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How to Keep Your Mental Boat Afloat

How to Keep Your Mental Boat Afloat

    In March 2011 I had my first anxiety attack. It was gross. It was scary. It was completely unpleasant.

    But the worst part? My doctor decided that I needed medication in order to function. Highly addictive medication, that is.

    I used the happy pills for about a week before throwing them out the proverbial window and taking the following risks:

    1. I got a new doctor (duh!)
    2. I quit my stressful, micromanaged job (sweet relief!)
    3. I decided to move to Paris (Oui, oui)

    At my first appointment with my newfangled holistic doctor (we’ll call him Dr.Happy), he handed me some pearls of wisdom on which I have entirely based my well-being (and this blog post). This is what he said:

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    “The healthiest people do two things differently. First, they know when something is off. And second, they know what to do in order to fix it.”

    Dr. Happy knew what he was talking about. With those words, he changed the entire direction of my life. I can now say that I’ve learned how to recognize when my mental boat is a-rockin’, and I’ve spent the last 15 months collecting the tools needed to find my equilibrium after a storm. Now, I’m here to share my pearls of wisdom with you.

    STEP ONE:  How to Tell if Your Mental Boat is Rockin’

    So how can you tell that your life is out of whack? Simple. Ask yourself the following question:

    Is this how I want to feel?

    If the answer isn’t, “Hell yeah! I love feeling like this!”, then you’re in good company. Please continue to step two.

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    STEP TWO: How to Get Back to a Blissful Mental State

    My doctor recommended “taking time for yourself”.

    “Take time for myself?” I thought, “What kind of woo woo crap is that?”

    As it turns out, taking time for yourself can come in the following forms:

    1. Practicing self-compassion
    2. Partaking in stress + anxiety reducing activities
    3. Finding flow
    4. Investing regularly in small pleasures

    Practicing self-compassion is a fancy way of saying “be nice to yourself”. Let yourself indulge in some reality TV, a bowl of ice cream, or skip your work-out without letting the devil on your shoulder tell you how lazy and pathetic you are.

    This doesn’t mean that you should do these things all the time. Of course not. However, when your self-control muscle is tired, give it a break!

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    Partaking in stress + anxiety reducing activities comes in a variety of forms. My favorites are meditation, jogging, and taking a nice hot shower. You can also spend 10 minutes writing, sign up for a class, or watch the clouds pass in the summer sky (I spent hours doing this during my June 2011 Facebook hiatus).

    Finding flow is one of my favorite concepts. When you are in a state of flow (or in the zone) time passes quickly. When you’re in flow, you’re working with your greatest strengths.

    The formula for flow is simple: find something that you like to do and that also challenges you. Don’t make it too challenging, or you’ll create anxiety. Likewise, an activity that you enjoy but that is too easy will make you bored.

    For more on flow, check out Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s TEDx talk (he discovered it, after all).

    Investing regularly in small pleasures involves just that: spending small amounts of money (under $10) on things that make you happy.

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    I regularly visit the local coffee shop for an iced tea, buy greeting cards to send to friends, grab a drink on a restaurant terrace, and buy books for my Kindle.

    STEP THREE: Your Next Step

    Now that you’ve got some fancy and fun ways to keep a cool head, grab a piece of paper and jot down 20 more ways that you could prepare yourself for a mental shit show. This list will become your tool box. Practice one of these activities tonight… and another one tomorrow morning! Remember: preventative care is better than a band-aid after battle!

    (Photo credit: Flying Life Preserver via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on December 2, 2018

    7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

    7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

    When giving a presentation or speech, you have to engage your audience effectively in order to truly get your point across. Unlike a written editorial or newsletter, your speech is fleeting; once you’ve said everything you set out to say, you don’t get a second chance to have your voice heard in that specific arena.

    You need to make sure your audience hangs on to every word you say, from your introduction to your wrap-up. You can do so by:

    1. Connecting them with each other

    Picture your typical rock concert. What’s the first thing the singer says to the crowd after jumping out on stage? “Hello (insert city name here)!” Just acknowledging that he’s coherent enough to know where he is is enough for the audience to go wild and get into the show.

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    It makes each individual feel as if they’re a part of something bigger. The same goes for any public speaking event. When an audience hears, “You’re all here because you care deeply about wildlife preservation,” it gives them a sense that they’re not just there to listen, but they’re there to connect with the like-minded people all around them.

    2. Connect with their emotions

    Speakers always try to get their audience emotionally involved in whatever topic they’re discussing. There are a variety of ways in which to do this, such as using statistics, stories, pictures or videos that really show the importance of the topic at hand.

    For example, showing pictures of the aftermath of an accident related to drunk driving will certainly send a specific message to an audience of teenagers and young adults. While doing so might be emotionally nerve-racking to the crowd, it may be necessary to get your point across and engage them fully.

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    3. Keep going back to the beginning

    Revisit your theme throughout your presentation. Although you should give your audience the credit they deserve and know that they can follow along, linking back to your initial thesis can act as a subconscious reminder of why what you’re currently telling them is important.

    On the other hand, if you simply mention your theme or the point of your speech at the beginning and never mention it again, it gives your audience the impression that it’s not really that important.

    4. Link to your audience’s motivation

    After you’ve acknowledged your audience’s common interests in being present, discuss their motivation for being there. Be specific. Using the previous example, if your audience clearly cares about wildlife preservation, discuss what can be done to help save endangered species’ from extinction.

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    Don’t just give them cold, hard facts; use the facts to make a point that they can use to better themselves or the world in some way.

    5. Entertain them

    While not all speeches or presentations are meant to be entertaining in a comedic way, audiences will become thoroughly engaged in anecdotes that relate to the overall theme of the speech. We discussed appealing to emotions, and that’s exactly what a speaker sets out to do when he tells a story from his past or that of a well-known historical figure.

    Speakers usually tell more than one story in order to show that the first one they told isn’t simply an anomaly, and that whatever outcome they’re attempting to prove will consistently reoccur, given certain circumstances.

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    6. Appeal to loyalty

    Just like the musician mentioning the town he’s playing in will get the audience ready to rock, speakers need to appeal to their audience’s loyalty to their country, company, product or cause. Show them how important it is that they’re present and listening to your speech by making your words hit home to each individual.

    In doing so, the members of your audience will feel as if you’re speaking directly to them while you’re addressing the entire crowd.

    7. Tell them the benefits of the presentation

    Early on in your presentation, you should tell your audience exactly what they’ll learn, and exactly how they’ll learn it. Don’t expect them to listen if they don’t have clear-cut information to listen for. On the other hand, if they know what to listen for, they’ll be more apt to stay engaged throughout your entire presentation so they don’t miss anything.

    Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm4.staticflickr.com

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