Some time back in graduate school I realized that if I don’t ask for help when I need it, it might never come. Like so many women, I’d spent the first several years of my marriage expecting my husband, OJ (no, not Simpson), to just “see” what I needed, wanting him to “notice on his own,” feeling that if I had to actually tell him what was wrong then he obviously didn’t love me well enough. Sound familiar?
We’ve all seen this before, whether in a friend, on TV or in our own relationships. But friends, I hate to break it to you—if you don’t ask for what you need you can’t expect to receive it. It’s a lesson old as scripture, “Ask and ye shall receive” (John 16:24). Yet how often do we forget to ask, standing like fools waiting endlessly for a thing that will never come. Instead, try letting go of your expectations and pride and asking. Asking is, after all, the key to receiving.
How to Get Your Needs Met: 4 Tips
1) Before you can ask for what you need, you have to know what you need.
Often we don’t ask because we simply don’t know. Taking stock of our needs on a regular basis is a good idea for overall well-being in all realms: physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual. The sooner we recognize a need and fill it, the easier life becomes; we end up preventing the bigger problems that arise when needs pile up over time. Thus, examining your needs is an important tool, and the first step of asking for them to be met.
2) Once you know what you need to ask for, state it clearly.
Too often we know what we need but fail in our attempt to communicate it. We beat around the bush, mince words, or hint at what we need, again hoping the other person will just “get it” and take care of things. But people are not mind readers, and most of the time others just aren’t good at filling in the blanks. Stating clearly what you need is crucial to actually getting it. The more specific you are, the better. Don’t just say, “Honey, I need a nap sometime, maybe.” Say, “Honey, I need a nap, so if I go in my room now for an hour would you please watch the kids and actually play with them and guard the door so they won’t wake me up?” with a smile of course. (Obviously I have personal experience with this one). Be clear. Be direct. Be willing to ask for exactly what you need.
3) Ask the right person.
Not everyone is equipped to give you exactly what you need. If you need help with childcare, ask someone who loves your child; if you need help with housework, ask someone who knows how to make a bed. If you need someone to just listen, ask someone who can let you be the focus of the conversation for a while. Just because one person isn’t able to provide what you need doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be asking. Keep asking until you find the one willing and able to serve you best. Also, don’t be afraid of “putting them out” or “burdening them”. Just as it is your responsibility to take care of what you need, they are responsible for their needs and can say no if they choose. As one of my favorite wise men once said, “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.” Allowing others to meet our needs blesses them with the opportunity to serve and grow too. It’s a win-win situation.
4) And finally: Don’t forget to ask your Higher Power.
Connecting to the Source that knows and understands your needs better than anyone is the surest way to receive what you need. Sometimes it comes as a change in how you feel or in a whisper that lets you know you’re not alone and that you are loved. Sometimes it’s a sudden knowing–that light-bulb moment of what you must do, or the motivation, perhaps, to actually do it. It may come in the form of a dream, a song, or a piece of art that speaks to your soul. Or it may be a feeling of peace that sweeps over you, a quiet sense that everything will be ok. The act of asking is an act of faith, and, faith is the beginning of all things that come into being.
Ask and Receive
You’ll be amazed how easily your needs can be met if you simply ask. Get clear on what you need. Seek out the person to best help you fill that need. Seek the Divine. And ask. Then, stand, ready to receive.
 Hinkley, G. (1979). The Abundant Life. Tambuli, June, vol. 3.
Powerful emotions can be scary. Grief, anger, sadness, pain, fear, can feel intense, overwhelming, and out of control. We fear feeling powerful emotions because we believe they will overtake us; we fear that once they are free, we may never be free of them again.
So, we ignore, distract ourselves from, and eventually box these emotions up and shove them deep down, like caged predators, in an effort to prevent the frightening consequences we envision if they were ever to escape. But, as a wise woman once said, “Just because your feelings are buried alive doesn’t mean that they die.”(1) In fact, the longer feelings are buried, the more they fester and grow, until they control us, stronger than ever.
Emotions are Simply Emotions
What are we really afraid of? Sure, they feel immense, but all emotions, however powerful as they may appear, are simply that—emotions. Like the clouds that float across the sky may appear threatening, the most they can do is rain or hail or snow for a little while. Emotions are the same. And in raining, hailing, snowing, the clouds lose their power. They literally dissipate. So it is with emotions. We fear their threatening appearance and run from the rain of feelings, but it is only through allowing the rains to fall that the darkness and threat eventually drains away and disappears. Feelings, once felt, don’t stay for long.
Instead of running from, ignoring, burying, or fearing emotions, we need to FEEL them. And by FEEL, I mean: Freely Experience Emotion with Love. It’s not easy, especially if you’re used to ignoring feelings, but this 3-Minute Therapy YouTube video, “How to Cope with Overwhelming Emotions” shows you how, so check it out. It’s well worth 3 minutes of your time.
