Lead with love not fear.

Every day we have the option to live a life lead by fear or by love.  I recently listened to Oprah’s podcast with Marianne Williamson and had a bit of an epiphany as they talked about this.  I thought back to the times in that week alone that had been particularly hard and wondered what my reactions had been rooted in, fear or love?  Turns out they had been fear based.  I took myself too seriously or took things too personally, or let negativity win.  But that’s not a way that I want to live.  That doesn’t mean that the actions of others were no longer hurtful, but I was reminded that I get to control how I want to react to them.

It’s clear what many people in power would have us do.  Fear everyone and everything.  But I warn you that if you follow suit, you will miss out.  That is a promise.  You will stop seeing the beauty that is all around you.  You will become cynical, closed off and fearful.

Beautiful moments don’t stop just because you aren’t in the mood to see them.  They are all around you.  Look up.  Look up from your phones, meet people’s eyes, greet the cashier, show them you see them, acknowledge the ignored.

I had to give a self care talk at work yesterday but was feeling a little anxious so I decided to run around the corner to grab an espresso (because anxiety and caffeine are a great combo…said no one ever).  While on my way, I saw a baby in a stroller kicking his legs with his grinning face basking in the sunlight.  I was under the same sun and yet experiencing it completely differently.

“Love is what we were born with.  Fear is what we learned here.” -Marianne Williamson

If even this small group of blog readers, decided to lead the rest of the week from a place of love rather than fear, imagine the ripple effect it’d have. I dare us.

Take care of YOU.

 

What are you already doing right?

Sometimes when I talk about self-care I see guilt show up on people’s faces.  And then come all the “shoulds.”

“Yeah I really should be exercising.”

“I shouldn’t eat fast food as often as I do.”

“I know, I really should go on a vacation.”

So let’s take a different approach today.  What are you already doing right?  What could you build on?  I’ll get us started.  Lately I’ve been feeling frustrated with not exercising like I used to.  So while I do want to get back on that wagon, I need to remind myself that I do have an app on my phone that counts my steps.  Apparently 10,000 steps is a recommended daily goal, and I seem to average that, being a New Yorker.  I also make sure I reach 10,000 on days I’ve been a little more stagnant.  Also I take a multivitamin every day (full disclosure it’s the gummy kind, I can’t STAND swallowing large stinky pills).  I keep my dentists appointments (have one next week) even though I HATE going, so that my teeth won’t rot out of my head.  I wear sunscreen.  This weekend I bought myself flowers at the bodega for a meager $7.99.  This is just a start, and you’ll notice these aren’t necessarily massive things but they still count!  Take a moment to appreciate and acknowledge where you are killing it in the self-care department, even if you hadn’t really noticed.

Additionally, we all have areas where we could improve our self-care rituals.  Chances are you take a shower regularly, but how often do you luxuriate in it?  Allow yourself a few extra minutes, get some fancy soap, light a candle, make something you already do special.  My friend went to Paris and gave me the gift of some fancy fruit jams.  I got in the habit of saving them for the weekend when I knew I’d have time to make myself an espresso, look out my window and appreciate and savor this gift brought to me from Paris! When you are new to the self-care journey, building on what you already do is a less overwhelming place to start.

The other day I walked past a super fancy chocolate shop, that I have walked by many times before.  However, I have rarely ventured inside, because it just smells expensive.  And it is.  But turns out buying three little chocolates is not.  And that’s what I did, I treated myself to 3 different kinds of indulgent, decadent Belgian chocolate.  Who says you have to buy a pound and then blow your budget?  Not me!

So this week, allow yourself to savor, appreciate and embellish what you are already doing for yourself.

“Do small things with great love.” -Mother Teresa

Take care of YOU.

 

 

 

Creating and celebrating extraordinary moments.

Picture this:  You’ve had the worst day ever.   Your job had multiple call-outs, so you’re super short-staffed, you’ve wanted to scream and/or cry more times than you can count.  Just when you are ready to throw in the towel, you get an email from management that there is an all-you-can-eat ice cream sundae bar waiting for you in the staff lounge, with every topping you can imagine.  (If you are lactose intolerant, please imagine something that you can enjoy…without  the gas).  On top of that, they are throwing a puppy party where you get to cuddle and play with the cutest puppies you’ve ever seen!

After filling up on ice cream and getting your overdue dose of puppy cuteness, how do you imagine you’d feel as you leave? Would that day stick out for you?  A year from now what would you remember, being short-staffed and overwhelmed or…PUPPIES!  Even the most negative person among us, would still remember the puppies and forget the chaos after time had passed.

Every day we have the opportunity to make our day (and the day of others) special and unique in some way.  In fact, I highly encourage you to make this challenge for yourself, or if you are in a position of power at your workplace, make that a goal for your team.  We can’t always afford to do things like plan a huge puppy party, but sometimes the best things require you to think outside the box and use your creativity in a way that perhaps your job doesn’t usually tap into.  In fact, encouraging employees to use these strengths is another way to make employees feel valued and want to stick around.

