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Keeping Calm Amid Chaos

It’s no news that today is election day and the holiday season is upon us. Politics can cause angst for people, top that off with the stress of the holidays and there is a nice concoction of anxiety, sometimes sadness (be it because some may be alone during the holidays, there may be financial worry, and/or your candidate and issues didn’t go the way you had hoped), and overall stress. So during all of this, how do we as humans stay grounded, calm, and peaceful when this chaos ensues around us? Here are my tips to kick start your calm amid the chaos:

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  1. Set boundaries: This may seem simple, but boundaries can be difficult for people to set and moreover, hold. Setting a boundary doesn’t mean you don’t care about others, it’s actually a great way to show you care because you are letting them know you are unable to give all of yourself to them, so you are taking a break and then will be in a better state of mind to come back and help the person. By setting a boundary you are acknowledging that your mental state cannot handle the task and you need a break, and that’s okay! Take those breaks for yourself AND your loved ones. If you cannot talk politics it is more than healthy to say, “Look, I know these issues are important to you and I can see that you need to talk about it. I am feeling overwhelmed by the political talk right now, and I need a break. Would you be willing to put the political discussions on hold?” The same goes for the holidays. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the holiday pressure it is okay to say you need a break and even set a boundary such as one present for your significant other, or suggesting a Secret Santa to help with the financial burden of buying something for everyone (especially if you come from a large family).
  2. Unplug: This is, again, easier said than done. We are plugged into our phones, iPads, Kindles, computers, etc. day in, day out. We don’t get breaks from the media with the notifications from our social media apps and notifications from the news on our phones. It’s easy to be sucked into the political and holiday drama when it’s there, in the palm of our hands. So, unplug. I personally took the Facebook app off of my phone and am now on once per week to share my blog and do a quick skim of the newsfeed and then I’m gone again. It was hard at first, I thought I was missing out on something, but after a couple of days I realized how nice it is to have quiet and rather than comparing my life to those of my friends. I started to be more present with my family and more present with the life I’ve created. I also would encourage putting the phone away for an hour before bed or for an hour after waking up. This is a great way to either end the day or begin it in peace.
  3. Meditate: I know I’m a broken record with this particular point, but it is essential to quiet your mind when drama is around you, that way you can handle it better and are better equipped to manage it when it does come along. Meditating is a great way to block out the world, reset, and be with yourself. Even if for 5 minutes per day, it’s a wonderful way to calm your mind and alleviate stress.
  4. Exercise: Exercise is a great way to release endorphins, which are the hormones that help you feel good after physical activity. Think the “runner’s high.” Those hormones can help alleviate depression and anxiety. Exercise has many benefits, which include weight loss, increased energy, better sleep, stronger bones and muscles, and pain reduction (movement is your friend). If you work, have kids, etc. an exercise routine can seem daunting. Many gyms have free daycare, Pinterest has awesome home workouts, and if you live in an apartment there might be a gym on site (mine is awesome and so convenient). Even playing with the kiddos–dancing, running, playing tag–is a great way to burn calories and get those happy hormones released.
  5. Incorporate self-care: This goes along with numbers 3 and 4, but take it a bit further. If you take care of yourself, you are more able to take care of those around you and face those issues (like politics and the holidays) in a more graceful manner because you’re helping yourself feel good and complete. Yoga is a wonderful self-care regimen. Not only is it meditative, but also it is wonderful movement to release endorphins and strengthen your body. Massage is another way to work on self-care. It can help with pain relief, it is a great way to relax your mind and your body, and it can help alleviate stress. Reiki falls into this too because you can go into a calm, meditative state and leave your worries about politics and/or the holidays at the door and spend time with yourself and working on your self-healing and self-preservation. You can leave those worries at my office door and be there for you on my mat or table during a massage. (I’ve been partaking a lot in massage myself lately!)