FEEL to Heal
You don’t have to force it. Simply let yourself feel what is there. When anger comes, feel angry. If fear has you in its grips, really focus on feeling that fear. When sadness weighs like a boulder on your heart, feel sad. Cry. Scream. Hear yourself say you may never get up again. Feel it. Then, love yourself. Be kind. Compassionate. Take care of yourself. And the pressure will loosen, just a bit. The chest will inhale just a little easier.
Only after you FEEL will you begin to heal. As you sit with your emotions, feel them, and love yourself through, you take the control back. The emotions no longer remain stuck and festering, but begin to unfasten themselves from being a part of you. And it is only then that you will see, they never really were.
How do you cope with powerful emotions? Have you tried to FEEL them? Leave a comment, below, and let us know!
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Related Posts/ Articles
(1) Iyanla Vanzant, Oprah’s Lifeclass.Read More
I remember when the earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010. A postpartum mom still in the midst of my own life’s traumas, I got my kids off to school, then spent the day nursing my baby, watching the news, and crying. I spent the next day nursing my baby, watching the news, and going online to donate money. It was all I could think to do at the time. And I wanted to do something. I still want to do something.
Hearts Breaking: We Want to Help
Every time another tragedy hits our community, nation, world, my heart breaks. And I know mine isn’t the only one; I know the hearts of so many of you are breaking too. We all want to do something, don’t we? We want to show love to those who’ve been hit hardest with loss; we want to change the way things are, and make the world a safer place.
Personally, I’d love to find all the troubled souls who have and will perpetrate horrific crimes and rehabilitate them before they take their anger, pain, and lack of love out on the innocent anymore. But, sad to say, most of them could never be rehabilitated even if I could find them and even if they received the top treatments. Some people are, unfortunately, so damaged, they can’t let themselves be repaired.
Helping Us Heal
So, instead, I want to help us. I want to bring us a little understanding in the midst of so much insanity. I want to make sure we all know we’re in this together, and I want to help us help each other heal. Thus, I’m sharing just a few of my thoughts, in hopes that they will help someone help someone heal. After all, we can’t do this alone. We’re in it together. We hurt together; we heal together.
7 Ways to Heal From Tragedy Together
1) Whether natural or human-made, each tragedy hurts all of us. From 9-11 to Katrina to Haiti to Japan to Sandy to Sandy Hook to Boston, each community, national, and world hurt takes a little piece of our heart. We are connected, and when one of us hurts, we all hurt. That’s the difference between “us” and “them,” the perpetrators. “They” don’t know we’re all connected. They don’t feel others’ hurts, only their own. But we feel for each other, and that’s why national and world tragedies wound us so deeply. We feel, and that’s a good thing.
2) It should hurt, shouldn’t it? After every tragedy, my clients come in saying, “I don’t know anyone affected directly, but I just hurt. I don’t understand why this hurts so deeply when it’s not happening directly to me.” And I say, “But it is happening directly to you. You may not have the physical wounds to show, but, emotionally, we are all wounded.” It’s good to feel the pain of collective wounds. It means that we care.
3) Tragedy needs empathy. Without empathy, tragedy becomes “the norm”. If we don’t feel the pain of others’ suffering, we let it continue as if it’s ok. And ignoring suffering is not ok. The cure to tragedy is empathy, for empathy means we’re in this together. It means, “You’re not alone and neither am I.” Empathy heals us, heals others, heals the world.
4) So, empathize. It hurts when we empathize. We think, “What if that were me?” and we know that it could have been or still could be. When we empathize with others, we feel their pain. It’s hard to do, but it’s so important. For empathy is the cure for shame, pain, and suffering. If all the perpetrators in this world had received just a little more empathy in their lives, would I be writing this right now? Perhaps not. Empathize. Cry for the lost. Feel their pain. Let it be yours for just a little while.
5) It’s also ok to put the pain away and go back to the life right in front of you. We don’t need to get swallowed up in others’ pain; in fact, when we get swallowed up, it can make things worse. We don’t need to (and shouldn’t) watch the news 24/7, hearing every story of loss. It’s too much, and it only leads to greater anxiety, pain, and fear. It’s ok to focus on our own lives. It’s ok to smile and laugh and keep on living. It helps nothing to let fear and pain stop us in our tracks. Live life and keep on living. It’s ok. It honors those who cannot do the same. It’s the best way.
