Archive for ‘Emotional Support’

February 26, 2018

Forget Mindfulness!

Mindfulness pshaw. Forget Mindfulness! What I need is a little MindLESSness!

Don’t get me wrong, my life is filled with mindful practices and I believe they’re important. I practice yoga 3 or 4 times a week. I may squeeze in a guided meditation. And, I’m immersed in a Daring Way class where I’m learning to practice empathy that includes mindfulness. There’s nothing WRONG with mindfulness. In fact, sitting in the moment and being present has led me to recognize that I am worn out!

I need to turn my mind off temporarily. I don’t want to consider anything. I don’t want to answer a text, send an email, or read any research. I don’t want to cook a meal, test a recipe, or review any video. I don’t want to pay a bill, wash a dish, or plan anything! And I know I don’t have the emotional energy to listen with empathy to someone who is making my life more difficult. I just don’t have it in me.
I want to lie in the sun, feel it’s warmth and ENJOY it rather than feeling like I need to dig up tulip bulbs from my yard while the soil is soft. I want to float in the pool and feel nothing but the softness of the water as it supports me. I want to savor my coffee in the morning and eat chocolate at leisure with some wine at night. I want to laugh at everything silly, jump in a pile of warm laundry, take a nap at 10am, find a new show to binge watch, or read a page turner.

Feeling carefree may not be achievable, but it’s a good goal.

It takes a lot for me to feel overloaded, but if there’s never any relief — no full day off, no carefree moments, not enough laughter, no one to depend on to pick up the ball when I drop it, I can get to a point where I’m constantly poised for the straw that may break me. It’s easy to say, set better boundaries so you don’t get overtaxed, but difficult to practice if you’re a caregiver, sole provider and parent, sole proprietor, or just financially strapped.

For me, it’s better to recognize and accept that I may not be up to any greater challenge than lying on the couch than to numb my feelings with food or alcohol, to lash out in anger, or to turn in a half-assed performance at work.

Is it difficult for me to admit this? YES!!!! I am driven to achieve, solve problems, and fix things.
It’s really hard to admit I may not be up to the task. While I know this is temporary, it feels huge and frightening!

It’s worth remembering that down time often provides powerful insight. It’s easy to think of doing nothing as time wasted, but that’s selling it short. Putting my mind in neutral allows it to travel paths it would otherwise miss.

I just talked to a friend on the phone who asked what I was writing. When I told him, he said, obviously taken aback, “That’s what you’re writing!?” I could tell he thought the decision was risky. But I know I’m not alone. I’m not the only one who feels this way, and maybe, just maybe, you need to know that because you need some mindlessness too.

So, if you’re in my boat, let’s just let it float with the current. We’ll be able to get back to shore when we need to. I’m certain of it.

January 4, 2018

Forget Resolutions – Answer the Big Questions

As this year begins, forget resolutions! Until you answer the big questions, it’s pointless to make them anyway.

Is there really much chance you’re going to hit the gym an hour a day for a whole year if you haven’t explored why you’ve purchased 3 yearlong gym memberships before and worked out a total of 3 times?

Will you be able to achieve your goal of reducing clutter if you don’t know why you buy more clothes, but don’t remove anything from your closet?

Is it realistic to set a goal to prepare most meals from scratch if you don’t know whether you believe that anticipated long-term health gains are more important than the convenience that gets you through today?

We’ve talked before about setting up a life structure to support change, but that’s really starting in the middle. Before you set up that structure, you need to know yourself and be clear on your values.

Most of us believe we have a clear view of ourselves, but I can tell you from interviewing many employees and then subsequently observing their job performance, we are either terrible self-assessors or willing to be incredibly dishonest to get a job. If we’re not good at self-assessing, we’re not being honest with ourselves.

I have only a passing knowledge of Brené Brown’s research into shame and vulnerability, but it seems logical that feelings of shame regarding our perceived inadequacies or the vulnerability of being unemployed contribute to our construction of a story that doesn’t match other people’s perception of us over time. While this may feel necessary for landing a job, or our social mask may feel necessary for navigating public interactions, it is important for us to connect to our true selves. If we don’t, we simply can’t construct a life that will benefit us.

Think of it this way, if you build a house with standard height doors, it won’t comfortably fit LeBron James or Kevin Durant. If you love to sleep late and work at night, a 7am – 3pm job does not fit you as well as an 11pm – 7am job. If you value routine, outside sales will make you crazy. It doesn’t matter that your earning potential is increased because the job is not a good fit! On the other hand, if you love flexibility outside sales will let you blossom.

Asking the big questions helps to identify our strengths, obstacles, and things that bring us joy. Answering the big questions with courage solidifies our values. With the resulting clarity, we can construct a life framework that supports us becoming our best, healthiest, most joyful selves, even if our new plan is 180º from where we’ve been headed.

