Nature and Fractals Reduce Overwhelm and Stress

Fractal 1Many of us have times of overwhelm and stress during these times of uncertainty. It may be only sporadic or more pervasive. Overwhelm is the consistent state of feeling in over your head, overburdened, and unable to sustain manageable control over the various expectations in your day. It has a domino effect. Usually beginning in one area of life, it can extend to all areas as the body begins to fatigue from the chronic stress.

If your overwhelm becomes more than occasional, you may notice that you develop chronic headaches, stomach aches, body aches, and can’t seem to get enough sleep.  These are symptoms of adrenal fatigue and your body’s natural reaction to chronic stressors.

Mother Nature’s Surprising Antidote to Stress and Overwhelm

As we continue forward, it’s helpful to expand our strategies for coping with the stress, not only of the immediate but of all the unknowns of the coming months. Most of us find that being out in nature is one of those strategies. What is it about a stroll in the woods or going for a walk along a country lane that seems to bring a sense of inner peace?

Or perhaps walking barefoot on the beach, watching the waves and collecting seashells brings much joy into your heart.

Is it simply because you’ve “got back to nature”? Is it because you are outside breathing fresh air for a change instead of being stuck in the stress box you call your office?

Those are all true, but there is another perfectly natural one-word explanation for why you feel so calm and content. FRACTALS! They’re all around you, wherever you look.  They are even inside you – your body is full of fractals: Your veins, nerves and even your bronchial tree is fractal.

What are fractals and how do they reduce stress?

The simplest way to describe a fractal is a pattern that repeats itself over a decreasing scale.

Take trees for example. The branches are copies of the trunk, only smaller.  The smaller branches are copies of the larger branches they stemmed from. Twigs are copies of the smaller branches. Each part of the tree is a smaller copy of the whole.

If you were to look at a snowflake under a magnifying glass before it melts, you would see that it is made up of the same complex repeating pattern.

Since the beginning of humanity, we have been surrounded by fractals.  They are Mother Nature’s building blocks and our evolutionary comfort zone. More examples include fiddlehead ferns, broccoli, aloe vera plants, crystals, angelica flowers (and many others), lightning, and seashells.

How do you use fractals for stress relief?

  • Don’t spend so much time inside. Get outside more. Stand and watch the clouds, or sit on a park bench and watch the trees swaying in the breeze for a few minutes. Do some deep breathing and fill your lungs with fresh air while you’re there. You’ll soon feel your stress melting away like a snowflake that lands on a surface.
  • If you can’t go outside when you feel your stress levels rising, just look out the window for a few minutes instead.
  • Add fractals to your indoor environment and take breaks to view and appreciate them and their soothing patterns.  These can be houseplants like fractal succulents or aloe vera. They can be seashells that have those patterns.
  • Fractal art and other man-made fractals, according to research, are equally effective. You can just as quickly lower your stress levels by watching a fractal screensaver on your computer for a few seconds or watch a video like this one:
  • Fractal Coloring Books can serve this purpose, too. These are distinct from mandalas and are labeled as such. Here are some examples:

Yes, it might seem incredible, but studies have shown the calming effects that fractals have on the mind really do take effect very quickly.

Fractals are all around, hiding in plain sight. Focus on them and relieve your stress and overwhelm!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Journaling: Explore the Possibilities With My Free eCourse

prismAre you a journaling devotee, beginner, skeptic, or critic? Have you actually tried it or just been aware of it around you? What are your opinions about the practice?

I have come to see journaling something like a prism – a tool that can provide clarification by helping us focus on particular aspects of our lives.

Depending on what we wish to look at, there are different styles and techniques to explore.

Journaling has been a way for people to express themselves for centuries. Its current popularity can be seen in a Google search for “journaling” that returned 47,300,000 results!! This clearly indicates that there a lot of people providing lots of information on this broad topic which has many subtopics and categories.

Perhaps you are wondering what all the fuss is about and would like an overview to see what the possibilities are for you. Or perhaps you have journaled and are interested in expanding your view of the varieties and potential of journaling.

