Mental Outlook

What Does Your New Normal Look Like?

A large portion of the country is reopening, and while that can signal a return to the office – at least part time – for many, it won’t be a return to “normal”. We’re going to be leaving our homes for a very different world. And while some people can’t wait for “things to get back to normal,” the question we need to be asking is, “Was that ’normal’ the best that we could do?”

Prior to the pandemic shutdown we were a society on the go. We were a schedule-driven, multitasking mob with goals, agendas, and very little downtime. We defined ourselves by doing, not by being, and wore our busyness like a badge of honor. We scheduled our kids, ourselves, our weekends, and our holidays. We scheduled it all and we were busy, busy, busy. That busyness came at a cost though, it was making us sick. Dr. Susan Koven, Massachusetts General Hospital, noticed the trend and wrote, “In the past few years, I’ve observed an epidemic of sorts: patient after patient suffering from the same condition. The symptoms of this condition include fatigue, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, headaches, heartburn, bowel disturbances, back pain, and weight gain. There are no blood tests or X-rays diagnostic of this condition, and yet it’s easy to recognize. The condition is excessive busyness.”

However, early this year that busyness stopped – abruptly –and the time of the great reflection began. Why were we so busy? What did that busyness mean? Why did that busyness matter? And most importantly, what’s next? Our dilemma is global and can best be summed up by a piece of graffiti in Hong Kong that proclaims, “We can’t return to normal, because the normal we had was precisely the problem.”

While these past weeks have been traumatizing, in certain ways they’ve been a gift. We have been able to connect with our immediate and extended families; we’re consistently reaching out to neighbors and friends; we’re reengaging with our communities (from a distance), and we’re focusing on the people that make our lives full. We’re more mindful of our time; we’re focusing on self-care; we’re picking up old hobbies; we’re cooking; we’re making art, and while many of us are still working, we’re not traveling, networking, or engaging in the extraneous noise, or busyness of it all. We’ve been able to enjoy the quiet, and in some ways, are reluctant to let it go.

As we start to look at what’s next and define our new normal, we need to take stock of these past few weeks and evaluate what we want to take forward with us. Is it unscheduled weekends or daily walks? Is it a consistent focus on self care? Could it be a regular opportunity to make art? More time with friends? Or watching the sunset? Now – before the busyness sets in – it’s time to pause, take stock, and ask yourself what you really want. We’re all in this together and if we want to collectively benefit from these times, we need to support one another, be clear with our intentions, and define what we truly want our new normal to look like.

 

Lessons from the Stay-at-Home Order

Work From HomeAs coronavirus cases continue to stack up worldwide, women from every walk of life are having to adapt, rethink, and learn to lead in entirely new ways. COVID-19 knows no borders and refuses to recognize the status quo. “Normal” has been suspended and we’ve traded in our commutes and corporate meetings for working from our kitchen tables while simultaneously homeschooling our children. Or we’re scrambling to find childcare and new supports while we head out to our “essential” jobs.

While some of these changes feel extreme, others feel like a gift.

With the incessant media reports on peaks, flattening curves, and downward cycles, the calls to “open up the economy” and “get back to normal” seem deafening. And while normal – with all of its non-essential wonders – sounds like a great idea, there are parts of the new normal in our stay-at-home worlds worth keeping.

Flexibility

It’s long been known that working remotely benefits women. It takes two of the biggest pieces of a woman’s life – work and family – and makes them fit. If you’ve been told that your workplace does not support remote work, yet your laptop has been pinging nonstop since the stay-at-home measures began, it’s obvious that your workplace can support it – at least part time.

Beyond the constraints of the coronavirus, flexibility needs to work, and provide a path to leadership. As we’ve written, “People with adaptable work environments – both men and women – tend to have healthier habits with time for both self-improvement and family and friends, which makes them more productive and efficient when they work. Flexibility doesn’t just benefit women’s work performance. Research has looked at more subjective areas affected by schedule flexibility, including people’s happiness and satisfaction. Studies show that when people can choose to do things, like take their kids to school, sleep in or help their spouse that they’ll enjoy better relationships, a better quality of life, and be happier with their employment.” In other words, some of the benefits you may be experiencing now, could also have a positive impact on you in the future.

