Tag: stress

Navigating Holiday Stress & Loneliness

Navigating Holiday Stress & Loneliness

Stress and/or loneliness can drain the joy from our holidays. I’ve experienced both, in spades, in my lifetime. I don’t ever do anything half way! 😊 Wisdom, however, can teach us a different path if we are willing to listen and learn, to open our minds to a new way of thinking and being.

As a young mom, nothing was more important to me during the holiday season than to create magic for my children.  Driven by my over active imagination, I worked night and day to make everything “just right”.  I pushed myself to my limits, physically, emotionally and financially.  Christmas morning, I woke up exhausted. At the end of the day, I was worn out and distraught.  How could I know whether or not my children had captured the magic I had worked so hard to create? I couldn’t.

Like many mothers and fathers, I fell into the parent-trap of trying to give my children what I never had. I was living out my own childhood fantasy, not theirs. They didn’t even have one yet! Wisdom reminds us that the joy of the holiday season arises from the time we spend with the people we love, and celebrating the universal values of love, generosity, gratitude and wonder. It isn’t about material things or fantasy. It’s about living, loving and being together in the midst of all of our imperfections.

Fast forward to the present. My children are adults, living 1,000 miles away and creating their own holiday traditions as they should. My parents and in-laws are all gone and our extended family is spread across the globe. Like you perhaps, I face a new set of circumstances, another challenge to navigate.

Finding ourselves quite suddenly, and sometimes unexpectedly, alone during the holidays, isn’t an easy experience to navigate. Our home rattles with the ghosts of the past and feels disturbingly quiet, even as the rest of the world is amping up and giddy with expectation. The skies even turn gray, heavy with rain or snow, and SAD moves in big time to usher us through this “magical” season. We dare not even turn on the TV for company, for fear of being overrun with unwelcome news and sound bites that will only haunt our sleepless nights.

Change has arrived on our doorstep once again.

NOW WHAT?

Change. It’s the one constant in life and an invitation not to despair, but to adjust our sails. “Happily ever after” is just a Disney created fantasy and there are other more important and valuable paths to travel. Acknowledging this truth intellectually is one thing, but eradicating well-worn patterns of thought and behavior is a lifelong process. Fortunately, discomfort is here to help us do just that. Discomfort presents us with an opportunity to dive in and co-create a different ending to our story. The Universe is inviting us to walk a different path.

A couple of days ago I was reminded how a tiny change in perspective can re-color one’s entire internal landscape. Sometimes it’s the smallest of kindnesses from a friend, a conversation with a stranger, or in my case an anonymous gesture.

On Monday I woke up to a gloomy, gray day. I was feeling just about as gray as the sky when I happened to glance out of the front window and I lifted the blinds. What I saw brought tears to my eyes. Someone had placed a red Santa hat on our mailbox post. As I looked closer I saw that our Secret Santa had donned every mailbox on our street similarly. Goodness and the giving spirit still dwells in our midst, despite what we see and hear everywhere in these divisive times.

SPREADING CHEER

What a gift. Not only did it lift my spirits but it generated festive energy throughout the neighborhood. It opened us all to a tiny bit more of the spirit of Christmas, whether we celebrate the season or not, and it was a reminder that we each have the capacity to offer our giving spirit to others, whether to family members or strangers. We can show our love and concern, offer our interest and attention to whomever we meet as we go through our days. If we are not around people, we can do so in other ways. Write a note to a friend, send an email to an acquaintance, take a minute to speak to the mail-person, wave at the delivery people frantically driving through the neighborhood delivering packages as we walk our dog.  When we spread the spirit of the season it multiplies and comes back to us.

The spirit of the holidays exists throughout the year, across gender, cultural or language barriers. It’s a universal language, captured in a smile or a kind word or a helping hand. Not to mention it’s free and readily available. It is, however, a choice. When we choose to dip into our own well of kindness, we are gifted with more. It’s the law of the Universe and the true gift of the season.

 

DON’T BE LONELY THIS HOLIDAY SEASON. JOIN the Aging Abundantly Circle Meet Up. Open to all through January 3, 2018. Join us for engaging conversation, laughter, games, support and friendship.

