Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy and Healthy U: SMART Goals for 2015
Making Our  2015 Resolutions Real, Meaningful and Successful

How many times have we made New Year's resolutions, only to have them unrealized and unaccomplished?  Perhaps it is because we failed to put a workable plan in place to turn our dreams into reality.  The S.M.A.R.T.  Goals model provides that structure that can help us create the road map toward a feeling of purpose and accomplishment, that can be a wonderful confidence booster.  It should be noted that there are several versions of the SMART model.  Outlined below is a summary of the various models.

Specific or                                  Make sure your goal is clear and concise.  This is where your goal       Significant                                      addresses the "who, what, when, where and why"?

Measurable                                What  is the mark of your successful attainment of the goal?  How
                                                    will you know when you have achieved it?  This is where you
                                                     define the end point or outcome of the goal.  What  are the
                                                       steps to take to accomplish this goal?

Achievable or                           Is this goal possible to achieve, in general by anybody?  Have
Attainable  or                             others successfully accomplished this goal?  This is where one
Actionable                                   can challenge oneself by stretching a little and striving to reach
                                                      a little higher, thus feeling more successful.

Realistic or Relevant                  Is this goal realistic for you, in terms of your skill set, interest
                                                    level, motivation and commitment?  Also, what resources do
                                                      you have or need to accomplish this goal?  Resources may be
                                                         in the form of functional, material aids, to social supports.

Time Bound                              By what date do you expect to accomplish this goal?
                                                    By setting a time target, it provides a marker, that allows
                                                      us to evaluate our success toward the goal and to aim
                                                        for completion.

Some general tips:

Make a distinction between long term (at least one year to accomplish) vs. short term goals (attainable within one year or less)

Prioritize your goals and tackle the most important ones, first.  Refrain from trying to juggle too
many goals at one time and becoming overwhelmed.

Reflect on the different areas of life to define goals within the various categories (i.e. personal, health, family, career, financial, etc.)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Happy and Healthy U: Reducing the Stress of Gift Giving

Happier Holiday Gift Giving

Your Presence is a Present

Many of us become stressed during the holidays due to the expectations and expense associated with buying and giving gifts.  If you wish to reduce the commercial emphasis of the holidays and provide more meaningful and memorable gifts, consider ways you can give of yourself.  Be sure that what you offer is something that is desired by and useful to the recipient.  Also, be clear about the time frame during which you will fulfill you gift offer and make sure it will be mutually convenient for the recipient and yourself.

Gifts of Your  Time
·         Volunteer with a cause important to you or to someone special 
            to you

·         Help someone with a task (home improvement, painting, 
           organizing, packing for a move, etc.)         

·         Give someone a break; Do a chore; Run an errand

·         Spend time doing something fun or special with someone

·         Host a gathering (i.e. game night, movie night, etc.)

·         Visit a sick or shut-in person

·         Write someone a letter/note; Express appreciation

 Gifts of Your Talents
·         Cook a meal; Make a special dish; Bake something sweet

·         Babysit for someone to give them some free time

·         Teach someone a skill

·         Use your creative talents (take photos, sew, entertain, do art
            or crafts, etc.) 

·         Share your expertise (resume assistance, computer repair
           research, budgeting or accounting help, etc.)

Friday, October 31, 2014

By Dr.Diane Kern

The Happy and Healthy U approach to managing negative emotions is the A+ Approach

Acknowledgement and Awareness:  Awareness of ourselves and how we feel is a major step in being able to self-manage or self-regulate. Simply ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” The sooner we are able to recognize that we are experiencing negative emotions and therefore, distress, the easier it is to change and manage such emotions.  Treat your negative emotions as alarm signals.  The purpose of your distressing emotions as alarm signals is to get your attention and alert you to the fact that there is a problem address. Also, identify the things and situations that tend to trigger your negative emotions.

Assessment: This is the evaluation step, which has two parts.
Assess the basis or cause of the negative emotion by stopping and asking yourself: “What is causing this negative emotion; does this emotion makes sense in light of what happened; and is the intensity of the emotion is in line with the severity of the issue? 
Assess your attitude about your feeling.  First of all, validate your feeling by giving yourself permission to feel whatever you are feeling.  For instance, if your anger automatically makes you feel guilty or embarrassed, you are likely to shut the feeling down and become defensive in the face of it (i.e. deny it; project it; suppress it; or detach from it, etc.).  This will make it far more difficult for you to manage your emotions, as it will interfere with your ability to accurately assess and addressing them.

