Stress, Cortisol, and Gratitude

daily gratitude - Edited

As usual, I have managed to lose the original source of the idea, because I didn’t write it down and I found it several weeks ago. I’m pretty sure it was a YouTube video, which really narrows things down, right?

The idea is pretty simple: stress creates cortisol in our bodies and cortisol has multiple effects on us. Within several seconds of encountering a stressful situation, our IQ (intelligence or mental abilities) is cut IN HALF. (If that’s not the correct figure, it drops significantly.)

In short, stress makes us stupid!

To me, this means that living in a constantly stressed-out state means that we are living in such a way that we can’t use our full mental potential, and we are making decisions and doing our work as if we were much dumber than we really are!

So, what if we can’t all do like I did and walk away from a stressful career?

It seems the answer is gratitude.

Somehow, finding something to be grateful for at that moment and about that moment short circuits the stress cycle, and allows us to maintain our mental abilities.

It takes practice, and it can take a shift in our outlook on life. Challenges become opportunities to grow and to learn new skills. Illnesses might have to become opportunities to slow down and/or to strengthen relationships — especially if you become the caregiver. We have to take a creative look at each situation to find the good and feel grateful for it.

Has your life been enriched by gratitude? Share how in the comments!


You Can’t Be Normal!

I-Tried-to-be-normal-300x256Yes, this is a very tongue-in-cheek image, but I think it drives home an important point.

Somehow, humans seem to be born with this desire to be normal, to fit in, and to be like everyone else. It’s called a sense of belonging.

The problem is when we don’t choose carefully what type of group we belong to. Normal is average. Normal is regular. Normal is the cliched “dime a dozen.”

Look at the fruits of mainstream normality. Is that what you really want? Do you really feel that society as a whole is making the best choices?

If your answer is no, then you can’t be normal. It really will be the worst two minutes of your life. You have to choose to be exceptional. Abnormal. Above what is common.

Is it hard? You bet! You will be doing things that many people around you won’t understand your reasons for doing. You will stand out from the crowd. You will be different. You will have to work hard to maintain your resolve and reap the results.

So, what about a sense of belonging?

Create your own group. Find supportive people in real life and make them your friends, mentors, and masterminds. Connect occasionally with online communities filled with like-minded people. Be your own, new normal that brings out the best in you.

Change is in the Air


Some who have read this blog or know me personally  are aware that I submitted my letter of resignation as a teacher on May 1, 2017. Since that time, I have been trying to “decide what I want to be when I grow up.”

In the next few weeks, I will be making that announcement. I’m sure there will be a few more announcements as I put all of the plans in place. As I do, I realize that I’m having to completely change my perception of who I am. I’m also going to be making a few changes to this blog.

Anyone Else Frightened?

Change isn’t comfortable. The things that we have always known and the things that we have always done become our comfort zone. They become to us like that favorite stuffed animal or blanket that we carried around as toddlers. It doesn’t matter how filthy and nasty it gets — it’s what we turn to for comfort and security.

As far as this blog is concerned, the changes won’t be that big. I’m mostly going to be working through a process of claifying my purpose for this blog’s existence, solidifying the message, and (hopefully) making it a little more interactive.

As for me? Well, let’s just say I hope I’m holding on to my hat tightly! I’m trying to convince myself that I’m ready to get rid of my worn-out, dirty “lovie” and move into the world with more wisdom, maturity, and confidence than I have in the past.

Why “Nice Guys” Finish Last

nice-guy.gifI wish I could take credit for this idea, but I first heard it from a guy at church, and I’m pretty sure that he was expanding on the idea because he had gotten it from somewhere else. Ideas are pretty viral like that.

I, too, want to take a deeper look at why nice guys finish last. In my case, the answer was that it’s because nice guys are helping everybody else out along the race course. There’s a lot of truth to that statement. Nice guys (and nice girls — I’m not leaving us out, just going with the traditional phrase) take an interest in the people around them and are concerned for their welfare. They don’t mind pitching in and helping out. They want to see other people succeed and do well, probably almost as much as they want to succeed themselves.

That’s why I question whether they are even running the same race as the cut throat egotist.

I think it’s an important question to answer, because it makes a difference in how the nice guy(gal) perceives his self-image and progress.

