Reality Check

You know how you find yourself ruminating about something and you can’t seem to let it go?  It’s that time when someone says or does something and you keep replaying it in your head and thinking “How could they have said that?” or “Why did they treat me like that?”  You know you are really in the thick of it when you start playing the whole thing over and you come up with about 4 different ‘comebacks’ or other things you wish you had said or done.

Recently, I seem to have gotten caught up in a plethora of experiences/interactions that left me shaking my head, wondering what the hell I did wrong, and questioning everything. Then I finally figured out that I needed a serious reality check.  I was getting caught up in my fears, insecurities, and doubts.  It’s one thing to have my own doubts, fears, and such. But when a combination of my own stuff is going on and then I get healthy doses of other people projecting their own jacked up stuff in the form of criticism, judgment, impatience and lack of understanding…well it becomes one heck of a downward spiral.

So the thing is, I like peace in my life.  I like ease and understanding.  When those things are lacking, I immediately look inward to figure out what is going on and what I can change.  What I have found is that sometimes all I need is a basic reality check.  Think about it like an insurance claim.  Stick to the fact, nothing but the facts.  Leave out all emotions, assumptions, and impact.  What actually happened?

An example could be:  “This person said something that hurt my feelings.”

The reality check?  Someone made a statement.  It’s not about denying feelings were in fact hurt, it’s about the fact that the only thing that happened in that moment was someone made a statement.  Can you take that statement, interpret it, internalize it, then experience in a variety of ways?  Sure.  And that is the exact stuff to let go for a true reality check. When you start to play it out in your head and determine that the statement was right or wrong, that it was given with disrespect, that it somehow reflects your value; you are including assumptions and judgement.  But it’s not about making assumptions OR judgement.  It’s about looking at the facts.  A statement was made.  An action was taken.   It does not have to define everything you are or represent the whole world.

The reality check doesn’t make a hurtful interaction go away, it doesn’t make a feeling not be present. It simply allows an opportunity to gain some objectivity and practice some self compassion and kindness.  When we release our emotional attachments and judgments we can allow more room for understanding which ultimately can create a path of love through the form of forgiveness (whether it be for ourselves or someone else).

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Presence for Presents

Pile of gorgeous gifts

Pile of gorgeous gifts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love the holidays.  I love anything that brings people together and nurtures connection with each other.  Unfortunately, a by-product of all this connection is the much dreaded gift exchanges and holiday purchases that sometimes overshadow the spirit of the season. This post is created in the spirit of including some presence in the presents of the season.  🙂

Here’s the deal.  The best presents for people are rarely advertised on the front of a store ad.  There are not “limited quantities” of an honest expression of love and gratitude.  Yes, you can put objects in a package and tie a pretty bow around them, but when you are truly celebrating another person it is less like a chore and more like an opportunity.  An opportunity to express yourself and the meaning of your relationship and an opportunity to engage in a delightful experience of kindness.

The catch is that it may take more than a few minutes of late night online shopping to find a true reflection of all these things.  This is where the idea of presence comes in.  I’m not suggesting you spend hours in meditation to figure out the perfect gift.  But maybe spend a few minutes figuring out what each person likes, what words represent their personality, what activities do they enjoy, or what dream have they ever expressed to you?  Sometimes if you can just write down the person’s name and jot down the first 6-10 descriptors that come to mind when you think of that person…it could be helpful in you figuring out something that would truly celebrate who they are.

Another exploration of your presence is to reflect on something that you really want to share with people this holiday season.  What has inspired you lately?  What has made your heart sing?  Is there a way to share that with the people in your life?

Consider this an invitation for all of us to include a sense of presence for the presents we all buy/make and distribute this year.  This comes naturally to some people and not so naturally for others.  If you are needing a little inspiration to get your creative ideas flowing consider these strategies to incorporate presence this season:

-Gift an experience instead of just a ‘thing’.  This could be in the form of movie passes, a coupon for a painting class or workshop, or tickets to a musical concert.  Depending on the experience, maybe you can even share the experience with them!

-Gift positivity.  Create affirmations for your friends.  There are a ton of sites that include affirmations for all sorts of categories ranging from love, friendships, workplace, and spirituality.

-Gift inspiration (in the form of famous quotes, calendars, or photography).  Take your own photo and frame it or type up your favorite quote on cardstock.

-Gift music.  Burn a CD with your favorite songs from this year or something they may not normally listen to.

-Gift gratitude.  Make a gratitude jar/container.  Label it and create a starter kit for them.  If you are feeling particularly grateful, include notes of gratitude from you to them and place them in the jar for them to read later.