Addressing the Issue: This is the problem solving stage.  Here is where you make a conscious choice about what you wish to feel, instead of the negative emotion.  Start with considering ways to change your thinking about whatever is causing your distress.
Ø  Utilize ways to physically calm down when you are upset and distressed.  This will enable you to think clearly, make more efficient decisions and feel better.  Techniques such as deep breathing,
Ø  Focus on the present, rather than on the past or future. 
Ø  Identify whether there is evidence to support the thinking that generates the negative emotion.  If not, change your erroneous thinking and your emotion will follow.
Ø  Find ways to think about the distressing situation differently.  For instance, refocus on what might be a benefit, rather than a negative.
Ø  Recall your previous successes around handling and managing a similar feeling. Remind yourself that you can overcome the distress and get to a better place.
Ø  View yourself as having power in situation, rather than the situation making you feel distressed.
Ø  Allow yourself to be flexible, see your options and change your mind and expectations in a way that helps you get unstuck.
Ø  Recognize what you can vs. what you cannot change; Exercise your power.
Ø  Be assertive and stand up for yourself instead of acting out or holding in your anger.
Ø  Treat yourself well by being fair and reasonable.  Therefore, eliminate negative self-criticism and self-blame.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Getting in and Feeling in Control vs. Being Controlled and Feeling Overwhelmed

"Getting in and Feeling in Control vs. Being Controlled and Feeling Overwhelmed"

 by Diane Kern, Ph.D.
Creator of “Happy and Healthy U” Life Coaching Workshops

Getting in and feeling in control is about recognizing and claiming one's power in difficult or unpleasant circumstances instead of allowing the circumstance to dictate to and control you. So, ask yourself,Who is the Boss of Me?”  Hopefully, you answered “Me” or “I am. “ Let’s see if that is really true. 

Below are some self-statements that will allow you to reflect upon your sense of personal control and empowerment. Explore the impact of such perceptions about yourself.  Then, identify solutions for overcoming a sense of being controlled and feeling powerless over one’s circumstances.

Impact Questions to Consider:
  •   How is this attitude or perception self-defeating?
  •   How is this attitude influencing the way you feel?
  •     Is that the way you wish to feel?

Perceptions of Circumstances Related to Feeling Powerless

Using others as a yardstick to evaluate yourself and your accomplishments.
       Example:  “All of my friends are more successful and accomplished than I am”.

Worrying about what others think about you; desiring the approval of others; and using that to guide your decisions.  
      Example:  “If I enroll in a (GED or job training program; college, etc.) others are going to wonder why this old woman or man is just now returning to school or college”.

Allowing some past negative occurrence in your life to continue to haunt you.  
      Example:  “I am never going to get a job, when they see that I lost my last job” 

Treating a past mistake or challenge as though it defines you (and internalizing it and labeling oneself), rather than treating it as an external problem that can be solved.  
      Example: “I am a procrastinator because I can never get things done in a timely fashion.” 

      Problems setting boundaries with others.
      Example: “I am so tired and have no time or energy to take care of my personal needs or projects because I am always saying yes to requests from (family members, friends, church members, etc.)”.

Problems exercising self-discipline and making decisions that work well for you.  
      Example: “Every time I get ready to study for that exam, I get distracted by my friends, who want to talk or hang out and I end up not studying”.

Allowing your negative emotions to control you.  
      Example: “At first, I really felt good about telling my co-worker off because she ticked me off so badly when she acted like I was not doing my share of the work.  But now, I feel badly because I know I went overboard and hurt her feelings.  So, it may be a bit uncomfortable having to work with her on this next project”.

Giving power over your emotions to the external circumstance.  
      Example: “I hate that job so much that thinking about it keeps me awake at night”. 

Treating a temporary circumstance as though it is permanent and not amenable to change.
      Example: “I am never going to get a better job”.

Treating a negative emotion that resulted from past abuse or mistreatment as the reason you cannot accomplish something today.  
Example: “I grew up being told that I would not amount to anything, which resulted in my feeling worthless and inadequate.  So, it’s hard for me to believe that I do anything well even when I get a positive performance evaluation or good grades.  Therefore, I just let others volunteer for the tough assignments and am afraid of trying something on my own”.