If we’re all running the same race that the person who dies with the most (expensive) toys wins, then yes, nice guys do tend to finish last, and it will always be that way. Nice guys won’t trample people on the way to that kind of success.

I think that nice guys simply hold different values in life and they are aiming for a different finish line. I think nice guys value relationships and the people behind them. I think they have the moral courage to take a stand for right and wrong. I think they envision a better world as being more important than a bigger car.

If so, then nice guys and nice gals need to recognize that the messages bombarding them (us) from day-to-day will sometimes distract us and make us think that we are losing a race that we’re not even running. That hurts.

If we can refocus, we can see the progress that we have made along the way, we can see how close we are to our true finish line, and we can drop the worry that we feel when we stare too long at the other guy’s finish line.

It’s all about our core values and our core self. Nice guys do just fine in their races!

You Build Endurance by Enduring

endurance runnerYes, I wish I looked a lot more like this runner. No, I probably never will. Too many divided interests.

Anyway, the photo to me is more than a runner. Not only has running changed my life (as well as my body), but it has given me an open space to think and ponder. This past week, I was working on the problem of rebuilding my endurance after tailspinning for about two months.

That’s when it hit me:

You build endurance by enduring.

It’s that simple and that hard all at the same time.

In running, I have two choices for getting back in “marathon shape”:

  1. Set my speed and increase my ability to maintain that speed for longer and longer periods of time.
  2. Set my limit (I chose time, but I could have chosen distance), and then work to increase my speed.

My body and my mind work better with choice number two.

That’s when this amazing little thought hit me, and I realized that it has applied throughout my life!

As a codependent, I repeatedly found myself in situations where I was scared, and I chose to run. It was only after my divorce that I was in a situation where I might have been scared, but there was no way I could run — I had kids to take care of. I had no choice but to endure and to see it through.

Running was another opportunity to learn about endurance. I haven’t run any marathons, although I have now completed two. I have a long way to go as an athlete. Even so, I learned something about myself out there on those race courses. It was hard. I hurt. My body rebelled and twice I got physically sick enough (not with a virus — just the stress of the race) that I had ample excuse to quit. That’s when I learned I really am a fighter. I lost two toenails on my first marathon, and knew they were gone by mile 18. I kept going. Last year, there was so much stress leading up to the race that I thought my gut was going to take me out.

Endurance isn’t about what I have or who I am. It’s about who I choose to be and who I see myself becoming. It hasn’t been easy to quit a job that I loved with only a sketch of a back up plan and no real idea of what I’m doing. I have chosen to see myself as a budding entrepreneur and up-and-coming elite athlete. For me, those ideas make it easier for me to make the choices that will take me to my goals.

Endurance is a mindset. Endurance is going all in, failing, falling flat on your face, shaking the pain and the dust off, and trying again. Endurance is recognizing that failure lets you know what your limits are now — not what they will be later. Endurance is passion burning inside you to be more, to be better, to be an achiever.

You learn to endure by enduring.


If it’s Broken


“If it’s broken, it’s our job to fix it.”


When I first heard this quote, I really, really liked it. If I haven’t already blogged about it, I feel very strongly that a lack of a sense of personal responsibility is causing huge problems in modern society. (Since it so easily embeds in human nature, it probably also existed in earlier times — I just wasn’t there to know!) I generally believe that turning a blind eye to a situation that needs improvement because “it’s not my responsibility” or “someone else will do it” is a poor reflection on personal character.

But then I started to type up this blog post, and memories from my codependent past began to surface. I remembered my ex-husband berating me for not living up to his expectations or embarrassing him. I remember my attempts to “fix” my children and “make” them into respectable people. I remember other codependents who were drawn to my codependency who made me feel subhuman with their efforts to “fix” me. What a mess!

These thoughts now lead me to wonder how do we know if something is broken, and when exactly should someone step in to help?

