Structure Precedes Evolution

We’ve all been there—it’s the beginning of the year (or the month) and the possibilities feel endless. “This year I’m going to run a marathon!” “This year I’m going to lose 10 pounds!” “This year I’m changing careers!” “This month I’m going to eat out less!” “This month I’m going to stick to my budget!” These urges are natural. We want to move into the next phase of our lives. We are wired to evolve!

Goals come from our desire to improve our quality of life.

Dreams help us imagine our best future selves.

Goals and dreams are wonderful! But so often our goals are lofty and never achieved. We say we’ll “get ‘em next year.” And why is that? Often, we don’t realize our dreams because we never make a plan to achieve them. Plans lay out a course for progress based on where we are when we begin. Plans should:

  • acknowledge the reality of our current situation

  • include gradual steps that lead to our goal

  • include opportunities for reflection and celebration of progress

When we have a plan, we are structuring our time and energy so that it is possible to reach our goals.

Otherwise, our hopes and dreams go nowhere. Imagine a grapevine. At first it sprouts and looks like other plants, but as it grows it becomes long and thin and reaches out for something to climb. Once it senses a structure, it winds itself up higher and higher. When it’s fully grown, it bears its fruit.

Ideas are like this grapevine. Ideas need a trellis to grow on, otherwise the vines crawl around on the ground; they can’t go anywhere. They never bear fruit and they just wither and die.

Not all of us love planning, I know. I never used to be a planner; I’d just fly by the seat of my pants, hope for the best, keep my expectations low. But that yielded exactly what you’d expect, mediocre results, ongoing dissatisfaction with myself. Over time, I realized that investing time and resources upfront created outcomes I could be proud of.

Now, I begin with my values and I let them infuse my dreams. Then out comes the calendar, the colored pens, the strategizing. Before long, I have built a trellis for my dreams to grow on, and the year ahead of me—the goals I want to achieve—it all feels manageable… and, dare I say FUN! It’s like I’m looking at my path and it leads to my evolution.

Coaching Vs Therapy

What’s the difference between therapy and coaching? Which do I need? If you’re asking these questions, you’re not alone. Therapy has been around for a while, and coaching is a somewhat newer phenomenon. Both can be hugely beneficial—let’s take a look at how they differ.

In general, therapy focuses on the past. In therapy, you look at your history and seek answers about the present. In therapy, we ask: How did I get here? Why did this happen? Therapy is designed to relieve pain, unpleasant symptoms and restore functioning. Therapy is often used to treat depression, anxiety, and recovery from a traumatic life event.

Coaching, on the other hand, focuses on the present and the future. In coaching we acknowledge where we are now, and then ask: Where do I want to go? How do I get there? Coaching helps people identify what their vision is and helps people identify their next steps forward. Ultimately, coaching empowers you to create your own personal fulfillment.

Therapy assumes there is something wrong with your life, your mental health, your relationships or your current way of being.

Coaching assumes you are relatively healthy and adjusted but want help navigating a life transition, visualizing your future and attaining personal or career goals.

Process

Therapy positions the therapist as the expert and the client as the patient. Coaching is a co-creative process, a partnership of equals.

In therapy, the therapist is often seen as responsible for the process, direction and outcome of the treatment. In the coaching relationship, the coach is responsible for the process; the client, for results.

Relationship

Therapists are bound to federal and state laws and standards of practice regarding diagnosing, confidentiality and therapist-client relationship. These laws are all designed to be protective of clients, but can often be limiting.

Coaching is not bound to the same laws and allows room for a more natural, maybe even informal style of relationship that many people desire. A coach will feel more like a friend, but one who is really professional and focused on your growth—someone who asks the tough questions, but also laughs with you at minor setbacks.

Which is right for me?

Asking yourself what you’re trying to achieve, what kind of process sounds right, and what style of relationship you prefer can help you decide between therapy and coaching. Therapy is, without a doubt, an effective treatment for mental health issues. I believe 100% in its value and benefit for those working through trauma and mental health issues. I have spent the last 18 years providing therapy for many people who needed it.

I also met with a lot of people who didn’t really need mental health treatment, but needed a mentor, a coach—someone to guide them through a challenge and hold them accountable to their life goals. In either case, the important thing is realizing that you’re not happy with your current state, or maybe that you’re not fulfilling your own potential.

I’ve tried therapy before…

Many people seek therapy when they are in distress and then continue on because they need ongoing support for life stuff. Some people return to therapy (sometimes with ambivalence) when what they actually need is someone to help them identify and reach their next stage/goal/dream. Either or both of these options might be right for you. The important thing to come back to is your desired outcome for seeking support. And if you’re not sure, reach out. I’d be happy to talk it through with you.