6) Some people are more sensitive to others’ pain, and tragedy can trigger painful memories of our own. Some people feel the weight of tragedy more than others, and that’s ok. It means you’re empathic, and we’ve already established empathy is a really good thing. Those of us who’ve experienced traumas of our own are also more susceptible to re-experiencing those emotions when new traumas arise. As I say, “What the mind forgets, the body remembers.” When others suffer, it often brings up our own past suffering, whether we want it to or not. That’s why Haiti hit me so hard. Being in the midst of my own grief and loss, I felt the loss of the Haitians as if it were my own. Sometimes, emotions we thought we’d already worked through years before are suddenly right on the surface again, begging for attention.We think, “I already dealt with you. You shouldn’t be here.” But pushing them away doesn’t help long term. They just keep showing up. Instead, we must slow down, breathe, and feel what we feel. Deep breath. Feel it. It’s painful, yes. But feeling is the way to healing.
7) We simply need to show up. That’s all we really need to do. Show up for ourselves. Feel what we feel. Show up for others. Be there to feel it with them. Show up for our communities, nations, for our world. That’s all we really need to do. Just keep showing up.
What are you feeling? Sharing our fears, worries, heartaches helps us heal. I hope you’ll leave us a comment, below, and share yours with us.
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“Slow down and See”:
How to Appreciate the Richness of Life
I’ve had mixed emotions this past week, as I’m sure many of you have. From holiday celebration to national tragedy, my heart and mind have been churning.
It’s easy to let the turmoil of the world weigh us down. And it’s just as easy to keep ourselves so busy that we don’t have to feel much of anything. But, there’s another option–a better one–based on the meaning of the holiday season and the gift that turmoil can offer. It is to slow down and embrace the richness that is all around us.
That’s what this week has given me—more focus, more reverence, more presence, and more of “me” in my life. It has halted me in my tracks and shown me what really matters once again. And my heart is bursting with gratitude.
So today I would like to share the words I’ve been coming back to all week, an excerpt from my upcoming memoir, This is How We Grow (2013). I wrote this in December, 2007, during one of my most turmoil-filled times, and it is my gift to you this holiday season. May you be filled with hope and love, and may you choose to slow down, see, and embrace the richness that life holds in abundance.
“Slow Down & See”
“Living life in the fast lane may get us where we think we want to be in a hurry, but how much do we miss as we fly on by? Everyone I know is busy. There are mouths to feed, bills to pay, things to get done, and hopefully some fun added in the mix as well. It’s not a bad thing to be busy; it’s part of life. But too often we fail to see the beauty and richness simply because we’re going too fast. The slower path is the path of patience, and the gift of the path of patience is the opportunity to see.
Slowing down, breathing deeply and taking a good, long look around enables us to see our gifts, lessons, blessings, and strengths, and to choose to appreciate and learn from them. Sometimes life’s circumstances will knock us out of our fast lane, but more often than not slowing down is a choice we each must make for ourselves. It usually takes conscious effort to slow down and see. As one author writes, “…calm is something you must go after, whereas stress comes after you” (Emotional Freedom, Judith Orloff,p. 38).
It is precisely when stress is coming after us that we most need to slow down and see. Seeing can calm us and open our eyes to what really matters. Seeing involves all the senses—hearing a bird’s song, smelling the love in the dinner on the stove, tasting the salt of a falling tear. By simply noticing the beauty of the world in which we live, we begin to actually see it.
Another way to see is to sit still and search within yourself. The following exercise I do with my clients might help:
Close your eyes, get comfortable, inhale, exhale. Imagine entering a dark room. This room represents your life—emotions, relationships, experiences, dreams, desires, and who you intend to become. You close the door behind you and are enveloped in deep blackness. Slowly, you take out a shiny silver flashlight and flip the switch. Using your flashlight, look around the room little by little. Illuminate every nook, corner, and crevice. Take a searching look at your life—your activities, time, relationships, stresses, successes, blessings, weaknesses, strengths. Be willing to see the areas that need improvement. Be willing to appreciate all the good you see. Be willing to see all the little things that you may have missed along the way. Do not judge. Instead, just focus on letting yourself see everything. Breathe. And let it all be.
As we exit the speeding highway and opt for the slower, scenic route, we find a richness to life, and we wonder how we’ve missed it all this time. We catch the beautiful moments shining right in front of us. And we see. We see our life. We see where we have been. We see where we are headed and have an opportunity to decide if we need to alter our course. We see one another. And when we see, we can’t help but be filled with gratitude and peace, for we no longer miss the blessed gifts sparkling in the gutter that once seemed to be our life. We bend down, see the jewel and choose to pick it up, and, in this way become a little bit richer each time we slow down and choose to see.” (from: This is How We Grow, Hibbert, coming 2013).
Reach out and share with us: What has your heart been saying to you lately? What helps you “appreciate life’s richness”? Please leave us a comment below! And–Warm and Love-filled Holiday Greetings to one and to all!
Why You’ve got it Wrong,
& How to get it Right
“I need more balance in my life!” We hear it all the time. That’s because we feel it all the time—that “unbalanced” sensation begging us to slow down and make some drastic changes before we completely burn out!
