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5 Affirmations for Resilience in the Face of Uncertainty

“Embrace uncertainty. Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later.” ~Bob Goff

Let me tell you something important. It’s a rule of life, a law of nature if you will. This law is not only a psychological truth, but it’s also biological, chemical, cultural, maybe even metaphysical

What I’m about to say is not comfortable, but it’s necessary. People who truly understand this principle are resilient and adaptive. Those of us who choose to reject or ignore it become rigid and fearful—and you deserve to be resilient.

The principle is this: uncertainty is inevitable.

You know this already, I’m sure. But you might not have accepted it.

I have learned this fact the hard way. No matter how stable and in control I may have felt throughout my life, I have never once been certain of the next moment.

See, we all have vague ideas about the future, but they are never certain predictions. I’ve never predicted the moment I would contract an illness, nor the moment a loved one would pass on, nor even the next thought that would pop into my head.

I have lived through mental health issues and chronic pain issues, and by embracing the uncertainty I’ve become more resilient and loving. I didn’t predict that. I’ve also had to continue facing challenging emotions I thought I’d long since left behind. I didn’t predict that.

Somewhere along the way, despite a story that I could no longer keep working with my persistent pain, I managed to continue to work and get a master’s degree in neuroscience. Didn’t manage to predict that either.

Wind back the clock five years or so and the uncertainty used to stress me out, and at times it was crippling. Not so much anymore, fortunately. Now the only thing I truly expect is that my expectations are inaccurate.

I guess you might call it developing resilience, but resilience is somewhat of a buzz word, and it wasn’t as interesting as that. It was simply that in time I slowly, clumsily, came to a healthier understanding of the way my mind worked.

At the core of this understanding was a new perspective; I saw that uncertainty in itself didn’t cause me stress, it was my response to it. My need for control. My incessant attempt to box reality into the stories in my mind.

Take, for example a football player who has a story that he is an athlete. Nothing more, nothing less. If he breaks a leg and can no longer play, he hasn’t just broken a bone, he’s shattered his identity.

Right now, millions of us have had our identities challenged by changes to our lifestyle. Without an adaptive story that can respond to the moment, we face the same stresses and anxieties that I had for many years.

So how do we challenge our anxieties about the future? We create new stories that help us develop resilience and ride the wave of uncertainty.

These stories will come in the form of affirmations. You can repeat them every day—and act of them—until they become beliefs that you carry into all areas of your life.

It’s important to note that these affirmations I’m about to share with you are tools to experiment with. Treat them like a set of clothes that you might use for different activities. Don’t be scared to let go of old ideas when they no longer serve you.

An anxious monkey mind will try to wear a swimsuit to bed and a tuxedo to shower. A resilient mind is willing to get dressed for the occasion, every day of the week.

Remember that any fears or anxieties you have around the coronavirus are entirely justified, particularly if you or your loved ones are sick, stressed, or dealing with significant life changes.

Your intention to become more resilient in the face of uncertainty is noble, because you’re not only helping yourself stay calm, you’re helping those around you. You may not win any awards or receive accolades, but you can (and should) still be proud of yourself.

Here are 5 Affirmations to Find Resilience in the Face of Uncertainty

1. I am approaching each day with childlike curiosity.

Because children are more of a clean slate than adults, they don’t have as many rigid ideas about how the world should be. This means they are ideally positioned to deal with uncertainty. They take each moment as it comes, staying open to whatever the days ahead might bring. And instead of dwelling on the worst that could happen, they make the best of what happens.

We can embody this childlike curiosity and use it to our advantage. When we approach both comfort and discomfort with an open-minded voice in our head that says, “That’s interesting, what’s going to happen next?” we don’t get stuck in chasing the stories of our unmet preferences about what should be happening.

2. I have confidence/faith in something greater than my momentary fears.

We fear uncertainty because our brains think that certainty keeps us safe. What we often fail to recognize is that we’ve been responding to the uncertainty of the next moment our entire lives. Most of the time we just haven’t noticed it.

You didn’t wake yourself up this morning, nor did tell your heart to beat all day yesterday, and if a car suddenly speeds toward you, you don’t tell your body to jump out of the way. There’s a biological, cultural, and social intelligence that helps us meet all challenges (and that includes the intelligence to read this article!). It’s going to keep helping us move through life and respond to challenges whether we resist it or not.

3. Stillness is my therapy.

Silence is an acquired taste. At first, all this stillness can be overwhelming. But over time our minds resonate with the environment, so the more we slow down the calmer we become, and the more we appreciate the slowing down.

A busy mind has thousands of unnecessary thoughts a day, and this drains vital energy that our brains could be using for other things. A tired mind is more likely to fall victim to cognitive distortions—things we think that aren’t actually true. Intuitively we know this because when we’re exhausted, we tend to lose our temper, show less compassion, and think and say things we don’t really mean.

When we are able to spend more time resting in silence, balancing our nervous system so we’re not stuck in fight-or-flight mode, that’s when we can most effectively respond to life’s challenges.

4. My goals are always flexible.

Goal setting is a huge industry. It’s also an attitude that we teach our kids from a very young age. This isn’t without good reason; goalsetting works because it gives us structure and direction, which helps to keep our minds focused and motivated by future rewards.

However, the point of goals is to help guide you toward something that is desirable in relation to your environment and circumstances. If either you or your environment or circumstances change, the goal should be able to change too!

Right now, the global situation has shifted dramatically, so don’t torture yourself by trying to meet the same goals you had before this pandemic broke out.

This might mean setting new goals that make sense within our current reality, based on what you reasonably accomplish given your limitations and mental state. Or it might mean setting no goals at all and simply living in the moment in this surreal pause from life as we knew it.

5. I am not my thoughts.

You’re probably tired of hearing this one, but it remains true and relevant, nonetheless. If you’ve noticed an increase in your anxious thoughts in response to changes in your work situation or the obsessive media coverage, it’s an invitation to keep recognizing that these thoughts are a response to the environment. Thousands of thoughts come up every day, but if we can reduce the energy and attention we give them, they won’t stick around for as long.

How have you managed to deal with the uncertainty over COVID-19? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear from you!

About Benjamin Fishel

Benjamin Fishel is an author, trainee-therapist, and the creator of the popular blog Project Monkey Mind. He holds an MSc. in Applied Neuroscience and is on a mission to help people use personalised meditations to improve their mental health. To learn how to calm your mind (once and for all!) using brain science and spirituality, follow him on Facebook and grab his FREE cheatsheet 7 Psychological Hacks for Depression & Anxiety (in 5 minutes or less).

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The post 5 Affirmations for Resilience in the Face of Uncertainty appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

Why Hope May Not Be Helpful in the Face of COVID-19

I know, this might sound pessimistic, but hear me out…

“I hope that this whole COVID-19 thing goes away soon so we can resume our regular lives.”
“I hope this quarantine will be over soon!”
“I hope that things will go back to how they used to be soon.”

You may be thinking or hoping these things. But recently I’ve been pondering the possibility that COVID-19 may actually never go away and we may have to learn to adapt and live with it. It may be like influenza—seasonal, with a recommended shot and a new virus that becomes a part of our lives.

We don’t know when the quarantine will be over, and even when we’re given a specific date, that date keeps getting pushed further and further back. I am seven weeks into quarantine and I am just about to go stir crazy. The bleak reality is things will not go back to how they used to be. Ever. And that makes me feel disheartened, discouraged, and sad.

But when I am able to be mindful and sit with these feelings and thoughts from a non-judgmental place, I am able to see that I was clinging to the past and how things used to be. At the same time, I was being hopeful about the things in the future.

The cause of my suffering: wishing for things to be different than they presently are. I am reminded that this is what mindfulness is all about—being in the present moment.

Living in hope prevents us from living in the present. It stops us from accepting what is, right now. Hope puts us in a perpetual future mindset.

“I’ll be happy when…”
“The moment x changes, then…”
“If only… then…”

How many times have you said, “I’ll be happy when I get a promotion, own a house, buy this fancy car, marry the perfect partner, fill in the blank”? I know I have said these things many times. But that’s like marrying a person for their “potential” instead of accepting them for who they are right now. We all know how that plays out…

I’m not saying that having hope is a “bad” thing, or not to have any hope. Maybe it’s what gets you out of bed each day or helps you stay motivated. Maybe it’s something to look forward to, and if it helps you in some way, then great. It’s great as long as it’s helping you take action and not just keeping you in a waiting state.

A waiting state based on external circumstance, an unforeseeable future date, or potential “something” that may or may not ever happen, is not helpful. Clinging on to this type of hope is not helpful.

What if instead we said…

“I don’t know if this COVID-19 thing will ever really go away, but what can I do right now to make my life feel more normal/regular?”
“This quarantine is still not over. What can I choose to focus on and do right now?”
“This pandemic is literally changing and impacting so many areas of my life. How can I use this opportunity to grow, reassess, learn new things?”

From this shift in mindset, you are empowered. You have clarity, you can make choices, you can act, you can choose—when you accept the situation as it is right now, giving it permission to exist instead of wishing for it to be different. This reduces our resistance, reduces our suffering, and allows us to operate from a mindful place of clarity.

Perhaps we can then cultivate something called “wise hope.”

As Zen teacher Joan Halifax says, “Wise hope is not seeing things unrealistically but rather seeing things as they are, including the truth of suffering—both its existence and our capacity to transform it.”

We can either be frustrated with the current situation, thus suffer, or we can accept it for what it is and focus on what we can do right now.

Personally, I know that if I stay in the “wishing things were different” mindset and after weeks of isolation (and who knows how much longer) I can easily go downhill into oversleeping, laziness, binging Netflix, eating absorbent amounts of ice cream, and not keeping up with self-care.

These things can quickly snowball into decreased mood, increased negativity and anxiety, unproductivity, and even depression. I know how easy it is to slip into that, and I don’t want to go there. Rather, I consciously choose not to go there. It all starts with how I reframe my thoughts through acceptance and then take action.

Hope: “I hope that this whole COVID-19 thing goes away soon so we can resume our regular lives.”

Acceptance & Action: “I don’t know if this COVID-19 thing will ever really go away, but to make my life feel more normal during isolation, the action I’m going to take is to keep my daily routine. That means going to sleep at a reasonable time, setting an alarm even on weekends, getting fresh air and sunlight on my patio, meditating, eating well, stretching/practicing yoga/doing pushups, showering, and prioritizing self-care. I know that even on days I don’t feel like doing these things, I have the power to choose. I can choose to not do these things and feel crappy/unproductive/lazy, or I can choose to continue my daily routine because I know it increases my overall happiness and well-being.”

Hope: “I hope this quarantine will be over soon!”  

Acceptance & Action: “Although I hope this quarantine will be over soon, all this extra time is such an opportunity! I can finally start reading that book that has been on my shelf for the last year, take that online course I’ve always wanted to take, make bread from scratch, deep clean my house, and study online marketing! I re-assessed my 2020 goals that I had set out earlier in the year and made a ‘to-do list’ and a ‘want-to-do’ list that I can work toward given the current situation. I have been able to complete some of the things on my ‘want-to-do’ list and it has brought me a lot of joy.”

Hope: “I hope that things will go back to how it used to be soon.”

Acceptance & Action: “Things will not go back to how it used to be. We are always changing and growing because if we are not growing, then we are dying. We see this all the time in nature. A plant never stays static; it is either growing or dying. There is no in-between. So every day I am choosing to live, which means I am choosing to grow. I am taking this time to reflect on what has worked for me in the past, and how to make it better, releasing what hasn’t worked for me and/or changing direction. What a beautiful opportunity to press the RESET button!”

