Retrain Your Brain, Part 2

Your body achieves what the mind believes.

author unknown

As February comes to a close and March begins, there is the promise of spring arriving soon. Spring has been known to many as new beginnings or a fresh start. And that is where I am at right now…a fresh start.

If you have been following me or read my blog posts, you may have come across my post entitled ReTrain Your Brain. That post focused on changing our mindset into a more positive way and not focus on things out of our control, but on all the good things we can be grateful for each day.

Usually people set goals beginning of the new year. I did not because I don’t like to set myself up for failure. However, I’ve gotten over that pity party, so to speak. I am ready to make some changes and set goals that will benefit me not only mentally, but physically, too! I decided yesterday that I would begin my new health regimen by exercising and eating better…again.

I say “again” because this isn’t the first, second or even tenth time I’ve tried to be physically healthier, lose weight and get into shape. I have struggled most of my adult life going up and down the scale. I have changed my wardrobe several times, pledging to myself that I will never wear THAT size again! Yet, for whatever reason, I fall short of my ultimate goal. Then I just lose all interest or motivation to pick myself up and try again.

I am reminded of a song called “Tubthumping by Chumbawamba. The lyrics are simple and catchy, but the chorus is the part that I can relate: “I get knocked down, but I get up again.” To me, it means that even if I get knocked down, I will always get up again. No matter what, I will never give up. I may fall, but I pick myself up eventually, despite my frustrations, despite the obstacles in front of me.

Another song is “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. In the beginning of the song, Eminem says “ Look, if you had one shot or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it, or just let it slip?” What a question! It really makes me think if I truly treated my health as if I only have ONE SHOT to improve, then of course I wouldn’t waste that opportunity, right?

Easier said than done. There are so many of us who struggle with maintaining a healthy weight and eating the right foods on a daily basis. What keeps us on track? I had brought this topic up in a recent chat on Tik Tok and I received some input about how restarting again is ok. Some people say to Keep the WHY nearby; Why are you doing it? That’s a great point! Why am I working towards a better, healthy me? At this stage in my life, it has a lot to do with my actual health and not be in pain every time I move.

Other people said to start small, don’t take on more than you can chew. Set goals that motivate you to keep going to reach them. Someone said they make certain rules for themselves where they are allowed a cheat day, but only after a successful week. It’s setting boundaries. It’s building a structure to follow. All of this seems so simple when you put it on paper, but yet, I am fighting my inner voice that is saying, go ahead, you can have that piece of cake…you only live once! And that is my point. We Only Live ONCE. So we need to treat our bodies as the most precious possession we own. If it were to break, we’d never get another one.

image from Pinterest

Yes, there are temptations. There are times we just don’t feel like it. We start convincing ourselves this is too much work. Too much to think about and it is overwhelming. I’d rather just live my life, do what I want and not worry about any consequences. Wow. That seems a bit immature, doesn’t it? Time to put on my big girl pants and start making the changes NOW.

I have listed out a few things to help me (and you) stay focused and keep on course. I hope these help you if you are feeling like me and are ready to make changes this year.

  • DRINK PLENTY OF WATER. Preferably, 1/2 of your body weight in ounces is the minimum.
  • REDUCE or better yet, ELIMINATE SUGAR. Sugar is a culprit of many ailments, including inflammation. It is addicting and there is no nutritional value to it all.
  • SET GOALS, but keep them small and achievable. Once you have accomplished those goals, you can work on making bigger or different ones.
  • JOURNAL. Keeping a food journal has been proven to keep people accountable. If you “lie” on what you ate, you’re only hurting yourself. Be honest, and keep track of your intake of food and beverages.
  • FIND A BUDDY. Speaking of accountability, having a person be your weight loss buddy can help you remain motivated, especially when you start losing interest or feel helpless.
  • GET PLENTY OF REST/SLEEP. The body needs to be able to rejuvenate, especially after a workout. Take the time to allow your body to rest and recover. Try to get enough sleep so you are well rested for the next day.
  • BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF. We aren’t perfect and we may slip once in awhile. The key is to acknowledge that and then move on and not beat yourself up over your mistakes.
  • SWITCH THINGS UP once in awhile. Routines are great, but for some, you can become bored and eventually stop. If you walk, maybe try bike riding or even choose different locations to walk. Explore your local surroundings. Even changing the time you exercise can be helpful if you feel like things are getting stale.
  • HAVE FUN WITH IT! Make it a game. Listen to music that gets your feet moving. Music is powerful and it can help make the time pass by quicker than you thought.
  • BE PROUD OF YOURSELF! Reward your good behaviors! This doesn’t mean eating an ice cream Sunday. But, maybe do something you wouldn’t normally do as a reward. Also, you’re on this journey for a reason and taking the first step is a great start!

My hope is you can relate and want to follow me during this new venture of mine. I plan to have weekly updates and share my experiences along the way. I’d welcome your support!!!

Image from Pinterest

Sometimes it isn’t Rainbows and Cupcakes

If you’ve been following my blog, you may have noticed most of my posts are uplifting and hopefully inspiring to you. I try hard not to discuss negative topics or draw out unpleasant things without some message of hope.

Unfortunately today, I let all that negativity consume me. In fact, I thought I would stay in that place of hopelessness longer than it did. I was gently reminded by many people in my life that no matter what, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, that what I do is directing me in the right path and most importantly, I have God at my side. It’s really strange that all my overwhelming feelings also were showered by an abundance of love and compassion. I suppose the universe is telling me something and I need to pay attention and listen.