HOW TO COPE WITH POST-ELECTION STRESS, FEAR & FEELINGS OF POWERLESSNESS

HOW TO COPE WITH POST-ELECTION STRESS, FEAR & FEELINGS OF POWERLESSNESS

Many of us are feeling enormous stress in the aftermath of the election. The whole mess has reminded me, once again, of the importance of incorporating stress-reduction practices into our lives.  I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling good, balanced, calm and enjoying life,  I tend to let these practices slide. Life, however, is uncertain. We never know what is around the corner. Planning, thinking and preparing does little to help us when life takes a sudden left turn, or is it right. What we need then is inner strength and resilience.

DEVELOP RESILIENCE

stressResilience, the ability to recover quickly from setbacks, a kind of inner toughness, is developed over time through regular self-care practices.  It is the thing that will and does see us through difficult times. Many of us have less resilience than we need. When challenges come our way and we are undone by them, falling into acute anxiety, illness, depression or PTSD, it’s time to amp up our self-care routine.

We can’t stop life, nor can we insulate ourselves from life altering challenges. We can prepare ourselves to meet those challenges and listen to what our reaction is telling us. Daily grounding, stress-reduction practices can, and does, help us develop resilience. Taking time each day to process life and to care for ourselves physically and emotionally strengthens us.

Rising anxiety, fear, panic and depression then become signals that we need to practice more self-care. Lying awake nights worrying about how to fix a problem is not an effective means of solving any problem. It’s a reaction. When we recognize this as a signal we can then bump up the amount of time we spend in meditation, solitude, journaling, or whatever practice we find grounding and healing.

PAUSE AND REWIND

As I push the pause button today and reflect on the past weeks and months leading up to the election, I realize now that I have been running on adrenaline. With each passing day, the cycle of anger, frustration and fear escalated a little more. Flinging obscenities at the TV became my favorite pastime. Sleep eluded me. My eating became erratic. My body was going into fight/flight/flee mode.

Awash with a growing sense of powerlessness, I felt as though I was battling my abuser. The election became very personal to me. In a very real sense I was. Determined not to accept that things could go anyway other than I wanted, or my abuser would win, I lived in a state of panic and unresolved conflict. I stopped taking time to down-regulate and care for myself. I was losing my perspective, and not seeing reality.

We can’t immerse ourselves in anxiety provoking situations again and again, without becoming depleted, or more anxious. The internet remains one of the biggest source of my own personal stress, as I imagine it is for many others.  I am still learning to manage it.  Being exposed to a stream of news and endless suffering stirs my desire to tend to those in need. I amp up my efforts to take care of the suffering and begin to neglect myself. When the need is too large, and nothing I do seems to help, I despair. We all have different triggers and knowing what they are is a part of developing resilience.

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE

Practices that I find to be nurturing include silence, time alone, immersion in nature, meditation, reflective reading, walking, a simple, pure diet, essential oils, a relaxing hot bath, massage, and giving myself permission to disconnect from those in need. Staying connected with friends and loved ones, especially those who are supportive and understanding, reinforces my sense of well-being.

When we give ourselves permission to practice self-care every day, we not only feel better, we cope more effectively and are able to do more to remedy difficult situations.


Crystal Honeycutt and I are putting together a series of workshops to address the needs of people who are feeling the weight of stress and anxiety. They will be launched the first of the year, if not before. In a small online group setting, we will offer participants the tools needed to develop resilience and to take the next step in their journey toward health, body, mind and spirit. If you would like to be kept informed about the exact date and time of these workshops, please register below.

Sign Up for Workshop Info

 


If you are looking for an opportunity to connect with other tribe members, consider joining a small, private circle.  Contact me via email AgingAbundantly@gmail.com and I will add you to the list.

HOW TO MANAGE YOUR FEAR & ANGER POST ELECTION

HOW TO MANAGE YOUR FEAR & ANGER POST ELECTION

Fear and AngerPanic, fear and anger are very normal responses to what has taken place over the last week (and months). Many of us feel threatened and angered by all that is happening. We are in hyper-reactivity mode and our emotions have been propelling us forward. Everywhere people are saying and doing things they would not ordinarily say or do.