I hope this helps you understand the difference between therapy and coaching so you can determine whether it’s therapy or coaching that is best for you at this time.

I'm Skipping Black Friday

You know what today is, right? BLACK FRIDAY! It’s practically an official holiday in the US. For many people, the day after Thanksgiving plunges us into a fever pitch of gift-buying and budget-breaking. And whether you love or hate gift buying and giving, I’m willing to bet it’s a source of stress either way.

A couple of years ago, I decided this kind of pressure wasn’t serving me or my family. This year I’m taking advantage of the holiday weekend to spend quality time with my husband instead of worrying about a holiday that is over a month away. So, in the spirit of trying something new, here are a few quick ideas for how to avoid the online shopping cart or the shopping mall parking ramp today.

  1. Homemade Spice Mixes: What do taco seasoning, italian seasoning and pumpkin pie spice all have in common? Well, not much, but they’re all blends of different spices. When you gather the ingredients of these blends, combine them, throw them in a jar, label and gift them, then you’re a hero! Google “homemade spice blends” or try this list of recipes.

  2. Homemade Mustard: Who doesn’t love mustard?! Okay, well, kids perhaps. But I would love to receive a gift like this. Here is a recipe I’ve been meaning to try out for sometime.

  3. Custom Herbal Tea Blends: If you’ve ever looked at the ingredients of your favorite herbal tea, you’ve probably noticed several recognizable (and some unrecognizable) herbs. If you have access to a grocery store or a coop with a good bulk section, you’re likely to find many of these herbs or teas in loose leaf form. Alternatively, it’s easier than ever to order them online. (One responsible source is Mountain Rose Herbs.) Just be sure to label the blend in case the recipient needs to avoid certain herbs due to pregnancy or other health constraints.

  4. For Kids: Never underestimate the power of re-gifting. If your child is old enough, consider some items you’re not using anymore in the garage—an old hammer, a wheelbarrow you wanted to replace anyway, a tire they can use to build a garden or home for their lego creations. Maybe you have a few wild sweaters and old ties that could be gifted for the dress-up bin. And never, ever forget about the magic of a big, empty box. Or a lot of boxes. You could even make a day of decorating the boxes with your children, then use them to build a fort.

  5. For your pets: it’s adorable to watch pets open gifts, it really is. But if you’re trying to save money, just skip it this year. If you love it when your dog rips open a package, then smear some peanut butter in the bottom of a paper bag, roll up the top, and invite your pup to go to town. And gather around (giving Fido plenty of room to work out the puzzle), because I guarantee this will be 10 minutes of hilarity.


This is meant to be a fun, perhaps useful, list, but I definitely acknowledge that making your own gifts can be stressful too! And while it’s fun to think about how to avoid overspending, it’s also important to acknowledge that we live in a culture that encourages consumerism and materialism. Maybe you’re so over mindless spending that you’re ready to make a larger investment in something that lasts, like your health, daily habits, and sense of ease. If so, I’m here for you.

Investing V. Spending: What's the Difference?

I have made some very poor decisions in my life. Particularly in terms of money. In my past, I smoked, drank too much, took trips I couldn’t afford. More recently, I’d spend money on trendy workout clothes, self-help books, massages, visits to the chiropractor. (Self-care is one thing, and very important, but I’d get massages to “relax” while continuing to live my life on overdrive. This did not pan out.) Just yesterday, I purchased a fancy decaf latte because I felt stressed.

Spending

This kind of emotional spending isn’t just my problem. It’s a cultural issue. We’ve learned that buying something will make us feel better, and it does… momentarily. Our brains release dopamine when we’re rewarded, even if we reward ourselves. Pretty soon, we’re caught in a feedback loop with no end. Feel Bad > Buy Something > Feel Excitement > Feel Nothing > Feel Bad > … and so on.

We do all kinds of mindless spending to prop ourselves up. Whether it’s that gingerbread latte because we deserve a treat, new clothes because we feel bad about our looks, or a case of wine because it’s a good deal—we are masters at justifying spending. But if you totaled up all the treats and deals, you’ll probably find that you have little to show for all that money spent except for momentary gratification. We call this a “victim mindset.” You feel assaulted by stress, chaos and worry, so you react to the emotions and treat yourself to feel better. And what’s left after the treat and the flash of gratification? The underlying problem, of course.

