We’ll Rise Up

You want to help people feel better. I get it. Perhaps you are in a helping profession, but perhaps you are a helper to your family, coworkers, or friends. In the helping professions, wanting others to feel their best is what drives us- seeing others learn how to help themselves and feel better in their bodies, minds, and lives. But, as a helper, we run the risk of burning out if we do not focus our attention on taking care of ourselves first. Believe me. From personal experience, I can tell you all about burnout and how it effects every aspect of your life.  

As a former sexual abuse trauma counselor for children and teens, I had a choice to make. I could make some major changes in how I took care of myself or I could live a life full of compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, inflammation, poor coping and numbing, and damaged relationships. For burnout prevention and healing, self-care and daily habits are key.

Burnout is a term that has been thrown around a lot in the last few years, but in the helping profession, it is seen as a very serious issue that can require a long, slow journey to heal. Research in the field of mental health shows that the probability of burnout for professionals is pretty bleak: “as many as 2 out of 3 mental health workers may be experiencing high levels of burnout.” Burnout is also a state of being that does not just happen overnight. It is a slow, divisive, and non-discriminating process that will steal joy, passion, and energy.

It can feel selfish as a helper to express when we need time to take care of ourselves. We have dedicated our time and energy to helping others. But, we also know (and we often say it to our clients) that if we don’t help ourselves, we can’t help anyone else. In the medical field, we are seeing that burnout occurs due not only to the demands of caring for the high numbers of people in need, but also to the high expectations that are placed on doctors and nurses to be able to push through and handle erratic hours, inconsistent meal times, and the physical demands of the job. However, anyone in any helping and wellness role is also at risk for burnout if helping others takes priority over self-care. Taking time regularly to check in, notice what the body is asking for, and scheduling self-care will allow all helping professionals to keep going at optimal levels.

Practicing dinacharya, an Ayurvedic term for daily habits to align our bodies with nature, is an effective way to overcome and prevent burnout as we engage in the crucial practice of uncompromising self-care. Studies done on burnout recovery/prevention and the recommendations made for doctors, nurses, and mental health therapists all fall into line with these habits of dinacharya. Giving ourselves permission to focus on getting our minds and bodies back into sync with nature’s rhythm is just what the doctor (or mental health professional) ordered. Once we do that, we can more effectively help others to do the same.  

Let’s take a look at the recommendations for burnout recovery and prevention and how those recommendations align with practicing the ancient science of dinacharya:

  1. Get enough sleep. When I was acting as a sexual abuse trauma counselor in a residential treatment facility for youth, I was emotionally and physically exhausted every day, but I could not sleep. My nervous system was fried and my poor sleep hygiene habits made “winding down” nearly impossible. Honoring the evening energy, reducing stimulating input like electronics and caffeine, and going to bed early (by 10 pm) teaches us how to honor the body’s natural rhythm and to take advantage of the brain’s ability to produce hormones in support of restful sleep. This will all set us up for feeling and thinking our best the next morning.
  2. Make exercise a priority. Moving the energy in the body can help us to better cope with mental, emotional, and physical stress. Short bouts of exercise throughout the day can help to balance anxious energy, clear stagnation, focus the perspective, and allow a time-out from everything else that is going on. And finding our own version of daily exercise- including mode and intensity- can help us to find more joy in moving our bodies, thus increasing consistency and longevity.
  3. Eat whole, nutrient-filled foods. Plant Based Diet teaches us about using food as fuel and focusing on feeding our cells with prana-filled plants and well-sourced, organic meats (if meat is in our diet). In addition, Earlier Lighter Dinner teaches us to work with our body’s ability to digest during daylight hours and to assimilate the food we take in by matching our eating times with our digestive system’s rhythm. Finally, the habit of Healthier Eating Guidelines educates us on eating seasonally and giving our digestive system- and our nervous system- a break between meals.
  4. Meditate. When our nervous system is fried and our minds seem to be in overdrive, meditation can seem challenging, but it is imperative to help us reboot and begin to rebuild. The good news is that there are many different types of meditation, so again, we want to find the version that fits us the best. Research shows that the benefits of meditation are many, including rewiring the brain, increasing calm, reducing inflammation, and directing us toward more happiness.
  5. Take a break from technology. The amount of stimulation our brains are receiving from electronic devices is becoming an addiction that is training us into distraction and anxiety. Both meditation and creating a sweet night time routine in alignment with our body’s need to wind down correlate with calming the nervous system and supporting better sleep, focus/attention, and emotional regulation. Find more calm and stillness by unplugging.
  6. Look for opportunities for self-discovery and nurture a positive view of yourself. In the habit of Self-Massage, we are learning how to literally get in touch with ourselves and to become friends with our bodies. We are learning self-love and nurturing ourselves with both self-compassion and oil. With the habit of self-massage, we have an opportunity for self-discovery built right in to our daily schedule. This habit is extremely healing for the nervous system and supports recovery from trauma, burnout, and chronic stress.
  7. Setting boundaries, using support, and reframing one’s view of the work to find more meaning can all be addressed in the habit of Easeful Living. As humans raised in our competitive and judgmental society, we often take on the belief that things “have to be” difficult and that we will only be “good enough” when something outside of us occurs or deems that we are. Recognizing how we make things harder on ourselves can shift everything. Giving in to impossible expectations, allowing ourselves to be taken advantage of, and putting the job before ourselves can lead to burn out quickly. We can begin to isolate and feel like no one else could possibly understand. When we are burned out and feeling fried, it can also be difficult to see that we are making a difference in what we are doing and to find the meaning in continuing at all. Taking care of ourselves first, reaching out to make connection with others, and reframing our perspective around finding value in our work all come when we believe that we can live with more ease.