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This time of year, coupled with the election, can be straining for many people. It is easy to lose sight of ourselves and become lost in the confusion and uproar the holidays and politics can cause. You can, however, overcome it by taking care of yourself in order to communicate peacefully with others and navigate the holiday season with ease. I hope this time of year brings you joy rather than stress. If you’re feeling stress with it, that’s a signal you need to let something go and set boundaries. Love and light to you as this season officially commences and the polls close around the country.

Halloween!

Halloween, or Samhain (pronounced “sow-when”), is a magical time of year. From the Druids, Celtics, Pagans, all the way to the Aztecs, this holiday was one of “bonfires, abundance, and community feasting” (Dugan 99) because it was one of the last days to bring in the last of the harvest and prepare for the cold winter months.  This is a fantastic holiday for “petition magick” in which you write down what you wish to release from the year, burn it, and allow for positive energy for the new year (Dugan 100). You can do this with a fire place, candle, chiminea, or the like. Just make sure to do it safely.

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This holiday is really about celebrating the dead; even consider El Dia de los Mertos (the Day of the Dead) on November 2nd, in which Mexicans and Mexican-Americans use skulls, marigolds, and treats to honor their dead. The Druids left prayers, food, and burning candles to the dead, and the people leaving the offerings would wear masks and disguise themselves from roaming, trouble-making spirits (Dugan 102-103). The Celtics would carve turnips or cabbages and leave embers in them to frighten away mischievous spirits, which turned to the pumpkin when Irish and Scottish people immigrated to Canada and the United States. According to Ellen Dugan the colors of black and orange have meaning–orange being energetic, abundant, and symbolize the magic of the fires and setting sun; while black symbolizes the crone and is protective.

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This is not an “evil” holiday. This particular holiday is really about death and rebirth–cycles of the earth (born, live, die, rebirth). I look at it as a holiday of letting go and allowing any negativity of the year to be taken with the dark so that it can be transmuted to light. So often we are afraid of darkness, but you cannot have light without the dark. It’s a yin and yang, so to speak. Most of us are reborn in the dark when we sleep, and we awaken in the light feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day. The same can be said with Samhain. Use the darkness to let go, honor our loved ones who have gone before us, and allow rebirth (positivity and manifestations) to enter into our lives. And, have fun with it–decorate your homes with Fall colors, carve Jack-O-Lanterns, and take those kiddos trick-or-treating. Blessings to you and your family on this Halloween.

 

Dugan, Ellen. Seasons of Witchery: Celebrating the Sabbats with the Garden Witch. Woodbury, Llewellyn Publications, 2015.

How do You Achieve Self-forgiveness?

Many of us have done things in our past that have caused others pain. We often feel guilty about those things, which can lead to us making a change and working to better ourselves and healing those relationships that were harmed. Sometimes, though, we go down the black hole of shame and regret. When this happens we beat up ourselves telling ourselves we are no good and deserve what happens to us because “we made our bed and now have to lay in it.” But, is this true? No, because it’s a judgment rather than self-compassion. When we judge ourselves we are sinking into regret, which leads to self-hate.

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So, how can we avoid self-hate and judgment and come to a place of self-love and compassion? It’s starts with forgiving oneself. We all know forgiveness of others can be healing as well as freeing, but we often forget self-forgiveness. What does self-forgiveness look like? I found an article that resonated with me talking about the four avenues of self-forgiveness, which include:

  1. “Self-understanding”–What caused you to act the way you did and why? Have you learned from the actions and/or situation? What in your past could have contributed to your actions? Understanding yourself leads to compassion, which leads to forgiveness in an organic way.
  2. “Common humanity”–This is really about understanding that NO human is perfect, and we all make mistakes. When we can really look at ourselves as humans who sometimes mess up, we can forgive ourselves easier.
  3. “Earning forgiveness (taking responsibility, apologizing, and making amends)”–All of this leads to forgiveness of the self because you’re gaining forgiveness of others and are acknowledging your humanness and learning from the mistakes. You’re showing strength and putting the ego aside.
  4. “Asking for forgiveness from a higher power”–This can mean something different to every person. Sometimes the guilt, the shame, and the sadness we feel can be overwhelming so looking to something or someone bigger than ourselves can help alleviate that pain and lead to self-forgiveness.