I sure feel “unbalanced” several times a year (especially December and May!), and it’s a topic that comes up in my office all the time; so it’s safe to say, I’ve learned a thing or two about “balance”. But you might not like what I have to say, because what I have to say about balance is this: “Most of us have got it all wrong!”
Achiveing Balance: Why You’ve Got it Wrong
“Balance” is a myth.
I’ve long felt this to be true, but it’s taken me some time to really grasp why it’s so. “Balance” is not a tangible thing—it’s not like achieving a goal, like getting that new job, finishing your book, or losing weight. “Balance” is a state of being—a by-product of how we live our life. It’s a by-product of the choices we make.
If you’re aiming for “balance,” you’ll miss the mark every time.
There are articles a-plenty telling us how to “find balance” or “create a balanced life,” but while the suggestions in these articles may be helpful, the foundational principle upon which they are based is false. This is the trouble with seeking “balance” and why so many of us never achieve it—because it’s not achievable.
Balance is not something you do. It’s something you feel about what you do.
“Balance” is a sensation, emotion, experience; it’s a noun, or, at best, an adjective (like a “balanced” diet or “balanced” checkbook!). But it’s not a verb—not when we’re talking about this type of “balance”. You can’t tell yourself to “Balance” unless it’s on a beam. So, it’s impossible to just aim for and “achieve” balance, and that’s what gets us into trouble. Are you with me so far?
Achieving Balance: How to Get it Right
So, how can we achieve a balanced state of being?
It’s really about “Choices”.
Instead of seeking for this mysterious thing called “balance” what we really need to focus on are the choices we make each and every moment of each and every day. While we can’t tell ourselves to “Balance,” we can tell ourselves to “Choose” the best options to create the sensation of balance. The action of choosing wisely can lead to feeling “balanced” because our sense of balance is really a consequence of the action of making choices.
Each choice can lead toward or away from “Balance”.
Each choice you make can lead you toward or away from a sense of balance. For example, choosing to watch TV instead of exercising or choosing to say “yes” to another thing instead of a loving “no” so you can have some down time, are both choices likely to lead away from a sense of balance. Whereas, choosing to get to bed early, put healthy foods in your body, and make some time for yourself are likely to lead toward feelings of “balance” and wellness.
Just because we understand this doesn’t suddenly make us feel balanced.
Even though I know “balance” is a myth, I still cycle around. Life’s circumstances—health, kids, work, and yes, even the choices of others—impact our own choices and can impact that cycle. But understanding these principles can make it easier to see your signs of “unbalanced” life and to know what choices to choose in order to bring balance back around. It might not happen overnight, but focusing on the choices you’re making each day is the surest way to finally “achieve balance”.
What do you think? Is balance really a myth? What are your strategies for “achieving balance”? I’d love to hear your responses and ideas, so leave a comment below!
Don’t Miss a Thing!
The 3 Layers of Self-Care:
Build a Healthier, Happier YOU!
I know some amazing women—beautiful, gifted, talented women. I know women who quilt, bake bread, teach, volunteer. I know women who are excellent mothers, who juggle jobs and church service and still bring dinner to anyone in need. I know women who will show up at your door and help you clean your house, who are always available to help with your kids, who remember the birthday of every single person in your family. I simply cannot hide my enthusiasm for being a woman and for the women I know—women are incredible.
Selfless or Self-Less?
While we women can be great at taking care of others, however, there’s one thing many of us are not particularly good at—taking care of ourselves. Too many of us confuse “self-care” with “self-ish”. I hear it all the time, “I feel so selfish if I…make my kids ride the bus, hire a babysitter so I can do something I love, soak in a bath with a good book.” But, as a wise friend once pointed out, “How can you be selfish if you don’t even have a self?”
Good question. I have actually found self-less-ness to be much more of a problem for most women than selfishness. I’m not talking about the good kind of selflessness—the kind where you sacrifice for another person out of love and also practice self-care. I’m talking about completely forgetting you even are a self, forgetting what you like or love, forgetting who you are. It can become so pervasive that I end up seeing these women as empty nesters in therapy because, now that the kids have left, they have no idea who they are. Their relationships are in trouble and they feel completely lost. When I ask the simple question, “What do you like to do?” the reply is always the same, “I don’t know—it’s been so long since I’ve thought of doing anything for me.”
Self-Care=Nurturing the Nurturer
Now, I am a believer is sacrifice, in service, even in selflessness. But the truth is, without self-care, we become self-less, or less of ourselves, and that does not benefit anyone. Imagine your list of “to do” items for a week. How effective are you when you’re sick, exhausted, stressed? We can’t take very good care of everyone else if we aren’t well ourselves. Thus, we must make ourselves a priority, put ourselves on our “list”. I’m not talking about lying around eating bon-bons all day; I’m talking about nurturing the nurturer. Yes, I’m talking about nurturing ourselves through self-care.