Photo by Harvey Reed on Pexels.com

The morning started out pretty positive and I was enjoying the sunshine and observing the birds that were feeding on my deck. I happen to take a picture of a single cardinal and shared with a friend. He told me the meaning behind when we see a cardinal and the symbolism of that. At first, I may have come off dismissive, but as my morning progressed and it got more and more out of my control, I kept going back to that image and statement. I kept it tucked in the back of my mind, at least.

Another friend reminded me not to be so hard on myself over things that really aren’t in my direct control and to give myself, in essence, grace to feel my feels and be gentle with myself.

As my emotions continued to pour out in the morning, I kept receiving various messages that now I believe is God or the universe telling me something. A friend from church just so happened to email me an excerpt and prayer from an online site and when I read it, it completely spoke to me and everything I was feeling at that particular moment.

I spoke to my dad, who is always a source of compassion, especially when I feel hopeless.

I may have cried and felt frustrated, but one thing remained and that was my desire to let it be and allow my mind to calm down. I spent time taking deep breaths, I prayed, I watched the birds outside and I also fed my body the healthy nourishment it probably was lacking for awhile.

I share this so that others can understand that we all have bad moments, times when we feel like the world is crashing down on us. Even the most positive, uplifting people you know have their bad times. The point to remember is that it is completely okay and as long as we can get back on our feet, we can take on the day with even more strength.

I wrote something in my journal that I would like to share. This may seem like I am exposing myself to the world, but I strongly believe we not only show our strong, positive side, but share how even the best of us are vulnerable human beings.

Quicksand

I feel overwhelmed. I feel sad. I feel frustrated and angry. I feel like all the work I’ve been doing to have a better mindset has been in vain. It’s as if I am defeated and can’t get out of the corner of a boxing ring. I am disappointed I don’t follow my own advice at times like this. I try so hard to look at the good things and be grateful for what I have in my life. Yet, I can’t seem to sustain that feeling. I lose patience. I lose my composure. I fall apart. I almost feel like I am stuck in quicksand which is trying to bring me down. Yet, I am grasping onto a branch so that I don’t perish. I start to remember that I do have a lot to live for and that I am worthy of happiness and love. I CAN prevail and shove these negative feelings aside and say to them, NOT TODAY! And then, like that, I am back on my feet.

my own poetic piece, if you will, written 1/25/21

So, there you have it. life may not be filled with rainbows and cupcakes, but life is definitely sweet if we learn to overcome our thoughts and take in the moments that calm us and brings us a smile.

Hindsight is 2020

Before saying goodbye to 2020, let’s look back at the good things it brought us. Image from web Jan_Blog_2020

There are a lot of negative things that occurred, but this post is not about that because that sentiment has been exhausted. I want to focus on the GOOD, the POSITIVE, and the small HOPES that 2020 brought to our world.

I know everyone cannot wait to kick 2020 to the curb and get on with 2021, but we need to remember that even though 2020 may have been one of the worst years in our contemporary lives, it wasn’t completely awful.

Yes, there were natural disasters, a global pandemic, racial turmoil and political unrest. Yet, here we are, about to ring in the new year and say goodbye to the old one. We prevailed! We didn’t allow the negatives to take over our lives 100%. We ARE SURVIVORS!!!

Despite everything, it was one of the best years, too. You may say to yourself, how is that? The world came together to help out our friends and speak our minds openly and loudly. First it was the wildfires in Australia. Then it was the unity when racial tensions increased. When the pandemic hit us, we did our best to be safe and keep our loved ones healthy. Despite the unknown, many communities pulled together to help one another. The outpour of charitable work was prevalent. Strangers helping other strangers. A true test of our humanity.

In 2020, families got closer. We connected with people online and made new friends. We were forced to slow down. Our busyness practically came to a halt. In the beginning of the pandemic, it seems many relished the reprieve. We were happy to stay home for a change…to not have to run from one place to the next. For some, the stress of our daily lives reduced.

Other things to highlight:

  • Many of us reconnected with nature, taking more walks or hikes with their families.
  • Several of us finally got projects completed in our homes that were otherwise put off.
  • A lot of us picked up new hobbies or interests were rekindled.
  • Others explored alternative ways of keeping their small businesses afloat.
  • Virtual learning became a status quo not only for school systems, but for other instructional opportunities.
  • Churches took advantage of Zoom, Facebook and YouTube to hold their services and continue the fellowship each week. Our spirits were lifted by everyone praying for each other or giving back in simple, yet meaningful ways.

Our definition of normal changed. We started to embrace the “new normal” so that we could live our lives in a positive light. We became resilient. We appreciated life more. We started to recognize what was truly important.

If we reflect on this past year, the best part of 2020 was that we did not give up and we did all we could to remain optimistic. Sure, people look at the negatives first, but the greatest part of our human nature is that we also seek positivity and hope.

As we enter 2021, we must not forget all we conquered. We need to carry those things forward and keep them as reminders that even in the worst of times, we can enjoy the little things in life.

Please take a look at this short video from Time. It summarizes the essence of our humanity among the chaos. https://time.com/5919837/2020-year-in-review/

Crossroads

Life doesn’t have a roadmap outlined in front of you.

Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” I always found that to be comical and didn’t pay much mind to the message until recently. Take what? What does that mean? Which direction am I supposed to go? Am I supposed to go straight through the fork? There aren’t clear signs to show me the way!