This high adrenaline response (survival response) is a natural and normal biological response, programmed into our DNA, to give us the biological resources we need to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe in a threatening situation. It is not ALL that we are. Not by a long shot, and it’s important that we take time, now, to reconnect with the rational and more expansive aspects of our selves.

The threat seems immediate and our bodies are responding as if it is. But, it is not, at least for most of us. Our bodies don’t know this, and the adrenaline coursing through our veins is telling us to fight or flee when there’s nowhere to flee and no one to punch! We take this adrenaline to social media and pick fights with our words, or we bark at our kids or spouses. This doesn’t satisfy our bodies need for calm. In fact, it keeps us in a heightened state of reactivity and keeps the adrenaline flowing.

Our best course of action at this time is to do the opposite. It may feel counter intuitive, but we need to make a concerted effort to calm ourselves. Remaining in a hyper alert state for long periods of time is hard on our bodies and will ultimately drain our resources. We may need these resources down the road when a course of action becomes clear.

Now it behooves us to take a deep breath and do everything we can to find our center of calm. We think more clearly when we are calm. We act more carefully and intelligently when we are calm. During challenging times such as these, we need to think and act with the best of who we are, not in reaction to a set of circumstances that at this time is beyond our control. There will come a time for action. We will know it when it arrives. Today, taking care of ourselves and restoring our sense of security within ourselves is our job.

As we live out the coming months and years, our ability to be vigilant in our self-care, will allow us to stay the course. Establishing a sense of security and calm within ourselves provides an anchor that will help us ride out the storms.

In my experience this can be accomplished by engaging in any or all of these practices. You may have your own.

  • avoid unnecessary confrontation
  • decrease exposure to inflammatory rhetoric/media
  • disconnect entirely from the internet for a period of time
  •  limit news/TV/electronic devices
  • take several deep breaths periodically throughout the day – we tend to hold our breath and breath shallowly when we are tense; deep breathing actually activates calming mechanisms in our body.
  • moderate exercise – a brisk walk, swimming, dancing
  • spending time outdoors, preferably in a natural setting away from the hustle and bustle of every day life.
  • pets can be calming – take some time each day to cuddle with yours; no doubt they will be calmer as well!
  • eat healthfully and avoid alcohol and junk food (Adrenal Burnout Soup Recipe)
  • get lots of sleep (even if you need a little help to do so for a while)
  • spend time with people who are calm and with whom you feel safe;
  • avoid those who don’t (it doesn’t mean you have to stop loving them!)
  • soak in a hot tub
  • use essential oils in a diffuser or sprinkle on a cotton ball and carry in your pocket
  • meditate/pray
  • practice mindfulness
  • body work/massage/
  • read positive, reflective literature
  • tune into yourself in silence; heart/mind/body/soul
  • Listen to and follow your intuition

We will get through this together.  Dorothy


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Our Thoughts, Our Choice

Our Thoughts, Our Choice

Byron Katie - The Work“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” William James

It’s Monday, but it doesn’t feel like Monday. It feels like Tuesday or Wednesday. I lost a few days last week due to a stomach virus and worked over the weekend to catch up. I’m pretty sure it will take a few days and more than a few reminders to get me back on track. Although staying on track has never been my strong suit. Structure and pre-planned discipline are ever illusive. What discipline I have, and my husband tells me I have a ton of it, is deeply embedded in my subconscious.

Work is not really work for me. I love what I do, and mostly I don’t get paid so maybe I shouldn’t even call it work.  Or, at least what I do earn from doing what I do doesn’t cover the hours I spend doing it.  I keep trying to make enough to get by without compromising my beliefs and values and intent, also a never ending challenge. Money. It’s an issue for so many of us, as I discovered from the results of the survey I sent out yesterday. (If you haven’t taken it, and have the time, it’s not too late. I always appreciate any input you’re willing to share. I’m looking for feedback before I wander off in another direction. I want what I do here to work for you.) At any rate, I am going to get into the issues around money here, soon, in a big way. So if you’re interested, stay tuned.

