is that thought is going to create feminine fury. That level of emotion is not going to compel you toward any productive actions, I promise you. I’ve tried that too. Entertaining for bystanders? Yes. Good for your career? No.

Once you understand what you are making it mean, you can shift into a more curious state:

  • Why do you think this person is doing this? Are they invested in your knowledge and success? Are they even aware that they are doing it?
  • Is it possible that this person does have some additional kernel of wisdom that you don’t have? If you breathe and listen to the ‘splaining, is it possible to glean something of value?
  • Is it possible that this is based upon some implicit bias? Would it be helpful to you and the relationship to talk about it?

These thoughts are going to put you into a much calmer, more open and curious state. From there, you can take authentic action to explore the relationship and understand the situation. From that space, you might consider treating this as an opportunity for a courageous conversation and asking:

Did I give the impression that I didn’t know how to do XYZ or didn’t understand ABC? I just want to understand because when you explain things like this, I can’t help but think that you are unsure of my knowledge and capability and I want you to be confident in my skills.

Ask SINCERELY! Allow them a moment to think about it and consider why they are third-grade leveling this for you. The purpose of asking questions and being curious is to truly understand why they are doing what they are doing. It allows you to truly understand them and move away from fuming that they must think you’re an idiot.

Plain question and plain answer make the shortest road out of most perplexities. 

Mark Twain

As women on these islands in the professional world, we have to find our voice. We have to stop being afraid of what others will think of us if we are honest with them. If we ask honest questions and seek honest answers. That fear is why these behaviors continue. You cannot create awareness of bias or disconnection by remaining silent and waiting for them to become enlightened.

You may never “fix” the manplainer in your office. You can, however, gain some clarity and understanding of their motives. Because thinking “wow, they must think I’m an idiot” isn’t serving either of you.

Get more support managing your thoughts and conducting difficult conversations here. Become part of the movement to improve male-dominated workplaces. Don’t be another statistic; proof that women can’t hack it.

Negativity Bias

If you hadn’t noticed lately, people’s brains are marinating in the negative. Everyone seems to want to spend their energy sifting through the negative possibilities of the coronavirus.

The markets will never recover

I could lose my job

I will never be able to retire

Thousands of people are going to die
We haven’t seen the worst of it yet

We are swimming in it. (Drowning in it might be a more apt description.) There is something magnetic about the negative news these days. Why is it that so many of us are drawn to it?

As with all things, I consulted, the Google box on this one:

Negativity bias” also known as the negativity effect, is the notion that, even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature (e.g. unpleasant thoughts, emotions, or social interactions; harmful/traumatic events) have a greater effect on one’s psychological state and processes than neutral or positive things.

When I think about our tendency to focus on the negative while giving lesser weight to equally significant positive data points, I can’t help but think about our motivational triad.

Our brains are designed to keep us alive. Historically, that meant one of three things: seek pleasure, avoid pain, expend the least amount of effort (be efficient!). What does that have to do with COVID and news-binging?

News-binging and catastrophizing fall into the category of avoiding pain (i.e., keeping us safe). Our brain believes that this information is keeping us safe. When we read about the latest coronavirus catastrophe, our brain is stimulated, our nervous system is excited. Our brain reacts more strongly and pays more attention to this stimuli. Why? Because our brains are wired to keep us safe; to avoid danger. Hence, negativity bias.

Ever noticed that when you read bad news you get this frenzied little buzz going on? You feel stimulated, compelled to consume more. Gather more data. Understand the situation better. Learn how to protect yourself better.

Why did that happen?

What would I do differently?

Am I similarly at risk?

We are biologically wired to scan the horizon for signs of crouching tigers. We are programmed to look for danger so that we can avoid it. Stay safe.

Our brains are looking at the news this same way. It is providing data that we need to understand to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.

Does that mean it’s the best decision for you?

That’s for you to decide.

Is the amount of news you are consuming helping you?

How is it impacting you?

How is it negatively impacting you?

When you find yourself bogged down in negativity bias, I recommend that you acknowledge your biological efforts to keep yourself safe. I also recommend examining the positive inputs you might be overlooking.

Give both the positive and the negative equal air time.