Seems like an easy answer, until I peel back the layers! Let’s look at some examples:

  • When someone asks for help: This seems like a no-brainer, but there are people who ask for help and lose the opportunity to grow and gain experience by solving their own issues. They run for help too fast. On the other hand, there are people who simply won’t ask for help because they either have mental blocks to seeing that they could appropriately ask for help, or they are just too proud. So, a request for help isn’t always a good indicator when it comes to fixing what is broken — or even as an identifier that something is broken.
  • When someone is causing themselves extra pain or hardship: Again, this isn’t as simple as it appears. Some people are caught in self-defeating thought cycles or patterns of behavior because it’s a cover for a deeper fear or problem. Even if they can admit the problem and even ask for help, they may still not be ready. This kind of pattern shows up regularly in recovery group meetings — the self-defeating pattern is still “working” well enough that it is valuable to the individual.
  • When something is obviously wrong and needs to be righted: While there are some things that seem to almost be universally agreed upon as right and wrong, there is a cultural element to these categories, as well. Even if we were to point to Christianity as the ultimate measure of right and wrong, we find that the sects disagree among themselves and that adherents don’t always believe what their faction teaches. While I am a fairly devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and stand by those teachings and doctrines, I find that I am taught to offer my beliefs to others, not to force my “fixes” on them. (Politics is a different subject, so I am avoiding that issue right now.)




I could probably come up with more examples, but I think three is enough to make my point: I am personally convinced that there is no standard measure of when something is broken, nor do I believe that there is only one right way to fix it.

That being said, I believe (as I wrote at the beginning) in the power of the individual to step up, stand for something good, make changes, and invest time and effort in improving things within our own circle of influence. I raise money to help support research to end childhood cancer. I donate hair to locks of love. I support my church’s humanitarian efforts. I smile, hug, encourage, ask reflexive questions, listen, give some extra effort, and do what I can. I try to keep my own corner of the world as neat and tidy as I possibly can, and I’m generally challenging myself to find ways to do more.

Even if I can’t fix everything that’s broken and have to step back and accept when it’s not even my right to try, I can still fix a lot!

Automation: the New Time Management Buzzword

Business team

Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of TED talks. My husband and I joke that it’s my new addiction. While there may be a little truth to it, I promise I can handle it! In all seriousness, though, I enjoy having opportunities to encounter and ponder the ideas of other people. I find it mind expanding, motivating, and energizing.
A couple of the recent talks I’ve heard touched on the subject of time management. Because I am rather bad at it, I was pretty interested. I heard ideas on how the procrastinator’s brain works differently from the “normal” brain. I encountered the “history of time management” for the first time. These talks were completely up my alley.
But, as I began to truly think about the idea of being a “time multiplier” and automate the mundane parts of my life. I began to question how much I really wanted to be a time multiplier.
First of all, I’m not really sure how much of my life I can actually automate. I’m a teacher, so all I’m coming up with is the idea of a lesson planning step sheet, and maybe a few more for clubs and such. How do I automate the everyday care of my pets? I suppose I could hire someone to come in and do it for me, but then I might as well not have pets at all. The purpose of pets is to have some sort of companionship and outlet for nurturing! Housecleaning and yard work are the same way. I do them because there’s no room in the budget to hire someone, and because the yard work especially is a time for me to unfocus my head, let my thoughts wander, and unwind. I spend a lot of time training as a runner, but I can’t see a way to automate that. Ditto with my religious activities. Perhaps I can automate my interactions with my husband? (Yes, there is a hint of sarcasm there.)
I guess I’ve already automated as far as I can automate — anywhere possible, I have put a process or set of procedures into place so that I don’t have to keep reinventing every time something has to be done. I just can’t see going any further.
So, I’m left with the question, how do I effectively manage my time?
My years as a teacher leave me with an inclination to simplify as far as possible. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  • Life comes with time limits and constraints. The number one problem may just be resisting them instead of trying to accept them for what they are. As limitless as I would like to be, limited time is reality. My first step needs to be to simply accept that this is so.
  • I do the things I have to, and try to reserve time for the activities that align with my vision and goals. I’m even considering scheduling time for relaxing activities and cultivating new habits for relaxing.
  • Because I have been enculturated as an overachiever, I have to watch which definitions of success and productivity I follow. Doing more has been a hallmark of modern success for as long as I can remember. I’m thinking that it’s time I consider BEING more.
  • Learn to walk away. There is too much truth to the adage that a woman’s work is never done. As a workaholic (or at least leaning toward workaholism), I have todo lists with entries that say things like “find old todo lists.” That’s pretty sad, but it’s also eye-opening. If I decide to goof off for a while, the work will be here when I get back. It is very rare that the things I leave undone for a while will cause my whole life to crash. (If they will, I should be focusing on them first!)

So that’s about it. What’s your take on time management?