Mental health is just as important as physical fitness. There are two sides to mental health, and both are equally important: what weighs heavily on your mind and what puts wind in your sails.

Many of us share common mental stressors – time, money, work, emotions, and relationships. Ironically it can be too little or too much of each of these that causes stress. While we are never going to eliminate stress, we can address what do we do to manage it and its affect on our health.

As many humans as exist in the world, there exists as many combinations of answers to mental health concerns. For most diagnosis, medication and talk therapy has been proven to be the best practice. I am not trained as a mental health professional in any way. The information provided here is simply to be a resource for conversations about what has worked to help manage the stressors above to bring joy and lightness to my life and to hear what works for other. To make the daily grind something not just palatable, but something we can look forward too. Some of these ideas might be meditation, learning, or hobbies.

Good Enough

The phrase “good enough” was playing through my mind recently as I was thinking about what happened this year in the garden and started planning for next spring. 

The weeds runneth over. No plants provided veggies, flowers, or fruit that did not get consumed by deer, rabbits, or other creatures before harvest. But I did enjoy the puttering around I did this season. It was good enough. And this reminds me of this quote by Thomas Fuller:

“A good garden may have some weeds.”

Thomas Fuller

I wonder if there are wider implications this could have for all areas of life.

Wider Implications

Are there things in your life that are good enough? Functional – but have a few things wrong with it?

  • Are you healthy and fit, but perhaps softer in spots that you would like? 
  • Maybe for all intents and purposes your house is organized and decluttered, but you do have that 1 drawer in each bathroom. 

Don’t trip over a dollar trying to get to a nickel. Enjoy that 80% of your world is fundamentally sound. Let the rest fall by the wayside or use them for a different lesson or purpose. For example, I repurpose cardboard trash to cover weeds, then top with rotting leaves from somewhere else in the garden. The end result is making the garden more beautiful. Today it isn’t beautiful, but it is good enough.

Can your mess be your message? Inviting a child to sort through the junk drawer with you can be a lesson in decluttering – why it is important and how to actually do it. Or the lesson might be about your relationship. They might see you as perfect so this exercise could be a revelation to them that you have random junk that you can’t decide on. What if you sharing an area of your life that is good enough opens doors to more authentic connections?

Sustainable You Questions

  1. What area of life or task feels like a drag for you? How could you define what “good enough” would be?
  2. What is your resistance to embracing the concept of “good enough?”
By |2022-12-13T19:31:18-05:00December 20th, 2022|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Managing External Expectations

Fun fact – Internal and External Expectations was supposed to be one post. But it got really long and I could not figure out what exactly to say about managing external expectations by my deadline to get the weekly essay posted so here we are with Managing External Expectations, Part 2. Use this link to check out the first installment, Managing Internal Expectations.

Clearly I am talking to myself mostly as I try to figure this out. You are getting a front row seat to me trying to figure this out. It might not be pretty.

Giphy comes through again.

Sure I want to just not deal with people, but that is not practical or healthy. Healthy relationships are a component of the Mental Well-being dimension of Sustainable Productivity. Living with loneliness has a greater negative impact to health than living with air pollution, obesity, and excessive drinking (Holt-Lunstad, et al, 2010). 

So here we are needing to learn about managing expectations. The ideal way to do this is to talk about it before whatever the “it” is happens. 

But did you catch the first part? The IDEAL way. This is great when I am spiritually fit and able to communicate this way. The REAL way this happens is a little more chaotic and I usually end up having to clean up a mess after the fact. Yep, more of that Ideal and Real, but this time we are considering the other party that we are interacting with. As wonderful as my husband is, he is not Ideal. He is a quirky, faulted human being that I love dearly. And my kids have undeveloped frontal lobes – its not their fault either. 

That is a roundabout way to saying that shit gets messy sometimes at the homestead. Let me share a simple tool that is currently working for me when it comes to managing external expectations.