I don’t think Yogi was trying to be very deep about this statement, but it certainly resonates with me in my current state of life. We make several choices every day. Some are not even conscious choices but just routine. Others demand more thinking power and consideration. Choices direct our day, our week or even our year.

Why is it hard to make a decision? One reason that stands out to me is FEAR. Fear is what holds us back from moving forward. Being afraid to make mistakes. Being afraid you will hurt someone’s feelings, even if it is in your best interest. The fear of the unknown, less traveled path. How many obstacles are in the way? The fear of getting lost and not finding your way back. Fear can paralyze a person from making a decision. It can hinder you and make you feel inadequate. Until we take a look at our fears and overcome them, we may never move forward.

I have never considered myself a fearful person. I always was curious and adventurous. I wasn’t afraid to try new things. I even didn’t care if I got lost because I knew I could always find a way out or turn around from where I started. However, there is a fear within me that until recently, I didn’t know existed.

I am now standing in front of that fork, unsure which direction to head. I am afraid if I choose one path, it might be the wrong one and I will be lost or confused. More importantly, I am afraid I may hurt others in the process by that one decision I make. Do I stay where I am, not move forward and continue to live status quo? Do I take that path of an unknown future because I know in my heart, it will be the best decision I will make in my life; that may possibly be the road to my inner peace and well being?

I am paralyzed. I am stuck. I am fearful of the after effects it may cause to those around me. What can I do? How can I get myself to decide which direction I should go at this crossroad?

TIME. Since I know this fork is a new obstacle in my life, I am not willing to be careless in my decisions. However, I cannot take too much time to think because by doing that, I am not making choices to progress. I do not want to remain stagnant forever.

GRACE/KINDNESS. Life has been quite a journey so far and by beating myself up over my past mistakes or decisions isn’t going to help build my confidence to make important decisions. I need to believe in myself that no matter what, the choices I make will be the right ones. I need to allow myself the grace to keep going without being my worst critic.

TRUST/FAITH. I must trust that I AM capable of just about anything I put my mind to if I only give myself a chance to try and take that leap of faith. Over the years, my confidence has been slowly been chipped away, so I need to remember that I am stronger than I think. I have many talents that I need to be proud of and not downplay them because I am humble. I wasn’t raised to toot my own horn because it comes off as arrogant. But in reality, humility isn’t about remaining quiet about your accomplishments. Take a look at this quote:

Humility isn’t denying your strengths; it’s being honest about your weaknesses.

Rick Warren

TIME, GRACE, TRUST. That seems to be a good start. If I keep these things in mind, I will be more apt to make a decision. Now it is a matter of putting this into practice so that I can be at peace with the choices I make in my future.

What’s holding you back from making life altering changes?

I’d love to hear your perspective. Please leave a comment and share this post with others.

This is one of my favorite quotes that is funny, yet so true!

Reflections, Goals and Mental Health

image from internet

It’s a new year and some of us are still working out our plans or goals for 2021. I personally didn’t set specific goals as I have been in what I consider a survival mode over the last couple months. I haven’t given myself the time to sit down long enough to thoroughly examine what I want to achieve this year. I carry on each day as I do the next and find that I am a bit lost. Yet, I never give up. Each day brings an opportunity to work on myself.

REFLECTION:

Rewind back to mid October 2020. This is when I brought my mom to the hospital because she wasn’t well. She was quite sick, actually. I didn’t know what was happening to her at the time. All I know is that I never saw her so “small” and weak. She looked old, worn out and honestly, I thought she might die. Turns out after her being admitted, the doctor informed me she was experiencing lithium toxicity. Her body was beginning to show signs of shutting down. It was very upsetting and scary to learn what was happening to my mom. So many emotions started pouring out of me that I had a hard time calming myself. I knew what I needed to do; it was a matter of being able to follow through.

Lithium is a medicine that is used to treat bipolar disorder. My mom was diagnosed back in the early 80’s. I can remember many of the details of the day when she had her first nervous breakdown. It was frightening to witness as a young 12 year old child. I realize now that things were never going to be quite the same again. I spent the rest of my adolescent years learning to understand what happened to my mom and living with a parent who was not mentally stable. I did my best to carry on, living what some consider the best days of my youth. Unfortunately, there was always something different in my home. Looking back, the energy in our house was somewhat muddled. Despite the fact my mom recovered from her nervous breakdown and was under psychiatric care, things were always a bit off.

Mom was pretty stubborn back then as she is even today. She disliked her psychiatrist to the point she would argue with him incessantly. She didn’t want to face the truth. She refused to see the positives and thought the world was against her, including her doctor. I remember one time I was concerned for her and called him to ask for help. When my mom found out, she was extremely angry. That was when she cut the cord with the only person that could medically treat her mental disorder. I didn’t know what else to do but to live my teen life and do my best to ignore (subconsciously) my mom’s well being.

In my mid teens, my mom started drinking. She did it as a result of loneliness. My father traveled a lot and would leave for 1-2 weeks every couple months for his job. To an extent, mom and I were each others companions. We’d actually be excited when my dad left because that meant we had this distorted sense of freedom. The old adage, “when the cat’s away, the mice will play”, was definitely the way it was during those years. Although I was a teenager, discovering life, love and everything in between, I always was by my mother’s side, making sure she was ok. Little did I realize that this began my life of caregiving. My father would always say, “look out for your mom”, when he would leave for his trips. Eventually that statement would be one I would loathe and fight against the rest of the days I lived at home.

