Let Your Heart Be Light

The holiday season can be a very difficult time for many. Lots of emotions pop up around the holiday season as another year is coming to an end and we all become a little more reminiscent. For some, it is a time of stress, expectations, overwhelm, and complications. For others, it is a time of sadness, grief, loneliness, and anxiety.

Here are a few tips to perhaps help with the emotional overload of the holiday season. My wish for you is a lot of PRESENCE

P- Present. As in be present or all in one place at one time. We are frequently in one place physically, but our minds are miles away. We get caught up in regrets or reminiscence about the past even though we cannot change it or worry about the future and what may or may not happen. When this happens, we miss out on the opportunity for joy in the present moment. We can try being mindfully in the moment by checking in with our breath and with what our body is telling us right now. Let’s remind ourselves that nothing lasts forever, so if the present is not pleasant, it too will pass and that right now in this moment, we are okay.

R- Rest when needed. The patients that I work with are frequently surprised at how physically exhausted they are after a day of mental health therapy. Emotionally draining experiences are physically draining as well. So let’s give ourselves permission to find some quiet time this holiday season to rest and unplug. Unplug from whatever it is that we need a break from- too many people, phone/email/social media, to-do list, etc. If we can give ourselves the gift of some calm and peace (even if it is just 20 minutes) doing something we enjoy or even doing nothing at all, rather than doing only the things we feel we need to do, we can enjoy the season much more.

E- Unrealistic expectations lead to disappointment.  Let’s try to soften the expectations we may place on ourselves and our ability to handle the season, the stress, or the family. We have to stop ‘should-ing’ on ourselves and expecting things to go perfectly. This means we are trying to let go of all of the thoughts of “I should be able to handle this”, “They should treat me better”, “This should be going more smoothly”. These expectant thoughts lead us to feeling disappointment when things don’t go exactly as we think they should go.

S- Sing, chant, hum, laugh.  All of these are so healthy for our body, mind, and spirit. If we can let loose, we can raise our vibration by singing seasonal songs, chanting a mantra, or humming a note or a tune. Not only is the vibration healthy, but it will aid the body in fighting off congestion. And laughing is one of the healthiest things we can do. Laughter relaxes the nervous system, helps to drop blood pressure levels, releases healthy hormones, helps the mind to process in a more creative way, works muscles, relieves tension, and it’s fun! (Laughing is my favorite.) When we feel the tension building, let’s try to laugh at the situation.

E- Exhale slowly. And then take a deep belly breath in. Repeat several times. When things get stressful, our breathing typically becomes more shallow. This is a sign to stop and notice our breath. We want to mindfully inhale so deeply that the belly expands and then slowly and completely exhale. Once we are focused on our breathing, we can add counting to focus the mind. Inhale for 4 counts and exhale for 6 counts. The longer exhalation helps to amplify the Parasympathetic response of the nervous system, literally calming the body. As frequently as we can think of it, let’s aim to take a few deep, expanding breaths in and then exhale slowly and mindfully.

N- Notice automatic reactions.  Many times, we think we have “things” under control until we spend time with our family and all of a sudden, we find ourselves reacting the way we always have. This is where we take a deep breath, notice how we are feeling and envision how we want to respond. This is a practice in replacing reacting with responding and it won’t always go perfectly, but once we are aware of what we are doing without thinking, we can work to change it. We must also try to let go of judging ourselves in this process.

C- Get creative.  Many of us get ‘stuck’ in our analytical, non-creative brain when we get stressed and we start overthinking, over-analyzing, and making ourselves even more stressed out. The first step is to cut ourselves some slack by remembering that no one is perfect and we can’t expect ourselves to be the exception to that rule. It’s ok to ask for help when we need. Once we have accepted our imperfect nature, we can allow ourselves to find a more creative ways of coping. This will exercise the other side of our brains and give us a break from the linear, repetitive, and judgmental thinking that pops up when we are stuck in black and white thinking.

E- Enough– as in we are enough just as we are. We must remind ourselves that we are not our accomplishments, our past, our family, or even our bodies. We are the incredible spirit inside that is on the journey of this life. We are all just trying to figure it out as best we can. We are good enough, smart enough, creative enough, brave enough, beautiful enough, successful enough…You are enough. Just as you are. Maybe we could even try that on as our mantra this week: “I am enough.” Enough said.

I hope this is helpful. Pick one and give it a try. Find your own version. Reach out to others and share what you are trying.

May you experience connection, joy, love and peace this holiday season.

Chat again soon.

k

But I Think It’s About Forgiveness

The word forgive in the English language actually comes out of a literal translation of the Latin root “perdonare”, meaning “to give completely without reservation”. However, modern interpretation brings with it a great deal of emotion and belief that forgiving someone or something means that we condone what was done. Because of this emotional interpretation, many times forgiveness is not something that we give freely and without reservation.

Forgiveness is not about agreeing with what happened, but it is about accepting what happened so that we can move on from it. For someone who will not forgive, I often envision that they have cinderblocks chained to their belt, dragging them around everywhere they go, making everything harder, more irritating and more exhausting. Choosing not to forgive keeps us chained to what happened and may come with the underlying belief that if we hold on to it, it will change.

Forgiveness is about unleashing oneself and finding the freedom to live life untethered to what happened and who caused the hurt. Forgiveness creates space within the person who is forgiving as well as between the forgiver and the transgression.

According to Desmond Tutu’s book The Book of Forgiving, there are four steps on the path toward forgiveness and these steps can allow us to move toward feeling whole, connected, and free once again. This process is not easy or pain-free, but it is the way to be able to move on without the hurt ruling our thoughts, actions, and lives. And our choice to forgive has nothing to do with the other person admitting the hurt, asking for forgiveness or showing remorse. It purely is a way for us to find peace and take our lives back.