The Magic Words

Ok, not those magic words. But something that is working for me right now is to start a tough-for-me conversation with this phrase:

“The story I am telling myself…”

This lightens the tone and avoids any accusation. Here are a few examples:

  • “Here is the story I am telling myself about you handing me my Christmas present still in the Target bag: I am a last minute thought for you since you don’t care enough to wrap the gift – or even stick it in a gift bag.”
  • “Do you have a second for me to share the story I am telling myself about you not emptying the dishwasher? I tell myself that when you know I want it done and you don’t do it, you are disrespecting my authority as a parent and you don’t care about contributing to the house.”

In the context of this discussion about managing expectations, let’s be clear that in both of these situations, exactly zero expectations were shared. I did not tell Bixby that I would like my presents wrapped. He does not care about receiving his gifts wrapped and does not know how to wrap presents. And about that dishwasher – no teenager is looking for chores to do around the house or even thinking that the dishwasher might have a deeper meaning.

But having a common language of, “the story I am telling myself” allows for a Sustainably Productive conversation. It is productive because it does not start with accusations and “aways / never” statements. I am talking about the next layer – what it means to me. It is sustainable because I can continue it lifelong. I feel safe enough to do it over and over – it is based on a loving interaction.

I hope this offers you a tool to use in your relationships. Let me know either way if you try it or if you take a moment to answer the Sustainable You questions that follow.

Sustainable You Questions

  1. After an honest, authentic assessment, do you think you are managing external expectations well?
  2. What would it feel like to user the opener, “The story I am telling myself is…”?

I wonder if this essay would be a good opener for a discussion with your loved one about managing external expectations. If this weekly essay resonated with you, please share it with a friend. I am trying to grow Sustainable Sue and spread the ideas of Sustainable Productivity. The best way to do that is for you to share with someone you know. I am ever grateful.

By |2022-12-06T09:12:16-05:00December 13th, 2022|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Managing Expectations

Managing expectations is a topic I can’t stop thinking about or talking about since we recorded episode 41 of the Conscious Contact podcast a few weeks ago. I had a few more thoughts about it after recording that I wanted to share here. You can listen to the episode at this link.

The reason that managing expectations is so important is that unvoiced expectations are premeditated resentments. This leads to anger and all sorts of damage to relationships. Important in the Sustainable Sue framework – unvoiced expectations do not meet the criteria of Sustainable Productivity. 

Is this Productive – are you getting the result you want?

Is this Sustainable – can you maintain this lifelong if you choose?

Let’s look at managing expectations with ourselves and each other a little closer. 

Internal Expectations

These are the expectations we have of ourselves. This could appear in unlimited ways depending on where we are in life and how spiritually fit we are that day. Here is a sneak peek into some of my unrealistic internal expectations.

  • I can still play full court 5 on 5 basketball.
  • I should be able to “do it all”.
  • A good mother would have her children at the extended family Thanksgiving.
  • If I was a better project manager I could get people to complete their tasks on time.
  • The pants will fit.
  • Real authors would have finished the book proposal by now.
  • Adult women know how to put an outfit together / put on make up / do their hair (ponytails don’t count).

You can see my brain is a busy place. Not necessarily a friendly place. The origins of these expectations is a topic for another day because today we are talking about managing expectations. What to do when these internal expectations pop up. 

While I am not an expert by any stretch, I would like to share what sometimes works for me – it is a work in progress for sure. I call this real me vs ideal me.

Real Me vs. Ideal Me

Here is a simple tool that I use when I recognize an internal expectation is rearing its head.  I simply ask myself which Sue would this apply to – Real Me or Ideal Me. While it is good to have a self to strive for, when it becomes inflated into something that is unrealistic, it can become detrimental and toxic to your mental health. 

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

Arthur Ashe

A way to consider this that is more Sustainably Productive is to make small adjustments to get where you want to be instead of expecting you to be there now. An example might provide some clarity here. Luckily we have a long list of unrealistic internal expectations already drafted. 

