How to Be More Resilient and Less Reactive

Have you noticed how some people – some leaders – are always seem well rested even though you know they work harder than most? They never break a sweat and nothing seems to faze them. They handle stressful situations with equanimity and never seem out of control. They are more resilient and less reactive. Since caffeine can’t solve all problems, the real question is: how do you improve your ability to renew? 

The Secret to Reducing Stress

Are the holidays adding to your stress? All the extra commitments – friends, family, and colleagues all seem to want more from you.  I guess that’s good, but how do you actually enjoy all of this “fun” without losing your mind?
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Whether it’s Business or the Holidays, Carry On!

Over the years I’ve been asked by friends, clients, and colleagues to write about a very particular travel challenge:  how to pack so that you look great, have the right clothing, and never have to check a bag.  I recently packed for a 10-day four-city trip for both business and pleasure for which I packed – you got it – only carry on!

The basic principle of packing light is mixing and matching.  To successfully mix and match, you’ll need to choose a core color such as navy or grey, or color scheme such as black and white, or even leopard print and brown tweeds.  As long as everything goes with your primary color or color scheme, you’ve got a good start.  You have the ability to pack only a few items, but create a number of different looks.

Packing strategy doesn’t end with color.  Your shoes, jewelry, and purse must go with everything. Shoes are a challenge.  Limit yourself to one pair of flats, one pair of heals, and cute athletic shoes that work both at the gym and walking around the city.

One of my favorite travel tricks is the wallet purse.  It works for business and pleasure and is not much larger than a standard wallet, so it saves space while increasing functionality because it has room for a phone, lipstick, and the like.  During transit I wear the wallet-purse under my coat for easy access to money, I.D. and my phone and to avoid running afoul of those pesky rules limiting number of carry-ons. The wallet purse also fits nicely in my tote for business if I don’t want to carry it.

My friends and clients have also asked that I share a recent packing list.  On my 10-day, 4-city trip, I packed:

  • Leather knee-length jacket
  • Plum wrap
  • Multi-blue/white tweed jacket
  • Navy pant
  • Navy skirt
  • 2 Navy dresses
  • Teal non-work dress (could have left out)
  • Blue sweater
  • Black jeans
  • 2 white blouses
  • White tank top
  • Black leather athletic shoes
  • Navy flats
  • Black pumps
  • Black wide belt
  • Colorful silk scarf
  • Cross-body wallet-purse
  • 2 long sleeved white T-shirts
  • Athletic clothing
  • Unmentionables

Without boring you with all the details of what went with what, just looking at the list you can imagine that I had choices of outfits of varying levels of formality and function. Don’t forget that a jacket, even if it’s part of a suit, is fair game for casual and may look great with a pair of jeans or leggings.  Likewise, a suit pant looks great with a twinset or blouse to yield more looks!

Gentlemen, all the same principles apply to you. Choose a color for suits – black or navy, one solid and one with a pattern.  Then add in extra trousers and use one or both suit coats as a sport coat. Travel in one jacket and a pair of extra trousers and pack the rest. If you still wear ties and pocket squares, bring a variety that will work with each combination. They’re small and will add variety to your look.  You may want to have shirts done at the hotel on longer trips instead of packing additional ones, so plan and pack accordingly.  Don’t forget to wear your biggest pair of shoes and pack socks in the shoes you pack; that’ll help you save space.

A word about carrying-on liquids.  Yes, it is possible to pack all of your liquids in a one-quart bag.  You use a lot less in a week or two than you think so don’t pack liquids in their original containers; purchase and use small leak-proof jars and bottles. Ask for samples of your favorite products and pack those. On longer trips, I know I’ll need more of certain items such as toothpaste, which I purchase at the local drug store. Although I am very particular about my various beauty creams and hair products, believe it or not, I can still fit all my liquids for a 3-week trip in a one-quart bag by focusing on how much of each I really need.

You may be wondering how this all fits in a carry-on. My secret weapon is Glaser Designs  – the ultimate purveyors of luggage. In 2009 my husband and I went on safari and were limited to soft-sided luggage smaller than a U.S. carry-on.  And, wheels were not allowed. We asked Myron and Kari Glaser for their help.  They custom created our “Square Duffels” which we continue to use precisely because they fit easily into an overhead even on older or smaller planes. This is because the Glaser bag holds more than a traditional wheelie even though it is smaller and – drum roll please  – it’s completely soft-sided so you’ll confound flight attendants and fellow travelers with your ability to fit your bag into the smallest of overheads.

How you ask?  The secret is to use Insiders organizers. Insiders harken back to the days of traveling with steamer trucks that had drawers; they hold your garments, keeping them compact, neat, and unrumpled.  The packing cases must be made for the bag to carry the maximum. And, the key to fitting your bag into the ridiculously small regional-jet overheads, is to remove a single Insider from your bag if necessary – and because you’ve packed in Insiders you can do so without showing your travel companions your skivvies!

They also keep your clothing organized at your lodging.  To save your back and shoulders, Myron will suggest the best collapsible cart (which is not an additional item per carry-on rules!!) and you’ll be all set!

One last suggestion: use Insiders cord organizer to keep your cords, plugs, glasses, and other items organized and to make the most of space in your smaller carry-on.  Because the organizer stands upright, it maximizes the use of vertical space while ensuring that you can find travel items easily.  I use different colored organizers while I am traveling so I can easily lay my hands on a power cord, reading glasses, or pen without fumbling and losing items.

My advice: make your life easy and your car (or airplane) easy to pack for your trip to Grandma’s!  Happy Holidays!

