“It Takes Courage To Be Yourself, When You’ve Lost Yourself”

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“The ‘me’ that was ‘me’, lay in fragments on the floor. So, I colored them one by one, outwardly revealing my brighter inner core” 

 “It takes courage to be yourself, when you’ve lost yourself.” This is the sentence I spoke to my coach this morning. The words described my struggle generating courage in the recent past, to be my true self with others, when I truly felt lost. Stress had overcome me. A paler, fragile version of myself, was boiling on the inside.

Where had my courage gone, and why was I lost? In fact, I had chosen to reject my own courage to be myself, for the sake of commitment, and ultimately lost the ‘me’ that was. While red flags waved, I rejected the warning signs and the swift burning decline of a relationship. I entered the partnership as myself, with deep intentions to grow together, but was unwilling to face the reality of the dysfunctional pairing of two people.

I created the false illusion that forgiveness would fix things. With optimistic intent, I thought this was enough to create change in the relationship. It became my new definition of courage to ‘see things through’. Surely, this would piece together my emotional fragments.  Forgiveness, as it turned out, was ill achieved, and the only courage I had was to voice my anger in response to betrayal. My voice thundered loudly about what I ‘wouldn’t stand for’ which was  in alignment with my values. But, my action to stay physically committed, despite recurring episodes of broken trust, spoke otherwise. I had no courage, as I agreed to roll along with no direction.

The Ending of The Relationship

He left, and my final piece crumbled. Using my imagination, I envisioned how I would bring color back to my life. I imagined my emotional fragments as one day coming together to create a kaleidoscopic canvas, revealing a new ‘me’. To bring forth courage,  I needed to shed my adopted definition, which was to ‘roll along with no direction’.  I chose to embrace my vulnerability, and create a stronger version of myself.  I imagined each loving person in my life as a paintbrush, coloring each fragment; co-creators in my inner work of art.

Last week, after a year of painting a new life, came the unveiling of my true self. My interaction with others was a revealing measurement of the work I had done. My voice and actions aligned with my values, and my presence was fixed with the courage to ‘be me’. I was colorful, alive, and grounded in confidence. I had direction, and was no longer lost.

It took courage to be myself when I was lost, and with it I found forgiveness.

What have you done in your own life to bring forth courage to be yourself? Was there ever a time you rejected your own courage? Please share!

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“Relax, You’ve Got This Handled.”

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The Green Thumb on Positive Growth

Relax, you’ve got this handled. Or do you? You know you should be capable of handling anything. You’re strong, independent, and you’ve dealt with far worse situational drama. In reality the only thing you’re handling is the next glass of wine, to temporarily numb the pain and are fighting to find the strength not to curl up in a ball or blow your stack.

I recall the days when my stress was magnified by well meaning friends and family who would utter the most annoying word of advice: “Relax.” Of course I needed to relax, and if I knew how, I wouldn’t have been be flip flopping between irritably drowning in my sorrows, or lashing out at others….I didn’t have time to go to a spa, let alone sit and appreciate a cup of tea.

It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and all members of my family were healthy. A direct contrast to what I was experiencing. I was devoid of gratitude; the dead plants lining the mantel personified the mindset that I was beyond resurrection of the dark story replaying in my head.

Then, without notice, my family and friends became silent, and my worst fear was realized. I felt abandoned, lost, alone and a new kind of sadness washed over me. Worry overshadowed my negativity, and served as the catalyst to finally take action to change my thoughts and behavior.

Like a bolt of lightening, I awoke to the possibility that I had been suppressing my inability to handle things, and was feverishly trying to appear strong. The term ‘relax’ suddenly took on a deeper meaning….

I began to consciously relax the idea that I had to appear strong, lest others would perceive me as weak. I relaxed the notion that if I went back to being the emotionally visceral person I was, that I would be considered a basket case. I then began to embrace a new desire to communicate to others what was really going on. I allowed my tears to flow, and admitted I needed help in handling my current predicament.

