Weekend Reads

Photo by Lia Leslie

A few good reads as you head into the weekend!

*Dr. Martin Seligman, often referred to as the father of positive psychology, shows us four “well being workouts” to increase both daily & overall happiness in our lives.

*Having three kids who just finished up SOL’s and final exams, we’ve talked a lot about self care and how to handle the pressures of school. Often these conversations are initiated by adults, but check out how a small group of teens is setting out to decrease stress, depression and anxiety among their peers at Lexington High School in Massachusetts.

(And if painting rocks is becoming big in your neighborhood, check out this article with tips and info!)

*Finally, here are  few articles on coping with anxiety that I’ve been drawn to lately. The author is Dr. Eric Goodman who is an anxiety and exposure therapist in sunny California.

“A Day in the Life of an Exposure Therapist” is a great read! Driving up and down the coast with a phobic driver, having someone with OCD hold a knife to your throat (to prove that the thoughts are pure anxiety) and taking a field trip downtown with a germaphobe to touch trashcans – it’s all in a days work!

“Caring for your Anxiety Baby” – “Anxiety is such a baby!”

“When Your Anxiety ACTs up: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy” – This post looks at how we say yes and move forward in the direction of our values – even if anxiety comes along for the ride.

Take care friends & have a beautiful weekend!

 

Taking a Facebook Break

Photo credit: unsplash.com

A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law & I went to a talk on happiness by Catherine Sanderson. She was an informative, engaging and fun speaker. And one of the things she talked about that can detract from our happiness is comparing ourselves with others on social media like Facebook – or what she called “Fakebook”.

Rachel, my SIL, had recently taken a break by deactivating her account and I’d been meaning to try for a long time. It’s not that Facebook is all bad. I love keeping up with friends and family who I don’t see regularly. Sometimes it’s a great source for news and articles I may not have seen. And, I think it can be a powerful way to spread ideas and advocacy.

However, after that talk I intentionally checked in with my feelings when I was scrolling through FB. What I found was that it regularly made me unhappy and that I used it when I was bored, procrastinating or numbing out.

And, for the most part, my connections online didn’t feel like they translated to seeing people in real time. So why not just connect with people I love in person, through a letter or on the phone?

In real time, I want to know what is good and joyful in your life. But I also want to know what you are carrying inside that feels heavy. And I want to share those things with you about my life, too.

We don’t do that with everyone, but when we choose to share well rounded, real stories from our lives, it helps us connect and have intimacy. And, as Catherine Sanderson reminded us during her talk, it’s in the hard work of building and maintaining relationships with real people that we find the greatest happiness.

If or when I go back to Facebook, I’m going to do it with more intention and less frequency. I can ask myself – Why am I going online right now? Is this making me feel connected and engaged? Or am I feeling unhappy and numb?

What do you think about Facebook and how do you use it in your life? Have you taken a break before and how did that go?

Here’s Catherine Sanderson’s talk on “The Science of Happiness” and be sure to see her speak if she comes to your town!

 

 

28 Day Meditation Challenge

sharonsalzberg.com

I just signed up for Sharon Salzberg’s 28 day meditation challenge. Want to join me? After you sign up, she’ll send you a daily meditation in the form of a 5-10 minute audio file.  This mornings was 8 minutes with an intro – easy peasy.  Research has been busting at the seams with all the benefits of meditation. 5-10 minutes a day. That’s not so bad, is it? Join me!

A Loving Kindness Meditation for Facing Anxiety

If you’ve dabbled in meditation before, you’ve probably come across one form called Loving Kindness. I was saying these beginning 4 lines, from Sharon Salzberg’s “Real Happiness”,  in my head the other day and thought, “what would I add as I prepare to face anxiety in my day?”

A Loving Kindness Meditation for Facing Anxiety:

May I be safe

May I be healthy

May I be happy

May I live with ease

***

May I be brave

May I be clever

May I have courage

moving toward my dream

***

May I show up

May I be willing

May I step forward

Living bold and free

Then again, maybe that’s too sweet and soft when you’re about to take on Anxiety. Let’s add one more stanza:

May I kick ass

meeting my challenger

taking my life back

because f*** you anxiety!

That’s more like it.

I’m not saying to ditch the supportive voice.  You need both the supportive voice inside your head and the one that’s ready to take your life back by kicking some serious ass. Both are important, but stepping up to do the work takes a different kind of energy.

