Staying Sane During Insane Times

You can’t go crazy right now, tempting as that may be. Now, more than ever, we need to be vigilant about our emotional state. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been feeling torn into pieces as I am watching events in our country unfold. I find myself going through a wild cycle of feelings, none of them good. Fear, anxiety, anger, disgust, despair all take turns occupying my psyche.

Take the sane road

Take the sane road

It’s been hard to go about the usual activities in my life without talking about it all the time. But, honestly, I can’t talk about it all the time. When I do bring up the state of the world, because that’s what’s on my mind, people nod and I see that same stressed out look on their faces that I see in the mirror. They are reading the same articles I’m reading, the same news stories. They are feeling much of what I’m feeling.

This gets exhausting very quickly. After the big Women’s March I said, somewhat flippantly, “We should March every Saturday!” Now I realize that wasn’t just a random remark. We probably WILL march or protest every Saturday. The Saturday after the Women’s March people were protesting at airports around the country because of the outrageous and chaotic ban on immigrants that was suddenly imposed out of the blue. I saw people’s rights being violated. I saw the Constitution being violated. I wondered about our system of checks and balances. I wondered if this was still the United States of America.

So, given that the assault on our rights and way of life is not going to stop, and aware that being in this debilitating state of mind is not any way to live, I had to figure out how to get a grip if I was to be of any use at all. One of the strategies of the people who are currently in power is to wear us out, so after a while we have no energy to fight back. Here’s how NOT to let that happen.

I am always telling people, “In order to have the energy to take care of others, you need to take care of yourself, first.”

That has never been more true than right now.

All things considered, these are my thoughts regarding the best way to manage right now. Although a great deal is happening beyond our control, make the most of situations where you are in charge. Start by being present in your own life. Often, we can get so wrapped up with anxiety about the future or about things happening beyond our reach that we lose sight of beneficial things that exist right here, right now. We tend to focus on the things that need fixing, rather than on what’s working. And even though we are watching our democracy getting smashed like a beautiful piece of pottery, we mustn’t lose sight of those things we do have that make our lives worthwhile.

Say a silent prayer of gratitude for everything you love about your life, throughout the day, as often as possible. For instance, I love the beautiful Northern California community where I live. I love the work I do for a living, being a massage therapist, helping people feel better in their bodies and their hearts. I love the people in my life and hug them as often as possible. I love watching the patterns that are made with light when the sun casts shadows on everything. I love when the sun comes out and warms everything up. I love when it rains and the cool water soaks into the earth and cleanses the air. I love watching the clouds move. I love eating squares of dark chocolate and almonds. I love eating apple slices with cheddar cheese. I love my new writing class, Creative Unbootcamp 2017. I love cuddling with my whippet, Spencer. I love taking all three of my dogs for a walk. I love going for walks while listening to my latest audiobook. Throughout the day, whatever else I’m doing, I give thanks for everything about my life that I treasure. I suggest you start doing that as a regular practice. Focus on everything you can be grateful for.

Take time to disconnect from the world every so often, to give yourself a break from the constant bombardment of information. News sites, social media sites, TV, email. There is so much info coming at us all the time it gets overwhelming very fast. The other day someone was saying, “What did we do with our time before there was Facebook and Twitter and Instagram?” We lived, that’s what. We had time to ourselves to quietly relax and enjoy life in the moment. We got together and talked face to face. We did more in person. We relaxed more. Try giving up your connection to electronic devices for brief periods. Or not such brief periods. Not permanently, but for sufficient chunks of time. Maybe only check-in a couple of times each day. Notice the difference. It’s called breathing space.

I stopped checking Facebook first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening, as had been my habit. It makes a big difference to start my day without immediately reacting to the latest news. And at night, switching from the media to reading a book before bed helps me sleep a lot better. I have begun limiting my attention there to just a couple of times a day. I’m not missing much, and I’m not in an emotional state of constant reaction. That reaction button? That was my heart that kept getting pushed.

