You Can’t Do It Alone

I don’t know where so many of us got the idea that we’re supposed to struggle through this life by ourselves. Well, we have this idea that we find our soulmate and then that’s it. That’s the person we get and that’s it.

It’s such a prevalent idea and it’s SO wrong. If you hear of someone’s success, somehow you begrudge her by saying her parents helped her or she married well. Not only is that idea so ridiculous, but it’s disrespectful and sexist to women and to that woman specifically.

Of course someone helped her, cause that’s what successful people know to do. They know how to use their resources, ask for help and take help when they need it. Whether they pay for that help or lean on their friends makes no difference. Help is help and we all need it.

Women are, perhaps, better at this than men. It’s the way our brains are wired. We’re good at and thrive on connection. So we instinctively look around us to get and give help.

In the past few years the concept of community has become both skewed and trendy. We call people we don’t even know our peeps or our tribe. Somehow, by liking someone’s post or becoming a follower we are creating connection.

I call bullshit.

We need our tribes and our communities, but they need to be more than faceless names on social media. We need to hear how others are suffering just like us, but from the people we lay eyes on over coffee or a glass of wine or every morning when we wake. We need the people who are a part of our stories and who share our stories, cause that’s where the connection is the strongest.

We need to hear stories and connect and it’s nice to hear that a total stranger gets us, but that’s not where the healing happens. We need each other in a deeper way than we’ve engaged over the past fifteen or twenty years online.

It’s way too hard to do it alone. I think it’s hard just working your job, being married, raising your kids, dealing with your parents. Add anxiety or depression to that? You can’t do it alone. You CAN”T.

Don’t take that as a challenge, but maybe take it as the voice of experience.

You may figure out how to trudge through life by yourself, but most of us will just be trudging if we try to do it alone. We won’t soar, float, giggle or fly through. And isn’t it much more fun to do any of those than trudge through?

Everything is better with friends and like-minded people right? What if you get to hold someone’s hand and skip through your next big/scary/overwhelming business project knowing that someone’s got your back and you have a compassionate voice to connect with at 3am when the who-the-hell-do-you-think-you-are voice gets big? It gets big for all of us, so stop telling yourself to quit the voice and just accept that it’s going to happen. So what are you going to do about it?

Time after time, I see clients realize how important connection is to our brains and really embrace that piece of managing anxiety and depression. Then, they learn to actually make connection on a deeper level, not just the chit-chat level. Their lives start to shift. All of the sudden they don’t feel so alone. They don’t feel quite so lost.

All of the sudden you have someone to call when you want to bounce an idea, or in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep cause your brain is so busy, or when the emotions feel big. You’ve got someone who gets what you’re going through and that’s powerful.

So, if you think you’re doing fine just trudging along by yourself, think about shifting your thinking. I know it’s scary and I know it can be hard, but I promise it’s worth it. It’s that initial step of asking someone out to coffee and that can be big and scary, but then the benefits start to roll in.

You’ll find that after that first coffee meet, you’re a little lighter, a little happier, feeling a bit more supported. It won’t be long before reaching out feels more comfortable. If it doesn’t? You’ll just keep practicing.

The thing I’ve learned on that yoga mat is that it’s not about the pose, it’s about the moment. It’s not about getting it perfectly, it’s about what your brain, body, heart does when you face a challenge.

It’s called practice because it’s never done, it’s never perfect. We keep doing it again and again and each time we learn a little something about ourselves. That is a lesson that I take off the mat over and over. Taking it into my life means I learn a little bit about self-compassion and self-love. I learn to cut myself some slack. I learn that it’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to take the help.

Managing anxiety and depression is an every day job. We can’t do it alone. Not only do we need each other because sometimes the emotions get really big, too big for one person, but also connection is one of the things that makes our brains healthier.

If you are feeling stuck or lost, I promise there are people there for you. If you’re finding trouble finding them, let me know. I get it, I’m here and I got you.