I invite you to sign up for my brand new free ecourse, “Journaling: a Prism to Clarify and Enhance All Aspects of Life.”  It is an overview that can give you some new options for using journaling. It includes some free sample journals to try.

Go here to sign up and you will receive it via email in 7 parts over 14 days. You will also have access to a Facebook group on the topic. http://carolbrusegar.com/journaling-prism-to-clarify-and-enhance-life/

Your first lesson will be available immediately upon signing up.

Check out a couple of my previous blog posts related to journaling.

The first is about 4 major purposes to journal: https://carolbrusegar.com/journaling-as-a-tool/  I talked about personal growth, self-discovery, gathering ideas and brainstorming solutions, and capturing life experiences. Journaling provides a great tool for these things.

Another great use is to nurture and increase our creativity. https://carolbrusegar.com/journaling-techniques-to-boost-your-creativity/

The Power of Empathy – “I Feel You”

Empathy“Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself. – Mohsin Hamid

 

Perhaps you have heard people use the phrase “I feel you” as they listen to some heartfelt sharing from another. Perhaps you have used that shorthand expression for EMPATHY.

The dictionary definition for empathy is “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.” That definition goes on to include that you can have this connection and understanding even when others have not fully explained their situation to you. In other words, you are tuned into the plights of others, and you can react in ways that show you understand what they are going through even when you don’t know all the details.

I can’t think of many other things more needed in our world today, full of fractures and divisions, than empathy. Clearly there are people with stories that need to be heard but even more important is to be able to genuinely say “I feel you” in response to them. And it goes beyond that. It’s part of a cycle so beautifully described in these words by Stephen Mattson:

“Imagination leads to empathy, empathy leads to understanding, understanding leads to action, action leads to experience, and experience leads to wisdom – which leads to even more imagination.”

Mattson notes that the cycle begins and ends with imagination because “When you can’t imagine, you can’t empathize, understand, or relate with the actions, struggles, pain, suffering, persecution, and trials of others — you become apathetic, unmoved, stoic, and inactive.”

The impact of our ability to empathize with others’ situations and experiences is huge. It begins with those closest to us and can ripple beyond. Can you imagine the impact if more of the decision-making at all levels were based on conscious efforts to imagine and empathize with the situations of all the people affected in a given situation? The lack of that is clear to us as we look around. As Charles M. Blow has said, “One doesn’t have to operate with great malice to do great harm. The absence of empathy and understanding are sufficient.”

Practicing imagination and empathy also supports our own emotional and social wellness. How can being empathetic make you a happier, healthier, more well-rounded person?

You Can Be More Accepting of Others

When you have empathy, you recognize that everyone is entitled to their own experiences, that we are all different, and that you cannot change others. Acceptance of others’ differences, views, feelings, and thoughts means you do not judge them for these differences but instead are empathetic to how those differences impact their lives and experiences.

Empathy allows you to see others as unique instead of wrong, to value their perspectives, and to appreciate what you might be able to learn from others.

You Can Give Up Trying to Control Others’ Feelings

It is not possible to tell someone else how to feel, or to control others’ reactions. Everyone has a right to their own perspectives and emotions, and when you have empathy, you are able to see and appreciate this. This acceptance of others’ emotions is the key to empathy, and when you develop acceptance and empathy toward others, you have mastered a vital life skill.

Your Relationships Will Improve

When you have empathy, you learn how to treat other people with the care and compassion you wish others would use when they interact with you. Empathetic people also work to understand and respond to the needs of others, which they, in turn, will likely reciprocate with you.

Empathy helps you deal more effectively with interpersonal conflict, which means there will be less friction and strife with those you care for, and you can even learn how to better motivate those with whom you live and work.

You Can Share More Fully in Others’ Joy

Empathy does not have to be limited to understanding the challenges and turmoil of others. Empathy can also include understanding and responding to the joys and good events in others’ lives.

