The Rx for Imposter Syndrome

Dee:  Because I am inspired by other people’s writings and teachings, I share them with you and hope you receive inspiration as well.  I add my two-cents worth by sharing how these teachings have affected me in my life in recovery and spirituality… 

The Rx for Imposter Syndrome 

By Melissa Eisler

Have you ever felt like you weren’t deserving of your successes in life? Maybe there is a little nagging voice inside you that says you’re not good enough or qualified enough for the job promotions, the high praises, or the awards that you’ve received. And maybe it doesn’t add up because you have the schooling, experience, and talent as evidence for your competence, but you are often dismissing your achievements on luck, timing, or a result of deceiving others into thinking you are more qualified than you think you  are.

 1_LetShitGoMOS (Gimp wht) copy

If you can’t seem to shake the feeling that you’re a fraud of your own achievements, you may be experiencing the crippling effects of what is commonly called imposter syndrome. While it is not considered an official diagnosis, imposter syndrome is acknowledged among mental health professionals for its prevalence and the stress, anxiety, and/or depression it can cause. 

People who suffer from this syndrome live in constant fear that they will be exposed for being unqualified or fake. It can take different forms, but here are some common signs: 

•Having perfectionism
•Overworking yourself
•Undermining your achievements
•Discounting praise 

1_LovePersonMirrorMOS (Gimp wht) DbH copy

Dee:  For me, I just had minimal self-worth and even less self-esteem.  Yes, the “imposter syndrome” played heavy in my life.  How could it not?  From the moment we’re born we are exposed, inundated, smothered by outside influences that don’t empower our highest selves.  We are led to compare, compare, compare ourselves with those around us in our society.  With our peers at school, with our co-workers, with our friends and family.  Sad, huh?

So when the stress and anxiety comes, so do the above bullet-points.  All of them!  And then the alcoholism…

The good news is that you can overcome it! You can train yourself to quickly identify it, manage it, and beat it. Here’s how …

1. Recognize Your Imposter Syndrome 

The first step is to become aware of your thoughts and feelings. The next time someone gives you a promotion, praise, or award, listen to your internal dialogue and how it makes you feel. Oftentimes, people who suffer with imposter syndrome undermine their achievements and discount praise that’s aimed their way. 

It’s important to note that just because you feel like a fraud, doesn’t mean that you are a fraud. Separating feelings from facts allows you to see the truth. Start shining a light on that little nagging voice and recognize it for what it is: Imposter syndrome.  

1_LghtShnMOS

Dee:  I didn’t even have a ray of light, no light at the end of the tunnel, no nothing until I finally got sober.  For decades I had no light, no hope, no purpose, no reason for living even though I was one of those with schooling, experience, and talent as evidence for my competence.  But I lacked confidence and thought more of what you thought of me than what I thought of myself. 

1_HandOverMouthMOS (orig wht) copy

So what happened?  I finally hit my bottom of escaping in my alcoholism.  I couldn’t go on this way any longer…and I got caught.  Actually, my Higher Power (that I didn’t even know I had at the time) said it was time to make an intervention and start my new journey.  It all started in a treatment program for alcoholism.

2. Share Your Thoughts and Feelings 

You may be feeling shame about your imposter syndrome, and that can keep you from sharing your feelings. However, knowing there’s a name for your feelings and that you are not alone can be incredibly liberating, so share your feelings of self-doubt and self-worth with your spouse, a friend, a therapist, a mentor, or a life coach. When you confide in someone about your negative self-assessment, it will bring you one step closer to overcoming imposter syndrome.  

1_StopDoubtingSelf

Dee:  When I found myself in the abyss of my alcoholism, I pled with my husband to help me, to intervene, put me away, lock me away.  But he didn’t.  He knew that unless I made the change, made the surrender, admit my helplessness, it wouldn’t do any good.

And, YES, I felt terribly alone.  Didn’t everybody drink the way I did?  But why did they always seem so happy and productive?  I was too ashamed, guild-ridden, embarrassed and humiliated to share my story  with anybody.

4_LvF*ckngSlfMOS (Gimp wht) DbH copy 2

3. Know When It’s OK to Feel This Way 

Sometimes having feelings of inadequacy can be a normal reaction. For example, if you are changing jobs or are the first minority in your workplace, it’s only natural that you’d sometimes feel like you don’t fit in. Don’t attach these feelings to your self-worth or see them as a sign of your incompetence; accept them as normal in response to being an outsider. 

Dee:  As you have noticed, my story isn’t just about the “imposter syndrome” for me.  A huge driving force in my story, along with the “imposter syndrome” was my alcoholism.  In all honesty, even though my own dad’s passing at a young age was partially due to his alcoholism, I didn’t know anything about the disease.  Not until I entered a 28-day treatment program for alcoholism.

But my feelings of inadequacy and not fitting in were prevalent way before my drinking got out of control.  I was always very self-conscious.  I never felt like I really fit in…anywhere…and just hoped I could “fake  it ’til I make it”.  

1_BravePretendMOS

Having worked the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous numerous times with many trusted sponsors and women, I have found that my life as far as I can remember was fear-based.  Why?  I don’t know the specifics and it doesn’t much matter at this point, except for that I realize it, accept it, thank it for coming, and encourage it to leave.  With this knowledge, acceptance, and yearning to live differently today, my life has become freer.  I can finally feel comfortable in my own skin and value my opinion about myself more than your opinion of me.  That’s huge! 

1_DoingMeMOS

4. Reframe Your Thinking 

Once you’ve become aware of your imposter syndrome, shared it with others, and separated when having those feelings are normal, the next step is to start working with your thinking. When a situation triggers your imposter syndrome, first reward yourself for catching it and then shift your thoughts to a more  positive perspective. 

1_OverthinkMOS

For example, if the thought of “I don’t deserve this compliment” pops into mind, start by congratulating yourself for recognizing your imposter syndrome. Then shift your thoughts to something like, “I feel undeserving of this compliment right now. Perhaps that’s my imposter syndrome talking. I would like to learn how to better accept praise.” 

Baby steps are key here! You don’t want to go from “I am under-qualified for this position” to “I am overqualified for this position.” You will reject that belief in a heartbeat as completely untrue because it is too drastic of a mind shift. Instead, try something more manageable: “I may feel under-qualified for this position, but everyone who starts something new feels insecure at the beginning.”  

1_LimitMOS

Dee:  Yes!  Turn whatever negative thoughts come to mind into positives.  I believe that everything happens for a reason.  Not to see us fail, but to help us succeed…to be our best selves!  If we don’t experience those tough thoughts about ourselves and turn them into positive, nurturing mind-sets, we shall not succeed.  Learn from what your Higher Power puts on your plate in a positive and nurturing way. 

1_FailStopTryMos (Gimp wht) copy

5. Accept Praise Gracefully 

In addition to reframing your mindset, it’s also helpful to learn how to receive compliments, awards, promotions, high praise, and anything else positive aimed at you, gracefully. Once you start becoming aware of how you negatively respond to these things, it’s time to break the cycle of continually seeking and then dismissing validation outside of yourself.  

3_BelieveMOS

To do this, set an intention to learn how to transform your reaction and express gratitude. Try a simple “Thank you” the next time you are complimented. You’ll notice it feels better for not only you, but for everyone else around you, too. 

Dee:  In our society we are taught that “more is better”.  So not true.  And that applies to speaking.  Don’t go on and on when asked a question.  A simple “yes” or “no” will suffice without a long, drawn-out excuse or rationalization.  No one really gives a shit anyway.

And once you start to peel the layers off the onion, which is yourself, you will notice that you can start forgiving, accepting, and even loving that person you are.  You are a special and unique gift who was created with assets that no other human being on the planet has.  Be proud of who you are.  Be proud of being human.  And then share your gift! 