Investing

Investing is different than spending in that investing yields long-term positive returns. Typically, making an investment costs a lot up front, whether money or time or both. And that always feels terrifying. But investing is about more than feeling good in the moment. It’s a way to feel better, live more fully, and fulfill your potential in the long run. Someone who makes investments is someone with a “responsibility mindset.” This means admitting that there is a problem and a pattern, and making a proactive choice to address the issue.

How do you know what to invest in? Start with your values. Investing in what is important to you will enrich your life. But what ARE your values? If you give it a little thought, you probably already know the answer. Listen here, and I’ll guide you through an easy process to help you identify them. Once you’ve identified what’s important to you, you may realize that your spending habits have not been lining up with your values. That’s when it’s time to take responsibility. It’s time make a change.

Infinite Returns

You may be used to thinking about investing as money you put in stocks or mutual funds, or in your 401K. That’s an investment in your financial future that will pay you a return in your golden years. Now, think about the return on your investment in self-care. What if you added up all the money and time you are spending to make you feel better—lattes, clothes, girls’ night out, et cetera—and compared it to the return? Would you say that it’s really paying off? Are you getting the benefit that you truly need and desire?

If you do the accounting and find that the real outcome you want is not worth the expense, it’s time to solve the underlying problems that the consumerism and indulgences are trying to solve. When you align your time and money with your values and invest in what your body, mind, and spirit really need to feel healthy and strong, you will see returns quickly. And what’s even more amazing is that those returns continue to grow as you experience a vibrant body, a wise mind, and true joy in your life.

This is a truly counter-cultural shift. You’ll need support to make this shift from spending to investing in yourself. Find a buddy, or a whole community of others who are are also investing in themselves. You’ll go farther faster when you share the ups and downs of this journey.

Invest in yourself now and receive infinite returns both in the short- and long-term.

Political Conversations with Family and Friends

Friends, it’s November 5, 2018, and you know what that means—the midterm election cycle is almost over! As much as I value the right to vote and take part in shaping the present and future of this country, I am also acutely aware of the social and emotional tension surrounding elections. And that tense climate affects us all.

As a therapist-coach, I have often heard people’s woes and worries about not just voting, but how to talk about their political decisions and values with people who disagree with them. And how much more difficult is it when that person is someone you care about deeply? Perhaps this New York Times video When Your Loved Ones Voted the Other Way rings a bell. This conversation has been key on a national level since 2015 when the last presidential race went sour, but I find that this issue resurfaces with every holiday season. You know you’ll be seeing that uncle who sees the world differently than you do. You’re sure to run into X at the company holiday party. And what to say during your weekly phone call to [someone] who doesn’t vote at all? Maybe you didn’t vote and you’re not sure how to explain why.

Solutions

For some, the solution to the problem is simply to avoid the unease. Whether you cut the political conversation short before it gets heated, or whether you say at the beginning, “let’s just avoid the topic altogether,” you find a way to steer clear of disagreement and stick to the topics that have always brought joy: kids, school, food, vacations, the weather, and so on. And it’s okay to do that!

Some of you may be looking to build your skill set for talking politics with those who you don’t see eye to eye with. I think this TED talk is a really inspiring conversation about how two friends have chosen their friendship over their differences: How Our Friendship Survives Our Opposing Politics. With family, sometimes our familiarity is the first problem to discussing opposing viewpoints; we can forget to allow our loved ones to change their minds, or we forget to listen to their ideas. For more on this, you might read How to Talk About Politics with Your Family.

What I think is important to remember is that many of our interactions with people we love are habits. When together, it’s easy to fall back into our patterns of avoidance, disagreement or debate. To change your patterns, start with awareness. Once you are aware of your habits with different people, you can backtrack to to notice what triggered it. Sometimes the simple act of awareness allows up the space to choose a different path.

Support

Voting, politics, civic engagement and democracy are all important, but so is your sense of calm, your sense of ease. If you’re still worried about how to talk to loved ones about your political values, or if the holidays are always a strained time in your family, then I invite you to join me on Friday, November 9th, noon-1pm PDT for a free talk about Navigating Relationship Challenges. I’ll share more practical tools and insights that I’ve gathered over my 20 years in therapy and coaching.

Lael


Summer Thrive Guide

Summer is here in all it's hot, dry & busy glory. If you've been on the roads this summer, you've seen it. Everyone out and about making the most of the season, some of us more frazzled and fried than others -  all of which takes a toll on our bodies and minds.

I have some simple tips to help you keep your cool this summer. No, it's not the latest low-cal spritzer wine or a unicorn floatie, although both do look pretty refreshing. 