GOALS:

Fast forward to 1996. This was the year I finally moved out of my house. I was elated and couldn’t wait to burn rubber out of my parent’s driveway so I could start my life without them. I was 26 years old. Throughout the rest of my teen life and early adulthood, I watched as my parent’s marriage deteriorate. I remember wanting to get away from them because I saw the writing on the walls before my parents did. I was a co-dependent. I was the 3rd leg of the tripod. As long as I continued to live in my childhood home, I would never be able to live my life the way I wanted. I had to sever the cord and say goodbye.

Within 2 years, my parents divorced. My mom had found someone that gave her the attention she so desperately sought over the years. My father was blind sided. He had no idea at the time the impact of his travels had on our family. And even though I saw this coming, I had a lot of anger. I was particularly angry with my mom. I hated that she couldn’t stop her drinking. I hated that she left my dad. I hated that my father was clueless. Being the third party of this dysfunctional family, it infuriated me that my parents couldn’t sort things out. However, it was their lives, not mine. If I needed to take care of my own well being, I needed to get out of dodge and never look back.

Easier said than done. Despite my desperation, I never truly escaped my ties to my parent’s lives. I supported both of them in different ways over the next several years. I developed a love/hate relationship with my mom. Today, I may not have as much animosity towards her, but I struggle. I have been in and out of therapy since my early 20’s. And the sessions have always circled back to my mom, our relationship and how to cope.

Mental Health:

I have been married for 19 years and have 2 teenagers. I have been doing my best to live my life with my family. However, since having my kids, I have been diagnosed and treated for anxiety, depression, and ADHD. I’ve had a few medical problems occur, including thyroid cancer and sleep apnea. These issues are not terrible. In fact, I have been doing pretty well on the medical side. It’s my mental well being that has been the biggest challenge. It has affected my marriage and most likely has impacted my children’s lives to some extent.

Enter 2020. The year of the pandemic and unrest in our world. Many of us have had challenges, struggles, or obstacles to overcome. Last year was a year of testing our resilience as human beings. It was a year to slow down and do a lot of self reflection. I have been on a journey over the last few years to be a better version of myself. 2020 helped me see where I need to be and what I need in order to be happy. I am still working out the kinks so I can map out my life. But at least I have more resources and tools under my belt to help support my continued trek.

Although I still struggle with my mom and her mental issues, I can say we are probably closer now than ever. Since her recent hospitalization, I have noticed she is more open to seeking the help she fought against so many years before. She is finally wiling to go to counseling and be under psychiatric care. My mom is finally finding her voice. We may not agree on many things and I know that my patience is tested all the time. Yet, the one thing we do agree on is that we have a strong love for each other. We will never abandon one another. We are on our own road to healing. And that is all anyone can ever hope to have in their lifetime.

For more information on mental illness, visit National Alliance on Mental Illness https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions.

Is it Selfish or is it Self-Care?

I’ve been spending a lot of time helping my mom, who was recently hospitalized for her mental well being. It has been a stressful time for both of us. I am an only child, so all the burden falls on me. My parents are divorced and both remarried several years ago. Unfortunately, my mother’s husband died four years ago, and ever since, I have noticed my mom has struggled to find herself again and function properly. I’m sad to say, she has lived with bi-polar disorder the majority of her adult life. As a young teen, I witnessed her go through a couple nervous breakdowns and battled alcoholism. My father traveled a lot for his job. Early on, I assumed on the role of a co-dependent. As I got older, and finally moved out of my house at 26 years of age, I started to live my life and discover who and what I wanted to be. I had fantasies of moving out west or somewhere else to spread my wings, but I just didn’t take the chance on myself. I was too concerned about my parents and didn’t want to abandon them or be that far away. It was quite the challenge because no matter what, my focus circled back to my mom.

picture of mom and me a week after she was in the hospital. Look at her smile!

Fast forward 25 years and I am married, have 2 teenagers, work part-time as a caregiver and am learning to make more time for myself. I am finding it difficult to do it all. It isn’t in my nature to put myself completely first because I want to help others around me. However, I find I desperately need to take more and more time for myself and relish being alone, enjoying simple things like watching the sun rise, or taking a walk on a trail. I love taking pictures and enjoy crafting or making art. Most of those things have fallen by the wayside. I have gotten into a horrible routine that is most likely hindering my overall health, physically and emotionally. I try so hard to do simple things, like getting a good night’s sleep, breathing, stretching, eating well, etc. But, no matter how much I try, my desire for a healthy and self-caring lifestyle is trumped by outside factors I allow to disrupt my day.

picture taken of sunrise on December 11, 2020 Milford, CT

Is it so bad that I want to take care of myself before putting the needs of others right now? I was taught, especially through my Christian faith, that selfishness is wrong. That we must think of others before we think of ourselves. However, I have also learned we have to love ourselves before we can love others. We have to take care of our well being so that we can be there for our loved ones. My mind is confused. Putting myself ahead of everyone sort of goes against my giving nature. Yet, deep inside, I know that if I continue this path of caring for others and put myself at the back-burner, I will be a miserable person. I battle my own thoughts and feelings everyday. I am exhausted. I know I cannot keep up this pace much longer.