Learning to be happy for others is actually a skill you need to practice, as our brains are hard-wired to respond to others’ distress but naturally do not respond as strongly to others’ happiness. But, learning to do this not only helps you connect with others more fully, but it also can enhance your own perspective on your joys and blessings in life.

Final Thoughts

Empathy is your link to yourself as well as other people. Going far beyond sympathy, empathy is our ability to have the “I feel with” experiences regularly. Through imagination and personal experience, we are able to relate to others on a deeper level.

This skill is one that should be cultivated throughout one’s life, as it is essential for personal development. There are many books on the topic to explore, including some for children. Can you imagine the long term effect of having truly empathetic people in charge of our organizations and government. Cultivating this in ourselves and the younger generations can be a path to long term change.

Books on Empathy for Adults and Children

Writing is a Powerful Tool to Enhance Your Life

Power of Writing

Writing is a powerful tool. It can help enhance your life in many ways.  As Joan Didion said,

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”  

Writing helps you create a connection between your inner self and your outer self. The mind-body connection is very powerful, and by externalizing your inner anxiety and issues you are taking a conscious positive action to improve your situation.

There are so many benefits to different kinds of writing. Here are some ways to use writing.

Processing Emotions

A simple way to understand and come to terms with your emotions is to write down whatever is bothering you. Often we have lots of emotions but don’t really know the root of them or how to manage them productively. Writing has an astounding ability to give you clarity and to start arriving at solutions. It can get you out of the confusion or paralysis you are experiencing and enable you to move forward.

One of many formats to use is letter writing. Writing a letter to yourself, a loved one, friend or someone with whom you have or had an issue in the past can really help to clarify the problem in your mind. It helps you to think through issues and to put them in context. Often the very act of writing the problem and suggesting a solution can help you achieve peace and come to terms with it.

You don’t actually need to send the letter, particularly if you have written in anger. The act of writing will have helped lessen the anger which was the purpose of the exercise. Remember, this letter can be to yourself, another person, or someone no longer alive. This strategy helps you separate out your thoughts and feelings.

Clearing Your Mind

Especially in times of uncertainty and change, our minds can be full of a wide range of thoughts. Many of them may be unimportant or irrelevant. Sometimes you have an overwhelming number of things you feel you need to do. Getting rid of them can allow you to focus and to effectively problem solve and plan.  A simple way to achieve this is to “core dump.”

Core dumping is a technique devised by David Allen (Getting Things Done). You simply list everything you need to do that day. This helps to clear your mind to allow you to focus on the most important things.

Another method of mind clearing is to write a stream of consciousness first thing in the morning every day. The important point with this process is that you write continuously without stopping to think or edit about what you are setting onto the page.

Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way) calls this method, “Morning Pages”. She advocates writing three pages or approximately 750 words of your stream of consciousness first thing in the morning as a way to clear your mind. This leaves only those important thoughts you need to focus on for the day.

Creating a Record

Diary keeping has been undertaken for centuries. It’s a powerful tool for keeping a record of activities and actions. My mother kept diaries for decades, and they are now a family treasure that provides so much history that was captured in just a few lines a day. By being able to re-read these you get to remember the past including your thoughts and feelings. Keeping your own diary allows you to recall things forgotten in the overload of events and information we experience. You can also gain understanding and insight in unique ways as you look back.

Capturing Achievements

Keeping a record of your achievements can be beneficial to your self-confidence as well as self-knowledge. The record can be in various forms: journals, diaries, goal lists, to do lists, calendars. I am a sporadic journaler, but I keep my weekly task/appointment/goal calendars. These can be used to glean lists by year later on

Recording your achievements allows you to recognize and celebrate your achievements big or small. Looking back, we may recognize achievements and accomplishments that weren’t apparent at the time they occurred. This can be especially helpful when you find yourself feeling discouraged, depressed, or overwhelmed.

Big Thinking

Dreams and goals are important as they help us to learn, grow and achieve success. Writing down your hopes and dreams allows you to not only dream about the future you’d like but to visualize it. By visualizing your dreams, you are making them more real. Consider dedicating a notebook just to this purpose. Your written record of your big thoughts will help you track them giving you a greater opportunity to achieve them.

