To Everything There is a Season. Whether that brings to mind the Biblical passage in Ecclesiastes or the song by The Byrds, those words ring particularly true to me right now. Change! I am definitely in a season of change, and as a result, so is this blog. Perhaps this is a gift from the pandemic, or possible something even more personal. Either way, I am often contemplating what I want from this current stage of my life.
The blog was originally started to help promote my business and my books but my focus is shifting. Now I think I would like to provoke contemplation, personal growth, and hopefully discussion. I plan to continue to share reviews of books, information, tapping videos, and opinions on mental health topics. I also plan to share the musings of my daily life with topics ranging from music to aging. You might even see pictures of nature’s wonders.
I’d love to hear from you about the topics you are most interested in as I start this new journey.
Gorilla Thumps & Bear Hugs by Alex Ortner is a book about tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique) written specifically for kids. The child in the story was taught tapping by her friend in order to deal with teasing at school. It would also be a great book to use with children during this COVID pandemic.
Children of all ages are experiencing tremendous changes in their routines, are isolated from many of their social activities and friends, and are watching their parents and caregivers trying to adjust to not only health fears but also financial anxiety. It is a time of stress for almost everybody.
Tapping is a technique children (and adults) can use to minimize any emotional distress that is occurring, even if lingering below the conscious level. Gorilla Thumps & Bear Hugs is a simple, fun, and engaging way to learn the process.
Check it out and get tapping (using appropriate handwashing of course.) Want to learn more about tapping? Click here.
I have written about this before, but am again frustrated by what I consider to be the overuse of this word. Anxiety has turned into a catch-all label for emotions and often interferes with finding solutions. If I say I am anxious for my sister’s wedding, what does that mean? Does it suggest that I am experiencing chest pain and shortness of breath, that my sister is probably marrying a serial killer, that I am nervous about finding the right words for the toast, or perhaps that I am anticipating feeling embarrassed because I don’t know how to dance and there could be dancing at the reception? When someone labels all of these things as anxiety it tells them that a) something is wrong with them and b) that they can stop trying to be more specific about their thoughts emotions, and behaviors.
Professionally I have found it a very difficult pattern to break. People actually seem comforted by having a label for what they are feeling that allows them to avoid going deeper. If you read my previous article, Practice Makes Perfect, you can see why this might be a problem. Continually labeling physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms as anxiety creates a brain superhighway called anxiety that then includes any indigestion, frustration, or anger that wants to hitch a ride. If instead a person who was able to engage in the introspection to determine that they feel a fluttery feeling in their chest when faced with unclear work expectations, fearing a high likelihood of guessing wrong and getting reprimanded, the situation is limited in scope and more easily treated.
I don’t want to appear to be blaming the emotionally upset person for their plight. This is a much broader societal issue that includes lazy communication skills, a preference for labels over individuality, and a victim role that is present in our society. Examples are everywhere in electronic social media.
So what can you do?
Choose your words carefully. The words we use DO make a difference in how you and others think and feel. Are you eager for something? Say so. Don’t put in the word anxious. Are you feeling jittery? Say so. Are you terrified? Say so. How many words can you identify that would accurately substitude for the word anxious?
Try to avoid saying “I am” anxious. Instead, try to say “I feel” or “I notice.” I feel suggests something that is time limited whereas I am suggests that it is permanent and unchangeable. These messages you are sending to yourself via thoughts and words are important.
Step out of helplessness and victimization. Except in the rare circumstance, the emotions and thoughts are not happening TO YOU. You are not required to just accept whatever thought or feeling comes into your head. I want to be clear — your feelings are not wrong, but they also are not permanent. You can actively change your thoughts and engage in activities that will change your situation.
My older son, at a very early age, was able to tell his grandfather, “I not bad, it’s my ‘havior.” We all can take a lesson from this and say, “I’m not anxious, it’s just my thoughts or feelings.”
There is a lot to unpack in that statement. Say it aloud, “I can’t adult today.” Lets start with I can’t. That is probably inaccurate. At least in my case, the more accurate statement would be either I choose not to or I would prefer not to.
