THE ONLY WAY OUT IS THROUGH

“Why can’t I just be changed without having to deal with all these shitty feelings?, ” I said with a laugh. My therapist laughed, too, “Well, wouldn’t that be nice! But you seem to think of things as black and white, good or bad. These feelings are just feelings. You can handle them.”

I know better than this. I’ve asked this question before. So have many of my own therapy clients. “Why does growth require so much pain? Can’t I just skip it?” I’m not sure I have the answer to why, but I do know that the only way to “get over” something is to acknowledge it and feel it. You can’t go around a feeling. There’s really no “easy” way out.

I think what we often feel is a pressure to get over things quickly. We want to be happy, productive people, good friends and good partners who don’t “burden” others with our “negative” feelings. But why do we even need to label feelings like sadness, anger, or anxiety as “bad”? Of course, these emotions don’t feel good, but does that mean they’re automatically bad? What if we could view them as simple messages?

Sadness can tell you that you’ve lost something and you need some time to heal. Anger can tell you that you’ve been hurt or wronged. These feelings are valid and important. They tell us when we need to take care of ourselves, to talk to someone, or to set a boundary.

Anxiety is a message that you’re afraid of something. It shows up in life – usually when there’s change happening or about to happen – even “good” change. Breakups, death, new jobs, new children, new relationships, these are all changes. When anxiety shows up, instead of saying “OMG, I’m crazy, how can I make this go away RIGHT NOW?”, maybe you need to ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?” It might be difficult to find the answer right away. You might say, “Nothing. I’m just going to my office like anything other day.” But I guarantee if you dig a little deeper, perhaps to something that’s completely unrelated to what you’re doing at that moment, you’ll find something that needs attention. Then, over time, you’ll find you can face it and walk through the fear.

And that’s the key – walking through. Avoiding the fear will only make you more afraid. Pretending you’re happy all the time will not serve you or anyone else. Ignoring your anger and not acknowledging the hurt you feel will only hurt you more.  PLUS,  you won’t get that amazing growth and change you’re looking for!

Now, I’m not talking about wallowing. I’m talking about acknowledging your feelings, validating them, and maybe even getting curious about where they come from so that you can figure out what it is that you need to take good care of you.

What feelings have you been fighting? How can you validate them instead? When have you found that it actually was easier to move through a feeling rather than fight it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

SELF-CARE SUCCESS STORY!

Geoff Barone, composer – Photo by Micah Schmidt

I love it when I get feedback on how my fellow creatives are learning to take good care of themselves.

My friend, songwriter, composer, and multi-instrumentalist Geoff Barone recently shared some thoughts with his followers after he read one of my blog posts. I was so thrilled by his progress that I asked him if I could share his success with you. I hope you find it helpful and inspiring as you implement your own routine to help you stay focused on your creations.

Here’s Geoff’s story:

My friend, Lauren Aycock Anderson recently blogged that you should “Resolve To Be Good To Yourself”. Starting by GETTING OFF OF YOUR PHONE! In her post, she says instead of rushing to your phone in the morning, go do 10 – 20 minutes of exercise.

So, earlier this month I began an experiment. I didn’t check my phone, especially Facebook, for many hours after I woke up. As the days progressed, 1 hour turned into 3, then to 6 and so on. Slowly, the urge to constantly check my phone dissappated.  I didn’t exercise tho. 😛

This “urge” has been called “FoMo”, or The Fear Of Missing Out, meaning if you’re not on, then you may missing out something important. Always on edge, waiting for that new post or new pic that you can comment on or get a shot of dopamine when someone “likes” your comment, all the while “real life” is happening around you. Real things like your daughter wanting to play toys but you’re too busy with your face buried in a screen.

I recognized that I could easily sit on the couch for 30 minutes to an hour, thumbing through my FB feed, getting increasingly annoyed & irritated. So I’d switch over to Instagram or Twitter…only to end up back on FB getting stuck in some weird loop of irritability. Where did that time go? What did I get accomplished? So, to start out my day pissed off, and cluttering my mind up with other peoples BS was not conducive to a happy day for myself, nor should it be for you! That wasted time could’ve been used for something more productive like writing a new song, cleaning the garage, working on your rock opera…or simply living in the now.

With all this being writ, social media is a necessity for anyone who wants to promote their art or wares, but I think being able to discipline yourself to set aside specific time each day to social media is a nice compromise.

Put down your phone and live your life. Be in the moment. The here. The now.  Go and DO SOMETHING.

I love Geoff’s note about the necessity of being on social media in order to market yourself, coupled with the understanding that it doesn’t require you to be on your phone all day long.

Geoff just released an 80’s inspired concept album called “Somewhere in the Near Future.” I encourage you check his stuff out – he’s a seriously incredible musician and composer.

Do you have a self-care success story you’d like to share?

I’d love to hear all about it! Share it in the comments below or send me an email. And let me know if you want me to share it with my followers.