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We all make mistakes. I’m not perfect by any means, and I am currently working on my own self-forgiveness. It takes work and practice. Some days I think, “Yeah, I got this. I figured life out and I’m a rockstar.” While other days sadness can seep in and I think, “You’re awful and deserve what comes to you.” But, this isn’t loving and I have to remind myself that if I wouldn’t say these things to my dog, then I probably shouldn’t say them to myself and I need to be kinder to myself. We all have things within our past that can contribute to our actions in the present. I’m not making excuses, but those past experiences can have an impact and it’s important to be mindful and learn how those experiences can impact us and how to learn and grow from them so that we don’t make the same mistakes over and over. It’s essential to work on healing ourselves because when healed, forgiveness and compassion come easier. Remember, if you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up. It doesn’t do anything except make you feel terrible. Instead, reflect on what happened, ask for forgiveness from others and then work on self-compassion and healing in order to eventually forgive yourself. “This too shall pass” – Unknown.

 

Updates from Last Week

Well, Miss Hermione has pancreatitis. I wish she had nothing, but this is a much better diagnosis than cancer! Of course this is the diagnosis should nothing else come up. If she starts getting sick, even on her new food, then we have to do more testing. I’m optimistic though because she’s acting like her normal self–she is eating well and is acting healthy overall.

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This definitely got me thinking though. I know I mentioned it last week, but this entire process with my fur baby opened my eyes. I think we all have a tendency, whether it’s subconscious or not, to take those we love for granted…human and non-human animals alike. I started to wonder why this is. I think a big part of it is because we get very caught up in our busy lives and we think (again, I think it’s subconscious for most of us), Oh, they will love us and be there for us no matter what (which is probably true) so it’s fine to just go about my business. In going about that business we forget to be appreciative of those who love us. Even showing appreciation in small ways. With our fellow humans we love, a gentle “Thank you”, a hug, or even a small token like making the coffee one morning for them can be a huge gesture. For our fur babies, a pet, a kind word (they can feel the energy behind tone), or a few extra minutes on a walk can help them feel that love they so willingly give to us.

In getting caught up in the busy lifestyle most of us have–work, kids, kids’ activities, dinner, bills, etc.–we lose sight of that appreciation, yes, but also we can lack awareness. I’ve mentioned mindfulness before. When we practice mindfulness we are aware of our feelings, the feelings of those around us, and therefor are able to show appreciation and gratitude toward those we love more easily. When we are in the moment and truly present we can show those close to us that we acknowledge what they do for us and vice versa. Even when our emotions and feelings aren’t “great”–impatient, frustrated, angry–we can still hold space for ourselves and those we love. It’s a sign of awareness to let them know (even the furry friends) that we aren’t in a good spot and may need space. That allows you to come to a place of peace and better emotion to then show that love and appreciation for them. You can take a timeout by going to your room, reading a book, or stepping outside, then you can be 100% present for your loved ones and yourself.

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Today I got frustrated with Miney (Hermione’s nickname) because she wanted to chase squirrels, was pulling on her leash, and was singing the song of her people (barking). I told her I was feeling impatient and I swear she understood. When we got home from a frustrating walk I went into the bedroom to take a few breaths, and when I came out she was laying in the corner (she often puts herself in timeout when she can feel my frustration). I got down on my knees and called her over. She came and gave me a “Miney hug” (she rests her head against me), panted softly, and wagged her tail. I told her I was sorry I was frustrated because I know she was just being a dog. She licked my hand and we made up. I love her and even in moments of weakness, we can still come together and make up…just like any relationship. They truly are family.