Feel free to examine that worst case scenario swirling around your brain BUT also consider the best possible outcome. Aren’t they both equally possible? We don’t know what is going to happen or what these next few months will bring. What we do know is that our brains tend to focus on the worst possible outcome. Given that, shouldn’t we also give equal attention and energy to the best possible outcome?

If you are able to examine both the best possible outcome as well as the worst possible outcome and accept that reality will likely end somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, you can approach the days and your life with more perspective.

If you can come to terms with both the worst possible outcome and the best possible outcome, you will be able to accept anything in between those two. You will be mentally and emotionally equipped to deal with the most likely outcome, somewhere in the middle.

Help your brain identify the balance of possibilities that it is overlooking. Help yourself find some balance between reality and the full range of possible outcomes. Recognize your natural tendency toward the negative.

For more support finding balance during times of chaos, schedule a free consultation. I am helping my clients find more peace and balance despite the world’s current uncertainties. I am helping my clients move forward despite the fear. Sign up and get your life back on track.

Frazzled (the worst F-word)

My early years as an attorney at a corporate law firm, can be summed up in one word: frazzled.  The panic that set in when you saw an email at 5:59pm on a Friday from that one partner that always had a way of destroying your weekend plans. Or that feeling you got when you were at lunch with your parents who were in town visiting for one day and you got a call on your cell phone from the office. And my very favorite, when you were in the middle of putting out one enormous fire and you got an email from a more important partner who wanted you to draft a new document within the next hour. Ugh. That feeling of sheer panic is the stuff nightmares are made of!

There is no downplaying the pressure and the stress that comes with practicing law. Learning to answer to many masters and prioritize important projects is a skill and it comes with practice.

One of the things I teach my clients is how to juggle the load and strategize so that when all hell breaks lose, which it will, you can better anticipate it and adjust accordingly. So often, many of us in legal practice simply put our heads down and let the blows keep coming. We don’t take the time to examine what is on our plate because that would suggest that (i) there is time to do this soul-searching and (ii) there are options that don’t involve just doing the work.

Many times I found myself or young associates failing to take appropriate inventory of their projects and workloads and, by the time they realized they were overextended, the only option was to pull an all-nighter or do sub-par work. And, let’s be honest, overnighters only yield subpar work so there truly is only one option (and that option will cost you).

This behavior is usually driven by our belief that there is no other choice than simply doing the work. What I would like to suggest is that there are limits to your ability to produce and if you fail to recognize and address those limits appropriately, your career will suffer.

The first step to this process is simply getting organized. Schedule time once a week (I use Friday mornings) to go through your projects list, update your projects list and prepare a list of all other “to do” items floating around your head and taking up mental space. Write. Down. Everything. This includes: calling the plumber, updating your address with the bar association, ordering groceries, cooking dinner, packing for a work trip, meal prepping, going to the gym. Everything. Write it all down. I also use this time to plan my meals for the following week.

(Side note: An easy way to coordinate your meals for the upcoming week is to create a private Pinterest board where you can save recipes solely for the upcoming week. I have a private board entitled “This Week” where I save recipes I plan to cook in a given week. Then, when my Friday morning planning session comes around, I pull up the board and order the groceries for those meals, schedule my grocery delivery, and decide which nights I will cook which meals. Life. Changing. Added bonus: if you have kids, this will allow you to vet recipes with them and get their buy-in for your upcoming meals — kids like food pictures too!)

Once you have this list, prioritize it. This doesn’t need to be an overly formal process, you just need to know what items need to be addressed immediately and which ones can wait until you are standing in line at the grocery store. Be ruthless in this evaluation. Not everything can be a priority — that is the thinking that gets you into the all-nighter conundrum!

Now that all of the things causing momentary panic in your brain are down on paper, put them on your calendar. Schedule everything. Give yourself plenty of time for each item on your list and do not forget to schedule “free time” as well as time to eat, rest, and breathe.

When it comes to work projects, be sure to schedule prep time in anticipation of any upcoming meetings and schedule blocks of “reserved” time where possible to account for shifts in priorities or unforeseen projects. This is about giving yourself the space to ensure that you are able to show up as your best, every time. You don’t have to be faced with the choice of turning in subpar work because of your poor planning. You are better than that.