Although this quarantine may be frustrating, boring, lonely, stressful, fill in the blank, it can be an opportunity to reset, transform, grow, change direction, and reinvent yourself. Which will you choose?

About Yurika Vu

Yurika Vu is hosting a free 1 day “Self Love” day where she interviews 5 of the top experts in Self Love! If you struggle with confidence, worthiness, and self acceptance- these short videos teach you simple practical skills you can incorporate right away to start increasing your confidence! Opt into “A Mindful Self Love Day” at https://themindfullifesummit.com/self-love/.

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The post Why Hope May Not Be Helpful in the Face of COVID-19 appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

Why Journaling is the Best Thing to Do During a Crisis

“The difference between despair and hope is just a different way of telling stories from the same set of facts.” ~Alain de Botton

When I was told that the man I loved had a terminal illness, I instinctively reached for my journal. When I was asked to evacuate my home ahead of a category-5 cyclone three short weeks after his funeral, the first thing I threw into the back of my car was a large box with my journals.

That was nearly a decade ago.

Last month, when I stood in front of the empty shelves at my local supermarket, I was surprised to be instantly back in the grip of the fear and panic I felt during the crisis I had braved almost a decade ago. So I did the most logical thing. I took a deep breath, located the stationary aisle—which thankfully was still fully-stocked—and I bought myself a large new notebook.

The next day, as the world prepared to go into lock-down, I missed the chance to return to my partner and my home in Vietnam.

Depression and anxiety promptly came to visit, threatening to turn my self-isolation into another painful chapter of my life. But I know that I am more resilient than I think I am, and I instantly turned to my number one coping strategy. I opened my new notebook and started writing my Covid-19 journal.

This is a challenging time for all of us, and we are all affected in different ways by this global pandemic. I don’t know how my partner and I will cope with the challenge of having to conduct our relationship across closed borders, via Zoom and Messenger, with no certainty when we might see each other again.

But I know that writing will be there for me, as it has been during every crisis I have been through. Regular journaling has trained me to be my own therapist. Writing things down is an act of self-care. It’s like opening the door to my heart to see what’s in there and allowing myself to sit with all of it.

Writing through the grief of my husband’s death and the aftermath of a natural disaster, I learned that we can cultivate resilience by allowing ourselves to experience our feelings, both good and bad.

As I learned the hard way, writing builds resilience because it allows us to process, release, and make meaning of challenging events and complex emotions.

Writing things down during a crisis is not only helpful as a way of processing and releasing our emotions—it is also a way to document what is happening as it unfolds.

This strange and unprecedented moment in time sometimes feels like the world is collectively writing a new chapter. There is the official narrative, there is an abundance of alternative narratives floating around the internet, and then there are our personal narratives and the ways we as individuals cope with this crisis.

Our memories will fad —though we’ll probably always remember that toilet paper was the first thing that ran out during a pandemic—but by keeping a diary and writing things down as they happen, we create a record of this unique historical moment.

Writing is also a way to enter the creative flow, which is a great antidote to feelings of stress and anxiety. When we become absorbed in the process of writing, we momentarily step out of the chaos and the grief around us and into a safe zone of calm and flow.

For many of us, self-isolation brings loneliness. Writing can be a great companion in times of loneliness. My diary has always been my best friend during difficult times. Writing can also be a safe place to retreat to for those of us who are assailed by a sense of cabin fever as members of a household suddenly have to live in close proximity with each other 24/7.

It’s easy for conflict and irritation to arise in confined living environments. I think of my diary as my sacred space where I can say things I don’t dare to say out loud, where I can vent, rage and reflect and most importantly, where I enter into a dialogue with myself.

Here are some suggestions for starting your own Covid-19 journal:

1. Write about how you feel right now.

Allow yourself to give voice to feelings that you might be holding back for the sake of protecting others or because you feel ashamed.

Write about what feels particularly hard about this crisis. Begin by brainstorming words that describe your emotional state right now. Think of it as making an inventory of the feelings in your heart. You might even find that you feel stronger and calmer than you thought you did.

2. Write about a time when you overcame a crisis.

Remembering a time when you were resilient and got through a difficult emotional turning point will help you to believe in your own strength.

Bring to mind a significant difficult emotional experience. Make sure it’s something in the past that you can safely write about.

Begin to write about the experience in the first person. Bring the experience alive by giving concrete sensory detail, i.e. what smells, sounds and tastes do you remember? Maybe you want to make reference to the weather or the color of the car you drove. Use word pictures to get back in touch with the feelings you had during that time.

3. Write a diary.

Writing a diary about the current pandemic can be as simple as writing about your day. You may write about the things you did and did not do, the people you interacted with, the things you ate, the words you read, the news you watched, the things you did to care for yourself or the ways you allowed the news to affect your anxiety levels…

Write about anything you’d like to capture about this day. This could be a simple brain dump. Or you could focus on the quirky things that happened today. The things that only a month ago, you couldn’t have imagined doing right now – things like having virtual sundowner drinks or virtual cups of tea via Zoom with your best friends.

If you’re writing first thing in the morning, you might write about your dreams, the quality of your sleep, or about the day before.

Be sure to include sensory detail to bring your world alive, i.e. write about the flowers that are in bloom right now, the smells during your daily walk, the noises that you can hear through the thin walls of your apartment etc.

You never know, your Covid-19 diary may become the foundation of a memoir or something to leave behind for the grandkids.

4. Write to practice self-compassion.

In times of crisis, when we experience suffering, fear, or anxiety, it is important to give our hearts shelter. Self-compassion can help us feel less vulnerable and disconnected during this time of self-isolation. It’s also a great way to silence the voice of the inner critic who will be quick to tell you that you are poor at home-schooling or that you are a bad partner.

Think of self-compassion as being like a warm embrace. Or as expert Dr Kristin Neff says, like speaking to yourself with the same care and kindness you would use towards a good friend.

Write for ten to fifteen minutes about what you need from yourself right now to feel less vulnerable, less cranky, less anxious… or whatever you may be feeling right now. Another great way to use writing as a self-compassion practice is to write a letter to yourself from the perspective of a good friend, assuring you that whatever happens you’re loved and cared for.

5. Write a gratitude journal.

Gratitude is a secret superpower that helps to build resilience and happiness. Too often we focus on what we lack—and right now we lack a lot of things that we used to take for granted only a short while ago. Gratitude is a way of looking at what is abundant and good in our lives, despite the current crisis.

Writing a gratitude journal can be as simple as listing five things you are grateful for at the end of every day: your warm bed at night, access to drinking water, having a shelter etc.

Try to be more specific than just saying “I am grateful for my bed.” Tell your diary why you are grateful for having a bed, why you are grateful for the job that sometimes overwhelms you, or the kids that drive you mad during this pandemic.

A good way to get started with a daily writing practice is to do a short meditation to settle your mind and to get into stillness. Then set the timer on your phone for ten to fifteen minutes and simply write without stopping to think or edit, trusting the pen to lead the way.

I’ve kept a journal from the age of eleven, which makes me a seasoned diarist, yet during the current global crisis I am often feeling unfocussed and unmotivated.

I tell myself that that’s okay, it’s part of the process of adapting to our new normal. But I always try to capture my new normal, even if I only write a quick list of things that stood out for me on a given day. It’s a way to stay connected to my inner voice and to write this new chapter one page and one breath at a time.

About Kerstin Pilz

Kerstin Pilz, Phd is a writer, former academic with twenty years University teaching experience and a 200 RYT yoga teacher based in Vietnam. Sign up for her free 7-Day Writing & Meditation Course, relax with a free downloadable sound bowl meditation, or join her on retreat in Vietnam. Visit her website or connect on Facebook and Instagram.

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Surviving as an Empath During the Time of Coronavirus

“When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary.” ~Fred Rogers

If you are a human on earth at the moment, you’re likely feeling the uncertainty and anxiety of living in the time of a pandemic. It’s not something we have seen before in our lifetime, so every step is a new one, and the end is unknown and nowhere in sight.

Everyone is coping in their own way. Some are fearful and anxious right now. Others insist on staying on the positive side. Still others are in denial and perhaps will feel the emotional effects later or when it hits their area. Or, more commonly it seems, we have some combination of all three at various times throughout the same day.

It’s all normal.

I have come to realize there is no right or wrong way to feel emotionally. Everyone is doing the best they can based on their own coping style.

As a recovering people-pleaser, I used to try to talk people out of their feelings, make them feel better by taking over responsibility for their emotions. Essentially, I had to fix them to make myself feel better.

This was my stress response. I picked up on the emotional energy in a room and tried to stabilize it. I am so glad I recognized this in myself, or I’m not sure how I would survive this time.

I realized the damage this did to me, and to my relationships. If I feared anger, I would walk on eggshells to prevent people from getting angry. If I took on someone’s anxiety, I had to do everything I could to help them so I could relax.

People have a right to be angry.

Everyone has the right to feel anxious.

It is not my job to judge how anyone reacts to life. It’s theirs.

It is my job to be a compassionate witness to their suffering and to my own suffering.

This is a hard lesson to learn when it almost cost me my health and my life. But during this time of the Coronavirus I am so grateful I learned it when I cracked the empath code.

If you find yourself taking on other people’s emotional energy to the point of depletion, and exhaustion and perhaps chronic health issues, read on.

Life as an empath can sometimes feel you are being tossed around in a tiny boat in an open ocean, with no solid ground. It’s a terrible feeling. So we struggle, we fight, we gasp for air, and occasionally come up to breathe for long enough to see the sun setting on the horizon.

That is what living as an empath can be like. Only the waves are crashing waves of emotion, sometimes ours, sometimes those of others. It’s unpredictable when the hurricane will come, so we hang on to the oars tightly most of the time… just in case.

We wonder how other people seem to live easier, to ride the waves smoother and leave storms behind as they head for calmer waters. Until we find out that we see and feel things differently, more acutely, and have to learn the skills to row efficiently, with the wind, and in the preferred direction.

Then life becomes smooth sailing. We can feel the wind in our hair, smell the ocean, and taste the sea salt on our lips.

Life as an empath can be hell. Or it can be a deeply sensory experience.

Before I cracked the code, I was in a lifeboat without a life jacket. I was going down fast.

Until one day I came across a test “Are you an empath?” Out of curiosity I took it and scored 100%.  I found another test.  Yup. 100 percent emotional empath.

I had never stopped to learn what the term “empath’ meant until that moment, even though I had been in the field of counselling for over two decades.

Now I knew why I used overthinking as a way to protect myself. Why I preferred being alone a lot of the time.  Why I found some people overwhelming and took on everybody else’s emotions. Why I felt responsible for everyone and fell head-first into people-pleasing just so I could feel better.  Why I suffered with so much anxiety and worry for others.

I felt like I had cracked the code to my life.

Now I could get in, understand why I was how I was, and set clear boundaries around myself.

I didn’t need new tools. I didn’t need to change. I was not a problem to fix. I was a human to hold and I needed to carefully guard who I was.

During this time when the world can feel overwhelming and too, too much, take time to understand yourself and your nervous system’s response to stress a bit better.

  • Notice when you feel anxious… where do you feel it in your body?
  • Notice where you are, who you are with, and what you are doing.
  • Breathe into the tight areas and imagine breathing out your compassion into the world.
  • If someone you are with is anxious, can you stay present and breathe? If not, take a break and find compassion for yourself.
  • Notice what you are consuming—news, stressful or needy people, violence in movies or TV; decrease and take lots of nature breaks.