Make a point of scheduling quality time every week (or every day) to do things that make you feel good. Whether it’s getting together with a friend, going for a walk in nature, finding a quiet place to read a good book, give yourself some respite from engagement. Because only when you leave the constant madness, to recharge your soul, can you come back to it and be effective in whatever you’re trying to do. We will figure this thing out as we feel the growing pains of shaping a new world. We are smart, capable people and there are huge numbers of us. But this is going to be a long haul, so we need to maintain our energy wisely.

We all need reminders of how to maintain our balance. Me, too, which is why I wrote this.

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Self Care During Times of Uncertainty

It has been months since I’ve written a blog post. After publishing my book “Successful Strokes – A Realistic Guide to Creating a Lucrative Massage Business” last March and spending energy promoting it, I needed to take a break. I have three other books partially written but haven’t decided where to focus my attention. So, taking my own advice, I decided to take time off and just do nothing for a while. For me, doing nothing means taking lots of walks, spending time in my garden and getting lost in a book.

I was starting to feel relaxed. Allowing that void to be empty, knowing that creative ideas would soon form.

Then the election happenedYoung beautiful woman with reddish hair sitting home by the window with cup of hot coffee wearing knitted warm sweater. Christmas tree with decorations and lights in the room, snowy winter outside and I was totally unprepared for the result. I felt like I had been kicked in the gut. Really? How could this be possible? There must be some mistake. Is this really going to happen?

My adrenaline, which had settled into a nice, quiet tide pool was suddenly churning in tsunami waves. Suddenly all I saw in my Facebook feed were articles that scared me to death. I felt sick. My stomach was in knots. I no longer needed to watch my diet as I had no appetite. It was immobilizing. All I could feel was panic and a sense of dread.

I want to live in a world that works for everyone. Unrealistic? Maybe, but truly, that is what I want. I know we are a very long way from that ideal, but I have seen over time that the quality of life has improved in countries around the world and slowly things have been getting better. The thing that blindsides us is that technology and communication have made information so much more accessible than it ever was, so we hear about more terrible things happening than we ever did. But, in general, people have more freedom and a higher quality of life than they did, say, 50 years ago.

Things were getting better in our country, too. The economy was better, there was more advancement on human rights and equality.

Then I woke up to an election that favored a man who wants to set us back 70 years, back to times of terror and struggle, who wants to undo so much progress we have made over hard fought battles.

I have been seriously distraught, unable to write or make anything. I even thought maybe I’d start working on a sewing project but realized my creative juice is zapped.

Anyone else feeling like this?

As I sat with this, I knew that it is not healthy to allow oneself to turn into a tight little ball of fear and that I had to keep going somehow, so I tried to analyze what was going on.

I feel like I just woke up in the middle of a dystopian novel. And it’s a cliff hanger.

And that, dear friends, is what’s driving me crazy.

Right now we don’t know what to do because we aren’t sure what’s going to happen. And so we read the scary headlines and we panic and despair.

Uncertainty is hard. When there is a crisis, we figure out what we need to do and we get to work. The surge of adrenaline gets channeled into action. If we see a vicious storm coming, we batten down the hatches and lay in a supply of food. Right now it’s unclear what to do and yet we want to do something.

It is emotionally overwhelming to focus too much on things over which we have little or no control. The key to mental health, is to take action on things where we do have some control and that’s what I’m doing now.

I have taken some steps to cope, and I’m sharing them in case you’d like ideas of how to get through these times as well.