I listened to an episode of Coffeetalk with Liquidshano1973 recently and the topic was Self-Care. It really hit home and I have to admit, I was in tears after listening to the 31 minute segment. I realized then that I haven’t fully invested in MYSELF. I always say I do things to enjoy the little things in life. I pause and breathe. I try to soak in those rays. I do try to smile and be grateful. Yet, all of these things I do is not enough! It is very hard to admit I am my worst enemy and do not completely follow my own advice. In the episode, Shane mentions some tips he found while researching the topic of self-care. He chose to highlight 7 of them, and when I reflect on these tips, I know this is something I can incorporate into my daily routine, provided that I am intentional.

I found the original website and read a total of 27 ideas of self-care. In a similar manner, I am listing a combination of what Shane highlighted in his podcast, as well as others that the author mentioned on how we can take just 5 minutes to practice self-care. Before I list these tips, I have something to share that brings this all home.

My job can be stressful at times. My client has specific needs and over the few years I have worked for her, I have slowly changed how I manage my outside life. I stopped using my favorite scents in laundry, or in the shower because of her chemical sensitivity. I also stopped wearing makeup when I go to her home, including facial lotions because I was afraid she would get ill from any scents she might pick up. For a long time, I wouldn’t dye my hair. These simple things, these ways of taking care of myself or doing things that brought a little joy, were almost completely abandoned because I wanted to do the right thing and please my client.

I realize now, I was neglecting myself. I needed to stop. I needed to put my needs ahead for a change or else I think I would explode. The other night, I decided I was going to pamper myself and enjoy a little in-home spa treatment. Wow! Can I just say, this was a much needed mini “getaway” in my home. I took the time to dye my hair, give myself a facial and even put makeup on so I could feel good! By no means was this a selfish act. It was an act of self-care! I needed to do this so that my spirits were lifted and so that I can continue to be there for everyone else, while feeling happy with me! It may seem obvious to do these kind of things, but I have been so consumed with being a caregiver, that I have forgotten to take time for me.

this is me after my little “spa” treatment

Below are a total of 10 tips that you can do to practice self-care. These are inspired or paraphrased from the website linked above. I discovered within these ideas, is something to think about, too. In order to get a full experience of self-care, we need to address each of our Five senses of Sight, Touch, Hearing, Speech and Taste! I put the sense in parenthesis.

  1. Write down 3 things you are grateful for in your life (touch)
    • By writing down things you are grateful for, you are putting those thoughts directly in front of you and from pen to paper, it will resonate into your mind.
  2. Breathe deeply
    • You’d be surprised how much we hold our breath throughout the day. By doing that, we are depriving ourselves of much needed oxygen and the release of toxic carbon dioxide. Plus, intentionally taking deep breaths can help relieve stress and can be calming.
  3. Get outside (seeing)
    • Going on the same lines of taking deep breaths, going outside to breathe the fresh air really can be an uplifting experience. Also, observing bits of nature can relax you and even make you smile.
  4. Drink a glass of water (taste)
    • Water is essential to a healthy body. We tend to not get enough water on a daily basis. Make it a habit to have a glass of water first thing in the morning so that you can awaken our body after a night’s sleep.
  5. Eat something you enjoy (taste)
    • Eating something we enjoy doesn’t mean binge eating. It can be as simple of having a piece of fresh fruit or one small piece of chocolate. Even drinking a hot beverage can be very satisfying.
  6. Walk Around
    • Moving our bodies helps to lubricate our joints and circulates our blood throughout our body. Walking also gets the heart pumping and doing the job it is meant to do.
  7. Stretch
    • Sometimes a nice, long stretch is all we need to feel rejuvenated. Taking time to stretch our backs, legs, neck, shoulders, etc. also helps relieve stress and tension. Go on YouTube and find a 5-10 minute yoga routine that focuses on stretching.
  8. Listen to a favorite song (hearing)
    • A friend of mine said that music soothes the savage soul. I couldn’t agree more. And when we listen to a favorite song, we immediately feel good. It can be uplifting, calming, and spark good memories!
  9. Put on some Aromatherapy (smell)
    • I mentioned about scents earlier. I love the smell of citrus or fresh scents. They make me happy. Aromatherapy is another way to touch our senses and can make us feel good.
  10. Apply face or body lotion (touch)
    • Don’t neglect your biggest organ of your body…the skin! Treat it well. Put lotion all over, especially the face. You will feel better and look good, too!

How are you going to start taking more time for yourself and practice self-care?

Please drop a comment and share your ideas! I’d love to hear what you do to be a better version of yourself!

Year-End Mental Health Check

Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

It’s the holiday season for most of the world, and with that comes excitement, anticipation and, you guessed it, stress. Why is it that during this time of year that we often times get stressed out and our anxieties are at an all time high? Do we put too much pressure on ourselves? Are we trying to make it the best holiday celebration ever? Are we financially strapped due to the pandemic and loss of employment? How are our families? Do we juggle too much to get it done all in within a month?

The answer is a big fat YES to all these questions and more. It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it certainly carries a certain sense of pressure that can make us feel depleted by the end of the year.

So, why do we put ourselves through it? Better yet, why do we feel the stress or allow it to take over our emotions? Perhaps it is all the ideology behind celebrating and partaking in the joy of the season. All those Hallmark movies and Christmas stories get us all giddy inside and have us wishing or hoping for that perfect holiday. Who doesn’t want to live in a quaint little town, build a snowman and bake the best gingerbread house ever for the town’s annual Christmas baking contest? And lest we forget the main theme of the plot, a romantic story, filled with hope and forever love.

