Are You a Thermometer or a Thermostat?

The following is a guest post by Lisa Bobyak of Living Fully Balanced.

You’ve got them in your house, but have you ever thought about what truly differentiates the thermometer from the thermostat?

The thermometer in your home reads the room and adjusts to the external surroundings. It’s controlled by factors outside of itself. The thermostat is set and remains steady no matter what the external conditions are. The controls are internal and constant.

To understand why I’m talking about the HVAC system in your home when my typical subject matter isn’t focused on climate control, I’d like you to consider these common life events. How do you respond to them? Are you a thermometer or a thermostat?

  • You couldn’t get in to see your doctor for three months and the day of the appointment arrives. Your appointment is scheduled for 2:00pm and you get there early to check in. As you settle in to the seat in the waiting room, you notice others are being taken back their rooms. You wait. And you wait. And you wait. Finally, at 3:30pm, a nurse calls your name and takes you back to the exam room. You get changed into the paper gown. And you wait… again. Your doctor eventually rolls into your room around 4:00pm. ARGH! Is your reaction more like a thermometer or a thermostat?
  • It’s Wednesday evening and you’ve had a relatively good day at work. You’re feeling fine and you’re happy to be home. However, things quickly change when you open the door from the garage to the house. You can almost taste the tension in the air. Your six-year-old twins are arguing over who’s turn it is with the shared iPad. And your spouse is yelling at your oldest, “Turn off the TV and find your soccer equipment! If we don’t leave in five minutes, we’ll be late!”. Thermometer or thermostat?

In our busy, sometimes frenetic days, it’s so easy to get caught up in reacting to the “temperature of the room.” Without thinking about it, we often soak in other people’s emotions and before we know it, we’re the ones taking on the stress and negative emotions that weren’t ours to begin with.

It’s a natural response to react like a thermometer.

However, constantly reacting to, and being pushed and pulled by other people’s moods and agendas gets exhausting. And it’s not just tiring. Our physical health takes a huge hit when we absorb other people’s stuff.

So, what’s our protection against the constant barrage of emotional shrapnel in our everyday world?

Be a thermostat rather than a thermometer.

Thermostat people have an internal locus of control. They know they have the power to control how they respond, no matter what’s going on around them. Their reactions are controlled and they are not affected by external factors.

Thermostat people are resilient.

Resilient people are happy.

Resilient people find joy in life.

And joyful people are better at practicing self-care and being kind to themselves.

Relevant

The following is a guest post by Joan Steffend with an introduction written by our founder, Barb Greenberg.

Are there days you feel you don’t quite fit into your life, that you have lost your way or lost your footing? Are there times you feel you are trying so hard and nothing seems to work out? Do you sometimes doubt your value?

Please know you are not alone. Someone recently told me to consider these feelings as “growing pains.” They remind you to pause and to reevaluate. In doing so, you will “grow” into a new understanding and relationship with your life. Please be patient and remember you have more value, more relevance, than words can express. May these words from Joan Steffend comfort you:

I’ve been thinking a lot about the word relevant. Was I? Am I? Could I be? Is it important?

Relevant.
What does it mean? That there’s a place for you.
What does that mean? That you fit in this world, perfectly, just as you are.
What does that mean? That you can let go of the struggle.
What does that mean? That life rises up to support you.
What does that mean? That you can relax.
Relax.
You are relevant, even if others don’t see it or know it.
That is enough.
You are enough.
Now.

Why Resilience Matters Today More Than Ever

The following is a guest post by Nancy Maxfield-Wilson of MyMax Performance.

Got stress? It’s becoming increasingly more difficult to reduce our stress. In fact, it seems to multiply daily in our hyper connected, smartphone-addled world. So how do we develop a more effective response? Resilience is critical to thriving vs. merely surviving! Resilience (our ability to bounce back and even transform adversity into opportunity) can absolutely be learned. It can also be strengthened, just like we strengthen our muscles.

Why care? Stress is linked to the six leading causes of death, and two out of three of every doctor’s visits involve stress-related conditions. It costs the U.S. $200-$300 billion each year in healthcare costs and lost productivity. In 2016, the American Psychological Association saw a significant increase in stress due to political conflict, fear about our nation’s future and social media usage.

Chronic stress can crash our productivity, health and happiness. It can disrupt sleep, memory, metabolism and ability to learn. Adding insult to injury, it can make us gain weight! In response to stress hormones, our body pushes more fuel into our bloodstream for fight or flight, but if unused, that extra blood sugar gets converted to fat and the infamous “muffin top”.

Research shows how you perceive your stress can influence whether it adversely affects your health. The GOOD news (there’s lots, so read on for it!) is that humans are incredibly resilient, which is why our species has been so successful. In addition, we can change our behaviors once we become aware of them.

Here are five big reasons to be optimistic- we’ve GOT this!