When you learn to guard your own health and well-being above everything else, you give yourself a soft place to land in what can be a harsh world to live in. And you give others the same gift of a soft place in your compassion.

About Madeleine Eames

Madeleine Eames is a psychotherapist, mindfulness teacher, and creator of the Empath Sanctuary. Her mission is to help deeply feeling people move beyond burnout and harness the power of their empathy for success. You can find her at mindfullivingnow.com or on Facebook at Wise Women Empaths Wake Up.

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How to Be Really Great at Failing

One of my dad’s favorite stories to tell about me when I was a kid is when I played catcher in Little League. I was probably around seven years old, but I had (and still do have) an intensity that wasn’t matched.

I would squat behind home plate, the catcher’s gear a little too big for me, and punch my fist into my catcher’s mitt, just like my favorite player Mike Piazza. And like Bruce Lee, I’d point my index finger at the pitcher and signal him to “bring it.”

One time, a foul ball was hit into the air. I took off sprinting with all the desire my little seven-year-old heart could muster. That ball, that out, was mine.

The ball hit the protective netting at the top of the fence, and I laid my body out and caught it. Because it hit the net, it was a foul ball. That didn’t stop the parents in the stands and the umpire from giving me a standing ovation for my effort.

My dad still says that he sat a little taller in the stands that day, saying to himself “That’s my boy.” It will always be one of my favorite catches I ever made. Because f* you, I still caught it.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be the best at something. I’ve tried my hand at so many things in my lifetime and I’ve aimed to be world class at them all—baseball, boxing, filmmaking, piano, fitness, etc.

I’ve always wanted to be recognized as someone special. In this relentless pursuit, I’ve poured my heart and soul into everything I’ve done. I’ve lived with a burning fire and a relentless passion inside of me.

But, lo and behold, nothing yet.

I was just an average kid in high school, respected but not the most popular.

I tried the hardest on every baseball team I played on growing up, but always seemed to find myself riding the bench. It wasn’t until college that I actually played regularly.

When I applied to Michigan, I was deferred. I was put into the pile where they want to make sure the, uh, “more desirables” got in first. And when I got to Michigan, I was placed into a group that was provided extra assistance during orientation.

I remember one girl even raising her hand during orientation and asking, “Wait, are we the dumb kids?”

If I showed you my list of rejections from film festivals or cold emails that went unanswered, you’d think it hyperbole.

I’ve failed. I’ve failed. And just when I’ve thought it couldn’t get harder, I’ve failed some more.

I’m almost thirty. While my friends are off getting married, having kids, buying houses, and making a steady life for themselves, I’ve wondered if I have a pair of socks that don’t have a hole in them or if I can spend six dollars to buy a hamburger from In-N-Out. The sacrifice I’ve chosen in order to pursue a life that is “different” and “to get the most out of myself.”

Not being the most popular kid or an all-star athlete in high school, I had to be kinder, I had to try harder, I had to differentiate myself.

I couldn’t make the freshman baseball team. That’s why I took up boxing. It provided an outlet for me and gave me self-confidence I never had before because I had to really learn what discipline was.

Because I wasn’t naturally gifted at baseball, I had to find new ways to get stronger, to get faster, to be better. I spent countless hours in the batting cage, hours throwing a softball from long distances with my dad to the point where one of my weakest tools became one of my strongest.

I would wake up early in the morning and put bricks in a backpack, pull heavy tires attached to my waist, and run hills. Sure enough, I became the fastest player on every team, even reaching the point of running a 4.39 40, which if you don’t know much about sports, to borrow a saying from Forrest Gump, “I run like the wind blows.”

When I didn’t get into Michigan my first time, I stayed every day after school with my math teacher, Mrs. Velasquez, to improve my scores, and guess what, I got in. I still tear up thinking about it.

Not getting into film festivals has only pushed me to watch more, study more, to make more, to learn my craft better because I’ve had to be better to be accepted amongst my peers. It’s paid off because I’ve had to learn every single aspect of the business thoroughly to find new ways to show that I belong.

“What’s your superpower?”

I’ve encountered this question a lot recently. Perhaps it’s part corporate jargon, perhaps it’s a fading fad, but nonetheless, it’s at the top of the zeitgeist.

The first time I was asked that, I didn’t know how to answer it because in my mind, I wasn’t particularly great at anything. I was a guy that just did and failed at doing.

I wasn’t some great champion. I was just a guy who woke up every morning and did his absolute best every day. I wasn’t going to wow anybody with accolades or prestige. But I would impress them with kindness and grit. That’s how I would belong.

It wasn’t until recently, watching the former Navy SEAL, Jocko Willink speak, that I had a bit of enlightenment.

I’ve long admired the SEALs since I was a kid, repeatedly watching the Discovery Channel Documentary, BUD Class 234. To make it through BUDs, quite possibly the toughest military training in the world, all you have to do is not quit. You don’t have to be the fastest, the strongest, you just need to not quit. That is something that has always resonated with me.

Jocko said, and I paraphrase, “If I had a choice of A-Class superstars and a group of misfits, I always wanted the misfits because the misfits almost always wanted it more. They wanted to listen. They wanted to learn.” That’s when my perspective shifted and when a wave of understanding overcame me.

I’d spent so much time chasing perfection, chasing something that isn’t me to try to stand out, that I didn’t realize I was already unique. I no longer felt the need to chase respect from the people I wanted respect from. I just had to be me—a misfit.

That is what fuels the fire inside of me that burns so strongly, that is what gives me such an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, such a desire to want to learn more, and most of all, it’s what has made me, me.

Entering my fourth decade on Earth, I can faithfully say that I’m not world class at anything. My failures far outweigh my successes. Not by inches, but by miles. I can also say I no longer look at experiences as failures, but instead, I see it all now as the process of who I’ve become. Someone I’m damn proud of.

My desire to want to be great and the perception of lack of success have given me the tools to be exactly who I am and who I am meant to be.

I’ve lived a life so full of ups and downs that I can’t help but feel grateful for the tremendous ride it’s been so far and boy, it’s been FUN. I’ve garnered experiences, and dare I say wisdom, that I would have never experienced had it not been for this relentless pursuit. Growth has come at an astounding rate. And that’s the beauty of this all.

Now, instead of asking myself how I can be special amongst my peers, I find myself asking, why fit in? I am a misfit after all, and misfits, they don’t fit.

Perhaps now, I can say that I am world class at something. I’m world class at learning from failure. Because of that, I’m going to sit pounding my fist into my glove, nothing ever completely fitting quite right, waiting to take on any pitch life has to throw my way. That’s my superpower.

About Tony Estrada

Tony Estrada is a Mexican-American filmmaker and writer, based in Los Angeles. Tony’s most recent film, “¡Viva la Revolución!“, starring Maite Perroni, Lonnie Chavis, Miya Cech, and Ian Inigo is headed on a national youth empowerment tour for the 2021 school year. He has several film and TV projects in development and continues to pursue projects and opportunities that help develop the influence of Latinos in front of and behind the camera. Follow on social @vlrmovie and @tonyestrada22.

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How to Tame a Worrying Mind During Difficult Times

“Mental health is just as important as physical health.” ~Unknown

Our main focus during this challenging time is quite rightly on our physical well-being. But we shouldn’t forget about our mental health considering these are stressful times for all of us.

Will we get sick?

Will our loved ones die?

Will we have enough food to feed the family?

How will we pay the bills?

How long do we have to stay in?

Will things ever get back to normal?

So many questions, so many worries.

Worrying used to keep me awake at night. It occupied every space of my mind during every waking minute. I always felt on the edge of a nervous breakdown. I didn’t feel like I could handle life at all.

My life was like this for many years until I began to understand myself better. I healed my past traumas and learned to respond to myself in effective and compassionate ways.

Some of what I’ve learned has helped a great deal during this time of uncertainty and unpredictability. This has resulted in me experiencing great mental health with well-balanced moods, resilience in the face of challenge, and solid emotional regulation skills.

And let me tell you, I was pretty much the opposite extreme before, so these mental health secrets really do work. I want to share them with you so you too can benefit, because emotional well-being can help see us through the challenges that lie ahead.

Mental Health Booster #1: Be Present

When I used to worry and cripple myself with anxiety, I was caught up in my head. I followed every thought like a puppy chases a squirrel. It was too tempting, and I couldn’t resist it. One fearful thought led to another, and down the slippery slope of worry I went. I never landed anywhere pleasant.

Being caught up in my mind meant that I wasn’t present enough to pay attention to myself, so I didn’t know how I felt or what I wanted. I was just stressed out of my mind while staying stagnant in my life.

Being caught up in your head right now probably looks like worrying about your health or someone else’s, watching the news and feeding your mind with more and more scary updates. Maybe you can feel that you’re spiraling and your anxiety is increasing. Maybe you’re obsessively following the media coverage and forgetting about everything else.

These are examples of not being present.

Being present means being fully in the moment. It’s not being distracted but engaging with what is.

So instead of filling my mind with worrisome news, I tend to what is going on right in front of me. I may play with my baby, cook for my children, or take a warm bath. In this way, I am there both physically and emotionally, which helps me to stay out of my head.

During challenging times, I pay particular attention to any distress signals like shallow breathing, feeling shaky, or having a tight chest. I no longer see them as something additional to worry me but rather as signs that alert me to take a break.

I pause and get still. I start to be there for myself.

I reconnect with what is going on around me. I ground myself in my body. I focus on my breath.

I slow down. I get present.

Then the anxious voices in my heads, my little worry warts, begin to fade away.

Mental Health Booster #2: Feel and Validate Your Feelings

We all experience an increase in uncomfortable feelings during challenging times. If we have to stay at home, there are fewer distractions to take our mind off fearful thoughts and difficult emotions.

We can easily find ourselves overwhelmed by our feelings.

I remember many times in my life when it felt like the walls were closing in on me while something horrifically painful inside me was trying to break out. I felt hot and panicked. I didn’t know what to do and worried that I was losing my mind.

I had been avoiding and fighting my feelings for so long that I didn’t understand them. I feared them. I used all my energy and effort to suppress them, but every now and then, during challenging times, I couldn’t keep it up

The additional stress was simply too much.

One day I read that we were meant to feel our feelings. Wait, WHAT!?

Mind. Blown.

I had been fighting my feelings and running away from them all my life, and now I was being told that if I ever wanted to get better, I had to feel my feelings.

So I started letting them happen. It wasn’t comfortable and it wasn’t easy, but it was worth it because I realized resisting my feelings was what actually made it all so painful.

I learned that I had to stop telling myself that I shouldn’t feel how I was feeling, that I was being ridiculous, that I was too sensitive, and so on. I was invalidating myself. I was shaming myself for feeling whatever I was feeling.

I was making myself wrong for feeling all the time. No wonder I felt overwhelmed when experiencing something I had judged as shameful!

Invalidating our feelings is harmful to our mental well-being. It erodes our self-esteem and leaves us feeling broken and defective. It makes us disconnect from ourselves, and we begin to make all the wrong choices because we no longer know how we feel and what we want.

Staying mentally healthy during difficult times requires you feel your feelings and allow yourself to process them, which means not fighting or avoiding them.

It also means that you have to learn to validate your feelings. This involves you normalizing and empathizing.

You do this by telling yourself that it’s okay to have this feeling, and that any human with the kinds of thoughts you’re thinking or the kind of experience you are having would feel how you’re feeling. Tell yourself that it’s okay. That in itself is reassuring.

For example, most recently I have been experiencing fearful thoughts about the health of my loved ones. I worry that they’ll get sick, or worse. Instead of fighting my worry,  I validate my fears and soothe myself.