They are Family

This week I got a big scare with my dog, Hermione. For a little back-story, my husband and I adopted her 6 years ago when she was approximately 6 weeks old. She was found in a hoarder home in New Mexico with her mom and her sister. We took her home, and I was instantly in love. I named her Hermione because I’m a huge Harry Potter fan and know that Border Collies are smart, and being that Hermione is the smart and clever character, it just fit her.

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She was not an easy puppy—she chewed on everything (my bookcase still has puppy teeth marks on one of the legs), she was a digger, and she had (and still has) an attitude. But, I was right in choosing her name. She is very smart. She picked up the Frisbee quickly, she learned tricks easily, and, when she wants to, she will train (but it is more on her terms). Hermione is notorious for her grumpiness. If she is sleeping and you walk by her she will growl (never in a mean way, but in a way to say, “How dare you disturb my sleep?”). She does have minor food aggression, which we attribute to her difficult start in life. And she loves to bark and sing the song of her people at the slightest noise. Despite her faults, she is a sweetie. She gives “Miney hugs” meaning she will lean her head against your leg and relax as you give her love and pets. She has her people—my husband, my son, my friends, and me—she adores and would protect should anyone try anything shady. She’s clever and knows how to manipulate the system to get her way. I sometimes get annoyed with her smarts but then chuckle because she is so smart and uses that to be naughty.

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On Sunday, after a beautiful fall walk, she became very lethargic and started getting sick all over the floor. This morning she got sick outside and refused to eat breakfast, so I called the vet and they said to come in as soon as I could. At first they thought it might be a blockage (but that’s not one of the bad things Hermione does; she doesn’t eat weird things). Her X-Rays came back negative and her blood work was okay. They are thinking pancreatitis, or worse…cancer. The vet said she is young and Borders typically are not cancer prone but she doesn’t want to rule that out because Hermione has had gradual weight loss since August and this is the 4th time since July that she has had stomach issues. My heart sank. All those times I got mad at her for barking, pulling on her leash, or just being a dog made me feel sad, guilty, and just heartbroken. I then remembered what I’ve been writing about for the past few months—healing comes from within, forgiveness of oneself is healing, and acceptance is healing. Healing is self-love and self-care, even when it is difficult to endure. No matter what the diagnosis, I know my husband and I gave her a good home, she is spoiled, she has fun, and she is very loved. I ask the Divine that it is nothing serious (at the very least, pancreatitis would just require a special diet for the rest of her life, but wouldn’t be a death sentence). This is raw for me. We all have faced the potential loss of a loved one and most of us have lost loved ones. Our companion animals are no different; they are family. I’m hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. I take her back in tomorrow, hence the early blog, for a follow up exam and to determine what is going on. I ask for love and light to surround my girl. Thank you all for your love, support, and for being with me not only as a businesswoman and business owner but as a person.

Why Emotional Healing is Necessary

Working through pain and trauma is something that’s essential for everyone because if you don’t, you end up feeling stuck, depressed, anxious, angry, frustrated, and even numb. When we have emotional pain and avoid it, then it begins to bubble beneath the surface and eventually can feel worse. When we avoid the emotional hurts and pretend they aren’t there, we are not honoring ourselves and living in the present (even if the present isn’t rainbows and butterflies). Being present allows you to be compassionate with yourself and others and allows you the space you need to work through your emotional healing.

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We’ve all been here–needing that time to heal–but most of us don’t know how to work through it or where to begin. For me, I started with my counselor, Jacey Tramutt, who has given me tools like Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg, EMDR, and overall trauma work where I started to put the puzzle together that emotional healing is a process. Jacey has a picture in her office that says “You have to feel to heal,” and it’s so true. I would rather run from my feelings and pretend they aren’t there, but that isn’t allowing me the space I need to feel better nor is it being authentic–in fact, it’s lying to myself that everything is fine when in reality something needs healing, so I can be the best version of myself. When you are present with your feelings and emotional pain it can be easy to judge those feelings and put a negative spin on them, but try not to because those feelings and the manifestations of those feelings are how your mind and body work through them in order to feel better and let them go in a healthy way.