Life Is Stress-Free Under Your Christmas Tree

It’s the holiday season and for some of us it might be difficult to fit present-buying and tree-decorating routines into our busy schedules. If we add travel arrangements, greeting cards, and holiday food preparations, it might feel like we’ve put too much on our plates. This is the time when our subtle and tenacious little companion might start creeping up on us. Stress.

Stress is both our reaction to potentially threatening stimuli and an obstacle to meeting goals and finding satisfaction. But, aren’t we in charge of ourselves – our bodies and our minds? If so, is stress something we do to ourselves?

Focusing on the present moment is the key to replacing tension with clarity because it’s so easy to get stuck when you are stressed. Your thoughts and actions become obsessive and you feel you need a break. But let’s say you don’t have time for a true break.  The more effective, stress-relieving strategy may be to turn to something else on your to-do list (like organizing your desk) or, actually to take tasks off your to-do list.  Ask yourself, what do I need to do right now to enjoy the holidays? After all, isn’t being (relatively) rested and being in a good mood more important than getting everything done?

The bottom line is that you don’t need to be perfect and you don’t need to do everything others are doing. Those around you would appreciate you more if you’re healthy, energized and focused. So just be yourself and enjoy your holidays!

Thanksgiving: Less Stress; More Fun!

How to Make Sure Everyone “Wins” Even When the Turkey Burns

Thanksgiving is that time of the year when benevolent intentions can turn into arguments and an abundance of dishes can be overwhelming to prepare (and wash!). It might be especially stressful for the hosts of large families, or any family with very different views and opinions. The idea, however, is to remember that we celebrate Thanksgiving, well, for giving thanks, not headaches. So focus on having fun and enjoying each other!

A trick for dealing with any of your potential Thanksgiving stresses is sensing your own and others’ feelings and needs. That means not assigning blame, guilt, or obligation to yourself or others (and yes, this is true even if your grandfather tends to bring up the most controversial topics at the table!). If you focus on enjoying yourself and appreciating others, you, likely, won’t experience anger or frustration. The point is to listen for what’s important – how much the host cares that dinner is enjoyed and enjoyable  – not for inevitable noise. If you can do this, you’re on the right track towards establishing a Win-Win Mindset!

So let’s say your son brought his fiancé to your house for the first Thanksgiving and the turkey does burn.  If you’ve got a win-lose mindset, you might

Blame yourself: “I should have done more. I should have prepared better.” or

Blame your son: “I’ve been trying, why doesn’t he save his criticism for later? He’s unthankful, that’s for sure!”

OR, you could adopt a Win-Win mindset and choose to respond:

By being aware of own feeling and needs: “When I hear what he’s saying now I feel irritated because I want some appreciation and understanding for the fact that the turkey did not cook quite right. We just moved and I’m using the oven for the first time.”

By being aware of others’ feeling and needs: “I’m guessing he is frustrated because this is the first Thanksgiving dinner he’s brought his fiancé to and he probably thinks it’s not going as he had planned.”

So tune yourself into the Win-Win Mindset and enjoy your holidays!

Do You Need More Time To Yourself?

There are many personality assessments out there and many of you have taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. If you did, you may recall that there are 16 different Types (I wrote more on Type here.) Type is at the top of my list for personal and professional development because it provides so much actionable insight. An interesting aspect of Type is that each Type has specific stress triggers and remedies – ways of getting back into balance. I say “balance” because the remedies often involve strategically balancing the right amount of time introverting and extraverting. In our busy world of back-to-back meetings and calls, a person typically needs more time to him or herself.

Much of my work with clients helps them identify stressful situations, then anticipate when they will experience these situations so that they can adopt strategies for avoiding performance-derailing stress or being “off balance.” For example, some clients need a little extra planning to be “on” when needed, while others need to start a day with intense Introversion in order to get through a day of Extraversion. The act of planning both requires Introversion and grounds them.

It’s not only Introverts who need time to themselves. The busy executives and lawyers I work with need time to reflect, even if they prefer Extraversion. The whammy of being an Extravert is that we often avoid reflective time because we don’t like it or it feels like a waste of time. If Extraverts don’t reflect sufficiently, however, they can be ineffective. They either become overwhelmed, which impairs their ability to prioritize, or they become judgmental and dismissive, which prevents them from considering new information. It’s all about each person achieving the right balance for him or herself.

Conquering Stress

Stress is a subtle and tenacious obstacle to meeting goals and finding satisfaction, even when we’re fully prepared to succeed otherwise. Interestingly, our perspective or “self-talk” can greatly affect how we experience stress, which is why it’s important to consciously choose to deal with a problem rather than letting it overwhelm us. (I wrote more on our choices to resolve conflicts by being aware of others here.)

Stress often feels like something that is done to us, but, in fact, we’re our bodies and minds and stress is something we do. The good news is that we can minimize its effects if we choose to respond deliberately rather than react with those habitual fight-or-flight instincts. The shift is subtle, yet transformative. So how can we “conquer” the stress? Here is how: be present, shift gears and face the issue.

If you’ve raised a child or trained a puppy, you know that a brief removal of stimulus can create calm and help manage behavior that is spiraling out of control. It’s the same with adults, except that “acting out” is internalized as well as manifested externally as poor behavior. Being present  – that is, focusing on the stressful moment as it occurs – interrupts the flow of stress.

Also, what helps me, personally, is finding a fresh perspective leading to new insights. This even sounds refreshing! Shifting gears or trying to imagine new solutions or just changing tasks (go for a run!) keeps me from obsessing over an issue.

And, lastly, you know, just don’t let stress overtake you. Find 20 seconds of courage and deal with that stressful issue you’re worrying about. Get your stress under control or it will control you!