Regardless of the exact helping role we are in, attending to our own needs is required to be able to effectively attend to the needs of others. In addition to the habits of dinacharya, things like spending time in nature, scheduling time for activities that bring joy, and connecting with others who can relate to what we are experiencing are all helpful ways to stoke the inner fire of joy and health without burning it out.

We must remember that burnout didn’t happen overnight and it certainly won’t be resolved overnight. Using the practice of Kaizen- small continuous improvement- allows us to take it one step at a time and to witness the small changes adding up to big progress.

If you are experiencing symptoms of burnout, you are not alone and things can get better. These habits helped me to heal and they are what I coach others through. Contact me and we can discuss shaping your daily habits around self-care and healing. Even the smallest of steps can begin to change everything. Have hope.   

I will be taking the journey right along side you.

Chat again soon,

k

Maybe It’s Time

Spring is a time of renewal, rebirth, and growth. A time to assess who we have been and begin to plan for who we are becoming. We must be brave enough to look at our trajectory and reroute in order to move in the direction we truly desire.

We must uncover the patterns that we may have become accustomed to. Patterns can develop in our physical bodies (what we are eating and how we are digesting), our mental habits (our thinking patterns and self-talk), our emotional reactions (being swept away by emotion before thinking of how we want to respond), and our use of vital energy throughout the day (things like rest and movement). Our future depends on our ability to recognize if the patterns we are immersed in are taking us toward who we want to be and how we want to feel or if they are keeping us stuck.

Over time, our patterns can become an inefficient use of our energy. Perhaps the habit served us at one time, but has not been reassessed for efficiency or applicability in the present. We may fall into doing things that seem convenient or that delay the inevitable. Or maybe we do things simply because that’s how we have “always done them”. Using our energy in this way often sets us up to have to go back later and undo what we have done as it has taken us way off course.

In yoga, one of the ethical teachings is called Brahmacharya (bra-mah-CHAR-ya) and it is all about allocation of resources. Brahmacharya calls us to assess how we are using our energy throughout the day and if that use of energy is taking us down the path toward who we want to become. As we assess, if we determine that our energy is not being used in ways to increase health and happiness, it’s time for some spring cleaning.

As we move into warmer weather and have the need for fewer layers,
we become acutely aware of the extra weight we may have packed on in the colder months. That extra insulation did its job when we needed it, but when our clothes from last summer are tighter than we had hoped, we can see the need to make a change. In Ayurveda, we recommend a cleanse in the spring to help the body let go of the excess that has been stored up and to prepare for the next season of our life and then a shift in what we are eating to support the season.

But, why stop at the physical body? Let’s take a deeper look.

Our mental patterns can get in the way of change on every level if we allow them. If we are highlighting past failures, expecting the worst, or using mantras of how we are unworthy of love or acceptance, success and happiness will be hard to come by. It’s time to become aware of what is going on in our thoughts and to evaluate the usefulness of the patterns we find there. The stories we are telling ourselves are controlling our behaviors.

Next, we must become aware of emotional patterns that may be keeping us stuck. When something challenging occurs in our life, our emotions step up first and when we allow our emotions to take over, we can get swept away from our values and make choices that we aren’t proud of. Awareness is key here. We have to recognize the signs our body is sending us- how the emotion feels in the body- in order to see the emotion coming on and choose how to move forward.

And finally, we must address patterns in our daily habits where we are using our energy inefficiently. What time we do things throughout the day is very important as different energies rule within our bodies at different times of the day. If we are eating a heavy, late dinner or staying up until midnight or neglecting to make time to either move the body or to find calm and stillness, we will feel the repercussions. We can experience shifts in the physical, mental, and emotional realms when we align our daily habits with what our body needs to function its best.

Take some time this week to assess your own patterns; to determine where you could shift from being stuck in the same old rut to opening yourself for growth. There is a start up cost of time and effort, but I promise, it is worth it.

Hit me up if you need someone to chat with about the changes you are wanting to make. And I will be spring cleaning right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

Can’t Stop The Feeling

In the ancient health science of Ayurveda, one of the principle teachings about our bodies is to trust the body’s wisdom and honor the urges that we have. Our bodies know what they need to do to make their way back into balance and all day, every day, they are working to find a state of homeostasis where they can perform their best.

An impulse is an ego-driven thought process in the conscious mind. It’s a quick decision that we make; a choice. But, an urge is a natural signal from the body that something needs to change in order to bring us back into balance. The body may need to expel something in the form of sneezing, peeing, pooping, passing gas, or even bursting into laughter. Or the body may need to increase something in which case we feel thirsty, we begin to yawn, or we feel very sleepy.

