What to do when every day feels like Groundhog Day

It's not a groundhog.  It's a nutria.  The Louisiana version of a groundhog.
It's not a groundhog. It's a nutria. The Louisiana version of a groundhog.

You know the movie, of course.   Bill Murray wakes up to the same day every day for a very very long time.

Ever feel that way in real life?  Like if you have to wash that pot, clean that sink, choose an outfit, go to the store again(!) or even bathe, that you'll lose it?  Ever feel tired of the routines of daily life?

Ever clear out your in box only to find it full twenty minutes later and wonder what the heck the point is?  Like when you reply to all the people you've been putting off replying to, and then they REPLY BACK and you're right back to where you started?

Ever wonder how to get to the main thing, the big ideas, the real meat of life, when so much of your time is spent simply going through the actions of general subsistence, like eating, sleeping and keeping yourself generally presentable?

Ever feel like you've done enough for one day by 8:30 a.m. and now it should be nap time?

I get it.  I crave a day of catch up for every day of life.

But that's not how it works.  So when you're feeling groundhogged out, try one or two of these easy strategies to reboot and refresh. (You know them - this is just a reminder, because I need a reminder too!)

Embrace the mundane.  Stop to really smell the dish soap, hear the water running. Feel the warm suds.  See the squeaky clean plate.  Use your senses to bring you to the present moment. Close your eyes and listen. To voices of kids, coworkers, sweethearts.  To breezes.  Feel textures, temperatures.  See the colors around you.  Locate the light. Breathe.  Try it right now for just thirty seconds.

Slow down even when you're sure you're behind.  Catching up isn't really attainable, because there's always going to be more.  So slowing down and enjoying might work just as well.  Trees don't say, "Oh good,  I'm caught up photosynthesising, finally!  Now I can relax."

Pretend you're an angel for a day and that your only job is to radiate gratitude, love and kindness.  Whether or not you get to your in box.  Or tackle that pile of projects, laundry, whatever. Remember how Bill Murray gets kinder, happier, and more pleasant by the end of the movie?  And you realize he could have chosen that option from the start?  Choose it.

Abandon your productivity goals and go outside.  Take a five minute walk. Ask the sky, birds, trees or flowers for some advice.  Chances are it's going to be good, and that it involves something about paying attention, gratitude, grace, happiness or love.

Notice that you are FINE right now. You're breathing.  Your senses work.  You are not in danger, most likely.  (Unless there's a land shark ringing your doorbell...)  Breathe into your okayness.  Notice if you're actually better than okay.  And even if you're sick, or close to death, or really really sad, or just fighting the common cold like I am today, remember that fundamentally, in this exact moment, you are still ok.

Do something different. If your routines are boring you, shake them up. Wear something you don't usually wear.  Go somewhere you don't usually go.  Talk to someone you wouldn't normally talk to.  Ask for something you don't usually ask for. Choose a radio station you wouldn't usually listen to.  Comment on something you wouldn't usually comment on.

Clear your space.  If you're overwhelmed by clutter, just sweep off a big area - a shelf, your desk, your nightstand --  and make a space.  Ahh.  Now you can see and think.  And decide one by one if whatever you cleared gets permission to return to the space or whether it's time to let it go.

Do it now.  Do something.  Take some action, even if it's not perfect.  Sometimes the best way out of a Groundhog Day-type rut is just to do something.  Set the timer for 15 minutes and get started.  Notice how great you feel and see if the momentum helps you continue.

Try again later.  Yes - it's the opposite of do it now.  Sometimes the best thing you can do is step away, abandon it all for an hour or two-- or a day or two-- and then come back with clear eyes.  Pick something pleasant to occupy your time in the meantime.  A nap, a walk, a piece of fruit, time with a pet, time to gaze out the window and watch the weather.

It's just life, people.  It's ok to drop the desperation for accomplishment and just savor the moment.  You know it, so let yourself feel it and really do it. If you're Bill Murray, you might even get the girl!

Need quiet time during the holidays? 9 ways to get some space.

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Are you an introvert who plays an extrovert on TV?  Or are you simply a straight-up introvert?  Try these tips when you need a break from the parties, the football games, the relatives, and the crowds.  

1. Offer to house sit.  Then you can go to someone else's empty home and visit with their cat or plants or whatever you're watching.  You'll have an oasis of quiet and you can get away any time by simply exclaiming, "Oh! I just remembered!  I need to go to _______'s house and feed their bird/cat/iguana/boa constrictor."