Moving forward, employers need to consider making work and family continue to mesh to maintain high-performing employees. Many women, who started out with all the ambition in the world, find themselves stuck in a place they never expected to be. They do not choose to leave their jobs and they are shut out of upper management by the refusal of their bosses to allow them to fit their family life and work life together.

Connections

While the majority of us have been at home following state and local mandates, many are actually feeling more connected to neighbors, friends, and distant relatives than they did before the coronavirus. We are reaching out to one another, and making frequent connection a priority through increased phone calls, Zoom happy hours or lunch dates with friends, or via social media.

We’re also tapping into our local communities and neighborhoods in new ways. From mutual aid groups on Facebook, to neighborhood apps, we’re supporting one another, and helping where we can. Live music, arts, and entertainment are also bringing us “together” on various live streams, and we’re not only able to enjoy the performances, we’re able to support our favorite artists.

Then there’s the fact that we’re spending more time with our immediate family than we probably ever have. And while that can be stressful (some days VERY stressful), it can also be rewarding. We have the opportunity to re-connect with our partners, and while we may not have ever intended to homeschool our children, being there for their activities and setting routines in the new normal can benefit them, and you. Whether working on projects together or going on neighborhood “bear hunts” there are plenty of ways to engage with one another and make the most of a difficult situation.

As we start to look at ways to get back to normal, now is a good time to prioritize and define what “normal” should look like. Right now, we have something that is often elusive – time. Spend some of it framing what the next phase looks like for you. Will you work smarter, not harder? Push for increased workplace flexibility? Will you try to spend some of your week working remotely? Will you reframe your ideal work/life balance? Will you continue to prioritize connections with your nearest and dearest, and community at large? We’re all in this together and if we want to benefit from these difficult times, we need to support one another, be clear with our intentions and Look for ways to change crisis into opportunity for a work-life balance that fits us–perfectly.

Hey Superwoman, Where’s Your Cape?

Shakespeare turned to poetry when the plague closed the theaters in 1593, and published his popular poem, Venus and Adonis. During another closure in 1606 he churned out King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra. However, Shakespeare didn’t have children sent home from shuttered schools clamoring for attention, emails stacking up waiting for responses, an employer on Slack needing an update, nor vulnerable, aging parents across town needing a grocery delivery.

If there was ever a time that called for you to marshal all of your superwoman strength, it is now.

“Normal” has been suspended for the next few weeks, yet there are more than likely no less than 10 things at any moment that need your attention, and many of the supports you may have relied on are gone. Your daughter’s dance class is cancelled – taking away an uninterrupted hour, your babysitter is also socially distancing, your corner restaurant with quick and easy takeout is closed AND you’re worried about coronavirus, your kids, your parents, your job, and the overall future of everything.

It’s not just maintaining the status quo that’s the issue. According to a recent report from the United Nations, mothers already do 2.6 times as much unpaid caregiving and domestic work than their partners. The current pandemic will only increase those demands, especially when there may be senior parents to care for as well.

Trust that you possess the skills and experience to step in, step up, and lead.

Millions of women will face expanding roles at home as Covid-19 spreads. The Guardian writes that, “Study after study has shown that even as women have stepped forward in the workforce, in married heterosexual couples, women still shoulder the bulk of household chores. (A Gallup poll from January found women were more than seven times as likely to care for their children on a daily basis as men in heterosexual married or cohabitating couples.) And 80% of single-parent families are headed by single mothers, according to 2019 US Census Bureau data.” 

While things may feel overwhelming, and yes, even scary, now is not the time to panic. It is time to work together and navigate these uncertain times. As Gloria Feldt says, “Realize that uncertainty will always be there, and engage people in moving forward anyway. Taking action is always the best antidote to fear.”