In all seriousness, I do believe we have an image, an expectation of ourselves and our families to have the best Christmas or Hanukkah ever. We want to partake in the fun filled activities that only present themselves during this time of year. We relish the thought of many gatherings with the closest of our friends and families. We love the idea of gift giving (and receiving ;)). There is that magical feeling we want to experience over and over again until we exhaust all opportunities to celebrate the holidays.

Whew! Just writing all that makes me want to take a deep breath! And that is my point of this post. As much as we want to do enjoy all there is available to us, we really must take a pause and check in with ourselves. Are we taking on more that we can handle? Are we trying too hard to make things perfect and worrying too much about that ideal gift, meal or party? Absolutely! I know I get caught up in all the excitement and am like a kid in a candy shop! My eyes are wide and I have the biggest grin on my face because I want it all!

Yet, the reality is that we cannot have it all. We can’t all be bakers. We aren’t all phenomenal decorators, and we certainly aren’t all rich to buy the biggest gifts for our loved ones. If we don’t stop ourselves, we will drain our energy and become irritable and plain exhausted! And no one wants a Grinch at their party!

Families are another issue as well. We are physically separated from our loved ones, sometimes states away, if not countries apart. Our desire to be with each other during the holidays adds another stress factor because we may not always have the means to travel.

Ever since Covid hit, everything has taken a major shift in our way we do things and so our original plans of how to celebrate the holidays are pretty much washed out. No large gatherings. Everything is now virtual. From birthday parties, to church, most of us will be Zooming with our families and friends this year. If that didn’t add already to our regular stress, now we have to deal with ensuring everyone has their technology in place so that that Grandma can see little baby Susie for the first time.

I am not trying to make light of this, but we really need to stop and just take a moment to observe what is happening around us and make sure we aren’t falling into an abys. Since many of us have had to quarantine and stay away from loved ones, our desire to see one another is likely much higher this year. However, if we want to have future holidays with our friends and families, we must adhere to keeping safe and healthy. Thus, we remain isolated and many of us alone.

According to Mental Health America, there has been a significant increase of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts since the pandemic hit the U.S. in 2020. The increase is prevalent in our youth and in minorities. What can we do to alleviate our mental illness? How can we get through the holiday season this year after everything we have experienced so far?

There are some things we can do to help. Keep in mind, the list below is not to be a replacement for professional help. This list is for those of us feeling the stress of lauding the holiday season this year.

  1. Put yourself first. We have a tendency to serve others before helping ourselves. Just like the airline attendants instruct us to put the mask on our faces first, then putting it on our children, the same thought applies to taking care of our needs first. We cannot be any good to others if we don’t get the rest, nourishment, exercise and respite needed to be fully available for our families.
  2. Take the focus off of the celebrations and focus on the little moments. We may not be able to do the same things we did in previous years, but we need to stop thinking about what we don’t have and focus on what we DO have right now. If you are healthy, that is wonderful! If you can take a walk outside and enjoy natures beauty, you can really enjoy the simplicity of the season. Think about how our ancestors celebrated the holidays and take a chapter from that book. The simplicity of things can be very rewarding and fullfilling.
  3. Practice daily gratitude and affirmations. Again, stop thinking about the what if’s and why nots and focus on what you are grateful for today. Expressing gratitude on a daily basis is a great way to re-train our brain to think differently under the circumstances. See my previous post Re-Train Your Brain. In addition to expressing gratitude, practicing daily affirmations can be a powerful way of manifesting your future. By saying “I am happy” instead of “I want to be happy”, you are already believing that you are at that current state and it isn’t wishful thinking.
  4. Make a concerted effort to connect with your loved ones. Yes, we are busy, but we are also operating at a slower pace this year. Which means we can take the time to call our families, friends, and other people in our lives that mean something to us. We can schedule weekly zoom calls/meetups. Or we can simply pick up the phone and dial. Hearing our family on the other line is such an endorphin booster!
  5. Listen to music and dance it out! Music has been known to soothe and comfort. It can be uplifting, motivating and calming. Whether you listen to classical, blues, hip hop or anything in between, you will be in a much better mood than before you turned on the tunes. The holiday music is especially fun and energizing, so blast it through your windows for the neighbors to hear!

Whatever you do this month, make it manageable and really focus on the positives. Your mind will thank you!

Retrain Your Brain

image from mindful.org

This year has forced many of us to change the way we think. Some took advantage of picking up new hobbies. Some had to adjust to a different work environment. Many of us had to deal with having the entire family in the home due to kids learning virtually online. Our country has seen a lot of turmoil with racisim, political unrest, and the world-wide health crisis.

We have learned to adapt to our new “normal” and even started to find some positives to some extent. In the beginning, I jumped on the baking wagon and tried all kinds of recipes to entertain myself. Funny thing is, I never stuck to any of it. I had fun, but after trying it once, it was enough to satisfy my curiosity and it served as a check on my bucket list.

Later in the year, I found Tik Tok and this amazing online place to have fun and meet new people. Now, 6 months into using this app, it evolved from doing silly things to using this platform as a means to share my thoughts, almost on a daily basis. Eventually, I found a community of people that shared the same ideas and philosophies as me. I have interacted with others who have inspired me and even got me to stop overthinking and to just start doing things! It has been an amazing experience to find a community of people that I’ve never met who share so many common things!

Most recently, I noticed the “Positivity Crew” has been lifting each other up more and sharing thoughts, experiences and suggestions of what we can do to change our thinking pattern or mindset. This made me think that we need to re-train our brain. Just like our other muscles in our bodies that need to be excercised or stregthened, so does our brain.