Ideal me would already have a completed book proposal. Welp, I don’t. If I just sit in this “failure” and grieve the missing book proposal that still gets approximately zero words down. That unrealistic internal expectation of being “ideal” is not working and is not sustainable. This is where I sat for about a decade. It is really sucky. 

Then I started to make small, sustainable adjustments to write these weekly messages, then started time blocking an hour each week to focus solely on book proposal writing. That is not always a pretty hour. Sometimes each word is hard earned. But the commitment is to dedicate the hour to that project. I don’t have to write, but I can’t do anything else. So I end up writing. 

This can apply to every component to Sustainable Productivity. 

  1. Ideal me would have a clutter free house. 
    • Adjustment: Real me spends 15 minutes every Saturday and Sunday morning sorting a purging something (a drawer, a shelf, a pile on the counter)
  2. Ideal me would stay off social media.
    • Adjustment: Real me sets a timer to read a book for 10 minutes, then to scroll social media for for 10 minutes. You get the best of both and maybe you start to shift the balance away from social media. Or not!

For me managing internal expectations comes easier than managing external expectations. It might be the fact I am an Upholder (see Gretchen Rubin’s 4 Tendencies Framework). But I don’t live the life of a hermit (yet) so I am learning to manage external expectations. 

I will share a little more about that next time in Part 2 of Managing Expectations!

By |2022-12-06T08:42:40-05:00December 6th, 2022|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Purpose of Hobbies

Sometimes the purpose of hobbies is not the actual project. As fall 2022 hands off to the season of ALL HOLIDAY ALL THE TIME, I wanted to share a hobbies round up. As I started to write up the recap, I realized I was talking about more than the hobbies. I was talking about the purpose of the hobbies.

For those of you new here – or a refresher for Sustainable Productivity veterans – hobbies are a component of the Mental Well-being dimension of Sustainable Productivity. If you never unplug, your mental, physical, and emotional batteries drain until you don’t have energy to give yourself and your people. 

Hobbies help us recharge. You can read more about hobbies and Sustainable Productivity here and here

Side note: One of my favorite hobbies is reading. Today’s round up does not touch on reading. To see more about what I am reading you can go here and here

In order to help keep myself accountable, I share regularly about what I have in progress. Hobbies are not just something to pass the time. They each have a purpose or lesson or maybe even job to do for me. During this literal and proverbial season in my life, hobbies fall into a few categories that I wanted to share with you. Maybe you have not related to the hobby itself, but you can relate to what I am getting from the hobbies.

Solace

“Art is to console those who are broken by life.” Vincent Van Gogh 

I am a card carrying member of the sandwich generation. We parent two young adults, and although my dad is 700 miles away, I am involved almost daily in his life as his health is declining. This is a hard spot to be in. I see mistakes I made with my own kids – wishing it could be different and trying to accept what is. I see my dad not being the robust, sharp man he used to be – wishing it could be different and trying to accept what is. 

It is enough to break me some days. But art gives me solace. This particular project I’m working on now uses my dad’s old ties. When we cleared out his closet prepping for a big move last year, I pulled them out of the donations box when he wasn’t looking. This was a purely sentimental, selfish move. And I am not sorry about it. I am creating Christmas gifts for the girls in our family from his ties and will have plenty left over for a quilt project in the coming years. 

Immersing myself in the art of this hobby is a way to wrap myself in whatever feelings I have. Acknowledge them, feel them, sometimes process them. But sometimes I want to do the opposite and ignore them. Which is where the next purpose of hobbies comes in.

Learning

Learning a new technique, hobby, or skill requires me to pay attention to what I am doing. No multitasking with Netflix or audiobooks. I can’t field text conversations about Medicare donut holes while I am in a class with other hobbyists. 

This is what I love about learning – a reprieve. Also a chance to fire up a different part of my brain. Here is a photo of a pillow top that I recently made in a class at my local quilt shop. There were dozens of small pieces that came together to make the pillow top – easy to mix up. The pattern was complex – a show stopper to mix up all those small pieces. Plus I learned to make a pillow or to recover the pillows I already have or find in a shop that might need a new life. 