Solution Considerations:

  • Determine if your perception is based in real, actual evidence.  If not, change your perception
  •  Recognize that a feeling is not necessarily fact.  Is your feeling based on a misperception?
  • Realize that you cannot mind read or determine/control what others are thinking.  Refocus on your attitudes and behaviors, recognizing that you have 100% control here.s

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Make Your Job Work for You
Own Yourself! Be in Possession of Who You Are at Work and in Your Profession
  •         Take responsibility for your decisions, actions and attitude
  •          Being self-determined about the manner in which you conduct your professional self
  •          Examples of qualities and traits to adopt and embrace

Ø  The amount of initiative you take
Ø  The level of competence you demonstrate
Ø  The degree to which you function well as a team player
Ø  The degree to which you are able to learn from mistakes and improve
Ø  The degree to which you are willing to learn new skills and advance

Adopt your own agenda
If your agenda is to remain with your current job or profession:
  •       Set performance goals
  •        Decide what it is you want from your job/profession and strive toward achievement
  •        Weigh whether your efforts to advocate for changes will result in desired improvements
 If your agenda is to change a job or career:
  •          Determine what it is that you wish to experience in the new job or career
  •          Clarify the ways in which you wish your new job or career to be different from the current        situation
  •          Formulate ways to determine the presence of what you want in your new job or career

(For instance: What questions might you ask in an interview to assess the presence of such features?)

Recognize your value and worth
  •          Ask for what you need to do your best job (i.e. training, assistance, materials, etc.)
  •          Treat yourself well, while working hard (i.e. take breaks, vacations, and de-stress)
  •       Recognize, record and feel good about your accomplishments
  •          Ask for raises, advancements, promotions or bonuses, commensurate with our                          performance 
  •           Regularly update your resume and occasionally test the market for your marketability

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Setting Healthy Boundaries:  “No” is Not a Nasty Word
by Diane Kern, Ph.D.

Setting healthy boundaries with others is about being able to set appropriate limits, turn down unreasonable requests and refuse or reject reasonable expectations that will not work well for us. In many instances, it requires us to be able to say, "No" to others without feeling guilty or as though we are mistreating them.  Setting limits is a way to establish and protect our healthy boundaries by setting the parameters within which others may appropriately interact or engage with us. This is also the mechanism by which we determine the lines that distinguish the issues for which we or others are responsible. In other words, by setting healthy boundaries, we reinforce our self-respect, self-esteem and sense of personal power.  This also conveys to others the message that we expect to be treated well.

Listed below are guidelines for what constitutes healthy vs. unhealthy boundaries.  A great self-help book for developing and honoring our boundaries is: 
Co-Dependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself  by Melody Beattie.

Healthy Boundaries:

  • The ability to feel free to say “no” and to respect another’s right to do without guilt, anger or fear

  • Having respect for oneself and one’s right to be treated well

  • Refusing to accept abuse or disrespect

  • The ability to acknowledge when a problem or issue is your responsibility or that belonging to someone else.  In other words, “knowing and honoring your stuff vs. someone else’s stuff”

  • Possessing a strong sense of self, who you are, and how you feel; Also, being able to clearly communicate that to others.

  • Having a healthy expectation of shared responsibility and reciprocity in relationships.

  • Feeling independent, secure, at peace, joyful and confident.

  • Having a healthy and balanced ability to trust others and interact in an interdependent manner.

  • Respecting one’s own privacy and that of others.

  • Feeling the right to have one’s own beliefs and behaviors

Unhealthy Boundaries:

  • The need to please others without regard for the personal cost (i.e. integrity, values, etc.)

  • Feeling powerless, passive and dependent in relationships

  • Problems identifying one’s own feelings, needs and wants

  • Trying to control and change others

  • Extreme discomfort and refusal to share personal information

  • Avoidance of close interaction and emotional intimacy with others; distrust

  • Allowing others to control, disrespect or abuse you

  • Difficulty saying no to others’ requests, due to fear of rejection, abandonment or conflict

  • Taking responsibility for the feelings and problems of others, often feeling overwhelmed

  • Inability to see the flaws and weaknesses in others

Monday, June 30, 2014

Turn Off and Tune In:  Listen to Your Inner Voice

  • Does it seem as though you never have enough time?
  • Do you feel constantly rushed and under pressure?
  • Do you end up being last on your own "to do" list?
  • Does it feel as though time is passing you by?
  • Do the electronic devices in your life seem to be in control of your time?

If you answered, "yes" to any of the above questions, you are not in control of your schedule.  In fact, you have handed over your power to others and their demands or to things, that take up your time.  Therefore, it is not surprising that you feel like you can never catch up, let alone feel ahead of the curve.  In other words, you are living your life in a reactive mode, as opposed to being proactive.  This is a state in which your happiness, sense of accomplishment and potential are being diminished.

