I am always talking about how to relieve stress for us busy businesswomen, who are wearing 17 hats and trying to negotiate through these incredibly difficult times.

 So, in order to talk about joy, I have to talk about how to get there, because most of us are not feeling that joyful right now. Recently i spoke about the physical effects of a lack of joy and the toll it takes in your body.

This week I want to talk about the mental problems that occur when joy is not conducive in your thoughts. Last night I was reading an article about how many people are experiencing depression and anxiety in these times. I think they said it’s gone up 33%. Psychologists and psychiatrists are seeing a huge influx of patients because people are under so much stress. So let’s talk about mental health.

If you’re joyful, you’re not going to be depressed; if you’re joyful, you’re not going to be suffering all the negativity and sadness that comes along with those things. Joy and depression are antithetical so it’s impossible to experience them together.

My approach is always to be totally practical. You can and MUST find your way to fine mental health if you are going to have a successful business and a happy personal life.

1. The very first thing to do is recognize how you are feeling about yourself. How do you feel today? Are you stressed? Are you peaceful? Do you have doubts about something at work? Are you fighting with your kids at home? What kinds of thoughts are floating around in your mind? The reason I ask this is because the very first thing you need to do is to get a handle on how you feel about yourself in the moment.

All too often you are likely having concerns about everything around you and never taking the time to monitor yourself. You have to learn to take care of yourself first. And I say that because most of us do not. Your habits prevent you from self-nurture and this is something you can address if you truly want joy.

Habits are difficult to alter or release but there’s always hope. We can hold on to that by a thread, right? I heard the other day: ”If you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” I thought that was a great idea!

So how do you learn to love yourself? Well, first, you must admit that you aren’t loving yourself. And the way you know that is when you are not feeling good, not being creative in some way, feeling on-edge. Your relationship with yourself is what defines the kind of life you’re going to lead. That’s a fact. If you’re blaming yourself for things all the time, if you’re angry at yourself or others, if you’re feeling confused, if you’re frustrated and fed up, then, this is a sure sign that you’re not loving yourself.

And that’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing. It’s absolutely crucial to recognize that and not pretend like, Oh, no, I, feel good. Everything’s great.” You must acknowledge the truth. Without honesty you won’t move on. If you minimize, sweep things under the carpet, you’re not going to fix them. You want to fix them. You want to feel good. You want joy in your life. Right? 

So stop being your own worst enemy. Once you know that, you can work with it. If you deny it, nothing changes. In our little ego minds, we’re all excellent deny-ers. You’re no different. We’re all in the same boat together.

2. Now that you acknowledge that you don’t love yourself, you need to attend to the stress that you are experiencing. Who isn’t experiencing stress these days? And if you’re in business, well, that just goes along with the territory. So when you’re feeling stress, you’re not at your best, obviously, you’re not going to be able to solve the problem that needs solving. You won’t be able to think clearly, you’re going to possibly get sick. Stress causes illness and accidents – no two ways about that. And it can get very serious very quickly. You must handle your stress.

There are lots of quick things that you can do to relieve your stress. Several weeks ago, I talked about my Instant Calm Formula. I call it ICF or “I see fun” 😊 

It’s an instant way to let the stress ebb away. It’s temporary, it’s not going to fix you for life. But it’s a lifesaver in the moment. Try it.

As an aside, I’m not suggesting that we should never have any stress. A little bit of stress is good. I know it gets me motivated. I’m a down-to-the-wire kind of person. I tend to wait till the last minute to get a project completed. It’s the kind of stress that fires me up and gets the job done. So honor yourself where you are. But if what you’re doing (or not doing) is causing you constant stress, then that calls for some change in your thinking. 

3. Notice your negative thoughts. That’s what I call being on ego-automatic, which is that defensive part of your mind that thinks you have to do everything on your own, that everybody’s out to get you, that life is hard, etc. Complain, complain, is what the ego loves to do. Just give me your ear, and I’ll fill it up with all my problems. You may be bored to death but I’ll convince myself I got something off my chest.

However, the problem is that the more you talk about your problems, the more depressed you get. So is that helpful? I don’t think so. I think you want to do something about that.

Your negative thoughts are hurting you. These thoughts are usually based in the past or in the future: something that happened way back that you’re harboring a grievance against, dragging into the moment and then regurgitating; or it’s about some horrible thing that you think is going to happen in the future, which of course hasn’t happened yet and most likely never will.

I don’t think that makes sense. I don’t think you want to keep doing that. So catch those negative thoughts. This may sound strange, but the best way to do that, and what my spiritual training has taught me over so many years, is to forgive yourself for your negative thoughts. Why? Because you are hurting yourself although you think you’re hurting because somebody did something to you. It’s still your thought. And they have no idea what you’re thinking. Right? It’s not hurting them at all, but it is hurting you. There’s no joy in negative thinking.

And forgive yourself for thinking, ”Oh, there I go. I went and did that stupid thing again.” Whatever it is, just catch it and realize that it’s meaningless. It serves no purpose other than to keep you locked up and imprisoned in pain. You don’t want to keep doing that. So get rid of those negative thoughts!

4. Share your feelings. How about this; ”I’m grateful that things aren’t worse and I don’t like to burden anyone.” You don’t want to burden anyone? I don’t think that’s helpful either. You know why? Because your ego is thinking, “I have to do it on my own, nobody else cares about me or nobody else is going to understand.” Those hurtful thoughts and are not helping you to relieve the stress. No joy there.

What that means is you have to be selective in finding the person that you can share your feelings and thoughts with, because there is hardly anything better than having a conversation and laying it all out on the table with someone that you can totally trust. And if there isn’t anyone that you feel you can trust, then go to a therapist. Therapists are de rigueur these days. Especially if you’re in business, you really need an outside, compassionate listener because you’re in a place of authority. You do need to talk to someone who really is interested in helping you. 