1. Our mind is incredibly powerful and it can heal. This is why in medical trials, we control for the “placebo effect.” We can actually recover because we think we’re receiving treatment.

2. We create our reality moment by moment with our thoughts and mindset. Consider Viktor Frankl or POWs held for years in unimaginable conditions. Bad things happen to good people; it’s our response that defines us. Optimism can be learned.

3. We are more than our DNA! Research of twins shows that lifestyle choices influence our health just as much or more than our genetics, in some cases (epigenetics).

4. Our body’s natural state is balance (“homeostasis”). This is the body’s ability to stabilize body temperature, heart rate and stress hormones, to name a few. Just give it a break and let it do its stuff! It’s a mind-body system; the body is a powerful tool for resilience.

5. Everyone can become more resilient, no matter where you are starting from, if we are willing to develop new skills.

Reset your stress meter to become present, productive, healthy and happy. Remember-resilience is your superpower-the difference between thriving and merely surviving in your one precious life!

How to Help Kids Manage the Stress of Divorce

The following is a guest post by Erin Kassenbaum.

If stress burned calories, many of us would weigh 90 pounds, right? Work, family and the never-ending “to-do” list all create significant stress on our lives. Most of us adults can effectively manage our stress. But what about children, especially kids whose parents are going through a divorce?

Understandably, divorce causes a great deal of stress for children. They are full of fear over the changes they are experiencing, and often worry they are the reason their parents are getting divorced. One of my main goals when working with clients is helping them help their kids manage stress during and after divorce. Children generally respond to stress in one of the following three ways: positive, tolerable, or toxic.

Positive stress response is a healthy part of development where kids learn to cope. Children experience positive stress when getting a shot or starting school after summer vacation. Tolerable stress is more serious and longer lasting, but manageable. This is often the type of stress children experience when their parents get divorced. The good news is both types of stress can be negated by positive, loving relationships with parents and other caregivers who can help them adapt and cope with stress.

However, if parents are so high-conflict they are not able to develop a cooperative co-parenting or parallel-parenting relationship, kids are at risk for developing a toxic stress response. Toxic stress puts children in a constant state of fight-or-flight mode, affecting their brain development, suppressing their immune system and causing learning and memory problems. As adults, children who experience toxic stress are at risk of developing heart disease, substance abuse problems and depression. Obviously, we need to help kids manage stress so that it doesn’t become toxic.

This is one reason it’s so important for parents to focus on developing a manageable co-parenting or parallel-parenting relationship with one another. In addition, parents can help their kids manage stress by:

  • Understanding it’s normal for kids to be stressed during the divorce process. Don’t get stressed because the kids are stressed!
  • Validating the kids’ feelings about the divorce. Using phrases such as “I know you feel sad,” or, “I understand you miss seeing your mom everyday like you used to.” Kids need to hear that it’s okay to feel how they feel.
  • Encouraging honesty. It’s important kids know they can always be honest with both parents.
  • Asking the kids what they think would make them feel better. Sometimes the only answer may be that mom and dad get back together and that’s okay. Try to offer simple ideas like taking a walk, watching a movie together or calling the other parent.
  • Keeping a regular routine, especially for younger children. Routine and consistency give kids tremendous security and comfort.
  • Repeatedly reassuring them they are not the cause of the divorce and that both parents will always love them, no matter what.

Finding the Balance With Stress


The following is a guest post by Mary Battista of Prairie Health Companion.

When you hear the word stress, most people automatically think of a negative outcome: disease, discomfort or distress! Stress is “the response of the human organism to any change or demand”. But is the outcome from a demand put on the body necessarily always bad?

Most people are well aware of what stress means to them. When people are under pressure to achieve, or have constant demands that exceed what they feel they are capable of handling, they feel the negative effects of stress. Physically, they may experience chest pain, a racing heartbeat, rapid and shallow breathing, trouble sleeping, digestive dysfunction, muscle tension and headaches, to name a few. To soothe this state of “distress,” some may engage unhealthy practices such as overeating or drinking, which starts another set of stressors that comes from being overweight or side effects of too much alcohol. The body, feeling under threat, is sending distress signals by secreting the hormones cortisol and adrenaline as it prepares for the flight or fight response designed to help the body evade danger. The problem is that if stress is not well managed or is excessive, this response can cause or exacerbate disease.

Alternately, eustress is defined as “good stress”. In this state, you find yourself feeling engaged, inspired and excited about what lies ahead. This is the “sweet spot” that, as a coach, I am helping the client find so they feel challenged about the goals that lie ahead, rather than overwhelmed or out of control. Too little of the good stress and the client feels uninspired and finds it hard to move forward toward healthier habits.

Divorce can certainly be a stressor.

Taking small steps and experimenting with self-care, women can start to flourish in ways that bring good health and happiness back into their lives. Stress need not be all bad, but careful management is necessary so that you can live a life that feels exciting but allows the body to maintain optimal health.