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Yesterday, I gave my 5th Toastmasters speech. This one was to satisfy the requirements for Speech #4 in the Competent Communicator’s manual (I gave speech #8 already, so that’s why this one was my 5th speech). The purpose of the speech was to work on the skill “How you say it”, and I already knew I wanted to talk about the topic of stress. I struggled for awhile, trying to figure out how I could be creative with this one to satisfy the requirements of the project, and I had only 5-7 minutes for the speech. While preparing, I kept getting that song from Salt N’ Pepa stuck in my head…you know the one from 1991, called “Let’s Talk About Sex”? Well, I kept singing it in my head while thinking about this speech, but kept replacing the word “sex” with the word “stress”. Then it hit me…rewrite the chorus to be about stress and start off my speech with it.

I spoke with my Toastmasters mentor to see what she thought, and she loved it. But she also gave me the wonderful idea to have a few other Toastmasters join in with me on the singing. So I hit up three of my fellow Toastmasters that I felt would be game for something like this, and they willingly agreed to help a sista out!

The end result? I think it went really well, and I accomplished my purpose. I was able to creatively talk about the topic of stress, and was able to inject a bit of humor into it, which is kind of my signature in my speeches. Ultimately, I want people to walk away from my speeches happier and motivated to do something to make their lives better. Some of you mentioned you wanted to be at the speech but couldn’t, so here’s the gist of what I said. I wish I would have recorded it, but I completely forgot…maybe I will just have to give it again someday!

I started off by asking everyone to clap along with me, and once everyone got going on that, I launched into singing the first line of my rewritten chorus…the three people I had doing this with me then each sang a line, and I wrapped up by singing the last two lines. Here’s the rewritten chorus:

Let’s talk about stress baby,
Let’s talk about you and me,
Let’s talk about all the good kinds and the bad kinds,
there may be,
Let’s talk about stress,
Let’s talk about stress,

Madame Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and guests,

Let’s talk about stress!

We’ve all heard of stress. Throughout childhood and adulthood, the word stress is thrown around quite a lot. You may have said or heard such phrases as:

“My job causes me so much stress!”

“Studying for exams is so stressful!”

Or, if you’re where I was just a few years ago:

“O.M.G.!!! My daughter just got her learner’s permit, and just thinking about her driving STRESSES ME OUT!”

Sound familiar? Merriam-Webster defines stress as a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc., OR something that causes strong feelings of worry or anxiety. When you’re under stress of any kind, you undergo a multitude of physical and emotional symptoms that, if left unchecked, can be detrimental to your health. So what do you do?

Let’s talk about…the types of stress. There are two types of stress a person can experience: acute stress and chronic stress.

Acute stress, also known as the “fight or flight response”, is the most common form of stress. It is your body’s immediate reaction to a perceived threat, scare or challenge. Acute stress can be quite thrilling and exciting in small doses, but too much is exhausting. Because it is short term, it doesn’t do extensive damage, and is highly manageable.

A single episode generally doesn’t cause problems for healthy people. However, severe acute stress can cause mental health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, and even physical difficulties such as a heart attack.

Some examples of acute stress would be getting a promotion, getting a speeding ticket…or giving a Toastmasters speech!

AcuteStress

Chronic stress is the grinding stress that wears away at you day after day, year after year. Chronic stress comes when a person never sees a way out of a miserable situation. Some examples of stressors that could cause chronic stress for a person are an unhappy marriage, traumatic experiences, unwanted career or job, poverty, chronic illnesses, relationship conflicts, and dysfunctional families.

chronicstress

Sometimes, it’s difficult to know when you’re experiencing stress. So what are the signs?

Let’s talk about…the symptoms of stress. According to Web MD, common symptoms of stress include:

  • A fast heartbeat.
  • A headache.
  • A stiff neck and/or tight shoulders.
  • Back pain.
  • Fast breathing.
  • Sweating, and sweaty palms.
  • An upset stomach, nausea, or diarrhea.

These symptoms can occur whether the stress you’re experiencing is good or bad, and there are a myriad of other symptoms that can crop up as well.

Take a look at the following clip from Kindergarten Cop, which shows Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character experiencing acute stress:

Recognize any of the symptoms we just covered?

Let symptoms like this go on for too long, and it can cause permanent damage to your entire body. So how do you deal with stress and its effects?

Let’s talk about…how to manage stress. Stress is a part of life that can’t be eliminated. Even the positive changes in our lives, like buying a new house or getting that job promotion, can cause all the unpleasant symptoms we just covered. Therefore, it’s in our best interest to learn how to manage stress in our lives before it gets out of control. There are many things a person can do to manage stress, so it’s important to find what works best for you. The American Psychological Association provides the following tips to help ease stress in your life, which I’ll be giving you more info about after the presentation (here’s the link to the handout I had for everyone):

  1. Take a break from the stressor
  2. Exercise
  3. Smile and laugh
  4. Get social support
  5. Meditate

Personally, I’ve used all five of these tips for myself when experiencing stress, in various combinations, depending on what the stressor is. So now what?

Let’s talk about…next steps. Now that we’ve discussed what stress is, what the symptoms are and how to manage it, you need to do a little homework. First of all, if you suffer from any of the symptoms we covered and suspect they may be due to the effects of stress, then you need to determine exactly what the stressors in your life are. Remember, even “good” stress can wreak havoc on your health, so you really need to figure this one out.

Once you’ve identified the stressors in your life, you’ll need to come up with an action plan for how to manage them. Remember, you have to implement things that resonate with YOU, so don’t sign up for a Zumba class if dancing in front of large groups would cause you MORE stress.