-Gift silly.  Create coupons for ‘night off from cooking/cleaning the kitchen.’ or “all day pass to watch sports on tv without complaint.’

-Gift practical.  If you know someone writes a lot, gift them notebooks and pens.  If you know someone who drinks tea every day, pick up a variety pack of flavors for them.

-Gift connection.  If you are missing someone, gift them cards with envelopes and stamps so you can stay connected.

-Gift your gifts.  If you make the best oatmeal raisin cookies ever…gift them to people along with your secret recipe.  This works for any food item that is your claim to fame.  🙂  Include an uplifting movie and you have a family gift ready to share.

Whatever you do….make it fun.  Make it goofy.  Make it real.  And make it personal.  Those are the things that make it meaningful.  Not only do I believe that is the true spirit of the holidays, but I believe it is the core of our spirit each and every day.

Wishing you peace, love, and good health this holiday season.

 

Holiday check-up

Holiday Lights

Holiday Lights (Photo credit: ImageMD)

Who is ready for the holidays?!  If you just responded with an exasperated sigh or cringed as you read those words, this may be a good post for you.

This time is mentally and physically exhausting all by itself, so why not consider doing a quick mental health check-up before you find yourself wanting to call in sick to your next holiday event?

 

Here are some areas to consider:

1)      First, you may want to check your emotional temperature.  Are you running hot lately?  Noticing a tendency to respond in anger?  If so, ask yourself what is underlying the anger?  Maybe you’re sad, maybe you are feeling insecure about something, or maybe you are just overwhelmed.  Irritability can be an indicator of all sorts of things, both emotional and physical.  Spend a few minutes thinking about the last few things that have gotten you really upset.  Notice if there is a theme or common thread.  Then create a plan to unwind or unplug each day and create a space of calm.  If you are able to meditate (or what I sometimes do,  which is simply sit still for a few minutes)…it has been show to decrease feelings of irritability and anger greatly. It’s amazing how even 60 seconds of stillness positively impacts our emotional well-being.

2)      Second, how is your appetite?   Are you eating your feelings?  Have you been reaching for extra servings of carbs and sweets?  Think about what is it that you may be trying to compensate for.  Another thought is to really consider what makes you feel “full”.  Are you seeking out activities that inspire you and fill your heart with joy?  Think about something that you can set some time aside for that truly fills you up (without all the extra calories).

3)      How is your energy level?  Are you waking up only to wish for another hour of snooze time?  And more importantly, are you pushing through the day feeling like you slept on a bed of rocks?  Getting enough sleep impacts everything from our mental sharpness, our emotional responses, and ability to problem solve. Energy level is also impacted by what we put in our bodies and if we are not eating enough balanced nutrition and taking in enough water….our whole system suffers.  Also consider what kind of energy is surrounding you.  If you are rubbing elbows with negative people all day, that’s gonna run you down.  Sometimes you can’t escape a cranky co-worker, but maybe you can take extra steps to limit contact and be ready to respond with extra kindness and positivity.  It may be as simple as repeating a positive affirmation or even faking a smile until it feels real.  Yes, that does work.  Try it right now if you don’t believe me.

4)      Now, let’s talk about your flexibility.   Nope, this isn’t about being about to touch your toes (though it is important)!  It’s about being open to a new experiences and rolling with the flow.  Are you hearing yourself explain why you can’t do something, or why something automatically won’t work?  Rigid thinking leads us to experience higher level of stress and releases all those hormones that contribute to feeling fatigued, irritable, and generally uninspired.  Start stretching yourself.  Try to resist the impulse to immediately think why something won’t work and think about how you are willing to try.  If you are going through a lot of changes, give yourself permission to feel a bundle of emotions but work on identifying what type of support you need while you’re going through the change.  Do you need someone to hear you and validate you? Or maybe you just need to acknowledge that the change is scary as hell and you’re feeling scared or fearful.  It’s okay to feel all those things.  There is something powerful about acknowledging and owning feelings of vulnerability.  Again, this about increasing awareness.  There may not be a quick fix or solution…but a higher sense of awareness can serve you well.

5)      And finally, when’s the last time you checked your vision for yourself?  How far are you able to see in the future?  I’m not talking about a psychic hotline kind of stuff, I’m referring to feeling hopeful and goal-oriented.  Have you reviewed your goals for yourself lately  or even better, have you set some new ones?  Don’t wait until a new year’s resolution party….write down a couple of things that you would like to do now and create a plan of action to go along with it.  Include the people who you need support from and a timeline.  One of the most powerful ways to instill hope is to create a goal.  When you create goals, you acknowledge that something IS possible.  That is the crux of what hope is, believing in a possibility.  It doesn’t have to be an elaborate 5 year plan.  It can be something as simple as listing off the chores you want to accomplish by the end your weekend.  Next time someone asks you why you are writing out a ‘to do’ list, just tell them that you are engaging in an act of hope.