The 3 Layers of Self-Care
The way I see it, there are three layers of self-care, or nurturing, that we should incorporate into our daily, weekly and yearly lives. Like building the perfect cake requires a sturdy foundation, so we build upon self-care. When stress or troubles come, we go back to strengthen layer one before we can build layers 2 or 3. So, wherever you are in your self-care, sit up, take note, and then take action. Make sure that “self” of yours is strong, healthy, and happy, by focusing on the 3 layers of self care!
Layer 1–Absolute Necessity Self-Care:
The first layer is what I call “Absolute Necessity Self-Care”—eating right, exercising, sleeping, showering–you know, the basics. This is the foundational layer of self-care, and if it’s not met, you’ll never get to the top layers. Do you make time for a nap when you are run down? Are you filling up on empty calories and caffeine instead of getting out to shop for energy-producing foods? Are you able to squeeze in a shower and get dressed into something other than sweat pants? Basically, are you doing what needs to be done to keep you healthy and well? Listen to your body–if you’re exhausted, stressed, mentally or physically ill, or injured, you are probably lacking in absolute necessity self-care. Stop and decide to take care of yourself. After all, if layer one isn’t met then you not only won’t be effective, you will eventually completely burn out.
Layer 2–Essential Self-Care:
The next layer involves making time for the things that really matter—time to process, to ponder, to learn, to grow, to focus on relationships and connection, to engage in those “extra” essentials that not only keep you physically strong but nurture you spiritually and emotionally. I call this layer “Essential Self-Care,” for though we don’t always believe it, it is essential to create time and space for learning and growing, for the people we love, for those things that add to us and continually remind us of who we really are. Are you making space in your life for the things that matter most to you? If not, and you’re already taking care of layer one, then it’s time to focus on layer two. It’s essential–for, if you are reaching layer two self-care you will find greater energy, connection, light, and love in all that you do.
Layer 3–”Icing on the Cake” Self-Care:
Finally, there is the top layer—“Icing on the Cake” Self-Care. The top layer involves those things that bring the spark right out of us—the fun, relaxing, engaging parts of life. For some, this may involve hobbies or passions, for others it may involve more down time, and for some, work is part of the “icing on the cake.” These are the moments that energize, restore, and light us up; and, though they might happen a little less often, or we may have to make them happen, they are just as important to our overall well-being as the other two layers. After all, don’t you want to be a joyful person, excited by life? If so, then, what lights you up? One thing I love is going to concerts. I forgot that for a while. But now that I know it, I try to go a few times a year. And now that my kids are older and into music, I often take them too. It is a wonderful time together and I always leave feeling motivated to write music or practice more. This is one little example of layer three self-care, the icing on my cake.
Build a Healthier, Happier YOU!
So start today to build a healthier, happier you–examine your physical, spiritual, intellectual, social and emotional sides and take stock of how you’re doing as caretaker of your self. Are you on your “list?” If not, add yourself today. Do something nice for yourself. It doesn’t need to be a grand gesture or take long; it can even involve those you love, but do something today. I guarantee you’ll feel stronger and healthier. And those you love will also benefit from your newfound light and strength.
Are you taking good care of yourself? What are your self-care stresses and successes? Which “layer” do you most need to work on? Leave us a comment below!
5 Tips to Turn a Rainy Day Sunny: Overcoming Feelings of Depression
We all have those days when we wake up and it just feels like darkness is all around us. Some have those days quite often. Still others may feel like it’s been months since they’ve glimpsed of the sun.When feelings of depression set in, your whole world and future can feel negative, dark, and clouded. In fact, by definition, depression is a negative view of yourself, the future, and the world. And that’s pretty depressing.
I’ve struggled with depression on and off throughout my life–postpartum depression, and several depressive episodes that lasted for months at a time. I also have days when I wake up and just know that the clouds have socked me in (thank you, hormones!). And I know how hard it can be to overcome the feelings of depression–feelings like frustration, fear, sadness, anxiety, self-disparagement, and isolation. I know it can feel like those emotions have become your identity–like you actually are the depressive feelings.
But let me just tell you–you’re not. Think of it this way. Our emotions are like the weather. We wake up each morning, open the blinds, and find either sunshine, clouds, rain, wind, or snow. Since our emotions are a product of our experiences, our body’s biochemistry, and our thoughts (click here for more on this), we often have little control over the emotions that come our way. Emotions can feel powerful, but, like the weather, can sometimes be impossible to alter. But, also like the weather, we have a choice as to how we deal with the emotions that pop up. If it’s rainy outside, I can choose to stay in and sulk about it, or I can work to put on my galoshes, grab an umbrella, and get out for a while. And who knows? “Getting out” just might lead to a sunnier day.
Overcoming Feelings of Depression:
So how can we turn a rainy day sunny? Here are a four tips to help you get started.