Before I sat down to write this morning I impulsively pulled out our new vacuum cleaner, which actually was still poised for launch in the living room where I left it yesterday. In fact, since buying this new appliance I’ve vacuumed every room in the house, often more than once a day. My whole attitude toward vacuuming has changed in a flash. It’s not that I don’t like vacuuming before, it’s just that it seemed like a never ending process due to castoffs from the array of pets that too often rule the roost. Up until now, it’s been a very unsatisfactory endeavor. It’s not like the carpets sparkle and gleam like a freshly polished kitchen floor. They just look like they should, fur free. The carpet is too old to come back to life. However, our new vacuum has changed the whole experience for me….because…it has a little red light!

The little red light comes on when it finds dirt and turns to green when it’s all clean! The first time I used it I was instantaneously smitten. I vacuum with such focus and attention on that little red light that vacuuming is down right meditative. (Or, obsessive.) Either way, it works! I can’t wait to get back at it!

It got me thinking about the power of our thoughts to influence our feelings and behavior. As Byron Katie constantly reminds us, a thought arises. It just does.  When we can become aware of our thoughts, then we can choose what follows. When we are unaware of our thoughts, what follows are feelings and actions based upon beliefs we may no longer actually believe. They are based in past experiences.  When we take the time to stop and question our thoughts, we can begin to align our thinking with our true values and beliefs.

For instance, the thought arises “It’s not Monday”. Is that true? My thoughts tell me its probably Tuesday. An external source is telling me it’s Monday and so I double check my belief. Sure enough it’s Monday. Continuing to hold on to my belief that it’s Tuesday when the whole world, including my schedule, is operating as if it’s Monday can cause me major stress. 

How about the thought, “maybe I shouldn’t even call it work”? Is that true? Of course not, I can call it whatever I like. There’s no law against calling what I do work. Chances are good, however, there was a thought that preceded that thought that was totally unconscious; A thought that came from an archaic unquestioned belief that I still hold. You can probably see it. When I dig down I come up with a few belief-based thoughts that led to this statement: 1) anything pleasurable cannot be of monetary value; 2) work by its very nature is not enjoyable, work is hard and grueling and forced upon us, work is what we don’t want to do; 3) writing is fun and enjoyable, therefore it is not work, and therefore has no monetary value; 4) work is something that one takes seriously and requires physical and mental effort alone, not reflective, intuitive, feeling abilities. You get the picture?

When we take the time to go back and find the belief that led to a thought, we can begin to get straight with our true selves. I was raised by parents who believed all of the beliefs I still hold in my unconscious. They did not see value in the me I was born to be and they instilled in me their beliefs and desires as to who I should be. I have to work constantly to strengthened my own beliefs and put aside there’s. Here’s what is true for me: 1) I believe that if we do what we love, with the desire and the practiced intention of making money doing it, then we can make money doing it.  2) I believe that work can and should be enjoyable, and that when it is not, it is still only our thoughts that make us suffer. 3) I believe work is probably an antiquated word in this instance. a better choice would be “career” or “profession”, or used with another word such as “work on a project”, that takes the bite out of it for me. 4) I have come to appreciate and value “down” time that includes deep, reflective thought, meditation, research and quiet reading as an essential part of my profession.

Williams James said it very succinctly in his quote. When we slow things down, and break them down, to get to our truest, bottom line thought in a stressful situation, we can change our thought and remove the stress. The key is to tune in and to pay attention to what it is we are thinking. My thoughts around the little red light created a whole new feeling in me about vacuuming. I’m still thinking on that one!

What thoughts cause you stress? What beliefs are associated with those thoughts?

Byron Katie’s book, Loving What Is, especially in the audio version, is a valuable tool for practicing this process. I purchased all of her audios through Audible and listened to each multiple times. She does live sessions with real people as they work the process together, or “do the work” as she calls it, and it’s very instructive. Incidentally, I find my membership with Audible both immensely valuable and affordable. I only purchase items I know I will listen to again and again. I use Kindle and pre-owned physical books for fiction or impulse purchases.

My Friend the Sea – A Meditation

My Friend the Sea – A Meditation

Meditation

I love the beach. Who doesn’t? Who in their right mind anyway *smile*.  I am so ready to get out into the wide open sunshine, and to pay a visit to my friend, the sea. I know there are some who don’t care for the sand that gets into shoes and beach bags, but I find it impossible not to get lost in the sensation of it squishing between my toes as I walk the beach, flirting with the sea as it rises and falls.