3_BrokenCrayonsMOS

6. Manage Your Perfectionism 

Many people with imposter syndrome struggle with perfectionism, often obsessing over details and fearing that if they aren’t perfect, they will soon be discovered as a fraud. There are healthy levels of perfectionism—when you use it as a motivational force to excel and commit to high standards. And then there are unhealthy levels—which cause obsession and fear. People who have a healthy sense of perfection don’t let their mistakes weigh them down nor define who they are. 

In essence, do a great job when it matters most and let go of things out of your control. When an inevitable mistake happens, forgive yourself and move on.  

1_PrgrssPrfctnMOS (DbH) copy

Dee:  Today I consider my perfectionism to be one of my character defects.  It most certainly didn’t serve me.  Now I can be proud that I have done my best, no more no less, just my best.  As an alcoholic in recovery I still retain my obsessive-compulsive behavior and thinking.  However, since I am aware of this now and how it negatively affects my life, I embrace it, thank it for coming, and then let it go when it appears.

7. Develop a New Response to Failure 

One telltale sign of imposter syndrome is beating yourself up for being human—a.k.a. for making even the tiniest of mistakes. Coupled with perfectionism, a self-critical response to failure (“I should have known better” or “I should have known the answer”) is unhealthy. It is not realistic as we all make  mistakes. 

1_FlawsVSGifts

So, the next time things don’t go as planned (because they won’t) or you’re wrong (because you will be), try acknowledging the lesson learned, allowing room for self-compassion, and then moving on. Remember that you have just as much right as anyone else to be wrong, have an off day, or need help.  

1_PrfctlyImprfctMOS

Dee:  Today I can laugh at myself when I make an ass of myself.  That’s only because I love and accept myself for who I am today and know that I AM doing my best and, yes, I am human.  As are you.  I don’t judge you for your mistakes.  And if you judge me, that’s not my problem.  I have no control over people, places or things.  And life continues on. 

2_InnerPeaceMOS

Everything that happens in my life is purposely positioned.  Every person I meet, every experience I have.  And ALL are for the purpose of my growth, my success, my sharing my experience, strength and hope with others and to help them through their “imposter syndromes”. 

2_EvrythngPrfctMOS (Gimp wht) DbH copy 2

8. Make Time for You 

People who suffer from imposter syndrome often work harder than others, to make up for feeling like a fraud. On the positive side, they are highly ambitious and great achievers; on the negative side, they overwork themselves and are prone to burnout. 

Being diligent is a great quality, but not at the expense of your health. Finding balance is key. You do not need to overwork yourself on the job in order to compensate for fictional inadequacies. In fact, redefine what “working harder” means for you—it can be working hard on taking care of yourself. 

Figure out what you need to do in order to take care of yourself and create a self-care program that works  for you. 

2_LeaveMeAloneMOS

Dee:  This has been difficult because I have always put myself last.  Remember, I cared more about what you thought of me than what I thought of myself.  I am trying my best to nurture myself, to put balance and moderation in my life.  But again, I am obsessive-compulsive to this is harder said than done.  But the seed has been placed and, one day at a time, I practice self-care not only for my reward for jobs well done, but for survival, fitness and sanity. 

1_YouMatterMOS

9. Visualize Success 

By being able to paint a concrete picture of what success looks like to you, it can become less vague and more obtainable. That way when it does happen, you won’t be so quick to reject it. Here are some simple ways to help you visualize success: 

Write down your goals. Get it out of your head and onto paper. By being able to communicate your goals, you can more easily imagine them happening.
Picture yourself victorious. Visualize how you navigate a situation—as many details as you can so that it feels true when it happens. 

Dee:  I am lucky I love to write and I have noticed that when I write things down those thoughts sink in, make more sense, and are stronger.  I’ll even write things down over and over again and each time I do the light bulb becomes a little brighter.  Try it!  Like with an affirmation.  It will sink in; it will come to fruition.

When I take the time to quiet my mind, as with meditation, is when my visualizations become more tangible.  Again by repeatedly visualizing, writing things down over and over, thinking about what victory looks like to you, will become more solid and focused.  Your brain will start to realize that this is important stuff, so I best get moving to accomplish and succeed! 

1_EnjoyJourneyMOS

10. Remember That You Are Not Alone 

Lots of highly successful people experience similar feelings of inadequacy (authors Maya Angelou and Seth Godin; actors Tom Hanks, Natalie Portman, and Felicia Day; and comedians Amy Schumer and Tina Fey, to name a few) and just knowing that others are experiencing it too can make you feel less isolated, releasing the syndrome’s power over you. 

In fact, studies found that 70 percent of people have struggled with imposter syndrome at some time in their lives. Your friends, bosses, classmates, and others you respect may have felt similar feelings of inadequacy. In our competitive, achievement-obsessed culture, it is probably more common than you think. 

So when you realize that you are not alone and actually connected to a lot of successful people who suffer from the same unhelpful symptoms of imposter syndrome, it will help you feel less lonely. 

Remember, you wouldn’t be promoted, complimented, trusted, and praised if you were actually a fraud. Let these tips help you expose imposter syndrome for what it truly is: not reality.  

3_ICanIWillMOS

Dee:  Finding a group of like-minded people with whom I surround myself has helped me tremendously by comforting me and reinforcing in me that I am not alone.  For me my like-minded people I’ve found in the AA Fellowship.  But there are a wealth of local support groups in your area who are there to help you with whatever ails you…imposter syndrome, addictions, depression, and life itself.  And if the first shoe doesn’t fit, try another until you feel like “you’re finally home”. 

1_BeYOUtifulMos

Thank you for allowing me to share my journey with you.  I anxiously await hearing about your journey so please reach out.  Together we can get through any and everything.  Rid yourself of the guilt and the shame and love yourself for who you are…in all your glory.  You are amazing!  Remember that! 

1_YouAreAmazingMOS (oGimp wht) DbH copy

For those interested in my Art with a Message of Hope and Inspiration, such as the mosaics you see here, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  And if you would like to see this blog on YouTube, please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GH6oHjEwhzE.  Mahalo and enjoy!            

With warmest aloha, Dee Harris

About the Author :  Melissa Eisler (/bios/melissa-eisler)
Certified Leadership & Career Coach, Yoga & Meditation Instructor, Author 

Melissa is the Senior Content Strategist at the Chopra Center. Also an ICF Certified Leadership and Career Coach (ACC) and certified meditation and yoga instructor, she is passionate about motivating people to live a healthy, balanced, and purposeful life. You can learn more about Melissa’s coaching practice at MelissaEisler.com (https://melissaeisler.com/). 

The Chopra Center

Advertisements

3 Meditations to Get You in the Holiday Spirit

Dee:  This blog was inspired by the Chopra Center’s                                                                 “3 Meditations to Get You in the Holiday Spirit” 

4_BreatheMOS (wht) DbH copy

3 Meditations to Get You in the Holiday Spirit 

By Melissa Eisler

The holidays are upon us again—a busy time of year filled with visiting with friends and family, shopping for gifts, and preparing special meals to enjoy with loved ones. 

The holiday season is meant to be a happy time; it conjures up images of cozying up by the fireplace, baking ginger bread cookies, giving to and helping those in need, and stepping away from the day-to-day grind to focus on family and loved ones. But it can also come with a lot of stress—worrying over extra expenses, navigating unpredictable family drama, and burning out from a jam-packed schedule. With all the hustle and bustle this time of year brings, it can be easy to get caught up in this stress and lose focus on the essence of what the holidays represent: feeling and sharing joy, kindness, and gratitude for all that you have in your life. 

Dee:

Ew.  The image just conjured up in my mind is one of incomprehensible demoralization.  Thank God I’m not that person today and I have a support group and a toolbox for living to keep me from going back there.

The image conjured up cozying up by the fireplace is one Christmas Eve years ago, opening gifts with family after a wonderful lobster dinner.  I think.  You see, I am an alcoholic.  Today a grateful alcoholic in recovery.  But then I was active in my disease.

Coming home after a full day at work (being a checker at a grocery store on Christmas Eve is no easy feat in itself), I made a lobster thermidor dinner for my family, which included my mom and step-dad who were visiting.  I must of had too many glasses of wine (which was a daily occurrence) because the rest is very fuzzy.