How do you talk to yourself as you prepare to take on anxiety? What tools do you use?

**And, if Loving Kindness meditation interests you, be sure to check out these Sharon Salzberg links:  Street loving kindness video series & her book Real Happiness.  I meditate about 20 minutes most mornings and started out with her book & CD – something about her voice & messaging is so real & just right for me.  Also, here’s a great article about the scientific benefits of Loving Kindness meditation and a video to try.

Namaste!

Reading Material

Photo by Lia Leslie

Here are a few reads for your weekend or to start your week off right.  Pour yourself a cup of coffee or green tea and cozy on up.

ABC News talks about which exercises are best for anxiety. Although, the ADAA reminds us that just getting your body moving – especially cardio – makes a big difference.

Research shows that mindfulness meditation can reduce overall anxiety and rewire the way our brains work. Here’s a nice overview as well.

Speaking of meditation, have you read Dan Harris’s book “10 Percent Happier”?  A national news anchor, he talks about having a panic attack on live television and what he did to get to a place of confidence again.

I’ve been meditating a lot more these days, so that means more links for you!

Love this infographicSharon Salzberg, and this great article on the reality of taking up a meditation practice.

Exercise and Anxiety

I’ve got to tell you, I’ve been really noticing the positive effects of exercise on my mood and energy level these past few months. I’m not knocking yoga or a good power walk, but it’s the days where I get some good cardio in and really sweat that seem to make the biggest difference. This is not new information in the world of anxiety and health, but it’s interesting how difficult it is to prioritize self care.

Between taking care of three children and getting a second wind around 10pm, I can find lots of reasons to turn my alarm off at 6am. Frequently my husband and I will say to each other, “Ok, this is the week we’re going to bed by 10:30pm and getting up early!” Signing up for a couple triathlons this summer certainly helped get me up in the morning, but my motivation can dwindle when race season is complete and daylight grows shorter. When I’m tired and not exercising, the world seems more overwhelming and my wheels spin.

This week, I’ve made a new pact with my husband to go to bed by 11pm-ish and I’ve gotten up the past five mornings to exercise. Depending on how much time I have, I’m doing a mix of running a faster 2-3 miles (a 10 minute mile is speedy for me); a favorite 20 minute video; swimming; and biking with a friend on the weekends. Even a little dance break in the day can help my body and brain play nice.

What’s changed? I had to sit myself down during the daytime hours and say, “Look, girl, this is good for you & it makes you feel so much better! You are not going to find time to exercise after 7am. Now get your butt to bed! Whatever still needs doing can wait until tomorrow!” Again, while exercise and enough sleep does not make anxiety go away for me, it helps make it more manageable by using up some of that super-power adrenaline and starting each day with a more rested brain.

Will I be singing a different tune, next week? Perhaps, but accountability is a good motivator, too! What effect does enough sleep and exercise have on your mental health and outlook? What’s working for you?

Wonder Wednesdays

“I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind . . .”

Hope you’re up dancing with Gnarls Barkley! Moving your body – really dancing, jumping, moving – helps loosen up that stored adrenaline and shift our attitude a little.

Are you moving yet? Now, doesn’t that feel better?

(Stevie) Wonder Wednesday

Sometimes, nothing works better to shake up all those stuck emotions than getting up and dancing to your favorite music. Dr. James Gordon uses dancing as one of his techniques to help people with depression become Unstuck. Why not give it a try? Now, you may remember that I have a special place in my heart for Stevie Wonder . . . seeing how he was really there for me during postpartum. So, we’ve gotta start with some Stevie on this first Wonder Wednesday. If you’re self conscious, wait until you’re alone; close that office door; or better yet, invite people to come dance with you! At our house, dance parties can happen just about anywhere. Come on now, turn it up and start moving!

Slow & Steady Wins the Race

So, I’ve got a pretty big birthday coming up this fall – the big 4-0! As it approaches, I’ve wondered what I could do to mark this milestone. Should I take a big trip? (did that this spring), throw a party? (maybe) and then I came across a calendar of summer triathlons & an idea sparked in my head.