A key factor in our being able to forgive is remembering that we are all human, we have all hurt others in some way, and we all hurt. Even with this realization, the process of forgiveness can take time and effort.

Let’s take a look at the four steps that are involved:

The first step is Telling the Story and this is a way that we connect with others, process what happened and begin to make meaning out of what we are going through. In trauma, being able to tell the story is a very important piece of healing. When we don’t talk about it, we can get stuck in isolation, shame, anger and fear. “Families must find shared stories of their experiences, or everyone is left to their private pain and each member of the family feels alone and isolated.” (Tutu and Tutu, 2014, p. 69) Telling our story increases our resilience by helping us to become the author of our story rather than the victim. This also allows us to step out of feeling that we have to carry it all by ourselves.

Next in the process, we must Name the Hurt. This means adding to the facts of the story by identifying what we are feeling and putting words to it. Our brains actually process what we are feeling differently when we label it. We are able to step into the role of the feeler rather than the feeling itself. When we attempt to push the feelings away- the pain, anger, grief, shame, etc, we are giving our power over to the hurt that happened. We are blocking our ability to move forward and also to feel more positive emotions. We may attempt to avoid this part of the process because this is where we have to give in to being in the pain, but we must grieve what was lost in order to open space for healing to come in to replace all of the discomfort. Naming the hurt is painful, but it can take us out of suffering, allow us to more deeply accept what happened, and give ourselves permission to move forward.

The first two steps will ready us for Granting Forgiveness. We must remember that there is no expected time frame for this to happen, but if we can move through the process, we will untether ourselves from the past. The first two steps, when repeated without moving into forgiveness, keep us stuck focusing on the hurt. Granting forgiveness allows us to take back our power to move forward in our lives and create the direction we want to move in. Granting forgiveness in no way means that we agree with what happened, condone what happened, or feel that there should not be consequences for the hurt. But, it does mean that we accept that it happened so that we can stop carrying the weight of the hurt around with us every day. When we find forgiveness difficult, it can help to recognize that we are all human and we have all hurt others at some time. The generosity of assuming that everyone is doing the very best that they can will also allow us to widen our perspective and perhaps see the pain that the perpetrator may have experienced.

The final step in the forgiveness cycle is the choice of Renewing or Releasing the Relationship. The harm done is a link of shared history that actually creates a relationship and we must choose to release that relationship, moving forward in a different direction, or to renew the relationship, creating a clean slate and leaving what happened in the past. We will not be able to replicate what the relationship looked like before the hurt because what happened will have shaped and shifted it, but we will be able to create something new. This is how we step out of the role of the victim of hurt and move forward in healing and growth.

The process of forgiveness is a powerful way to once again step into the role of creator in our lives. This is how we stop the cycle of suffering and find more peace. Consider how things can change if we can give ourselves this gift and do the work of forgiving.

I will be going through the steps right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

And Long After You’re Gone, Gone, Gone

As a therapist and a resilience coach, I lead clients through deep emotional work in order to find more contentment and meaning in their lives. This inner work can be uncomfortable and exhausting for everyone involved. The theme of our work this week is grief and this is a theme that often brings up resistance and fear.

Grief is an extremely powerful and deeply felt emotion. It comes as the result of a major change and it can be overwhelming. In grief, we naturally pulse in and out of feeling it all so that we can actually cope with what we are experiencing. You can read more about this concept in my previous blog post It’s Something Unpredictable.

Because it is so powerful, grief often feels scary and overwhelming. We may avoid feeling it because we are afraid that we won’t survive it or that the feelings will never go away. However, we must be able to face our grief so that we can heal and move on rather than being held captive in the past by the emotions that we are refusing to feel.

Some of the contributing factors around why grief is so overwhelming are the qualifiers and expectations that we place around what the loss should be to deserve grieving and what the process of grief should look like. Our society, in many ways, is so uncomfortable with the process of grieving that it is seen as something to “get over” or just outright deny. And the discomfort displayed by others is often a reflection of their own avoidance of grief.

Knowing what we may experience as we are going through grief can allow us to feel what we are feeling and to help normalize what we are going through. Brene’ Brown reports that according to her research, there are three main elements of grief that pop up throughout the experience: Loss, Longing, and Feeling Lost.

We are most familiar with the first component: Loss. This is the knowledge or feeling that something is lost, gone, or missing and in some way, a hole has been created in our lives. If we do not acknowledge the loss and process it, the hole will continue to get bigger and take over more of our lives. The hole created from loss can dictate our every action if we do not give it the attention that it needs.

The component of Loss is where we also see expectations and limitations pop up around what losses are worthy of grief. We may compare our loss to the loss of others and judge whether or not we have the right to grieve. Losses range from the death of a loved one to the death of a dream or vision to the loss of a job or responsibility to the loss of an identity and so on. We may need to take the time to grieve the loss of something we never even had, like a relationship or a life experience. A loss is a loss is a loss and we must give ourselves permission to grieve so that the hole does not take over.

The second component often experienced in grief is Longing. This is the strong and deeply gripping emotion of yearning. It is a desire that may be related to having, seeing, touching, or regaining what we have lost, but it could also show up as longing to feel whole, to have understanding, or to gain closure. Longing happens on a subconscious level and it can be an overwhelmingly visceral experience.

The final component of grief is Feeling Lost. In the experience of grief, we required to recalibrate. We must reassess and revise what things look like. Our life roles and identity may have shifted and we are having to reorient ourselves to who we are and how we will live our lives. We may feel lost emotionally, physically, socially, and spiritually and may need some time to stand back up in order to take the next step.

In our experience of grief, we often feel disconnected and unable to talk about what we are experiencing. Sometimes, we are fearful that we will be judged, seen as a burden, or even add to the load that others are carrying in their lives if we reach out to those around us to share what we are struggling with. However, the more we resist what we are feeling and the less we connect with others through this experience, the more alone we will feel and the more power this process will have over directing our thoughts and behaviors.

