I’ve shared this tool before, but it feels more important now as “our world” collectively feels like it is spinning out of control while grinding to a halt. You may be feeling anxious, fearful, and possibly isolated with the havoc this virus is causing?
While there are guidelines for taking care of yourself physically, like hand-washing, I’d like to share a tool you can use for your emotional welbeing that is free, easy, and immediately at your disposal. This is one thing we don’t often do, and that is focus inward instead of the typical outward approach we use to “fixing” things.
As a society that enjoys instant gratification, this tool is simple to do and the results are immediate. This tool may even become the magic pill you need to get through this time.
While the “formal version” of this tool is to sit quietly with your eyes closed, withmost of us isolating in our homes it may prove challenging to find any privacy if you live with others. So, another way to use this tool is to go into the bathroom, sit on the toilet lid, shut the door and run the water for a moment while you do this. Even your car is a possibility.
What do you notice? How do you feel now? What is different?
If you can’t reach the breathing count, simply shorten the breaths until you are able to expand beyond 4 counts to 8 counts or perhaps 12 counts depending on your lung capacity. The idea is NOT to make yourself pass out, so be gentle with yourself.
Hopefully what you’ll achieve by using this tool, bringing fresh air into your brain and lungs, is to put yourself in a calmer place to make better choices/decisions. By focusing on the breath, you place yourself in the moment, instead of the future, which often feels negative, immediate and certain, in particular if you watch/listen or read any news. Focused breathing enables you to be in the moment, which is the only moment you have ANY control over. This is called practicing stillness. It takes time to achieve fully, yet using the short version of this tool will give you a new start of “beingness” through the stress. Do this breathing exercise several times a day, and over time you will start to notice feeling more calm, clarity and control.
Many of us already live stressful lives, without taking the time to go inward and consider our own health and wellbeing. I ask you...if not NOW, when?
(Disclaimer: I have used this technique with many of my clients over the years and they have often reported feeling calmer in the moment and over time, even more so. I hope this tool can bring you some peace as well.)
Mary thinks she’d be happy if she could just change her weight, her looks and her job. Sean believes that he’s an okay person except for certain personality traits, such as anxiety, impatience and his quick temper. Yolanda’s shelves are bulging with self-improvement books; she’s read them all, but she still hates herself.
Who among us doesn’t believe that with a little tweaking, we could be just right—self-realized, self-actualized and self-helped to just short of perfection? But, the problem for many is that all the books, self-improvement tips and positive affirmations don’t seem to make us any happier. Worst of all, the minute we “fix” one (so called) ugly piece of ourselves, another nasty monster rears its head and starts screaming for attention.
When does self-help become self-hell? What would happen if we simply started realizing how wonderful we already are?
As the pioneering psychologist Carl Rogers once wrote, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
“Believing that something is wrong with us is a deep and tenacious suffering,” writes Tara Brach, in her book, Radical Acceptance. “The more we anxiously tell ourselves stories about how we might fail or what is wrong with us or with others, the more we deepen the grooves—the neural pathways—that generate feelings of deficiency.” She lists common ways people try to manage this pain of inadequacy:
Accepting yourself does not mean self-indulgence or being passive. Rather it means turning off the shameful, negative, self-loathing tapes within you and just relax.
The blaring voices of our culture certainly don’t help, with promises that buying something, owning something, achieving something will make us better people, that success is measured by looks, wealth or possessions. A healthier life finds deeper meaning and greater satisfaction in self-love, compassion, intuition, taking responsibility and forgiveness (particularly of oneself).
Sometimes it is our so-called faults that can actually lead us to a healthier life. Pioneering psychologist Carl Jung called it our “shadow side,” that part in all of us we are ashamed of and that we often reject. Understanding and accepting that shadow side can lead to enormous freedom and self-acceptance.
Science and research have revealed much about what we can and cannot change about ourselves, according to Martin Seligman, Ph.D., author and Director of Clinical Training in Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. “Some of what does change is under your control, and some is not,” he writes in his book, What You Can Change and What You Can’t: The Complete Guide to Self-Improvement.
Seligman lists some characteristics that are easier to change, such as everyday anxiety, specific phobias, panic, anger and certain beliefs about life. He advises people to discard the notion of changing that which hurts the most (for example, your extra weight) and instead concentrating on those parts of yourself that will respond most successfully to your efforts to change them (for example, your shyness or impatience with your spouse).
In the end, all the energy we put out to change ourselves may just take us back to where we started—to ourselves. And if we can truly accept ourselves as we are, that’s the best place to be.