I wake up in bed on Christmas morning (or “come to” which was also a daily occurrence) not remembering if we had opened our gifts.  This Christmas I asked my boys to pick out one gift they would like to open on Christmas Eve.  They chose.  Then we opened them all except for that special gift we would save for Christmas Day.  I think.  I don’t remember.

When I “fished” for clues from my mom on Christmas Day what happened on Christmas Eve, she said she knew I was tired after a long day at work and making dinner.  Apparently I fell asleep by the wood stove (but really I passed out).  Shit.  I hate this story.  I hate my life.  I hate myself.

I am not going to say that the holidays were too stressful or that I did not meditate.  My story is that I am an alcoholic and one drink for me is too many because I will not stop until I pass out, kill you and your family on the road, and end up in an institution.

Meditation is a great way to help you refocus on what matters most this holiday season. You can’t control other people or events, but you can use meditation to help you navigate through the overwhelming feelings. Try practicing the following meditations to cultivate joy, kindness, and gratitude for 10 to 15 minutes each day from now through to the end of the year. 

Dee:

Since then I have gone to a recovery center, become an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous, and have learned a new way to live in sobriety.  Now I love my story, my past, because without the feeling of incomprehensible demoralization I would not feel the freedom and happiness I feel at this moment.

And I have learned that I am a gift and how to love myself in the moment with the many wretched stories in my past.  That was me then.  I am me now.  And tomorrow doesn’t exist.  And I practice meditation and I get quiet and know that there is a Power Greater Than Myself who is in control, driving my car, taking me on the ride of my life, introducing me to exciting new adventures and people, while I soak it all up in the passenger seat.  This gives me contentment and joy knowing all is perfect at this moment, that I don’t have to be in control, that I don’t have to think anymore and can live from my heart, knowing, trusting, that I am protected and guided by a Higher Power.

A Meditation for Cultivating Joy 

The stress this time of year can sometimes leave you feeling exhausted, often zapping the joy that the holidays are supposed to bring. Meditating not only helps you be more joyful and present, but it can also help you spread joy to those around you. And spreading joy, lifting others, and being jolly are central to the holiday spirit! Try these simple steps to cultivate that joyful, jolly feeling: 

•Find a quiet area—this can be in a room in your house, an area in your garden, or next to the fireplace when everyone else has gone to sleep.                                                                                        
•Sit in an upright position. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose, and exhale through your mouth.                                                                                                •Continue with five deeps breaths. Pay attention to how you are feeling, finding any discomfort or pain points and adjusting yourself to be more comfortable.
•Continue to breathe, focusing on the feeling of your chest rising and falling.
•Now, turn your attention to your thoughts. Your mind may be racing with your holiday to-do list; if so, visualize yourself crossing the items off and feeling accomplished. Know that you are taking this time for yourself, so that you can have the energy to tackle that list joyfully.                                                                                   •Now that you are clearing your mind and making room for joy, think of a holiday memory from your past when you felt deep joy. This could be a joyful holiday moment from your youth or from a recent memory. Focus on the details of that moment as you attempt to relive it in your mind, like you were watching a movie of that memory.                                                                •As you bring that moment to the center of your consciousness, pay attention to the joyful emotions and sensations that you felt, the smells that you experienced (ginger bread and peppermint, perhaps?), and the rich tastes of the season. Stay with the memory for a while.
Next, think of a way to recreate those feelings in your life today, perhaps with different people, a different location, and a different activity, but working to cultivate the same mood of joy for yourself and those you would like to share those feelings with.                                                                                                                                       •Release that visual and take 10 deep breaths, inhaling to fill yourself with the holiday spirit of joy, and exhaling to send joy out into the world.
•When you’re finished, sit quietly for a few moments before gently opening your eyes. 

Practice this meditation daily, focusing on cultivating and spreading joy. With repetition, you’ll be able to tap into those feelings more readily, even when faced with the stress of the season. 

A Meditation for Cultivating Kindness 

The holidays are a great time to give back and spread kindness to your loved ones, strangers, and even to those who you are not on good terms with. Kindness is about extending grace, compassion, and love to others, and you can use meditation to improve your capacity for empathy and compassion. Try these simple steps, a derivative of the Loving-Kindness Meditation: 

Before you start this mediation, set a timer for between 5 and 20 minutes and think of a few phrases that invoke kindness and compassion toward others. String three or four short phrases together. Write them down if it helps you memorize them. If you can’t think of any, try these: 

“May you be at peace.” “May you be healthy.” “May you feel free.” “May joy fill your life.” 

•As before, find yourself in a comfortable area where you can focus on your meditation without distractions. Sit in a comfortable position and start to take five deep breaths. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, while tuning in to any discomfort in your body and adjusting as needed.                                                                                                            •Continue your rhythmic breathing and pick someone (or yourself!) or a group of people that you will channel loving-kindness to (for example, your family, your neighbors, your community, your country, or refugees across the world that you read about in the news).
•With this person or people clear in your mind, repeat your loving-kindness phrases silently for the duration of your meditation:                                                                                                “May you be at peace.” “May you be healthy.” “May you feel free.” “May joy fill your life.”                                                                                                                                          •When your timer goes off, sit quietly for a few moments, smiling at the kindness you have sent to others, and gently open your eyes. 

Try practicing this meditation when you wake up and before you go to bed, so that you start and end your day with loving-kindness. You can change the beneficiary of your meditation each time you do it if you’d like. It will help you practice kindness to everyone on this planet during this holiday season. 

A Meditation for Cultivating Gratitude 

Being grateful is something you can practice year-round, but the holidays are often a time to be especially reflective on your life. This meditation will help you think about what you are grateful for and how to express that appreciation. Try these simple steps to develop a gratitude mindset: 

•Find a comfortable, quiet location to begin your practice. For this one, find a sunny spot on your patio, take a seat next to warm fireplace, or curl up in a warm blanket on a cold winter day.
•Sit up straight, adjusting your posture as necessary to ease any pain points.
•Start by taking a series of deep breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Lightly close your eyes and continue a rhythmic breathing pattern.                                                           •If you are sitting outside on a sunny day or next to the fireplace, notice how the warmth embraces you and melts the cool winter chill. Breathe and enjoy the sensation of warmth flowing through your body.
•Start to reflect on the gifts that life has given you today. What can you be grateful for today, in this very moment? You can choose something specific that happened today or even the simple fact that you are alive and breathing and practicing the gift of meditation.                                                                                                                               •Bring to mind all the potential comforts that you have in your life, for example:                 

Access to water and food                                                                                                        Clothes
Electricity
Home                                                                                                                                      

Friends, family, and pets 

Technology
                                                                                                                                                        One by one, think of all the special people or animals that are a part of your life, both directly and indirectly: 

Family
Friends
Pets
Coworkers
Mentor
The farmer who grew your food
The officer who keeps your neighborhood safe
The engineer who constructed the school your kids go to 

Now, think about something in your life that you are grateful for that was new in the last year.
Now, think of one talent or skill that you possess that you’re grateful for.
Now, think of one thing that you are really looking forward to in the future.
Now, think about something that makes you smile or laugh, and observe the emotions that flow through your body. 

•Release the gratitude images, take a few deep breaths, and finish by taking inventory of how you are feeling. Without judgment, simply observe. 

When you are finished, you can gently open your eyes and bring the feelings of gratitude with you into the rest of your day. 

When you practice these three meditations, you are actively working to cultivate feelings of joy, kindness, and gratitude this holiday season, benefitting your well-being as well as those around you. What better way to get into the holiday spirit, and in turn, make it contagious! 

Dee:

I have GOT TO do this!  I have GOT TO add “self” to my list of to-do’s.  I randomly, fleetingly, have thoughts of how grateful I am, how compassionate I am for those who have less.  But if I set that timer for 5-20 minutes for ME and make that time for getting centered, getting humble, and getting back focused and in the moment, I know in my heart that the day will unfold more smoothly and effortlessly than had I not.