I can see that it’s perfectly natural to worry about losing those you love and that the anxiety I experience is a result of these kinds of thoughts. My anxiety is therefore perfectly normal considering the circumstances, and I don’t have to see it as a problem, which in itself is reassuring and decreases my anxiety.

Mental Health Booster #3: Engage with Something Meaningful

When we learn not to make our feelings problems, it creates the space we need to engage with something meaningful, something that matters to us, something that brings us joy.

And what is really important for our mental well-being during difficult times is to engage in something meaningful for us.

We can choose something fun, something silly, something creative, something lighthearted. We can come up with new projects or can focus on being productive in some way. We can improve our relationships by having some fun or being caring toward each other. We can play with our kids.

Whatever it is, choose something. Get present and engage with it.

It will take your mind off things. It will give you a break.

Don’t let a difficult situation confine and restrict you.

This isn’t about denying or avoiding the realities of a difficult situation. It’s about preserving the mental energy needed to deal with it in the most effective and compassionate way possible.

And a big part of preserving our mental energy and health is maintaining a sense of purpose in the face of a crisis.

This is something most of us have in common: We all want to feel that we are useful in some way, that we have a purpose, that we’re doing something valuable.

And there are so many different things we can do to have that experience. But in order to do so, we need to have space in our minds, which requires us to practice being present, to feel our feelings and to validate them.

I hope that these three mental health boosters help you as much as they have helped me. I am grateful to you for reading this, as this is my meaningful contribution that allows my mind to focus on something I find valuable and enjoyable.

About Marlena Tillhon

Marlena helps people who struggle in relationships, due to codependency, insecure attachment, and unresolved trauma, develop and change in ways that allow them to finally get the love they need. She works as a psychotherapist, relationship coach, and clinical director and loves to connect on Instagram or via her Love with Clarity Facebook group and page. She is an expert in human relationships and sees them as the lifeblood of a meaningful existence.

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What I Learned About Love and Grief When I Lost My Cats

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” ~Anatole France

Unconditional love.

The thought of my cats envelops me with warmth whenever I think of them.

Why? Because we’re so connected. It’s an ethereal thing. Beyond words. Beyond reality. Beyond rationality.

When I’m holding them, I feel so spiritually connected. They stretch out as I start to scratch their backs, signaling that they like it. A welcome sign I should continue.

They stare with their mysterious eyes. Their stares are hard to read. Yet, they tell you a lot of things. They open the flood gate of emotions. Me to them and back. They don’t need to be able to speak. I can understand those tiny meows. Those sighs. Even those imperceptible smiles. And all because of the special bond we have.

The inner joy they provide is incomparable whenever I play with them.

They may not be as active as dogs, but it’s the sweetness that melts me.

The moment I touch them, they start to meld their bodies into mine, telling me not to let go.

Sometimes they are aloof. Their snobby attitude makes me laugh. Especially when they demand something and I withhold it. I stare back. I tell them “No.” Yet their eyes impinge upon my soul. Saying “no” for long is not an option.

When I’m not feeling well, they know. They lie down next to me. They stay quiet next to me. They try to take away the illness. They’re sharers and carers.

It’s a bliss being with them! It seems to be mutual. Indeed, I can’t last a day without my fur babies. Nor they, me.

A Month to Forget

Then came that dreaded month in 2013. In October that year, my two most beloved babies died.

I was devastated. My grief was instant. It was raw. It hurt like hell.

I started to question the concept of goodness and the fairness of life. How can the universe be so cruel? How can humans cope with the onset of grief that can come upon us so suddenly? Will our lives ever be the same again? Can we ever recover from the all-pervading feelings of grief and get back to those blissful feelings of unconditional once again?

How can the source of my joy now be the source of my sorrow? How can it be that the reason for my existence is now the reason for my annihilation? How is it that my cure is now my pain?

Ironic, isn’t it?

Life is unfair.

The joy that is given to any of us is always temporary.

You may say I’m exaggerating. It’s just a cat, a pet, an animal. You can always replace one with another one.

But I tell you, that’s easier said than done. For those of us who are animal lovers and who are by themselves, having a pet is like having a miniature human. Many people won’t understand this. It may be difficult to comprehend. Hard to accept. But yes, our animals can replace humans for comfort and reassurance in many instances.

But that’s life. That’s how the circle of life evolves. One is birthed, one dies. It goes on and on and on. And it’s up to us to accept it and move on. At some stage we need to release. To let go. Otherwise we can get caught up in the devastation of loss and grief.

That’s how grieving is. It is so painful. More painful than the loss of an object or career. It goes beyond physical pain. It’s a forever thing as a piece of your heart goes with them.

Grief almost killed me.

But I realized that it’s just a phase. It’s a doorway toward a better place. It’s a key to unlock your hidden courage.

Sometimes, you have to undergo grief. To release the negativity and allow positivity to enter your life. As they say, you have to empty out so one can pour more love in.

More than a painful phase, grief can teach you lessons that will add to the missing puzzles in your life. Lessons that will make you stronger; that will make you a better person. That will eventually bring strength and resilience.

And while on this painful journey, I pondered upon these lessons that changed how I look at life.

Lesson 1: Cry if you must.

Never say sorry for crying your heart out. Most of us feel ashamed when we cry. We don’t usually like others to see us when we are crying. Society taught us that crying is a sign of weakness.

Definitely not.

It’s an outlet for your emotions. To cry is to release all the negative feelings that are killing your soul. Isn’t it that after crying, we all feel better? As if a huge stone was lifted out of our chest?

That’s what I learned when my cats died. I cried. I cried a lot. I cried every day. I almost cried everywhere. Whenever I saw cats, tears would fall from my eyes. I allowed myself to be drenched in my tears. It just seemed natural at the time.

Until the sadness is gone. Until my eyes ran dry. Occasionally, I still cry whenever I remember them. But I was never ashamed of my crying.

Lesson 2: Every being is precious.

“Don’t be a fool, it’s just a cat!”

“Don’t waste your time on those animals.”

“You can always replace them.”

These are some of the things I heard people say as I grieved. People smirked. They didn’t laugh at me outright. They thought I was insane to grieve for those beings.

“What makes them less of a precious being that I should not grieve for them?”

That’s what I wanted to shout to those who were mocking me at that time. Because for me, every being is precious. Human and animals alike. For me, whoever—or whatever being—made me feel so loved and special, is as precious as a human person.

My cats, they were so generous in letting me feel the love, the warmth, the joy. They made me feel special. Isn’t that enough proof that these beings are precious?

And because of them, I learned to see the value of each being. Whether it’s another person, my neighbor’s pet, an old person, or a child. All of these beings are precious. They all play an important role. They all add value to my being.

I believe that every person or animal we encounter throughout life adds something to our life. All those you bumped into on your life journey create an impact. They create a ripple effect that multiplies into bigger ripples, until all those who are in your circle feel the impact. We are all joined in some way, even if we don’t recognize it.

Lesson 3: Reality bites.

I was in denial for quite a time. I kept convincing myself that I’d be fine and that I’d get the hang of it.

But the moment I was home by myself, the silence almost killed me.

Where are those naughty meows?

Where are those tiny fur babies cuddling at my feet?

Where are those eyes staring up at me demanding attention?

The thought of these memories haunted me. There’s this big hole in my heart that seemed to widen as the days lingered. Indeed, reality bites. As days went by, the pain got more intense. The feeling of missing them tore me apart. Reality certainly had bitten hard.

In a painful situation, denial can make you feel good but only temporarily. Denial does not alleviate the reality of what is. It will bite you so hard and so deep that it can’t cure pain anymore. Sooner or later, you need to face reality. Feel the heartache.  Feel the overwhelming pain and sadness of loss of part of your soul. But you must not let the venom of reality kill you. You’ve got to allow a cure to surface.

Lesson 4: It’s okay not to be okay.

You don’t owe anybody an apology just because you don’t feel okay.

In the midst of this painful phase of grieving, life had to go on. I needed to go to work. I needed to go out. I needed to do my chores. And, I needed to continue breathing.

There were times I survived the day being okay, but there were times that I was stopped by the dreaded feeling of being not okay. How I wished I could just feel these things when I was safely at home. Or, during the night before I went to sleep, so that no one could see my weakness.

Most of the time, this feeling paralyzed me, to the point that I could not continue my work or what I was doing at the time. Sometimes I could not speak. If I pushed myself to socialize, I ended up offending someone. Good thing my loved ones understood what I was going through.

I tell you, it’s okay not to be okay. You’re not the only person who has felt this. Acknowledge it if it comes. Welcome it with open arms. Then allow it to dissipate in its own time

But here’s the thing. The feeling of not being okay will eventually be temporary. By all means immerse yourself in the feeling, but do not allow yourself to wallow in self-pity, such that you cannot recover.

Lesson 5: Grief itself is medicine.

People tend to ignore this stage. When they’ve lost a loved one, they act as if nothing has happened. They act as if they have already recovered. Well, it’s okay to have that attitude. But I tell you, it is better to allow yourself to experience grief.

Grief can be your healing pill. Just like a pill, it tastes awful at first, but as you progress, you’ll get the hang of taking it. Somewhere in your subconscious, it will register that the pill of grief really is medicine, and that it is good for you to experience what life offers in emotional enrichment. Until such time as when you’ve reached the recovery stage, and you no longer need the pill.

That’s why I acknowledged my grief. I was aware of what I was going through. I acknowledged its presence every day. And then one day, I just woke up healed and refreshed.

Lesson 6: Grief is temporary.

If there is one thing that is permanent in this world, it is “temporary.” True, isn’t it?

The reason why I allowed myself to undergo grief is that I knew it wouldn’t last forever. I thought it was just a stage of life that I had to pass through.

For those times I missed my cats, and I suddenly felt bad, I somehow knew it was a temporary feeling. For those times I saw people playing with their cats, and I would suddenly feel the envy, somehow, I knew that feeling was temporary. For those times that I can’t help but think of my cats, and I want to isolate myself from the world, I recognize that it’s temporary.

Grief is temporary. Sooner or later everything will fall into its proper place. Sooner or later you’ll get through. However, “temporary” can be a short time or an eternity.

No Matter What, You’ll Get Through

The road to recovery may be long, but there’s no other way to bypass that road. I even told myself that I would never let myself have another cat again after that dreaded loss.

Days, weeks, months passed.

Four months later, I found myself cuddling two fur babies again. They’ve been my medicine to full recovery.

I find myself back to my old self. That person who loves to nuzzle cats. That person who finds joy playing with cats. That person who regards cats as family.

I just realized that’s how the circle of life evolves. We lose some, we gain some. We love, we hurt. We become pained, but eventually, we receive healing.

I realized that I needed to embrace life as it is. Even if I take things into my hands and try to manipulate an ending, pushing myself against the tide, I will always be swept back to where I should be. Life settles these things for you.

This is grief.

This is how you lose a beloved.

This is how you fall and stand again.

Grieve if you must. It’s part of life. Of growing. Of moving forward.

And all will come to pass.

And unconditional love? Oh, it’s there again. Together with my two new cats.

About Celine Healy

Celine Healy is a stress and wellness specialist at Wellness That Works. Her five-step model for a holistic body/mind approach to wellness is based on the premise that you need to change how you respond to stress first, then deal with the other layers after that. Celine is passionate about implementing simple, easy and natural remedies to whole body/mind wellness. Celine lives in Australia with her two cats.

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Autoimmune & Coronavirus: Beating the Panic & Fear in All of Us

“The problem is not the existence of stressors, which cannot be avoided; stress is simply the brain’s way of signaling that something is important. The problem–or perhaps the opportunity–is how we respond to this stress.” ~The Book of Joy

For the past few weeks, I took pride in being able to keep fear at a distance.