  1. Take breaks from the news and social media. This has become a major habit of mine, since I’m constantly checking to see what my friends have to share. New rule: no news or Facebook after dinner. I do not need to see upsetting articles as I’m winding down from my day and preparing for sleep.
  2. Do small, simple tasks that make you feel better about your life. For me, that amounts to tidying up my house, cleaning out drawers and going through piles of accumulated papers to make my environment clean and orderly. I have been getting my garden ready for winter, pulling weeds and mulching the beds. It gives me peace of mind and a sense of accomplishment to see messy things get tidier.
  3. Connect with friends. During stressful times it helps to channel more love. I’ve been calling people I haven’t spoken to in a while and making dates to get together and that makes all of us feel better.
  4. Do random acts of kindness. Hug people. Smile and chat with strangers. Help whenever you can. As much as possible.
  5. Donate to organizations and causes you believe in. I started a few recurring monthly donations to human rights organizations and other places I want to support. Even tiny donations add up and feel good to do.
  6. Do simple tasks you enjoy. Cooking has always been a way for me to express myself and I especially love to cook during the cold winter months. A couple of times a week I whip up something hearty and satisfying for my family. It’s productive, its fun, and it’s appreciated by others.
  7. Focus on things you can control. Back in August I started a fitness program that combined healthy eating with exercise and I have religiously kept that up, sticking to a healthy eating plan, doing frequent brief workouts and walking eight thousand steps each day. So far I’ve lost 9 pounds and am almost at my goal. The walks are especially helping as I love walking among the trees and enjoy the patterns of fallen leaves as I go down my neighborhood streets.
  8. Read good books. Just finished “Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes. She’s the writer for the TV shows “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal.” It’s hilariously funny and very uplifting.
  9. Participate in things that uplift you spiritually. I occasionally attend Center For Spiritual Living, a non-denominational church that recognizes all religions and spiritual paths as having value. I’ve been going more often.

All of this is helping. And hey, I just wrote a blog post.

Radical Self-Care Step Six – De-Clutter

Get Rid of What You Don’t Want to Make Room for What You Do Want

Are you full yet?

yard sale declutterExcess stuff is like having clogged arteries of the soul. Having to sift through accumulated clutter to find what we’re actually looking for takes up our limited time and space. It can keep you from having the environment and the life that you want.

I’m not just talking about clothes you no longer wear and things from 12 years ago sitting in the garage that you don’t use anymore. I’m also talking about people who bring you down or don’t give you joy. I’m including things you do out of habit that no longer give you pleasure and take up your time. Everything and everyone that no longer serves the person you are or the person you want to be is something unnecessary that you need to get rid of.

It can be scary to let things go because we become so deeply attached to the things we acquire. Look at it this way. What if you narrowed your belongings down to just the things that you really love. How would that change your life?

When was the last time you cleaned out a drawer, a closet, your garage or your filing cabinet? It is way too easy for us to accumulate stuff. And yes, it can be incredibly tedious and boring to pore through it and discard things that are no longer necessary. But boy, it can make such a difference! And wow, does it feel good to turn a messy room into a tidy, organized space! An excess of stuff can really weigh you down.

There’s a reason that the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo has become a bestseller.

De-cluttering is about creating space of all kinds. And the thing is, that once you make some room in your life, you then have an opening for something new, something better. For example, if there are activities you are doing that you no longer enjoy, such as things you promised to do, or getting together with people that you no longer feel a connection with, giving those things up makes room for something more satisfying. De-cluttering can be about time as well as space.

I was helping a friend who was selling her house. She was moving to a much smaller place and she knew she had to get rid of a lot of stuff. She also knew that she couldn’t do it alone. She got lost in the memories that her things evoked or felt guilt about getting rid of something that had once been a gift from a dear friend. The thing was, she had a lot of dear friends. And when she added up all the birthdays, holidays and other important occasions from her childhood all the way to the present she agreed that it was ridiculous to assume she could hang onto everything that had ever meant something to her. She had certainly tried, and owning property with room for storage sheds and an attic definitely enabled her to pile it up. But now she had to take a really good look at limiting her belongings to the few things she really loved that she’d have in her new place.

We made piles. There was a pile of things to donate, one pile of things to throw away and a small one of things to keep. There were times when it was wrenching for her to let something go, but it also became obvious how silly it was to hang on to toys she’d had when she was five years old because a beloved cousin gave them to her. It helped that we planned to donate these items to places where they could do a lot more good than clogging up her storage bins. And it felt so good to finally have some nice, clean emptiness.

Let there be a void.

This is the truly magical part of letting things go. When you have empty space in your home, or blocks of unscheduled time, first of all, just enjoy the rest and the emptiness because that in itself is a pretty rare thing. Beyond that, you now have room for something new and wonderful to come into your life.

Try it. Clear something out. Make some room. And then see what happens.

 

 

What is Radical Self-Care?

