Posts in Stress
Podcast 6: What if You're Not the Best Talker in the Room?

What's it like to be in a room full of noise and feel out of place?  This episode tackles that very issue.  In a world full of smooth talkers, we'll discuss the importance of the "quiet ones" and their unique approach to extroverted situations.

The fact is that small talk is important. It will help you get ahead in your career and be perceived as a person with confidence and connections.  It's no longer enough to simply be bright- you have to be brilliant and your soft skills of socialization are a big part of that.

I reference Susan Cain's excellent book on introverts- it's great!

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Enjoy the show!

Stress, PODCASTMike StPierre
The Surprising Ingredient to a Great Day

When was the last time you had a truly great day?  What did it look like and if you could, wouldn't you like to repeat it at a moment's notice?

I know that I would. 

This past weekend was Memorial Day in the States and the weather was perfect here in Jersey.  Parades, barbecues and sprinklers for the kids... absolutely perfect! 

What made the three days off from work even better was the fact that I was coming off of a few tough weeks of work.  May is very busy for school leaders and graduation is right around the corner.   

Surprisingly enough, the key ingredient was a complete lack of hurrying. No rushing around.  No hurried pace.  No frantic running of errands. 

Leisure is like that.  It's full of margin.

Joseph Peiper, the famous philosopher said this about leisure: 

“Leisure is only possible when we are at one with ourselves. We tend to overwork as a means of self-escape, as a way of trying to justify our existence.”  Josef PieperLeisure: The Basis Of Culture

When we have a great day, we are typically experiencing a balanced view of work and the rest of life.  Things seem to be "in check".  Life makes sense.  

The lack of hurry is critical.  If you want to have a great day at a moment's notice, you'll need to cut down on the hurrying around that is part of so much of daily life. 

It's tough to enjoy leisure when you're in a hurry.

It's tough to enjoy leisure when you're in a hurry.

Less hurry, more balance.  

How to be Wholehearted

There is no shortage of advice for achieving "more" in the new year.  Brian Tracy has his "4 tips" while Mike Hyatt has his "5 days" program to supposedly the best year ever.  

I've got one bit of advice and I'm preaching to myself on this one: be wholehearted.

No fitness goals.  No spiritual aspirations.  No financial resolutions.  Just to be where I am, that is to say, to be wholehearted.  Don't get me wrong, I'll be listing some very simple strategies for the various areas of my life, from money to time to muscles.  

But where my heart is- that's what I'm really concerned with.

The antidote to exhaustion is not rest but wholeheartedness.
— David Whyte

This past weekend was stellar.  At one point, sitting with my 8 year old in the corner of the living room, I looked up to find her reading me a story, my 14 year old wrapping a gift in the middle of the room and my 11 year old playing Minecraft on a laptop.  I had to pinch myself in gratitude for the amazing and many gifts in my everyday life. Who am I that I "get" to be a dad, a husband, a school leader, a Christian?  

I was wholehearted (or, "all there") for at least a few moments.  They felt like many more.

Why is wholeheartedness so difficult to achieve?  Here are my guesses:

  • Our plates are overly full
  • Our time is often scarce
  • We're tired
  • Our margin is thin
  • We have smartphones
  • We get bored too easily
  • Culture preaches "busyness" above singlemindedness
  • Work promotes multitasking

But here's the thing with each of these: they may slow us down but they can be managed such that wholeheartedness is practiced almost daily.  

Many people have found that wholeheartedness is found by doing (or not doing) the following:

  1. Unplugging from technology periodically.
  2. Owning fewer things.
  3. Giving things away (time, stuff, money, service).
  4. Being prayerful and especially at the beginning of the day.
  5. Being part of a faith community that worships weekly.
  6. Reading.  Anything all the way through.
  7. Playing sports.
  8. Creating art.
  9. Allowing for downtime.
  10. Enjoying nature.
  11. Cooking and eating mindfully.
  12. And in general, slowing down.

That's it.  Simple when you think of it- none of the 12 actions above cost much.  Better yet, you can practice at least a few of them within the next 24 hours.  

While most people think of wholeheartedness as a passive state of doing very little, just look at the action verbs found within each of the 12 suggestions: slowing, cooking, eating, enjoying, creating, and so on.  Pretty active when you think of it.  This is the paradox of being wholehearted: by being fully present, we can do so many things that lead to a fuller life.

I'm going to try it out and I hope that you will too.  It's ok to set some goals for the new year but don't forget that being fully present to those things and people around you is also a noble aspiration.

So here's to being wholehearted in 2015 and beyond!

*photo courtesy of fdp

An Introvert's Guide to Decreasing Stress (Part II)

This is Part II in our introvert stress reduction series.  Part I dealt with the strategy of arriving early for meetings.

Introverts aren't necessarily shy.  They just get energy from spending time alone or with smaller groups of people.  Pastor Ron Edmondson has some fantastic articles on leaders who are introverted like this and this.  