My motto was “Don’t let the fear in. The fear makes you a vulnerable host to coronavirus.”

Since I have Crohn’s disease, an autoimmune condition, I know about stress and how it harms my immune system. Stress steals energy from the necessary functions my body performs to keep me alive. Fear adds stress to the body.

As I drove up to the parking lot of my favorite grocery store, people were gathered outside—and the store wasn’t open, yet. My sensitive nervous system scanned the environment and registered that something was wrong.

This wasn’t normal. I came here daily, and I had never seen this before.

People weren’t talking, they weren’t smiling, and they gripped the handles of shopping carts like they were ready to claim a Black Friday deal.

Approaching the store, I squeezed my way through to the last remaining shopping carts. People frowned at me as if I was trying to cut in line. I smiled from behind my face mask, hoping my eyes communicated that “I am here with you—not in competition with you.”

As the door opened to the store, people stampeded in. It was like a race: ready, on your mark, get set—GO! People scattered across the store to retrieve items like their lives depended on them.

Standing at the entrance in shock, I barely noticed the nice employee standing there. Smiling, he offered me a disinfectant wipe as if to say, “It is okay. We will keep you safe.” For a moment, his smile calmed my senses.

As I made my way to the meat aisle, I felt my adrenaline surge. Will they have my ground meat? What if they don’t have my gluten-free staples? What will I eat with my restricted diet if they are out of my life sustaining products? What about prunes?

In a brief second, I went from smiling at a kind man to fearing I would be unable to go to the bathroom and eventually starve to death. In the moment, this situation seemed more life-threatening than the Crohn’s disease I battled daily.

My motto, “Don’t let the fear in,” was submerged in the chaos around me.

After securing my groceries, minus some of my favorite items, I took a deep breath and made my way outside and to my car. Sitting in the car for a few minutes, I noticed my heart pounding and my hands were shaking.

The fear and stress were already registering in my body as physical symptoms.

“Oh no,” I said to myself. “My immune system is already compromised, and now I am stressing it even more. This is placing me at greater risk for illness!”

Thump thump, my heart rate called for my attention.

Noticing my heart rate, I felt warm and sweaty as I panicked about the panic.

I was stressing about the stress.

When I got home, as I opened my front door, I was greeted by my new kittens, Pawso and Samba. Just weeks ago, I was their foster mama and now I am their forever family. These kittens weren’t “my plan,” but they are teaching me to accept that life can have a plan of its own.

I watched them pounce and tumble together. I could hear their purrs. Relaxing my tight grip on the front door, I observed them playing and acting as they normally do.

My house was normal; it was safe. I had nothing to fear in this present moment.

There are many times in my life I adapted to changes that didn’t go according to my plan.

Coronavirus certainly isn’t to be compared to kitten adoption, but how I adapt to changes in my routine and monitor my stress levels are the same. Change always brings some degree of stress.

I wouldn’t be human if fear didn’t affect me. As soon as I entered the grocery store, it filled my senses like the overflowing shopping carts.

Just like coronavirus, fear is contagious too.

But there is a difference. Only a percentage of us will contract coronavirus. Nearly everyone seems afflicted with fear.

My history of trauma makes me primed for fear and stress. My body’s warning system is primed to react to any indication of danger in my environment. It doesn’t know the difference between a traumatic event that happened twenty years ago and a present trigger.

Simple things like people gathered outside the grocery store, a deviation from the normal routine, triggered my body’s familiar response to trauma. To me, this was a traumatic event.

As I settled back into my routine at home, I realized that even though fear and stress were around me, in the space of my own home and in the respite of my own body, I was in total control.

The days that followed I developed a plan to feel empowered over coronavirus and fear.

1. Make my priorities clear

My plan is changing minute by minute, so I need to be flexible, but I am clear about my priorities.

My health comes first, and during times of crisis, stress reduction is critical. Normal day-to-day stress can strain my immune system, but now stress levels are at their peak, so I must be more vigilant than ever with my self-care.

Life as I know it is going to change.

Today I must find my new normal and trust that I have adapted to a broad range of changes in my life—from new kittens to the potentially life-threatening diagnosis of Crohn’s disease.

I am still here and alive to share about it.

I have to forego some of my passions—ballroom dancing at the studio—but I can and will replace this with other passions.

Maybe now is the time to rekindle some of my past passions, such as playing my piano.

I need to make a plan. This includes taking extra supplements to boost my immune system and monitoring my overall health in conjunction with my healthcare team.

2. Orient to my present surroundings

When I returned from the grocery store, my stress level was elevated. As soon as I saw Pawso and Samba, I was reminded that I was not at the grocery store. I was home.

Pawso and Samba instinctively know when there is danger. When I got home, they were playful and content.

When I oriented myself to their clear demonstration that “It is safe, let’s play,” it brought me into the present moment. I, too, was safe.

I learned at a young age to view my environment as unsafe

My history of trauma naturally alerts me to the potentially scary things in my surroundings.

My history of trauma doesn’t draw my attention to the safe cues around me.

Knowing this, I have to be mindful and identify the things in my environment that are safe because this calms my body’s stress response.

What we focus on changes how we feel.

During my trip to the grocery store, I recalled only one indication of safety—the employee’s warm smile. There were other indicators of safety, but I was too stressed to notice. Instead I became a part of the shopping cart frenzy. In reality, all of us went home with enough food.

Realigning with signs of safety is essential because when I focus on danger, this elevates my body’s stress response. This is not healthy for my already compromised immune system.

3. Remember my resiliency

Many of us with histories of autoimmune disease and trauma have already survived a lot. Our complex histories have taught us how to prioritize and adapt.

These universal life skills can help us cope with change whether it is adjusting to two furry friends in the home or developing a plan to reduce coronavirus risks.

Health crises like coronavirus are traumatic not only because of the real present threats but because they remind us of what we have already endured with past health crises.

I don’t want to “go back there,” and cannot imagine having more symptoms “stacked” on my preexisting ones.

The mere thought of hospitalization terrifies me, and I don’t want to die.

I check in with my thoughts regularly.

I try not to describe myself as “high-risk,” because I want to feel strong.

I want mental immunity in addition to physical immunity.

My thoughts have significant influence over my health.

For some people, coronavirus has introduced new lifestyle restrictions. Living with autoimmune disease, I feel like my routine is mostly the same.

I am always hypervigilant about washing my hands, wear a mask in crowded public places, and restrict my travel and social engagements during busy times like holidays. I have a balance of working from home and in the field.

Taking precautions feels normal to me.  I don’t want any virus, regardless of origin.

The biggest obstacle is my mind and my perceptions of what is going on around me. The fears I carry about the “what ifs” and the events I imagine might take place in the future can wreak havoc on my well-being—far worse than any day-to-day adjustments.

My mind is my greatest inconvenience right now.

4. Adhere to restrictions beyond sheltering at home

I have to restrict my intake of the news and social media, because I am sensitive to the fear and stress. This is good self-care—a balance of being informed without getting overly focused on content that weakens my mental immunity.

For me, just one hour of late-night television is enough exposure, because at the bottom of the screen I can see the scrolling updates about coronavirus.

One to three social media check-ins per day and I get my dosage of updates on current events.

Sometimes I have to tell my friends I don’t want to talk about the coronavirus and instead suggest we share memories and laugh. “Laughter is the best medicine” might be cliché, but laughing increases happy chemicals that result in positive mood and well-being.

5. Remember that social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation

“No doctor can write a prescription for friendship and love.” ~Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.

Our society has become increasingly disconnected as face-to-face communication is replaced with screens. We need human contact. It is necessary for survival. Right now, we need our social connections more than anything.

Yesterday I walked outside and had a delightful conversation with my neighbor across the street. We may have been yelling, but there was no question we respected social distancing. It felt great to have human connection.

I hold in my heart how much better I felt when I noticed the man smiling at me in the grocery store. It calmed me instantly.

This is my focus—the healing power of relationships—the greatest boost we can offer to our immune systems.

6. Be kind

When we remember that we are all in this together, suddenly we focus our attention on the positive events taking place around us. This orients our brain and body to safety and calms our stress response.

Making a difference is empowering. It reminds us how much influence we still have over our lives even when scary things are happening around us. Helping others has a positive effect on our immune systems.

Now is the time to find creative ways to give back to our communities. For example, consider fostering for your local animal rescue organizations. Not only do animals offer stress relief, companionship, and the healing power of relationship, but they are one way to give back while sheltering at home.

When I smile at the people in my community providing services to those of us sheltering at home and I say, “Thank you for your services,” I feel at peace because kindness reminds my body and mind what is most important.

7. Find the sparkle in every situation

Even though I have been mandated to stay home, I can see a sparkle of light that is always there if I open my eyes. Sitting at my desk, I look around…

Among the confines of these walls from which I am told I should not venture far, is the home that I helped build. This home is a reflection of my values, my beliefs, and is abundant with intangibles to comfort me.

My home is abundant with love from my family and pets and offers me a sanctuary to be my true and uninhibited self. In my home, I have the space to truly be with me.

This is the only moment in my lifetime where I have been given permission to stay home, take care of myself, and am not asked to give reasons why. This is the only moment in my life where my health and safety have been deemed most important by the entire world.

Maybe I needed a mandate to stay home and notice that I am exactly where I always wished I could be—and here I am.

About Casey Hersch

Casey Hersch, MSW, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker, author, and founder of www.lightyoursparkle.life. She specializes in integrative treatment models for chronic illness by bringing awareness to the connection between our physical and emotional bodies. Our passions are at the center of health and ballroom dance and pet companionship are vivid examples. Inspired by her own struggles with autoimmune illnesses and trauma, she educates about empowerment and how to build individualized healing plans.

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How I’m Finding Hope in the Pandemic

“We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” ~Joseph Campbell

It’s hard to believe the state of the world we are in. It feels like 2020 has become the plot of an apocalyptic movie.

A microscopic virus invades planet earth targeting human beings. As mass numbers of human beings retreat indoors, wildlife begins to flourish. Slowly, continent by continent, the human bacteria is eliminated. Only the strongest of the species survive and mutate, creating a new breed of homo sapiens. Finally, planet earth can breathe.

Who would have ever thought that something like this would stop the world in its tracks? (Well, Bill Gates, apparently.)

I’m ashamed to admit that my weekly screen-time phone report was up 73 percent last week, and I highly doubt I was the only one. Anytime I reached for my phone, I was pulled down a rabbit hole of news reports with terrifying headlines, live videos around the world, reading new laws, catching up with hundreds of WhatsApp and Facebook messages. I could not concentrate on anything for longer than a second, and my regular meditation routine was thrown out the window.

Anxiety is a beast, and it’s been thriving in this type of environment. My little anxious dog-brain is running around in circles with all sorts of horrible scenarios.

I had the next six months of my life meticulously planned and lined up so perfectly: completing my placement at the hospital, working part-time, graduating from school, getting married in Canada. But everything seems to be floating now, held in the air, and I’m just waiting for the pieces to drop.

There are people I know who have it so much worse. They’ve lost their jobs, are forced to move out of their homes because they can’t pay rent.

Not to mention the people who are actually sick with Coronavirus, how terrifying that it might be. Living in make-shift hospital tents, being tended to by nurses in hazmat suits, their families praying they will make it out alive. Or those who are dying of something else entirely and can’t have visitors to say goodbye on their last days alive.

The repercussions of this are far-reaching and heartbreaking. It’s been devastating for so many of us, and my heart feels a culmination of pain from everywhere.