Other ways to help work through emotional healing are surrounding yourself with friends and a support group to whom you can go when feeling down, taking a break from the pain, learning from the experience, and moving on. Supportive people in your life allow you space and compassion from others who may be able to relate to you and offer sound advice or simply be a shoulder to cry on. Taking a break from the pain doesn’t mean ignoring the pain, but sometimes you do need to cut loose and take a step back. Yoga can be healing as well as meditation, exercise, massage, and even going to the movies. This allows you to acknowledge that you are healing but also that you are going to still enjoy life even when emotions can be overwhelming; healthy compartmentalizing allows you to give your mind a rest so when you go back to healing work you are rested and equipped to handle it. Learning from the experience and the healing process in general allows you to be able to have self-compassion as well as empathy for others with whom you may come into contact and are having trouble. Letting go is the final step  in the healing process. If you hold onto pain it can define you and, whether intentionally or not, can put you into the role of victim and doesn’t allow one to live and enjoy life. Rather than allowing emotional pain define you, see where it can lead you. When you work through your pain you will come out and see that it was meant to happen to eventually better yourself and those around you. I can attest to this–I have a narcissistic mother and rather than feel sorry for myself, I have used those experiences with her to parent in a more compassionate way toward my son, I try to be empathetic and kind when listening to others’ emotional pain, and I created my own family that is a mixture of men and women who empower me and whom I empower.

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We all have our demons and those things we wish we could forget and run away from, but they don’t go away until you face them. It’s uncomfortable and certainly not always easy, but it’s well-worth the work because you end up feeling whole. Love and light on your healing journey.

Autumn Approaches

The autumn equinox is quickly upon us, and I can’t help but be excited and ready for it. Fall is my absolute favorite time of year–the cooler weather, the beautiful transformation the leaves display, everything pumpkin, Marzen lagers (also known as Oktoberfest beers), and the crisp evenings that beg for a cup of hot tea to calm you after a long day. Yes, fall is amazing.

There is another reason why I love this beautiful time of year–the Autumn Equinox. Some people refer to it as Mabon, but as Ellen Dugan, author of Seasons of Witchery, explains “there is no ancient pagan festival of Mabon.” She explains that centuries ago in Europe, harvest festivals were celebrated but it wasn’t on a set day, it was after the large harvests were complete and this varied depending on where one lived in Europe. The celebrations were of thanks for the bountiful harvests provided by the goddesses and gods. Some people today refer to the autumn equinox as “The Witch’s Thanksgiving.”

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So, why make a big deal over the equinox? The equinox “marks the time of equal daylight and nighttime hours and the true beginning of the fall season,” which is a perfect time to meditate on balance, stability within your life, and “[bringing] prosperity and abundance to your home…” (Dugan 68). This is a time on which we can all reflect what we have and be truly grateful–all of the food with which we are blessed thanks to Mother Earth and the wonderful farmers, our homes, our families, the cooler days, etc. Autumn is a fun time–think about it, we have Halloween (or Samhain), Thanksgiving, and pumpkin lattes! Okay, so maybe the lattes are a bit of a stretch but this is such a beautiful time of year, and it’s a great time to reflect on that beauty and even bring it into your life. A wonderful way to bring autumn’s beauty into your life is to decorate for it. Personally, I have garlands of fall colored leaves I’ve draped on my decorative shelves, I have a silver pumpkin on my altar (some use white pumpkins because they represent the moon, but in my mind silver is more “moon-like”, but taylor it to you), and I have a happy autumn wreath on my door complete with mini pumpkins, gourds, acorns, and leaves. Ellen Dugan has a good five pages in her book that explains how to decorate for the equinox, and I’ve definitely taken it to heart. I want Fall inside and out!