Allowing ourselves to feel our emotions is also a way that we can honor our body and help to keep ourselves in balance. When we refrain from allowing the body to do what it needs or to feel what it feels, we are setting ourselves up for difficulty and discomfort. We are pulling ourselves out of balance and we are denying expression of who we truly are in that moment.

Let’s take honoring ourselves one step further.

Some of the best times of our lives involve laughter, song or dance. Or all three. When we are young, we allow ourselves to dance or to sing along without any worry about what we look or sound like. But, as we grow older, we begin to worry about how we will be seen, judged, and labeled.

When we censor ourselves in an attempt to control what other people think of us, we are betraying our own authenticity, stunting creativity, and hindering joy. And we go right back to trying to fit in rather than finding where we truly belong. Laughter, song and dance are all about allowing ourselves to express what we naturally feel and to relax into a state of expansion. Restricting, controlling, and changing ourselves puts us into a state of contraction mentally and physically, and we cannot flow or grow from a state of contraction.

The health benefits of laughing are many. When we laugh, we release hormones that help us to feel good and to reduce the stress response in the brain and body. If we can find the humor in a situation, we can diffuse the tension and more frequently experience joy in our lives. Laughter is a way to connect with others and to share in healing. Research shows that even anticipating that something will be funny is chemically rewarding in the brain.

We have all experienced the power of song and how deeply we can be reached on an emotional level with the right song at the right moment. People make a living choosing songs for movies, commercials, and TV shows to create the exact emotional response they want to elicit. Music and song can lift us up or draw us down. It can inspire and motivate us or it can chill us out. The energetic and emotional power of song is undeniable.

Oh and dancing. Dancing is a dangerous subject because of the vulnerability that it can bring up. Dancing is way to really put ourselves out there unlike anything else, baring our souls and showing how our body feels called to move. Refraining from dance and censoring how we naturally want to move comes from a place of fear and trying to control how we are seen by others.

The freedom that we feel through laughter, song and dance is the true expression of expansion in our lives. When we allow ourselves to laugh, sing and dance, others often feel uncomfortable because they do not allow themselves that freedom. And from their discomfort, they criticize, judge and compare. This is where we have to choose joy over fear and bravery over comfort. This is where we have to choose ourselves.

It may sound ridiculous or scary to think of allowing yourself to burst out in laughter, to sing along with the radio, or to dance when your body feels the urge. But, the reward is vast. Choosing to be authentic in the moment will pay off and you can begin to lean into living this life as your true self. Be brave. Give it a try.

I will be trying right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

I’m Alive I’m Alive I’m Alive

When we meet someone new, we are asked what we do for a living. We then proceed to attach our identity to the job that we hold. Many times while this is happening, in the back of our minds, we are thinking about how much we dislike our job or wish that we could do something that we really enjoy.

The activities that fulfill us may not be what we do to pay the bills. Because of this, we often downplay the value of those activities and deny that they are worthy of real time and attention in our lives, all the while desperately wishing that we could spend more time doing those things.

We all contain within us gifts and talents, however, we fall victim to what we are “supposed to” be doing or how we are “supposed to” be living our lives and we begin to doubt those deep inner treasures. We doubt the innate pull toward what makes us feel best about ourselves and give in to what other people tell us. Self-doubt can paralyze and derail forward movement into what naturally feeds our soul. It causes us to stall out and to feel like something is missing.

When this happens, we minimize our own gifts and talents and focus only on what will pay the bills. Of course, the bills are important, but even more important is the feeling that we are honoring who we truly are in this life. When deny that our passions are a part of our identity, we don’t allow ourselves to really feel into being a person who feels the joy of answering the soul’s calling.

If we can tap into what makes us come alive and create the space in our lives for those things, they may well some day pay the bills. But, we must honor those things enough to continue to practice and grow them into something greater.

Even more importantly, we must honor what makes us come alive simply for that fact. If we deny ourselves the pleasure of the things we most enjoy, we can spend much of our lives feeling incomplete, frustrated, resentful, anxious, disappointed, and depressed. And I have met many people who are living this way.

The question “What do you do for a living?” should spark an answer that we are excited to give because it is regarding what makes us come alive. Maybe a better question to ask when we meet someone new is “What makes you come alive?” What do you do to be able to truly live? Maybe we work all day at a job that pays the bills, but then we come home and in the evenings and on weekends, we are able to create art that expresses our true essence.

No one else can tell you what makes you feel deeply alive. That is a message from your soul. Only you can know that. And only you can make the choice to put time and effort into growing it. When you do, you will find that joy, love, courage, and fulfillment grow and allow for more connection, better coping, and more resilience in your life.

The first step is that you must want to come alive. Rather than going through the motions every day, this is about truly living your life and feeling good because you are honoring your soul’s calling. It’s the most important work you will ever do.

If you are thinking that you don’t have time or energy to do what you love, you and I can work on the daily habits that will make that possible. Make the committment to yourself. You won’t be sorry.

I will be practicing right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

Be Still and Know

If you are like me, when you think of calm and stillness, you may not immediately associate yourself with those terms. However, as a yoga instructor and teacher trainer, others often associate me with those terms. Calm and stillness are concepts that I feel I am constantly being directed back to and are most likely why I have had a 20-year love affair with yoga.