Writing is such a powerful therapeutic tool because it allows for observation and tracking over a period of time. This provides the ability to track thoughts and feelings on a regular basis. Triggers can be identified as well as patterns.

If you want to relieve stress, gain clarity on your problems and solve them then why not pick up a pen and start writing? Another unexpected benefit is that you will probably find that you get to know yourself better.

If you want your life to change, writing is a powerful tool. By using one or more of the methods above you will be creating a commitment to change and self-improvement. You can set goals, hold yourself accountable for making the changes and monitor your progress.

Here are a variety of books on writing for self-discovery if you would like to have some ideas:  Writing for Self-Discovery Resources

Mindset: Seeing Things in a New Way to Enhance Life

“Mindset change is not about picking up a few pointers here and there. It’s about seeing things in a new way.” ~ Carol Dweck

MINDSET. I have read and heard so much about how important mindset is. It is key to our self esteem and our success (however we define that for ourselves). But what is it, really? How is it established and can we modify it?

Mindset.com defines mindset as a collection of beliefs and thoughts. To get more specific, Mindsets are a collection of beliefs and thoughts that make up our mental attitudes toward anything we encounter in our daily lives. These beliefs and thoughts form the foundation of how we react to circumstances, situations and events. Mindset becomes behind the scenes settings that we are generally unaware of but determine how we see and react to things.

A simple way to gain insight into this powerful part of ourselves is to use Carol Dweck’s understanding that there are two types of mindset – fixed or growth.

What is a fixed mindset?

A fixed mindset is where you believe that your qualities and traits are fixed and cannot be changed. Challenges are avoided, you’ll give up easily when you encounter obstacles and you’ll put little effort into changing as it seems pointless. It’s kind of an “I am what I am” attitude.

Having a fixed mindset can be damaging, especially if it causes you to not even try to improve or explore new things.

What is a growth mindset?

A growth mindset is basically the opposite of a fixed mindset. It allows you to believe that challenges are opportunities and there is always the chance to improve your skills. You will not only believe that you can grow your intelligence and skills over time, but you’ll also take steps to do so.

With a growth mindset, you’ll persist when you encounter a setback and embrace challenges. You will also learn from feedback given to you and put a lot of effort into changing. When you see successful people, you’ll try and learn from their success.

A growth mindset basically means you’ll be open to growth and development and are passionate about learning.

How can I know what my mindset is?

One of the easiest ways to see what your mindset is to see examples of the two options.

You have a growth mindset if you believe things like this:

  • I’m not a natural writer, I have to learn it
  • There is a lot I still need to learn
  • Feedback gives me an opportunity to learn how to improve
  • Failure is a learning curve
  • If I have determination, I can do anything

On the other hand, you have a fixed mindset if you believe things like this:

  • Some people are born to be writers and I am not one of them
  • I have learned everything I need to know
  • Feedback is criticism
  • I’m only going to fail so what’s the point in trying?
  • I can’t overcome the challenges in my way

A growth mindset allows you to move forward and achieve the things you want.

Examples of switching from a fixed to a growth mindset

If you’re looking to turn a fixed mindset into a growth mindset, consider these examples of consciously changing your beliefs on various topics:

Fixed mindset: “I’m a binge eater. Once I start eating chips I can’t stop”

Growth mindset: “I have tended to binge eat chips and it’s been hard to stop after just one”

Fixed mindset: “I always get worked up over politics”

Growth mindset: “In the past, I have gotten worked up over politics”

Fixed mindset: “I could never forgive someone who betrayed me”

Growth mindset: “So far, I haven’t been able to forgive someone for betraying me”

Fixed mindset: “I’m never going to achieve my dream”

Growth mindset: “It may be difficult to achieve my dream, but I know with effort and dedication I can do it”

Fixed mindset: “It’s too late to learn now”

Growth mindset: “I can learn whatever I need to whenever I like”

These are just some great examples of a fixed and growth mindset. A fixed mindset will see you stuck in old patterns of behavior. You won’t grow or develop your skills and most importantly, you’ll never reach your life goals if you have a purely fixed mindset.