Yes, it is time to take action! As women, we are used to being on the front lines, and today we are perfectly positioned to lead the way. Many of you are now working from home where your children and families, in addition to your colleagues, may be looking to you for guidance, education, and care. In the midst of the chaos, remember to breathe, and trust that you possess the skills and experience to step in, step up, and lead. 

Dust off your cape because your skills are needed.

Make a Plan – If you all of the sudden find yourself homeschooling, or moving your office to your dining room table, you’re going to have to adapt. Remember, “normal” is not happening right now, so take some time to plan, set a routine, and try to adopt a new normal.

Stay Engaged – If you are working at home for the time being, stay responsive and connected to coworkers. Whether via phone, text, email, Zoom, Slack or other assorted software, these are likely unchartered waters and connection is more important now than ever. This is also time to take a proactive approach where you can. Whether solving problems at work, or weighing in on community issues, your engagement and yes, leadership, can have a long-lasting impact.

Lift Women Up – While we all be in our homes, we are connected. We can still support one another in the workplace, we can drop off groceries for a neighbor if we go out, or we can share resources and entertainment ideas for our children with one another. We can lean on one another virtually and should try to use electronic means to connect with another woman every day. Community matters.

Explore Resources – Do you have a pile of personal and professional development books waiting for you to find the time read them? Get started. It’s also the perfect time to catch up on podcasts, online offerings, and social streaming opportunities. There are plenty of hours to fill – make the most of them.

Relax and Enjoy – there are plenty of reasons to smile and celebrate the human spirit. Get online and watch some of the amazing arts and entertainment offerings that are being streamed during the quarantine. It’s also a good time to laugh. Trust me, those giggling babies and crazy cat videos on TikTok and YouTube are worth their weight in gold. Breathe through the anxiety and take this opportunity to catch up on life, read books, take walks, and connect with those you love.

Dust off your cape because your skills are needed. These are the times when we need to come together as a community to help each other through. Always remember, we’re all in this together, even when it’s wiser not to actually BE together. 

Push Her Forward and Vote Her In

Political Activist for Women

Rebecca Sive

Rebecca Sive was raised to work hard, get educated and in turn, teach others. Most of all she was raised by parents who thought it was important to advocate for democratic values and help get people elected to create equal opportunities and fairness for all. Since the 2016 election, and the subsequent Women’s March, Rebecca has been inspired to increase her advocacy for women and write her newest book, Vote Her In: Your Guide to Electing Our First Woman President.

#VOTEHERIN

Convinced that the time is now, Rebecca points out that a woman already got elected to the presidency by the popular vote. A fact she uses to make the case that the American people, both men and women, are ready for a woman president. In Vote Her In, she helps women – especially those who did not vote for the woman for president – see how they actually voted against their own interests.

Rebecca explains that the road to better health care, improved child care and education for all is by electing a woman president. Women understand the need for these things, which is why it just doesn’t make sense to vote for someone who does not address the issues in their policies. She also explains the ways that a woman president would help women reach parity sooner, first by demonstrating the ways that women make great leaders, and second through policies to promote equal pay and status in the workplace.

“When A Woman Leads, Everyone Wins.”

Women are proving that they can lead every day. In fact, as a result of their leadership, companies are more profitable, and policies are more beneficial to all.  Originally recorded in October, 2018, Dr. Nancy asked Rebecca who might run for president and Rebecca pointed out that women have been running and winning for years. Although only one-fifth of the Senate are women and there are only six governors, there are a number of women who have executive experience. She predicted that after the 2018 mid-terms, a pool of women would start to throw their hats into the ring. Early next year (2019), they will begin fundraising and announcing their intentions for 2020.  She predicted that regardless of where you stand ideologically or politically, you will have a choice and begin to see women leaders speaking out. (Rebecca was absolutely right. At this update, the field of six women running for President has thinned to four, but that’s still more than ever before at this stage of the campaign.)

In the second part of Vote Her In Rebecca encourages women to get behind the woman they choose and help her get elected. This how-to section of the book gives readers advice and direction for how to engage with the political process and push that deserving woman toward the presidency. Rebecca says women do it all the time. We lift each other up and help one another achieve our goals. We can elect a woman president and the country is very ready for it.