Calm is being able to take a breath before blowing up. It’s being able to assess and pause before jumping to a conclusion. It is truly cultivating the ability to respond to what is happening in our lives rather than mindlessly reacting to it. This takes not only awareness, but can also require practice.

To enable calm, we must create stillness. Stillness provides the pause in which to assess. It also creates space- an expansion within- so that we can stretch into the person we want to be.

Many of our lifestyle choices work against stillness. We are training our minds into distractability and our bodies into anxiety. And from this, we feel resistance to stillness because of the fear of stagnation, but also because in stillness there is space to see what we have been distracting ourselves from for so long. Busyness becomes a way for us to not feel just how overwhelmed, anxious, not-good-enough we may feel in our lives and in ourselves. Maintainting the busy to avoid that in itself is exhausting and anxiety provoking.

Stillness doesn’t have to mean a lack of progress. It is a way for us to allow things to settle; to create clarity. Stillness enables us to open up space in which we can become more creative, more authentic, more brave and more of who we want to be.

I cannot tell you how many times the universe has reminded me that in order to do more, I must actually do less. To achieve this, we may need to cleanse our minds, bodies, and lives of the things that are keeping us in stress response. That may mean lightening up our diets and adding in more nutrient-rich foods; it may mean lightening our workload and saying no more often; it may mean lightening our insane amount of doing and just being for a bit.

As we are moving into warmer weather, now is the perfect time to spring clean your life and add in more stillness which can lead to more calm. Whatever that looks like for you. Take some time this week to nourish yourself with more stillness.

I will be practicing right along with you as I launch into a 3-week cleanse. If you would like to know more about joining in on a group cleanse, send me a message.

Chat again soon,

k

I’m So Tired

Every day, many of us fall into the habit of trying to fit in with the socially acceptable expectation that being overscheduled and exhausted means that we are doing it right. We are praised for adding on more and more and our brains create an addiction to the chemicals of stress. We come to believe that we are supposed to be able to do all of the things without any help all while making it look like it’s a breeze.

When we are not busy every moment of the day, we are also pressured to feel unimportant and even lazy. We are trained into believing that we have to earn our worth and that it is tied to how much money we make, how many things we have, and how many tasks we can cram into one day without actually breaking down.

Busy is an odd status symbol. It is like fake designer clothing- it looks really good from the outside, but on the inside the structure is uneven, details are missing, and only the wearer knows that what others see is an illusion.

Yvonne Tally Breaking Up With Busy

What we do every single day actually shapes the mind, body, and life that we live in and it forms how we identify ourselves. If we are living in the daily habit of exhaustion, stress, overwhelm, and illusion, we are creating an identity of disconnection, fear, and blame as we struggle with feeling like an imposter.

Over time, we begin to experience things like insomnia, impaired concentration, increased illness, anger, disconnection, hopelessness, and loss of joy. And these are all signs of burnout.

We cannot expect to live this way on a daily basis, constantly hoping no one sees that we are hanging on by a thread and thinking that this is what life is “supposed” to be like. Our mental, physical, social, and spiritual health are all at stake.

So, what do we do? We break the trance. We actually schedule in time to do things that we enjoy simply for the sake of doing them (let’s call this play). We create night time routines, honor when we feel tired, and go to bed by 10 (let’s call this rest).

Play and rest actually help to combat the anxiety that we are trained into and help us to remember that we have worth simply because we are alive. They are essential to our overall health and they are how we come out of the attempt to simply survive and begin to thrive.

What if you ran an experiment for the next week? See how you feel when you go to bed by 10p every night. Try scheduling in time to do something you enjoy at least once in the next seven days. And start to assess if exhausted is really what you wanted to be when you grew up.

Putting yourself and your health before the long list of all of the things does not mean that you are lazy or selfish. It means that you are realigning your priorities to live the life that you want to live. That can take courage, but it is SO worth it. You are worth it.

I would be happy to chat with you about all of this. It’s what I do. So, feel free to shoot me a message.

I will be working to increase play and rest right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

Nothing Compares To You

We are living in a society that encourages comparison. And we have the highest rates of depression and anxiety in history. Yes, I believe the two are connected. When we spend our days comparing our lives, bodies, accomplishments, etc. to what we see on social media and TV, we also spend a great deal of time feeling inadequate, cheated, disappointed, and deflated.

When we are in comparison, we are in a contracted and defensive state in our minds and bodies. This means that we cannot grow, nor can we feel free to be our authentic and original selves. We are in a state of stress in our minds and bodies and this is not a healthy place to live.

Permission to be ourselves and to creatively contribute to the world in the way that only we can do comes when we are in a state of relaxed expansion. When we can recognize that each of us has something unique to offer, we can stop comparing and start celebrating.

Comparison is a way in which we steal from ourselves and from others. It is an attempt to feel better about ourselves from a place of discontent. As we compare our lives, bodies, and situations, we are stealing from who we are and what we already have. Many times we are unfairly comparing our messy and real lives to a small sliver of someone else’s.

When we find ourselves coming up short in comparison, we often find that we are placing unrealistic expectations on ourselves and limiting our ability to grow into our own potential. When we find ourselves “better than” in comparison, we are stealing from the person we are comparing ourselves to by sending negative energy in the form of judgment, rating, and one-upmanship.