The benefit of learning through a hobby is a super focused distraction. But sometimes I don’t want to be focused or emotional. I just want an escape from the daily grind. Which is the third purpose of hobbies. 

Escapism

Sometimes I just want to check out and follow instructions for a hobby or just connect with others about the common interest we have.

This summer Bixby, Daughter and I attended a glass blowing demo where the artist led us through how to do it ourselves. I was not learning it, just doing what George Anne told me to do. The result was beautiful hummingbird feeders. 

I have returned to making sweet potato bread more weekends than not. Now that I have the pan and oven situation sorted, it is back to being a fun hobby. I am following the instructions, puttering around the kitchen – often while Bixby is making dinner, and connecting with what I eat (vs. opening a package).

As I write this I am seeing that all three of these categories are feeding into a fourth purpose of hobbies that might potentially be the most important.

Connection

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Plato

Connection with others is an untended purpose of hobbies for me. I love to anyone who will listen how much I don’t need other people.

And yet.

Authentic connection with others is what helps me – and I would suggest all of us – create a life that we don’t want to numb out and escape from. 

If we look at the first three categories of purpose of hobbies – solace, learning, escapism – there is a thread of connection. 

  • Solace – I am feeling my feelings about my kids and dad. Connection comes through art projects for the kids from my dad’s ties.
  • Learning – Connecting with others who share my interests.
  • Escapism – Sure sometimes I might make the bread alone in the kitchen. But what makes a stronger impression is when I share the space with Bixby or have a recipient in mind for the bread. 

Sustainable You Questions

  1. What hobbies do you keep coming back to time and again?
  2. Look beyond the surface – what are you getting out of these hobbies? What is the purpose of the hobbies?
  3. How can you increase or extend this in other areas of your life?

      If this weekly essay resonated with you, please share it with a friend. I am trying to grow Sustainable Sue and spread the ideas of Sustainable Productivity. The best way to do that is for you to share with someone you know. I am ever grateful.

      By |2022-11-08T10:07:19-05:00November 15th, 2022|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

      Nature Break

      When pro cyclists have to pee they call, “Nature Break!” and the whole peloton pulls over to wiz in a field.

      This is not that type of Nature Break.

      Source: Giphy.com (where else?!)

      This Nature Break is a pause in your day sponsored by Mother Nature. And Cheryl Strayed’s mom.

      Here is the wisdom that Cheryl Strayed’s mom shared with her:

      Every day put yourself in the way of beauty.

      Bobbi Lambrecht

      Here is a collection of beauty for your Nature Break today:

      Lake Brandt, Greensboro NC
      Imagine how pretty we appear to others when we are transitioning too.
      Is it just me or does it seem like there are a zillion more acorns this year? One bounced off my helmet while I was riding my bike and it sounded like I was being shot at.

      I will close this Nature Break with these wise words from Aristotle, not quite as wise at Cheryl’s mom, but close:

      In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.

      Aristotle
      By |2022-10-16T07:53:50-04:00October 20th, 2022|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

      Guilty Pleasures

      On podcast episode #33, my cohost and I talked about about guilty pleasures. While you can find out mine here, today I want to talk about the joy and fun that can come from these guilty pleasures.

      I was So Damn Serious for a LONG TIME. And when I was unserious, I was worried about how I looked, who saw me, and what they thought. Or I felt left out because no one was planning fun for me.

      Now as I am breathing down the neck of 50 years old, I am finding joy in things and not giving any damns about what the world thinks of them. Further, I am planning my own joy and fun because I know what that means to me. I have no guilt in my pleasure.

      You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.

      Mary Oliver

      Of course we want to keep it in the bounds of what is legal, but in general, don’t yuck on someone else’s yum. If you don’t like that food, book, TV show, concert, or whatever – let that activity go and find your own guilty pleasure.

      Try new things. You won’t know it brings you joy until you try. Canadian-American singer-songwriter Buffy Saint- Marie says it best:

      You have to sniff out joy. Keep your nose to the joy trail.”