2. Take a walk.  Before or after a meal, at half time, in the morning, at sunset - these are all great times to say, "I'm going out for a walk.  I'll see y'all in about a half hour or so." If people want to join you and you'd prefer to be completely alone, explain that you'll be doing a silent walking meditation. Which brings us to a wonderful alone-time option:

3. Meditate.  Sometimes people understand "I'm off to do my daily meditation" better than "I really need some alone time."  So whether you have a rich and fulfilling meditation practice or not, you can go to a room, close the door, and be by yourself, whether you're silently chanting a mantra or just relaxing with your thoughts.

4. Nap.  Jet lag.  General holiday exhaustion.  Getting over a cold or the flu.  A late night of partying.  There are so many reasons to offer why you might need to spirit yourself away for a delicious restorative nap.  If you're not tired but just want to be alone, you can bring a magazine or book under the covers with you. Holidays are made for napping.  Find your favorite cozy spot and prioritize the daily holiday nap.

5. Go running.  If you're an athlete, there's nothing like a solo run to clear your head and give you space for yourself.  Pop in your favorite tunes, put on your headphones and hustle out the door.  Or choose to take in the sounds of nature - breezes through the branches, rustling leaves, crunching frost underfoot- you'll be restored in no time!

6. Volunteer to go to the store for the last minute grocery items/batteries/baked goods/whatever.  Sure, you'll have to brave the crowds, but you don't have to interact with strangers except to smile peacefully, so it's almost like being on your own!  Then take an extra detour on the way home, stop at a park or a view-- or just sit in the parking lot! - and enjoy five or ten minutes of quiet for yourself.

7. Take a long bath. Add a lot of bath salts. Light some candles.  Climb in and close your eyes.  Ahhhh.

8. Go to a museum, house of worship or other quiet indoor space.  If you're in a place where temps are below freezing, you can get your alone time inside.  Even in the most crowded museum in New York City, you'll find rooms and galleries where there's hardly a soul. Relax on a bench and stare at a painting for 20 minutes.  Or go to a place of worship, light a candle and sit in silent contemplation.

9. Just stay home. There's no rule that says you have to attend every social event that's available.  If you're 18 or over, even if you feel social pressure to be everywhere, know that you have all the choice in the world to do what you really want.  Take advantage of that.  Unplug your phone, disconnect your computer, make some tea or hot cocoa and curl up with a good book.  If you need to, tell folks you'll be out of town.  Then stay put and enjoy. Ahhh.

 

Spinning, Sauntering, Stuck, Still: How to tell if you're doing enough.

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Are you doing enough? Recently I've heard so many people - clients, fellow coaches, friends, me sometimes - despairing that they aren't doing enough.  They aren't as awesome as their peers.  Or as some internal ideal. Everyone else is so much more PRODUCTIVE. I've been reading books like Today Matters and Die Empty, which are inspiring and motivating and remind us to get off our butts and do something - to stop hemming and hawing and just go... But these books don't actually tell you to "just go." Because just going isn't necessarily what you need to do.  There are two kinds of "just going".  The first is desperate going so you can say you're moving.  So you don't have to feel like you're being too much of a lump.  So you can jog along and say, "See?  I'm doing something!"  It feels jangly.  It feels electric, but in an uncomfortable, static-y way.  It feels like too much caffeine.  It feels like an out of control spring, bouncing, bouncing, bouncing.  It feels frantic.  Sometimes it feels aimless - either like a hamster running in a wheel or like a pinball ricocheting off of lots of light-up bumpers, racking up "points" but getting nowhere.  Let's call this kind "spinning." Spinning can feel exhilarating at first, but it quickly devolves into unfulfilled exhaustion.

The second kind of "just going" feels fresh and adventurous.  Maybe there's a slight tinge of fear, but it's more like anticipation.  It feels solid and grounded but light at the same time.  Like setting out on a hike on a sparkling summer morning. Or picking up a paintbrush and beginning to cover a canvas with color. It feels like possibility.  It feels creative and it feels fun. It's connected to something bigger. Let's call this kind "Sauntering".  Sauntering is moving forward but without hurry or stress - in a relaxed, but purposeful manner.  Not frantic and fast, but at a comfortable pace.

What about not going, you ask?  When does that make sense? Is it always time to move?

Not necessarily.  There are two kinds of "not going" too. The first kind is fear-based.  It feels frozen, heavy and scared. It feels cut off.  It feels like peanut butter on the roof of your mouth, or tires mired in mud.  It wants to climb back under the covers. Maybe watch some TV.  Let's call this kind "Stuck."  Stuck is just how it sounds.  And it feels awful, even when we try to avoid the feeling by snacking, napping, hiding, or distracting ourselves.