 

Join me for the Free BreatheEcourse, seven days to help you Get Clear and learn tools, tips and skills to manage anxiety and depression. It’s the introduction to BreatheOnline, the six week course that you do in the comfort of your home. I know it’s scary, but contact me and let’s get started making your life better. Mel@ayogikitchen.com,  http://bit.ly/1TKsxq8

 

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Extreme Self-Care

wpid-img_20150912_153400964_hdr.jpgThis week my BreatheOnline class is focusing on self-care. It’s a way of managing anxiety and depression, but it’s also a form of self-love that too many of us ignore.  Earlier in the week I asked my students to journal about self-care. They wrote about their feelings about the idea of self-care, about what self-care looks like to them and  I wrote to the, at length, about what self-care is not. It’s not maintenance.

Ironically, today, i practiced extreme self-care. Which pretty much means, I did nothing.  Now usually when I practice self-care I practice restorative yoga, I meditate, I get a massage, I walk by the ocean, I write for an extra long time in my journal.

I had good intentions. I really did. With everything that’s going on with the protests and the constant barrage of news and with some personal relationship stuff, I’m just exhausted. So, I took it easy. I stayed in bed till after nine. I procrastinated by surfing around the internet. I walked to lunch and thought I’d stop at the library to print flyers. It just seemed like too much. So, I went back home, buying a Little Debbie Swiss Roll on the way. I napped.  I talked to my daughter. I wanted to work out, but I was too tired, so I took a long walk in the snow and bought paper towels and roast beef for a simple sandwich dinner. I was quiet and I turned inward.heartopeningIII

I watched a lot of Netflix today. My house is a bit of a mess. The sink has a lot of dishes.  There’s laundry waiting on the floor by the closet.

And you know what? It’s okay. All that stuff will be there tomorrow. I gave myself permission to just have a quiet day of Netflix, napping and snacking. The work will always be there. The chores will always be there. Today, I put myself first.

Don’t Give Up! You Got This!

Can you believe we’re in the last full week of January? It’s crazy, right? This year for me is about building on the great stuff that happened in 2016. I’m eager to make this a banner year, but if I just get another year like last year, I’m doing pretty good.

So, how’s your year going? How are you sitting with the intentions you set 21 days ago?

I know, it’s hard. Last week marked the week when most of us give up on our resolutions. We’ve been working out every day since Jan. 1 and aren’t seeing any differences and we’re getting bored with eating salads. This is when we feel like we’re never going to get that promotion so we should just stop going to the extra effort and it’s so much better to lie on the couch with takeout and a glass of wine anyway.

Don’t give up just yet.

I’ve got two reasons not to give up. One, perhaps it’s time to shift gears. Don’t bully yourself into your resolutions. Treat yourself with lovingkindness and care and embrace your intentions. Be gentle and kind with yourself. So often we’re thinking we’re not enough. We’re not good enough, smart enough, thin enough.So, we better stop messing around and do something to make it better. Right? Doesn’t that sound familiar?

loveyourselfWhat if instead of hating yourself into dropping twenty/thirty/forty pounds, you love yourself there? What if you love yourself enough to want your joints to be healthier, your cardiovascular health to improve, your stamina to increase, your clothes to fit better, sleep to come effortlessly,  your skin to glow and most importantly, your brain to be sharp and capable of managing your emotions?

What if instead of punishing yourself with workouts and food you barely tolerate you love yourself enough to reward yourself with a workout that makes you antsy to get up in the morning so you can get to the gym? Maybe find new, healthier foods that make you excited for dinner, instead of forcing yourself to eat things you don’t like, but have convinced yourself you need to eat? Don’t like kale? You’re a grown-up, don’t eat kale. I promise, it’s okay. Find healthy foods that you can’t get enough of and eat those. Then you can slowly introduce some others, maybe even kale.

The second reason not to give up? Cause you’re most of the way through the hardest part. If you’ve been working out for the last three weeks and just can’t make yourself go to the gym one more time. Do it anyway. Cause you’re at the place where your body is about to shift. Last night I was taking my coat off and putting my bags down and my boyfriend came into the room and exclaimed, “You look great!” I gave him a weird look, because one, I was wearing the same pants and a very similar shirt to the one he’d seen me in the day before, but two, because I think I look the same.

This morning as I was getting in the shower, I stood in front of the mirror in my sleep shorts and tee shirt and noticed that I am seeing some of the benefits of my new workouts. I’d been working out fairly consistently, but I’ve recently mixed it up, working my abs more to support my arthritic back and getting my loosey-goosey hips stronger.