 

Yes, the holidays are coming whether we are ready or not.  So why not take a few minutes and think about your emotional health and where you are today before taking on a whole new set of worries, tasks, and responsibilities.   Who knows, maybe if you take the time to increase your awareness and possibly incorporate some strategies now; you may not end up screaming at your in-laws at the next family dinner or flipping out about the lack of adequate parking at the local shopping mall. Okay, maybe that last point was a stretch, but never underestimate the power of positive thinking.  🙂

Summer vacation

va-ca-tion: Noun.  1: a respite or a time of respite from something: intermission. 2 a:  scheduled period during which activity (as of court or school) is suspended b:  a period of exemption from work granted to an employee 3: a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation (Webster’s Dictionary).

I will never forget  a conversation with a boss about vacations.  I was experiencing a particularly stressful time at work with some of the most mentally taxing cases that I had encountered and the idea of ‘burn-out’ seemed like a step up from where I was in that moment.  Feeling full of despair, I remarked that I desperately needed a vacation.  His response was “You have to realize that vacation will not solve your problems of how you are feeling.  Escaping only provides temporary relief.  The real issue is for you to find a way to achieve peace and inner calm without having to physically leave and go somewhere.”  Granted, I know he had positive intent when he provided me that insight but all I heard was “blah, blah, blah, buck up and keep going.”  Needless to say, I didn’t receive the wisdom very well and rationalized his advice as ‘fluff’ that can only come from people who get 6 weeks of vacation a year.  Therefore, I rejected his advice and the equally insightful guidance that followed and proceeded to wallow in self-pity instead of figuring out how to navigate the enormity of my emotional and physical state of exhaustion.

Eventually, I managed to explore some options and restore my spirit, and now I can truly appreciate what he was getting at with his statements.  Here’s the deal.  We have a right to enjoy vacations, but it can’t be the answer to life’s complex and exhausting challenges.  It can provide us with relaxation, adventure, and a pause of our daily chores, but if we look at it with great expectations of erasing stress and wiping our memories of pain, heartache, and turmoil; we will only set ourselves up for deeper disappointment when we return to the reality of our everyday lives.

There is something magical that can happen on a vacation; we tend to notice nature more, not be in such a hurry, be more open to love and hope, and generally allow ourselves to take good care.  And the most amazing phenomenon that happens (sometimes), is that we realize everything we need is within us no matter where we go.

Vacations can help us reconnect with our spirits but we don’t have to travel a great distance to achieve an inner state of calm. I mean, it’s not like we become different people on vacation.  We are always there.  We convince ourselves into thinking that vacation helps us be calmer, happier, and more content. But let’s get real, we don’t turn into ideal human beings just because we don’t have to worry about laundry for a few days or sit in bumper to bumper traffic.  The core of who we are is always present, unfortunately we are just too dang busy to notice while we are working all day, managing our personal life, and keeping up with endless tasks that create our ‘daily grind’.

I wish we all were guaranteed weeks of vacation every year to the destination of our choice, but the reality is that most of us simply don’t have that type of luxury. However, nobody says we can’t take a mini-vacation of our own without ever having to pack a bag.  Here are some ideas that can give us an ‘intermission’ from the daily grind and encourage us to take in some of the awesome things that surround us each day.

  1. Lose yourself in a good book for a couple of hours
  2. Take a class in something you have always wanted to try
  3. Visit a museum
  4. Explore a park or take a walk outside
  5. Drive a totally different way to work one day or drive in silence for a while
  6. Prepare a dinner that you have never eaten before (or go to a brand new restaurant)
  7. Get up and watch the sun rise tomorrow (or watch the sun set tonight)
  8. Lay out and watch the stars for an hour ( I hear there will be awesome meteor showers in mid August!   http://stardate.org/nightsky/meteors )
  9. Give yourself permission to do absolutely no household chores for a few days
  10. Go to bed early or sleep in late

Yes, summer vacation can be a magical time, but so can today.  We just have to decide if we want to use our senses to take in the beauty and awe that exists in abundance everywhere or simply ‘save’ it for those elusive vacation days.

My suggestion is to embrace today.  Listen to your spirit.  Hear what it needs and explore your options to appease it.  Then, just maybe, the idea of vacation (in any season) will take on a whole new meaning. 🙂

vacation pic