- Remind yourself that depressive emotions are a state, not a trait (just like the weather). The definition of emotion is “a state of feeling”. This is hopeful news, for it reminds us that: 1) our emotions are temporary, 2) they can be changed, and 3) that the emotions we feel do not equal who we are. In fact, since emotion is so easily influenced by temporary states like fatigue, stress, and hormone shifts, many of the depressive feelings don’t really mean what they appear to mean. Thoughts can cause feelings too. So start by changing your thoughts to remind yourself, “My emotions are not me.“
- Accept how you feel. Accepting “what is” is a simple yet powerful tool. If you’re feeling fearful, accept the fear. If you’re feeling hurt, accept the hurt. If you’re feeling depressed, accept the depression. Label it, call it what it is, and do whatever you can to stop pretending it isn’t there. This helps identify what’s really happening and externalizes it from who you are. Remember that “accepting “ how you feel does not mean you “agree” with or “like” it. Just let go of the fight for what isn’t by accepting what is.
- Feel the emotions that come. Sometimes fighting depressive feelings or trying to “not feel depressed” is what’s making things worse. Instead, let yourself take the time to feel what is really there. When you’re able to sit with a powerful emotion and really feel it, you’re then working on releasing its power over you. Sit still, focus on the emotion, and let it fill your body. Breathe deeply as you allow the emotion to rise and speak. Notice that you are not the emotion but rather, you’re behind the emotion, observing it. It can help to do this with a trusted friend or partner who can sit and feel it with you. You can also put a time limit on feeling the emotion if it’s very powerful. Even in small doses, the process of experiencing the emotion can help it begin to let go.
- Focus on the present moment—right here, right now. We are often caught up in the future or the past and this leads to greater suffering. In the present moment, you will usually find that you’re OK. Practice noticing the present and all the good it holds. Use all 5 senses to take in the sights, tastes, smells, sensations, and sounds around you. Focus on nature or your family to remind you of what matters most to you. If you find yourself drifting back to depressive emotions, take a deep breath and use your 5 senses again. After all, life is only lived and loved in the present–you don’t want to let the rain make you miss it!
- Get your body moving. Physical activity is one of the best ways to feelings of depression. Cardiovascular exercise, like walking or running, is particularly good for overcoming fatigue, low energy, and stress, while weight lifting is great for anxiety, tension and self-disparagement. Getting your body moving not only improves your body, it distracts you from the emotions and also generates positive chemicals called endorphins that can make you feel much sunnier. The next time the “rain” sets in, get out for a walk or bike ride, try kickboxing, go hit some golf balls, or hit the weights at the gym. Your body will benefit, and so will your mood!
Do you ever have days that feel “socked in” with rain or snow? What do you do to help you bring the sun? We’d love to hear about your experiences with overcoming depressive feelings, so leave us a comment below!Read More
5 Steps to a Clutter-Free Mind (& Life!)
September is upon us once again, signaling summer is over and fall is on its way. For many, this time of year is a time of back-to-school, back-to-work, and getting families, homes, and life organized after summer fun.
I’ve been busy getting my family and me into our new schedules and routines, cleaning out the clutter we’ve gathered from summer travels, and finishing the jobs we’ve put off all summer long (like painting!). You know what they say about a cluttered home—it’s a sign of a cluttered mind. And if the mind is cluttered, then we’re bound to find less rest, feel more stressed, and experience less peace and joy. That’s why, along with organizing my family and home, I’ve been working on organizing me, and more specifically, my mind.
The 5 Steps:
So, allow me to share the 5 steps I’ve been using de-clutter my mind in hopes that it will help you de-clutter yours. Already I’m finding more of the joy that my cluttered mind has been hiding, and I expect that you will find the same. For, a clutter-free mind is the key to a clutter-free, abundant, life!
1) Slow Down: It’s hard to have a clear mind when you’re just trying to keep up with tasks, schedules, information, and activities. As one of my favorite wise men has said, “When stress levels rise, when distress appears…too often we attempt to keep up the same frantic pace or even accelerate, thinking somehow the more rushed our pace, the better off we will be…. Because (we) unnecessarily complicate (our) lives, (we) often feel increased frustration, diminished joy, and too little sense of meaning.” Forcing yourself forward when you feel overwhelmed is a recipe for a meltdown. Instead, slow down, allowing you to step out of the busy, cluttered mind.
2) Get Still & Tune In: De-cluttering requires more than simply slowing down; it requires stillness. By “stillness” I mean time and space to ponder, reflect, and feel out the changes you need to make. If you fill every minute with movement and busyness you will never enjoy a peaceful mind, for your mind will continually be tuned out. Instead, tune in—in to a deeper sense of who you are and what you desire. Only through stillness and tuning in will you discover the peace lying beneath all the clutter. (More on stillness & meditation).
