We live in a society that tends to dismiss mental health and self-care, but with a large percentage of the population now suffering from moderate to high stress levels...
Taking GOOD care of yourself should be your first priority!
I know we've talked a lot recently about balance in your life. We've also covered the long term damage that stress can cause. Making yourself a priority is more important than ever!
The tips I'm providing today may sound very familiar - because they ARE! Mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health are related. Which means that taking action to improve any one area – improves them all! Win. Win.
In the interest of keeping this short – I'm not going to explain why each of these tips is important or why they are effective. I'm just going to list them and if you'd like more detailed information please feel free to shoot me an email.
I'm also providing a spiffy little infograph image at the bottom of this post so you can print these tips and put them somewhere you will see them every day. Remind yourself that you deserve the best life ever!
(right click on the image above and choose 'save image as')
Supporting you on your journey,
Life can be a challenge. Some days so much of a challenge that we just can't face the day without protection. Protection from the judgment, the anticipated rejection, disappointment or pain. So we 'armor up' and place a mask between ourselves and the world.
Ultimately - we all wear a mask for the same reason - because without it we must deal with that screeching inner voice that tells us "we are not good enough as we are." That if we show the world our true - authentic 'face' - judgment will chew us up and spit us out leaving us a quivering heap of wounded humanity.
We've been programmed to care so much about what the world thinks of us that we lose touch with who we really are! Not to mention the fact that if you're anything like me - you're your own worst critic. Is it any wonder we run to our 'emotional closet' first thing in the morning and choose which mask we'll need today?!
Will it be the People Pleaser mask? You know, the one we use to make everyone else happy because having a different opinion or thought will cause conflict. Until you have suppressed your own thoughts for so long you're no longer sure what they are?!
Or maybe the Functional Mask is your favorite. This is one we all need at times. The one that helps you through that business meeting when your son just called to tell you he backed into a fire hydrant in your brand new SUV. The one that lets you 'function' and perform your usual routine no matter what emotions are swirling around inside you.
Maybe you wear a mask of Anger because anger allows us to keep people at a distance so they can never know you are really feeling vulnerable, lonely or maybe even worthless? Another way to protect yourself might be the Happy Mask - smiling and joking even when your feelings are hurt or you're feeling overwhelmed.
I once had an associate who used the Avoidance Mask so fiercely that she came off as cold, uncaring, and arrogant to everyone she encountered. If a situation or person made her feel uncomfortable, she just wouldn't respond. She'd say, "I need to sit with this" and she would sit and sit and eventually never respond at all. What she didn't realize was that in protecting herself she was alienating potential friends, co-workers, love interests, and even her family.
There are many masks we use for protection. We have to ensure our authentic selves remain hidden. At what cost though? In the short run masks can shield us from the stinging arrows of life. Or we might use a persona to manifest the life of our dreams (fake it till ya make it). This one's a personal favorite of mine!
In the long term though - wearing a mask is not only exhausting but it desensitizes us to our own true feelings. We also immediately lose the opportunity to be truly connected to others and to be truly connected to ourselves. This can lead to anxiety, depression and dis-ease! We pay such a high price when we let others define us!
So how do we stop this habitual ritual of reaching for the masks?
Embracing the Authentic You:
Set the Intention: Yep - just like everything else in life - we begin with intention. We commit to taking action. To taking care of ourselves first and foremost (for a change!). Even though it might not be easy at first and could leave us feeling vulnerable and maybe even judged - we can do it! So voice your desires - speak up about which movie you'd like to watch or where you'd like to eat. One step at a time. (this doesn’t me we should suddenly embrace our inner child and become a demanding toddler - yep - I sometimes give in to that little girl who's laying on the floor kicking and screaming, "I want what I want, now!") We can express ourselves with kindness as grace.
Head High: No matter what mask you've sent back to the closet - being vulnerable can be scary. This is the time to breathe deep and stand straight. Expressing your true self - your true opinions and desires doesn't have to be difficult. Spend time getting to know what it feels like to put yourself first. Accept all the Feels!
New Coping Skills: This is so important! As we allow ourselves - to be ourselves - we'll need new coping skills. Skills to help us deal with emotional pain, judgment and vulnerability. You can find lots of great coping skills right here by reading through my blog!
Acceptance: It may take some time to stop automatically reaching for a mask. (Some masks when used short term are both a necessity and a healthy coping mechanism.) Facing our fears, especially those of being criticized or rejected isn't pleasant. We've become attached to who we are behind those masks. We like that insulated vacuum that protects us not realizing that it is also preventing us from healthy growth - and from being loved and accepted for who we really are. Our authentic self.