However, amongst all the pain and chaos, there is a silver lining: we are all united. We are literally all in it together; whether you live in a small village of Afghanistan or in an upscale neighbourhood in California. The entire world is working together to help each other, to fix this mess.

The power of love and community can be seen with touching videos of people singing to each other on their balconies and rooftops in Italy. Or people leaving messages in my mailbox letting me know that they can pick up groceries, or medication if I’m sick.

The virus knows no status, no religion, no ethnicity. Under this, we are all equal, we are all just human; fragile and mortal little creatures.

When faced with a pandemic, we get to see the meaninglessness of so many things in our lives. The superficial fancy clothes and expensive cars, what does that give you, ultimately? How much importance does that have right now? Or the planning and planning and saving for ‘later’ when what if there is no later? The working in jobs we hate, with people who infuriate us because we’re too afraid of change, or too afraid to fail?

It is a highly stressful and volatile time, there is no doubt about that. I am not going to sit here and tell you how you need to remain positive and grateful and blah blah blah. Feel whatever you feel, allow it to run its course. It’s absolutely normal to feel powerless and afraid, and you are certainly not alone. In fact, you could not be less alone in your state of mind right about now.

But it’s also important to remember that human beings are resilient little creatures—that means you. Yes, you reading this right now. You are a resilient being and this is going to make you stronger.

Imagine the creativity that will emerge during this time of quarantine? Imagine the art, the songs, the writing, the stories, the incredible ingenuity that will be born from this time?

We are resilient beings and our minds can run far and wide. We might feel the fear and anxiety, but we can also feel creativity and compassion. This is a time for humans to reanalyze the world we live in. To take a break from the rat race that is society and find something authentic and true within ourselves.

The story of humanity will not end with us being annihilated by the coronavirus, we will overcome. But maybe, and hopefully, what will die out is an old stale form of society.

Perhaps this is an opportunity for humankind to make a more sustainable world, not only for the planet but for us humans too.

Maybe it’s a sneak peak of a world where we’re not just another cog in the wheel of a giant corporate machine, but a place where we can bring our true humanity, our innate gifts. This virus has forced to reconsider everything, and the leaders of our worlds are struggling to handle it all. This is precisely where change happens.

Every day is a new day and in today’s world, we cannot predict what will happen in an hour, let alone tomorrow. Now is the time to rest and incubate your mind, allowing it to bask in its own creative juices. It’s a time of unprecedented change. Allow that resilience and creativity that is innate you to spread.

The world is waiting.

About Kimberly Hetherington

Kimberly Hetherington is a Canadian writer and practicing Transpersonal Art Therapist based in Sydney, Australia. Her website, Life After Elizabeth is a tribute to her sister who died in the fall of 2013. The website is about healing after loss, self-discovery, ending the stigma of mental illness, and exploring how we can be the best version of ourselves we can be.

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Maybe This Forced Pause Is Actually Good for the Planet

“The earth is what we all have in common.” ~Wendell Berry

 I love the warmth and brightness of sunny days, but I’ve always enjoyed the stillness that comes around as the rain starts to fall, as well.

Creatures retreat to the warmth and dryness of shelters and home spaces. Outdoor work and routines are rethought, sometimes placed on pause. The world, at least as far as the rain clouds stretch, quiets.

In some ways, these current moments in our world feel like one huge rainstorm—one that, instead of only a few miles, spans the entirety of our planet. And while there are moments that feel scary, as we all navigate uncertainty and unchartered territory, there are others during which glimmers of hope and magic seem to be surfacing.

Among the many posts about ways we can all take action to help keep our families and communities safe, there are also statistics emerging about reductions in gases relating to energy and transport, as well as photos of things like clearer canal water and satellite images showing dramatic declines in pollution levels.

While we’re all taking a break from the hustle and bustle of our daily routines—with all of our consumer-based ways in tow—maybe the Earth will have time and space to reset a little, to find a better balance, to heal.

Maybe we’ll have time and space to think more about the things we want and the things we need, and how our lives and our daily activities and patterns affect the world around us.

Maybe the waterways and the air will continue to become cleaner and clearer.

Maybe the dolphins will continue to come closer.

Maybe the levels of atmospheric nitrogen dioxide will continue to decrease.

Maybe the Earth will surprise us with the ways that it is able to make quick changes during only a brief pause in the output of our everyday industry and pollution.

And maybe we all will notice these changes and they will inspire us to make our own.

Patience. Kindness. Compassion. Love.

These are qualities of action and of being that will help us, and the people around us, to move through and around this smoothly. These are also qualities of action and of being that we can extend, in everyday ways, beyond this particular stretch of time, to our planet—as it, too, moves through and around this (and us) smoothly.

Keeping these qualities at the fore, while interacting with others, might look like truly listening while others voice their concerns or struggles. It might look like checking in with older neighbors to see if they need anything before making a trip to the store, making time to connect with friends and family members more frequently through the online world or phone calls, or just, in general, getting creative with how we connect.

And keeping these qualities in mind while interacting with and on behalf of our planet might look like continuing to be resourceful long after this unusual experience is over—really thinking about the things we buy, whether we truly need these things and how long they’ll last before they find a spot in a nearby landfill.

It might look like continuing to plan our trips better, so that we’re driving less—or growing more gardens, so that we’re less dependent on transported, packaged foods.

It might look like resource sharing with our neighbors… and doing whatever we can do to live in a way that is less focused on short-term desires and more focused on what is good for the overall wellness of this world that we all get to be a part of.

Sitting quietly outside, it feels like the wind is whispering, “Are you seeing this?” And I’m wordlessly responding, “Yeah, it’s as if the whole world is simultaneously awake and asleep—as if we’re all suddenly paying more attention and in the process of resting and resetting a little, in ways, as well.”

It is surreal, and strangely beautiful.

About Carrie Ciula

Carrie Ciula is the author of The Little Book of Big Life Change, which explores nine key elements of well-being and offers a wide-spanning, complete approach to regaining balance in our lives. Visit her at carrieciula.com, or connect with her through Facebook or Instagram.

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How I Overcame My Anger to Be Better for My Family

“Where there is anger, there is always pain underneath.” ~Eckhart Tolle

As a special-needs parent, it feels that I am in constant anger and fight mode.

I am fighting with my children on the home front.

I am fighting for their right to get access to services.

I am fighting for their acceptance.

I am fighting for my children to help them make progress.

To be in constant fight mode can be overwhelming and exhausting.

In my weakness, I let my emotions get the best of me.

I lose my temper with my loved ones.

The One Thing I Regret Saying to My Daughter

A particular incident that took place many years ago stands out in my mind to this date.

The principal of my daughter’s school told me she was causing lots of problems there. Her behavior was disturbing her classmates, and many parents had complaints about it.

“We feel that this school is not suitable for her and it would be best to find her another school,” said the principal.

I fought with the school to let her stay. This was the third school we had to fight for her acceptance.

I felt that I was coming to another dead end.

After that meeting, I headed home and was greeted with an onslaught of screaming and shouting children.

Adding to that chaos, my daughter with autism poured out the contents of every toiletry bottle she could find into the bathtub. It is incredible how much children can do given one minute unsupervised.

At that very moment, I snapped and yelled.

“What is wrong with you? What is wrong with you?”

“Why are you always wrecking the house?”

“Why can’t I have a moment of peace without you causing any trouble?”

“I did not sign up for this!” 

“I don’t want you!”

My daughter with little communication skills stood frozen. I saw fear in her eyes. She felt every ounce of anger I had in me then.

Why Yelling Further Delays a Child’s Development

When children misbehave, yelling at them seems like a natural response. We feel that when we yell at them, we get their attention, we are disciplining them.

None of us likes to be yelled at. When we yell at our children, they are more likely to shut down instead of listening. That is not a good way to communicate.

For children on the spectrum, yelling can be particularly detrimental, as it may result in them retreating into their own world and not engaging with other people even more.

The more we connect and engage with them, the more they can thrive and grow. Hence, yelling can never be a means to “discipline” them regardless of how stressful and frustrated we may feel at that moment.

Not Yelling—Easier Said Than Done

Trust me. No one understands this more than I do. When you are stressed and frustrated, releasing all that pent-up emotion seems like the only solution.

I struggle at managing my anger. There are so many times I find myself regretting the way I spoke and raised my voice to my loved ones.

With each angry word exchanged, I see my daughter retreating into her own world, and it pains me so much. Her mother caused all of that.

The truth is, I am not angry with my daughter for the silly things she has done.

It is not her fault.

My beautiful daughter is not making life difficult for me, she is having a difficult time.

For her sake, I’ve I had to find a positive way to deal with my anger issues.

I’ve needed to help myself so that I could help her.

Anger Is Just a Mask for Another Emotion

Anger is often a secondary emotion. It is a mask that covers a deeper feeling that I am unwilling to address.

Behind my anger are my fears, frustration, and insecurities.

More than often, my anger stems from my inability to control what is outside of myself.

I am unable to change the school’s decision not to accept her.

My daughter is unable to receive decent therapy support in our home country.

Instead, I have had to be my daughter’s therapist, and I felt insecure about my abilities to help her then.

All these overwhelming feelings of being frustrated, being unfairly treated, not being respected, triggered the anger inside of me. Unfortunately, my poor daughter had to bear the angry burns of her hot-headed mother.

How I Address the Real Meaning of My Anger

In order to manage my anger, I’ve needed to:

1. Acknowledge the emotion I am feeling.

What am I feeling now?

 I am feeling angry.

Telling myself that I am angry helps me to calm down.

It’s important to recognize and feel the anger in these situations. By addressing it, I am acknowledging that I matter, and it prompts me to take a deeper look at what is going on behind the scenes.

2. Identify the emotion behind the anger.

What am I feeling besides anger?

I am feeling rejected by what the school has done, and I am also feeling anxious about having the time to find another school for my daughter, or if I even can.

My anger is always trying to tell me something. Once I listen to it, I’m in a better place to understand the situation and move forward toward the healing process.

The more clarity I get about why I am angry and the more I acknowledge those emotions, the less my anger impacts me. By gaining more clarity, I can also find productive solutions to solve my problems.

How I Manage My Anger

1. Replace negative thoughts with more constructive ones.

I realize that my attitude affects how I interpret my circumstances. It impacts my thoughts, energy, and above all, the actions I take.

Much of my anger and frustration can be better managed when I practice reframing.

Instead of saying, “My child is a brat who doesn’t listen and is out to make my life miserable,” I try to say, “My child doesn’t quite understand what I’m trying to tell her. I need to demonstrate to her what she is required to do.”

By reframing my thought process and how I describe my children and my problems, I am able to see things with acceptance, compassion, and empathy.

2. Identify common anger triggers.

Identifying my common triggers helps me mentally prepare myself prior to the event.

I start by visualizing a typical situation and ask myself how I can respond to it wisely. The more I practice this visualization, the more I can react to such situations more appropriately.

It also helps to journal down what times and moments cause these triggers.

3. Practice some relaxation/calming exercises.

Using simple relaxation and calming strategies helps me soothe those angry feelings.

Some examples of common relaxation exercises:

  • Having a cup of tea
  • Using breathing techniques
  • Practicing yoga and meditation
  • Listening to music
  • Exercising
  • Using stress-relief tools (e.g. stress ball)

Since I’ve been practicing these exercises, homework and therapy times at home have been more pleasant for me and the children. Meditating for five minutes before homework takes away any lingering frustrations and stress.

4. Focus on the solution, not the problem.

All too often, when a problem occurs, I focus on the negative situation, and this puts me in a bad mood. I resolve more things when I focus more on the solution instead.