3) Get Real: Once you’re slowed down and still, you can remind yourself that most of what clutters your mind is unnecessary, unimportant, and unworthy of so much attention. The mind is, after all, made up of what you give your attention to. Ask yourself: “What really matters to me?” “What good things does my heart truly desire?” and write down your answers. Then ask, “Am I focusing my time on these things that matter most?” Be honest, take your time, and get real. Getting honest and real with yourself is the key to discovering the truth about how you spend your time and our mental energy. Only then can you do something about it. (Read “What Matters Most”).
4) Cut the Clutter: If you’ve worked through steps 1-3, you’re finally ready to cut the clutter. Be firm with yourself, cutting out activities, expectations, and yes, even people, who aren’t part of what matters most to you. Then, get even tougher. Cut out the thoughts and ideas that clutter your mind. (One of the thoughts I’m cutting is “I’m exhausted!” Even if it’s true, it doesn’t help to have it running through my mind!). Then, cut out the emotions that weigh you down, and seek to replace them with those that help you feel alive and well! I know this isn’t easy, so re-visit your list of what matters most, and remind yourself of why you’re cutting these things. Your new mantra can be: “If it’s not part of what matters most to me, then I don’t need it!”. (Read “Thought Management”).
5) Let the Rest Go: Let go of the need to keep unnecessary things in your life. Let go of the need to “do” just to feel like you can “be” someone of value. Remember that value doesn’t come from what you do or what you think. Value comes from who you are deep down, beneath all the mind clutter. So, get in touch with that, then let the rest go. (Read “Getting Good at The Let-Go’s).
As a bonus 6th step I’ll add, “Repeat as Needed.” De-cluttering life is a process, but if you follow these steps, your clutter-free mind can lead to an abundant life! As Bruce Lee once said, “Absorb what is useful. Discard what is not. Add what is uniquely your own.” Here’s to absorbing, discarding, and adding uniqueness in the pursuit of the de-cluttered mind and life!
What helps you de-clutter your mind and life? Leave us a comment and share your thoughts!
 Uchtdorf, D. “Of Things That Matter Most”. Ensign Magazine. October, 2010.
“Sleep Better, Cope Better”:
6 Insomnia Causes & Cures
Sleep is one of the best tools to improve mental health. It serves to restore the mind, gives us energy to handle life’s situations, and helps us manage our emotions too. Lack of sleep is associated with higher rates of anxiety, depression, stress, worry, poorer thinking, decision-making, and judgment, and overall, poorer coping. As I always say, “Sleep better, cope better”.
And I would know. Having struggled with insomnia off and on for most of my life, I know that when I’m sleep deprived I’m grumpy, irritable, and just can’t seem to be nice! That’s why I’ve focused so much of my education on the topic of sleep—I know the extreme difference that quality sleep can make. And I’m not alone. An estimated 30 to 55 % of Americans will struggle with insomnia in their lifetime, and that makes for an awful lot of poorly coping folks out there!
If you feel like you’re one of those poorly coping folks, then I’m here to help. Below are some of the most common causes of insomnia that I see in my practice (and in myself!) and some of the solutions I usually offer. I hope they help you sleep easier and cope better!
6 Insomnia Causes & Cures:
Cause#1: You can’t settle down to sleep in your bedroom at night.
Cure: Establish a bedroom and bedtime routine that encourage sleep. 1) Set your bedroom up with soothing colors, a comfortable mattress and bedding, and items that calm you. Use your bed for sleep only, and refrain from doing mentally stimulating activities in your bedroom like work or even watching TV. 2) Then, remember that bedtime routines aren’t just for kids–adults need them too! Your mind and body need time to quiet down, so begin your routine an hour before you want to fall asleep. Your routine might include getting ready for bed, reading, taking a bath or shower, listening to calming music, or whatever promotes sleep for you. Do what works for you, and be consistent!
Cause #2: Thoughts, worries, and negative emotions flood you when you lie down to sleep.
Cure: Write it down, then “dream” yourself to sleep! 1) Turn on the light and write it all down. Getting the thoughts or worries out on paper gets them out of your head, reduces intense emotions, and gives you the chance to leave it ‘til morning and fall asleep easier. 2) Then, instead of thinking of all the “negative” stuff before you fall sleep, focus on the good. Visualize your desires, hopes and vision for the future, and “dream” yourself to sleep. You’ll not only fall asleep smiling, you’ll sleep better and wake happier too!
Cause #3: You can’t relax enough to fall asleep.
Cure: Go to bed only when you’re sleepy, and learn relaxation skills. 1) Make sure you only go to sleep when you feel sleepy. If you’re not sleepy yet, engage in a calm activity (like reading, light housework, etc.) until you’re ready to lie down. 2) Another great tool is to learn relaxation skills like deep breathing, meditation, and visualization. Then, practice these skills for 10-30 minutes before bed. Listening to the same soothing music each night is also a good way to condition your body to relax into sleep.