Summer can be described as hot, dry, humid and fast and since we aren't separate from nature, we also experience these qualities in our bodies and mind. (heartburn or road rage anyone?)

When we notice symptoms of burn out in our body and mind, it's time to incorporate some cooling, neutralizing and relaxing activities. Think: watermelon, cool showers, and hammock time.

And I recommend incorporating the first habit I teach in my Vibrant Body/Wise Mind course which is eating an Earlier, Lighter Dinner.

Why?
Your body is designed to digest it's largest meal during the day, not at night. Eat earlier and lighter and you'll digest your food before bed reducing the toxic load on your body. You’ll wake up sparky vs. with a food hangover.

How?
Aim to eat dinner before 6:30 pm then close your kitchen. No snacking. 

What?
Aim for simple, easy to digest foods: think soup or salad. Avoid meat, alcohol and heavy foods.

Try it out. I promise you will decrease the physical load on your body and therefore your mind, too. (Remember, the body and brain are connected.) You’ll feel lighter in body and mind. 

You'll avoid arriving in fall burned out and fried which results in reduced immunity leaving you susceptible to every germ bug this winter.

When you incorporate more cooling, relaxing activities and eat an earlier, lighter dinner, you’ll have more energy for all the summer fun yet to come. 

Invitation to Change

“This lunar cycle opens up with a fiery new moon on Aries which occurs on April 15...On the same day as the new moon, Mercury will station direct. Revealing what was hidden, Mercury’s change in direction sets us out on a new cycle with greater clarity.  

“This new moon is also the last in Aries to conjunct Uranus for the next 80 or so years….this new moon promises to be awakening, helping us to break new ground and make bold new beginnings.”   -Chani Nicolas.

I don’t know a lot about astrology, but I look at it like the seasonal changes around me. The planets and stars have their own patterns and relationships much like the ecosystem around us (and in us.)

My limited understanding allows me to hear what I need rather than getting caught up in what each planet's position means for my present moment.

Looking to the stars helps me gain perspective. “WOW! The Universe is so vast and amazing and here I am worried about whether my pants fit.”  Small. Problems.

It helps me see what’s possible. “Each day up there is different than the next. Relationships and positions are in constant motion. If that’s true for the stars and planets, and I am not separate from the Universe, that must be true for me, too.” Nothing is permanent or static. Not my feelings. Not my bad habits. Not my thought patterns.

It helps me trust. I think, “If things are always changing and it happens without me orchestrating it, how much more easeful could my life be I be if I aligned with the natural rhythms of the world around me?” Ahhh....I feel relaxed. I feel supported. I feel relieved that I'm not actually running the show.

I know tapping into this sense of wonder and trust and relief is difficult for some people. I see it all the time in my own self and my work with people. It takes time and patience. It helps to have practices and habits to allow it to show up more. 

Hear this... Everyone is capable of this alignment and ease. In fact, you’ve already experienced it many times in your life.
Remember that amazing sunrise?
How about that time your were fishing alone on the river?
You know that feeling your get when you walk the trail by your house?
When you hold a brand new baby? 
It’s there inside you. 

If you want more ease, trust, alignment, invite it. Cultivate it. (It is planting season after all.) 

Design your lifestyle to allow it to show up. Slow down. Schedule down time. Put down your phone. Get quiet for a minute. Look out the window. Get up and walk in nature. Do some yoga. Take a bath. Listen to music.

You can always start somewhere. Wherever you are.

YOU are not static nor permanent. You are not stuck this way forever. You, like the planets, are always in motion. Always changing. Allow it to be.

#1 Habit for Staying Healthy

Number one habit for decreasing stress and staying healthy??

Sleep. Not diet. Not exercise. Not herbal supplements. Sleep.

To stay healthy in body and mind, we must begin to prioritize sleep. Winter is the ideal season for sleep banking. It's naturally dark. It's cold. Think hibernation. When you are sleeping, the body and mind clean house. They can't do that when you are Netflixing at 11pm. Aim for 8-9 hours.

If you aren't getting good sleep (can't fall asleep or stay asleep), more often than not you are stressed. Either your body/physiology is stressed or your mind is stressed. You probably know which. Or both. (They are connected, by the way.)

What do you need to do to reduce your stress?
Don't get caught up in the mainstream belief that you are somehow a slave to your lifestyle, your career, the demands of your family. This is outdated. You can design your life. In fact, you have designed the way it is right now. And so, you can change it.

What is the one teeny change you can make today to reduce the stress on your body or mind?