The second kind of not going is peaceful and restful.  It feels clear and conscious. Being present and not doing makes more sense for the time being.  It's sometimes paired with planning or visioning.  It's sometimes gearing up for something big.  Let's call this kind "Still."  Still is quiet on purpose.  It's realizing that some of the best ideas only happen when we give ourselves time to percolate, marinate, meditate - time to relax and dream.

I've felt the effects of Spinning, Sauntering, Stuck and Still in recent weeks, and what I know is that I'm so much happier when I'm shifting between sauntering and still.  When I'm spinning and stuck, not so much.  Here are four simple steps to help you recognize spinning and stuck and move toward sauntering and still.

1. Pay attention. Look closely at exactly what you're doing.  Keep a log of your actions (or inactions) - in 15 minute increments, just for a day or two. Be honest!  I can get stuck in a Facebook vortex faster than you can say, "kitten video!" And if there's printed matter in front of me, I can read until an hour or two has drifted past.  It takes brutal honesty to confront where your time is actually going.

2. Ask yourself if you can align enough of your actions with your larger vision or purpose.  If not, then you're probably spinning or stuck.  If you don't even know what your larger vision or purpose is, it's probably time to get still and focus on that first.

3. Check in with your body and your emotions.  If your feelings are positive and your body feels light, you're more likely sauntering or still.  If your feelings are negative and your body feels heavy, you're more likely spinning or stuck.  *Warning:  Sometimes stuck and spinning can feel positive at first - kind of like the initial sugar high before the crash.  Be attentive to your overall emotional state, and the feeling in your body.

4. Reflect at the end of the day, each day for a week.  Are you content with the way you spent the day?  Can you point to some action or some experience that feels like it's connected with your big picture goals? (Back to #2!)  Do you have a nice mix of happy action (Sauntering) and relaxed recharging (Stillness)?

Just having these four categories helps me be honest with what I'm doing.  Once I'm aware, I can choose to make a change.  It feels great to climb into bed after a day of engaging Sauntering mixed with restorative and reflective Stillness. And it feels like enough.  Days like that remind me of the quote I used to have on the wall of my classroom: "Vision without action is only a dream.  Action without vision just passes the time.  Vision with action can change the world."

How about you?  Where do you find yourself spending more time - spinning, sauntering, stuck or still?  When you're spinning or stuck, what strategies do you like to use to move back into sauntering or stillness?  How do you like to address the voice that says you haven't done enough?  Share your ideas in the comments, or email me, and let's continue the conversation!

Visualizing your best holiday yet, even when the tree falls down...

The Christmas tree fell over just before guests were to arrive.  And I had no time.  I was like Bridgette Jones.  With much to do and negative time remaining. I watched the tree fall over.  I was across the room.  The sound of shattering glass was heartbreaking.  I called my husband in tears.  Could he come home to help?  Of course he could.

The irony wasn't escaping me.  I was less than an hour away from hosting a Holiday Vision Board Party.   I wanted my house to be an oasis of holiday cheer.  The eight foot tree was the centerpiece.  And it was on the floor, surrounded by needles and broken ornaments.  I thought, "There's some life-coachy lesson here.  What is it?  Don't strive for perfection?  Go on no matter what? It's not that bad?"  My mind was not on board.  I was a bit freaked out.

My husband came home.  After some cursing and a second toppling of the tree, followed by more cursing, we got it back up and secured.  Miraculously, many of the glass ornaments and most of the most irreplaceable heirloom ornaments had survived both falls. And when we plugged it in, it lit up! Truly a Christmas miracle!

But there was no time.  I vacuumed quickly.  I gathered the dozens of fallen and unbroken ornaments into a pile.  I tried not to worry that the kitchen looked like a combat zone.

The guests arrived.  I fixed drinks.  I changed the beginning of the party to a "re-decorate the tree" activity.  Everyone loved it!

And then, mostly to calm myself--my adrenaline was still going a mile a minute--  I led all of us in a holiday visualization.  We took deep breaths. (I tried.)  We climbed back into our bodies.  (Everyone else was probably in their bodies already, but I had been gone for hours, lol!) We remembered a favorite holiday memory.  We used all of our senses to dive back into the memory.  Several of us got teary with the emotion.  It was wonderful.