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The day for the autumn equinox varies from year to year. Usually it falls between September 20th and the 24th. Autumn officially begins when the calendar falls into the sign of Libra. This year it’s on September 22nd, and the harvest moon is on the 24th (so it’s a double celebration; the harvest moon is the full moon closest to the equinox so sometimes it can land in October). “The traditional magicks associated with the Harvest Moon include abundance, prosperity, and completion” (Dugan 77), so the night of the Harvest moon is a perfect time to reflect on that which makes you thankful. I will be doing a Harvest Moon ritual in which I will set my altar up with my silver pumpkin along with acorns, pine cones, apples (all to show thanks for the abundance in my life), a white candle (to symbolize the full moon), an orange candle (to symbolize the fall season), and my citrine crystal (another symbol of the fall season). I will then work my magick (similar to Ms. Dugan’s in her book) and give thanks for all I have and focus on the abundance I will continue to have throughout this fall season and onward. Every person celebrates this a little differently, but this is my take. You can make it your own. I hope you have a wonderful autumn equinox; I’m elated it’s so close. Love and light to you!

 

Dugan, Ellen. Seasons of Witchery. Woodbury, Llewellyn Publications, 2015.

Why Taking a Day for You is Essential

We all know that we aren’t machines who can go, go, go all of the time, and yet, the corporate (and even non-corporate world) expects every part of us–our time, energy, and devotion. But, where does that leave us as humans who need breaks, who need to reset and even recharge in nature, who need to receive to maintain a balance with all the giving? This generally leaves us feeling anxious, depressed, and stressed. So, what can we do about this?

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 Put down the devices:

We all do it. Our phones, smart watches, laptops, etc. are attached to us at the hip (or wrist), and we become more engaged with the notifications that pop up for us rather than being present with the world around us. But what would it look like to put down the phone, the watch, the iPad? More and more of us are becoming addicted to our devices. There are many ways to start to eliminate that and decrease the stress. Many, myself included, admit to feeling badly when they go on Facebook because everything looks so…”perfect.” But, we need to remember, social media is entirely filtered. We only share the “good” moments because we don’t want to be “that downer friend,” right? Of course not, so we put our mask on social media. Several ways to let go of the addiction start with mindfulness–when we are mindful of our impulses we are less likely to give into them. Another way is to remove the social media apps from our phones. I did this with Facebook, a platform with which I was completely consumed and at first I struggled. I wanted to know what was happening! What could I be missing? Did people miss me? The answer was, nothing and no. It forced me to text my friends and check in with them and even make face-to-face plans to be WITH them, as humans! Now, I am on a couple times a week on my computer to do something with my business and that’s it. Stress is so much less. Even occasional full-on social media breaks are wonderful because it gives you a chance to reset and be present in your life.

Spend time with your family and friends:

We spend so much of our time at our jobs that often we are tired when we come home and want nothing more than to plop down on the couch and binge on Netflix (at least that’s what I like to do after a long day of “adulting”). But, when I do have that spark of energy, I find that spending time with my son is healing. He reminds me to be centered and enjoy life in the now (kids are amazing at reminding us not to take life so seriously). There are other times when we need to take a “mental health day”, as it were, and spend time with our loved ones. Will the corporate wheel stop spinning because you take a day for yourself to be with your family? No…not even a little. Will someone be annoyed? Yeah, probably, but people will react how they will react. You can only be productive at your job if you take care of you.

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Take a day off:

I’m no longer in the corporate world. As a business owner I work pretty much all the time. I take calls, answer emails, update Instagram, and then massage clients five days/week. That’s a lot. I didn’t take a break for close to 4 months, and my body was feeling it. I finally got insanely sick this last weekend and I think it was the Universe’s way of making me take a day off. It was nice. Yeah, I didn’t feel great, but I got to hang out with my kiddo, watch the Broncos win, and then eat a dinner with my family (something I rarely get to do on Sundays anymore). I felt better yesterday and today I’m back to 100%. I needed to slow down and take a day off. It was a great reminder to just step back and take care of me. How can I take care of clients when I’m feeling burnt out? The answer is, I can’t. The same goes for everyone else out there. For those who work corporate you can use a day of PTO for you. Servers and other service industry workers can find someone to cover their shift (I know because I did it in college…A LOT…when I had to study for exams and whatnot). There’s always a way to take time for you. If you don’t your body will make you, like mine did, by checking out and surrendering to illness because that’s the only way you’ll stop. So, before it gets to that point, listen to your body and your mind. If you are feeling anxious, frustrated, or sad when you think about work, take a day off.

