When Sirens Stop

When sirens stop, I worry. I hear a lot of sirens where I live. You get used to the noise and learn to tune it out. But when sirens are blaring, getting louder, and then suddenly stop, that’s the time for concern. A sudden stop means the emergency is nearby.

A similar thing happens with kids. If they make noise in the average range while playing, everything’s probably okay. If the pitch and volume suddenly rise, or things go silent, it may signal an emergency.

Life experiences create background noise within us. We’re used to it. We don’t hear it. As long as we’re engaged enough to feel startled when the background changes, we can usually avoid disaster. But what about those things that creep up on us and slowly blend into the background? Can we fine tune our senses to notice those changes?

Some will find a way to do this naturally, but for those of us who struggle, here are a few things that can help:

STOP. Be still. Listen. If you can remove a few activities or tasks for a week or two, you may notice things that get lost in the normal hustle and bustle.

REMEMBER. Think back to a week ago, a month ago, a year ago. What has changed? What feels the same? What is that thing in the back of your head that keeps nagging at you? Move it into conscious thought as you move and breathe.

MOVE. Stretch. Tense. Relax. Feel the difference. Moving your body in different ways than you normally do can give you a lot of information.

BREATHE. Inhale. Exhale. Try fast. Try slow. Add movement to coincide with each breath. Notice any changes. Does pain become tightness or dissipate? Does leaning forward remove tension from your shoulders? Does finding balance in a posture replace feeling anxious?

CONNECT. With your body. With support. Connecting with your body can help you feel more grounded. In turn, as the lower brain calms, you may gain insight. Connecting with safe, supportive people through healthy attachment may help your body optimize for maximum health. And feeling supported will help cushion you so that you can acknowledge symptoms you may be trying to overlook.

None of us want to be forced to face scary things. We all hope this pain or that rash are minor and fleeting. And many things will go away if we just wait. Other times, they will persist because they are symptoms of something serious. Stop, remember, move, breathe, and connect knowing it’s easier to recognize when to seek help if you don’t wait until the point where the sirens are stopping at your house.

Pretend You’re Helping Someone Else

Overcome obstacles when you pretend you’re helping someone else. I need to cook. I have vegetables that will soon spoil. I even want to eat vegetables. But I don’t want to cook. Just don’t want to do it.

Maybe it’s because I’m craving pizza. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to do the dishes afterward. I’m not sure but I bet you know the feeling. If not, dining out would be way less frequent and packaged prepared food would not appeal.

I could order in and put off the cooking for one more meal. That’s a great option if one meal doesn’t turn into three. Another option is to give away the veggies. That could be good for my neighbors. Another possibility would be to pretend I’m someone else.

When I’m helping a friend, I never mind doing the dishes. I feel no dread or hesitation. I don’t worry about drying out my hands. I just get in there and get it done.

Cooking for a sick friend is the same way. I don’t hesitate. I quickly figure out what I can pull together and prepare it.

Missing ingredient? I come up with a substitute.

Chopping needed? I chop, dice, and mince like a pro.

Why is it so much easier to get started in someone else’s kitchen?

Don’t answer that. There’s not really a need to analyze. Like many things, it’s only important to understand that this is my pattern. I can use that information to get past an unnamed, unanalyzed obstacle.

That realization makes my day easier right off the bat. There won’t be a chance to lament over my momentary laziness or feel anxious that I may waste more food.

I can simply get started and work from the point of knowing a way past procrastination. All I need to do is pretend I’m in a friend’s kitchen.

How do I know this will work? I’m practiced at using my foibles to my advantage. Or you could just say, I’m good at managing myself.

I’ll soon be sautéing green beans, roasting butternut squash, creaming spinach, and cooking onion, red pepper, and yellow squash. By dinner time, I’ll have a smorgasbord from which to choose. The bonus is that my refrigerator will be cleaned out as well.

I mention all of this to say, there’s nothing bad about flipping a weakness into a strength. In fact, it’s a great way to exceed our own expectations.

When I feel inclined to slack, I have many self-management tools at my disposal. These allow me to function efficiently and with much less angst. And they make chores feel more like an adventure.

If you’ve never considered harnessing your hesitation as an asset, go for it! My dinner tonight will be proof that it works.

I Can’t Stand Cleaning Up the Kitchen!

I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand cleaning up the kitchen. Ever think it would just be easier to throw away all the dishes…or all your clothes…or everyone you know and start over? It probably would be easier. But would it really accomplish anything?

Clean pans

I have to say I’m not in love with cleaning up the kitchen. Being in love with cooking, this creates constant internal conflict for me. It creates external conflict as well. I can’t stand to see dishes in the sink or crumbs on the floor so if I wait to clean up the mess, I feel irritated every time I walk through the room.

Now I know this is a silly dilemma because it takes very little time to remedy the problem. I have a dishwasher so it’s not like I have to wash each and every plate, bowl, or spoon. My All-Clad pans are easy to clean even when I’ve burned a sauce onto them. And, I don’t feel this way if I’m helping a friend clean up after a party at their house.

So what is my real problem? I let things sit and think about them too much.

I don’t have this problem when I do the dishes during wait times while I’m cooking. I just rinse, scrub, fill, dry, and put away as if it’s no big deal. When I think about it, it’s the same with laundry. If I move the wet clothes to the dryer in the morning when I reach for a clean towel, it feels natural to refill the washer with dirty clothes and turn it on. Boom! I just made progress on two loads of laundry before even having a cup of coffee.

It’s no different with paying bills, doing sales tax reports, watering the plants, or mowing the lawn. The more I put off the task, the more I think about it. The more I think about it, the more daunting it seems. The more daunting it seems the more likely I am to put if off causing me to think about it more making it seem more daunting, and well, you get the picture. I’m going round and round in a vicious circle until my mind begins to believe that it’s simply too overwhelming to tackle the project.

If I travel around the circle too many times, I may even begin to feel a need for relief from the mountain of work I’ve created in my mind. I may spend 30 minutes or an hour zoning in front of the TV, or ranting to a friend, or taking a nap to avoid that overwhelmed feeling.

If I’m facing a task that takes longer – cleaning out a closet – I may practice avoidance behavior for months or years. At some point I begin to feel justified because the obstacle has grown so large in my mind it truly looks insurmountable.

The truth is, I could put a box and a notepad in the corner of my closet and get rid of one thing per day and have the closet clean in a month or two. It would take so little time I wouldn’t even notice.

The same pattern often prevents us from beginning a fitness program, cooking healthy food, giving up gluten, changing jobs, or learning ballroom dancing to please our spouse. When it comes to all the small things that would improve our lives that we feel daunted by, Nike has it right. The best advice is JUST DO IT!

Now, I must leave you because I have dishes in the sink and you know what that means. No, I’m not going to take a nap.

dirty dishes

What is it that you just can’t seem to begin and how can we help you?


Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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