You might think that isn't enough. And it might not be for good sleep tonight, but it's moving you in the direction of better sleep. More than believing you can't change. More than continuing your stressful habits!

How bad to do you want it?
How much more of a life could you have if you weren't sick all the time? We're stressed all the time?
How much more available could you be to your kids, your work, your own hobbies if you felt good?

Keeping Kids Safe

Yesterday, a friend texted me feeling anxious after hearing news of kids being molested by a trusted adult and wondered what she should be doing to keep her own kids safe. What should she tell them? What do I tell my kids?

These are difficult parenting moments, right? No parent wants to tell their kids bad things happen in the world. No one wants their kids to learn some adults hurt kids. We want them to stay innocent and protected from these horrible things. It makes sense. We're wired to protect our kids, but just like real self-care sometimes means doing the difficult thing (getting our ass out of bed and to the gym), protecting our kids sometimes means having uncomfortable conversations.

Here are some tips to make it easier for you and effective learning for your kids.

1. Teach body safety like you teach all other safety rules. Examples: "Look both ways before you cross the street." "We wear bike helmets to protect our brains." "No one is allowed to touch your body without your permission." Keep it simple and matter-of-fact. 

2. Keep your adult anxiety and fear out of the conversation. You wouldn't show your five year-old pictures of a mangled kid under a car to teach them about street-crossing safety. You don't need to watch the evening news with them or share details about child molestation to teach them body safety. In fact, depending on their age, you shouldn't. 

3. Teaching body safety is an on-going conversation. Just like you don't show your kid a cross walk once and then never mention again how to cross a street safely, you don't talk about body safety rules once and then never again until they are dating. Take the pressure off yourself and consider you are starting an on-going conversation.

4. Use natural teaching moments. Use everyday events to remind or quiz (kids love a quiz!) your kids about body safety rules. Example: your kid has a doctor appointment.
Parent: "Now is Dr. _____ someone who can touch your body? Why? Why not?"
Another example: Your kid is going on a playdate at a new-ish friend's house.
Parent: "You haven't played at ____'s house before. This is a great time to review the safety rules. Can you remember some?
Kid: "Wear a helmet. No leaving the property. Never touch a gun and immediately leave the room and tell an adult (OMG. That's another blog post.) No one is allowed to touch my body without my permission. If someone wants to touch my private parts or wants me to look at or touch theirs, I tell _____'s mom and you."
When it is an on-going conversation and part of everyday activity, kids internalize the safety rules.

4. Develop their skills to decrease vulnerability. Knowing body safety rules is one thing; having the ability to say "No" to a big kid or an adult is another. Especially if your kids are rule-followers vs rebels. Help your child develop the skills necessary to stand up for themselves by practicing in real life.  You want them to be able to be...
Assertive: To say "No" to an adult in a firm and respectful way.
Intuitive: To trust their gut.
Courageous: To ask for help from an adult when they need it, and not just you.
Attached: To tell you if something happens.

Real life strategies to foster these skills:

  • Have your kid order for themselves in a restaurant. 
  • Allow your child space and time to answer an adult's questions, especially strangers making small talk (like grocery store clerks, for example).
  • Ask your child to run something over to the neighbor's house for you.
  • Have an older child purchase something from the corner store while you wait in the car.
  • When rough-housing at home, stop as soon as your child says, "Stop."
  • Knock before entering the bathroom or bedroom.
  • Invite your child to give you honest feedback. Practice taking it. ("What do you think about this meal? How did you feel when I lost my temper?")
  • Listen, really listen (like put down your phone and make eye contact) when your child is telling you something about their day. Give them the message everyday that you want to hear everything; that they can tell you anything. 

5. Have an explicit conversation if you haven't already. The age and stage of your child determines how much you tell them and when. Just like the birds and the bees. You don't explain intercourse the first time your are talking about puberty. When they are ready, you tell them more. Fortunately, most kids ask questions or show us behaviors that tell us they need more information. Some kids don't, though and we have to be more direct. I find books are a great way to introduce concepts and get the conversation going. (Please re-read any book like this before you share it with your child to determine whether it is appropriate for your child's age/stage.)