      Sustainable You Questions

      1 – Do you have any guilty pleasures?

      2 – If no, why not? If yes, how can you get more of that in your life?

      By |2022-10-05T17:02:54-04:00October 13th, 2022|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

      The Ugly Truth About the Drama Triangle

      The Drama Triangle is like my Bermuda Triangle. I always say I want peace, but the second I get it I am back to stirring the pot. I get sucked in never to return.

      This is an ugly truth that bubbled up as I was prepping to record for the Drama episode of the Conscious Contact podcast, and I have been thinking about it a lot in the weeks since then.

      Instead of just enjoying a nice dinner, I had to find that one thing that one person said and be crabby about it. 

      I can’t just sit still – I have to start a project. 

      The Drama Triangle

      I think (and this has been validated after thousands of dollars of therapy) that this stems from some dysfunction as I was growing up. Research calls this the Drama Triangle. There is a victim, a persecutor and a rescuer in each corner making up this triangle. 

      I am a rescuer through and through. I grew up feeling like I needed to be the glue keeping shit together. Even today I make my living in my day job as a project manager. I am a fixer. 

      Wanna ask me how that’s working? 

      Another gem from giphy

      When you are a hammer everything is a nail. Someone has a problem, I can swoop in and rescue them. I insert myself into the drama and the Drama Triangle forms. Then wonder why I am damn tired. 

      The Lesson

      As a card carrying member of the sandwich generation I find myself wanting to fix my kids’ problems and my dad’s problems. My husband’s problems and my dog’s problems. Which is only half of the problem. Because while I am worrying over everyone else’s stuff, I am not taking care of my own problems. Here are some ways this may present itself, maybe you can relate:

      • I don’t have to address my unhealthy eating habits if I focus on what you are buying at the grocery store.
      • While I nag you about quitting smoking, I can ignore my addiction to my phone and being busy. 
      • I feel less than when I only ride my bike an hour a day (vs. what Young Susan did) so I focus on how little you are exercising. 
      • When I am not doing the things I know I should do (whether it is writing every day, getting the report done at work, or returning my library books on time), I am going to avoid feeling badly by pointing out what you are not doing.

      Yeah, it feels really gross. It makes me feel anxious. Whoever I am directing my worry at probably feels picked on or worse. 

      I am working on it, though. And when I am on the right track with the mental and emotional work the Universe drops bread crumbs in my path. These bread crumbs tell me I am on the path that I am supposed to be on. The episode on drama leading to my reading up on the Drama Triangle was one of those bread crumbs.

      Then my Higher Power dropped another.

      The Teacher

      As I was working on some things to launch the Conscious Contact Book Club, I came across this quote by Thich Naht Hahn (the author of the book club pick):

      Wow, what a bread crumb. Sort of like the whole ciabatta knocking me upside the head. This was particularly helpful for me because I have a hard time with the advice to just stop something. Stopping something creates a vacuum  that needs to be filled. How do I stop my negative thinking that manifests into the Drama Triangle?

      Mind calming exercise is something that I can fill the void with. 

      The Learning

      Here is how this has played out in recent weeks since coming across this message. I notice myself wanting to get all up in someone else’s business, offering advice and shoulds. Instead of saying the first thing that pops in my head, I pause before talking. I take a deep breath in that pause giving a second of silence.

      Which makes for awkward moments at times – people are not used to a beat of silence. But an interesting thing happens in that silence. Sometimes my kid will come up a solution to the problem. At work others will volunteer to take something on. 

      Of course this is not a perfect solution. I also have been extending my mindfulness meditation in the morning as part of my routine. There have been days when I need to step away from the conversation and do it again in the afternoon when I want to step into the Drama Triangle again.

      There are times when I am so agitated at not inserting myself into the drama I cannot sit still. This is where walking meditation comes in. A slow walk around the garden or taking Lucille to the marina with no headphones for distraction. Just nature and a super happy dog. The pause, the mindful meditation, and the time in nature create the openness to move away from the drama. 