Every one grieves differently and over different things. There is no time limit or exact way that grief should look. It is not a linear process, but it is part of the human experience. Grief shows us that what was lost meant something to us. As difficult as grief is, we must go through it to come out on the other side.

It is important to connect and to share what we experience in this journey. Reach out. Write about what is going on. Feel the feelings. Even though it is difficult and uncomfortable, it is well worth it to reach healing.

I will be practicing right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

So Go And Do Life Big

Have you ever found yourself judging how hard someone else is trying in their life? Feeling frustrated as you think of all of the ways that they could be doing better? And what about beating yourself up for not doing your best or handling things perfectly?

We may, at times, find ourselves standing in judgment of how others happen to be handling their own lives. We may assign our own expectations to who we think others should be and what their efforts should look like. When we do this, we are setting ourselves up to be frustrated, irritated, disappointed, and resentful. When this process becomes a way of living, we find ourselves disconnected, dissatisfied and disengaged. Oh, yeah, and exhausted.

The good news is that if we can make some shifts in how we are interacting with the world around us, we can take better care of ourselves and stop expecting other people to be something or someone that they may never be.

This week in the online course I lead based on Brene’ Brown’s book Rising Strong, we are focusing on shifting our own perspective of how hard others are trying and looking at the impact this shift has in our own lives. Brene’ names the process of unwinding our how we interact “Living BIG” and the three components are Boundaries, Integrity, and Generosity.

Let’s start with Boundaries. The most straight-forward and easy to understand definition of boundaries is letting others know what is okay and what is not okay. We are training others in how to treat us and when we do not uphold our own boundaries and redirect their behavior, we train them to believe that whatever they did was acceptable to us. This means that it will most likely happen again. We must also recognize that maintaining our boundaries means that we will have to have difficult conversations at times, but that the conversation is saving us from the resentment and anger we will experience when do not stand up for ourselves in this way. Boundaries allow us to take care of ourselves while acting as the person we want to be. That’s where Integrity comes in.

Integrity is living in alignment with our core values even when it is not easy to do so. It is about doing what is right when no one else is watching and resting easy knowing that we are making choices that support the person that we want to be. Integrity is how we hold ourselves accountable for maintaining our own boundaries and it is how we grow by bravely living into what is right for us.

Generosity may be the most slippery of the three components and it really comes down to our expectations and judgment. Generosity can require a bigger shift as it entails our making the kindest and most compassionate assumptions about the intentions and actions of whomever we are interacting with. It’s about assuming the best. We may need to check the story we are telling ourselves about the other person or the situation and then open our hearts and minds to grace. (Note: Generosity is not an excuse for the bad behavior of others. This is why it must be coupled with Integrity and Boundaries.) Generosity is a way for us to let go of expecting others to be someone or something other than what they actually are. Like forgiveness, generosity is about allowing us to soften and to respond differently. This is where we have to dig deep and open ourselves to the possibility that everyone is doing the very best that they can with what they have.

Overall, the concept of Living BIG comes down to this question from Rising Strong: “What boundaries do I need to put in place so I can work from a place of integrity and extend the most generous interpretations of the intentions, words, and actions of others?”

We must also recognize that all of this work must also be reflected inward in how we are treating ourselves. When we uphold our own boundaries with others, but also with ourselves, when we make the choice that supports what we deeply believe in even when it is difficult to do so, and when we remind ourselves that everyone- including us- is doing the best that they know how to do in this moment, we can relax into more ease and contentment while letting go of anger and resentment.

So, give it a try. Explore Living BIG for the next week or even the next few hours and see how it can shift your interaction with the world around you.

And believe me, I am practicing right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

The NeverEnding Story

Our brains are wired for story. Story provides the way for us to understand things, to make sense of the world, to connect everything we take in. Story also provides us with a recognizable pattern of beginning, middle, and end, and when we see that pattern as completed, our brains even release a little hit of dopamine (the “feel good hormone”) as a reward.

When there is an unknown or a blank space, we will often feel the body and the mind respond in high alert as our nervous system cannot find peace. The ambiguity is intolerable. When the ending to the story or the pattern is missing, the nervous system goes into a panic and instinctually responds as if we are in an unsafe situation.

In unsafe situations, the rational and logical portion of the brain is shut off and the older, more powerful portion of the brain concerned only with survival takes over. The only objective now is to fill in the blank with whatever the brain can find in order to calm the nervous system and feel safe again. Notice the “whatever the brain can find” part that was just mentioned. To calm the nervous system, the ending of the story that we fill in does not have to be accurate, true, real, helpful, or anything else for that matter. It just has to complete the pattern.

According to Brene’ Brown, “a story that’s based on limited real data and imagined data and blended into a coherent, emotionally satisfying version of reality” makes a conspiracy theory. And we are all walking around with conspiracy theories in our heads, shaping our behaviors to match up with what the story is telling us.

Yikes.

But, wait, there’s more. After we make up the ending of the story, we often go tell others what we now believe to be truth based on the conspiracy theory. So, we believe we are telling the truth, but it is actually a lie because the story wasn’t accurate to begin with. This is called a confabulation and it creates more issues that have to be dealt with later. Confabulations can hurt our relationships with others as well as with ourselves. We make up stories about our own worth and then behave in ways that support the story. We tell ourselves things that we have accepted as the truth that are based on very limited data.

Again, we all do it. So, there’s the “you’re not alone” piece that helps us to feel better, but what do we do?

First, we have to recognize that we are making up part of the story and question what else we need to know to be able to move forward from a place that won’t cause us more issues we will have to deal with later. Next, we have this conversation with ourselves and then if needed, we have it with others to fact-check and get clear on what is real and what we have made up. Then, we allow ourselves to feel what we feel, we breathe, we reach out for support, and we deal with what is really happening.