Five Ways to Love Yourself
Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications
Fulfillment in life is related to how well you are living in alignment with what’s truly important to you. Do your decisions emerge from the essence of who you are—not from who you think you should be?
Take this quiz to see how well you are living a life that is of your own making.
1. I have spent time thinking about what’s important to me, and I can articulate those things. True or False?
2. While I have been influenced by my parents, teachers, society and other outside forces, I don’t live their values and beliefs, I live my own. My own values and beliefs come from deep inside me. True or False?
3. I am not easily swayed by others’ opinions. I know my own mind. True or False?
4. In order to remain open and flexible, I am willing to re-examine my opinions and beliefs to determine whether something is still true for me. I am interested in other points of view and perspectives. True or False?
5. My spouse/partner is a good match for me. We share in a way that pleases me and have an ideal amount of separate space. We don’t have to agree on everything. True or False?
6. I chose my occupation, or choose to remain in it, because it most closely utilizes my skills, strengths and passions. True or False?
7. I also choose my friends. I don’t go along with a friendship that doesn’t feel right just because that person pursued me. True or False?
8. Any spirituality I practice feeds my soul. True or False?
9. I have aspirations. I spend time thinking about them and taking action toward those that are most important to me. True or False?
10. Anyone looking at my life from the outside would see what I value. True or False?
11. When I or a family member is sick, I listen to the appropriate health care provider. If the advice doesn’t feel right, I get a second opinion. True or False?
12. On the rare occasion when I let someone break a boundary or persuade me to do something I don’t want to do, as soon as I’m aware of it, I take steps to stop and correct the situation. True or False?
If you answered false more often than true, you may wish to clarify what is truly important to you and then find ways to bring your life into greater alignment with those values. Please don’t hesitate to call if you’d like support in doing this!
Author’s content used under license, © 2011 Claire Communications
To let go doesn't mean to stop caring;
It means I can't do it for someone else.
To let go is not to cut myself off...
It's the realization that I can't control another.
To let go is not to enable, but to allow learning from natural consequences.
To let go is to admit powerlessness,
which means the outcome is not in my hands.
To let go is not to try and change or blame another.
I can only change myself.
To let go is not to care for, but to care about.
To let go is not to fix, but to be supportive.
To let go is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.
To let go is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes,
but to allow others to affect their own outcomes.
To let go is not to be protective,
It is to permit another to face reality.
To let go is not to deny, but to accept.
To let go is not to nag, scold, or argue,
but to search out my own shortcomings and correct them.
To let go is not to adjust everything to my desires,
but to take each day as it comes and cherish the moment.
To let go is not to criticize and regulate anyone,
but to try to become what I dream I can be.
To let go is not to regret the past, but to grow and live for the future.
To let go is to fear less and love more.
~ Author Unknown
(Used during Workshop for Women Series Dec 2019 - Letting Go)
Well, the holidays are gaining on us fast and the stress of trying to do all that needs doing before, during and after can leave us holding onto too much, while forgetting to be grateful for much else.
Maybe you’re holding onto a past resentment or two about a particular family member that you will hopefully avoid sitting next to at Thanksgiving Dinner or during Hanukkah or Christmas Dinner. Those holidays are just around the corner too.
Perhaps that sense of overwhelm with too much to do and too little time to get ‘er done is beginning to take over your thoughts and you’re already feeling that sense of dread building.
Here are a few tips to let go and give thanks instead.
First, when you notice the emotion of overwhelm or dread, stop and breathe. Yes, intentional deep breathing can have an instant impact on our psyche.
Here’s how to do it.
Second, be grateful for something general, in the moment, after you do the breathing exercise.
Keep it general, having nothing to do with any of the holidays. Simply find gratitude for your eyes being able to read this. Your ears for hearing someone say I love you. Get me?
Gratitude goes a long way in helping us improve our thoughts and feelings around what can be a challenging time for many.
This Thanksgiving season, however, you now have a tool to help get you through any stress or overwhelm.
What if when you woke up you decided “today is going to be a really good day”?
What if today you choose to believe that “others, when they show up today will show you their excellence?”
What if today you believe “things are always working out for me”?
How might your life be different if you could find a more positive way to BE with yourself today?
Do we have to “allow” the traffic, or the significant other, or children, or co-worker, or project, or boss, or weather, or finances, or responsibilities, or commitments, or...or...or...have such a negative impact on us? Can we choose to believe that today will be different?
The good news or bad news, depending on your perspective and thoughts around this idea, is that YOU CAN if you think you can and YOU CAN’T if you think you can’t. Either way, you’ll be right.