The ethical teaching in yoga called Asteya (uh-stay-uh) teaches this idea of “nonstealing” and one aspect of that teaching is recognizing when we are in the contracted state of comparison and out of gratitude. If joy is cultivated by practicing gratitude and comparison is the opposite of appreciating our lives in this moment, then, living in a state of comparison will keep us out of joy.

When we can embrace ourselves and the originality of others, we can relax into a state of creativity. When we are more creative in our lives- artistically, cognitively, socially- we experience more meaning. Imagine what it would feel like to celebrate what everyone has to offer rather than to tear each other down in a fruitless effort to feel better.

To unravel our tendency toward comparison, we must first recognize when we have fallen into the habit of looking outside of ourselves to feel good. Next, we must take a moment to practice gratitude and begin to grow joy. And finally, we must recognize our own creative and original way of living this life.

What you have to offer to the world is unique and amazing. You don’t have to compare yourself to anyone else to earn that. This week, open yourself to recognizing how original and creative you are and how original and creative others are as well.

I will be practicing right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

I’ve Got A Blank Space Baby

So, let’s talk about what’s going on in your head…

Our minds have a need to explain and understand everything in order for us to feel safe. This means that when we don’t know something, our minds automatically try to figure out the answer; to fill in the blank. This is based on our survival instinct as the nervous system will not relax when there is an unknown or a space to be filled in. This often presents itself as a deep need for certainty.

Simply having an answer helps to calm the reasoning and explaining brain, and in order to gain that calming benefit, it doesn’t matter if the answer is correct or not. The nervous system can relax simply from the blank being filled in. Physically, in a yoga class for example, we can gain the same relaxing effect in the nervous system when the body is propped up and gaps between the body and the floor are filled in with blankets, blocks, bolsters, etc. Again, it’s all about filling in the blank spaces.

In an effort to fill the void in our minds, we often make assumptions about others, about the world around us, and about ourselves. Once we have made the assumption, the brain then accepts that information as truth and we move forward as if we have the correct answer. We act based on this assumption and this can get us into trouble.

Have you ever made an assumption and then later found out that it was totally off base? For example, perhaps you saw an acquaintance in a store, called their name, and they just walked by like they didn’t even know you. One possible assumption would be that your acquaintance thinks they are better than you and “too good” to be seen talking to you. You then move forward as if this assumption is the truth and when you next see that acquaintance, you try not to engage, you cut your interaction short, and you may even make a remark about not having time to talk to them. When you do finally take the time to speak with the acquaintance about your experience in the store, you find out that they had in earbuds and simply did not hear nor see you there.

We also make assumptions that other people think, feel, process, and judge the way that we do. This is one reason we may be apprehensive about putting ourselves out there as our authentic selves because we know how harshly we judge ourselves and we assume that others will do the same.

So what can we do? We must gather more information to help fill in the blank rather than make the answer up in our heads. Creating our own answers is a misuse of our imagination and it more often than not leads to worry, stress, and relational issues. Gathering more information means asking for clarification, communicating openly with others, expressing your needs, and pausing rather than jumping to conclusions.

And in the meantime, we must tap in to our own intuition and trust that deep inner wisdom. This may look like meditation, prayer, breathing, journaling, walking outside, etc. Sometimes our deep inner wisdom simply tells us that we need more information and sometimes it tells us the answer. But, tuning in to all of our ways of knowing and having faith rather than making up the answer will help alleviate our need to go back and make repairs after reacting based on assumption.

Give it a try this week. Start to notice when you fill in the blank by making assumptions and pause there. Breathe. Gather more information and then move forward.

I will be practicing right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

Latch on to the Affirmative

Did you know that love and abundance are actually boundless? I know, it sounds crazy because we, as a society, are trained into a scarcity mindset. Scarcity means “a state of short supply” and we are trained through marketing to believe that there is not enough of, well, anything really.

But, the belief that there is not enough is just not true. This way of thinking can apply to money, love, safety, happiness, certainty, trust, power, etc. Anything you can think of as holding value in your life can be viewed from a mindset of scarcity. And that breeds fear.

When we grow up in a society where we are trained to believe that we must buy products in order to “measure up” to the socially enforced standards, we can begin to believe on a deep level that not only is there not enough love, power, and money to go around, but that we are not enough.

From this fearful belief, we begin to numb ourselves, mask our feelings, and try to use “things” to feel better. We are trained into anxiety and fear and then sold the meds to address our symptoms of anxiety and fear.

Alas, have hope. You don’t have to live this way. Joy can be cultivated and the brain can be retrained. The key to unravelling the fear and scarcity is gratitude. Yes, it takes practice, but there has been a great deal of research done proving the amazing power of a gratitude practice to improve life satisfaction, happiness, joy, creativity, and reduction in symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD.

The word appreciate has two meanings: 1.) To have gratitude for 2.) To increase in value. So, when we appreciate what we have, we recognize that what we have is enough. And this grows satisfaction and a deep satisfaction with ourselves and our lives is joy.