The result was a newfound appreciation of the term relax, and was something I could practice without the excuse of time getting in my way. My smile returned, and I gained new respect from others who shared their relief that I was back to being human.

Finally, I realized I could help others relax their attachment to imaginary outcomes, and begin anew by embracing inner challenges without fear. The best part is, in practicing a relaxed approach to the negative thoughts that enter our minds, we can then banish them, and adopt a green thumb to positive thoughts.  Like magic, we suddenly have time to appreciate a good cup of tea, and the dead plants that line our mantels may once again bloom. Suddenly, you’ve got this handled.

When was the last time you relaxed your thoughts? Share your story below!

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The Shiny Masks We Wear

I’ve noticed my Facebook newsfeed flooded lately with celebrity blogs on the subject of beauty.  Celebrities have removed all traces of makeup in an effort to message the younger generation about the masks worn to create images they can’t possibly live up to in real life.

As a mother of two daughters, approaching the body conscious age, I find this refreshing. What seems to be missing, is the conversation about what’s going on underneath our polished exteriors. It reminded me of the way we sometimes portray ourselves to other, with false smiles, when we are not so polished on the inside. While it’s beneficial to practice smiling to initiate positive feelings, a smile is only half the battle. We wouldn’t dream of driving a shiny, expensive cars without maintaining what’s under the hood, so why do we ignore our own inner beings?

We commit to putting our makeup on, comb our hair and rush out the door and maybe practice a smile in front of the mirror. We’re well equipped with tips on how to cover the bags under our eyes with the right amount of spackle, and how to brighten our cheeks with the latest colors. The masks we wear are indeed, sometimes worn to hide pain, fatigue and stress.

My best friend will tell you, for many years I lied. I lied to myself about how I was really feeling and what was going on in my life. She knows, perhaps better than anyone, my true smile. She always knew when I was wearing my mask to cover my inner turmoil….And she wasn’t afraid to call me out!  I never took for granted her gift in pointing out my habit, and I am grateful to be blessed with a friend who is so brutally honest.

The kind of mask I’m referring to, is usually worn when we stop spouting to our girlfriends about how stressed we are. We become silent, a bit withdrawn, but capable of maintaining our job duties and some social interaction. This is the stage when we feel embarrassed, even worried to bring burden to our friends about our woes, so we shut down. What is referred to as chronic stress, our bodies don’t lie, and masks no longer serve us.

As I was literally putting on my own mask one day, staring into the mirror, my heart began racing. I knew something was wrong, and I called for help. Like a steed galloping out of my chest, my heart was racing at one hundred fifty beats per minute. I was kept overnight in a local hospital and I began to think the worst…. I was headed for a heart attack.

In the months that followed, I awoke each night, unable to take a deep breath, while enduring excruciating abdominal pain. I was certain I was dying. At the same time, my health insurance expired, and the thought of an expensive hospital bill stressed me out more than dying.  Nevertheless, I took action to be seen by my doctor. Several tests were run, and the conclusion was the same… SYMPTOMS OF CHRONIC STRESS. I didn’t like the answer, because I wasn’t ready to admit my relationship was in shambles, and my life was going up in smoke.

Today, I am highly attuned to my body’s ability to warn me when I am taking on too much. I ask myself, “what is one thing I can adjust in this moment to reprogram my stress?” I ask you, what is it your body is telling you? Are you honest about what’s happening in your life?  And, what is one thing in this very moment you can do to reprogram  your stress?Remember, unveiling the mask begins with the courage to share your answer with others! Then, and only then, can your exterior truly shine… with, or without a mask!

Please leave your comment… Your thoughts matter!!

 

 

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What Your Quirky Habit Can Tell You About Stress

What Your ‘Quirkiness’ Can Tell You About Your Stress

Have you ever taken notice of some of the quirky habits you have? While not all quirkiness is related to stress, habits often develop as a result of a subconscious effort to ‘fix’ something that’s bothering us. Taking a peek into your quirky side is a fun way to gain insight into the possible source behind your personal stress and make it easier to create a stress reduction practice that works.