Balancing growth and fixed mindsets

While a growth mindset is important, it shouldn’t solely take the place of a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset can actually have some benefits when it is balanced with a growth mindset.

So, adopting a growth mindset isn’t about completely eliminating fixed ways of thinking. Instead, it’s a great tool for helping you to move forward and learn from your experiences.

Now that you know some common fixed and growth mindset examples, you can start to work on making changes you choose. Learning to recognize your fixed mindset is the first step to adjusting it. Identify areas where you want to change that and begin to consciously move toward a growth mindset. You may find it takes a little time and you may have to work to identify when your old beliefs and patterns kick in.

Use tools like journaling to record where you are, where you want to go and the process along the way.

Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset, is a great resource for exploring these ideas. (https://amzn.to/2On3TCn)

“The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.” ~ Carol Dweck

 

 

 

 

Developing a Flexible Mindset When Uncertainty Reigns

MindsetHere we are in a persistent time of uncertainty and change. The months continue to go by in succession. One of the most needed things as we move forward is developing a flexible mindset in a time when uncertainty reigns. It’s always an asset, but now essential for our mental health.

What is a flexible mindset? It’s not being wishy washy or indecisive. It’s being able to bend without breaking. You can change your thinking to overcome obstacles and challenges without failing or breaking down. A flexible mindset allows you to explore more options. You can see multiple solutions to a problem or new situation and examine the impacts of each of them.

The situation of the past months of the pandemic have forced all of us to be flexible and make changes not necessarily of our own choice. Whether you see yourself as having a flexible mindset or not, you have had to respond and adapt to changing circumstances.

There are strategies to proactively develop that flexibility rather than be forced into it. Here are a few to consider as we move forward:

Embrace the Unknown. When an obstacle appears, think of this as an opportunity rather than a defeat. What could you learn from this, if not immediately then in the longer term? This is a reframing of your thoughts and automatic reactions. Try out some new ideas and look for the benefits rather than grudgingly complying with a solution imposed on you.

Let Go of Old Ways. These past months have interrupted our habits and routines in ways we could not have imagined. Our brains use the same neural pathways and connections over and over in our daily and weekly routines. It’s comfortable. Perhaps you are still feeling resentment over some specific changes that is preventing you from being open to new ways of doing things. Letting go of them opens you to being creative about current and future options. We may never to back to “normal” as we remember it.

See Obstacles as Opportunities. These times give us the opportunity to look at new possibilities that indeed can be better and healthier as we move forward. Even simple daily tasks might be done differently. Developing a flexible mindset means that you can try out things you’ve never done before. This can be applied to just about any situation. You might look at additional options for things that have been imposed upon you.

Recognize the Benefits of Developing a Flexible Mindset. As you go through this process be sure to recognize the impact on your life that developing a flexible mindset is having. You will likely feel more creative and confident in solving problems and situations you face in the future.

Our mindsets deeply affect how we handle life. If you would like to learn more, I recommend this book by Carol S. Dweck:  Mindset: The New Psychology of Success: https://amzn.to/32H90A2

 

A Thanksgiving Like No Other: Resources For the Celebration and Cultivating Gratitude

A Thanksgiving Like No OtherThanksgiving 2020 is a Thanksgiving like no other. In the midst of a wildfire of COVID-19 which has spread across the country, it is in the interest of ourselves and everyone else to take a pause. There will be another Thanksgiving. We will celebrate with our extended family and friends again. The risks of people being infected, getting sick and even dying are severe.

Let’s embrace this Thanksgiving like no other  by following the medical and local leadership advice and planning a celebration at home with only those in our immediate circle.