Finally, remember that stress will always be part of your life. But if you can learn to identify when you’re experiencing it and find the techniques that work to help you manage it, you should notice your health doesn’t suffer. And you’ll need to revisit things from time to time, as our stressors won’t always be the same, and the management techniques that work today may not be effective tomorrow. Eventually, Arnold figured out how to deal with his stressors (the kids he was teaching)…take a look at how things changed for him once he did:

See, with a little dedication, stress can most definitely be managed and controlled so that you can lead your happiest life possible.

Thank you for listening and have a sparkling day!

Melanie

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(Photo courtesy of QuotesNHumor.com)

Have you ever stopped to consider how important it is to have friends? Or how much of an influence friends have in who you are and how happy you are? I think many of us take friends for granted and probably don’t think too much about what life would be like if we were suddenly friendless.

For the past 6 weeks or so, that’s exactly what my life has been like. Friendless. I didn’t realize it, of course. I talked in my last post about how busy I’ve been. So busy that I’d been neglecting the things I need to do for myself, so I re-committed to getting back on track with working on my happiness. And since my last post, I have definitely gotten better about doing the things I said I was going to. But guess what? I was doing them BY MYSELF.

To be fair, I wasn’t LITERALLY by myself. At golf lessons, I had my teacher there with me. At work, I had co-workers there. At home, my husband and I were able to spend more time together, and we had some family come visit us for the July 4th holiday. And don’t get me wrong…I enjoyed spending time with ALL of these people. But they weren’t my “friends”, if you know what I mean (sorry if you fit into one of these categories, but hang with me here…I promise I am not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings).

My friends…my TRUE friends…are the ones I can unabashedly be myself around. You may think I should be able to be that way around my family and my husband, right? Well, not really…not for me, anyway. Sometimes I have to keep my thoughts and feelings to myself to avoid hurting them or making them worry about me. Sometimes I feel like if I tell them exactly what I am thinking and feeling, they’ll think I’ve lost my ever-loving mind! Please tell me some of you know what I’m talking about on this one!

William Shakespeare said, “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” If you ask some people who know me, they’d say I have a lot of friends. But I don’t. Not really. I can count on one hand (OK, maybe 1.5 hands) the number of people who meet this definition of friend. People I can truly let down my guard with. People I can admit my deepest thoughts and secrets to. People who will tell me the God’s honest truth, no matter what I may WANT to hear.

The past two weeks, I noticed I was really “off”. I was sullen, didn’t want to do anything, had no energy…basically, I was miserable. I first attributed it to the long hours I’d been spending with my full-time job, including a couple of business trips. But last week, I had a normal work week, and some down time, but was still miserable. And I had re-committed to the things I talked about in my last blog, so I was frustrated with why I was not happy.

My gut told me to reach out to my friends. Those people I consider to meet Shakespeare’s definition. Two of them were available to get together with me this weekend…one yesterday and one today. Wow! All I can say is W.O.W.!

Until I got together with the two of them, I didn’t realize how much I’d been starving for some good ol’ quality time with a FRIEND.

When my one friend saw me yesterday, the very first thing she said to me was, “What’s up? Something’s not right with you…what’s going on?” Throughout the course of our conversation, we came to realize that what was wrong with me was that I’d relegated myself to being friendless for at least the past 6 weeks. I was so busy with work and family obligations that I let my friendships fall by the wayside. I realized something was off, and I thought it was with my slacking on the meditation and the other things I mentioned in my last post, so I’d put forth the effort into those things. But I let go of my friends in the process.

I guess I subconsciously realized it, because like I said, I reached out this past week to my friends. During the time with my friend yesterday, she exclaimed at one point that she could already see a difference in my whole demeanor. That I looked so much happier. All from just some good, quality conversation with someone I truly love having as part of my life. Someone who I can be myself around and not feel like I am “less than” when I admit to not being perfect.

This morning, I connected with another friend. One that I haven’t seen in person in quite some time. Yeah, we’ve connected through e-mails and social media, but let’s face it, social media just isn’t the same. Nothing takes the place of that live, in-person time with a true friend. The cool thing was that even though I hadn’t seen her in person in a couple of YEARS (yes, you read that correctly…YEARS), we picked up as if we hadn’t missed a beat. And that’s another sign of a true friend. No blame going on, no guilt trip…just genuine delight in spending some quality time with each other after so much time apart.

I gotta say, I feel so refreshed right now. And I realize, now more than ever, that having friends is part of finding your happiness. So I promised my friend yesterday that I wouldn’t let myself get into this situation ever again. No matter what, no matter how busy I may be, I will make more time for my friends. This past 6 weeks of being friendless has been so incredibly lonely. At least I had my family around, and I know that helped to a degree…I can’t even imagine how strong that feeling of loneliness would have been if I had NO ONE. No one should ever have NO ONE to confide in and talk to.

Ever since yesterday, I’ve had “You’ve Got a Friend”, by James Taylor, in my head. I love this verse:

“If the sky above you should turn dark and full of clouds
and that old north wind should begin to blow,
keep your head together and call my name out loud.
Soon I will be knocking upon your door.
You just call out my name, and you know where ever I am
I’ll come running to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call and I’ll be there.”

That’s how it is with a true friend. When you need them, they are there for you. No matter what. All you have to do is ask them to be there for you. I love that I have a few people in my life that I can count in that category.

If you’re having trouble making time for your friends, take a look at what you’ve got going on and figure out where you can fit them in. Don’t feel like you’ve got to go through everything alone. Don’t assume you’re friends are too busy for you. If you haven’t heard from them in awhile, then YOU be the one to reach out…don’t wait for them to come to you, as that may very well be what THEY are doing…waiting for YOU. Sometimes we think we’re bothering people, when in reality, they are craving time with us just as much as we are craving it with them.

So put yourself out there. A true friend will answer the call.

Namaste,

Melanie

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