In the book, “The Power of Moments,” Chip and Dan Heath write about this very concept. “Transitions should be marked, milestones commemorated, and pits filled.”  They describe “pits” as, “negative defining moments, moments of hardship or pain or anxiety.”  A “filled pit” could be a committee at a workplace who makes sure that people going through a loss in their life, have meals taken care of, childcare help, and support from the job.

What would have made your first day of work spectacular?  Transitions are never easy even if you are looking forward to the new job.  Can you imagine a scenario where your first day would remain a positive moment that you looked back on fondly?  Perhaps you are taken out to lunch, or the head of the company makes a point to stop by your desk and introduce themselves.  None of these actions require much money or time, but they are enough to make a person feel seen during a transition that usually is overly stressful.

Why should we work to create these moments?  Because that’s where we find the beauty in life.  When we make room for joy, gratitude, silliness, healing and beauty, we are waking ourselves up from the mundane and reminding ourselves of the miracle of being alive.

Take care of YOU.

 

 

 

 

The art of a healthy venting session.

Who doesn’t love a good venting session?  It can be sooo therapeutic.  Unfortunately, not all venting sessions are created equal.  Why is this?  Venting sessions often require some boundary setting ahead of time.  Does that seem extreme?  Have you ever been on the end of a venting session where the vent-er told you something so traumatic you felt icky and possibly even a little triggered?  You were ambushed.  My guess is the venter didn’t set the stage first, see if it was a good time for you, or think about what gory details they could omit before they opened their mouths.  (FYI in this post when I refer to “venting sessions” I will be more focussed on ones where potentially sad/traumatic info is being shared, not so much a venting session about traffic, the subway, or a bad haircut.)

I’m not even going to pretend that I’m an expert venter.  In fact, I have witnessed the face of the ambushed vent-ee following a story I was processing and thought to myself, “Yeah I think I just gave them nightmares, crap….”  Regardless of the field you work in or how you spend your days, you are going to be exposed to some rough stories and experiences.  Some of us need to process by verbally working it out, and if this is your mode of processing I’m right there with you.  However I think us verbal processors could do with some reminders with how to respectfully process with one another.

There are times when you may not be able to wait for supervision, or a coffee date with your BFF or an evening catch up about the day with your partner.  So when a difficult story presents itself you may suddenly rely on the person who is around you in that moment to help you work it through.

Francoise Mathieu, author of “The Compassion Fatigue workbook” has a list of questions to as yourself before you lay into the gory details of a traumatic story.

She writes,

“Is this conversation a:

Debriefing? Case consultation? Fireside chat? Work lunch? Parking lot catch-up? Children’s soccer game? Holiday party? Pillow talk?

Is the listener:

Aware that you are about to share graphic details?  Able to control the flow of what you are about to share with them?

If it is a case consultation or a debriefing:

Has the listener been informed that it is a debriefing or are you sitting in their office chatting about your day?  Have you given them fair warning?”

Why are these helpful things to be aware of ahead of time?  Because often when you have just been faced with a particularly traumatic story, your self awareness and awareness of what others are experiencing is thrown out the window.  I’ve been on the train listening to people loudly process a rough sexual abuse story with children within ear shot (and no doubt some sexual abuse survivors as well.)  Had they paid better attention to their volume, and those who could hear them, they might have limited details or even decided to find a better processing spot that was not the subway.

As caregivers we want to make sure we are not spreading trauma by not having an awareness of our surroundings.  Additionally, folks will be more prepared to help you process something if you set the stage a bit.  If you are grabbing an ice cream cone talking about your weekend with a friend, set the stage before you “slime” them with your venting session.  ASK them if they are up for processing something first.  Be deliberate about the details you share.  If it’s an awful story involving abuse of any kind, spare folks the details if they are not pertinent to the story. Pay attention to their body language and facial expressions.  Are they squirming and looking like they want to run?  Check in.  This might not be the right person to vent with.

Vicarious trauma is real, let’s try to not be the instigators of it.

On the flip side, if you find yourself suddenly getting ambushed remember you have every right to take control of the venting session and state what your capacity is in that moment.  You do NOT have to be a victim of a vicarious trauma ambush if you are not a willing or able listener in that moment.  Just like all boundary setting, in may feel awkward to do initially.  But go ahead and be awkward.  We often give awkward moments way too much power over us.  You can’t pour from any empty cup, right?

Take care of YOU.

 

What’s your kiddie roller coaster?

I went on a roller coaster a couple of weekends ago at Coney Island. My free spirited friend promised me it would shake me up a bit, in a good way. You know, dust off the cob webs, make room for new ideas, that kind of thing.  Always game for a good “shake up” I picked the kiddie roller coaster. Heyyy, I’m new to this. Baby steps. But it still did the trick. In fact, I screamed so loudly the two pre-teens in front of us felt the need to check in on me afterwards. Well at least I’d like to think they were concerned, I suppose they were mostly curious who sounded like a slaughtered pig on a kiddie ride. That would be me, young ladies.

I hadn’t felt that kind of adrenaline rush in a long time. I walked off that ride so exhilarated!  While I was certainly not ready to then tackle the upside down roller coaster I suddenly saw the appeal these rides had.