Then the best part: throw the damn list away. Burn it. Whatever floats your boat. Just get rid of it and breathe in the knowledge that you have all of those little nagging thoughts addressed and scheduled. Your brain is clear.

This tactic is not going to protect you from those chaotic, unpredictable moments that are simply a part of life but what it is going to do is provide you with a much better understanding of your capacity at any given moment. It will allow you to properly forecast how you can (or cannot) handle the new project that lands in your inbox in shouty CAPS! The goal here is to free up your brain to allow you to forecast where your energy is going and determine when priorities truly conflict.

When you get all those BS “to dos” out of your head, you will be much less likely to get frazzled. When you have allocated time for all of the things on your to do list, it is much more difficult for your brain to pile on and get sucked into the blackhole of “when am I going to have time to do that, I still have to finish that project for client Y, and I haven’t done laundry for a week, and I still need to get a birthday card for my mom, and oh my gosh, I don’t have any freaking groceries! what am I going to eat this week?!” The spiral is a waste of your mental energy and a distraction.

This approach will take some practice but if you can get into the habit of truly examining what’s going on in your life, finding time for all of those things, and committing to stick to your plans, this alone can transform your stress level.

Practicing law is difficult and sometimes you will have to reorganize your carefully laid plans or have some challenging discussions about competing priorities. It happens. Success is about learning to honor yourself and your abilities and not expecting yourself to tackle every single thing that comes your way. There are limits to your ability to handle it all. Getting organized is the first step to recognizing those limits.

Clean up your brain and throw away your to do lists, I dare you.

Angry Little Elves

Our country is in a crisis, schools are closed, jobs are influx, and the future is uncertain.

So how are people responding?

Angry FB posts, ranting all over social media, caustic reviews of their neighbors and friends.

People are pissed.

Pissed at each other, pissed at their government, their employer, their children, the grocery store, the gym…

They are angry at how people are responding the pandemic. People seem convinced that they know how others should be acting during this time. How the government should be responding. How employers should be reacting, etc. When people/governments/employers don’t follow their expectations, they are losing their FREAKING MINDS.

Many people don’t see it this way. They truly believe that they know the best response. That they know how people “should” be acting and anyone who deviates from that is acting like an “idiot.”

People are feeling indignant and self righteous about their approach to this crisis. They have it right and anyone who acts differently is just a bunch of idiots.

The reality is that humans get to act any way that they want.

We have to share this planet with all the humans and they get to do what they want. Spending energy trying to control them is futile.

No one likes to be controlled or told how to live their life. YOU, dear reader, do not like to be controlled or told how to live. What makes you think you get to tell others how to live? What makes you think that they should listen to you?

Free will is a beautiful thing.

As humans, we don’t get to enjoy free will but then criticize others for using their free will in a way that we don’t understand or agree with. That is the whole point. They get to do what they want. Period. That includes how they want to act during a time of crisis.

Besides, what’s the upside? How is that FB rant panning out for you? How do you feel about that scathing post you just dropped into the blog-o-sphere? Is that bringing you happiness?

I’m not telling you not to send that nasty post or message but what I want you to consider is — Why are you doing it? What’s it getting you? What’s it costing you? Could you use that energy in a more productive manner?

At the end of the day, we cannot control the humans. The only thing you can control is how you choose to think about this crisis and how you want to respond.

We don’t know what is going to happen.

You don’t know for certain that your approach is the “right” or “best” approach.  There is no way that any of us can know with absolute certainty what is going to happen. We have to stop acting like we DO know. We DON’T know and that’s okay.

Decide how you want to think and how you want to respond and let everyone else make their own decision.

You can spend this crisis being indignant and angry and lashing out or you can use this crisis to show up as your best self. How are you going to want to look back on this time? How do you really want to spend your energy? The choice is, after all, yours and yours alone.

Need help coping or dealing with this new normal? I get it. Now, more than ever, my clients are looking for support. They want to know how to keep moving forward despite the fears and anxiety. If you need help to manage your stress and buoy yourself during the chaos, schedule a free consultation today.