“Gratitude is one of the top “strengths” of happy people. When in doubt, go to gratitude. Whenever you have spare time, immerse yourself in gratitude. Whenever your brain is wandering, experience gratitude.” (Larkin, 2008)

When we practice gratitude, we combat the fear and scarcity mindset and we increase levels of joy. Everyone can benefit from a gratitude practice and the practice can be individualized. Some ideas are: a gratitude journal, thinking of something you are grateful for upon waking, sharing something you are grateful for at dinner, ending your day with a focus on what you are grateful for, or going to gratitude when you notice you are feeling stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, fearful, etc.

Scarcity is no way to live. Grow your joy. Try it on this week and see how it feels. I am grateful to be able to share this message and for you to read my musings.

Chat again soon,

k

Tell Me Who Are You

Resilience is our ability to overcome adversity; to bounce back. And in order to become more resilient, we must have the solid foundation of knowing who we are and showing up as our authentic selves. Every day, we are receiving messages telling us who to be and how to live our lives from many different sources. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like being told what to do. In previous blogs, we have chatted about fitting in vs. belonging and being authentic and so now, it is time to ask, “Who do YOU want to be?”

This question may be overwhelming, especially if for years, we have been directed by others on whom we should be and how we should live our lives. Answering this question is a deeply important, personal, and spiritual journey that we must each embark upon to not only find fulfillment and contentment with who we truly are, but also to be resilient enough to overcome the challenges we face.

Because we are spirits living in bodies on this shared experience of being human, the spiritual journey of getting to know ourselves, honoring who we truly are, and living our lives from a place of authenticity creates the cornerstone of building resilience. Only when we have good boundaries and stand up for ourselves will we be strong enough to overcome all of life’s challenges from this deep well of inner strength.

Our ability to bounce back and authentically show up are built by having hope that we have the ability to reach the goals we have set, taking the time and attention to become critically aware of what we are experiencing and the effects the experience has on us and others, and by recognizing and letting go of the ways that we numb ourselves to what we are feeling.

Hope is actually a cognitive process that involves setting realistic goals, working to reach those goals even when it is difficult and we fail, and believing that we can actually get there. It’s all about perserverence and belief in ourselves- natural factors in our ability to overcome adversity.

Another factor in building resilience is critical awareness. This is the ability to question what we are experiencing and determine why it is happening, how it impacts us and others, and who is benefitting from what is going on. Take our society’s view of appearance and body image as an example. We may compare ourselves to unrealistic images, feel not good enough, and then buy in to the need for specific clothes or products to try to feel better about ourselves. The product industry benefits greatly from this- it’s a HUGE money maker for many. Recognizing what is happening helps us to tap back in to who authentically are and let go of unrealisitic expectations.

Finally, to build our resilience, we must be brave enough to feel all of the feelings. We have to try to lean in to feeling uncomfortable sometimes because that is how and when we grow. And in order to do this, we must resist the urge to numb ourselves (which in many ways is also a big money maker). Yes, we all numb out in some way sometimes, but when this becomes the way we attempt to cope with life, it causes bigger issues.

So, that brings us back to the question of who you want to be. When we allow external sources to shape who we are, how we feel about ourselves, and how we live our lives, we are putting ourselves at risk for things like hopelessness, powerlessness, disconnection, and fear, which all sabotage our ability to be resilient. That’s not who you want to be.

So, this week, I invite you to think about who you really want to be. Notice how you are living your life or how you are avoiding it. Take a look at how much you are controlled and directed without even noticing. And recognize that you have the power within you to make changes. I would be happy to help along the way. Reach out and we can chat about it.

I will be doing the work right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

Everybody Hurts

As a mental health therapist frequently working with clients suffering from high anxiety and heavy depression, I am often discussing the subject of self-talk. With all of the messages we receive daily from ads telling us that we are not enough and that we need the product advertised in order to feel good, in addition to the picture-perfect images displayed on social media to compare our messy, real lives to, it’s no wonder that people are trained into comparison, negative thinking and feeling as if they are the only ones who feel the way they feel.

These critical thinking patterns reels of negative self-talk are not motivating us to become better people; they are just making us feel awful.

Because of these messages that we are not good enough, we can fall into a cycle of fearing that we are not worthy of love and happiness, striving to perform perfectly in order to earn approval, feeling bad and beating ourselves up when we cannot meet impossible expectations, and then isolating and believing that there is something wrong with us or that no one could ever understand.

This is no way to live. And it’s way more common that one would hope.

We must learn to recognize what we are experiencing, remember that we are not the only ones who have felt this way, and then practice redirecting our self-talk to a kinder, gentler conversation in order to feel better about ourselves.

In speaking about the inner critic, Kristen Neff, author of the book Self-Compassion, points out that we can fall into a habit of criticizing ourselves because at times, it can feel better to identify with the critic than to be the one who screwed up. She also tells us how we can begin facing our fears and changing our self-talk by learning and using the 3 elements of self-compassion:

  1. Mindfulness- First, we must be able to recognize when we are in pain or suffering and name what we are feeling to calm the alarm center in the brain. If we can become aware of what we are feeling and allow ourselves to feel it, we can move forward from there.
  2. Common Humanity- Next, we must acknowledge our own vulnerability as a human who feels and remind ourselves that every one struggles at some point in their journey. We are not the only one who has ever felt what we are feeling or experienced difficulty. If we can reach out and share our experience, we will often find that others understand.
  3. Self-Kindness- Finally, we can help ourselves to feel better by treating ourselves as we would treat a friend who is experiencing difficulty. We must work to use kind and compassionate self-talk, recognizing that all hurt matters and that judgment only exacerbates the pain.