      Sustainable You Questions

      1 – When do you find yourself part of the Drama Triangle? Are you the victim, the persecutor or the rescuer?

      2 – How does this play out in your daily life? Is this working for you and can you continue it lifelong (i.e., is this Sustainably Productive)?

      3 – If this is not Sustainably Productive, what 3 activities could you try to put in the pause between the drama and your response?

      If you like what you read, you might like what you hear. Subscribe to the Conscious Contact podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts. 

      By |2022-10-05T16:35:39-04:00October 11th, 2022|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

      Seasonal Transition – Fall 2022

      Whether you call is the start of quarter 4, the autumnal equinox, or back to school, we are smack in the middle of a seasonal transition. I want to share what that looks like for me as I hope it will inspire you to think differently about planning.

      Goodbye Summer

      Seasonal transitions are not just about planning for what is coming up. It is putting an end cap on what just happened. For me this means practical things like cleaning out the pool bag I used all summer and Sustainable Productivity things like reviewing the quarter 3 habit tracker.

      Take note of the sandwich bags of varying sizes. One for my iPad, one for my Kindle, one for a paperback book, and one for phone. I am ready to read ANYTHING at the pool – especially with those easy reader sunglasses in the middle. Not pictured: Bixby’s goggles that I stole to have as backup. I put them back before he noticed.

      I would like to say I put some kind of ceremony around it or do something special, but I don’t. That would just be one more hurdle to getting it done. But if that brings you joy, please consider doing it. I know some people who love a trip to the coffee shop alone to do their habit check in. Or others who buy a new pool bag each year. They fine significant closure to throwing this year’s pool bag in the trash after thanking it for its service.

      Find what works for you do the wrap up portion of the seasonal transition before looking ahead.

      Hello Fall

      Looking ahead in seasonal transitions seems more intuitive for most people. You may set quarterly goals or draft a list of fun things to do in the coming months. The biggest impact for me going from summer to fall is the change in weather. It was 48 degrees when I walked the dog this morning and I am still freezing. So part of our seasonal transition is getting the fire place ready to use and digging out the space heater for my office. I try to put this off as long as I can, but I think I have hit my limit.

      One new thing I am doing for the 2022 seasonal transition is to make a fall fun list. This feels very out of character for me as I rarely whimsical. I am not the family fun planner. But now that I am 48 perhaps I don’t need to be a curmudgeon anymore!

      I have no idea what to put on this list, but by putting it out into the world, I am inviting accountability to this new add to my seasonal transition checklist.

      Your Turn

      Help a sister out and let me know what is on your fall fun list!

      By |2022-09-27T09:08:17-04:00September 29th, 2022|Mental Well-being|2 Comments

      Seeking, Releasing Relationships

      Weekly essays this month sure seem to surround the topic of seeking and releasing relationships. A more savvy writer would say it is because September is my wedding anniversary month and this is a very strategic plan of mine. Alas I am not that savvy writer. Here is a photo of us celebrating this month though. 

      Bixby and I celebrating fourteen years of marriage!!

      Talking on the podcast about friends, mentors, influencers, ways to foster relationships, and being a spiritual gangster has put me in a reflective mood about who I am connecting with these days. 

      It is easy to let time slip by and all of a sudden it is months or years before you reach out to someone. Then it has been so long it feels insurmountably embarrassing. Which just compounds the issue because more time passes. 

      Unless that is just me?

      Today I want to look at both moving away from and towards different relationships. Healthy relationships are a component of the Mental Well-being pillar of Sustainable Productivity. Good relationships take effort and sometimes part of that effort is paring down what is not working – releasing those connections that are no longer lifting you up. 

      Releasing Relationships

      We all raised to not touch the hot stove, to not run into traffic. To avoid physical pain. This is the basis of thousands of years of evolution. Survival of the fittest. 

      Did you know that relationships can affect our mental and physical health in similar ways.