I shall start today, right now, by adding in my list of daily activities in my phone: 5 MINUTES OF MEDITATION.  When I turn off that damned alarm and get quiet, take those deep breaths, I might just adjust that timer for 20 minutes.  

Then I’ll get to finish decorating the house, finish writing the Christmas cards, finish the orders that need to be finished before Christmas, eat some lunch, take a shower, get ready for tonight’s guests…

Thank you for taking time for yourself and knowing we are all crazy and stressed this time of year.  Just breathe…  Wishing you Mele Kalikimaka with warmest Aloha, Dee Harris

For those interested in Art with a Message of Self-Care, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

About the Author 

Melissa Eisler (/bios/melissa-eisler)
Certified Leadership & Career Coach, Yoga & Meditation Instructor, Author 

Melissa is the Senior Content Strategist at the Chopra Center. Also an ICF Certified Leadership and Career Coach (ACC) and certified meditation and yoga instructor, she is passionate about motivating people to live a healthy, balanced, and purposeful life. You can learn more about Melissa’s coaching practice at MelissaEisler.com (https://melissaeisler.com/). Melissa is also the author of The Type A’s Guide to Mindfulness: Meditation for Busy Minds and Busy People (http://amzn.to/1J1dYvz), a practical guide for new meditators in the modern world, and the creator of mindfulminutes.com (http://mindfulminutes.com/), a… Read more (/bios/melissa-eisler) 

The Chopra Center

The Impact of Holiday Stress on the Mind and Body

Dee:  This blog was inspired by the Chopra Center’s “The Impact of Holiday Stress on the Mind and Body” 

Screen Shot 2018-12-15 at 9.56.27 AM

The Impact of Holiday Stress on the Mind and Body 

By JenniferWeinberg

‘Tis the season for joyful gatherings with family, remembering your blessings, and celebrations. But it can also be a season full of expectations and stress as you scramble to deck the halls, bake endless batches of cookies, and pick out the perfect presents. Even festive demands create stress on the mind and body; understanding the way that your body copes with stress can help you employ strategies to enjoy all that the holidays offer without suffering the consequences of unneeded holiday stress. 

The holidays bring many stressors, including a lack of time to fit in all the holiday parties, the pressure and financial burdens of picking out the perfect presents, the tensions of long-standing family dynamics, and the temptation to indulge in different foods—on top of your usual workload and obligations. It is no coincidence that you always come down with the annual cold or flu during or just after the winter holidays, or that your pants seem to shrink in January. 

How Your Body Handles Stress 

Stress refers to any type of perceived or real demand or threat—positive or negative. It is the way that your body reacts to and responds to demands that can have short- or long-term effects on your mind and body health due to the powerful mind-body connection. 

Dee:

Great to know that stress can be positive as well as negative.  I’ve always perceived stress as negative.  I try to always look at the glass half full and turn every negative into a positive, but stress wasn’t a word that held a positive image for me.  I shall look at stress differently as of today!

Emotions such as anxiety or fear can trigger physiological changes in your body involving a cascade of stress hormones (like cortisol and epinephrine) as you attempt to maintain balance and ensure survival. This stress response involves neurological pathways and biochemical reactions throughout the body that you may recognize as a pounding heart, rapid breathing, muscle tension, sweating, and/or digestive upset. This is why major life events like holiday traditions, stressors like coping with family gatherings, or emotions like those that arise around giving and receiving gifts may trigger physical symptoms. 

This combination of reactions to stress is also known as the fight-or-flight response since it evolved as an adaptive coping and survival mechanism, enabling you to react quickly to life-threatening situations. Unfortunately, in modern life multitasking, juggling too many things, lacking true meaningful connections, and bombardment with constant stimulation are a regular part of life, especially during the holiday season, making stress incessant in many people’s lives. 

Over time, your body can also overreact to stressors that are not life-threatening, such as family difficulties, packed shopping malls, or the awkward office gift exchange. These types of chronic ongoing stressors can contribute to inflammation, irritability, anxiety, and chronic disease. 

Holiday Stress and Metabolic Imbalances 

The stress of the holidays can be a major contributor to weight gain and metabolic imbalances. 

Cortisol is one of the hormones that your body releases in response to stress, helping to provide enough energy to cope with threats and challenges. During the stress response, blood sugar levels rise in an effort to enable fighting or fleeing from a threat, after which insulin is released to bring the blood sugar levels back into a normal range. 

Insulin plays a key role in regulating the amount of glucose being taken from the bloodstream into the cells, but when this cycle is chronically and repeatedly activated due to stress, the signaling process can become impaired, and your cells can become resistant to insulin, which has far-reaching consequences. Some common metabolic consequences of stress and imbalanced cortisol levels are insulin resistance, blood sugar imbalances, and weight gain, especially in the belly area. 

The threat of holiday weight gain is increased further when you are tempted with so many holiday treats and foods that may not normally be part of your lifestyle. Emotional eating, or turning to food to cope with the extra stress of the season, is often exacerbated during this busy time of the year. 

A busy holiday season is not necessarily a bad thing, but there are some steps you can take to cope with holiday expectations and obligations to minimize undue stress and its impacts on your mind and body. The key is to build resiliency so that you can respond to stressful situations without triggering the alarm system every time. 

Recognize Your Holiday Stress Triggers 

The holiday season brings many demands that can contribute to overwhelm. Recognizing the types of triggers that send you into a stress response can help you take steps to reprioritize your choices and plan ahead to find greater balance. 

Go into the season with an awareness of potential holiday demands to give yourself the chance to mindfully choose where to spend your time and energy so that you can manage stressful triggers. 

Common holiday stressors include: 

Overextending yourself by accepting every holiday party invite
Feeling immense pressure to find the perfect present
Trying to make everything for your holiday meals from scratch
Going beyond your budget for gift and food shopping, adding to long-term financial stress                                                                                                                                   Excessive drinking or eating foods that aren’t ideal for your individual body or needs                                                                                                                  Unrealistic and overly high expectations of what makes a “perfect” holiday season                                                                                                      Family tensions and arguments 

Listen to Your Body 

Learning to recognize the symptoms of stress and when they are becoming overwhelming or harmful to you is the first step in effectively managing it. Paying attention allows you to identify emotions as they arise, recognize when stress threatens to become overwhelming, and choose how you react and dedicate your time and energy. 

Stress can lead to emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and physical symptoms when it is too intense or too frequent. Red flags that can alert you to excessive stress include: 

Difficulty sleeping
Cold hands and feet
Racing heart
Mood changes or irritability
Nervousness or shaking
Weight gain, especially around the belly                                                                                        Exhaustion that interferes with daily life activities                                                                                 Rapid breathing
Tension headaches, backaches, or other excessive muscle tension
Clenched jaw and teeth grinding
Changes in digestion, including constipation, diarrhea, nausea, or abdominal pain 

Build Resiliency to Enjoy the True Meaning of the Season 

As you start to pay more attention to how you spend your energy and the ways in which different demands affect your body and mind, you can choose your priorities and begin to build resiliency. This will allow you to take control of the holiday chaos in a way that brings more enjoyment and meaning to the season. 

Stress arises from the ways in which you respond to challenges, so a great start to reducing your holiday stress is to slow down enough to have the freedom to choose your priorities, recognize your interpretation of what is happening around you, and decide how you want to move forward. Remember the distinction between events and your experience of them. This allows you to start to leverage challenges as opportunities to grow and evolve, which in turns builds resiliency and buffers you from the negative impacts of stress. 

One way to keep the holidays manageable is to plan ahead to keep realistic expectations. Reflect on what matters to you and make deliberate choices to create a season that feels meaningful. This allows you to set boundaries and focus on what’s important to you so that you have the energy to savor each experience more. 

Dee:

This reminds me to just stay in the present moment, that which is right in front of my nose.  I can feel the breeze now and hear the leaves rustle.  The thoughts come of the 50 million things I should do today, but the rustle gets louder.  STAY IN THE MOMENT, Dee!