Before having children, I completed a handful of sprint distance triathlons & LOVED them! Truth be told, I’m really pretty slow in all areas of the event, but I love the thrill of completing such a goal. I also love the feeling of being fit & strong. Looking back at pictures, I was always the one with a huge goofy grin on my face as I, first and foremost, made it out of the water alive, cruised along on my bike or leisurely brought it home with the run, sprinting a bit at the very end. Slow and steady wins the race is definitely my motto!

My goal this summer, then, was to complete an all women’s, sprint distance triathlon in early August; get fit in time to transition to 40; and have fun doing this with a group of fabulous girl friends.

What a great experience this has been!

In some ways, this training made me feel like a kid again & at the same time reminded me of my age. Floating on my back after a good swim & looking at the clouds go by; jumping on my bike & catching up with a girlfriend while we fly down hills (and creep up them); feeling strong with my 12 minute mile “run” pace (yes, I could probably walk faster). I’m also reminded that I’m getting older with an overuse muscle tear that doesn’t want to go away and how I’m always checking in with my body to make sure I don’t over do it. I gotta tell you, though, I was at a triathlon this summer to cheer on some friends & saw an 84 year old woman out there competing. It reminded me that despite the fact we can’t turn back the clock, we can choose how we take care of ourselves and respond to aging. I want to be that fit 84 year old woman, out there participating fully in life.

Since this is an anxiety blog, I was also curious how the increased exercise would affect my mood & anxiety levels in general. What I noticed was that when I skipped a day or two of workouts, I felt more edgy and irritable. I think regular exercise can be a powerful part of anxiety treatment, but that it needs to be part of a more holistic plan with nutrition, rest, spirituality, healthy relationships and some good cognitive behavioral work. I’ve known people who aren’t doing their exposure work and are avoiding anxiety provoking situations while they pray that their morning yoga will cure them that day. I wish it were that easy, but we all have to do the work.

The triathlon was really a fantastic experience – I highly recommend it to those interested. A sprint distance is just long enough to make it an accomplishment, something you have to work toward, but not so long that it takes over your life. The race was hot & hilly, but manageable & so much fun! As this was an all women’s triathlon, the volunteers were all men along the race course wearing t-shirts that said, “Triathlete chics are hot!” (Now, who wouldn’t want to go a little faster when they were cheered on with that kind of enthusiasm?) And, the camaraderie from all of the amazing women in our group was energizing as well.

Am I happy about turning 40? Sometimes it gives me pause (ok, freaks me out), but other times I realize that slow and steady is a good way to move forward through life. It gives you time to appreciate the accomplishment this life is, connect with those traveling alongside and enjoy the view.

How Stevie Wonder Helped Me Through Postpartum

I remember sitting on the kitchen floor talking with my husband and brother, who was visiting from out of town, when “Uptight (everything’s alright) came on with that amazing horn section. It was like something switched on in my body & I couldn’t help but get up and dance.

I had pretty normal postpartums with my other children. So, I was surprised when postpartum was harder after my third baby – especially since she was a dream child. I felt overwhelmed and in my head way too much. I experienced my first ever bout of depression and my anxiety skyrocketed. For about a month I cried a lot, had panic attacks at night and wondered when I would feel like myself again. Feeling connected to my kids was never an issue – if anything, I felt like a Mama Bear, hypervigilant & wanting fiercely to protect my young. But I worried about what was happening to me. I worried about the kind of world I had brought them into. And, I wanted an off switch for my brain. The harder I tried to think my way out of this funk and sleep deprivation, the worse it got.

Dancing with Stevie became a family affair & helped get me out of my head & into my body. Many mornings, I’d set the alarm clock to wake us up to this music. At 7 o’clock the horns would begin, and even if I woke up feeling off, my legs would start twitching to move and I would get myself up to dance. Slowly the other sleepy heads who had made their way into our bed in the wee hours would begin dancing, too, and it was a party. My 6 yr. old always wanted to hear Signed Sealed Delivered & we would shout out the lyrics as we swung around the room.

As I look back on that time, now, I still remember how scary that unfamiliar emotional terrain felt. But, there were also many gifts in the challenge. Times that take you to your knees can be catalysts for opening, positive change, and surrender. Each child, it seems, helps loosen our grip on control and frees us to live more fully in the moment. And, I’ll always have fond memories of all of us dancing like crazy – the morning sun reaching in, touching us all with its golden light, inviting us to reach for higher ground.