Many of us have been stuck in a rutt lately. Several have experienced loss and/or pain. We have witnessed so much in this past year, it is surprising to not get sucked into the quicksand of negativity. It proves we are true survivors!

Personally, I have made it my committment to change my mindset. It has been my purposeful thoughts and actions to continually remind myself, as well as share with others, that there is good in something everyday.

I’m not saying it has been easy. It has been a process, a journey, an awakening. Just like it takes time to break a bad habit, it takes just as much time to stop our negative thinking, and re-train our brain to see things in a more positive light.

Being positive doesn’t mean that you are constantly happy, smiling or laughing, but it is more about how we handle our situations for the better. Having a positive mindset and attitude means we can see good at the end. We are confident that we will not be stuck in our situation and remain hopeless. Some of us set positive affirmations by saying to ourselves we are strong, worthy, loving, smart, etc.

It is so easy to fall into the negative trap of feeling hopeless, awkward, sad, etc. And if we continue to say those things about ourselves, we end up believing that and have a difficult time seeing how amazing we really are as people. Instead, we need to change our direction or flip the switch and start talking about ourselves in a more positive way.

Here is are suggestions of how to keep the momentum:

  • Be Intentional
    • Set a goal or goals you want to achieve each day. They can be simple goals, like completing a task, to more lofty goals so you have something to work towards in a longer term.
  • Be Consistent
    • It’s important to set a routine, and do your best to stick to that routine. Perhaps you start with meditating and excercising. Maybe it’s enjoying a great cup of coffee and reading a book. Whatever your routine is, do your best to stay consistent.
  • Be Grateful
    • Since our lives have slowed down, it has given us the opportunity to appreciate the little things in life. Maybe you enjoy waking up to the sunrise. Taking a moment to pause and be grateful for what we do have in our lives can help your mind feel at peace.

source:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201710/how-train-your-brain-think-differently

The Creative Process

“Pitch that tent, camp for awhile and then head back down that path again.” – Dave Conrey

Sometimes you get stuck and don’t know where you’re heading and so you just kind of sit there and you just don’t move. After watching a video on YouTube from Dave Conrey, an artist from Long Beach, CA, I thought more about this aspect of being stuck and that no matter what, you have to keep moving. You can stop for a little while, but you really cannot stay there too long because once you stop, it’s very hard to get back on track.

In all creative outlets, it is really important to not have full expectations sometimes. In other words, don’t just say, “ok, I have to do this to get to that,” and then you just force it to happen. You may end up having a piece of work that is unsatisfactory. Dave talks about being okay with just accepting the fact that you’re not going to necessarily have an outcome right away, but that it is okay to be open-ended.

Creative people have a lot of expectations of themselves because once they create a certain piece of work that they are super happy about and feel extremely happy about it, the next piece that they work on whether it is a photograph, a written piece or artwork, the next one may not be as good and then you start over analyzing your creative process. With that mindset we end up being dissatisfied.

We need to be open to making mistakes and painting over those layers over and over and over again to keep going, to keep trying, to keep making over and over and over and not stop until you are satisfied. Sounds a bit repetitive, but stick with me here because there is relevance.

I am sort of new to this whole creative world in some ways, although I have always been artistic, creative, crafty. I never stuck to one thing and have explored many interests that I never really considered myself to be a relevant creator. Lately, I have surrounded myself with a community of artists and creators that are more free-minded and free-spirited. I am a free-spirit, however, I tend to put boxes around things and I do set my limits. I’m a realist more than I thought. I like things to be in order, but not in the sense you think. It’s more about me recreating something that is true to what I see.

This new exploration for me is a little scary. It’s like that path in the forest that you take that really isn’t a blazed trail, but there are a few blades of grass down. You say, “ok, sure, I’ll take a walk down here,” and have no clue what you’re going to encounter at the end of that path. When I was younger, I had no problem taking that unpaved path and just said, let’s go! However, in my later years of life, I am more cautious but I’m still curious and I think that’s the point. We cannot lose the curiosity. We shouldn’t lose our sense of wonder.

I think a big part of being a creative person is to never stop going, even if you don’t like the journey at that present moment. Even if you have to rewrite it, you may have to take thousands of pictures until you get that one perfect picture that you really love. You may have to paint layer upon layer upon layer on that canvas until you find the synchronicity of it. You may have to mold that clay several times until you get that piece just the way you want it to be. I think that’s how creative people are…they’re never satisfied, but what they keep doing is trying and they don’t give up. Once you give up, that’s when you’re no longer creative and you end up being an observer.

There’s nothing wrong with being an observer, however, if you are a creator, you tend to take what you observe and do something else with it and that’s the difference between an artist, creator, musician to those that are happy falling in line enjoying the work of others.

It’s crazy, but I have been so influenced by people I’ve interacted on Tik Tok and I know I have mentioned this a few times already about this social media platform. To all the naysayers out there, please read this carefully. Tik Tok has enabled people to connect with others around the world in a positive way. I have expanded my circle of people to open my eyes of how I can think differently or how I could approach things in my life differently. I have been inspired to do something I didn’t think I was capable of doing before pulling the trigger, so to speak. Just picking up the pencil and doodling just to get myself going…these people, my Tik Tok family, have really helped me by giving me that little push I needed.