We can apply these steps during any moment of pain- no matter how big or small- to begin to create a habit of self-compassion. When we are experiencing pain and difficulty in our lives, and we give into the habit of numbing ourselves from the feeling it, telling ourselves that no one else feels the way we do, and beating ourselves up for not being able to handle it with Facebook-post-appropriate grace, we are only setting ourselves up for more even pain for longer periods of time.

So, give it a try. What’s the worst that could happen? You go through something painful without beating yourself down even more? You begin to feel better about yourself over time? You are able to feel compassion for others who are going through tough times? Yup, worth giving it a try.

If you need someone to chat with about the process, give me a ring. I will be trying right along next to you.

Chat again soon,

k

Why Don’t You Be You And I’ll Be Me

Brene’ Brown defines authenticity as “the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are”. Woof. There are a lot of things in that one sentence that may brush up against the ole comfort zone.

First, this definition asks us to take a look at how authetically we are living right now. In the last blog, we learned about the difference between fitting in and belonging. Our authenticity is sacrificed when we attempt to change who we are to fit in with others. So, to acheive true connection and belonging, we have to present ourselves as we truly are.

Next, like anything that we want to automate, authenticity takes daily practice. But, this is a practice well worth adding to your To Do list. When we practice being our authentic selves, we avoid having to keep up the charade and wear the mask that hides who we truly are. We feel deep satisfaction as we are living in alignment with our core beliefs. We experience true connection with others and leave emptiness behind.

We are told regularly by all media that we are not good enough as we are and this constant subliminal (and not-so-subliminal) criticism encourages us to try to be someone else. We are trained into the desperation that pushes us toward trying to fit in because of the level of vulnerability it takes to put ourselves out there as we are. The critical messages, impossible expectations, and double standards in our society also happen to be keeping me, as a mental health therapist, in business.

Do you want to feel content and satisfied with who you are? Do you want to experience joy and fulfillment in your life? I know you do. So, then, it’s time to be brave.

Making the daily choice to show up and be seen as your authentic self takes courage. We have to make the choice to feel uncomfortable and vulnerable as we step out without our masks. We must be brave and choose to put ourselves out there even after it didn’t go so great the last time. We have to practice being ourselves so that we can experience contentment and true connection. And we must recognize that our happiness and our sense of self-worth depend on it.

So, go be you. I will be practicing right along with you and if you need someone to talk to about it all, drop me a line.

Chat again soon,

k

I Want You To Want Me

Picture it: You start a new job and on your first day you are meeting all of your new coworkers. Within the first week, you are attending meetings with them and having conversations to get to know them. You are observing to learn the dynamic of the workplace. This is a group of people with whom you will be spending time with every day, so, you have a choice in how you proceed here at the beginning of the relationship to the group. You can survey the land, notice how others act, and then put forth the version of you that you think will best fit in. Or, you can be your authentic self, showing up to be seen just as you are, and take a chance on belonging.

Fitting in vs. Belonging. There a difference in the two and they have near opposite effects on how we feel about ourselves when we choose one over the other. We innately need connection and have a deep desire to belong, but because that deep desire can lead to feelings of desperation, sometimes we do what we can to fit in, not knowing that we cannot reach the same result in the end.

In her work as a Social Work Researcher, Brene’ Brown has explored the differences between fitting in and belonging. While working with middle schoolers several years ago, she asked the class what they thought the difference was between fitting in and belonging. Their answer: Fitting in is when you want to be a part of something and belonging is when others want you.

In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene’ says, “Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”

When we change ourselves to fit in, we are essentially selling ourselves out. We are putting forth an image, wearing a mask, pretending. This may sound a little harsh, but deep down, you can feel that it’s true. When we try to fit in, there is a deep feeling that something is missing. It just doesn’t feel quite right.

Fitting in requires a great deal of energy. We have to keep up the illusion; maintain that presented version of ourselves for those we are trying to fit in with. Not only is that exhausting, but it also blocks our ability to belong as belonging can only occur when we allow ourselves to be seen and accepted as who we truly are.

When we can be brave enough to step forward in our authenticity, as our true selves, and to refuse to change ourselves to fit in, then we can truly belong. When we battle through the vulnerability and the fear by staying true to ourselves, we are practicing a pure version of self-love and respect. And living our truth allows us to not only belong, but to also feel more joy, satisfaction, and freedom in our lives.

Looking at these concepts under a microscope can shine a light on how we have been doing things and that may feel uncomfortable or vulnerable. But, that edge-of-the-comfort-zone-space is where growth begins. When we allow ourselves to really look and to become aware of what we have been doing, we can recalibrate and stop making things harder than they need to be.

This week, do your best to really look at where you are trying to fit in and how that feels. And then notice where you truly belong. Be brave. Be you. You are worth it.