So, I ask you...do you have the power within to think more positive thoughts that could shift your feelings and therefore shift your beliefs so your life can take on some more positive ways of being with you today?
Thanks for reading and please feel free to leave a comment or forward this to someone you think may benefit from knowing what else is possible.
Jenn was 51 years old. Living in Alewife, Massachusetts, her company was acquired, again and she was frustrated. Another happy face was going to be needed when meeting her new boss, who was two decades her junior. Jenn was sick and tired of being treated like someone who didn't know what they were doing, although she was a long-term, successful, seasoned employee.
Jenn often came home tired and complaining to her husband, Steve, about how disgruntled she felt and unappreciated. Job dissatisfaction had been going on for a while now, and she was at her wit's end. Even her two high school-aged children noticed her unhappiness with work, which left her depleted at home.
The company even dared to take some of her best clients and give them to the newer, younger account executives to help them feel more confident when they started with the company. How much more was she going to have to take?
Yet, the writing was on the wall that more change is a-comin', and it was time to do something else. But what? Jenn was scared. How would she help put her kids through college and save for retirement? What else was Jenn going to do at this stage in life? She had convinced herself that she could push through the challenges, yet after five years of driving what felt like a boulder up a mountain, Jenn knew she had to do something else.
Then she met with Elise, who had used a coach to help her through her job challenges in recent years. Elise found courage through the coaching process in knowing that she could create a new and different pathway for herself at the ripe age of 52, and so she embarked on a new adventure doing something completely fresh with the help of her coach.
Jenn wanted the same courage and confidence she heard from Elise, and she wanted to know how her coach might help her too. Jenn then reached out to the coach.
The coach offered an exploratory, confidential coaching experience that would quickly to put any reservations Jenn had to rest. Jenn would come to understand more clearly what her next step was and confidently envision a new future self, and what she wanted for this next chapter of her life. Jenn hired the coach.
As they worked together, Jenn discovered her confident self again and got some much-needed downtime to re-energize. She boldly turned in her resignation. As she and her coach worked through their action plan, Jenn realized she had put her own needs on the back burner of her life.
Fast forward, and Jenn has a new job working for a company and a boss that appreciate what she brings to the table; sage wisdom and experience.
I am getting ready to depart for a River Cruise that will include extensive bike riding. While I started riding for my husband, back at the beginning of our relationship, I stopped doing so because I could not keep up and all the practice in the world would never give me the ability to reach what he has been doing his entire adult life. Thank goodness for “E-bikes” now. With pedal assist, bike rides are now more enjoyable and don’t keep me riding by myself all the time and my hubby still gets his workout. Let me say this, I still get a workout but it’s no longer a lonely workout. Get me?
When our itinerary arrived in the mail, fear in the form of anger started to take me down the rabbit hole and I found myself ticked off that I let “him”, my husband, talk me into this. Just to be clear, he didn’t, but blaming him felt like the right thing to do because I would never do this on my own.
Then, I caught myself because I know now that FEAR really means False Evidence Appearing Real. My inner essence knows that my husband is in my life because he expands me. He grows me in ways I would never think to do on my own. I often love the accomplishments I embrace (especially when its over...lol) of my latest achievement. Whether its riding 10 miles or 50 miles a day on bikes or ATVing the back-roads of the majestic purple mountains majesty in Colorado, I have achieved some of my greatest accomplishments because of my husband.
Once I recognized the F.E.A.R. for what it was, I “allowed” myself to step into a new vision for myself. I started seeing myself in total enjoyment as I pedaled through the various back-roads of France. I envisioned the new friends I would make and if you know me personally, I love making new friends. I could see us at the Captain’s Table during dinner in a private room getting to know other couples across the world. I started envisioning the ease and flow on the daily bike rides. The next thing I realized, my inner essence was literally jumping for joy, in my mind, over the fact that I will be growing, learning, expanding, having a really, enjoyable time and I was so happy. I was able to pivot from blame and FEAR toward growth and joy.
You see, fear really helps us get more in touch with what we want if we can catch our thoughts and instead allow new and different thoughts that feel more fun and joyful. Typically, we allow the fear to grow, which is simply just negative thoughts getting out of control and becoming larger and scarier than the actual experience will be. The fear is simply a thought and I get to choose if I will allow that thought to take me down the rabbit hole or grow me into more joy. I choose joy, every time! AND, I’m getting better at choosing the thoughts that work for me instead of the thoughts that work against me on a daily, moment-by-moment practice to notice when something gives me a negative hit, and to more fully understand that I can control where I go from there.