Is it seriously possible to go from an inability to keep a single resolution to a 180º turnaround? I believe it is. I’m not saying the path will be straightforward – your particular trail may never have been blazed before. I never expect a journey that has a straight up trajectory, or is without failure. Forward progress most often requires a foundation of commitment, diligence, learning from mistakes, and holding yourself accountable.
What does a big question sound like if I should want to ask one?

Big questions are things like:

1)What are my greatest inherent strengths?

2)What are my greatest learned skills?

3)What are my greatest weaknesses?

4)What am I most lacking right now?

5)Can I sit still in total quiet without distractions or company and feel calm and comfortable?

6)What do I have in great abundance?

7)What do I have that I can live without?

8)Am I invested and engaged in my family, my job, and my community?

9)Am I able to feel my real feelings in the moment?

10)What do I do to avoid my feelings?

11)Do I embrace my emotions, both positive and negative, and lean in?

12)Can I look myself in the eye in the mirror and sincerely utter the words, “I love you?”

13)What is the worst thing I’ve ever done? Have I forgiven myself for that?

14)If I have not yet forgiven myself for my worst action, can I do it now?

15)Do I have good boundaries?

16)Do I contribute more often to peace or to conflict in my relationships?

17)Am I more likely to display compassion or judgement?

18)Do I take responsibility for my contribution to family or work conflict?

19)How do I behave when I’m my best self and during what percentage of each day am I my behaving that way?

20)Am I willing to practice gratitude, bravery, health, fitness, kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity?

21)Am I reliable? Can others regularly count on me?

22)What kind of friend am I to myself? Do I take care of myself as well as I do my husband, wife, children, friends, coworkers, or clients?

23)What inspires me?

24)What motivates me?

25)If there were no obstacles, what would a perfect week look like?

26)What steps can I take today that will move me toward that perfect week?

27)If there is no way to change my current circumstances, will I be okay and can I learn to thrive?

28)How much time am I willing to commit each day to improving my physical health and fitness?

29)How much time am I willing to commit each day to strengthening my emotional & spiritual health?

30)What percentage of the time do I say no when I should say no?

31)What do I believe is the biggest obstacle standing between me and my #1 goal?

32)Do I have the courage to sit with my fear?

33)What one thing can I do each day that will add joy, laughter or connection to my life?

34)What do I believe I deserve in life?

35)Am I aware of the effect my choices have on those around me?

36)What one kindness can I offer someone else today?

The answers to big questions often reveal themselves in stages of realization slowly over a period of time as we gain insight. Many of us have had our relationships to ourselves interrupted in a manner that leaves us feeling alone, helpless, weak, undeserving, defective, or numb. When this is true, it can be a monumental task to reconnect with our emotions. If you have difficulty seeing yourself as lovable, deserving of good things, or feel a need to avoid all emotions, Somatic Experiencing® may be a good place to start.

Somatic Experiencing® Therapy allowed me to reconnect with my body so that I could relax the defenses that prevented me from feeling. Developed by Dr. Peter A. Levine, SE can easily be practiced with or without the assistance of a practitioner. Using SE tools still helps me trust my body to support me while I free my mind to know what I know and my heart to feel what it feels. That puts me in a much better position to answer big questions in a manner that is consistent with supporting my best self.

If you’re already feeling concerned that you may not keep your resolutions this year, forget them and try answering some big questions! After all, there’s no danger in trying something different and the knowledge you gain about yourself can give you insight into a better strategy for sustaining positive change.

Take your time, you’ve got all year! Let’s just call this a rebuilding year.

December 21, 2017

Wrap it Up!

It’s about time to wrap it up – the last of the holiday gifts, your yearly To-Do list, the final expenditures of the year, all of your accomplishments, wishes and dreams for 2017 – wrap it up! The year will be over in less than two weeks. If there’s anything you MUST finish before next year, now is the time. I think I’ll just nap!
My father-in-law used to swear by the power nap. He came home for lunch, took a power nap, then went back to the office. He could see more patients in a day than any other doctor I’ve known, so maybe there was something to it.

Sleep organizations tout the health benefits of zapping stress and boosting your mood while making you more alert. My motivation is more that it seems a little bit naughty to nap during the workday and I’ve been way too nice this year. Plus, I read in a Men’s Health magazine article that napping after learning something can make my memory of what I learned five times better so a nap just makes sense.

If you’re not napping, and you don’t sleep enough at night, you’re in good company. According to the CDC, more than a third of us don’t get enough sleep. Sleeping less than 7 hours per day is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and obesity.