I took my clothes off and stood naked in front of the mirror. You know what?n He was right! There are subtle changes happening in my body! Now, if I were doing the workouts just to drop weight cause I SHOULD, I might have quit already, but I’m looking to drop weight cause my arthritis really needs me to. I’m learning how to retrain my muscles. Some of them are doing more work than they should and some aren’t firing at all and it’s creating instability in my body. Cultivating stability in my body is going to kick arthritis’ butt.

I’ve found that when I do that, when I workout for the health of my body and not for my ego,  I leave my workouts feeling really great. I feel more whole, my body feels more integrated, like everyone is working together to propel Melissa through this world. I feel strong and energetic.

It takes about 21 days to create a new habit. We’re all a little different, but if you’ve been working on something new in your life since Jan 1, don’t quit, cause you’re there! You’re at the place, or very close to the place where that new behavior is going to become habit. You have to love the new behavior, though. If you’re punishing yourself, you’re going to drop the new behavior no matter how committed you are to your goal. If you’re doing something that isn’t good for you, like limiting yourself to 700 calories a day or something equally crazy, you’re going to quit. That may be a good thing.

I encourage you to get really honest with yourself. Get on the mat, listen to your body, meditate and listen to your heart, journal and get quiet with your thoughts. Notice how you’re feeling, body/mind/spirit., You may be accomplishing far more than you think you are.

I’m teaching BreatheOnline, a self-study course for anxiety and depression. Next week we’re focusing on self-care, the ultimate act of self-love. How do you love yourself? Not the moments you steal for yourself, but the time you carve out of your week just for you. Does just thinking about it make you uncomfortable?  This week is about getting clear about how you’re feeling, next week is about embracing self-care. Just whatever you do, DON’t give up.

You got this!

 

If you’d like to join BreatheOnline, it’s a self-study group that also gets support and encouragement through a private FB group. You can still join us and not feel behind. Here’s the link, check it out and feel free to email or call with any questions.  http://bit.ly/1TKsxq8

 

Stop Faking It Till You Make It

I know. You’ve been told over and over to fake it till you make it. It’s terrible advice. Stop doing that.

Okay, to be fair this is a 12 step saying that somehow made it into mainstream vernacular.It’s not in the 12-in-12 or The Big Book, but it’s a saying that has made it around the rooms for a long, long time.

The idea isat a lot of alcoholics have been doing exactly what they want for a long time. Because alcoholism is a disease that runs in families, a lot of alcoholics haven’t had acceptable behavior modeled for them. So faking it can sometimes refer to acting right. The idea is that first you act right and then you’ll feel right.

For people with anxiety and depression, who are not alcoholics, the saying is terrible, terrible advice. We’ve been faking it for a really long time. A lot of us are terrified to feel our emotions and scared of acting on those emotions. Anxiety/depression people are the people who don’t often know what they want. We’re used to going along with the crowd. We don’t listen to your bodies. We get dehydrated, exhausted, and don’t notice what happens to our bodies when we eat poorly.

Are you someone who, when asked, doesn’t know where you want to eat? Do you often say, I don’t care OR It’s up to you? Do the words Self Care baffle you?

So I propose that if you’re someone who often feels disconnected from your body and your experience in the moment, you’ve probably been faking it way too often. You are not alone. If you’re a woman, especially a woman over 40, you’ve probably been taught to push your own feelings and needs aside and take care of the people around you; their feelings, desires and cravings. You may have even been taught, that taking care of others is a higher purpose, selfless and admirable. That might be true, but not before your own needs.anxiety

I’m not joking about  the word needs. As women, a lot of us have been taught to disregard our need to eat, pee, rest, sleep, have fun, if there is ANYONE is our life that needs something. If you’ve got a baby under a year, this might be okay. Otherwise, you’re not loving yourself enough.

When we get the rare hour/day/weekend alone we’re at a loss of what to do for ourselves. Too often, we fill our time with laundry, running errands, cooking ahead, mostly things for the others in our lives or things that will make our lives easier in the future. So then, we think we’ve indulged in some self-care. Let me be clear. Getting ahead of chores for your family, no matter how good it makes you feel about yourself, is NOT self-care.

Self-care is you taking care of you in a way that re-energizes you and serves only you. I know that getting a haircut can re-energize you and that’s a wonderful thing, but that’s maintenance. As is taking a shower, shaving, painting your nails, going for a run.