What’s got you fearful?
What is negatively affecting you?
~ Balance and Self Care ~
I hope you’ve had an enjoyable summer filled with a little more relaxation, perhaps a bit more fun, and maybe, just maybe some much needed time for yourself.
Did you try anything new?
Travel anywhere or spend time on the water or time outdoors?
Were you able to enjoy watching young ones catching lightning bugs?
Have you eaten your share of corn, tomatoes, and s’mores?
Read any good books or spend time reflecting on your life?
However you spent your time, were you able to feel satisfied?
Are you now in the thick of shopping for new school supplies, backpacks, dorm room essentials while gearing up for those back-to-school schedules, activities and sports programs? Perhaps you’ve got an upcoming wedding you’re helping plan. Whatever you have going on at this time, life can get pretty busy, pretty quick and before you know it you’re wishing it were summertime again...a little more laid back.
We’re actually not very good at hiding how we honestly feel, especially to our loved ones. If you don’t think so, just ask your spouse or significant other if they take the brunt of your unsatisfaction, stress and overwhelm. They’ll tell you.
Here is a powerful way to turn off the overwhelm and stress and tune into your internal GPS; the inner essence of you.
Use this technique to calm the overwhelm, the frustration, the worry:
69% of marriages have a perpetual problem that is never going away, says author John Gottman. The financial and emotional costs don’t end just because your marriage does. If your divorce is ugly, so will dealing with your partner be as time moves forward. You’ll be forcing your kid(s) to choose between you or your former spouse/partner at weddings, holidays, family gatherings and more if you don’t learn new ways of communicating, even after you’ve split up. And, that ugliness your kids saw growing up doesn’t end there. You’ll either become or try to become the favored parent. Maybe you’ll
Well, the first six months of my 26-year (still) happy marriage came close to ending before it even got started. We were acting like our parents and communicating the only way we knew how, and that included sometimes the good, but mostly the bad and the very ugly.
Growing up, I experienced the wagging finger by my mother toward my father. Then I watched my father stonewalling my mother; sitting there taking it in and saying nothing in return. Talk about escalating an already highly charged “conversation”?! My in-laws had their own ways of communicating and that included name-calling or ignoring each other, which is a form of contempt.
These so-called forms of communication or lack thereof, are simply patterns of unskillful interacting.
Did you ever learn how to communicate and relate to others in school, college or a Catholic Pre-Cana? Maybe to some degree, but usually, we just tried our best to get along with others. Ordinarily, there were no instruction manuals handed out. We just communicate with each other doing what we’ve seen or experienced growing up. Period. And, if you have been to therapy or marriage counseling, then good for you!
Now, there are Relationship Coaches, and I am one of them.
I recently completed a high-level Relationship Systems Coach Training and I am further equipped with more great coaching tools to help couples whose relationship is in stress. Perhaps you’re no longer communicating like you once did or you have financial concerns, job stress, lack of intimacy, not on the same page with how to raise the kids, or dealing with your mother-in-law, or ex and much more.
Coaching couples means a lot to me, personally, because it took me decades to get over the divorce of my parents when I was 20 years old. How did I deal with it? The only way I knew how at the time: I got married myself, just to escape the fallout because I felt my entire childhood had been a lie.
Although my first marriage would only last 18 months and feels like a lifetime ago, this was the way you handled things, or you did something else like have an affair or you ran from the relationship, as in separation and divorce. You learned how not to commit. You learned you didn’t want to make someone else happy (and that’s not a thing you can do anyway, but that’s another article for another time!). And, if you’re trying to figure out the math, no, I didn’t go to college at the time because education wasn’t valued by my mother (although my father was a college grad) hence the story ‘higher education is not necessary’. Are you starting to see any patterns you’re guilty of in your own relationships?
Fast forward twelve years and I’m now in a second marriage. The help of a few therapists, which was the only modality available then, proved great for our marriage. Yet, our relationship got even better when my husband participated in this same Relationship Coach training before me, at least a decade ago. Those tools and new ways of communicating changed our relationship for the good and how we communicate with each other. You see when one partner starts to change, the other either goes along or chooses something different.
Might Relationship Coaching be the answer to your marriage? I offer a 60-minute complimentary coaching call for couples to experience new tools right away, while we determine if I can help.
Check out my website for more information.
Terri O'Donnell is a certified Life Coach. She is an honest, straight shooter who is dedicated to using her training and experience to help people live the life they desire.