Then, there is the word adult. What does that mean anyway? A dictionary definition is…having attained full size and strength. While that could be debated based on my height, I’m as tall and strong as I’ll probably ever be again. An alternate definition is mature. Wow! Mature can mean fully developed physically or showing the mental and emotional qualities of an adult. This is another fuzzy definition. When I consider the original phrase I can’t adult today it is the second definition that most likely applies. I interpret this to mean that I don’t want to exhibit the amount of wisdom, intellect, and emotional control I would expect from an adult.
The statement then could read…I would prefer not to make decisions, think through problems, face challenges, or regulate my emotions.
Today. The implication is that this is a time-limited problem. I might be ok doing it tomorrow, next week, or next year. This is somewhat hopeful but might be better expressed as….in this moment and under these circumstances.
Put it all together:
I choose not to make decisions, think through problems, face challenges, or regulate my emotions in this moment and under these circumstances.
This has a totally different feel to it, doesn’t it?
I have now transitioned out of a soul-crushing ethical wasteland into a job that is fulfilling and allows me to utilize my professional skills. It is definitely time to celebrate. In less than one week I’ve lost 3 pounds, am sleeping better, and feel more relaxed than I have in 3 years. Pretty awesome results since it has happened in the midst of a pandemic.
I had been trying to embrace the adage of “bloom where you are planted” but my reality is that the muck where I had landed was not life-sustaining. I gave it my best effort for quite a while but sometimes a new garden is necessary. Even so, it was not an easy decision.
I acknowledge that I am very blessed to have had opportunities that some people do not have in terms of employment but this concept applies to others areas of life as well. Spring seems to be a good time to take stock of my life’s garden and make decisions about what needs to be enriched, what is good just as it is, and what is so toxic that it can’t be salvaged. This includes hobbies, relatioships, spiritual activities, as well as employment. Then, once those changes are made, it is time to celebrate any improvements that have been made.
If you ever took piano lessons as a child I’m sure you heard the words, “practice makes perfect.” While I’m not a fan of the word “perfect”, the general concept that repetition improves performance is valid. There is a caveat, the repetition must be approximating the desired result, not repeating the errors.
The phrase “neurons that fire together wire together” was first used by the Canadian neuropsychologist Donald Hebb in 1949. The gist is that the more frequently you utilize a specific neural pathway, the stronger it becomes. So, if you play the same piano keys in a sequence over and over again that pattern creates somewhat of a superhighway in your brain.
This is great if what you are practicing is something you want to keep in your brain and it serves your greater purpose. Practice makes perfect after all. But what do you think happens if you say to yourself, aloud or silently, that you are stupid, fat, anxious, or worthless? Bingo! That creates a superhighway too.
Over time, superhighways in the brain become resistant to change and you need to build off ramps. Once the off ramps are created and used frequently, the original negative superhighway crumbles or can be closed. How do you build an off ramp? You can build one by refuting the negative statement and creating a new one.
Highway: I am stupid
Off ramp: That wasn’t my best moment but I am a smart person.
Highway: I am fat
Off ramp: I am working with my body to become more lean
Highway: I am anxious
Off ramp: Sometimes I feel nervous just like everybody else and I choose to remain confident in my ability to handle life’s challenges
Highway: I am depressed
Off ramp: My mood has been lower than I would like recently so it is time to take positive action
Highway: I am worthless
Off ramp: I am a wonderful and perfectly created child of God
It is important to use the off ramps at least as often, if not more often than you travel down the negative superhighway.
I usually recommend that you use journaling as you begin the process. There seems to be somethig beneficial about making these statements formally and seeing them in written format. Saying it aloud is also beneficial.
Remember….what you practice will grow stronger. Practice makes perfect. Choose wisely!
One of my favorite growth and development books is The Path, by Laurie Beth Jones. In this book I was introduced to the concept of a peronal mission statement, which is really a written reason for one’s existence. Although there are many examples, the one that stuck with me over the years is Joan of Arc. Her mission statement – Free France! Every decision she made after setting her intention could be weighed against that mission. Clearly, I’m not Joan.
I’ve been using and recommending this book for a long time and have repeated the exercises at different statges of my life. While some components of my personal mission have remained constant, others have changed. Clearly, I’m not Joan.