I may not be the person that becomes famous for my writing or my photography or my drawings for that matter. But what will make me happy is that I’m throwing out into the universe my thoughts, my photographs, my writing and seeing how it inspires others. Maybe it doesn’t do anything or maybe my creations will be seen by one person and that person will then realize that they will try and do something they were afraid to do before.

That is the whole idea, the reason why I am doing what I do. To quote/paraphrase a person I follow, Shane Leketa (aka @liquidshano1973), he says the ripples we start become big waves eventually and so just dropping in that little rock and creating that little tiny ripple eventually will expand and will reach those that need to see it.

I truly believe that my purpose in life, right now, is to share all my ideas with others and see what happens, meanwhile knowing that all the thoughts that are in my mind are actually being put to use, as opposed to keeping them inside only for me.

What are some things you share with others?

Please comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

Bring Back Love and Compassion

It has been a week since the recent 19 year anniversary of September 11th, a day that will forever be marked in history. I found a common theme across my social media circles and that was we need to get back to how we dealt with that tragedy the days following the attack. I saw statements like, “let’s get back to loving one another; can we please bring back compassionate for others?; let’s forget our differences and remember we are one human nation;” and so many other statements.

It seems we have lost our ability over the last several years of how to be supportive and loving towards each other. Judging and hatred and disregarding others opinions have been more prevalent lately over the last few years. It saddens me to see how we can’t keep that feeling of one community and we are so divided over just about anything imaginable. It’s time to take action…one person at a time.

How can one person make such an impact on another? It may be simpler than we think. Shane Leketa, podcaster of Coffee Talk says, “…we need to get back to basics, invest in others, encourage and support one another,” even if we do not fully agree with everything they believe in or say.

When 9/11 happened, our nation truly united. We did anything possible to help by donating our time, money, support, love, and patriotism for our country. It didn’t matter what race, gender, social status you were because all in all, we just wanted to help our fellow human being. We forgot our differences and just pulled together.

Social media has been both a positive way of connecting with others, but has also served as a conduit for anyone to believe they have the right to say just about anything to the world without repercussions. It’s become our medium of venting, complaining, bullying, fighting, pushing our agendas, and anything else in that realm.

Instead of highlighting the negative aspects, let’s see what positive impact social media has had on us. It has enabled us to share our day with others, encourage and lift each other, reconnect with family and old friends, as well as making new connections with others around the world. One thing seems to be common…many are seeking the same thing and that is love and understanding.

Perhaps we can stop hyper focusing and accept the imperfections of things around us. Even things that aren’t perfect have a purpose and light that should be shown.

Back to basics. Family time, friend gatherings, enjoying the little things, going outside and breathing fresh air or re-connecting with nature. We are so blessed to have technology on our side to help us continue to communicate with one another. However, sometimes, we do need to unplug and pay attention to what is in front of us. Our neighbors. Our family. Our friends. Our world.

There are many suffering from mental illness, or going through difficult times with their families. Some people are completely alone and are battling post traumatic stress disorder. Our older generation has been isolated more than ever since this pandemic. our children are losing their innocence of wonder and amazement because they are exposed to so much. Some parents tell their kids everything and some choose to not share all the negative aspects of our world.

It can get overwhelming thinking about all the stressors in life and what everyone experiences on a day to day basis. So, let’s tackle it differently by breaking down the issues into bite sized pieces where we truly can make a difference and start rebuilding our communities.

Invest in others

What does that entail? taking the time to get to know others, not just superficially, but really understand them. Call your elderly parents and say hello. Help your neighbor who is struggling with a piece of lawn equipment. Write a letter to our military troops who are far from home.

Encourage each other

We all can use encouragement. Sometimes if we lift another person’s spirit, ours can be lifted as well. I’m not saying to do this for selfish reasons, but it’s a natural way of human interaction. We feel good when we help others, so don’t stop what comes natural to us and don’t be afraid to offer words of encouragement when you see someone is hurting or not themselves. Be someone’s shoulder to lean on. Be that ear someone needs to listen. Just be there.

It’s OK to Agree to Disagree

One of the most difficult challenges we face is tolerance of others and their differences, yet still be respectful towards one another. Everyone has opinions or beliefs that may not jive with yours and it is totally fine! How boring would life be if we all believed the same way? It’s healthy to have various discussions, but when we start bashing another person’s opinions and start disrespecting their character, then we have overstepped the line.

There is a thing called Rules of Engagement in the military. It is defined as,

“directives meant to describe the circumstances under which ground, naval, and air forces will enter into and continue combat with opposing forces. Formally, rules of engagement refer to the orders issued by a competent military authority that delineate when, where, how, and against whom military force may be used, and they have implications for what actions soldiers may take on their own authority and what directives may be issued by a commanding officer. Rules of engagement are part of a general recognition that procedures and standards are essential to the conduct and effectiveness of civilized warfare.”

https://www.britannica.com/topic/rules-of-engagement-military-directives

Even during World War I, there was an unofficial cease-fire during Christmas. Enemies stopped fighting. They didn’t want to fight one another even though they were on opposite sides. There was a common understanding that no one would fight on Christmas Day. How amazing is that? To think we actually possessed the respect to lay down our firearms so that we could have a day of peace.

I am not saying we need to treat our society like the military, but there is something we can extract from this and how society treats one another and their differences. Tolerance. Respect. Kindness. Love.

We are one human race, on one planet, with invisible lines that border us. We do not have to allow those invisible lines divide us. We can cross over and get back to basics by being compassionate towards other people, despite ourselves.