Turn it over to my Higher Power who will do the driving today and take me to where I need to go and who I need to see.  Aaahhh.  It’ll be a piece of cake!  But you need to finish and send out the Christmas cookies.  Ssshhh, Dee.  Hear the leaves.

Hope this article helps you when you’re wigging out with holiday stress.  Just remember to breathe, be grateful, and turn it over.  Everything is perfect at this moment.  Do your best and be at peace with your achievements.  Love yourself.  Nurture yourself.  Appreciate yourself!

Mele Kalikimaka with warmest Aloha,

Dee Harris

For those interested in Art with a Message of JUST BREATHE and CHILL, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

With some planning and awareness, you can recapture the magic of the holidays. Understanding some of the science of stress and increasing your ability to pay attention to your body will help you to find peace, joy, and better health throughout the holiday season! 

*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center’s Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program. 

Give your body, mind, and spirit a fresh start—and commit to healthier habits—at Perfect Health, our intimate wellness retreat customized just for you. Learn More. (https://www.chopra.com/live-events/perfect-health- program).

About the Author 

Jennifer Weinberg (/bios/jennifer-weinberg) Preventive and Lifestyle Medicine Physician and Author 

Dr. Jennifer Weinberg, MD, MPH, MBE is a preventive and lifestyle medicine physician, author, corporate wellness specialist, blogger, and the founder of the Simple | Pure | Whole Wellness Method. (http://www.jenniferweinbergmd.com/) Weinberg offers innovative online wellness and education programs for individuals looking for sustainable optimal health as well as health care providers seeking health communications support and corporations wanting to integrate a comprehensive approach to corporate wellness. Get a free preview (http://bit.ly/PQNnH0) of her best-selling stress management guide 

… Read more (/bios/jennifer-weinberg) 

The Chopra Center

Advice for Grinches: How to Avoid the Holiday Funk 

Dee:  This blog was inspired by the Chopra Center’s                                                       “Advice for Grinches: How to Avoid the Holiday Funk”

Dee Grinch 12:7:18

Advice for Grinches: How to Avoid the Holiday Funk 

By Sara Schairer 

The holidays are here, and they bring with them an abundance of twinkle lights, parties, cookies, and joy. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? 

Yes. For some lucky people. 

Perhaps this line from the Dr. Seuss’ book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, is a more accurate depiction of how you feel about Christmas: “Hate, hate, hate. Hate, hate, hate. Double Hate. LOATHE ENTIRELY!”  The Grinch’s comments refer to his feelings for the Whos, and it quite accurately describes his feeling about the holidays. 

Do you have an inner-Grinch who comes out this time of year? 

Despite the festivities, the holidays bring sadness for many. Feelings of grief and loneliness may rise to the surface. For me, this time of year reminds me of the loss I’ve experienced over the years. I miss my deceased father every holiday season, and I feel sadness about my failed marriage. 

Dee:

A bit of sadness surfaces for me as well as our home is no longer filled with excited-for-Christmas children.  But I still hang lights inside and outside the house.  I put up a small  tree for my husband and me.  I hang stockings.  I send out Christmas cards with a short year-in-brief note.  I bake cookies.  

I do this for ME!  It gives my heart joy.  No sadness necessary for wonderful past memories.  I must stay in the moment and be grateful for them and this moment present in front of my nose.  I lack for nothing.  I am grateful.  I am humble.

But you don’t have to stay stuck in sadness during the holiday sadness. Here are some simple tips to help you stay less Grinch-y and more positive this holiday season. 

1. Self-Compassion 

Self-compassion meditations and simple practices can help you gracefully navigate sadness and grief. By remembering the three main pillars of self-compassion (mindfulness, common humanity, self-kindness), you can stay attuned to your suffering with more grace and ease. 

Dee:

For me self-compassion and meditations both bring me back to this present moment.  In this present moment I don’t have to pick up a drink or drug.  That wasn’t always the case.  I would be hanging up Christmas lights in a snow storm on a metal ladder.  Year after year.  Stupid.  Drunk.  I would bake cookies, wrap gifts and decorate the inside of the house to all hours of the night.  Year after year.  Drunk.  High.  I would black out and then pass out while opening gifts.  Sick.  Sad.

No more.  Today I have a choice to not pick up a drink or a drug.  For that and Alcoholics Anonymous I am truly grateful and truly humble.  I can practice self-compassion and love myself for who and what I am…today…one day at a time.

2. Gratitude 

Research indicates that a daily or weekly gratitude practice enhances overall well-being, and a simple gratitude practice can take just five minutes or less of your time each day. 

At the end of the day, write down three things for which you are grateful. Instead of the normal responses like my health and family, ratchet up the practice by looking back on your day and picking out specific highlights. For example, you could write, “I am grateful for the lunch and laughs I shared with my co-workers. We ate outside and enjoyed the crisp air and sunshine.” 

Dee:

I start my day and end my day in bed, duh.  Before getting out of bed to face the day I turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand God, a God of My Own Understanding to whom I was introduced working the 12 Steps of AA.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not promoting AA.  I am promoting YOU and your well-being.  There are many support groups in your neck of the woods that can help walk you through whatever ails you.  AA was introduced to me in rehab and they loved me until I could love myself.  Find your tribe!

Before falling asleep I again deeply connect with my Higher Power so thankful for his driving me around throughout the day while I enjoyed the passenger seat.  I got to meet new people, experience new adventures, all without having to be in control or affect the outcome.  Everything turned out perfectly!

3. Cultivate Joy 

The human brain focuses on the negative, which means you need to intentionally cultivate more positivity in your life. It’s referred to as the brain’s negativity bias and research suggests that you need a three-to-one ratio of positive feelings to negative feelings in order to flourish. 

Dee:

It seems like the older I get the harder it is to muster up any energy.  So when I do scoop up a pile or two of energy, I choose to use it in a positive way.  I remember how exhausting it was to live a life in active alcoholism, having to drink everyday, but more exhausting was the guilt, shame, hiding, lying and cheating.  That negative shit took all the energy I had and I had nothing left for me, let alone joy.

One way to add more positivity is through self-affirmation. Take time each day to think of things you appreciate about yourself. A gratitude practice also infuses your day with positivity. 

Dee:

One thing we did in rehab was to make up an affirmation and recite it to the group every morning for 28 days.  I chose, “I am a good person.  I am a whole person.”  At that time in my life I felt anything but good nor whole.  I was a piece of shit wasting space on the planet with no purpose.

But reciting this affirmation has helped me tremendously to get back in the moment, to remember where I am today and how I got here.  As I peeled the layers of the onion skin off of myself I realized that I do, indeed, have a purpose.  To share my experience, strength and hope with those who enter my Dee Bubble.  Those who are going through tough times, whether from addictions, abuses, or just too much on their plates.

Today I am able to use my tough times to help me stay grounded, grateful and humble.  I needed those tough times to bring me to this calmness and lightness in my life.  So I share with you that you are not alone on your journey.  And that everything is perfect right now.  Just go in faith and not fear.  Live from your heart and not your head.

4. Minimize Social Media Consumption 

If you’re regularly (obsessively?) checking your Facebook and Instagram feeds, try to bring awareness to how you’re feeling. Do you notice sadness, uneasiness, or any tightness? Your mind might be comparing your life to the lives you see online. Since most people only highlight their best moments on social media, you are most likely not getting the full picture of someone’s life. Comparing your normal, flawed life to one that appears to be perfect is a recipe for sadness. 

Try putting your phone down more often and staying off of social media. Notice if any of your feelings shift. 

Dee:

I use social media mostly to promote my business.  But getting on Facebook or Instagram draws me in to life outside my Bubble.  I experience everyone’s journeys and get to be a part of.  I get joy from these long-distance interactions.

I no longer need to compare my journey with yours as I know now that we are all alike with both good times and hard times.  I finally feel good enough in my own skin that I don’t need to impress you.  I have my own gifts as you have yours.  And sharing our gifts with one another makes the world a better place.