Cause #4: You feel sleepy in the daytime and awake at bedtime.
Cure: Re-program your body to fall asleep on time. 1) Limit caffeine and sugar after about 3 pm. 2) Set your alarm to start waking you up earlier. This should help you feel more tired at bedtime. 3) If these aren’t working, your internal “clock” might be off. You can reset your circadian rhythms with light therapy. Sit in direct sunlight (either by a window or outside) in the early morning for 20-60 minutes each day for 2 weeks. If you don’t live in a sunny place, you can buy a light box for the same effect. Sunlight helps reset your body’s sleep patterns naturally, allowing you to fall asleep earlier and feel more rested in the daytime.
Cause #5: You fall asleep fine, then wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep.
Cure: ”Get up” to get back to sleep. After 15-20 minutes, if you’re unable to sleep, leave your bed and engage in a calm, quiet activity. (My preferred option is cleaning out my closet; it’s not interesting enough to keep my mind awake, and it’s physical enough to wear me out). Repeat as needed. Trust me, though it may not happen immediately (or even that same night), you’ll eventually get tired enough to sleep again!
Cause #6: You’re a clock-watcher, lying awake, counting the minutes of sleep you’ve lost, and reminding yourself of just how tired you will be the next day!
Cure: Turn the Clock around and stop telling yourself lies! Watching the clock just sets you up for failure, filling your mind with negative thoughts that make sleep even more elusive. Instead, set your alarm before bed, then turn the clock around. If you can’t see it, you’ll be forced to let it go. And stop criticizing yourself for your lack of sleep. Most of what you’re saying is probably not even true–you can’t predict tomorrow, and it certainly won’t help you sleep any better tonight!
This is, by no means an exhaustive list (pun intended) of insomnia causes and cures, so be on the lookout for more posts like these on sleep and mental health. If, however, you’ve tried suggestions like these and nothing seems to help, you may be experiencing a sleep disorder. Talk to your healthcare provider, who can refer you to a sleep specialist. Until next time, here’s wishing you solid sleep, sweet dreams, and strong coping skills!
I want to know: What are your biggest sleep concerns? What works and what doesn’t work to improve your sleep? How does sleep affect your mental health? Leave a comment below and let us know!
Dr. Hibbert on 30SecondMom:
Helpful Blog Posts:
“Fake It ‘Til You Make It”:
A Surefire Way to Prevent a Meltdown
We’ve all heard the advice “fake it ‘til you make it,” and I agree, it can help from time to time. Faking it can involve putting on a smile, remaining silent, even pretending you feel differently, but really it’s about giving yourself time—time to patiently choose the best way to think, feel and behave. And often, in faking that smile or laugh, you actually end up feeling a little better.
For example, when you’re about to lose it on the loved one nearest you, it is obviously a better option to “fake it” instead. I do this with my husband, OJ, sometimes. When I am at my limit with my kids, where it feels the only options are to fall into sobs or maim someone, I choose instead the secret third option: to find OJ and engage in an obviously fake, deep belly laugh, like Santa might do if he said “Huh, huh, huh” instead of “Ho, ho, ho.” It sounds so utterly ridiculous that I end up laughing for real and so does OJ. It is our little sign that we are at a cliff’s edge and doing our best not to fall, be pushed over, or voluntarily leap to our demise below. Somehow laughing together, fake as it may start out, helps the cliff disappear altogether. Through “faking it” you can “make it” patiently through the rough moment in front of you to the next moment, which is usually easier to manage.
To Fake or Not to Fake?
The trick comes in knowing when it isn’t helpful to fake it anymore. Faking is a great temporary tool, but for extended periods of time faking is a shaky path, leading to greater psychological stress and psychosomatic problems like headaches, back pain, and toothaches. Keeping up indefinitely the temporary walls that protect us in times of stress builds enormous pressure, like a shaken soda that keeps getting shaken but remains bottled up. Eventually, something’s gotta give.
If you find yourself faking for a long time, it’s best to start letting things out a little at a time. Get in touch with your true feelings; talk a little, cry a little. Accept or ask for a little more help. Slowly turning the churning soda’s lid, you feel the pressure release; there is no bubbling over, there is no sudden explosion.
Find the “Faking” Balance
So “fake it ‘til you make it” but don’t fake for too long. You don’t want to end up with an even messier situation than the one you started with! Fake a smile, a laugh, a look, but don’t fake who you are and what is really going on with you. Instead, patiently get honest and release the pressure within; you will make it so much better for yourself.
~Excerpt from Dr. Hibbert’s Upcoming Book, “This Is How We Grow”
Do you ever “fake it?” Does it help you “make it”? Share some of your suggestions for striking the “faking” balance by leaving a comment below!