I will be practicing courage right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

Tell Me Sweet Little Lies

As a professional coaching people into their bodies and helping to bring the mind and the body together, I help others to realize that the body does not have the capability to lie. The mind can lie and frequently does. We tell ourselves stories to try to make ourselves feel better, but we also tell ourselves stories that make us feel awful. We default to the brain rather than the body and it takes a toll.

Our bodies send the brain signals constantly, reporting in about what is going on in different areas. For example, as I write this, my finger tips are cool, my shoulders are a bit tight, I can feel my weight sinking into the cushion of the chair beneath me, and my toes are snug in the fuzzy insole of my slippers. But, as we are moving through our day, we ignore a great deal of what the body tells us. And as long as the system is functioning as it should, we don’t necessarily need to pay attention to every single thing that is being reported on. So, we selectively listen and we turn our attention to other things like planning our day, driving a car, giving a presentation, etc.

The problem is that we turn the selective listening into ignoring what the body is reporting on a regular basis. We begin to trust the brain over the body and we talk ourselves out of believing what the body is telling us. We even tell ourselves that it won’t make a difference if we ignore the body this one time. But it makes a big difference when we do this over and over.

We find ourselves doing things like ignoring the signals in the evening that we are tired and should go to sleep. We ignore the message that we have eaten enough and instead we have another portion. We ignore the digestive distress signals that we are eating the wrong foods at the wrong time. We ignore the fact that the body holds on to memories and stress and trauma. And on and on it goes.

Over time, ignoring what the body is asking for leads to bigger problems. The language of the body is sensations and symptoms. The brain loves the comfort zone of not changing, so we tell ourselves that we feel “fine” and we can find ourselves facing issues like inability to concentrate, insomnia, getting sick more frequently, gastrointestinal distress, anxiety, hopelessness, isolation, etc. Then we end up at a doctor saying something like, “All of a sudden, I have a rash and acid reflux and I can’t sleep at night.”

Our bodies cannot make up lies about what is going on or when something needs to change, so it is imperative that we listen. When we ignore it, the issue builds the body has to send a louder signal. Many of the things that we do throughout our day are taking us further out of sync with how are bodies were created to function.

Setting up our daily routine to meet our own bodies needs rather than what everyone else is doing or what our out of sync society says is ‘normal’ is the wisest thing we can do. And in getting ourselves back in rhythm with our nature, we will free up energy to better perform in all areas of our lives. Making small shifts in things like what time we are going to bed, when we are eating our biggest meal, how much time we spend on our devices, our bedtime routines, moving our bodies and quieting our minds will make a huge difference.

If we can tune in and work with our bodies rather than against them, we can feel our best- maybe better than we have in years. Small, repeated changes lead to big results. Find a partner or a group of people who also want to feel better so that you aren’t alone in the journey back to health. Learn more about honoring your circadian rhythm. Hit me up and we can chat about changes that could help you.

Start right now by taking a few long slow breaths and listening to what your body is saying in this moment.

I will be listening to my body right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

Ready to Run

In watching a video by Dave Ramsey the other day, he mentioned a concept that he calls “Gazelle Intensity” in reference to getting things done that seem impossible. He created this concept from a Bible passage and was talking about getting out of debt. The illustration from nature is quite powerful and can apply to anything.

In the African savanna, the Cheetah is the biggest threat to the life of a gazelle. It is the fastest land mammal and it is a predator with it’s eye on gazelle filets for lunch. When a cheetah is spotted, gazelles run as fast as they can darting around in different directions in an attempt to escape. They are literally running for their lives. And, as Dave Ramsey points out, the cheetahs are running for their lunch. The motivation is key here.

Dave reported that although the cheetah is the fastest land mammal alive, it only catches the gazelle 1 out of every 19 times. What?! The gazelle is relentless in it’s fleeing and is doing everything in it’s power to outrun, outsmart, and outdart the predator. And many times, it actually works.

So, what do you want in your life? Who do you want to be? For the rest of the year, if you approached your vision, goals, and decisions with Gazelle Intensity, what could you accomplish? Do you really want it? The gazelle really wants to not die and many times, it pays off. This is your one chance, your one life to live.

Here are a few tips that can help with your Gazelle Intensity:

  1. Take some time to sit down and really think about how you want to feel in your body, mind, and life. Then, write it down.
  2. Find an accountability partner or a tribe of other people who are also working toward similar goals with Gazelle Intensity.
  3. Post your goals so that you can see them and check in with them, revising as needed along the way.
  4. Celebrate small victories as you go. When something feels good, we naturally want to do it again. Notice how you feel as you begin to make changes and congratulate yourself for following through.
  5. Take it in small, baby steps. There is no need to try to change everything at once. Make it as small and as simple as you can so that you are the most likely to follow through.
  6. Don’t give up. All baby steps toward your goal is progress. The gazelle doesn’t give up because if so, it knows it’s all over for good. Rather than only looking at how far you still want to go, remember to look back and notice how far you have come.

So, who do you want to be by the end of this year? What are you working toward with Gazelle Intensity? It IS possible if you want it enough to pour all of your available resources toward making it happen.

If you need an accountability partner, reach out.

I will be running right next to you.

Chat again soon,

k