5. Find a Holiday Accountability Buddy 

Do you know someone else who has experienced loss or has a tough time during the holidays? If so, reach out to that person and see if you can lean on each other every day. Send this person a quick text once a day to check in, and he or she can do the same for you. 

You might want to use this accountability as a way to start or enhance your daily gratitude practice. 

Dee:

In AA it was suggested I get a sponsor, someone I trust, with whom I can share my journey and who could walk me through the 12 Steps of AA.  So I did and she has helped me to grow in ways far beyond my wildest dreams.  She is my accountability buddy, not just during the holidays, but everyday!

And when she is unavailable I have the fellowship of AA to nurture, protect and teach me.  I am never alone, nor are YOU!  Find like-minded people for your tribe to help you through the holidays and to enrich your life.

6. Take Deep Breaths 

If a formal meditation practice isn’t your style, you can experiment with a brief breathing practice to help you bring awareness to the moment and calm yourself. Research shows that by taking a big, slow, deep inhale, and then exhaling slowly, you can calm your body’s response to stress. 

Dee:

We all experience holding our breath in that fight or flight situation.  But why am I not taking deep breaths in calm situations?  If you’re like me it takes getting back in the moment, knowing we are being cared for and protected, getting out of self that brings by breathing back into a healthy rhythm.  It takes practice but I hope someday to breathe deeply naturally.

7. Practice Generosity 

While it is said that, “it is better to give than to receive,” you might not feel this around the holidays. The added expenses, packed stores, and overall stress that comes with holiday gift-giving might make you feel like giving is not the best way to get out of your Grinch-y attitude. 

True, heartfelt generosity doesn’t equate to stress, however. You can be generous with your time, your hugs, your smile, and your listening ear. If you do have extra funds, you can support nonprofits who might rely on end-of- year giving to support their work. 

Dee:

I learned early on in my recovery that unless I give it back, I won’t keep it.  And I found that to be true when I got complacent in my sobriety, stopped going to meetings, stopped AA altogether and found my defects of character, my old sick way of being and doing and thinking come back…one day at a time.  And then I drank.

I cannot afford to let down my guard.  My disease of alcoholism deserves the respect I give to the ocean.  I am careful.  I don’t turn my back on it.  I must take nothing for granted.

So I give back.  This time of year especially and year-round as well I give my Art with a Message of Hope and Inspiration to local fundraisers, especially to AA.  I give a portion of my earnings all year-round to our local AA, which gets doled out to the district, the area, and the world.  If I don’t give it away, I can’t keep it.  Today my life is good.  I want to keep it that way!

8. Volunteer 

Speaking of nonprofits, many of them can use an extra hand during the holidays. The need for many services may increases during the winter months. Find a nonprofit in your community that needs help and spend some time serving your community. 

Because of your compassionate feelings, you just might feel a boost. 

Dee:

One volunteer commitment that is sure to give me that boost is speaking once or twice a month at our local DUI classes.  I do this not as community service but as a service to my community.  My hope is that one person will leave the class feeling hopeful and optimistic by hearing my experience, strength and hope.  Hopefully, I can change a life for the better.

And with the holidays just around the corner, what a hard time to try to get and stay clean and sober.  So I’ve volunteered to lead one of the 24-Hour Alkathons that the newcomer or person struggling can attend non-stop from Christmas Eve through Christmas Day.

These volunteer commitments get me out of self.  They help to remind me where I’ve come from and how good it is today.  They help me to not drink one day at a time and to give back what was so freely given me when I needed it most – compassion.

Thank you for being here and I hope I was able to offer you some hope and optimism.  Wishing you the happiest of holidays and, if you feel overwhelmed, know that you are not alone.  Help is just a phone call away.

With warmest aloha, Dee Harris

For those looking for Gifts with a Message of Hope and Optimism, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

Try out some of these techniques and send your inner Grinch into hibernation this winter. 

Learn a natural, effortless style of meditation that helps invite renewal and freshness into every day with Basics of Meditation, a self-paced online course guided by Deepak Chopra.

About the Author 

Sara Schairer (/bios/sara-schairer) 

Sara Schairer is the founder and executive director of COMPASSION IT (http://compassionit.com/), a start-up nonprofit organization and global social movement whose mission is to inspire daily compassionate actions and attitudes. She created the one-of-a-kind reversible COMPASSION IT wristband (http://compassionit.com/wristbands/) prompting compassionate actions on six continents, 48 countries, and all 50 states. Wristband sales fund compassion education programs for youth, teens, and adults. As a public speaker, Sara encourages her audiences to “compassion it” in their daily lives. A Stanford-certified instructor of Compassion Cultivation… Read more (/bios/sara-schairer) 

The Chopra Center

Moving from Surviving to Thriving

Dee:  This blog was inspired by the Chopra Center Meditation, 

“Moving from Surviving to Thriving” 

1_GreenGrassMOS (DbH) copy

Moving from Surviving to Thriving

“There is a force within that gives you life. Seek that.” — Rumi

Today we want to investigate what it takes to move our life from merely surviving to thriving. Too often we are preoccupied with simply trying to meet our daily needs. In survival mode, life energy may feel fragmented and depleted and our mind full of fear and frustration. But we are designed to thrive in life. To do that we only need to consciously live in the present moment. This open, creative, and purposeful state of awareness is our true self. When we live this wholeness of consciousness, we are thriving, and every thought and action is fulfilling.

Deepak:

If you paused and looked at your life today, are you thriving or just surviving?  To survive means that you’re meeting the necessities of life, such as food and shelter.  Surviving would also mean that those needs are met but you go about your daily experience without paying attention.  You wake up at the same time, put on the same clothes, drive to work or school the same way, eat the same comfortable food for lunch, follow the same evening routine as usual, and complete your day only to rise again and start all over.

Dee:

Why is it that I awaken every morning with a sense of excitement that the day ahead of me holds?  I awaken with a sense of gratitude and peace that all will be just perfect, no matter what happens.

Because today I have a Power Greater Than Myself in my life, a Higher Power of My Own Understanding, that I was able to make up in my mind and from my heart.  I learned to do this in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous when I entered in a state of disrepair, a loser, a waste of space on the planet.

I have learned to use the teachings, the suggestions, that AA has offered me to live a better, more meaningful life today.  And today I wake up knowing that my Higher Power, the driver of my car, my life, will take me to the experiences and people I need to meet, and learn from, and grow from, as I, as the passenger, just enjoy the ride.

And then I go to bed at night, again, with a sense of gratitude for today’s growth.

Deepak:

To thrive means that you’re free to explore and expand.  Seeing life as a field of opportunity rather than a fragile balance between making it and not making it.  This doesn’t mean you have to throw off all responsibilities or invite unnecessary chaos and disruption to experience something different.

Today we’ll discover what it means to thrive.  If wholeness is the field of pure consciousness, then each of us is designed to thrive.  The secret is to make choices that expand your awareness instead of choices that contract it.

Dee:

I remember being in a 28-day treatment program for alcoholism.  One of our group’s daily routines was to express an affirmation each of us came up with for our lives to share with the group.  An affirmation is emotional support or encouragement and in this group we used words.

So here Deepak speaks of wholeness which is why I bring this up.  My affirmation was, “I am a good person.  I am a whole person.”  At that time in my life I felt anything but good nor whole.  I felt a sense of purposelessness.  I had nothing for which to thrive and nothing to give.  Yet I was a mom of two beautiful sons, I had a wonderful husband, a good joy, a college degree, a house, two cars in the garage, and even a dog.  So why this sense of being not good and not whole?

Because I could not go a day without drinking and that drinking took me to dark places.  I was void and empty inside.  I was bewildered, puzzled at what the hell was wrong with me that the next drink was more important to all the gifts I had been given in my life.

Many years later, many years of sobriety and working the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, many years of rigorous honesty, has led me to a spiritual place today.  I still repeat my affirmation.  And in my very core I can now feel that I AM a good person, I AM a whole person.  I am grateful for the journey that has led me to who I am today.