Listen to this interview for more inspiring comments and insights. Check out Rebecca’s website and get her book. Use #VOTEHERIN whenever possible and get this movement moving. If all of us push together we can Vote Her In!

 

Beating the Blues – 10 Ways to Have a Joyful New Year

When the glitter settles and the holidays bustle is finally over, many of us sink into sadness and feel blue and let down. Whether the causes lie inside, outside, or both, you can take a deep breath, refuse to feel bad, and get serious about taking control of your life and your emotions. Here are 10 proven strategies that will help you beat the blues and get your life back on a happy track.

  1. Grieve the loss. If past losses have caused your holiday blues, take time to finish grieving over your loss. It’s important to feel the sadness and grief and get clear about the reality of the loss. With acceptance, the intensity of the blues will lessen and a normal pleasure in life will return.
  2. Seek serenity. Many losses can be addressed through the principles of the Serenity Prayer: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Learning to identify which is which is a key to happiness after the holidays and all year round.
  3. Practice self-forgiveness. Repeat these messages:
    • “I deserve to be happy.”
    • “I am lovable.”
    • “I am valuable.”
  4. Stop obsessive thinking. Thoughts such as “I didn’t do it right, my gifts were lousy gifts, I said the wrong thing, it’s my fault, I woulda-shoulda-coulda,” can be stopped with a strategy of prayer or meditation.
  5. Avoid the ambush. Do not get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired, which can lead to poor judgment, bad decisions and regret. Stay away from substances and behaviors often used to numb pain, including alcohol, excessive spending or sexual relationships.
  6. Flee toxic people. Stay away even (or especially) if they are relatives. Increase time with people and environments of calm and good humor. Let go of resentments related to holidays past and declare an amnesty in family feuds.
  7. Take off the target. Some people’s families are downright predatory, turning as a group against one member. Being the target feels terrible, but don’t give credence to the criticism. Bring it into perspective by making a list of who was the target at the last six family gatherings.
  8. Practice extreme self-care. Manage stress by getting back to a normal routine as quickly as possible. Restore a balance of sleep, healthy eating, exercise and other activities. Exercise reduces anxiety and depression, so claim time for aerobic exercise, yoga, massage, spiritual practices or other calming activities.
  9. Reach out to other people. The blues naturally make a person withdraw,  instead seek out friendly nonjudgmental company.
  10. Volunteer. Helping someone in need will highlight the many reasons a person has for feeling gratitude despite the pain.

Is It More Than The Blues?

Depression can have many different causes and help is available. Please consult a mental health professional if three of these symptoms of real depression last more than a couple of weeks:

  • Change in appetite or weight
  • Dulled emotions, irritability, explosive anger
  • No enjoyment for usual activities
  • Change in sleep habits
  • Lack of energy
  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Social withdrawal
  • Suicidal thoughts or gestures
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Low self-esteem
  • Unresolved grief issues
  • Hallucinations or delusions

Thoughts of suicide should never be taken lightly. Instead, dial 911 in the USA or Canada or go to a hospital emergency room.

Know that happiness is your choice to make.  Focusing on loss and regret brings sorrow; focusing on gratitude and hope brings joy. Use your gratitude journal to get you started. Write down six things at the end of the day you are grateful for. You can start small and build from there. You’ll find when you turn the page and start being grateful for what you have that’s healthy and supports your happiness, more things, people, activities come your way.

 

How to Create Your Wonderful Holidays and Life

How have the holidays been going for you so far this year? Several years ago, divorce turned me back into a single woman after many years of marriage, and I’m happy to say my holidays these days feel just fine. The adjustment was challenging, and I confess I had some blue days, but by now I’ve learned that the secret to creating a wonderful holiday is to make my own choices and not allow other people’s stereotyped ideas to define me. Each of us has the right to spend the holidays the way we want to, right? Yes, you do, too. Yet, too often we let others dictate what we do, for our holidays and for our entire lives.