The author writes that “forgetting your mission leads, inevitably, to getting tangled up in the details–details that can take you completely off your path.” This is where Joan and I are even more dissimilar it would seem. My personal mission isn’t always in the forefront of my consciousness and as a result, I am more easily tossed on the tide of daily living.
My current mission is to recognize, appreciate, and encourage the spark of joy and unique essence in all people I encounter in order to create ripples of compassion and intelligence throughout the world. Seems pretty big! I think I will need reminders to keep on track so I plan to post this on the mirror in my bathroom so I see it first thing in the morning. I’m hopeful it will have a positive impact on my day.
I’ve been thinking of the things I need to work on in order to pursue that mission. The first is mindfulness. I need to remain more present in the current moment in order to recognize the spark of joy and unique essence. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.
Do you have a personal mission statement? I’d love to hear it.
It is time for me to get back to basics. Allow me to explain. I have not been feeling well, have been gaining weight at a very rapid rate, and have just not been happy in spite of many positive things happening in my life. I’ve tried analyzing my situation, tried just forcing my way though, and for a brief period even tried to ignore it. I’ve shared little pieces of this on my blog, but I haven’t even written an article for a while. None of that has worked, so it’s back to basics.
There are some obvious contributing factors including my current job. Since beginning this job 3 years ago my health has declined due to the increased sedentary work, no longer having the option to work out at lunch consistently, and generally feeling misunderstood and unappreciated. There is the other obvious factor that each year I get a little older. I really don’t bounce back as quickly as I used to from stress, illness, or injury.
Walk. When I first moved here I walked 2x a day. Religiously – rain, snow, heat, dark. I committed to it and didn’t let anything deter me. It wasn’t always easy and sometimes I only walked for a few minutes and other times I walked for hours. My dogs went with me. Sometimes I had to use a flashlight. I have continued to park pretty far away from my building to work in some extra steps but I rarely go for a walk. I am committing to walking 2x a day beginning today. I already got one walk in at lunch and it felt great. I was amazed at how good it felt to be outside in the middle of my work day. I know I won’t always be able to go outside to walk, but am shooting for at least 50% of my walks to be outside. I’m not setting a time limit/requirement. My only commitment right now is to get started.
Eat only foods that make me feel good physically. I really do know what foods make me feel great and what foods make me feel awful. Unfortunately, the foods that make me feel awful do give me a bit of a brief emotional lift. That feeling doesn’t last and is rarely worth it. While many people preach moderation, I have been trying that unsuccessfully. With many foods, once I start I can’t stop.
Return to pampering myself. When I was having more success with my weight and health I was practicing some pretty “intensive” (by my terms) self care. I was getting regular massages, getting manicures and pedicures, and engaging in activities just for the fun of them. I visited museums and exhibits, and I spent time in nature. Almost all of those things have fallen away and now when I get massages they aren’t really for relaxation, but instead to remedy some physical ailment. While that needs to continue, I need to be aware of the pampering time too.
Schedule management. I have so many wonderful things going on in my life. It is often difficult to prioritize. The reality is that too many wonderful things can also become stress. I don’t know if I will really drop any of my activities, and am actually considering a new one, but am increasing my mindful participation in each of them instead of letting my mind drift to the things I’ve done in the past or the upcoming demands.
Bloom where I’m planted, but change “gardens” (work) as soon as possible. I’ve already started transitioning to a new “garden” and love it. Just knowing there is a plan in place is beneficial to me. The choice to stay in my current “garden” for a short while longer is just that, a choice. I’m no longer stuck. I’m trading a small portion of time in a less than desirable position for some financial security while making the transition. Unpleasant? Yes. The best choice right now? Probably. Set in stone? Definitely not.
Many people wait until the new year to make resolutions and I was tempted to do that too. But I feel awful now. The new year is pretty far away. So Carpe Diem. Back to Basics.
Do you have some “Back to Basics” that would benefit you right now? Please share.
Unleash your Primal Power: Totem Tapping for Health and Happiness has gone live. It is now available at bookstores online and locally. I would really appreciate your feedback and reviews are definitely welcome.