Dealing with Chaos

To say that life is significantly different today than it was last month is an understatement.

Last month, most of our children were in school. We were at work…in an office…wearing grown-up clothes…with other humans. We didn’t second-guess our toilet paper usage. We planned vacations. We didn’t obsessively track the stock market.

Life has dramatically changed for all of us.

People are scared and feeling lost.

Binging on Netflix

Drinking too much wine

Avoiding work

Ignoring your diet

Skipping workouts

Eating all the ice cream in the house

Any of these sound familiar?

We are struggling. We are gaining weight, we are ignoring our best laid plans, we are skipping workouts, overeating, overdrinking and feeling blah.

Lately, my clients have been coming to me and they want help to stop these behaviors. They want to work on getting focused and motivated. They are pissed at themselves for “falling apart…falling off the wagon…letting themselves go” they are irritated that they aren’t sticking to their plans, that they are unwinding everything they had been working for, why can’t they get it together, GDI!?

As a coach, my job is not to help you learn how to control yourself. My job is to help you understand yourself.

When you are busy beating yourself up and trying to force yourself or guilt yourself to change or stop eating all the things, you are ignoring the dis-ease. You are focusing on the symptom.

In order to truly stop these behaviors, you have to stop berating yourself and look at what is really going on!

Are you avoiding work because you are afraid you are going to lose your job so your work today won’t matter?

Are you drinking that bottle of wine because it feels good and you’re scared about what will happen to your aging parents?

Maybe you are skipping your workouts because you just don’t care how you will look in a bathing suit during quarantine? It’s not like you will be going on vacation anytime soon!!

Are you binging on Netflix because it allows you to escape the news and ignore what’s going on outside?

Would you yell at your best friend for diving into a box of Oreos after a horrible breakup? Of course not! You would empathize with her. You would love her. You would understand why she was feeling terrible. You would be compassionate about her efforts to self-soothe. The last thing you would do is tell her she needs to stop it immediately and explain to her how she was ruining her diet and needs to get it together.

Extend that same compassion to yourself.

Life is getting real right now and it’s kinda scary.

Instead of getting angry at yourself because you are not acting like you are “supposed to”, explore what is really going on. What are you thinking when you turn off the work computer and zone out on Netflix? What is going through your head when you decide to bake that cake?–for yourself, of course.

We are all experiencing some pretty ugly thoughts these days.

What if my parents get sick and I can’t be there with them?

What if we have to quarantine for several more months?

What if we run out of diapers?

What if I get sick?

What if I die?

What if I lose my job?

You have every right to be afraid and upset and worried. Stop beating yourself up for trying to feel better. Stop being such a harsh critic.

It’s okay to be scared and it’s okay to worry about what our future holds. It’s okay that you are grasping at straws to self-soothe. That is human nature.

Life is meant to be 50/50. We are living in the 50% that sucks. Pure and simple. Stop trying to talk yourself out of feeling those rotten feelings. You are a human. That is part of the deal.

Recognize that you are struggling and have some compassion for yourself.

Once you can see how your actions are merely attempts to make yourself feel better and to buffer the discomfort, you can start considering how to shift out of those thoughts and create a new result for yourself.

You can start recognizing when you are feeling freaked out and seeing how your biological reaction is to seek pleasure and soothe yourself. Once you see that, you can start looking for other outlets for those emotions. You can’t do that when you are busy telling yourself you are a terrible person for eating all the Doritos!

The bottom line is that beating yourself up for acting out during times of grief and panic is counter-productive. Have some compassion for yourself. Just as you would do with your friend: let yourself have a good cry, a good ice cream binge, a night on the couch. Recognize the feelings driving those actions, then gently work with yourself to find a healthier outlet for those emotions.

The goal is not to find a solution to erase those feelings. The goal is to recognize that those feelings are PART OF LIFE. They are okay. And it is okay to experience them. They won’t kill you.

You can keep moving forward while feeling all the feels. That is how life works.

See the emotions fueling your destructive behaviors. Acknowledge them. Experience them. Learn to make better choices, despite the feels. Carry those worries with you but keep. moving. forward. consciously.

Now more than ever, people need support. Email me if you need a free session, I would love to help you move through this chaos.