For 2-5 year olds
It's My Body: A Book To Teach Children How to Resist Uncomfortable Touch by Lori Britain

For 4-8 year olds
Your Body Belongs to You by Cornelia Maude Spelman

For 6-10 year olds
I said No: A Kid-to-Kid Guide for Keeping Private Parts Private by Kimberly King

6. Educate your kids about their entire body. Start "sex-ed" early and and often. The more educated and aware a child is about their entire body (physical, mental, energetic, intuitive) the better care of it they will take. The more they value and honor their bodies, they less likely they are to let anyone else hurt it. The days of telling kids about puberty in 6th grade and sex/AIDS in 8th grade are gone. Our kids are living in different times. We need to equip them with the body knowledge and self-care habits from the get-go. Amazing You by Gail Saltz is a great book to start with. Tracey Biebel, LCSW at Practicalparentingpdx.com is the best for advice in this arena. In fact, much of what I know I learned from her. 

7. Model what you want them to know. Don't underestimate the power of what you are showing your kids. How you conduct yourself. How you care for yourself. How you assert yourself. How you ask for help. How you trust your gut. All of this, they are watching and learning and absorbing. Take comfort in that where you may be lacking in terms of the right words at the right time, your kids are learning how to be safe in the world from watching you. If you aren't sure you're role modeling what you want for your kids, it's time to turn it around.

Okay. Hope that helps. Always happy to talk more. Drop me a line with your questions or concerns. If I can't help, I know people who can!

 

Morning Quiet Time

I love my morning quiet time. I love the benefits of it. I feel more connected to myself, my body, the world around me.  I feel less hectic and have greater perspective. (So why do I sometimes fall out of habit?!)

This morning I started again. Morning quiet time for me sometimes means sitting quietly in the dark before I head to the gym. Sometimes I take more time to read a passage from an inspirational book or pull a medicine card. It often involves taking a few notes. It helps me hear my own voice and set my intention for the day.

One of my goals for 2018 is to deepen my meditation practice. I want to be come more consistent with this practice and I'm setting up some strategies to help me with this goal. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

If you want to experiment with starting a morning quiet time, set yourself up for success with these tips.

Set up your space before you go to bed. A spot on the couch perhaps? Your yoga mat? Gather all your supplies. A blanket, a candle, your journal.

Make it so easy you can't say no. Start with sitting sitting quietly for 2 minutes. Just sit. Say a prayer or repeat a mantra. Read a passage from a daily devotional. Write in a few notes in your journal. It doesn't matter. You are just trying to develop the habit. Pick something that works for you.

Allow the feelings/experience to sink in for a few moments before you are off and running. This helps you internalize the "reward" of starting your day with reflection.

Here's an example of something I read this morning.

Read it slowly.
Read it like a prayer to yourself.

live with intention.
walk to the edge.
listen hard.
practice wellness.
play with abandon.
laugh.
choose with no regret.
continue to learn.
appreciate your friends.
do what you love.
live as if this is all there is.

- mary anne radmacher

Sit quietly for a minute. Notice how you feel.

That's it! You did it! 
 

 

Thrive the Holidays

The holidays are upon us! How are you all doing?? I love so many things about the holidays. My cranberry spice candle, seasonal coffee beverages, road trips to see family, the lights, the music, holiday cards with the cutest family pictures, the anticipation. 

I also have a tendency to over-do it. I am prone to doing too much and burning out in all the ways. Too much food. Too many sweets. Too many parties, plans, obligations. I'm like a kid in a candy store and I don't know my own limits.

I resolved to do this holiday differently. I am learning from my past mistakes. I realize that more than two sips of an eggnog latte makes me feel crappy. Staying up late to address 100 holidays cards can be more stressful than rewarding. Saying yes to all the invitations because well, FOMO results in me being grumpy with my family and skimping on my self-care. Boo. No more of that.

This year I said no to holiday cards. (Sorry folks. Maybe next year. Thanks for sending me yours though!!) We decided to buy fewer gifts for fewer people. No eggnog lattes for me, but I'll peer pressure anyone I'm with to get one so I can have some sips. And I'm sticking with my morning self-care routine. It keeps me healthy in body, mind and spirit. 

I gave a talk a few weeks ago on how to thrive, not just survive the holidays. I created this tip sheet for people as a reminder to take good care of themselves during the holiday. Simple habits with big results. 

If you are prone to getting swept away in all the energy of the season, join me in resolving to do the holidays differently. To be more present. To arrive in January intact. Your future self thanks you!

Holiday_tipsheet_2018.jpeg

What's up with you?!

If you've been hanging around for a while, you've noticed there's been some changes to my work. I'm writing more, offering free talks, leading courses in addition to working individually with people. I'm experiencing a time of rapid growth and sometimes it is hard to keep up with all the ideas and desires flooding in. Today I felt compelled to write about what's motivating these changes.