Perhaps a contributing factor is that few of us have learned to rest. We fill every moment with work, sports, shopping, kids activities, partying, hobbies, travel, or bombarding thoughts of work, sports, shopping, kids activities, partying, hobbies, and travel. When our minds don’t know how to rest, our bodies have difficulty sleeping.

Taking time to reflect on the state of our lives throughout the past year can lead to the insight that it’s time to regroup. A little courage and determination can lead to a happier, less hurried, and more productive 2018. Just think of it as organizing the closet of your mind.

Once I have things reordered in a way that supports the things I value, I’m able to create the life I want. It doesn’t always happen in a moment, but at least I know that I will be supported during the process. That can make all the difference in whether I get from point A to point B.

Napping, resting, and regrouping contribute to feeling revived, energized, and de-stressed. They may even make you look younger. I like to think so.

Move forward
Next year, my focus is on finding a path to joy. I know the feelings of fun, laughter, inspiration, awe, and reverence. I’m lacking in what it means to feel carefree, blissful, unhinged exuberance. Once I find the way to joy, I know I’ll want to wrap it up!

September 6, 2016

The Devil, as they say, is in The Details

faceAin´t it the truth…the devil is in the details! I have a friend who´s starting a business with a partner. My friend has no funds, but provides the talent & is a draw for clients. The two have formed an LLC, but have no operating or member agreement. When I ask questions like: Who will keep the records for the required (in his state) annual report; do you have to pay franchise tax; are you insured; are you going to file your federal taxes as a corporation or individual; how much compensation will each of you get and how will it be distributed; what duties are expected of you for that compensation; or can you work for other entities simultaneously, I am met with an angry, irritated stare. That would be no big deal except that my questions are in response to his request to help him get the business off the ground well.

His response is not that uncommon. It sounds exciting to talk about having your own business. You´ll be in control, you can decide when you’re going to work and when you´re not, you can create the kind of product you´d want to buy, you can be the boss you´ve always wanted to have, and you can make a lot of money…. And all of that is true.

What´s also true is that it make take a long time to make a lot of money and when you do, it will be subject to self-employment tax of 15% right off the top of your profit or to an employer social security, medicare, and unemployment contribution. Then there´s income tax that has to be paid in quarterly estimates eating into your cash flow. If you are in a service business, you will have to make some tough choices regarding accepting business vs taking time off, how hard to push when you´re collecting unpaid invoices, when to hire, and when to fire. And inevitable market or regulatory changes and/or competition will force you to innovate to remain relevant and continue to profit. While it may sometimes look like it from the outside, coasting never lasts long.

So while it feels really good to say you´re starting your own business, the actuality of being in business may turn out to be less appealing. There is no way to know whether you are well suited to the entrepreneurial world if you choose to ignore the details of running a business. The best way to ensure success, is to be willing to look at both the good and the bad, outline the details of agreements up front, negotiate in specifics, make deliberate choices in which you decide how much you are willing to lose in the short term in order to gain in the long term.

I mention this because it is the same with a workout program, a dietary lifestyle, a friendship, or a relationship – the devil is in the everyday reality of the details.

I love to swim. A couple of years ago, I swam 3 or 4 days per week for about a year-and-a-half. This meant getting up early to beat the other lap swimmers to the pool, jumping in cold water before I was even awake, and dealing with a less than friendly facility staff. For many months it was worth it. Then the pool became so crowded I always had to share a lane. That was enough to take the joy out of it for me. That one little detail made me dislike the effort it took to pack my bag, make the drive, postpone coffee and the newspaper to the extent that I quit swimming as a workout.

This isn´t uncommon. According to Statistic Brain, 67% of people with gym memberships never use them. The question is, do those gym members find a different workout and stick to it or are they lacking a commitment to finding a workout that fits them? That commitment is the critical detail that will affect their health.

Deciding to give up dairy because it makes your face swell may sound easy until you realize how many foods you eat with cheese. Planning to give up sugar may seem like no big deal until you start reading the labels on your favorite cereal, protein bar, chili seasoning, or chicken stock. Limiting carbohydrates may sound easy until you realize that all fruits and vegetables are carbs. Then you have to determine whether you really want to limit all carbs or just specific types of carbs.

Obviously, you can never know everything up front and you can over think anything to the point of paralysis, but in general exploring the details up front leads to more informed decisions. When I make an informed decision I find I can accept any resulting negative consequence, failure, or difficulty with much more ease. Accepting undesirable results as a risk I signed on for, allows me to let them go immediately because I am at peace with my decision. I don´t have to be at peace with the results.

Since we can never control the outcome of anything with certainty, being at peace with our decisions can reduce the stress in our lives. We just have to be willing to stare down that little devil – the details.