Category Archives: Refocus

Tools for Lifestyle Changes that increase effectiveness in coping with stress



Christine Kane talks about having a word for the year to signal your intention, to make things happen the way you want them to unfold.  I like this idea, and my word for 2009 was OPPORTUNITY.  It was my intention to take advantage of each opportunity that appeared and to create new opportunities when what I wanted was not readily apparent.  I did follow this intention throughout the year, and as a result, I entered some shows I might have avoided – and got in – such as SAQA Transformations 09: Reflections.  I joined a wonderful group of artists, Fiber Artists Coalition, which means more exhibits, curating “opportunities”, and support.

After giving it some thought this morning, I decided my word for 2010 is “PRESENT”.  I want to be fully conscious, fully focused, in the moment, “present” for every piece of my life in 2010.  I intend to be fully WITH whoever I am with, fully ENGAGED in whatever is going on EACH moment.  How exciting!

What’s your word for 2010?

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Did you have some New Year’s resolutions for 2009 way back in January?  Are you working steadily toward those goals or are they long-forgotten?  Whatever your answer, I think July is just as good a time to think about visions and goals.  In fact, it’s a good habit to review and modify your goals on a regular basis.  It’s also good to write down your goals and to talk about your goals.  “Studies” have shown that committing something to paper and talking about it to other people makes you more likely to follow through on it. 

Floating Leaves Revisited“Floating Leaves Revisited”  fiber art by Shelley Brucar

Right now, just start thinking about some of your goals, short-term and long-term, using the following framework:

GOALS that will take you FAR should be:

FLUID:  Allow your goals to be flexible.  As you change, they will also change.  If you get too attached to a specific goal or outcome, you may miss many opportunities, either because you won’t recognize them as opportunities, or you will dismiss anything that does not fit neatly into your plan.

ACTION-ORIENTED:  Attach an action plan to each goal.  Map out specific steps necessary to make the goal a reality.  If you wouldn’t plan a road trip without a map, why would you plan your life without one?

RELEVANT:  First identify your core values.  Then be sure your goals are relevant to those values.  You will be much more motivated to work toward goals that reflect what is most important to you.

In the next few posts, I’ll talk about identifying your values and related goals and mapping out strategies to reach your goals.

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Filed under Coping, Fiber Art, goals, Refocus, vision



Check out this post from Zen Habits blog for some great ways to increase your energy and reduce your stress:

and some energizing photos from Wayne Brucar, taken at the Racine Zoo:

Wayne Racine2

Wayne Racine3a

Wayne Racine6

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Filed under Refocus, Relax



Remember the 3-Legged Stool?

3-Legged Stool

There it is again.  We’ve talked alot about the first leg, Relaxation – and we’ll come back to that repeatedly.  Today, I want to introduce the 2nd leg, COGNITIVE RESTRUCTURING or REFRAMING.  And this is truly just an introduction; it will take many posts to explore Negative Thinking and many more to give you the tools to learn how to REFRAME.  So stay with me.

Here’s the basic information you need, borrowed from Rational-Emotive Theory.  Being a visual person, I like to use a diagram to show how this works:


EVENT:  Something happens; maybe your boss wants to meet with you. 

BELIEFS, FEELINGS, THOUGHTS:  You have an immediate reaction based on your beliefs of what that means.  This automatic reaction is usually negative because, for reasons unknown, most of us focus more on negative than positive (the first problem!).  So maybe you’re thinking your boss didn’t like your last report and wants to tell you why.  And the negative/distorted thinking may include thoughts about how unfair it is, how worthless, stupid or incompetent you are, and self-pity about why all the bad things happen to you.

Very often, our negative thoughts escalate way out of control.  So by the time the meeting occurs, you may already be thinking you’re going to be fired, and you and your family will be homeless and hungry – all because of your unworthiness.  Okay, may it’s not that bad, but chances are, you’re not walking into the meeting thinking, “This must be about that raise I asked for and so richly deserve!”

CONSEQUENCES:  All the negative thinking has emotional consequences.  You may walk into the meeting feeling depressed, angry, or even hostile.  The adrenaline is flowing freely, and you are STRESSED – before you even know what it’s all about.

So – you may have no control over the “event” that results in all this distorted and irrational thinking.  However, you do have control over your reaction; this is where you can intervene.  All the negative thinking can be REFRAMED into positive thinking.

In the example used here, instead of telling yourself that your boss must be unhappy with your last report, you could be telling yourself that s/he really liked the report and wants to tell you why.  Or maybe there were problems with the report that just need to be fixed – no big deal.  And surely no cause for intense angst. 

Or maybe you are getting a raise!


Photos by Wayne BrucarFocus-Branch

Photographic example of Reframing – In the first photo, the focus is on the water.  In the second photo, the focus is on the branch, leaving the water slightly out-of-focus.  In the same way the photographer chooses his/her focus, we can choose to focus on the negative or on the positive.

For now, think about some instances where negative/irrational thinking affects you emotionally.  We all do this every day. 

In future posts, we will continue to explore the phenomenon of negative thought patterns and talk about tools for changing the negative to positive.

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Have you started bringing FUN back into your life?  Here are the next 5 ideas…

16.  READ A BOOK JUST FOR FUN.  Go to the bestseller list, the library or the bookstore, and just pick something that looks like an enjoyable read.  An engrossing story is a great tool for taking us on a short vacation.  It’s a good thing to get “away from it all” sometimes; you come back refreshed and ready to face the day.  While you’re at it, join a book group; reading with friends and discussing books keeps you reading (you don’t want to find out the end before you’ve finished the book); it can bring the story to a whole new dimension when you hear other people’s perspectives; and it offers the opportunity for some FUN social time with friends.  I understand that there are some bookgroups, like Tracy’s, where reading the book is not really necessary as long as there are good refreshments – and wine!