      Kross, et al published a study that shows physical pain and rejection show up similarly in the brain. When participants were asked to consider a recent rejection, the brain lit up just like brains have in 500 other studies of physical pain. This was not a small result either – this happened up to 88% of the time. 

      Rejection hurts – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And sometimes we are the ones that realize we need to do the rejecting. 

      Some relationships are for a season of our lives. I had teammates who I spent the majority of my waking hours with, but we eventually drifted away. Some divorces happen because the people grow apart. That does not mean that these relationships were wrong. Sometimes they just run their course. 

      You may know what I mean. That lonely feeling you get in your gut when in a room full of people. Maybe you try to explain thoughts and feelings in different ways yet nothing really lands. Instead of trying to fit that square peg into a round hole, what if you considered spending less time with that relationship?

      There’s no lonely quite as brutal as the lonely you feel when you’re surrounded by people. Meg Tietz

      I would also like to float the idea that you might need to start with releasing relationships that are not working for you in order to make space for the ones you are seeking. This may leave you in the scary in between where it feels like you are alone. 

      Trust me, you are never alone. 

      Seeking Relationships

      You are never alone because you always have your own true self. That inner voice that helps you decide what is meaningful, true, and Sustainably Productive. 

      Some call this your conscience or God or the universe or even Jiminy Cricket. 

      This core self is where you can always go to establish what is true for you. This is the space where healthy relationships grow from. If a relationship you are seeking connects with this space in your gut, it will feel more authentic and grounded.

      Even when the public facing you feels surly and dark, you cannot escape from the light of the true you. I love how Natasha Smith puts it:

      Nothing can separate you from the love of God. Not even you.

      Sustainable You Questions

      1. How do you feel in a room full of people? What are physical signs and symptoms that you might need to think of releasing relationships?

      2. What is the first reaction you feel to the idea of sitting still for 5 minutes? Not necessarily meditation, but just being still. If you are anxious about this, why?

      3. What is preventing you from seeking relationships that might help you feel seen and restored instead of burned out and empty?

      By |2022-09-15T19:09:05-04:00September 27th, 2022|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

      Sustainably Productive Friendships & Relationships

      Healthy Relationships are part of a Sustainably Productive life. Isolation can interrupt sleep, increase blood pressure and cortisol (the stress hormone), and suppress the immune system. Cultivating these relationships can sometimes be tricky as there are several categories these relationships could fall into. The three I want to dive into more are Influencers, Fake Friends, and Mentors. The initial discussion on these three relationships was on Episode 16 of the Conscious Contact podcast. I had a lot of thoughts swirling around since then. I want to go into more detail here with you today. 

      Think of these categories (Influencers, Fake Friends, and Mentors) as existing in concentric circles – like a bulls eye. The outer most ring is what the world pelts at us – social media, our local community, our workplace, TV, etc. It is appropriate to have differing levels of intimacy – different relationships on each ring of the bulls eye. But the inside of that bulls eye is closest to the core of you, the true version of yourself that even you might not have fully become aware of yet. 

      Who gets access to that inner circle these days? Is that working for you? Is this something you can sustain lifelong if you choose to? The idea is not to make all of your relationships the deepest, it is to know what that relationship is for you and if it needs to slide back a ring. Be true to yourself and your need for connection. 

      Let’s take a closer look at each ring.

      Influencers

      This is the outermost category of your bulls eye. These are the most impersonal relationships. Don’t get me wrong – I love the entertainment industry. I think we all need entertainment in our lives. But have a clear understanding of what those relationships are and be conscious of what you are allowing to seep in.

      Online Influencers are the people who are given money or material items to get your eyeballs on a product in hopes you will shell out the cash. We don’t actually have the truth about whether they know, like or trust the product – just that they got something to tell you about it. You don’t know their true intention.

      In the real world, influencers exist as well. I remember the first several visits I made to the kids’ elementary school after I first became step-mother. When I got dressed, walked in, and interacted with everyone I had a certain type of woman in mind. I was influenced by “good mothers” that I had seen dropping off their cherubs and volunteering. 