Deepak:

The opposite of wholeness is separation which comes down to living your life in a fragmented way.  We all do this.  We choose the people we want to be with and avoid or ignore others.  We are grateful for moments of fleeting joy and seek distractions to escape our everyday routine.  But no one is really satisfied living with bits and pieces of fulfillment.  We want to thrive and yet this desire cannot be fulfilled as long as the mind is restless and dissatisfied.

The source of wholeness and separation is the same.  In wholeness your consciousness is ever-expanding to find new ways to be fulfilled.  When you see your life as separate from others, your mind is attuned to limitations, such as failure, fear and frustration, so you grasp on to shreds of fulfillment, grateful for what you can get.

Dee:

Working the 12 Steps has opened new doors for me, has turned on the light bulb, has brought me to the realization that because I did not have a sense of self-worth or self-respect, and definitely no self-love, I lived in fear.  

So when I was “on stage” with you I ACTED the role that my life was awesomeness.  I wanted, I needed, your approval.  I went out of my way, put my family and myself last, to win your approval.  All out of fear.

Today I love myself for who and what I am.  More importantly, I understand who and what I am.  And I can put myself, my well-being, my recovery and spirituality first.  The rest falls into place.

Deepak:

Most people seek to improve their lives externally and what they value are tokens of fulfillment, like high income, a big house, a successful career.  But you can achieve all of those things and still feel unfulfilled because the restless, fragmented mind can never be satisfied.

Think of the stereotypes you see in the movies and on TV.  The midlife crisis man who leaves his wife for a younger model.  The rich kid who has it all but hold secret pain and yearns for a way out.  The unappreciated mother who finally sheds her burdens and lives the adventurous, carefree life she denied herself for years.

There is a reason these cliches are repeated time and again.  They are normalized feelings of discontent that most people can in some way identify with.  To get past this the secret is to let your awareness rest in its natural state of expansive receptivity.

Dee:

For me to let my awareness rest is to be in the moment, that place right in front of my nose.  There I can turn everything over to my Higher Power, the Universe, Mother Nature, God, whatever you want to call it.  Find what works for you because you know it wasn’t by your doing that this is all here.

Being in the moment reminds me that everything is perfect, right here, right now.  That my God has my back and is control.  There are no coincidences.  There are no reasons to regret the past nor worry about the future.  I shall be protected, loved and nurtured if I just have faith, turn off my thinking and go with my heart.

Deepak:

In any situation you’re either expanding or contracting in your conscious response.  When you’re consciously abiding in awareness you are in the present moment and your consciousness is expansive, creative and energized.  Your body-mind responds to each situation from a place of balance, harmony, and ease.

On the other hand when your mind is contracted and fearful you simply react impulsively.  This is a mind that responds with an automatic reflex of contracting.  Contracting is easy to identify.  You feel tense, uncomfortable, tired, perhaps even anxious.  You want the situation that challenges you to simply go away or resolve itself while you back out.  

Even if you don’t freeze up you react the way you have always reacted in the past.  The reactive mind is based on a primal belief that life is uncertain and threatening.  Therefore your stance must be one of closed off self-defense.

Dee:

With my toolbox for living that AA has given me in the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, I find myself no longer having to react.  I am much calmer.  I can step back from drama and chaos and assess the whole situation.  

Spirituality has taught me to breathe and accept, even embrace, these situations.  What can I learn?  How can I grow?  What can I share?

Deepak:

The opposite of the reactive mind is the resilient mind.  This is the state of openness, acceptance and trust.  A resilient mind embraces new situations as creative opportunities.  

People who are open and accepting have a foundation for personal evolution.  They discover new resources in themselves every time they confront a new challenge.  In fact some psychologists studying those people who grow older while remaining young inside believe that the best thing you can do to remain young is to take on difficult challenges at any age.

Once you create the inner state of expanding awareness it’s only natural to radiate that energy all around you.  Then you have the effect of making other people feel that they can thrive by following your example.

Dee:

Today I feel I have a purpose in my life that I did not have when I was in my active disease of alcoholism.  Today I “get to” share my experience, strength and hope with all those who enter my Dee Bubble and I find that I do, indeed, have the effect of making other people feel that they can thrive.  For that I forever grateful.  And I remain forever humble.

With warmest aloha,

   Dee Harris

For those interested in another way I share my experience, strength and hope, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

Deepak:

We all know the difference between friends and family who feel contracted, judgmental, and unhappy, and others who feel open, loving, and welcoming.  The second group are influences of expansion.  Their energy feels different.  They’ve found the secret for how to thrive and not merely survive.

In our meditation we go to the source of pure consciousness which is infinitely expanded.  From there we follow our own path to fulfillment for ourselves and everyone we influence.

 

Bringing Fulfillment Closer

Dee:  This blog was inspired by the Chopra Center Meditation, 

“Bringing Fulfillment Closer”.

1_SticksStonesMOS (DbH) copy

Bringing Fulfillment Closer

Deepak:

Your life’s purpose is about finding fulfillment which is where your energy should be directed.  When you feel fulfilled psychologists would say you are thriving.  But even in the most developed prosperous societies only about one-third of people are thriving.

The reasons for this are centered on stress, inner states like depression and anxiety, feeling insecure, worrying about the future, and so on.  The challenge is to improve the condition of your mental and psychological energy because that’s how you can improve your inner quality of your life.

Fulfillment is a daily goal and a life-long goal at the same time.  In the field of positive psychology it’s been found that the happiest lives are constructed from happy days.  How do we achieve this in the face of life’s difficulties and wounds lingering from the past?

The first issue is one of healing.  Whether it’s a physical trauma, emotional, mental or spiritual, everyone has had some sort of experience that could benefit from healing attention.  No one is free from the need to heal and becoming your own healer is always available to you.

All positive experiences have the potential to heal.  From the concept of “laughter is the best medicine” to meditation and other inner practices.  By design the body-mind possesses the natural ability to return to a healthy balanced state.  This implies that we need to get out of the way and let the healing response do its work.

Dee:

For me, my life’s difficulties and wounds that lingered from the past was my addiction to alcohol.  How do I heal from my alcoholism?  How can I call my alcoholism a “positive” experience?

Well today I can my my disease a positive experience.  I can call myself a grateful alcoholic.  For had I not been able to experience the negativity that goes along with any addiction like the lying, cheating, stealing, hiding, selling your soul and much more to get that next high which you cannot go one day without, I would not have experienced the positive I have today in my life in recovery.

And as far as the concept of “laughter is the best medicine”, if you’ve ever been in an AA meeting and heard the laughter from someone’s horrific alcoholic “war story”, you will realize that this laughter is healing.  We learn to love ourselves for who and what we are.  We learn to accept ourselves and realize that we are, indeed, gifts on this planet.  We can share our experience, strength and hope with others who enter our bubbles and who are experiencing life difficulties of their own.

This laughter, this meeting, this fellowship, this “getting out of the way” is all foreign to a newcomer in Alcoholics Anonymous or any of the other fantastic support groups available to us.  These fellowships provide a toolbox for healing, and living, in their 12 Steps.  

We find like-minded people who show us that our problems are not unique.  We no longer have to live in guilt and shame.  We get comfortable enough to share our stories, our lives, our deepest secrets, with one we trust, who holds our confidence, and expects nothing in return but our well-being.

We are introduced to an idea of creating a “God of Our Own Understanding”, a “Power Greater Than Ourselves”, to whom we can eventually turn our will and our lives over to.  It all sounded pretty suspicious and puzzling to me, too, but what did I have to lose?  I already loathed myself, couldn’t go a day without drinking, and felt I was a waste of space on the planet.

So when we “get out of the way and let the healing response do its work”, we turn our difficulties and wounds over to our new God (which, by the way, could be a rock, or a doorknob, or the fellowship or anything your little heart conjures up).  We learn that living from our minds and egos no longer serve us and we start living from our hearts.  We learn to trust and have faith that everything is perfect at this moment, and has been all along; we just didn’t know it.