Try it now.  Remember the sounds, sights, smells, tastes, textures - really revel in your happy memory. Now, recall the emotion you have around this memory.  We recalled feelings like excitement, joy, comfort, safety, belonging, and love.  It was beautiful.

Then we got down to the fun part - creating a holiday vision board!  Each one was unique.  One vision board simply had one image of a guy and a dog on the back of a pickup truck, because this person really wanted simplicity and the feeling of being on an adventure on the open road.  Others focused on family and togetherness, or on relaxing and coziness.  We had great fun.  I had time to put out the food.  We ate, drank, enjoyed the holiday music, the company, and the miraculously still-beautiful tree.

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Would you like to envision your own best holiday yet?  Grab some magazines, a glue stick, a piece of posterboard or paper, and scissors. Then print out this one page Holiday Vision Board guide. And if you email me what you create (carla@livingwildandprecious.com), I'll share it in an upcoming post! Or share your happy memory and feelings in the comments.

And if you need more help with making the holidays truly your own and making them match your life right now rather than five, ten, twenty or thirty years ago, click here for more tips, including how to avoid "holiday porn"!

My wish for you is a beautiful, just right for you holiday season!

SIMU - it's worse than FOMO!

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Have you heard of FOMO?  It stands for Fear Of Missing Out and I've seen it mentioned in at least a dozen places in recent months.  Apparently, we're all way more susceptible to this now that we can't just see what the neighbors are doing, but instead we're plugged into everyone's life and their pretty photos of their cocktails or dance party or beach vacation or whatever.  And Instagram filters make everything look so arty! While we plug into social media and all the rest of the media out there, instead of enjoying where we are, we wonder why we're not in Bali, or climbing some mountain in South America, or at that cool new restaurant that everyone is talking about.  And we get all full of anxious chemicals. So we're usually instructed to unplug for goodness sake and pay attention to whatever we're actually doing.  And/or take our own photos of cocktails or babies or cats or mountains - and enjoy how pretty they look on Instagram too! (At least this is what I do - I love an arty Instagram photo!) But there's something just as insidious as FOMO, at least for me.  I call it SIMU and that stands for S#%t I Made Up.  Or Stuff I Made Up if you prefer. And this is something I used to do to myself (honestly I still do it sometimes!) without any help or cocktail photos from anyone else.  I would create gigantic lists of stuff that had to get done.  I  would come up with plans to do way more than is actually possible for someone like me who also likes to nap.  And then I would fill up with anxious chemicals when I'd only do ten percent of it.  I'd wake up stressing about how I was gonna get it all done and go to bed stressing about what I didn't do.

This wasn't stuff I had to do - it was Stuff I Made Up!  In the world of self-help we can really make some serious lists of everything that's going to edify us and make us better people.  But the truth is, none of it was crucial.  If i didn't feel like yoga class one day, so what? If I didn't feel like writing in my journal, so what?  If I didn't feel like blogging, the world would not stop.  Slowly, slowly, I've been learning to stop stressing about self-imposed made up stuff, and get clearer and clearer about what it is that I actually want to do. Sometimes I want to practice yoga.  Sometimes I want to blog.  Often I want to write.  I always want to read!

In the 21st century first world, pretty much everything we stress about is made up.  By us. Fabricated. Most of what we tell others we're so busy doing and preparing for and overwhelmed by is purely by choice.  We could survive, and potentially thrive, with way less. Sometimes the fabrications are created by society and culturally ingrained so they feel real, but they're still made up. Which means we have a choice.

I'm choosing to give up some of my SIMU in order to be able to savor whatever I'm doing in the moment.  There is magic in what is happening now.  Especially when I pick something to engage in that I love, that challenges me or piques my curiosity.  Something I really want to do, not what I think I'm supposed to want to do.  Something related to my own desires, not societal expectations.

And then I pick that thing and show up.  All the way.  All senses present.  Instead of half there because my mind has drifted off to some other place in the past or future.  Whether it's sitting in the grass doing nothing, practicing my French (still loving that!), writing a blog post or making a pie, I'm there. I might take an Instagram photo though- and make it all arty... :)

How about you?  Have you discovered some SIMU recently that you don't feel like doing anymore?  What would your summer feel like if you dumped the SIMU every day that you just don't want to do?  Would that give you more time and space for the stuff you really care about, the stuff that you keep putting off?

If you want to chat about this further, come join my class tonight called Pie in the Sky -it's all about bringing back the fun and getting something done this summer, and one strategy is to dump your unwanted SIMU.  And if you're reading this blog post way after the fact, the class will be recorded, so you can get it anytime!