So, this week, let’s start to notice our own stories. Maybe we do a little fact-checking by getting curious about what information may be missing and what we have made up. And maybe we even get brave enough to have a conversation with ourselves or others about the story we are making up.

As always, I will be practicing right along with you. Reach out anytime- I would be happy to chat with you about it.

Chat again soon,

k

I’m Gonna Push Pause

Have you ever wished you could install a pause button into your mind? A way to take just a moment before reacting? Life throws curve balls and as emotional beings, sometimes we react rather than respond. We may revert back to old patterns, say hurtful things, or act in a way that is just out of integrity with our own values. Basically, we are not who we want to be in those moments and we often have to go back and clean up afterward. If we could pause, we could better choose our next action when we find ourselves caught up in emotion.

Through teaching the Rising Strong process based on the research of Dr. Brene’ Brown, I have come to see that by practicing 3 steps, we can have our pause button ready for practice in no time. These steps do not have to occur in order, in fact, they work more synergistically and shift around in order. For the steps to be easier to remember, we can call them The 3 P’s (which is helpful because Pause begins with P as well).

The first P stands for Permission. We must give ourselves permission to feel what we feel. This is truly an act of self-love and it is a way for us to recognize that what we feel cannot be wrong- it is what we are already experiencing. Others may not understand what we feel, and sometimes we don’t even understand it ourselves, but there is no right or wrong about it. Once we allow ourselves to feel it, we can learn more about ourselves and choose how to respond to what we feel in a way that is in alignment with our deepest held values. By giving ourselves permission to feel what we feel, we are also helping ourselves to process through that emotion rather than hold onto it and by doing this, the emotion will pass like a wave. Say it to yourself outloud if that helps- “I have permission to feel what I feel in this moment”.

The second P stands for Paying Attention. This is all about turning our attention inward with curiosity to recognize that we may be hooked by emotion in the moment, to learn more about what we are actually feeling, and to see where we are feeling it in our bodies. This process will increase our awareness so that we can pause the next time we are hooked by emotion and choose our response rather than getting caught in old patterns that aren’t serving us. Paying Attention is really the practice of mindfulness and being fully present in what we are experiencing. This practice can uncover the triggers that got us here in the first place.

The third P stands for Pranayama which is the yoga term for breathing techniques. ‘Prana’ means life force and ‘yama’ means to direct or control. Pranayama is all about directing how energy is flowing through our bodies. If we change our breathing, we can change everything about our experience in our minds and bodies in the present moment. When we are hooked by emotion, we are often in ‘fight or flight’ mode and our minds are spinning out, unable to make rational decisions. Noticing and changing our breath can focus the mind and help to calm the nervous system so that we can make better choices.

So, this week, let’t try out the pause button as a way to care for ourselves and those around us. Let’s practice noticing when we are feeling hooked by emotion, give ourselves permission to feel what we feel, and then focus on slowing our breath. Let’s feel into our body and start to recognize the physical signs of being in emotional response. Let’s slow the breath and practice something like Inhaling 4 counts, Holding 4 counts, Exhaling 4 counts, and Holding out 4 counts or Inhaling 4 counts, Exhaling 8 counts. We are building awareness to enable us to respond to our lives rather than mindlessly react. We are unwinding patterns that we have been stuck in so that we can live in alignment with who we want to be.

I will be practicing right along with you.

Reach out and let me know how it’s going.

Chat again soon,

k

I’m Just A Little Unwell

The ancient science of Ayurveda (pronounced eye-yur-veda) is, in many ways, a preventative practice to enable our bodies and minds to function at their best. This is the science that I use when coaching others into healthier habits and happier lives. This science is about unwinding or preventing the breakdown of the body and mind by recognizing how we are living out of sync with our natural rhythm.

When you don’t make space to listen or time to feel, when you disregard your needs, you lose integrity with yourself. Ignore your body and lose its trust. Ignore negative feedback from your body, emotions, and thought patterns and you lose the opportunity to pivot.

Cate Stillman

What we do consistently day after day is influencing and essentially creating the mind and the body that we will live in next as we are in the continual process of cells dying and new cells being regenerated. That also means that we are currently living in the product of what our habits or actions have been. When we form patterns of living out of sync with our body’s natural rhythm for extended periods of time, it takes a toll on the entire mind-body system and dis-ease sets in. Living in a way that does not support how our mind and body can function best causes the reversal of ease in the body= disease. In Ayurveda, there are three major causes that build up and lead to disease. Let’s take a look at all three.

The first cause of disease is making careless choices. This means failing to learn from previous experience and repeatedly making the same choices again. This can show up in patterns of eating food that we cannot digest well, staying up too late at night even though we feel drained and cloudy the next morning, choosing not to move our bodies even though when we do, our joints and low back feel better, etc. These careless choices build up over time and prevent clarity in our thoughts and our cells. They are those choices that we make when we go against our own deeper wisdom, leading to a loss of integrity with ourselves.

The second cause of disease is disrespecting our senses. This can come in the form of misuse, overuse, or underuse of our sense organs. Everything that we percieve and take in comes in through our sense organs. What we see, hear, feel, taste, and smell informs us about the world around us. From this information, we form our beliefs and views about the world and our experience in it. However, when we overuse and/or neglect those senses, we not only begin to experience a clouded view of reality, but we can also damage our sense organs and burn out the nervous system. The remedy here is honoring when we need silence over constant input from the TV, music, or social interaction; recognizing when our eyes are too tired to read or work more and going to sleep; listening to what we have a “taste” for and what is not appealing to our body’s wisdom.

Finally, the third cause of disease is living out of sync with our body’s natural rhythm- our circadian rhythm. This is the cause that I see our culture fighting against in many ways. When we eat heavy meals late in the evening, stay up too late at night, live in sedentary bodies, and fuel the building blocks of our cells with processed foods, we are setting ourselves up for illness, difficulty, and disease over time. When we honor how our bodies were created to function, we can get into natural rhythm and alleviate many of of the issues that we may be living with.