Cut out activities:

We often overbook our schedules, whether it’s our own activities or those of our children. If you’re feeling stretched thin, it’s time to trim out the activities. This is even beneficial for our children if they are in activities because they can begin to feel burdened by the stress as well. Of course we want ourselves and our children to have opportunity and new experiences, but what if we did it one at a time? If your child is in soccer, art, and dance, maybe do soccer and art for a season, and dance and art another (or whatever). If you are involved in PTA, yoga, book club, and work, cut out the book club and PTA for awhile. You will feel so much better and as though a weight has lifted from your shoulders if you aren’t burdened with all of this extra “stuff.”

Eat well, exercise well, and sleep well

Eat well (cutting out sugar, eating whole foods and plant-based) can help eliminate stress because Omega-6’s can cause brain inflammation, which can lead to mood swings. Exercise is a well-known stress-reducer. For me, I love a nice run after a long day at work. It’s grounding and releases endorphins so I feel happy (or the “runner’s high”) after I’m done. Yoga is also nice because it’s meditative and allows me to slow down. Having a consistent sleep schedule is also key to reducing stress and allowing you to recharge and your body to take a break. Sleep allows your brain to slow and your body to rejuvenate. If you are missing out on sleep your rhythms can be affected along with your mood, memory, and judgment.

 

We all need breaks, and that’s okay. I am a massage therapist who preaches self-care and I allowed myself to slip into a routine of little self-care and added stress and wound up sick. I got a massage myself and went to yoga today and feel like a new woman. If we take care of ourselves we can be better workers, mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, and friends. Remember to take a day for you so the days don’t overtake you.

Why Going Inward Matters

The past 6 months have been extremely transformative for me. There has been heartache, anger, regret, joy, gratitude, and relief. That’s a lot of emotions for a person to feel (sometimes all within a couple of days of each other!), but growth only happens when we allow ourselves to feel and learn about these feelings. During this time, I’ve had to go inward and figure out from where these feelings came, why, and how to manage them, or hold space for them. If we face a feeling that is unpleasant, like regret, most of us want to run away from the feeling immediately, never face it, and forget that feeling came to us in the first place. But, as we all know from experience, when we stifle feelings they don’t go away, they fester, they bubble, and eventually explode. This can cause self-harm emotionally, it can hurt others if we take these feelings out on those we love, and we don’t really learn from them and manage the trauma from whence the feelings came.

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So why go inward? Why feel? Well, when we sit with the feelings and are mindful of what is going on within our bodies we can start to figure out why we are having these feelings and how to work with them rather than run from them. Mindfulness is really about being present with your surroundings, your body, your feelings. It’s not a state of being but being in the state in which you find yourself. So, back to my example of regret. You feel that regret. Allow it to overtake you. What happens within your body as you feel this emotion? Breathe into those physical manifestations of that emotion. Don’t judge it, be with it. Take a breath and ask yourself from where this feeling came. Once you know, be with that memory. Don’t judge yourself or the situation, simply be and continue to feel. You will notice the physical manifestations of that emotion will start to subside as you land on the “why is it here?” Feeling it won’t kill you, it may be uncomfortable, but you won’t be harmed by feeling it and being present with it in a non-judgmental way. The harm comes (mentally) when you start to judge your feeling. For example, “you deserve to feel this way,” “you are a bad person,” “good people don’t feel regret.” But really, as Marshall Rosenberg says, “Self-judgments, like all judgments, are tragic expressions of unmet needs.” So when you judge yourself, or others, there are needs there that were not considered and so you lash out at yourself or others to try and justify why you feel negatively. When you feel regret there was more than likely something you desperately wanted or needed, but couldn’t get, so you did something “selfish” to try to get that need met and when it turned out badly the emotion of regret set in. Self-compassion is crucial when going inward with your feelings, but it can be so difficult to do (trust me, I know from personal experience and I am a champion at making myself feel awful). This is where holding space for your feelings and your experiences is necessary because then you can feel, be present and mindful, but not judge and go into the downward spiral of self-loathing.