17.  TAKE A CLASS JUST FOR FUN.  There are so many classes through park districts, schools and continuing education providers.  Look through a course catalog and pick a class that looks interesting.  Maybe it’s something you’ve done before and want to pick up again, or maybe it’s something you’ve never even thought about.  Learning something completely new or getting new info on something you are already familiar with can result in hours of pleasure – and you will probably meet some interesting people.

18.  TAKE UP A NEW HOBBY – OR AN OLD ONE.  Along the same lines as reading or participating in a class, engaging in a hobby can provide a break from the usual routine, and it can be a new source of fun and a venue for meeting new people.  Spending some time during the week with a hobby that you feel passionate about simply feels good.  My husband did not believe this (we’re talking years of encouragement from me to get a hobby) until he got involved in photography.  The extent of his photo equipment and hours spent taking photos and looking at/manipulating them in Photoshop is a very clear indication of how much joy he gets from this hobby. 

19.  LAUGH!  For some of us, taking on adult responsibilities make life all serious.  When was the last time you had a good hearty laugh – when you couldn’t stop until it hurt?  Incorporate things into your regular routine that make you laugh – funny movies or tv shows, funny books, friends who make you laugh, a comedy show at a local theater.  Laughing is such an easy way to relieve tension – and it’s free.

20.  BUY FLOWERS FOR SOMEONE YOU LOVE … for no special occasion, but just because.  It will make both of you feel loving and loved.

Now you’ve got the first 20 items from my “100 Stress Reducers” list.  Don’t try to do them all; just pick the ones that appeal to you and see what a difference a few small changes can make in how peaceful you feel.  And how about sharing your ideas – what has worked for you in the past to relieve or prevent stress?

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A Room with a View – by Shelley Brucar.  Hand-dyed and screen-printed fabric, textile paint, machine stitching, 40″ x 50″.

Remember I wrote that I have a list of 100 stress reducers?  Here are the first ten.  Take one at a time.  They are easy to do and can be integrated into your daily or weekly routines.

1.  GET UP 15 MINUTES EARLIER THAN USUAL.  This will give you the gift of some extra time, less rushing, less stress at the very start of your day.  This can mean more time in the shower, a more leisurely cup of coffee or breakfast, or a more relaxed ride to work.  Try it for a week and bask in the peace this simple change offers.

2.  TAKE A WALK.  The combination of exercise and nature can’t be topped.  Both have been shown, in study after study, to reduce stress.   Even a short walk in cold, hot or rainy weather will give you a boost.

3.  NOTICE YOUR SURROUNDINGS.  At home, at work or while you’re out walking, take the opportunity to observe the things around you.  Really look at the leaves on the trees and the artwork on the walls.

4.  WATCH A FUNNY MOVIE OR TV SHOW.  Let go of the day and bring some comedy into your world.  It doesn’t always have to be serious.

5.  CALL SOMEONE YOU LIKE TO TALK TO.  It only takes a few minutes – and feels so refreshing – to connect with someone you like.

6.  CUT DOWN ON CAFFEINE.  Whether it’s coffee, tea or cola, caffeine can increase feelings of anxiety.  Cut down a little bit – make it 1/2 decaf – and feel the difference in your body and your mind.

7.  SIT AND ENJOY A CUP OF TEA.  Make it decaf, and savor each sip.  Be aware of the subtle aroma and taste.  Take the time to enjoy it rather than just drinking it.

8.  SAY NO TO SOME REQUESTS.  Especially if you tend to say “yes,” it is you people will call when they want something done.  Empower yourself by saying “no” sometimes.  You are not obligated to do everything that is asked of you.  If you don’t have the time, or if you simply don’t feel like it, turn down some requests.  And don’t feel that you have to give an explanation.  Just say no!

9.  READ A MOTIVATIONAL BOOK.  One of my favorites is “SAY YES TO CHANGE” by George and Sedena Cappannelli.  New ideas and inspiration!

10.  GET ENOUGH SLEEP.  You will be amazed at how much better you will feel, physically and emotionally, how much more focused, more tolerant and less irritable you will be if you get enough sleep.  How much is enough varies from one person to the next.  But most of us need 7 – 8 hours per night.


Filed under Refocus, Relax



I don’t know where this came from and have seen different versions of it.  I do love it and hope you will too!

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar…and the coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had a few items in front of him.  When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.  He then asked the students if the jar was full.

They agreed that it was.  So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and pured them into the jar.  He shook the jar lightly.  The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.  He then asked the students again if the jar was full.  They agreed that it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.  Of course, the sand filled up everything else.  He asked once more if the jar was full.  The students responded with a unanimous “yes.”

The professor then produced a cup of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand.

“Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. 

The golf balls are the really important things – your family, your children, your health, your friends, your favorite passions – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car.

The sand is everything else – the small stuff.

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.”

The same goes for life.  If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.  Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.  Play with your children.  Take time to get medical checkups.  Take your partner out to dinner.  Play another 18.  Do something nice for someone.

There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal.

Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter.

Set your priorities.  The rest is just sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.  The professor smiled.  “I’m glad you asked.  It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a cup of coffee with a friend.”

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