Can you identify with any of these causes of dis-ease? Can you see patterns that are working against your feeling healthy and happy? In the coming week, I invite you to take some time to recognize how you may be practicing any of these causes of disease and to take one small step toward change. When we unwind these patterns, we can find more ease in our body and mind.

Our bodies are wise and they do not have the capacity to lie like our minds do. The body speaks in symptoms and when we don’t listen to it whisper, it begins to yell. What has your body been telling you? How can you bring yourself back into balance? If you aren’t sure where to start, reach out. I would love to chat with you about it all.

I will be working on my journey toward ease right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

I Love Me

As a mental health therapist, I often see people when they have reached a point of not knowing how to move forward; when they are feeling depleted, hopeless, exhausted, and unsure of what else to do. Many times these people report that they take care of their families, that they dedicate hours of their lives to their jobs, and that they feel they do not have time for themselves at the end of the day.

We can all agree that the world needs altruistic people who are looking out for the welfare of others. However, the empathy, love, and connection must be kindled inwardly before it can be reflected out to others without burning us out.

Self-love and care is the most important thing that we can do for ourselves, but many of us are trained into a different view. Having grown up in the south, I have seen that the experience of many women is the expectation of handling ‘All of the Things’ with grace and to always act as if everything is “just fine”. We are taught to put the needs of others before our own and that to even think of doing anything for ourselves is selfish. These beliefs are both ludicrous and hazardous to our health.

It’s easy to think worn out is normal because the worn-out model is the dominant model for women in our culture. Have you noticed how our culture loves women achievers, even if they’re exhausted every step of the way to the top? – Karen Brody

In every moment, we are making choices. Yes to this, no to that. Why is it that we feel guilty for saying no to others, but we do not feel guilty for saying no to ourselves? If we cannot learn to take care of ourselves first, this will gravely effect our ability to take care of everyone else. We can quickly find ourselves burned out, exhaustion, angry, and unhappy. If we cannot learn to take care of ourselves first, we can also find our bodies breaking down, our immune system failing and illness or disease setting in. This is not how we want to live our lives.

We must give ourselves permission to make our own health and happiness a priority. In order to take care of others, which feels really good, we first have to turn the loving care inward, This is not an option. When I work with someone who has burned out and can no longer function, they often experience a sense of relief simply because they are forced at that point to stop for a while. And their burnout has an affect on everyone around them who is now having to adjust and take care of ‘All of the Things’ because there is no other choice.

Making the changes in our belief system to feel that it is ok to put ourselves first is a difficult one, but we can get there by learning to say yes and no when we need. If we can be real with ourselves and recognize that giving from an empty cup is unsustainable, we can start to see that helping ourselves helps all of the other people that we want to help.

In my online healthier habits course, I often see symptoms of burnout unwind. Small changes to our daily routines can lead to big shifts in our mental, emotional, and physical health.

This week, start to recognize when you are saying no to yourself and give yourself permission to put you first. It doesn’t have to be a huge shift or rudely refusing to do something you have already agreed to. Maybe it is something more like taking a short walk outside when you go to the restroom at work before returning to the obligations that can wait 5 minutes. Or perhaps it is going to bed at 9:00 because you are tired.

Reach out if you would like to chat about your habits and shifts that you may be able to start making. I would be happy to talk to you about it.

I will be taking care of myself right along with you.

Chat soon,

k

And Still, I Rise

As a coach and therapist, I spend my time helping people increase levels of resilience. Resilience is the ability to overcome adversity; to bounce back; to stand back up after getting knocked down. Resilience is our ability to overcome and grow from the challenges in our lives. Resilience is NOT the ability to avoid or resist challenges in life, nor is it the ability to avoid some scarring from the painful events. However, resilience enables us to be shaped by adversity in ways that create more effective and efficient coping for future challenges. And the good news is that resilience is a skill that can be practiced and honed.

In leading groups, workshops, and online courses based on the research of Brene’ Brown, much of my attention is focused specifically on shame resilience. Ugh, I know, that sounds awful. It is actually very rewarding to help others learn to overcome some of the most insidious and destructive thoughts experienced. If we define shame as the isolating feeling that we are in some way so flawed that we are unloveable, and if we acknowledge that humans are wired for connection and cannot thrive in isolation, then shame resilience can be a life saver.

Brown defines shame resilience as “the ability to practice authenticity when we experience shame, to move through the experience without sacrificing our values, and to come out on the other side of the shame experience with more courage, compassion, and connection than we had going into it”.

As you can see, simply by definition, shame resilience is no easy task. Just as we learn shameful thoughts and behaviors, we must also expect a bit of work to overcome those shameful thoughts. Because we didn’t come into shame by ourselves, we must connect with others in order to come out of it. And in our efforts to overcome our patterns of shame, we must be willing to try time and again.

The first thing we must be able to do is to recognize when we are experiencing shame. This is best identified by what is happening in our bodies. Shame is such a powerful experience that it triggers the stress response and we fall into survival mode in the nervous system. If we can begin to notice the signs and signals our bodies are showing us, we can not only come to recognize what is happening, but also label it and back out of stress response.

Once we are able to calm the nervous system enough to see what is happening, it is helpful to be able to take a step back and remind ourselves that we are not the only person in the world whom has ever experienced something like this and that simply because we are feeling shame does not mean that there is something inherently wrong with us. It means that we are human and we are trying to navigate this journey. Taking a step back also allows a wider view of how this began and what triggered us.

Finally, as mentioned earlier, overcoming shame takes connection with others. Shame encourages and thrives in secrecy and silence, so in order to break that power hold, we must reach out and share what we are experiencing with someone who will be able to give us the support we need. So this step takes identifying the right person, being brave enough to share, and then asking for the specific support that we need.