One of the big issues that introverts have is that of being misunderstood as aloof or standoffish.  The introverts I know are neither but without some work, they could be easily misunderstood.  

The fact is, introverts experience stress nearly every time they attend meetings, public events or anything that produces interaction.  It sounds very strange if you're an extrovert but take it from me (an introvert), much of everyday life is stressful.  

A tried and true strategy that works well for introverts (and actually for everyone else if they try it) is to cultivate a consistent morning routine.  The morning routine is something that is very simple and can feature prayer, journaling, silence, and anything else that raises your mind and heart.  

For me, the morning routine is critical to nearly every aspect of my life.  It puts work, family and leisure in perspective.  It clarifies thoughts, concretizes goals and gives a venue for introspection.

For introverts in particular, the morning is very, very important for at least three reasons:

  1. A morning routine begins the day with something you can have total control over.  Since the rest of the day will be unpredictable and probably filled with stress, the morning routine acts like an anchor of sorts, shielding you from stress in subtle ways.
  2. The morning routine leaks into the rest of the day.  What you think about will turn up later.  What you read will travel with you.  The inspiration you receive will return to you when you least expect it. 
  3. A consistently practiced morning routine will create spiritual momentum.  You will know that you're becoming a better listener and that your relationship with God is alive and well.  It sounds wild to say it but if you practice a solid morning routine, you'll become the very best version of who you really are.  Seriously.

Introverts experience more stress than most.  But, with a little morning routine practice, they can navigate their days with poise and just a little less stress.  

Time to Kiss Facebook Goodbye?

Roy is a school leader.  He uses an Android phone, uses an iMac in his office and knows how to run a solid powerpoint.  He doesn't use Twitter.  He has used, I think, Google Plus three times in his life.  As for Facebook, he would ask you where that's located in the library! 

None of this is bad, just stating the facts so you can get a feel for his social media habits.

The thing is, after I spoke with Roy for a bit, that he feels as if he should use social media more often.  He feels as if there's something missing or something wrong with him.

There isn't and there's not.

I've said for a while now that social media is whatever you want it to be.  You want to post pictures of your puppy on a skateboard?  Go for it.  Want to share what you're eating every meal?  Why not!  

Here's some of the wacky photos I've posted on Instagram.  

The "rules" of social media are relativistic and that's part of what makes Twitter, Facebook, et al. so powerful.

For Roy, he's looking for reasons to jump into social media.  For others, there may be times to hit the pause button on it.  Or, you may even need to kiss Facebook and Twitter goodbye for a period of time.  

Turns out, people who use social media say that they are more stressed than those who don't.

These reasons may include:

  • You feel overwhelmed by the variety and number of social media outlets.  Part of Roy's struggle is that he doesn't even know where to start.
  • You feel exhausted by the constant "checking" for updates, etc.  (turns out that mobile Twitter users are 181% more likely to use Twitter during their commutes; source)
  • You want to have a simpler digital footprint.  Less time on social media means more time with your family, more time reading books, and more time doing focused work.

As for me, I'm in a point of flux right now.  LinkedIN is more frequent for me these days while Twitter has taken a back seat.  I actually, in small doses, am finding Facebook interesting again.  Ebbs and flows.  Trial and error.  

The key, as always, is to be intentional.  Be thoughtful about what and how you are using social media.  If it's tuckering you out, change it up.  

The Case for Doing Less This Weekend

Weekends are what most of us live for.  They are often seen as a break from mundane, unexciting jobs.  Most people fill them with yardwork, chores and errands galore.  Sleeping in, staying up late, shopping... fill in the blank as to how you and your family typically use your weekend.

The only problem... (drumroll) is that some of us fill our weekends, supposed to be a time for rest, with so many small crumbs that the weekend itself becomes stressful.  The crumbs add up after a while.  

Errands do make you tired- and use gas. 

Shopping is exhausting- and uses money. 

Yardwork is fun for some- but not for most. 

So here's your homework for today and any weekend- be more intentional about it. Do less.  Breathe.  Take a nap.  Do what makes you happy this weekend instead of what you think you should be doing (by that subtle voice in your head informed by popular culture or social media).   

Speaking digitally, I find that there are times when I want to be up to speed on the news and on what my friends are "up to" online.  Weekends though- I just want to be with Cary and the kids.  I typically tweet less and just use Buffer to automate my online content.  That way, I can sit on the porch and play a game with the kids, go for a leisurely drive or wash the car in the driveway.  It's intentional, light and relaxed.   

What are the benefits of doing less?  First, you'll stress less.  Second, you'll be more fully present to those you care about.  Third, you'll spend less money because you're not doing what someone else tells you you "should".  Fourth... I could keep going but you get the picture.   

So go ahead.  Enjoy yourself this weekend and all throughout the week.   

It's ok to do less if it helps you to "be more" in the other parts of your life.