To start, I take the time to fully analyze the problem and make a list of possible solutions.

When I do this, I know I am taking proactive steps to improve our lives. I am focusing on what I can control instead of mindlessly reacting to my circumstances.

5. Find humor in the situation.

Sometimes laughter is the best medicine.

Finding humor in a situation, even amid the most trying times, can be both relieving and empowering.

I was in the car when my daughter started screaming and crying suddenly. I stopped the car and asked her what the matter was; no amount of coaxing, hugs, and bribes {sweets} was able to calm her down.

I was feeling stressed with the situation, so in desperation, I made funny faces and fart noises at her. and she laughed hysterically. After a good laugh, my daughter explained that she was angry with me because I promised her earlier that I would bring her to the shop, but instead was driving toward home.

If I had responded in anger then, I would not have been in a position of empathy to help her, and the mystery to her emotional outburst would remain unsolved.

6. Take a time-out.

When I sense a wave of anger coming up, I try to excuse myself from the situation. Taking a time-out prevents me from saying things that I may later regret.

Finding a quiet area to cool down and practicing some of the relaxation exercises mentioned above has saved me on many occasions.

When the anger has subsided, I find it helps to think of what I may say before returning to the scene.

7. Practice forgiveness.

It’s difficult to find peace when we’re bottled up in anger and pain. Constant internal hostility saps away our energy both physically and mentally.

It helps me minimize the hostility within to see everyone like my daughter—not giving me a hard time, but having a hard time. It’s much easier to forgive when I consider that everyone else is struggling, trying their best, and sometimes falling short.

By forgiving, I accept the events for the way they are. I am letting go of any negative attachments.

By forgiving, I am taking control of my life by saying that this act no longer defines me, it no longer controls me.

By forgiving, I can finally find peace and move on with my life.

Learning How to Own My Anger

I have seen first-hand how my anger affects my family. It doesn’t serve them at all. Out of love and necessity, I will do whatever I can to be a better person for them.

Hence, every day in every way, I am making a conscious effort to control my anger before it controls me.

There will be days when I still mess up. We are all human and we will never be perfect.

I recognize my mistakes and acknowledge what needs to be done to improve.

Slowly but surely, I am getting there. I am, and will always be, a constant work in progress.

Is your anger controlling your life? What strategies have helped you work through and let go of your anger?

About Stephanie

Stephanie Weiderstrand helps parents raising children on the autism spectrum how to awaken their children’s gifts. She has a daughter with autism and ADHD and two other children with other learning challenges. She believes that the right connection and environment will bring out the best out of our special-needs children. If you have a loved one on the autism spectrum, sign up for Stephane’s FREE 7-day email course AWAKEN THE GIFTS OF YOUR CHILD.

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How to Stay Mindful and Safe Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak

“We cannot always control everything that happens to us in this life, but we can control how we respond.” ~Lionel Kendrick

The coronavirus is no longer isolated to just China. It’s here, affecting over ninety countries, and it continues to spread worldwide with new cases popping up daily. It’s all over the news and there is an inescapable sense of anxiety, stress, and uncertainty.

Just within the last week, there were over fifty confirmed cases in the Bay Area, where I live. Am I scared? Yeah, especially for my elderly parents who are already immune-compromised. Anxiety thrives on uncertainty. And these are some very uncertain times.

But then I am reminded to be mindful, not swept away by the constant news stories, office chatter, and Facebook stories bombarding my external environment. Being mindful doesn’t mean ignoring or avoiding the situation at hand. It means being present, aware, and discerning with all that is going on with the spread of the coronavirus.

Here are some things that help me stay grounded and mindful:

1. Be prepared for the things that you can control.

We don’t have control over what happens in life, but we do have control over how we choose to respond. So how can you choose to respond to this outbreak? You can choose to react to the news, be driven by fear, causing anxiety and stress—or you can choose to be better prepared. Here are some examples:

Physical Precautions: You might have trouble finding hand sanitizer, clorox wipes, masks, and other such supplies, but you can still wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. You can also make your own hand sanitizer using two parts aloe, one part alcohol.

Social precautions:  You might want to avoid or limit huge social gatherings. Switch to phone calls and video calls, to stay connected with friends and keep your sense of community.

Relationship/Family: Discuss with family members extra precautions needed for their safety. Talking to your parents, older relatives, and children about the importance of handwashing and some (or all) of the other precautions listed here.

I (with the tag team effort of my brother) finally convinced my elderly parents to cancel their upcoming international trip. When we were able to communicate our concern from a place of  love, not control, my (stubborn) parents were more receptive.

Work: Discuss with your boss the possibility of work-from-home options, and make sure you have the necessary equipment and tools to work remotely.

Finances: There is a possibility that you could be asked to stay home and not work for an extended amount of time. If you are not financially prepared for this, it is important to start thinking about it now. Some questions you may ask yourself are: Where are some areas I could cut unnecessary spending? How can I save more in the case of an emergency? Who could I reach out for financial support if I exhaust my resources?

Fitness: Instead of going to the gym, you might think about taking a run in nature, or doing your workout at home.

Disruptions such as school, work, and business closures can cause anxiety and stress. But these things are out of your control. The best thing you can do is be prepared for these disruptions to the extent that you can.

2. What you choose to focus on, grows.

Are you constantly watching the news, on top of every new case of the coronavirus, talking about the outbreak with every colleague, friend, or family member? Are you thinking, “Oh my God, what happens if I get it and spread it to my children? The whole world will be soon infected!” How are your anxiety and stress levels? I bet you believe you are at high risk.

You can choose to grow your fear by being constantly inundated with this type of information, or you can choose to anchor yourself in a belief that is true for you. An example may be: “I am taking the necessary precautions to be as safe as possible.”

If you are feeling anxious, a loving-kindness mantra may be helpful: “May I be safe, may I be healthy, may I live with ease.” My friend Dave Potter has a thirteen-minute loving-kindness meditation available here.

Personally, I choose to limit my exposure to the news and refer to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov/) or World Health Organization (https://www.who.int/) for unbiased facts.

I am not being ignorant by avoiding the news, I am being discerning of what information I expose myself to. I educate myself about the type of precautions I need to take—not out of fear, but out of discernment so that I can take the necessary precautions from an intelligent, clear, centered place. 

3. Take care of your health (mind, body, spirit).

This goes without saying, but taking care of your health should always be top priority. Especially during times like these, it is even more important to care for our health and build a strong immune system.

Sleep well. Sleep affects your immune system. You are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus if not getting enough sleep (and quality sleep!). 

Eat well and exercise. Healthy eating habits and exercise are vital to optimal health. Exercise and eating healthy promotes feelings of well-being and boosts immunity.

Self-care/self-love. You can sleep well, eat well, and be in good physical shape but be running around frantically, mind racing a million miles per minute, trying to serve everyone else’s needs. Stop and do something for you. Whether that’s taking five minutes to soak in the warm sun, enjoying a hot bath, or taking a walk in nature. Do something (no matter how small) every day, just for you.

Meditation/mindfulness practice. Breathe, sit in silence, observe your thoughts without judgment, be still. You know that meditating or practicing mindfulness has immense benefits to your health. Make it a priority.

The coronavirus is a real outbreak and deserves appropriate attention. However, the more you stress, the more you decrease your immune functioning, the more susceptible you are to viruses.

You can take the necessary precautions to be safe and decrease your chances of exposure, be discerning of what you choose to focus on, and keep your mind, body, and spirit in optimal health.

May you be safe.
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you live with ease.

About Yurika Vu

Yurika Vu is a mindfulness and empowerment life coach who works with high-level professionals to make sustainable change through mindfulness techniques. She helps her clients gain clarity and vision so they can stand in their power to create a life of fulfillment and happiness. She is a teacher, cat lover, and dancer whose life mission is to spread love and kindness to all living beings. Find out more at www.yurikavu.com.

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How to Know If Hidden Low Self-Esteem Is Holding You Back in Life

“Forgive yourself for not knowing better at the time. Forgive yourself for giving away your power. Forgive yourself for past behaviors. Forgive yourself for the survival patterns and traits you picked up while enduring trauma. Forgive yourself for being who you needed to be.” ~Audrey Kitching

You can try it all—exercise, a bubble bath, a relationship, a promotion, and everything else that you think will make you happy. I have come to learn those things will not give you the kind of happiness you desire until they coincide with you knowing your worth.

At my unhappiest times, my eyes were wide shut to the truth—I had low self-esteem. I never considered that the lingering feeling of being stuck was coming from a lack of self-worth. Instead, I thought if I could control what was going on outside, it would fix the inside. Believe me, I gave it my best shot.

I spent my latter twenties with a certain level of awareness that my needs were neither valued nor met. I was doing what I could to be as happy as possible, and yet I was haunted by the thought “this can’t be it.”

I was in a long-term relationship and would often find myself daydreaming about our breakup. The dream would come to a sudden halt, as I was clouded by the fear of being alone and never being loved again.

I spent that relationship feeling second best, putting his happiness above my own, longing for him to want me, and wondering if we ever fell in love. Ultimately, I buried the doubt and decided I was lucky. After all, as I knew all too well, it could be worse.

My relationships had always been full of drama. Pre and post said relationship, if a guy liked me, I would run away; I would come away from a date and complain that the smallest thing was wrong.

Then you have the guys that didn’t see me. As soon as I got wind that one was unavailable, he would become the whole meaning of my existence and I would be convinced he was the one, I loved him, he just couldn’t see how perfect we could be together. So I’d do every single cringey thing in the book to make him see that we were born for each other. This felt normal to me, and totally romantic.

When I did date someone I liked, it was all about fitting my life around them, and when it didn’t work out, I would find a way to blame myself and spend weeks considering what I woulda, shoulda, coulda done.

When it came to friends, if you could break down my wall, you were in. But I was (and sometimes still am) a bit on edge, convinced you will see through me. Convinced you don’t really like me, or I’ve said something to upset you. You probably wouldn’t know, because as far as you’re concerned, I’m strong and direct. I think that you think I’m stupid, inferior, or selfish.

I believed that in order to keep my friends, I had to be the best friend, convinced they wouldn’t stick around otherwise. Friends were allowed to be unreliable and make mistakes, but I didn’t allow myself that kind of flexibility. This way of living worked—my friends are actually good people, so it managed to go under my radar. Besides, I thought I was lucky they even liked me, given where I’ve come from.

If you’re not in my circle, it’s a bit tougher; it can be tough to get close. I’ve been told from first impression, it’s hard to know if I like you. I’m suspicious, closed, cold. One minute I can forgive easily, and the next I won’t. If you frighten me or challenge me, I can come at you with a sting.

The thing about dormant low self-esteem is you have become the master. As I walked through life, I was ‘okay.’ I had a pretty low bar when it came to happiness. Playing small, outstaying relationships, chasing people’s approval, wondering if people liked me, not taking risks; they all felt ordinary, and they all protected me from confirming my biggest fear: No one wants me.

My coping skills were doing the job, they kept me firmly in my comfort zone where I was safe.

You know what happens when you never leave your comfort zone? Life becomes mundane and sad, and leaving it becomes scarier and scarier. Yet the longing becomes stronger. You become stuck.

So how do you become unstuck?

Today, I wholeheartedly believe I am as worthy as my friends, family, and any man I ever have or will date. I make decisions, I share my opinion, I walk away, I let go, I take risks, I let people in, and I experience a level of happiness I didn’t even know was possible.

So how did the girl who ignored her inner turmoil transform her whole world?