This is all a process, but with practice it gets easier and we become healthier and more resilient. Remember, shame is a shared human experience, but it derives its power from convincing us that we are the only one. And that is simply not true.

This week, see if you can start to identify what happens in your body when you experience shame. Check out one of the many books by Brene’ Brown or reach out to find a partner or a group who is also interested in doing this work with you. I lead 3 online courses per year based in this work, so reach out to me for more information. Whatever you do, know that you are worth the work.

Chat again soon,

k

Control

We often find ourselves getting upset and knocked out of balance over things that are completely out of our control. We are attached to how we think the world, other people, traffic, the weather, etc. should act. We allow our health and happiness to be affected by these things that we truly have no control over and spend time and energy stewing over it. Then, we actively deny the control that we do have over our own health, happiness, schedule, and relationships. We are an interesting breed.

This week, I have been speaking with several people about the affect our physical body and daily habits can have on cognitive clarity and emotional health. It seems so simple that it couldn’t possibly be so powerful, but indeed it is. If we set our daily schedule up to meet our own body’s needs, we can experience better health across the board- physically, mentally, and emotionally. And then, we will experience better relationships with ourselves and with others as well.

Take a moment to consider that if we are overscheduled, constantly stressed out, not able to sleep well, and eating quick and processed foods, we are setting ourselves up for difficulty and future problems to solve. We cannot expect our thinking to be clear and our coping to be on point if we do not have a stable foundation of a properly functioning body to support us. Our body provides the understructure from which we can deal with the stressors in our lives and if our body is in difficulty, everything else will be as well.

We must realize that our daily habits are setting us up for health or illness in the future. The mind and body that we are currently living in is the result of what we have done regularly up to this point. The exciting news is that we have the ability to change how we feel and that we have more control over our schedule than we think. If we can prioritize our own self-care, we can reap the benefits.

Many work cultures train us into believing that our work comes first; before our own health and what our bodies need to function properly. We prioritize getting work done over eating, sleeping, moving our bodies, and sometimes, even over going to the bathroom. And we buy into the belief that we “have to”. However, we have much more control than we have been taught to believe.

If we wake up early, we could take that time for ourselves to start the day with intention and peace. Perhaps we sit and tune in for a few moments, walk around the block, or to take our time with a bath or shower. Using this time- even just a few minutes- to focus on ourselves rather than going in to work early in a futile attempt to complete the infinitely growing task list can help us to better deal with the stress of the day.

At lunch, if we dedicate the time to actually take a break from work and focus on nourishing our bodies with our biggest, most nutrient-dense meal of the day, we can experience healthier and more effective digestion as well as the energy our brain needs to tackle the afternoon tasks waiting for us.

Scheduling even ten minutes per day to focus on doing something that helps us feel better in our minds and bodies- journaling, reading, exercising, chatting with a friend- we can begin to feel the benefits of honoring our own needs first and we can become more effective and efficient at all of the other things that are competing for our energy and attention.

Changing our perspective on our relationship with ourselves, our bodies, and our schedule can have a positive ripple effect on our relationship with our lives. If we take care of ourselves first, we can then take care of everything else in our lives more effectively as well as cope with the ups and downs along the way.

This week, experiment with how you can schedule in intervals of putting your own needs first. We are aiming for babysteps- a way for you to see that you really do have the control over your schedule. Five or ten minutes a few times throughout the day is not only doable, but a great step in the right direction.

I will be taking control of my schedule right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

Everybody’s Got A Hungry Heart

What are you feeding yourself and what are you truly hungry for? On all levels of your being?

Every day, cells in our bodies die and new cells regenerate in their place. On one day, the dying cells may be bone cells or skin cells, and another day they may be brain cells and stomach lining cells. Over time, all of our cells are replaced and this process continues throughout our lifetimes.

We are in the process of creating the body and mind that we are going to be living in. And right now, we are living in the body and mind that are a product of what we have fed ourselves in the past. What we feed ourselves is helping to nourish the new cells and to create clarity and cellular intelligence if we feed ourselves with the highest quality of nourishment that we can.

I am not only talking about food here. Food is a part of it, but I am also referring to other layers of ourselves that require other types of nourishment. We must broaden our view to include things like rest, movement, stillness, and connection. So, let’s take a look at ways we can nourish ourselves on all levels in order to create the body and mind that we want to be living in.

To feed our physical body, we must choose foods that are full of energy so that our cells can feed on that energy directly. If we are eating highly processed foods, our bodies are not getting the optimal nourishment to set us up with cells that will function their best. Whole fruits, vegetables, and well-sourced meats will help our bodies to make the best cells in our physical body. Fast food is not going to contribute to the creation of the healthiest cells. Do you want the Dollar Menu feeding the creation of your brain cells?

To feed our energy body, the body that, on some levels, helps us to cope and manage both on the physical and mental levels, we must think about moving our breath. This means breathing deeply and taking time to move our physcial body every day. Exercise of some sort moves energy through our bodies so that we shift from being in a state of stagnation to a state of expansion and growth. There are tons of breathing techniques that can also do the same. Why don’t we try both?

To feed our mental/emotional body, we must allow ourselves to feel what we feel, process what we are feeling, and direct where the mind goes. Meditation, mantras, and affirmations are very helpful here. They feed the mind and emotions to be in a state that allows for helpful thoughts and emotional regulation. Meditation does not have to be sitting still. In fact, we can often combine moving our bodies with clearing our minds. We must recognize that all of these levels connect to each other.

To feed our wisdom body, we must take time for rest and listening to our body’s needs. We must trust that our bodies know what they need and be able to quiet down enough to honor what the body is asking for. When we are tired, we should get rest. When we are hungry, we should eat. When we are in need of movement, we should move. We often override the body’s signs and signals of what it is asking for and then later pay the price. Our body cannot lie to us and it is extremely wise. Creating space within to hear our inner wisdom will allow us to know what all of our layers need.