THE MISUNDERSTOOD GIFT OF SENSITIVITY

A couple of months ago, I met this vibrant young woman, Julia. She contacted me to have coffee and pick my brain about being a helper person here in Baltimore. We hit it off right away – I was so impressed by her knowledge, her understanding, and her vulnerability. Immediately, I proposed we do a workshop together. Before we do that, though, I wanted to introduce you to her so you could get to know her a little better. I’m so excited to share this guest post from Life and Wellness Coach, Julia Flaccavento!

<3 Lauren


‘You’re so sensitive.’

I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve heard this phrase before. I’ve heard it from friends, family members, significant others, you name it. Just about everyone in my life has called me sensitive at one point or another. And more often than not, it’s said critically, as to describe a subtle [or major] flaw in my personality. 

Since my early childhood, I have been intensely aware. I have heard every sound, I have seen every color, I have felt every word. I have even heard, seen and felt what others didn’t. A sound too loud could make me lose my balance. A color too bright could make my eyes burn. A word too harsh could make me cry. I used to feel very fragile, unusual and alone in my way of relating to the world. 

By the time I got to high school, I made a vow to myself. I would do whatever it took to make my sensitivity disappear; or at least disappear to those around me. That way, I could blend in and merely exist, unaffected, like everyone else.

With time, I successfully [so I thought] managed to bury my sensitivity far below the surface, hidden from the world. I finally felt like a functioning ‘everyone.’ I could laugh at others’ expense. I could brush off a person’s rude remark, even throw back a crueler rebuttal. I could stand in the middle of a pulsing, crowded concert venue, surrounded by flashing lights and screaming fans, and feel completely numb. Finally, I was living. 

However, something strange happened. Despite my newly hardened emotional exterior, my body felt weaker. I was highly anxious and had trouble sleeping. And suddenly, it seemed like I was contracting every passing virus. Over the span of about 4 years, I had Mono, Swine Flu, Shingles, Pneumonia (twice), neuropathic pain, and various bouts of crippling stomach upset, just to name a few. One illness trailed into the next, and I was sick far more often than I was healthy. In the [joking] words of a dear friend, “If I get a cold, you will catch it and somehow end up in the hospital.” 

At first, I didn’t make the connection between my emotional state and my ailing physical health. I just hated myself and my body more because I thought it was ‘failing’ me; as if, somehow, my mind and my body were separate entities. It took a 6 month bout of debilitating migraines to finally kick my butt into self-reflection mode. 

And once I was really paying attention, I started to put the pieces together. By burying my emotions for so long, I had managed to cripple my once strong immune system. My innate sensitivity was still there, just deeply repressed and trapped within me.

Since then, I have been on a journey to live my truth. I am finding the balance everyday between freely expressing my sensitivity (without absorbing or getting overwhelmed by everything around me) and listening to the reminders of my physical body to be stronger, healthier and more self-aware. 

I have been able to shift my thinking to see that my symptoms and my sensitivities are my teachers. They are not something to fear. My pain is merely my body communicating with me that something is trapped, and my ‘sensitivity’ is actually my source of power; creative, intuitive, empathic, etc. Now, when I feel a pain in my body, I know it is a reminder to express my creativity (by playing music or painting, for example), to connect with a loved one, or just to take a deep breath and relax.  

I have also learned to recognize that the way I relate to stress is aggravated, and controlled, by my thinking. With awareness, deep breathing, and a great deal of practice, I have started to harness my own power and control my anxiety. When things feel overwhelming or don’t go my way, I can get upset. But I also don’t have to. It’s my choice. And that’s pretty damn awesome.

Since I’ve been practicing mindfulness with diligence and honoring my body instead of loathing it, I hardly get sick anymore and I cannot remember the last time I had a migraine. But if/when I do feel something physical flaring up, I don’t hesitate to listen because I know now it’s leading me somewhere. 

Through this journey, I have come to be a proud, sensitive person. So for all of my fellow feelers struggling to find their place in this often stoic world, I want to offer some kind words. I want to create a space to embrace and empower the amazing gifts unique to highly sensitive people. 

Here are just a few things that make the ‘sensitive’ folks some of the most vibrant, wise and compassionate beings on earth.

Sensitive People…

-Pick up on nuances in meaning

-Feel everything more deeply

-Have higher levels of emotional intelligence

-Are more creative

-Have a greater capacity for empathy

-Are basically superheroes <3


Oh man, I can so relate to a lot of what Julia said here about being super sensitive. How have you dealt with being an empathic, creative, sensitive person throughout your life?

If you want to learn more about Julia’s techniques for feeling balanced as a sensitive person in an ever-changing world, join us for our workshop, Self-Care for Empathic Creatives, next Saturday, February 4th!

IT’S 2016. THE FUTURE IS NOW!

sky-space-galaxy-milky-wayActually, it’s not the future. It’s the present. And with the change of the year we often look back into the past. I find it’s helpful to look at things from a strengths-based perspective. See if these questions help you figure out where you’d like to go:

What worked for you this year?