Last Thanksgiving I shared a collection of online resources to engage and entertain children and the whole family for the day and the entire weekend. There are great things to download and print, games, learning opportunities, recipes, and more. Plan for enjoyment:   https://carolbrusegar.com/thanksgiving-free-online-resources-entertain-family/

Through these past months of the pandemic, everyone has had their life disrupted in some ways. The severity of that impact has varied greatly. All of us feel loss of a variety of people and things. There’s a lot of pain and sadness, depression and anxiety. Many of us will find it more challenging to be thankful right now. Yet the very intention to identify, acknowledge and celebrate can be therapeutic in the midst of extraordinarily challenging times.

Gratitude is powerful. It can shift our thoughts and mindset and open us to more positives. It can inspire us to do things to enrich others’ lives. Expressing our gratitude to people who have enhanced our lives and supported us through difficult times helps both us and those to whom we communicate.

Adela Rubio describes 3 reasons that gratitude shifts our energy: It shifts your focus to the present moment, creates a new orientation, and establishes a indelible connection with Source. “Gratitude is a powerful transformation tool. It changes you and the world you live in!”  https://adelarubio.com/3-reasons-gratitude-shifts-energy/#

Perhaps there is no more important a time than this to structure a gratitude time into our lives. It can be as simple as having a small notebook or some paper clipped together where you write five things each day. As the days pass and you look back, you can see where you have been and what has touched you. Another approach, recommended by Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD and professor at the University of California Riverside, is a weekly gratitude exercise. Once a week, perhaps Sunday evening, reflect upon and write down five things for which you are grateful. For some, daily expression becomes boring and routine; weekly can be more meaningful.

Or you can take a more structured approach with prompts for you to write about each day (or less frequently but regularly). I offer you this free, directly downloadable 30-day Gratitude Journal to get started (or to resume a left-behind practice).  http://carolbrusegar.com/30daygratitudejournal

Z. Colette Edwards, MD, MBA has written a post that includes multiple aspects of gratitude. It was written this year and reflects our current reality in the midst of the pandemic.  Dr. Edwards is a physician and life/executive/wellness coach who blends traditional medical and integrative perspectives in her work.

Dr. Edwards includes a list of 20 Ways to Celebrate Gratitude which focuses on things we can do to express our gratitude to others, which has benefits for both ourselves and the recipients. For example, “Email or text notes or drawings to healthcare workers” or “Verbally thank the grocery store clerk who is stocking shelves non-stop or checking one customer out after another, and thus putting themselves at risk.” Here is the full post: https://peopletweaker.com/hcr-blog/gratitude-during-difficult-times/

Yes, it is a Thanksgiving like no other. Cultivating gratitude in yourself and encouraging it in others can be a powerful positive force now and for the weeks and months ahead.

Here’s a book with 105 short essays on gratitude. Each is written by a different author with a unique perspective and story. It’s a great thing to pick up and read an essay or two when you need a boost.  A Gift of Gratitude

 

 

 

Using Liminal Space to Create the Next Reality in America

unknown, liminal, tunnel“It would be difficult to exist in this time of global crisis and not feel caught between at least two worlds—the one we knew and the one to come. Our consciousness and that of future generations has been changed. We cannot put the genie back in the bottle.”

Those words by Richard Rohr, author and theologian, articulate something many of us are feeling. It has been several months (for lots of us) of being under “stay at home” orders  or other restrictions so that the infection rates can be reduced and our health care systems can be likely to handle what comes in the long haul. The more that we hear about what is to come, the more caught between we can feel.

There is a word that describes this position.  Not a common word, but one that grasps the essence of what lots of people are feeling.  We are in liminal space. The word liminal comes from the Latin word ‘limen’, meaning threshold – any point or place of entering or beginning. A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, a season of waiting, and not knowing.

Richard Rohr addresses this directly: “This global pandemic we now face is an example of an immense, collective liminal space. The very vulnerability and openness of liminal space allows room for something genuinely new to happen. We are empty and receptive—erased tablets waiting for new words. Liminal space is where we are most teachable, often because we are most humbled. Liminality keeps us in an ongoing state of …calling so-called normalcy into creative question.”