Women are doing that much less today than we used to because we are gaining more confidence in our own rights and abilities. We can learn a lot about this from single women because they build their lives outside the traditional stereotyped wife-and-mother roles for women. They may be single parents, or happily childfree, and heads of their own households. They pursue meaningful careers, and enjoy a rich social life, a strong and supportive circle of friends and family, are important to a lot of people and spread joy and good works throughout their communities.

During the holidays do your expectations keep you from seeing your circumstances for what they really are? Do you wear rose-colored glasses or focus on ways you fall short and feel depressed? One stereotype is that of the unhappy spinster alone at the holidays, but read on.

Bella de Paulo noted in Psychology Today that articles about making your unmarried life work focus almost exclusively on single women. Why? Because stereotypes assume women would rather be married and mothers, but the reality is quite different. Even more women than men said they thought being single helped them by allowing them to focus more on their work, or their studies, on making more friends, or on prioritizing their own needs. They said that being single makes them feel empowered, and able to enjoy the adventure and journey of their lives.

Many women who feel trapped by their choices imagine that becoming single is the only way to gain control of their lives. But what if you could ask for the support and assistance you want for your holidays rather than feeling trapped in impossible expectations? What if you could skip the parts of the holidays you hate and create new traditions? Guess what! You can. Go for it!

When women learn that I’m divorced, they say, “Well, you don’t have someone at home that controls your money.” I reply, “That’s right. Why do you?” It’s a worthy question. If you were in charge of YOUR life, what would you want your holidays – and your coming year — to look like?

Many women have never allowed themselves to ask such questions and feel like they have no choices. That’s not true at all. We learned a lot about stereotyped gender roles while working on my new book, In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other in Work and Life. It takes focused attention to change our holiday experiences, just as it takes work to change other parts of our lives. I’m convinced the best way to handle such discomfort is in solidarity with our women friends. Together, we can laugh at ourselves, create a vision for our futures, and find the courage to ask for what we want.

Here’s to creating the best holidays – and the best lives – that we can imagine for ourselves.

World Change Begins in Your Heart

Author, Speaker, Humanitarian

Dr. Paula Fellingham

Humanitarian and global women’s movement leader, Dr. Paula Fellingham continues to point her light toward spreading world peace and women’s empowerment for every woman on the planet. As an author of seven books, a teacher, musician, grandmother and winner of both the “Outstanding Leadership and Service” award from President Obama and the “Points of Light” award from President George W. Bush, Paula is propelling her social profit foundation, The Global Prosperity and Peace Initiative, to reach more people than any such endeavor ever has in the history of the world. Paula says each individual must see and accept peace within themselves before we can change the world. Therefore, her peace lessons begin within the heart, and she then shows how to share them in the home, and finally expand into humanity.

Target Date: International Women’s Day, March 3, 2019

Building on the landmark celebration in the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day in 2011, Paula is collaborating with organizations all over the world to launch a program developed by women for women celebrating all we have done, and providing a platform for women to help one another around the world. Using the video conference technology of Zoom, Paula is working to  produce a program that will reach 400 Million people 36,000 live events in every nation on the planet. This massive collaboration will also be available for download on Hulu.

Become a National Peace Ambassador

Paula invites everyone listening to become a National Peace Ambassador. You can sign up on PeaceandProsperityInitiative.org. It’s free and completely volunteer. You can participate as much as you want, but she has made it easy through the peace lessons, called “Peace Is Possible” which she developed for people to give in their own home. The lessons are adaptable to every age group and address problems people have every day.
Originally developed as a program for Rotary International, Paula’s “Peace is Possible” lessons teach participants how to be kind and loving to themselves, their children, brothers, sisters, classmates. She advises how to resolve conflicts in concrete practical ways, how to combat bullying and many more daily life issues. Her focus is on prevention and letting each human being know how precious they are, focusing on the fact that everyone matters and needs to believe that about themselves and everyone they meet.
Listen to more words of wisdom and inspiring projects from these two dedicated humanitarians, Dr. Nancy and Dr. Paula. Hear true stories about how women working together are making the world a far better place to live in. Check out Paula’s website, PaulaFellingham.com, and learn more about her women’s organizations that are founded on the same principles of women helping women as WomenConnect4Good, Inc.