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Of course feelings will pop up when you are not able to sit for a few minutes and explore the trauma. So, when that happens it’s still necessary to honor those feelings and think to yourself, “Yes, this feeling is here, I’m triggered in this situation” and notice what is triggering you, hold space (if it is a person triggering you) and understand they have unmet needs as well, and speak in a nonviolent way with the person about their feelings and yours knowing that both matter. This is not easy, it takes practice but it can absolutely be done. I would highly, highly recommend Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication, to help you have compassion for yourself and others and communicate in a kind way to yourself and others. Doing this and going inward will help you navigate all of your feelings in a skillful way. I’m still learning. I’m by no means perfect, at all! I hope this helps you and as always, offer yourself self-care and self-love so you can be at your best for yourself and those you love.

Healing Trauma

Trauma can be defined as “a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.” Some people’s trauma can be the result of childhood experiences (abuse, being bullied, etc.), and some can happen in adulthood (divorce, loss of a loved one, and even a car accident). Trauma can cause depression, chronic pain, and even chronic disease. The body is stressed and therefor releases the stress hormones, which over long periods of time can fatigue the body lowering immunity or possibly causing pain.

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Trauma has been shown to lead to depression because people can relive the trauma over and over again. In Teal Swan’s book, The Completion Process, she discusses how the brain doesn’t know the difference between past and present, so in reliving a traumatic experience the brain doesn’t know if it is happening right now or not and your body reacts. Over time this can cause depression and anxiety. Trauma is also linked to chronic illness. The “cell danger response,” or CDR,  is when the body’s nervous system is overloaded by environmental stressors and the body then experiences change in cell function and physiology, which can result in chronic illness. The body’s immune defenses are taxed, therefor causing cellular breakdown. Many of the diseases associated with trauma are autoimmune diseases. Finally trauma is linked to chronic pain because of the mind/body relationship which links emotional pain to physical pain. If the emotional part of the person is suffering and in pain, then the physical body can take on that pain as well.

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So how can we work to heal trauma, illness, depression, and pain? First, if you are suffering from depression and/or PTSD always take your medication as prescribed. Anti-depressants can be a reset button and can help you and your brain remember how to produce your own feel-good hormones and regain your life. Other ways to help heal trauma is through meditation. As discussed in my blog on meditation, research shows there is link to calming the mind and body through meditation, which can benefit you if anxious and/or depressed. Diet is also huge in healing your mind and body. If you are eating highly processed foods, sugars, and inflammatory foods your body will feel sick, which in turn can cause depression. Switching to a whole foods plant based diet can truly help heal your mind and body. Exercise can also heal the mind and body because when you exercise your brain releases endorphins helping you feel good. Ever hear of the “runner’s high?” That’s endorphins. After cardio exercise some people feel “high” or extremely happy because their brain has released hormones that help them feel good. Finally, seek counseling. Having someone to talk to about your experiences can help relieve pressure and pain.

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Every person has experienced trauma because it is any time you haven’t felt safe. Trauma can be life changing and if left unchecked it can over take you. Allow yourself to feel what you are going through and take care of yourself. Just as every person has experienced trauma, I believe every person can overcome trauma. The journey will vary from person to person, but trauma doesn’t have to define who you are.