I see this perspective as helpful in providing a framework for the days ahead. The most significant things we can do are to use this time to examine what opportunities this massive disruption of our “normal” can offer.

What about our personal normal of the past do we consider important and life-giving to ourselves and others in our immediate circle? What things would we like to modify, change significantly or eliminate?

Then there are the larger questions within our communities and country. This crisis has revealed (to some) and amplified (to others) some of the ways in which our country is not life-giving and nurturing to everyone. The obvious examples are these:

1) the disproportionately high infection and death rates among our African American, Latino, and indigenous groups

2) the high infection and death rates in long term care facilities – nursing homes, assist living facilities, etc.

3) the dire effects of lack of health care services, facilities and insurance among people in rural America as well as among the communities of color mentioned above.

As we view these things – among others – in this liminal space, what do we want to do about them? There is so much pressure to “get us back to normal” which is not going to happen quickly. In fact, it will never be the normal we had several months ago. There are ways in which that is good. To simply return to what was is not in the interest of many, many Americans.

We are having an extended time to look at how we will live, work, educate our children and ourselves, take care of the vulnerable, and make our country a more just and lifegiving place for all of our fellow citizens.

Liminal space is where all transformation takes place. We are on a threshold and we will be here for a while. How will we use this time and space to ponder the next phase for ourselves, the organizations of which we are a part, our communities, and our country?

Journaling is an incredible and flexible tool and has so much to offer during times like these. If you would like to explore ways to use journaling, check out my free online course that introduces several uses: https://carolbrusegar.com/journaling-explore-the-possibilities-with-my-free-ecourse/

 

 

 

 

 

The Art of Allowing – When Everything is Topsy-Turvy

hands+candle2020 so far has been topsy-turvy for all of us. So much has changed, so much is uncertain. For some of us it’s disastrous in terms of income, housing and of course health. There is a wide spectrum between those most severely impacted and those who are affected in less extreme ways. But every single person is affected. As someone noted, “We’re all in the same storm, but we’re not in the same boat.”

We all intellectually understand that life is going to teach us some tough lessons. No one escapes sickness and death. Everyone is going to have challenges in their life to mold them into what they can become.

When we are faced with upheaval, we generally have two major approaches most of us take: the default of fighting and raging against it – or attempting to ride it out as best you can, knowing that there is an ebb and flow to life and that this situation is temporary, no matter how it feels right now. The latter usually involves letting go of the illusion of any control and working with what you’ve got.

Letting go of control is anathema to many of us; Americans seem to be especially afflicted with an illusion or obsession of independence. It has become part of the cultural struggle – for example, no government official can tell me I have to wear a mask vs. our actions affect others and for the good of all, I will wear a mask.

It is encouraging to hear and read about people who are using this unexpected time in our lives to do the proverbial “making lemonade out of lemons.” As we find ourselves in situations that make us pucker up at the very least, many are seeing ways to use this opportunity to reflect on what was normal. Was that normal optimum? How can we do things in ways that are more family-affirming and better for personal health and wellness? People are creating things that better meet their needs and desires now. What impact will that have as we move through and beyond the immediate crisis?

What is Your Mindset?

Our mindset is key to how we handle any situation. Some people have a foundational belief that life is one big struggle after the next, and then you die. They might feel like they are always unlucky or accident prone. Our current situation just reinforces that. Others see life as basically good with some rough spots that they will go through and probably gain knowledge from. From both positions, the expectation nearly always is that person’s reality. What we focus on, we will attract more of.

Most of the time we don’t even realize our mindset. We live on autopilot and by living that way, stay in the same rut we’ve come to expect. Cultivating and reinforcing a mindset of basic good is a key part of continuing to go through this pandemic year and beyond. By seeing negative events in your life as flexible, short term situations, you can more easily move on. Those who view situations as being temporary, will be more likely to see the same situation as a speed bump in life’s rear-view mirror. That mindset leads to flexibility and adaptation – two outlooks that help people recover from bad situations.