Deepak:

Good sleep and reduced stress are two major ways to let the healing response work as it was intended to.  However, the healing most people need centers on meaning and purpose.  Water brings life to a garden when you direct it at each plant.  But water sprayed aimlessly in the air has no purpose and, therefore, brings little benefit.

The same is true of scattered aimless energy in you life.  We don’t need to do much to give our energy a direction.  All you need is a simple heart-felt intention to be open and aware.  That means you meet the present moment ready to be of the greatest service to those around you.  The boundless power and intelligence of creation will do the rest.  

When you are awake to the present moment, you will be guided to give love and receive love as well.  You will find ways to be of service to others and to make contributions that lead to a sense of accomplishment.  This gentle intention has tremendous power because your intention naturally increases and supports those positive experiences.

In my active addiction I didn’t have good sleep.  It seems like forever and a day I drank myself into a pass-out state and when I awoke, I came to.  My life was full of stress.  I worried more about what you thought of me than about what I thought of me.  Remember, I loathed and actually hated myself.  

I lived in fear of my appearances and behaviors.  I couldn’t trust myself when I drank.  So I became a closet drinker.  But the disease many times took me out in the real world where I met you, but don’t remember you, because I was in a black-out.

In my active addiction I had no religion nor spirituality.  I just had me and my brain and neither could stop me from drinking everyday.  I definitely had no purpose and oftentimes wondered why I was here.

Today I am so grateful I didn’t come to on that day when I missed my shift at work.  I am so grateful of the guilt and shame of what I thought I allowed myself become.  I am so grateful of not knowing if I had called work because I was in a black-out.  I am so grateful of the humiliation I felt not being able to ask my family what I had done, what I had said, who, if anyone, I had spoken to.

Wow, I don’t have to live that way today.  Today I have a choice of whether or not I want to put a drink in me.  I didn’t have that choice before.  And today, just for today, I choose this life in recovery where I have fulfillment, I have purpose, and I have a love for myself that I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams.

Thank you for being here with me today.  My hope is that one person who reads this gets a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.  My hope is that one person realizes he is not alone and can ask for help.  My hope is that one person can shed the guilt and shame and learn to love himself for who and what he is…a unique gift that no one else on this planet is!

With warmest aloha,

Dee Harris

For those interested in Art with a Message of Hope and Inspiration, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

Youthful Energy Is Dynamic and Resilient

Dee:  This blog was inspired by the Chopra Center Meditation, “Youthful Energy is Dynamic and Resilient”.

Youthful Energy Is Dynamic and Resilient

“The most important energy is human spiritual energy, the energy of the mind, the energy that exists within us.” — Yoko Ono

Deepak:

When your energy is fresh, renewed, and joyful, there will always be enough for anything you want to do.  This is a holistic view of energy that goes far beyond the physical energy you get from food and exercise.  You also need emotional and mental energy for your mind.  We know that the body and mind are so deeply interrelated that it makes more sense to call it “the body-mind”. 

Your body at birth was a miracle of energy being used perfectly.  A newborn appears to sleep most of the time but there is enormous activity inside.  In fact, up to 70% of a newborn’s energy is being used to grow the brain.  Now as an adult you aren’t the same as a baby in one crucial way.  You must organize your energy yourself. 

This is a basic map for a holistic view of energy.  The entire body-mind is involved.  If you were asked the best way to increase your energy at every level, you might reply that you’d eat better, not skip breakfast, go to the gym more often, and so on.  You’d be focusing on physical energy.

But in reality the people who enjoy the best energy have a secret.  They are dynamically resilient.  They possess the flexibility to handle anything life brings to them…physically, mentally and emotionally…and after a situation is handled they bounce back quickly.

Dee:

Bouncing back quickly doesn’t come easily once we’ve reached adulthood.  Whilst growing up we’ve been bombarded by experiences, propaganda, media and people who assured us that more is better, stab whoever you need to in order to achieve these goals, look young and beautiful, and the more power, the better.

Wait a minute.  This doesn’t serve us.  This doesn’t nurture us.  This doesn’t allow us to be and do our best and be okay with who we are.  Oh great.  Now we have to unlearn all this.  No!  We get to unlearn all this because we know in our hearts that this way of thinking doesn’t serve us.  It destroys us and everyone around us.  Just look at our world today.  Sad, huh?

The way I was able to unlearn all this bullshit was in a roundabout way.  I didn’t plan it.  I didn’t know it would bring me to this place where I am today.  But I’m an alcoholic.  I didn’t know that either.  I found I couldn’t go a day without drinking, no matter how hard and how many ways I tried, I was baffled.  I hated myself.  I had no purpose.  I would look in the mirror with my hand forming an “L” and called myself a loser.  Pretty shitty, huh?

Well one day instead of coming to when my kids came home from school, I continued on in my pass-out state.  I missed my shift at work.  I was humiliated, guilt-ridden and full of shame.  How was I going to lie myself out of this one?

I had no more energy.  I was exhausted.  Exhausted of years of hiding, lying and cheating in order to drink everyday.  I just couldn’t do it anymore.  So I called my boss at work and told her my honest to God truth (didn’t actually have a God at that time, that I knew of).  She helped me get into rehab and that’s where my life as it is today began.

My life today is one of gratitude and humility.  Today I get to make choices.  Today I choose to not have a drink.  I didn’t have that choice before getting sober and learning about the disease of alcoholism.

Today I have a purpose…to share my experience, strength and hope with anyone who enters my Dee Bubble.  I get to be rigorously honest without shame or guilt.  I can finally love myself for who and what I am!

I can be dynamically resilient because today I have a Higher Power of My Own Understanding who I honestly and faithfully know has my back.  I can get back into my ego and selfishness, my fear-based self.  But I don’t.  I don’t want to be that person anymore.  I don’t want to lie and be exhausted anymore.

So my resiliency comes from letting my Higher Power do the driving and knowing that everything is perfect at this moment.  When shit happens, it’s for a reason.  To help me.  Go figure.  I am to use each and every experience as a tool for learning, and growing, and being a better human being.  So I bounce back and remember that my glass is half-full.  I’m just along for the ride and the ride is like being on a magic carpet!

Deepak:

Dynamic resilience is biological at one level.  For example our tissues heal from a sprained ankle or we recover from a cold virus through the dynamic nature of the healing response.  But resilience as a holistic quality means that you rebound mentally and psychologically too.  If you want to be a powerful person, be resilient.  That’s far more important than toughness or assertiveness.

Your body-mind was designed to bounce back with dynamic energy.  The key isn’t just eating a balanced whole-foods diet and getting regular physical activity.  You need to boost the quality of your energy which involves getting good sleep and reducing stress.  

These are the two lifestyle factors that many people neglect.  Not realizing that lack of sleep and daily stress are the biggest energy drainers in modern life.  They also diminish the quality of our energy making us groggy, depressed and lacking enthusiasm.  

Fortunately stress and sleep issues are factors we can control through our lifestyle choices.  Once you begin to actively attend to sleep and stress you build a platform for improving the quality of your energy.  This happens by making positive choices everyday and minimizing negative choices.  Whether it has to do with family, work, your primary relationship or how you relate to yourself.

Dee:

So use your Higher Power.  If you don’t have one, make one up or use mine.  Have faith that something greater than yourself created the earth, this universe, this galaxy, and it wasn’t you.  Remember that you have no control over people, places and things, you can just make choices.  Just do your best and love yourself for that.

Hey, we’re all in this together.  Each and everyone of us has “issues”.  We are not alone.  There is a wealth of support out there for you when you get sick and tired of being exhausted from the lying, cheating and hiding.  You are only lying, cheating and hiding from yourself.

You’re going to be okay.  You ARE okay.  You’re YOU! with all your glory.  So love yourself for the gift that you ARE!

With warmest aloha,

Dee Harris

For those interested in Art with a Message of Hope and Optimism, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!