Here's an exercise that can help:
Grab a pen and make two rows on a blank sheet of paper. On one side quickly write down five words you feel define who you are. Don't overthink this - just write it down! (i.e. strong, loving, kind, respectful)
Now, whether these qualities are true or not - use the other side to write down the opposite of each. (i.e. weak, unloving, unkind, disrespectful)
Now try this, using the words I am - randomly add a word from the first row and then from the second row. Like this. I am strong and I am unkind. I am loving and I am weak. Would it surprise you to not only realize you are all of these things and that your mask is not really necessary for you to live with these contradictory parts of yourself? The yin and the yang. We are ALL balancing our contradictions and that's what life is all about. Embracing ALL that we are!!
Take a look at those masks - and what they're hiding from the world. Be gentle with yourself. Explore who you are. Who you are with the mask firmly in place and who you are beneath that mask. You're a Divine Masterpiece. Perfectly Imperfect. Entitled. Entitled to be loved and accepted for who you really are!
Grab those new coping skills and the hands of someone you love and trust - and step out and feel the sunshine on your face! You've got this!
Supporting You on Your Journey,
I suffered from anxiety and panic attacks for many years before I created a personal health plan that reduced stress, embraced a healthier lifestyle and emphasized a firm dedication to self-care (well most days..lol). I share this with you straight off, so you will know that not only have I been there, in the throes of overwhelming panic (Somebody Help me!) but I also have an arsenal of tools to help.
Anxiety – you know - that sudden constriction in your chest as your body moves into fight or flight response. Once the difference between returning to your cave or being eaten by a saber tooth tiger – today, this response can still be a healthy tool to alert us to a dangerous situation or motivate us to excel ( such as studying harder for an exam). When anxiety turns into an episode of intense panic or fear though– it is no longer a healthy tool but a signal from our bodies that something needs to change. Anxiety (and stress) is by far the number one symptom my clients all have in common.
Anxiety attacks, sometimes referred to as panic attacks, usually occur suddenly and without warning. Sometimes we can determine the trigger (being stuck in an elevator) but more often than not – they happen with no obvious cause. Symptoms can include chest pain and heart palpitations, panic, trouble breathing, hyperventilating, trembling, sweating, chills, feeling like you’re going to lose consciousness, nausea, feelings of detachment or loss of control. Yep, it’s scary even reading them! So let’s get to the tips.
1) Stay – When you realize that anxiety has seized control of you – don’t run away from it. Panic attacks typically peak within 10 minutes and they will subside more quickly when you can signal your brain that there is no danger. If you flee the scene your panic response will associate that location with the panic which creates a whole new issue. When you stay in the situation, your panic response receives the message that this is a false alarm and it will return your body functions to normal. Whew! But how do you get through the fear… great question! Read on….
2) Breathe – When we move into anxiety our breathing becomes fast and shallow. When we deepen and lengthen our breaths we reinforce the message that this is not an emergency and our bodies can return to normal. Slow your breathing by first holding your breath and then slowly breathing in and out…breathing from your diagram (lower tummy). If you’d like more on this – please feel free to email me and I’d be happy to send you more information.
3) Keep Thinking – During times of panic – the thinking part of our brains becomes less active – most of our resources are dedicated to becoming more physical. Doing something methodical sends the message to your brain that “this is not a real emergency” so it can stand down and stop posturing!
b) Name 4 things you can hear (people talking, television)
c) Name 3 things you can smell right now (something cooking, fresh air)
d) Name 2 things you can feel right now (feet on the floor, cushion at your back)
e) Name 1 thing you love
4) Tapping - this technique can be a very effective tool during anxiety attacks (this is one of my personal favorites) and has proved very beneficial to many of my clients who not only suffer from anxiety attacks but chronic pain, fibromyalgia, fear and many other symptoms. Here is a great Tapping through Anxiety video by Brad Yates that can help get you started: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6kq9N9Yp6E (If you’re saying to yourself, “Gia – what the heck is tapping – shoot me an email and I’d be happy to explain – just know – it’s good stuff!)
5) Using peripheral vision - Let your field of vision broaden until you can see from the outside corners of your eyes. Relax your jaw muscles and breathe deeply. This exercise activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which tells your body to cut out the drama and calm down.
Although you may be experiencing anxiety and stress from a demanding schedule, pressure at work, relationship issues, lack of sleep, health problems or even too much caffeine – the bottom line is that your body is telling you it needs balance and that you need to make some changes.
Here are a few things to remember:
1) Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. (you know why this is so important – it’s when our bodies do the most healing and balancing!)
2) Eat foods that help balance your mood and energy: nuts, soy, milk and yogurt, dark green leafy and orange vegetables, broth soups, legumes, citrus, wheat germ, tart cherries, and berries. Avoid too much processed flour, sweets and caffeine.