Create an allowing practice

If you find yourself struggling to maintain that belief that things will get better and we will get through whatever it is we face, creating an allowing practice and using it daily can be of help.

This is a simple practice you can do daily when you put your attention and awareness on allowing rather than resisting. Think of:

  • accepting things as they are;
  • identifying, receiving and celebrating the positives, surprises and gifts in the current situation;
  • trusting things will ultimately work out.

Taking a short time each day to do this can release some of the intense responsibility you feel for all the outcomes of everything facing you and your family. It may also release some of the anger (even rage) about the difficulties of these days. Give it a try!

Are You A Worrier? Managing Worry In Difficult Times, Part II

worry 4

 “Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength – carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”  ― Corrie Ten Boom

Many of us consider worry a given.  It may be, as a friend often says, “Worrying about my children and grandchildren is a mother’s job. It’s what we do.” Or it may be accepting it as part of what your parents imprinted upon you as worrying was a strong part of their mode of living. “I just can’t help myself.”  I personally reject those characterizations.

Taking Control of Your Worries

While it may not seem like it, it is possible to take control of your worries. With a little patience, practice and persistence, you can become calmer and learn how to take control over your worry as soon as it starts to occur.

Here are some of the best ways to do that.

Create a plan

Having a plan in place to combat toxic worry can be very helpful. For this, you’ll need to write down all of the things you’re worried about. I suggested doing that in the previous post, http://carolbrusegar.com/managing-worry-in-difficult-times-part-i/.

Then consider what kind of worry each is – generalized, perfection, fear of making  mistakes, social or post-traumatic stress worry. (These are described in Part I.) Knowing this will help you in the next steps.

Once you have your worry list, you can start to think of ways to reduce them. How can you eliminate the worry and what steps will you need to take? Creating a little to-do list of things you can do to reduce the worry, and then ticking off the tasks as you do them will help you feel more in control of the situation.

Arm yourself with facts

You’ll often find that toxic worry stems from either a lack of information or the wrong information. You could be worrying about something that you don’t fully understand or have adequate information about.

So, if you want to take control, arm yourself with facts. Learn everything you can about the thing you’re worrying about. The more knowledgeable you are about the thing you’re worried about, the less you’ll actually worry.

One of the most difficult things about these times is that there either aren’t “facts” available or there are differing opinions which people claim as facts. Perhaps part of your worry is how to deal with these discrepancies as you make personal decisions. So taking steps to put boundaries around your worries can be helpful.

Allow yourself small worry windows

It may not be possible, or even healthy, to never worry about anything. Particularly in times of great uncertainty, there can be a role for non-obsessive worry. Make time to acknowledge your worries. Set aside small windows of time each day and train your mind to worry only during these designated periods.

Then, once the time is up, you aim to forget about your worries for the rest of the day. This allows you to use your time to take some action or just be in the present and enjoy what is. This creates a much healthier balance, ensuring you aren’t burying your head in the sand, but you also aren’t letting your worries take over.

Challenge your thoughts

When you start to notice those negative worrying thoughts, challenge them. It’s common to make your worries appear worse than they actually are – jumping to the worst-case scenario. Most of us are really good at asking what if this or that bad thing happened and dwelling on that.

Leave yourself open to the possibility that things won’t be as bad as you think. Identify healthier, more positive ways to look at the situation. Look at what the probability of the worst-case scenario happening is. Also look at whether the worry is helping or hindering the situation. If it isn’t helping, why are you giving it the power to control you?

Interrupt the cycle

Sometimes, you just have to interrupt the cycle. When you catch yourself worrying over something, turn your focus to something else.

Four things many people use effectively are exercise, meditation, deep breathing, listening to particular kinds of music, and reading.

Overall, toxic worry can have a significant impact on your health and wellbeing. However, there are ways to tackle and control it. The above are some of the best things you can try to take control over toxic worry and start living a happier, healthier life, even in these times of uncertainty.

You will find options of music for relaxation and meditation that can help interrupt the cycle and manage your worry here: Music for Relaxation and Meditation

https://amzn.to/3eeJtST