What I’ve learned is that for people with anxiety and depression, self-care is the stuff that feels indulgent and maybe a little guilt producing. Stuff like reading, getting a massage, taking a long walk. If there’s a load of laundry, client email or leaf-filled yard the guilt can be agonizing.  SO many of us only do those things when absolutely everything else has been taken care of. And how often does that happen? How often do the dishes get done at the same time all the laundry is done and the lunches are packed for tomorrow? NEVER. So how often are you actually taking care of yourse”lf? Of loving yourself?

Fake it till you make it. Terrible advice.

When we’re constantly running like that we’re mostly likely in our heads. All the time. Then depressionwe forget how to listen to our hearts. Danieele LaPorte says, “If you stay out of your head and ask from the heart, CLARITY can happen like THAT. Snap.”

That’s how you know what you like/want/need. You listen to your heart. You get into your body and you notice your feelings. If you’re faking it, you’re not doing that. Stop faking it.

In a few days I start teaching Breathe Online, a six week self-study for managing depression and anxiety. One of the things we’ll focus on is getting into our bodies. We’ll get present with what’s happening in the moment. We’ll learn to get real and honest with ourselves about what the heart is saying, what the back is saying, what the tummy is saying.

Do you know when your body wants a massage? Do you know when a long walk would be the perfect thing to make the day better? So many of us can’t manage our anxiety/depression/stress because we don’t know how we feel in the moment.i-wish-i-could-show-you-when-you-are-lonely-or-in-darkness-the-astonishing-light-of-your-own-being-hafiz

So, my advice is to stop faking it. Get real with how you feel, what you want and what you need. Stop ignoring those little tugs we get to sit down, pee, take a nap, be alone, connect with someone.

And, of course, I advise you to join me for #BreatheOnline. You can check it out at http://bit.ly/1TKsxq8. Email me, comment or call with any questions or concerns.

 

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Airport Office

img_20161230_092938290.jpgHere’s my office today. I’m back in the Kansas City Airport, where I spent the night just 12 days ago.

Today, I’ve been rerouted to Denver. To fly to Boston.

As frustrating as it is, it’s because of delayed flights and cancellations and it has nothing to do with the people handling my baggage or checking me in. These people have been extremely helpful and nice.

So, I’m here again and it’s nobody’s fault, it’s just one of those little things that life throws at you. You can’t let it ruin your day and I’m certainly not going to ruin anyone else’s day because of it!

Luckily MCI has lots of places to charge and fairly reliable wifi. Terminal B has two restaurants and a Starbucks near my gate, plus at least two of those little deli places to buy overpriced sandwiches

So, whether I’m here or whether I’m in Starbucks in Boston, really doesn’t matter that much. Unless I let it.  Tonight, I see my sweetie, after being away for almost 3 weeks. The change in flights doesn’t delay that at all, cause I was going to sit in Logan waiting for him to get off work. So, whether I’m sitting in Logan on my computer or in the air on my computer doesn’t matter at all. Unless I let it.

Looking at the big picture, this is a little inconvenient, but not all that much. I probably am going to get more work done today than I orginally planned and certainly more than if I were going to be home today. So, this will only become a big issue, you got it, if I let it.

Today, I chose not to let it.

Be The Skillful One In Your Family

So, we’re here. It’s the biggest holiday of the year for a lot of us .Maybe you’re already with family. Breathe! I don’t have any great advice about how to avoid all the drama or hurt feelings or fights. I do know how to get through the weekend, though. christmas

This I know. The repeat behaviors, the patterns that you have didn’t start with you.  It probably didn’t start with your parents, or cousins or even your grandparents. Patterns in families go back many generations. It’s crazy when we look at our family tree, how often a pattern repeats, generation after generation.

You do, however, have the power to stop the pattern, at least for your generation and give the future generations some hope. A sweet friend once taught me, “You teach your children how to treat you when they’re adults, by how you treat your parents.” Ow! That one hurt, but it made sense and I’ve  worked on it.

This morning I got this lovely text from another beautiful friend. She said…”Spending lots of time practicing compassion and opening my heart to my family instead of acting on habitual annoyances and behaviors that haven’t worked over the yeas, so shouldn’t work now.” Wow!