To feed our bliss bodies, we must tune in and connect with true ourselves, with whatever our higher power is, and to recognize our connection to those around us. Deep bliss comes from allowing ourselves to be authentically who we are. It comes from connecting to ourselves, to others, and to the universe at large. Bliss comes when we remember that we are the soul that lives inside of this body on this journey.

So, what are you feeding yourself? And what are you deeply hungry for? Take some time this week to explore what you need to shift in order to deeply nourish yourself.

I will be working on this right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

I Won’t Back Down

What is holding you back? What are you allowing to limit you? Sometimes we make up stories in our heads that keep us quiet and doubting ourselves. At the moment of deciding to put ourselves out there or not, we are most susceptible to believing stories that limit us. When we choose not to share our ideas, not to put our work out in the world, or not to live in support of our authentic selves, we also fall out of alignment with who we truly are.

So, what is keeping you small? Some of the common culprits are expectations, comparison and judgment, and they all feed into fear.

We shape our behaviors, decisions, and lives around the stories in our heads. And those stories may have been planted there by other people throughout our lifetime. We may be believing someone else’s opinion about ourselves and our ability to contribute uniquely to the world. Because of this, there must come a time when we are brave enough to question the validity of the story and reorient ourselves if needed. We are the authors of our story and when we realize that, we can free ourselves up to live the life that we long for.

We may be living a life based on what we believe we “should” be doing rather than what we are passionate about. We may be attempting to fulfill the expectations of others which is draining and frustrating as we are living someone else’s life. In order to feel fulfilled, we must show up and stand up for what we believe in and who we authentically are. Even if it means going against what is expected by people we know, society, or the critic in our heads. Doing what we think we “should” be doing rather than what we are deeply passionate about contributes to feeling depressed, empty, confused, and hopeless.

Many times, we may start off on our own path, feel good about what we are doing or creating, and then compare our work to that of others. This is often where everything falls apart. As we fall into the trap of comparision, we can find ourselves lacking in some way and begin to doubt that what we have to offer is “good enough”. We pull back, change direction, or decide not to put ourselves out there at all. Comparison can kill creativity and we must remember that what we have to offer is rare and special because it is our authentic contribution to the world created out of our own unique style.

We may also hold back on making ourselves and our ideas known out of fear of judgment. We may predict how others will see our work, assume we know what others will think, and then limit ourselves based on those assumptions. Yes, those assumptions can even be based on past experience, but that does not mean that our future will bring the same. Also, in our current culture of social media, people do often more openly judge others from the safety of their electronic device. But, this, so frequently, is their poor attempt at feeling better about themselves and it really has nothing to do with us. Those who seek out things to criticize and judge in others are battling their own fear of being judged.

So, will you allow fear to hold you back? If so, you may never experience the deep satisfaction of living the life you want as who you authentically are. You may miss out on connection and belonging, and instead live your life attempting to fit in. This is no way to spend your days. Be vulnerable. Be brave. Now is your chance. Find your support section and walk into that arena standing up for yourself and what you believe in. Live your life. It’s hard and it’s scary, but it’s worth it.

Give it a try just for today. And then tomorrow, try again.

I will be putting myself out there right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

This Is My Fight Song

In my roles as a Mental Health Professional, a Yoga Therapist, and a Yoga Teacher Trainer, I am frequently cuing others to increase their awareness. I coach things like noticing sensations in the body, the feeling of breathing, and thoughts that are floating or flooding into the mind. Throughout this process, I am also encouraging the effort to become aware without getting caught up in judging or labeling what is found. It is a practice of simply noticing in order to be better prepared to respond rather than react, thus directing how the story goes.

I frequently refer to Brene’ Brown and her powerful work in growing courage, connection, and compassion. She is a master storyteller and she recognizes the effectiveness of painting a picture so that we can understand on a deeper level. In my teaching, coaching, and counseling this week, I have been using her image of The Arena as a metaphor for the places in our lives where we show up in bravery to act in alignment with our values and who we want to be. This can be a big, life-altering situation, but more often than not, this is how we show up in our lives everyday; the hard work of choosing to be our authentic selves.

When we are in the arena, awareness is of utmost importance. We must recognize that there will be many voices that we can hear as we are in the battle of showing up for ourselves to be seen. Being aware of who is showing up to see the fight will help prepare us to more effectively respond when we need to.

As we flow through the moments of living in alignment our values, honoring who we truly are, standing for what we believe, and putting ourselves/our ideas/our work out there for others to see, we must be aware of the audience.

There will be people watching us and throwing out judgment and criticism who have never stepped foot in the arena themselves. They will point out how we are doing it wrong and give lots of advice on how we should be doing it. These opinions come from no experience and typically a safe distance from the actual work we are doing. Kind of like coaching from cheap seats or dropping criticism on social media. But, we must also recognize that these voices often rise up from within our own minds.

There will also be people that we may not even realize are watching us until they voice their assumptions about us and make it clear that they were betting against us from the beginning because we do not look, think, have, or believe what they do. In many ways, these folks support the “Us vs Them” way of thinking and can often influence others to support their opinions. These are the guys who are expecting us to fail, are closed off to changing their view, and have made their minds up about us based on stereotypes and fear.

We will also have some critics watching and picking apart our every move. Critics can share information that will help us to grow and this is why we give their opinions such weight. The problem is that we often give them so much power that they train us into a mindset of comparison, scarcity and shame. These voices can point out all of the ways in which we are not enough and can also sneak in and switch sides after telling us that they are showing up as our support section. And again, this role is often filled in our own minds.

The support section is where we must fill the seats with people who are empathic and compassionate. Those who will show up for us and remind us that we are not alone. We must also work to do this for ourselves and to show up in the support section for others.