Ultimately, it comes down to wanting to help people wake up, to love themselves, to make the most of this short life we've been given. I want to help people thrive. Nothing is better than seeing someone light up, start believing in themselves, and seeing the potentiality of their life. When that happens, the changes in them are exciting to witness. It can be a rocky ride, no doubt, but compared to snoozing through the years? Totally worth it. 

I've  been a therapist for nearly 17 years now and in the social work field for 22. I've worked with hundreds of children, families and adults in a variety of settings. I've learned a lot about what helps and what doesn't. 

In that time, I've gotten married. Lost friends. Made new ones. Had two kids. Got sober (6.5 years now!) Beat cancer. Faced my demons. Learned to love myself. (Still working on those two). My life experiences have changed me and are affecting how I want to be in the world.

It boils down to me feeling called to work with people in a different way. While therapy has it's benefits (I've been a happy customer myself for many years), I'm feeling led to be with people in a less clinical way. I want to teach. I want to connect people with each other. I want to be in a community of people who want to grow and change. Not just to improve our own lives, although that is where we all need to start, but to ultimately heal our families, our communities, our world. We need it now more than ever.

It starts with us. It starts with us taking very good care of our bodies. All five of our bodies: physical, energetic, mental, intuitive and bliss bodies. Talking about our stuff is helpful for sure, but it has it's limitations. We have to take what we've learned in therapy and life and put it into action. That's what I feel called to help people do in a very practical and proactive way.

I'm doing this by giving free talks, leading workshops, coaching people and teaching a self-care habit course several times a year. It feels good. It feels right to be integrating my personal experiences and my clinical expertise to help people who are tired of talking about it.... and ready to grow and change. 

That's all. Just wanted to share what's going on "behind the scenes." Thanks for being willing to ride along with me. 2017 has brought a ton of growth. I have some idea where I want to go in 2018, but mostly I'm opening up to allow what's unfolding to continue to do so.

I want nothing more than for you to have what I'm experiencing. You deserve it!

The Voices in My Head

"I don't deserve it. I haven't earned the privilege or the right. I don't work hard enough. I don't have enough money. It's selfish. It's indulgent and self-centered. It's a waste of money. It's impulsive."

"Only self-centered, fancy, rich, shallow people do this. Only people who are joiners, who are weak, who need others. Only people who need external things to make themselves feel better. I don't need that. I can do it on my own. I'm practical. I know how to go without. Look at how well I've done despite depriving myself."  

"I can't be away from my family, from my kids. Selfish people choose themselves over their children. I can't ask other people to help me. I can't expect other people's lives to be disrupted for my needs and desires. I can only ask for help if it's dire. I can't ask my partner to do more than he already does. I can't take time and money from my children for myself. I shouldn't have fun unless it's with my family."

"I don't even like groups. What will they think of me? Maybe I'll just be myself. Which self? What if I don't like the people there? What if it's too much time around other people? Or worse, what if I'm not authentic and I waste the precious opportunity? What will I eat? What should I wear? How will I fit in?"

I don't share these thoughts to make you feel bad for me or to tell me I shouldn't think these things.  And depending on your relationship with me, it might be hard to hear I have these kinds of thoughts. 

I share them to demonstrate how voices in our head operate. They are very real. Very distinct and often very powerful. They have competing fears, needs, and ways of coping. They have a different feeling sense to them: angry, defensive, hopeless, protective, self righteous, vulnerable, etc. 

They operate all the time. Mostly in the background, but sometimes right out front. Embrace the opportunity to witness your thoughts no matter how uncomfortable. Get to know the voices in your head. They are driving your feelings and reactions all the time anyway. 

I share these to exorcise them from myself. To put them out in the open. The voices lose their power when the light of day comes and are witnessed by myself and others. It's easier to see their lies. It's easier to understand where they came from, how long they've been around and what they are trying to do to help/protect me. 

I can see how flimsy their arguments are and how they hold no power over my burning desire to continue to evolve and grow into the person I'm meant to be.

You will have your own feelings when you read this. You might know me and think, "She's messed up. I feel bad for her." Or "She shouldn't feel that way. She's great."  Or "I'm relieved to know other people have these kinds of thoughts."  

Whatever it is, it doesn't matter to me. But it should be curious to you. Because right then you'll have the opportunity to witness the voice in your own head. 

Aging Gracefully

Perhaps this blog post should be titled "Tips for Staying Vibrant as You Age," because I don't know many women who walk around being all that graceful or dream of being more graceful as they age. Most of us are living large, living loud and intend to make the most of our lives up until the end.