The American Psychological Association reports the number one reason why women don’t address stress is willpower. It makes sense, after all, how appealing is the thought of trudging to the gym three times a week even though we know exercise is number one in reducing stress? At the micro-level, we can make changes that initiate willpower and this is often overlooked…..

My quirk….

For me, journaling and gratitude was in place as a de-stressor and I was still stressed to the max. Why? I had no clue… I was doing everything ‘right’ as far as I was concerned. Turns out, I started developing a quirky habit that involved Salt and Pepper shakers and would serve to clue me in on why I was stressed. For a while I was disturbed when the salt shaker was positioned on the left of the pepper. Am I weird? Yes, but that’s not the point! Am I borderline O.C.D.? That’s debatable. For some reason, I felt balanced when I was viewing the pepper on the left and the salt on the right…..

The feeling of balance was a huge clue that my plate in life was full and needed shifting. Is it any coincidence that my  quirk developed at the kitchen table and my dinner plate was also overflowing…

My sisters were so amused by this, they once swapped the shakers when I left the table to see if I noticed. Automatically, upon my return, my subconscious desire for balance wouldn’t have it. I swapped them back;  my sisters laughing with delight at the absurdity of it!

Before you make fun, one simple, conventional response we all share when seeking balance, is the automatic need to adjust a crooked painting on the wall. Admit it, all is right with the world when a painting hangs straight! Maybe you have a hidden weird quirk that gives you a moment of joy. Or, Maybe your habit is less quirky and as common as positioning cans in your cupboard,  labels pointing perfectly forward to help you feel organized…. even if the rest of your home looks like a robbery in progress.

The above examples provide clues into how you can address your stress….

The kids aren’t really driving you crazy…. it’s the damn overflowing dishes that won’t go away… thank goodness for that orderly cabinet… and so on. 

For me, it wasn’t my partner’s behavior that had me stressed (although I blamed him), it was a simple case of ‘my plate is full’ without a clue it was happening….thank goodness all was right with the salt and pepper!…. and so on….

The point is, when we become habit aware, we can learn something about ourselves…. and our willpower to shift things at the micro-level begins to develop….

As long as you’re not in need of exorcism upon discovery of a turned label, your desire for organization could serve as healthy clue into what bothers you…..You may discover the environment, not your children, is the source of your stress.

The good news is, if a positive feeling is experienced, you’re already primed to create and add new, lasting habits to help you lower your personal stress. You’ve already organized the cabinet, congratulations! Now, go organize your desk and you will lower your anxiety when sitting down to pay those bills!…. Sometimes it’s not the bills, but the environment itself that’s stressing you out…..

My breakthrough happened when I began to understand my quirk and its relation to balance. I needed to figure out what I needed to let go of in my life to feel more balanced…I let go of a volunteer position that was overlapping family schedules, leaving me stressed! The result?  I wasn’t rushed, making me a pleasant person for my family to be around! I was also armed with an extra 1/2 hour to play or kick back! Bingo! Sounds obvious, even simple, but when was the last time you were willing to let go?

As women, we often overlook the simple things that are working for us, or fear letting go of that which isn’t. We forget to be playful, to notice or laugh at our quirks, and become consumed with what is wrong in our lives. We think we can’t possibly let go of bad habits or create new ones to lower our stress….In this case, we think too big!

When next you’re stressed, do these three things…. 

Ask: What  are some of the things you’re prone to falling back on to relieve the feeling of anxiety, frustration or helplessness?

Take notice: Of the little ‘quirky’ things you do that others may find weird, but serve to reenergize you or restore balance.

Then, I challenge you to laugh at yourself and use that energy to create AND PRACTICE new, (and fun), lasting habits that can serve to reprogram your stress! Then, and only then, can you master the bigger things…like exercise, diet changes and budgeting!

3D Stress Solutions for Women

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