Once we are aware of these roles, we can be better prepared for how they show up when we are putting ourselves out there. We can ignore the advice from those who have no experience, live in our values to overcome stereotypes, and take the constructive criticism that will help us to grow while leaving the comments that are shameful and worth-centered. We can also recognize to whom we should go to for support. Some people will never be able to show up in our support section. When we are aware of this, we can find those who can give us the support we need and also return the favor when needed.

If we are not aware, we are at the mercy of the story writing itself. Once our awareness grows, we can make the choice to respond- or not- and then move forward as the person we want to be, writing how the story ends. We can better show up and fight for what we believe.

This week, start to notice who is showing up in your arena. Focus on the support section and be sure to fill it before the games begin.

I will be doing the work right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

Here I Am, Baby

Yesterday, as I was leading group therapy, we had a new member join the group. I asked the others to introduce themselves and to share what it was like for them on their first day in order to encourage connection in the group. Several members described feeling nervous, unsure, scared, vulnerable.

Ah, vulnerability. The word alone makes some people uncomfortable. We run from it, deny that we are susceptible to it, and we may even feel avoidance around vulnerability in others. It is a powerful thing. Vulnerability is experienced and described differently by everyone, but the definition Brene’ Brown shares really describes why it is so uncomfortable.

“Well, then, sign me up!” said no one ever. This definition does not exactly promote the warm fuzzies or the desire to feel this on a daily basis. It does, however, shine a light on the reason so many of us struggle with vulnerability.

We are exposed to expectations around how to respond to feeling vulnerable in many different settings. In our families and schools, kids can be ridiculed and redirected for displaying emotion or labeled as a “crybaby”. Ideas and creations can be minimized and critically judged, making it less likely that they will continue to share their ideas.

The leadership and culture of our workplaces sets the tone for what is acceptable there. Employees can experience strong motivation to not display emotion or share what they think and feel for fear of backlash or loss of respect. Men and women can also have very different expectations modeled for each gender, affecting levels of trust overall.

The media teaches us what is acceptable through movies, shows, the actions of celebrities, and social media. Many times, what is modeled and taught is not helpful. The current culture of social media can be quick to attack from a safe and sometimes anonymous distance. If we come to believe that vulnerability is weakness, we will most likely do all we can to avoid this experience altoghether.

The belief that vulnerability is weakness is dangerous to our emotional health. Because vulnerability is at the very core of feeling, it is at the very core of everything that gives our lives meaning. It is intimately intertwined with the emotions that we want to feel and it leads to character strengths that enable purpose.

We cannot love another being, or put our creative endeavors out into the world, or bravely stand up for ourselves without taking a risk, feeling uncertain about how it will all go, or opening ourselves up. These things are born from vulnerability and courage, and they all lead to growth and strength.

If we want to have the rich experience of living into and feeling into our lives, we cannot choose not to be vulnerable. It’s a part of the human experience. The good news is that vulnerability and courage come together and when we can bravely show up in our lives as our authentic selves, we can experience connection, belonging, and meaning.

So, this week, I invite you to explore what vulnerability is like for you. Dig in to your beliefs around vulnerability and think back on times when you were brave to see how vulnerability played a part.

Comment below about your experience. We will share in your growth and bravery. And reach out if you feel you need support. I will be practicing right along with you. This week, I am experiencing vulnerability around caring for a very ill and aging pet. How are you showing up?

Chat again soon,

k

The Rest is Still Unwritten

Are you writing your story or just doing your best to navigate the plot line every day? As we look out into the future, we have the ability to take over as the author of how our story goes and make ourselves the hero rather than the victim.

As we determine who we want to become and how we want to feel, we must first acknowledge where we are now. The small habits that we act on daily are creating the mind and body In which we are living. We are constructing our experience and our identity by what we do repetitively. By recognizing those habits and where we are now, we can see the back story; the starting point for the next leg of our journey.

It is also important to know that once the decision has been made to change the direction of the story, or make changes in how we are living our lives, resistance will pop up. Sometimes resistance comes from our environment and others around us, but many times, it pops up in our own minds. The character that we have been (our old identity) speaks up against change because he/she doesn’t want to be written out of the story. Often, that character will make up really convincing stories about how badly the change will go and how those we are close to will be negatively affected by the change. This is when we must do some fact-checking. Our old identity is spreading fake news in an effort to stay put.

If we can ready ourselves and expect resistance in the process of taking control of our story, we can continue on the journey. Viewing resistance as a sign that we are on the verge of growth will enable us to overcome the challenge, to let go of the doubts of our past self, and to push through in order to move toward who we want to be.

Tuning in to how our future identity would handle challenges can also help us to overcome them by acting “as if” we are already that next best version of ourselves. Once we determine WHO we want to be and begin to believe that we can, in fact, become that person, we must listen to the confident voice of that story hero rather than screaming rant of our past identity who is spreading fear, doubt, and difficulty. And some days, this will be a true battle.

We must be honest about the stories we have been telling ourselves and brave enough to own our story so that we can rewrite the ending. The excuses that pop up as roadblocks and detours along the way will be valid. But, at that moment, we must make a choice; to act in a way that will take us closer to who we want to be and the life we want to live, or to continue down the path that will keep us stuck in the old identity and safely away from growth.

So, what’s it going to be? The way to become the next best version of ourselves is to act as if we already are. To listen to the brave voice of that hero and to make our decisions based on what that person would do.

Our future is at stake here. It’s time to become our own hero.

This week, begin to explore the stories that you are telling yourself about your experience and yourself. Do some fact-checking to see if these stories still fit or if they need to be updated. And then begin to plan small ways to change direction toward who you really want to be.

I know you can do it. And I will be working on my story right along with you. Reach out if you need support. Or an editor.

Chat again soon,

k