Who Are You, As An Individual?

Author, Speaker, Coach

Elizabeth Suarez

Who are you is the first question coach and author Elizabeth Suarez asks her clients. She said that women almost always answer in terms of who they are married to, or who their children are. Elizabeth said the key is you can’t have what you want until you decide who you are as an individual. Yes, you have relationships with those other people, but who you are, what your interests are and how you feel about your family all combine to unleash your negotiation potential for yourself.
Elizabeth praised her mother for not giving up after her father died. Her mother was a tremendous negotiator for everyone else, but not for herself. Elizabeth worked her way up the corporate ladder in the days when she was told to keep her place and put in her time. She was told when she reached a certain level, people would listen to her ideas. Today’s world is changing and she feels that we all have the right and responsibility to contribute, but first you have to figure out who you are.

Key to Getting Everything

Elizabeth’s new book, The Art of Getting Everything, looks at our personal talents and traits as “net worth.” We all have it, but we must assess it honestly and identify how we contribute to the greater good in our careers and elsewhere in life. She compared it to navigating the New York subway, which is necessary to survive and get around in NYC. There are three major lines in life that may intersect anywhere:

  • Your career
  • Your family
  • Your interests

The foundation of getting everything is figuring out how to navigate the intersections. Elizabeth encourages her clients to get outside of their bubble and network with others to get help negotiating these intersections. In this interview, she used the example of someone who is expecting a baby and was just asked to be the CEO of a major company branch. This woman doubted her ability to do it all when she remembered meeting another woman who had twins while launching a new international division that moved several million dollars in revenue.  Elizabeth advised us to learn from other people’s stories, to reach out and listen to those stories and share ours as much as possible. You never know when you need that valuable lesson or that intersection of abilities to help you through a difficult time. It’s important to remember that you can have it all, but maybe not all at the same time.

Put Your Own Face Mask on First

Since Elizabeth spends a lot of time flying, she used the instructions from the flight attendant as the most crucial bit of career advice. Take care of yourself and the rest will fall into place. Start by doing this one thing for yourself–listen to this podcast. Then go to Elizabeth’s website and download the free “Negotiation Unleashed” Workbook to think through the key pieces to your net worth. Buy her book, and get started developing your skills in a new art form, The Art of Getting Everything.

Bull’s-Eye Courage

Guest Post by Sandra Walston, Courage Expert

Sandra Ford Walston, The Courage Expert

Hitting the bull’s-eye means being on target. English longbow yeomen in small hamlets often held archery practice after church services, the only time when many of them could gather. A common target was the white skull of a bull, and the greatest skill was illustrated by getting a bull’s eye.
Before practicing the skills needed to hit the bull’s-eye in your life and work, you need to know that you’re aiming at the right target—and then act with courage.
Acting with courage is about acting from the heart, from the center of your being. The word courage comes from French corage, meaning “heart and spirit.” The bull’s eye that you must learn to hit consistently is your heart. Everything outside the bull’s-eye represents a different aspect of the false self-stories, such as “I could never be like that”! By accessing your courage, you take aim at the true target of your life’s work.

Are You On Target?

It may take years for you to find the courage to act from your heart—the place where self-acceptance lives—and express your true identity, thus revealing your authenticity. Your courage is alive and well in your original self. The word “authentic” is derived from Greek authentikos, meaning “original.” Learn to live from the inside—the bull’s-eye of your true being. The skilled archer pauses breathing before releasing the arrow. The pause or reflection enables you to have goals yet stay present to adapt as needed. You become courageous by being courageous, hitting the bull’s-eye more often.

Three Strategies for Hitting the Bull’s-Eye

How can you increase your accuracy? Here are three bull’s-eye strategies:

  1. Determine why you are living off target. If you seldom hit the bull’s-eye, you may be focusing on negative external factors rather than listening to the affirmation of your heart. As you gain a healthier perspective about who you are, you limit the off-target shots that keep you from leading with your courage.
  2. Enhance your accuracy with meditation. 
    Courage-centering begins with learning to reflect so that you live from the core of your true being. Meditation can reveal your motivations and awaken your courage.
  3.  Start to underscore your bull’s eyes.
    Underscore your hits—your defined behavioral competencies, the times when you feel energized about your life and work. Discover the joy of living in the present and from your courage.