I should confess, I didn’t suddenly wake up and realize my worth. Several years ago, my boyfriend ended our relationship and suddenly I was exposed to feelings the relationship had been covering up.

As life and luck would have it, around the same time, I was asked to deliver a workshop on self-esteem at work. That was to be my biggest eye opener of all. There I was, teaching people about self-esteem, and each session would set alarm bells off for me as it dawned on me: I did not know my worth.

It became obvious to me that up until this point, the happiness techniques (gratitude journals, fun plans, and exercise) I had tried so hard to implement were not enough with my own self-acceptance.

I started with relationships; that was where most of the anxiety and overthinking seemed to be coming from. I went for it—self-help, therapy, coaching, and any TED talk I could come across to help me understand why I was pulled toward people I knew I did not want or deserve.

I learned a lot about my why; when you grow up and the people around you are consistently inconsistent, you develop the same pattern in your own life. I didn’t experience secure attachments as a child. I experienced things not even fit for adults to experience; I was exposed to violence, drugs, and chaos. I adopted coping strategies to stay safe. Outside of the home, I pretended life was fine, and that was to become my greatest skill.

As I became more inquisitive and adopted more self-compassion, I was able to reflect on my life and identify the patterns that had been draining me and standing in the way of me being me.

I know now that shining a light on those patterns helped me during my hardest times. I understood that I was not alone, and that insight gave me the most powerful knowledge of all: I was not stuck, and I had the power to change.

To help you experience the same level of transformation, I am going to share common patterns of low self-esteem:

You are too afraid to take risks.

You play small, remaining firmly in your comfort zone. Perhaps when you consider making a change or trying something new, you are crippled by the fear of failing or what other people would think. You hardly consider you will be okay if other people judged you.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you often daydream about the change, but you don’t go much further than that. It’s a no to a new job, no to a new gym class, and forget going on your dream holiday alone. A lack of self-belief gives you an overwhelming feeling of not being able to cope and over-valuing the opinion of others.

You people-please.

You say yes too much and care more about other people’s needs than your own. Behaviors will include going out of your way to avoid conflict and doing things you don’t want to do in a bid to make other people happy.

When you have a fear of not being good enough, you will go above and beyond to make sure you are liked, often at the expense of your own well-being. Being kind is great, but that includes kindness toward you.

You see yourself as lucky or that you should be grateful.

You may well be settling for less than you deserve in life, love, and work. Niggly thoughts or feelings tell you that you deserve more, but you decide what you have is good enough. You might feel a constant longing for more—more love, more fun, more understanding… more.

Perhaps you keep yourself busy and pretend you only feel this way because you’re tired, or you find yourself with a lack of motivation and decide this will pass when you feel yourself again. When you don’t value yourself, you believe you don’t deserve more and could never have more.

You allow others to treat you poorly.

People say things and do things that leave you feeling worthless and unheard. Sometimes you might attempt to stand up for yourself and other times you pretend you don’t notice. You make excuses for their behavior, or you accept their excuses for how they treat you. You do know deep down something is off.

A significant sign here is that you spend time wishing people would show you more respect—yet you allow them to drop you and pick you up, cheat on you, put you second, dismiss your ideas and the rest. Other people treat you how you allow them; when you treat yourself poorly, others likely will too.

You get needy.

You have unhealthy patterns when it comes to trying to maintain certain areas of your life. You may know it’s not helping, but it feels out of your control.

Perhaps you want to look a certain way, you want work to stay the same, you prefer your friend to stay single, or you don’t want this person to leave you. It’s likely in these situations that anxiety is overpowering, and you become irrational at times—sulking, over-texting, ignoring, pushing and pulling, you try anything. Often in this situation, you take things personally and see change as a form of rejection, and you under-estimate your ability to be okay.

You do things you don’t want to do.

You behave in ways that are not aligned with your values and who you really are. You sleep with them too soon, you go places you don’t enjoy, you hide your real interests, you may even lie about what you want.

In some cases, you will know you’re doing these things, and sometimes you won’t name it, but you will come away from situations feeling like you have had all your joy sucked out of you. When you don’t appreciate yourself, you don’t consider that people will like you even when you have different interests.

You worry and overthink things you have said and done.

You spend large chunks of time worrying about what you’ve said and questioning if you have offended anyone. This may interrupt tasks that need to be done and steal happiness from your current moment.

At this point you might seek reassurance or misinterpret other people’s words and actions to mean they are upset with you. Convinced your friends no longer like you, or something you said puts people off you, you become obsessive about it. When you don’t love yourself, you find it hard to believe anyone else does and you hold onto a fear they will leave you.

You block people out easily.

You avoid letting people get too close. You might see the worst in people, judge them, or assume they will leave soon anyway. Maybe you cut ties if they say one thing you don’t like, or you list all the things you don’t like about them and decide the two of you do not fit.

You might say out loud you don’t care about not being liked or what other people think of you. Typically, you might avoid social get togethers, meeting new people, and second dates and find yourself jealous of your friends having other friends. If you don’t value yourself, you assume others will not value you, and so rather than risk being hurt, you just don’t let them in.

 

Looking back, the above patterns were some of the most prominent in my life. At the time, I didn’t give them the attention they deserved. Nobody pointed them out and they were a natural part of my day-to-day life.

As I came to realize my true worth, many positive shifts occurred unintentionally. The more you do things that make you feel good, the more attuned you become to the things that don’t. One small change can feel hugely powerful and have a beautiful ripple effect across your life.

If you are serious about having healthy, happy relationships then the first thing you can do is look at yourself. While relationship difficulties are inevitable, if you have healthy self-esteem, you’ll be able to face them feeling secure, knowing that no one person is more important than the other and for the most part, both of your needs deserve to be met.

The most important thing I’ve done is work on my relationship with myself. I’ve learned to love myself, accept myself, and get to know myself, and let me tell you, it has been a bumpy road with many trips and falls along the way. That’s the way it works.

If you have had enough of not feeling enough, it’s time to take notice. You don’t have to wait to hit rock bottom, you don’t have to wait another ten years. Start now, you deserve it.

About Carly Ann

Carly Ann is a Self-Esteem Coach. Delivering workshops and an online Academy designed to help women break-up with self-doubt, boost self-esteem and develop the courage to be you. You can learn more about Carly Ann by visiting www.carly-ann.co.uk or follow her on Instagram: @the_happy_diary_

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The post How to Know If Hidden Low Self-Esteem Is Holding You Back in Life appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

How to End the Cycle of Addiction in Your Family

“You could have grown cold, but you grew courageous instead. You could have given up, but you kept on going. You could have seen obstacles, but you called them adventures. You could have called them weeds, but instead you called them wildflower. You could have died a caterpillar, but you fought on to be a butterfly. You could have denied yourself goodness, but instead you chose to show yourself some self-love. You could have defined yourself by the dark days, but instead through them you realized your light.” ~S.C. Lourie

I recently read a message written by Kirk Franklin: “Two twin boys were raised by an alcoholic father. One grew up to be an alcoholic and when asked what happened, he said, ‘I watched my father.’ The other grew up and never drank in his life. When he was asked what happened, he said, ‘I watched my father.’ Two boys, same dad, two different perspectives. Your perspective in life will determine your destiny.”

In a study, it was reported that a child of an alcoholic is eight times more likely to develop an addiction than a child who doesn’t grow up with an alcoholic parent.

I have spoken with various people who have said something along the lines of “My grandpa struggled with an addiction, my dad struggled with an addiction, so it was inevitable that I would too.”

Let me stop you right there and tell you that you absolutely have the power to stop the cycle.

I grew up with a dad who battled substance abuse, and I learned at an early age that I had a choice when it came to how I was going to live my own life.

Would I step into the same habits and live with a victim mentality believing that I had no other options? Or, would I step forward knowing I have the power to create my life for myself?

I don’t know who needs to hear this today, but it needs to be known that the struggle you have seen in your family does not need to be your own.

For many families across the country, the struggle of addiction is a difficult cycle to break, but it’s not impossible.

Don’t allow the world to make you believe that just because your parent, grandparent, uncle/aunt struggled that means you have to live out your days struggling too. It doesn’t need to define who you are and what you do. You have the power to break the cycle and start a new beginning for your family. Here’s how.

Focus on the things you can control.

Each day we have a choice. We can take steps to move forward with purpose or stay rooted in past hurt. We may not have control over everything that happens in our life, but we do have control over how we respond.

You may not be able to control the person you love who struggles with the addiction, but you are in charge of yourself—and how you allow it to impact you.

No matter how much you want to, you cannot change the people around you. You can only control your own thoughts, actions, and reactions.

Recognize that you can choose to respond to the pain of living with an addict by continuing the cycle of addiction—or you can be the one who ends it. You can learn from their mistakes, find healthier ways to cope with your feelings, and live a life of your own choosing.

Let other people in.

Seeing a loved one struggle with an addiction can leave a lasting impression and impact your life in many ways you may not realize. You may even attempt to sweep your feelings under the rug. Instead of trying to erase painful memories, seek professional guidance from an individual or group who can relay to you that you’re not alone and you have support.

For many years, I felt as though I was the only person I knew who had a parent struggling with an addiction. When I finally garnered up the courage, I decided to attend a community event for families impacted by addiction.

It was incredibly eye-opening to better understand my dad’s battle with substance abuse. It also allowed me to connect and learn from other people my age on a deeper level, while releasing the belief that I was alone in what I had experienced.

Turn your pain into purpose.

Your family’s history of addiction can cause embarrassment, pain, and confusion. Witnessing someone you love fall victim to substance abuse can fuel an array of emotions—from anger to disbelief and disappointment. If you don’t address your feelings head on, you’re likely to look for ways to suppress them.

So, instead of numbing your pain, turn it into purpose.

It takes a lot of strength to stop the cycle of addiction and start fresh. Sharing your experience with others can help inspire those standing in your shoes. Your story has a message of courage and hope that can make a difference in many lives.

It took me nearly thirty years to get to a place where I knew it was time to share my story about my dad’s struggle with substance abuse. I held it inside because of shame, guilt, and a fear that others would judge me because of the stigma of addiction.

When I found myself in a space of being able to share my story, many people began openly sharing their experience with it too. We never know what someone else is struggling with. and we never know how our story might help or inspire them. Those words “me too” offer others peace of mind, reminding them they aren’t alone.

Let go to set yourself free.

One of the greatest traits a person can have is the ability to forgive themselves and others. Unfortunately, what happens all too often is a person will go through life carrying extra baggage that has been weighing on them for years, and at times, even decades.

I have spoken with many people who battle addiction, and they often talk about how much hurt they feel someone inflicted on them and how they turned to their addiction to numb the pain.

Resentment and unwillingness to forgive will keep you locked in the past and prevent you from moving forward with your life. Remember: When you forgive, you aren’t doing it for the other person; you’re doing it to set yourself free.

I know what you are thinking: “But you don’t know what they’ve done to me.”

Forgiveness does not mean that you are excusing their behavior; it means you quit replaying it in your mind and giving it time and emotional energy.

You can carry unforgiveness, but it will cost you joy.

You can carry bitterness, but it will cost you peace.

You may think they don’t deserve to be forgiven, maybe not, but you deserve relief.

As Carl Jung said, “I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.”

About Ashley Surma

Ashley Surma is the founder of For The Good, a community created to elevate and empower you to live a purpose-driven life. She co-hosts the For The Good podcast with her husband Jordan. She is currently writing a book focused on the power of resiliency and how to transform pain into purpose. You can connect with her on Instagram at Instagram.com/forthegoodofficial and instragram/ashsurma or on Facebook.

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