But if we want to do all these things, we have to have a healthy body and the energy to sustain us. We must take better care of our bodies, minds and spirits starting now. Massages, pedicures and weekends at the beach aren't going to cut it. Sorry! 

Fortunately, the yogis and the ancient healing tradition of Ayurveda lend us their wisdom for longevity and vitality. Ayurveda philosophy reminds us that we are a part of nature.  We are made of the same elements as the natural world. God did not create this beautiful world and then plop us down on it like little Lego people. We came from it, belong to it and are therefore inseparable. 

Disease and dis-ease arise when we do not respect this fact. When we go against the natural rhythm of life. When we row our boat upstream versus going with the flow. (More on this topic later...) And health, vitality and longevity are ours when we align ourselves with the rhythm of the natural world around us. Think: sleep when it's dark, arise with sun. Respect the seasons and adjust your diet and activity level to align with them, etc.

Check out these tips from me and from yoga and Ayurveda for Aging Gracefully (or Wildly if that's more your style.)

  • Visualize yourself in perfect health as often as possible. Get a feeling sense of how this healthy person (you!) feels, acts, looks. Let this internal feeling guide your choices and your actions throughout the day.
  • Be honest with yourself about your current state of health and the effects on your life. Minimizing your symptoms or ignoring them does not help. Wise action can only be taken when you are honest about what you are dealing with.
  • Align your daily rhythm with the natural world. You are not separate from that out of which you arose. Eat seasonally. Respect the cycle of day/night. Adjust your activity level to the time of day and the season. Aim to restore balance when your habits are out of alignment.
  • Eat an Earlier, Lighter Dinner. Your body is not made to digest heavy food at night. When you eat heavier and later, you burden your body and rob it of it’s energy to repair and restore. Eat earlier and lighter and you’ll sleep better, wake lighter and feel energized.
  • Go to Bed Earlier. When you eat earlier, you’ll be ready for bed earlier. Aim to be asleep by 10pm so your body can use that time and natural energy cycle for repairing and healing your body and mind. Develop a bedtime routine to help you fall asleep easier and sleep longer.
  • Start the day with Quiet Reflection. Begin each day by connecting to the larger Universe, Source or your higher self. Take time to connect with your breath and your body. Practice gratitude. Pray. Journal. Set your intention for the day. Starting the day with quiet reflection will help you make conscious decisions regarding food, stress level and daily activities.
  • Maintain Social Connections. Studies show that people who are socially connected live longer, happier lives. Invest in your friendships. Prioritize time with others. Join a club or community. Commit to staying connected to you the people around you.
  • Use it or lose it. Your brain that is. The more you challenge your brain, the sharper it stays. Play games, do crossword puzzles, read challenging material, build new habits.  Have lively debates. Think of your brain like a muscle in your body. If you neglect it, it becomes soft. When you make it work, you strengthen it. A healthy brain is key thriving as you age.

If you want to have a conversation about your personal wellness goals, call or email me. I'd love to schedule a time to talk by phone or in person. Together we can explore where you are now, where you want to be, and the best plan to get you there.

lael@laelpetersen.com                  503.313.4802                   www.laelpetersen.com

Get Yourself Connected

Mother Teresa said one of the biggest diseases today "is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but the feeling of not belonging." She knew better than most the pain of not belonging. She saw it every day. We also know how it feels to be disconnected  - whether it be from our family or our peer group or even from ourselves. Our true feelings and desires. 

We are wired for connection, but our modern life can make that challenging. We are way too busy. We are pulled in so many directions. We're distracted and tired. In this disconnection from ourselves, we are quick to judge each other, to fear each other.

Sometimes when I'm driving around, I look around at the other drivers in their cars. When I'm at the grocery store, I sometimes look at the people around me. I can't help but think, "Man, we are all the same! In more ways than we are different. We are all trying to do a good job, love our kids, be the best human being we can despite our pain and our personal challenges." It makes me sad that we aren't each other's cheer leaders on this journey of life.

What kind of difference would that make?

We thrive when we feel connected. Awareness is what helps us remember that we are.

Connection with each other begins with us. Practicing mindfulness - just a few moments of non-judgmental awareness of what is going on in our bodies, our minds and around us - cultivates awareness. That awareness creates connection with ourselves and therefore with others. Its a natural progression. 

Do you feel disconnected? From yourself or someone in your life? Do you feel like you don't quite fit in or that everyone else has a tribe and you don't? It's not true. We are all connected. It's a matter of perception. 

So, how can you practice mindfulness today to cultivate that awareness within yourself? What's the one small step you can take toward creating more connection?