3) Schedule relaxation time and STICK TO IT! – Make time to relax and unwind. Meditation doesn’t have to mean an hour in the lotus position, chanting “Om”. As little as fifteen minutes of meditation a day can have a huge impact. Try a short Chi Gong session. Take a walk and enjoy nature.
4) Learn to say NO! - Be discerning and eliminate some of those activities that you have crammed into your schedule and that are welcoming OVERWHELM to step right up and take you for a ride!
5) Get emotional support – I know it can sometimes be hard to talk about your anxiety attacks and that it can also be hard for some people to understand the panic and fear. Find someone you can trust to support you. I got through many panic attacks by picking up the phone and having a dear friend talk me through it!
6) Remember that this is a signal from your body – the panic is not going to last and you are okay. With some modifications to your lifestyle you can wave goodbye to these attacks for good! Tell yourself, “Anxiety – bring it on cuz I’ve got this!”
There are many more tools to help with anxiety, stress and panic attacks but these are some of the ones I have found the most helpful. I hope that you do too!
**These techniques are recommended for anxiety – if you are not sure your symptoms are those of an anxiety or panic attack please see a health care professional to determine the cause.
Supporting You on Your Journey,
At one time or another we have all experienced fear. Whether we are afraid of heights, spiders or failure, we’ve felt that cold, hard knot of anxiety in the pit of our stomachs. The good news is…we have a choice…we can let fear rule us and prevent us from moving and growing – or – we can look fear straight in the eye and see it as an opportunity to move forward. To move right through it and into a new place in our lives! We choose.
Although fear can sometimes be paralyzing, literally, it is not always a bad thing. There are some things that we should be afraid of…and we should react with extreme caution and care. When fear controls and defines us though – we can cheat ourselves out of a rich and full life!
The emotions we feel are created from the thoughts that we choose to focus on, consciously or unconsciously. So if we focus on fear… yep… MORE fear!
Here are 6 tips to help put fear in perspective:
1. Breathe and Observe
Bring your awareness to the present moment by taking several deep breaths. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. As you exhale force the air through your teeth. This aides in processing heavy emotions and shifts your focus. It also allows you to detach from your fear. You can remind yourself that you are not your thoughts, emotions or body – you are an infinite being having a human experience!
It’s NOW, in the present moment that we are empowered and can consciously choose the thoughts we engage.
Our minds respond powerfully and quickly to images. When we’re experiencing fear we can imagine all kinds of negative scenarios. It’s part of our brain’s ‘hard wiring’ to process the negative first. When cavemen fought daily for their lives – the ones who processed the negative scenarios the most thoroughly and quickly – survived. Thankfully – we can handle these fear based reactions differently.
Find a quiet place where you can be alone for 5 minutes. In your mind see the ideal outcome to the scenario. See the outcome you would love to have manifest in your reality. Feel the feeling you will feel, see the bright colors, hear the sounds, smell the air as you bring the image to life. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your mind will calm down!
You Are Not Alone… everyone is afraid of something.
Although you might not share the same exact fears – everyone has something that they are afraid of and understanding this can help you deal with feelings of isolation and self-judgment. Talking with others about your fears can help you see things in a different light, feel supported, and possibly share a common way to work through them.
4. You don’t have to overcome your fear all at once.
It’s difficult enough to deal with fear without adding overwhelm to the equation. There are no rules. There are no musts and must-nots. There is no panel of judges. It’s okay to break things down into manageable steps and move forward at a pace that resonates with you. Baby steps are fine…. Choose three small steps you could make to overcome your fear and choose one to try. Do it.
5. Shift Your Perspective.
What would your life be like without this fear? Let’s take a look beyond the fear to the benefits of overcoming it.
Make a list of the pros and cons of dealing with the thing that you’re most afraid of:
If you can objectively envision the advantages of moving past your fear, you can now see it as an opportunity for growth.
6. Be careful what you say…you’re listening.
It can be far too easy to convince yourself that your reasons for being afraid are all valid. We can imagine all sorts of negative things when we’re afraid, but this doesn’t make those things real. The more we let our fear fuel our words – the more we reinforce their stranglehold on our lives!
Although it’s perfectly natural to be fearful of the unknown, why not imagine the best outcome? What if instead of believing the worst – we anticipate the best. Speak those words. The words of possibility and success! Take That, Fear!
Also, keep in mind that there really is no such thing as failure – only successful learning. Since having a goal to be fearless is not realistic or possible – when fear shows up (and it will) look it straight in the eye and tell it to SHOVE OFF!
Our focus determines where our energy flows, and what we create in our lives. It’s time to release fear and limitation and choose happiness!
Supporting you on your journey,