Think about what went right for you. No matter how small, it’s helpful to look back and see your progress.

What do you want to keep doing?

Even if something went well, you don’t necessarily have to keep doing it. Dig deep and look at what you really want to continue.

What would you like to change moving forward? 

Try to think of this part in “positive” language. For example, instead of saying you’d like to “be less lazy”, say you’d like to “paint 3 days a week”. Make the change actionable and specific. (Pssst, my DIY coaching course can help with this one!)

How would you like to feel? 

Sometimes it’s helpful to look at feelings first, then set goals based upon them because really, goals are about feeling a certain way, not just achieving a thing. Danielle Laporte has an awesome process called The Desire Map for figuring out your “Core Desired Feelings” for the year. I’ve used the Desire Map book, and her planner (coming soon) so much that I’ve now happily signed up as an affiliate for her products!

Whether you set new year’s resolutions/goals/intentions or not, it’s almost always helpful to be aware of where you’ve come from and where you’d like to go.

<3

FOUR WAYS TO KEEP FEELING LIKE SHIT

black-and-white-person-woman-girlI haven’t written a blog in awhile. I could say it’s because I’ve been super busy with clients and just “hibernating” with all of my ideas, which is partially true, but really it’s because I’ve been stuck. Now, I’ve had a good reason to be: my Dad has Alzheimer’s and Type 1 Diabetes. He’s been hospitalized multiple times since July with complications from both. He’s now at the point where he’s in assisted living and will never go home again. He just turned 68 last week.

I’ve spent the last few months reeling from this, visiting him, talking to my stepmother and brothers, and processing, processing, processing. I’ve been through a different sort of grief before, but it doesn’t necessarily make this any easier. However, from that prior experience, and from what I see with clients, I’ve learned a few things about how we keep ourselves emotionally stuck and how to start moving forward again:

We try to pretend we don’t feel the way we feel

Sadness, hopelessness, frustration, nervousness – these are all really shitty feelings. It’s no wonder we try to push them away – they hurt! But pretending we don’t feel the way we feel often just leads to more feeling crappy. Or if we admit how we do feel, we think we should feel differently. I’ll let you in on a little secret: when you’re really stuck with a feeling, logic will not make you feel any differently. Instead of pushing a feeling away or telling yourself you should feel differently, try validating your feeling. For instance, I feel really sad about what’s going on with my Dad. It’s a terrible thing and a lot of times I just want the awful feelings to go away. But when I try to pretend, I just get irritable and uncomfortable. Admitting you feel bad won’t immediately make you feel better, but it removes the burden of pretending and allows you to just be as you are.

We let our feelings define us

So, now you’ve admitted you’re sad/anxious/angry, but then you think “I’ve always felt this way and I will feel this way forever. I am a sad/anxious/angry person.” Woof. Now that’s a difficult thing to overcome! And often it leads to trying to pretend you don’t feel the way you feel. If your feeling defines who you are as a person and you don’t like that feeling, then of course you’re going to try to force it away. But what if your feeling was just temporary? They usually are. Remember the last time you smiled. Remember when you had a good day, hour, or even just a few minutes. I’ll bet you’ll find that this bad feeling is just a feeling, not the defining factor of your personality. Now, if you’ve felt consistently bad for more than two weeks, maybe it’s time to see your doctor or find a therapist to talk through what you’re experiencing.

We think we always have to put our best foot forward in order to connect

Part of the whole “pretending we don’t feel the way we feel” thing is that we want to look ok to other people. We think that being happy and shiny all the time is what people want to see. But really, no one wants to be around a person who pretends to perfect all the time. It gets boring and stale, and you know what? People can see through the BS. Connection comes through genuine vulnerability (thank you, Brené Brown). It takes courage to share the real you. If you think a person is appropriate to share with, maybe “How are you?” can have a different answer than “Fine.”, when you’re really not fine. Now, oversharing is a thing, too. There’s certainly a balance between never saying how you really feel and telling a person you just met your whole life story. A big piece of this puzzle is sharing without expecting the other person to take care of your feelings for you.

We overthink in an attempt to control

Now that I’ve given you all these things to think about when it comes to your feelings, I’m sure it’s pretty annoying to hear, “Don’t overthink it!” I know, I know, I’m the worst! But it’s true – when we overthink every single interaction because we think we can control how we feel or how others feel about us, we can get big time stuck. The truth is, you can’t control emotions. All of these points are about letting go, feeling the way you feel, and gathering the courage to share those feelings with others, without expecting a specific response. Maybe you’ll find that some people aren’t safe to share with, because they try to fix, or they don’t respect your privacy, or they simply won’t listen. That’s ok. Try again with someone else. You have the choice to share with who you want to. You can trust yourself to think, feel, and take care of yourself.