Part of the secret to radical self-care is knowing exactly what the right recipe is for your unique, particular needs. If you think of your life as a dish at a fabulous culinary feast, what are the ingredients that make it as delectable as possible? What spices and seasonings are going to make it taste both delicious and satisfying.

Someone asked me the other day, “Why ‘Radical Self-Care?” “What do you mean by the worwoman relaxing on grassd ‘radical’?” The word ‘radical’ means extreme. And I choose to call it radical self-care because sometimes it really takes an extremely big effort to take good care of yourself. Particularly if you are in a profession or play a role in your life where you are taking care of others, it can be almost wrenching to stop giving, step back, take a breath and figure out what it is that YOU need in order to recharge. And the next step is to set aside the time to do something just for you. It is very easy to get burned out when you are giving all the time and even though intellectually we know this, it still remains a challenge. So how do we do this?

I’m sharing with you what I have learned on this wild trip through life. Please take everything I say with a grain of salt (pink Himalayan sea salt, of course) and tweak it so that it works for you! Know that your life may require different ingredients but what I hope you get from these posts is the importance of knowing what your unique flavors (needs) are. And that it’s really essential to give that to yourself. This may sound simple on the surface, but we spend a lot of time doing what is expected of us. And we can get caught up thinking that our entire value has to do with living up to everyone elses expectations. This can be so deeply ingrained that we don’t even realize it.

After quite a few decades of working very hard to please others – clients, partners, friends, family, you name it, I started realizing that I had to take control of my own well-being. Because no matter how much I did it never felt like enough. I had goals that were difficult to attain and even when I did they didn’t satisfy me like I thought they would. Basically I had bought into our very driven culture, even though I had carved out a professional niche in the field of relaxation. Ironic, isn’t it?

I began making a point of doing simple things to slow down, disconnect from my own self-imposed hamster wheel and started treating myself with the same quality of care that I have given to others. And here in these posts I have broken it down into steps.

Hey, I write these posts as much to remind myself as I do to remind you.

Please come along with me and use these posts to jump-start your own loving practice of radical self-care. Let these thoughts be the catalyst to give yourself the life you deserve. In essence it is very simple. And this means that true inner contentment is totally within your power.

Radical Self-Care Step Four – Authenticity

“Be Yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde

Our world is like a department store. There are so many choices, so many different aisles we can walk down, we hardly know which way to turn. And there is such a wide variety of items we can buy. So how do we choose? Which way do we go? We usually have more possibilities than we often realize.

tea party grrlOne of the hardest things we face can be making the choice to be different. By this I mean following a path that radically diverges from the one that is expected of us. For instance, we might go to school and get a degree in something and then decide after a great deal of work that it’s not the right career for us after all.

I once had a friend who was an MD who used to refer a lot of patients to me for massage. She told me she was looking for another doctor to share her office. A month later she said she had found someone she really liked but just when the lease was about to be signed the doctor told my friend that she changed her mind and was leaving medicine to study with her spiritual teacher. I was quite surprised by that. You can do that, I thought? When I considered the time and expense of going to medical school and becoming a doctor, giving that up seemed like an awfully big decision. But It also sounded incredibly brave for someone to change their course because of a deep longing for something else. To choose self-discovery rather than a safe, solid career was an act of pure courage. It made me curious. What does it take to be that confident?

I have been studying self-development for a long time. Since, as a massage therapist and hypnotherapist, I am in the relaxation business, understanding what makes people feel good (or not) has been of special interest to me.

This same doctor friend told me that if I became a psychotherapist she would fill my practice, since she was looking for good therapists to refer patients to. She even told me what school I should attend to get my Masters. I followed her advice and enrolled in a Transpersonal Psychology MA program. About two years in, due to an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, I left the graduate program and moved my massage practice into a shopping center and turned it into a day spa. I made a very similar choice as that aforementioned Doctor. I suspended my education, where I had spent a lot of time and incurred considerable debt to pursue a different career path. The circumstances to do this made sense even though it was a difficult decision and one that many people might not understand.

Sometimes when I’m faced with a tough choice, I imagine myself on my death bed, looking back on my life and I ask myself, what do I wish I had done?