There are ways you can change this state of dissatisfaction and disappointment and gain a sense of feeling in control, self-determined and inner peace. This can result in increased happiness and life satisfaction. It starts with a change of mind and attitude about yourself and your well being, as follows:

  • Recognize that time and technology are at your disposal and within your control.
  • Take time out by turning off devices, such as television, computers, and other electronic devices.
  • Put yourself "first" on your "to do" list and make time for yourself.
  • Take time out to slow down and rest in order to restore your energy.
  • Engage in quiet, reflective activities, such as self-soothing and mindfulness.
  • Set goals for yourself; create an action plan; and get started.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Identifying and Changing Fear or Anxiety Generating Thoughts and Perceptions
Cognitive Distortions:  These are errors in thoughts, perceptions, expectations and attitudes that frequently result in either anxiety, irrational fear or depressed mood.  The list below represents such forms of thinking, which fall within the category of pessimistic or negative thinking and are not based in reality. 

The good news is that we can change our thinking.  By recognizing when we are engaging in irrational and anxiety generating thinking, we can replace such thoughts with rational evidence and reality based thinking that will result in our feeling in control, calm, confident about ourselves and optimistic about situations.

Distorted, Self-Defeating and Negative Forms of Thinking:

All or Nothing or “Black and White”: Engaging in extremes in one’s perceptions.
Example: “If I failed one course, I must be stupid or unable to handle college”

Over Generalization:  Attributing characteristics to all persons or circumstances without evidence.
Example: “All men cheat”

Minimizing:  Underplaying or dismissing real positive events or qualities.
Example: A parent responds to a child’s B plus on a report card.  “Couldn’t you have done better?”

Maximizing:  Taking one negative event and blowing it out of proportion.
Example:  A student, who did poorly on one exam states, “I will probably flunk the class”

Negative Predictions or Forecasting:  Making negative assumptions about what is likely to happen in the future without evidence.
Example: After a romantic breakup, a woman states, “I will probably never meet anyone and will be alone for the rest of my life”

Labeling:  Referring to oneself or others with a negative label that represents a mistake, shortcoming or negative action.  This is akin to attributing one’s behaviors to one’s genetic makeup.
Example:  A person, who tends to wait until the last minute to undertakes major tasks, states:  “I am a procrastinator”
Jumping to conclusions:  Making snap judgments before all the evidence is in.
Example:  Someone, who is job hunting states, “I have not heard from the company, where I applied one week ago, so they must have decided to hire someone else”.

Closing the Door Prematurely:  Making the assumption that others cannot be flexible.
Example:  I might as well not apply for the job that advertises preference given to teacher with
experience teaching creative writing; My experience is limited to teaching poetry.

What-If Thinking:  Thinking about and dwelling on various negative possibilities that may result from a reasonable action or decision.
Example:  “Suppose I buy a house and it burns down in a fire; or I lose my job?”

Unforgiveness or What-If Thinking about the Past:  This is the tendency to focus on regrets about past actions and decisions and entertain what might have happened, if a different course had been taken.
Example:  “If only I had left that job sooner, I would have been at a higher salary by now”

Overly Critical and Judgmental Attitude:  Putting oneself down and beating oneself up for mistakes, challenges or actions that one regrets.
Example:  “I am angry with myself and feel stupid for staying so long with someone, who mistreated me.  Obviously, something must be wrong with me”.

Perfectionism:  The tendency to never feel a sense of accomplishment or to give oneself credit for having attained a reasonable level of success.  A success or achievement is at best, briefly enjoyed and the focus is on doing more.
Example:  “Yes, I know that my colleagues seek me out to solve certain problems and that I get stellar performance reviews.  However, I do not feel certain about my competence. So, I usually stay late and work extra hours and volunteer to help with others’ projects to make sure I am doing a good job.”

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Becoming Empowered in Your Career Life


Awareness:Acknowledge Your Work Related Distress

  • Are You Miserable at Work?

  •   Do You Hate Your Job?

  • Do You Dread Going To Work?

  • While at Work, Are You Wishing You Were Someplace or  Anyplace Else?

  •  Have You Lost Your Motivation and Drive to Succeed in Your Current Job?

  •   Do You Want to Leave Your Job or Change Careers, but Feel Afraid to Do So?

  •   Do You Want to Change Careers, but Feel Unsure About What Other Career to Pursue?

  •   Are You Simply Feeling Stuck and In a Rut?

  • Are You Feeling Stressed and Burned Out, Due to the Pressures of Work?

  •  Are You Feeling Tired, Drained, Due to Work Occupying Too Much of Your Life?

    Assess: Determine the Nature and Source of the Problem

    • What are the causes of your work/career distress?
    • What obstacles are interfering with your career happiness?

    Address: Solve Your Work and Career Dissatisfaction
    Create an Agenda by: 

    • Deciding what you wish to change
    • Determining how you want work to look and feel

    Create an Action Plan and Get Moving by:

    • Prioritizing the Changes You Plan to Make
    • Beginning with the first goal, determine the steps to take
    • Getting started, monitoring your progress and staying motivated


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