5. Step back and examine yourself for unhealthy behaviors. When you don’t love yourself, you tend to run from the problem. You run away in ways that are very harmful to yourself, mentally, as well as physically. You start drinking too much. You overeat, you gamble, you shop compulsively, you watch porn, you smoke, etc. – less than useful things that are not going to get you where you want to go.

So what’s the answer? Well, you must face it. Denial is not going to solve the problem. Doing these harmful behaviors is not going to solve your problems, it’s only going to increase your stress. The more you push it away, the deeper you get depressed. We’ve all had moments. It’s totally normal. There’s nothing wrong with you if you feel down. But what you want to do is catch yourself. And use the Instant Calm Formula, because that will help you right away. So the best way is to catch yourself. As soon as you’re going to get a drink or eat another doughnut, or flick on the TV and binge watch on Netflix, catch yourself and say, “Is this what I really want to be doing?”

Your ego loves a void to fill up with all these unhealthy activities. So, instead, replace that negative thing, the overeating, or the eating junk food, for instance. Replace it. Do you like to cook? I love to cook. I love to chop and peel and slice. To me it’s a form of meditation. And I’m doing all these veggies and en[joy]ing the colors and the aroma of the veggies as I slice them. I love to smell onions cooking. It’s a wonderful experience all together! And then I sit down to a meal that is really healthy for me. So instead of eating the junk, I’m eating healthy foods. Replacement therapy!

If gambling attracts you, don’t do that. But instead, find a group of friends to play cards or a game. I’ve played games with my family online. And it was a lot of fun. Use replacement therapy. Just switch out the negative and replace it with something very similar, but that’s positive and fun. And something you can enjoy with other people.

Unhealthy behaviors, catch them, see them, confront them, and then find a way to replace them to switch them out with something else.

6. Dealing with sadness is key to unlocking your joy. Ultimately, working with your thoughts will bring you to the promised land! You begin to take responsibility for what you are thinking. The next step is to accept that you have the power to change your mind about what you are thinking. Are you the victim of your thoughts? Or can you decide to change the ones that hurt?

Remember, all these sad thoughts that are going on in your mind are keeping you from your joy. Let me reiterate. I know there are many people who are suffering with grief. We’ve lost people we love. This illness has killed how many hundreds of 1000s of people already in our country, in our state, in our towns. I read the paper every day and I see the numbers of people who have passed keep rising. Our grief is profound. I understand that, and I honor it. You must allow yourself time to grieve. That’s very important.

However, if you find that your grief is overtaking your life to the point where you really aren’t functioning, then maybe it’s time to get help. Again, get help, or join a grieving group at your church. Or you can call your doctor or your local mental health department and find out if there is help there. Please help yourself! There’s no shame in it. You are not alone.

Catch yourself getting uptight and do the ICF as often as you can. You will feel better right away. It won’t last but at least it’s a quickie answer.

7. Seriously, learn to laugh at yourself! This is the cherry on the top of the cake. As you scrutinize the thoughts in your mind that are causing you to suffer, take a moment to consider how you will think about them 10 years from now. In all honesty, when I was younger, I was never able to laugh at myself. I would feel ashamed if I laughed at myself. But over the years, I’ve realized how ridiculous that is. Because everybody makes mistakes. We all have problems. We all know what it’s like to go through hard times or to find ourselves in crazy situations and not know our way out. 

Just listen to any of the really great comedians. They tell stories about the most horrible things they’ve been through and the ridiculous things they’ve done. And we laugh! Why do we laugh?  Because we understand, we’ve been there.

When you laugh, your brain releases endorphins, and your whole body gets involved. It will take the stress and sadness away. It’ll lift your cheeks, and everything lightens up. It stimulates your heart and your lungs. It’s a whole-body workout in itself when you can laugh wholeheartedly at life and the crazy things that happen.

I remember many years ago, I read a book by Norman Cousins called “Laughing Your Way Back to Health.” He tells how he got sick. He went to a million doctors and nobody could figure out what was wrong with him. Little by little he got weaker and weaker until he could barely move. And nobody could help him. He was getting severely depressed and almost wanted to die. Then he had an idea. I don’t remember the exact details, but he decided being in a hospital wasn’t doing a thing for him.

So he asked his friends to take him to a hotel and set him up with aides to care for him because he couldn’t do anything for himself. Then he requested his friends to bring him movies to watch. Only comedies. And then he would watch comedies all day long. He began to laugh. Slowly, he started to get better. In his mind, the laughter healed him. So if he could do it, you can too. 

Al right. Let’s recap- Joy is an internal experience, it’s always present, but you cannot experience it if you are doing the following things:

if you’re not loving ourself
if you’re not dealing with your stress
if you’re having negative thoughts
if you’re doing unhealthy behaviors
if you’re not sharing your concerns with someone you trust
if you’re sad, too long, and too much
and if you don’t learn to laugh at yourself

 So if you truly want to find your calm and joy in the midst of the storms of life, I invite you to read about my upcoming Masterclass, “Releasing Stress and Finding Joy for the Busy BusinessWoman” at www.marciagrace.com/busywoman

 And remember, Everything Begins with a Thought

Peace and Love Always,

In my new book, Calm, Creative, Joyful: Lessons in Transforming Your Life, you will acquire abilities you didn’t know you had, to transform the thoughts that hurt so that your life becomes a play of endless opportunities for success and happiness.

This book is a daily inspirational reader offering you new and practical ways of perceiving your world with guided actions to get you going!

Available on Amazon.

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