There’s a rhythm to the ocean that lulls me, calls me, rocks me gently and insistently into my soul place. I drift away without effort, getting lost in the magnitude of its ever present ebbing and flowing, rising and falling, expanding and retracting. It beckons me to meld my spirit with it, to learn what lessons it has to teach me, to grow in my understanding that I too rise and fall, expand and contract, ebb and flow.

We are not rigid, consistent, structured, orderly creatures, we human beings. So why do we try so desperately to be so? Endlessly we seem driven to tame our spirits into submission, to create a reliable, solid, predictable foundation upon which to stand, immobile, unflinching. In doing so we contradict our very life force, a force that must breathe, must rise and fall, must know loud expression and silence, bold action and inaction, dancing wildly and praying softly. Our spirit must be allowed to soar to the highest heights and fade away into nothingness. When we remember that we are like the sea we become more flexible in our dealings with life, more resilient, more graceful, more soul driven, buoyed by our connection to all that is, resting in the knowledge that we are not alone.

A MEDITATION: Close your eyes and imagine the sea. Smell the salty air, the breeze on your face as it cools your skin, the sound of the waves as they roll closer and closer, reaching, stretching, longing to touch your toes; then…listen to the release as each wave relents in its effort to come to shore, falling away, the sound growing fainter and fainter until it is gone.  Are the waves sorrowful when they do not reach you? Do you yearn to run after them, to reach out and take hold of their force and power? Just notice what you are feeling. Don’t think. Continue to breathe in with the rise of each wave and breathe out as they fall. Feel your body swell like the waves with each inhale. Then, release your breath. Allow the air as it is released to co-mingle with each receding wave. Notice your breath as it ebbs and flows. Release your stress, your sadness, your striving, give it over to the receding wave and feel it wash out into the sea. Release what does not serve you, give it over to the tides. Lean into the ebb and flow of your imaginary ocean. Notice that you hold the same expansiveness within you, the same ability to release and let go. Take in, let go. Take in and let go.

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Listen to the Silence

Listen to the Silence

Found on something-everything-nothing.tumblr.com
Found on something-everything-nothing.tumblr.com

Winter weather has descended on many of us in full force in recent weeks. My brother called from New Hampshire to assure me that while yes, he is buried in snow, he is surviving. That’s what they do in New England!  At that point, the total was 96 inches. Yikes! We’ve lived in the south for close to twenty years and while it’s not uncommon for us to be turning on the air conditioning when he’s pulling out his snow shovel, this year the heat has run pretty much non-stop. That was until our heat pump decided it was tired.  The silence was deafening and noticeable even before the temperature in the house began to plummet. If you have forced air heat, like we do, you know what I mean!

True silence is hard to come by these days. I don’t know about you, but when a background noise like our heat stops, my whole body heaves a sigh of relief. It’s a reminder to me of how much stress can be created by sound.  The sensation of our bodies relaxing is their way of saying, “Thank you. I really need the quiet.” Silence feeds us. External noise, especially extraneous sounds that are not particularly pleasing, is a stressor that can zap our energy.

There’s another kind of background noise, and that’s the running commentary that chips away at our self-confidence throughout the course of each day.  It’s often a very unconscious dialogue, but it’s there nonetheless. I’m talking about those thoughts and comments to ourselves  that are less than kind.  I’ll give you an example, though it may not be necessary. You walk into a coffee shop to get a cup of coffee on your way to work. There’s a line at the counter and you’re running late. Your inner conversation may be something like, “I should have gotten up earlier. I’m already late, I should just go. But, I really want coffee. I stayed up too late. I should have gone to bed earlier. God, I wish I wasn’t so old. I wish I had more energy. I wish I looked like that woman there looks. I bet she isn’t going to be late for work.” You know what I mean, right?

In order to turn off, or turn down, the noise in our lives, internal or external, we first have to become aware of it. Occasionally we receive a free reminder when circumstances occur like our heater breaking. At other times it is necessary to be pro-active, to take specific steps to create a quieter world.

I have begun to turn off my phone and simply check it periodically for missed calls. Not everyone is happy about that, but it’s the best way I know how to downgrade my stress level and to create the quiet I need. How can you create a quieter world for yourself?

“I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it.

It has a quality and a dimension all its own.”

Chaim Potok