It takes me away from the immediate situation and the expectations of my peers, my family, and our cultural paradigm. I ask myself, what choice would really make my soul feel good? What is the memory I want to have when I look back on my life?

It really helps.

There are so many expectations and pressures we carry from our upbringing, our friends and teachers, that it can be extremely challenging to even know what our hearts want to do. What would we do if there was no one else we had to please? Sometimes it can be a challenge to even dare to consider a path that would greatly diverge from what would be considered, by many, the logical next step.

And yet, it is this very way of thinking that honors our most authentic self. Sometimes this can be the beginning of a most amazing life journey.

Authentic choices don’t only involve major life decisions. It’s a way of thinking that affects choices you make every day in both small and large ways. What you decide to eat, where you shop, how you spend your day off are all opportunities to make authentic choices. Ask yourself what you would do, if you could have total freedom to do anything you want. What makes your whole being want to say “Yes”?

Living as closely as possible to this ideal is honoring your truest self, an important practice of Radical Self-Care. The more you can live like this, the more you will see your life transform. You’ll find that you’ll attract different people and different opportunities.

You will also notice that regardless of anything else, you will be a lot happier, because a great weight of trying to fit into the wrong shaped spot will be lifted from you. And this will not only transform your energy, but it will change the entire way you experience your life.

Massage, Life and Everything

Hello everybody,

I have resisted having a blog because I wasn’t sure I would always have a new topic in mind. People tell me that if you have a blog you have to post regularly, like EVERY week, and I found that really intimidating. So after much thought and much time passing I have decided to do a blog anyway and write as the spirit moves me.

Goat Rock BeachA blog can be like an open letter. I like that idea. I can share my thoughts and you, in turn can share yours in the comments section, and that way we can have a more active conversation. Because I do think we can learn a lot when we engage with each other. I think the point of life is to work together to make the world a better place and to make life easier for each other. However we choose to do that. The Internet certainly helps connect people from all over the place and that makes life interesting. So when you comment, please share a bit about yourself.

Grounded in my beliefs about business – of any kind, really – is to be true to yourself and do things in the way that feels right to you. Authentic. Real. I think that’s true about a massage practice and it’s true of most businesses. People become attracted to your unique personality, your style of doing things. One of the truths is that everyone doesn’t have to love you or want to be your client. Some people may be turned off. But that’s okay. Because all you really need are the ones who do find you helpful and healing. You just want to fill your practice. You don’t have time to see everyone in the world, anyway.

One of the hardest things for me was the sense of doing everything alone. That’s part of the challenge of a solo practice. You walk in to your quiet office and there you are. The massage table is made up. Your oil, lotions and aromatherapy essences are laid out, you check your schedule and see that in 4 hours you have a client. You look outside your window and see the traffic slowly going by. There are a few people on the street, waiting at the crosswalk, on their way somewhere. The city is in motion and you don’t have a client for 4 hours. You think about the bookstore down the street. You wonder if it’s too early to go get some lunch. You sit for a while, looking out the window, watching people go past, in their cars, on foot, on bikes. And you wonder what you should do. Someone could call at any moment wanting to come in immediately so you have to be ready. But right now you don’t have anything to do for 4 hours.

Have you ever had a day like that? This is the kind of thing I want to explore with this blog. How do we best handle our challenges? Every massage therapist I have known in private practice has found that aspect of a solo practice challenging. One of the reasons I wrote my book Successful Strokes and made the Facebook page and started this blog is so people working by themselves would feel less alone. I wanted them to have someplace to go for ideas and inspiration. That’s what I would do during those lulls. I would read inspiring books. I would use that time to do spiritual practices like meditate. I would use that time to write in my journal, which I call my “free therapist.”

Sometimes I would go to a nearby health club and work out. Often I would go for walks along a creek that went through the town where I had my office. These were times I would visit other business owners who worked nearby to see who else was having a slow day and wanted some company.

Other days I would use that time just to relax. I would listen to guided visualization recordings to uplift my thoughts, to help me feel full and prosperous and transform my state of mind.

But enough about me. What do you do to recharge?

P.S. Please let me know you were here. Say “Hi” and where you live in the comments section. Thanks!