ACTION: Instill individual courage leadership.

 ~

About the Author/Presenter:
Global speaker Sandra Ford Walston, The Courage Expert is a human potential consultant who studies courage. She has 23 years of original research on everyday courage, feminine courage and organizational courage. She is certified coach, certified in the Enneagram and the MBTI®.
Featured on the speaker circuit as witty, provocative, concrete and insightful, she has sparked positive change in the lives of thousands of leaders each year. Sandra is the internationally published author of bestseller, COURAGE: The Heart and Spirit of Every Woman/Reclaiming the Forgotten Virtue (endorsed by Marianne Williamson and Jack Canfield) along with the follow-up book for women, The COURAGE Difference at Work: A Unique Success Guide for Women and FACE IT! 12 Courageous Actions that Bring Success at Work and Beyond.
Sign up for her free monthly courage newsletter or please visit www.sandrawalston.com

Kindness Equals Love in Action

Dr. Tara Cousineau

Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Tara Cousineau reacted to the cruelty of mean girls by becoming a kindness warrior and set out to make the world a kinder place. Dr. Cousineau maintains that kindness is a natural human action. We all start out being kind and compassionate to other people, then life happens. We may experience war, trauma, poverty, or other hardships and survival takes over. She maintains that because of our basic need to survive, the initial purity of thought and kindness for others is diminished, or even buried beneath our more urgent needs. However, she urges everyone to work at kindness. Whatever we feel and express is contagious. It’s up to each of us to decide what we want to share: meanness, which is an expression of hate, or kindness–an expression of love. Dr. Cousineau advises that we intentionally choose kindness for ourselves and others.

Kindness Is the Energy of Healing

When Dr. Cousineau talks to people about kindness, it is often dismissed as a soft, unimportant skill. But as a kindness warrior, she has the research to prove that it’s not only beneficial for us to express kindness, it’s a healthy choice. She calls it “the energy of healing.”  When confronted with a daily bombardment of negativity in the world, she uses kindness and compassion as a heart, mind, body remedy to stay happy and healthy. Her new book, The Kindness Cure: How the Science of Compassion Can Heal Your Heart and Your World, shares the science and the technique for creating compassion for yourself and for others.
Dr. Nancy shares her experience watching caregivers burn out and become unable  to help the people they serve with compassion. Dr. Cousineau says that it’s actually “empathy-fatigue” that makes them unable to continue to relate to the pain and suffering of those they care for. Empathy is the emotion where we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Caregivers’ stress response is to shut down when they can no longer tolerate another person’s pain. She says that’s especially true for caregivers of elderly parents with Alzheimer’s.  That’s when it’s important to create boundaries and care for and be kind to yourself.  Kindness and compassion is an uplifting experience, a tender loving emotion, not a negative one. Saying no, setting boundaries and caring for oneself in these instances, is an expression of kindness for yourself.

Contagious Kindness—3 Degrees of Separation

Dr. Cousineau says that there is a measurable mathematical result from sharing. When we share kindness with a friend, that friend shares it with another friend, who shares it with another friend. When it reaches the third friend of a friend, it mathematically has the capacity to come back to you. She also notes that in the worst of times, her mother told her to look for the helper. It harkens back to “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood,” but is a life lesson. Everyone who has done anything positive in the world has one person who has helped in some way—shared kindness through appreciation of that person’s talent or simply in their value as a human being. It is beyond being nice and polite, it is being truly compassionate for other people, recognizing kinship and unity with them.
Listen to this interview for more stories about how kindness can generate positive emotions and results in the world. Check out Dr. Cousineau’s website and take the quiz to find out your kindness quotient. Then get the cure with her new book and set your intention to promote kindness. It will literally lighten your day.

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