      The truth is that I had zero connection with those mothers. Honestly – I don’t even know if they WERE mothers. They could have been teachers, staff, nannies or aunts. I was telling myself a story about what I saw, not necessarily about what I experienced

      Fake Friends

      When you take a step closer to your core, you encounter the category I call Fake Friends. Stay with me on this and focus on the Friend part, rather than the Fake part. I define a Fake Friend as someone I consider my friend, but they don’t actually know 1) I exist and/or 2) that they are my friend.

      The examples I used on the podcast are Jessica Turner (you can read more about her here), Laura Tremaine (linked here), and Kendra Adachi (her podcast is linked here). I dedicate time each week to bond with my online Fake Friends as they release content for me to read and listen to.

      Click on the image above to go to the Fake Friends episode to hear the original discussion about Influencers, Fake Friends, and Mentors.

      But let me give you a few examples a little closer to my own life. The librarian I talk to on the regular when I pick up my books is doing her job. I assure you that she does not think about me for one more second once I print my book receipt and get out of her hair. But you cannot recommend such good books to me and not be my friend. I have that connection with  a few farmers at the market and Amanda at the yarn store. Here is the difference: My online Fake Friends and my real life Fake Friends have shared enough with me to know we have some kind of connection. 

      Yarn store Amanda knows basics about my dad’s health stuff because she helped me pick out a knitting project and yarn to keep me going while I was in Indiana for an extended time. Then she shared some of her stuff to let me know she related to my situation. 

      I was honest with a couple farmers about not liking vegetables, knowing zilch about prepping them, but showed interest in learning both. They shared about people in their family who did not eat what they grew either and suggested ways to get around that. 

      Online is no different – Jessica, Laura and Kendra (we are on first name basis, naturally) have all shared some hard stuff and associated lessons in their writing and on podcasts. And Jessica even on the Today Show! I am sure there is more to each of their stories. I am sure there is stuff they do not share publicly. This is where the Fake part comes in. I am not deranged, I know these are not real friendships. But they are a part of the concentric circles of relationships. 

      There is one more section to cover today – the people I call Mentors. 

      Mentors

      This is the inner most circle to your bulls eye. Your most trusted group of relationships – the ones that perhaps have seen you cry and / or vice versa. Sometimes my brain gets a little sideways and knowing I can run my reactions and responses by someone else who knows the body count is helpful. I call this my personal Board of Directors. 

      These are relationships that I have in real life. Trusted women (plus Bixby) that I can bounce ideas off of. Bonus – I know the response coming back is filled with love, respect, and truth in a way that I can hear it. Couple things about this.

      1) Yes, all women except my husband. For a long time I did not trust, truly know or like many women. This has shifted as I got older, and I cherish the women in my life now. 

      2) My Board of Directors tells me the truth in a way I can hear it. This means they know me well enough to know what that means. Not the kiss and kick method of delivering feedback at work. Not a dump and run when and how it works for the message deliverer. Together we work through some hard shit. Emphasis on together. 

      In summary, I want to suggest that you be aware of the relationships in your life and if they are helping you create a Sustainably Productive life. Stay connected to yourself in all of your relationships so that you can stay true to yourself. 

      Sustainable Productivity Questions

      1 – As with all things Sustainably Productive, I encourage you to start where you are. Think of dividing life into a pie chart. At the very minimum, a Sustainably Productive life would have equal division of Influencers, Fake Friends, and Mentors. Literally get a scrap piece of paper, draw a circle. Think about who you spent time with in the last 7 days. Which categories do these people fall into?

      2 – How do you feel about this division? If the division is not working for you, what relationships fall into the category you want to impact first? Just identify what is not working. Small steps lead to bigger change.

      If you like what you read, you might like what you hear. Subscribe to the Conscious Contact podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts. 

      By |2022-09-07T20:02:27-04:00September 13th, 2022|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

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