First of all, it’s totally ridiculous. It’s insane that we can be whipped through the air like that and actually be ok. It reminds us we are ALIVE.  It can (literally) shake us out of a fog. It can force us to let go and laugh maniacally!

Second, talk about practicing mindfulness. When you are riding a roller coaster it’s hard to think about anything else. You are present in that moment. Experiencing the terror and excitement of being flung around, but present in it.  Not thinking about the bills you have yet to pay or that awkward interaction at work.  Nope just in the moment exhilaration.

Third, when you do something that is out of your comfort zone, it’s so satisfying knocking it off the list of fears. In my case, most rides terrify me. So it was (dare I say) powerful, to be able to tackle a fear so quickly. This fear could be addressed, completed and done within less than a minute. Yes there was the time it took to convince me to go on the ride, but once the persuasion was done, it was go time.  Conquering fears like that, is contagious.  It makes you want to see what else you can overcome.  Especially after you get such a rush of endorphins.

My point is, take my friends’ advice and shake things up. It doesn’t have to be at Coney Island, although I recommend it. Whatever your version of the kiddie roller coaster is, go for it.  Surprise yourself.  But don’t overthink it.

One of the best things I’ve done this year is tell my thoughts to quiet down when an opportunity presents itself.  Opportunities are way more interesting than my fears or worries.  I’d guess it’s the same for you too.

Take care of YOU.

Ugh.

I’ll be honest folks.  I’m not feeling very inspirational or self care-y today.  It’s April and I’m still wearing my winter coat.  This makes me real grumpy.  Also I’m craving all of the cheeses.  Blocks and blocks of it. And my feet HURT.

Ugh.

On days like today I have to remember a couple of things. My grumpiness and body aches are all clues.  When I’m at work I tend to turn down the volume on my physical and mental health needs, but today I muted it.  No bueno.  Yes I had to pay attention to the needs of others at work, but that doesn’t mean I needed to ignore myself entirely.

I went into caregiver mode, which basically means autopilot.  I didn’t pee, despite needing to for wayyy too long.  I felt a headache but didn’t attend to it, until it was a tad too late.  I realized I was hungry by the time I’m STARVING.  And because water was not physically brought to my parched lips, I didn’t remember to drink it.

When I get flung into the express lane of a busy day, it takes a lot to make me stop and check in with myself. I get into the mindset of  “I just have to get through this day.”  But is that the life I want to life?  A life where I am just trying to get through it? No.  It isn’t.  I will have moments when I absolutely need to hustle, and others where hustling is not a necessity in the moment.   It’s time I started noticing the difference.  Operating from a place of stress and ultimately exhaustion is not sustainable.  It’s just not.  It’s no way to live.

Now don’t worry, I’m not beating myself up over here.  I’m just seeing my day a lot clearer.  I forgot to pay attention.  My physical body just felt a little neglected and staged a riot around 5 o’clock.  Fair.

We aren’t always going to be rocking our self care worlds.  We are going to have days when we forget to hydrate, or eat something green, or walk 10,000 steps, or rest, or unplug, or connect.  But tomorrow is another day, reset that button and start fresh tomorrow.

You in?

Take care of YOU.

 

 

 

 

Self-care is not for weekends only.

This weekend, I was exhausted.  My body wanted to nap, and then nap some more.  This meant that the energy I needed to get all my many projects done that I was “saving for the weekend” was non-existent.  It’s frustrating, right?  The weekend (or your time off) finally comes and all the things you’ve saved for when you are free, are now available to you, but all you have the energy to do is veg out and nap.  Or is that just me?

So I looked back on my week and started assessing what the issue might have been.  Why the total exhaustion?  Ohhhhhhhh, right.  My calendar showed that every day after work my life was filled with activities.  Did I want to do every single one of those things, YES! Did I have the energy for them?  Oh wait, no not really…

Shonda Rimes wrote a book called “The Year of Yes.”  The book chronicles her recognition that “no” was a lot easier for her to say than “yes.”  When she was called out on it, she made a decision to say yes to things.  Especially things that challenged her out of her comfort zone.

I have had a similar problem but in the other direction.  I have often said “yes” to more things than I have the energy for.  Additionally by saying yes to so many things I haven’t made a lot room for activities that challenge/excite me.  In my case, this requires me to put myself on my own calendar.  I rarely cancel plans on others, but I will cancel on myself easily, especially if I don’t designate time for myself.  Admittedly, the first time you put yourself on your calendar, it may feel a little weird.  Do it anyway, and keep your date with yourself.

Self-care is not a weekend/time-off thing.  It’s a 7-day a week thing.  It has to be, to be effective.  Practicing self care at work and after work sets the stage for your longer stretches of time off.  Look at your calendar from last week.  Whether your rolled into the weekend exhausted or refreshed take notes on what worked or didn’t work.  How much of your time was spent on others?  Do you see yourself anywhere on your calendar?  Depending on your personality type and where you get your energy (being alone or being around others), aim for a week where what energizes YOU is sprinkled throughout the week.

One added bonus of peppering your week with self care energizers, is that when the weekend comes, there’s not as much pressure to make it everything your week wasn’t.  Instead you can just continue where you left off.

So that’s my goal for this week.  You in?

Take care of YOU.