Now, let me start by telling you that this is  a woman that I LOVE. She’s smart as hell and has a huge heart that compels her to love deeply and fiercely. She’s a force of nature.

As so often with this friend she shared with me exactly what I was already thinking about and what I needed to hear. Because, to be frank I NEEDED to hear that. When I think about difficult relationships in my life, I think about my parents and my family of origin. However, if I’m honest, I could probably do better at being compassionate and open with my ex and my kids, who I’m spending this holiday with.

Deep down, I think I do a great job at this, but since my kids have some of the same reactions I have with my parents, I know I could probably do some work in this area. The part of her text that really struck me was…”that hasn’t worked over the years, so shouldn’t work now.”

Yes! Of Course!

This is where I fail. Isn’t that the hardest paryt? Recognizing our own patterns is so difficult. I can pick out yours/his/hers in a second, but mine?

So, here’s what else I know. You’re very likely the most skilled person in your family. You have the tools. You have the skills. Or, if you’re reading this, you’re probably really interested in gaining the skills and tools to live a great life with great relationships. (Or you’re just someone who loves me and is interested in what I’m doing in life.)

When you walk into your aunt’s/mom’s/grandma’s house this holiday, act like you’re the most skillful pechristmas2rson in the house. Even if you’re afraid that you’re not, act like it. Acting right is a huge tool.  If you don’t what that looks like imagine what your favorite skillful character in a movie or literature would do. Not the broken one you identify with, the one that you want to be like.

That doesn’t mean you’re the person that knows the most. It doesn’t mean you should move through the living room, person by person, sibling by sibling and tell each one how to fix their life. In my family there are people with medical degrees and master degrees, neither of which I possess. They are way more book smart than I am, but I’m still the most skillful. I don’t always act like it, but I am.

To be truly skillful, I need to act like it, though.

So, how do we do that?  It means be present. Be present with the moment, each moment. Stay out of your head and open your heart. If you’re  remembering the snide comment your sister made at Thanksgiving, you’re not being present. Let the past go. Whether someone did something truly terrible to you or slighted you in some little way, getting over that and thru that is work for you and your therapist and possibly work for you to do with that person in the future. Delving into it in front of your five year old daughter/niece/granddaughter is not acting skillful. Nor is it fair or the recipe for a great family get together.

Acting skillful means taking care of yourself.  First, do what you know to do. Take care of all your immediate needs. This is where being present helps a lot. If you’re in your brain or being run by your emotions you may not notice that you’re starving and haven’t eaten since yesterday. Take care of your immediate needs as they arise.

Do NOT be a martyr. It may seem selfless, but it’s passive-aggressive and selfish. Don’t put off eating lunch so you can run out for your nephew/son/grandson to replace the charger that he left 300 miles away. If this is your family role, mix up the pattern by doing something different.hydrate

Hydrate. Eat. Rest. Pee. These are basic survival skills and if you’re making excuses why you don’t have time to do them, there is something seriously whacked about your thinking.

Eat and drink WELL. It is so tempting to overindulge. We LOVE to numb, don’t we? Eating your emotions around your family may seem like a great escape. It’s not. Try not to eat too much sugar or over-caffeinate. You won’t feel great, you’ll get sluggish and your temper will be short, you’ll be more reactionary and a lot more likely to say or do something to ratchet up the tension and drama.

This one really sucks. Don’t drink too much. Alcohol may seem like a good idea, but it’s another way of numbing, which means you won’t have the chance to be present. It’s also going to loosen your inhibitions, which means that you’ll be more likely to say something you shouldn’t-even if you REALLY want to-and you also may act the way you really want to with your cousin’s hot third husband. You’ll only hold your head in your hands the next day and wonder WHY!

Two more quick things about too much alcohol and numbing. If there are family members that get drunk and act poorly, just let it go. It is not your place to break up a fight, teach anyone how to behave or settle any family disputes. ESPECIALLY, if this has been your job, this is the time to change the pattern and not do it. Don’t get your dog in the fight. You are not responsible for anyone else’s behavior or feelings, unless you have a child under 16.

We are not capable of numbing selectively. You can’t numb your discomfort/fear/pain without numbing any chance of being present and being in joy/happiness/connection. It all gets numbed and even if it’s uncomfortable or ugly, ultimately you lose out.

So, those are basics, but there are some upper level skills, too. These are the ones we kinda know we’re supposed to do, but often get pushed aside. Get some exercise. Exercise will help your attitude, your physical happiness and will help your brain be less reactionary. Maybe it’s just a brisk walk around the block a few times today. Maybe you get to take an hour for yourself and get to a gym. Whatever it is, if you can get out of the house to do it, all the better. If it’s sunny and not too cold that’s even better. Sunlight helps with managing our moods.

That leads us to take breaks. We all need to take breaks from our families. That’s not weakness or selfishness, it’s skilled behavior. Take ten minutes, go into a quiet place (yes, there is one somewhere), throw your legs up the wall, close your eyes and BREATHE. Don’t ruminate over your rude uncle. Just close your eyes and listen to your heart beating, feel the breath filling your lungs and emptying your lungs. Be present in the moment and don’t think about any part of the past or the future.

Finally, back to openness and compassion. THIS is the weekend to flex those compassion muscles. If you are having trouble feeling open to your mother-in-law’s nit-picking and constant criticism, do a heart opening pose. Do a passive backbend by folding some blankets till they resemble a bolster and lay over them so that the blanket/bolster hits you midway in the thoracic spine. For women, that’s about where your bra hooks. Breathe. Imagine your heart opening,. Literally it means the space at the breastbone is expanding.

When I’m really struggling with compassion I try to remember what’s under the behavior. Under anger is always fear. Fear of losing something, fear of not being enough, fear of not getting enough. Mostly, that’s about love, but it can be other things also.

Your nit-picky, critical mother-in-law? She’s probably a lot harder on herself and doesn’t realize how hard she’s being on you. There’s a good chance she doesn’t think that she measures up and there’s a really good chance she’s intimidated by you.  Along with that may be a fear of losing her child to you.

Now, when our egos get in the way, we may think GOOD. I’m glad I scare her. When we’re standing in lovingkindness and compassion we can feel how much that must hurt and how scary it can be. We’ve all been there, right?

Regardless of how you feel like acting, try acting compassionate and loving. In DBT, it’s called acting opposite to emotion. Regardless of what horribly, sexist/racist/bigoted thing your uncle says, let it roll off your back. Today is not the day to challenge his long held beliefs. A different day, not a holiday, you can open your heart to him and sit him down and tell him that it hurts you and it makes you feel like he doesn’t value you. The holiday is not the time to call him a pig and is not going to endear his family to you. Don’t be the one that starts the family war. You’re better than that.

If all else fails, there’s one skillful trick that absolutely never fails. Sit quietly, keep your mouth shut and smile. If nothing else, you will be considered the zen one this weekend. Nobody has to know about the turmoil inside. Just smile and eat your potatoes.

breathe-onlineInterested in learning more about these skills and tools? I’m teaching BreatheOnline in January. It’s aimed at people who want to learn to manage their anxiety and/or depression, but lots of us can learn to be more skillful, right?  It’s full of life-changing skills and tools. Can’t wait for you to join us! bit.ly/1TKsxq8 for more information or to sigh up. http://bit.ly/2hllZmq for even more info and community on the FB page. Always feel free to call, 785-769-5412 or email, mel@ayogikitchen.com.

 

 

 

 

Winter Travel

17 hours of travel so far. Being stuck in In Kansas City for 12 hours due to slick roads is worlds better than being stuck at LaGuardia for an hour delay.

It’s been a rough couple of days. I worked a 12 hour day on Friday, which means I’ve had back to back 20 hours days, my dad’s in the hospital, I lost my laptop and my ride is having back spasms so this day will be even longer. 

Last night I slept on the floor near a baggage carousel that was under construction. I had free Wi-Fi, I was warm and because I snore, I pretty much had the area to myself. I got five hours of sleep and while I need much, much more, my back feels great and I’m feeling pretty okay. 

A laptop is replaceable. While my dad is very ill, he’s feeling better and will probably go home on Monday. I got a free Bloody Mary on the plane. No one got in a car last night for a slippery ride to the airport. No one is in a ditch. I’m not at an area hospital. I’m going back to my corner to catch more sleep and maybe watch a little Netflix. 

Tired and ready to see my babies, but grateful for the little things. 

#gratitude #kci #kansas #kansascityairport #winterweather #roadadvisory