Breathe & Keep Up

Live your best life, one breath at a time

Month: May, 2014

‘Choice’

‘an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities.’

Do we see the choice available to us? Or are we functioning largely on autopilot?

Have you ever had a nagging feeling that has stayed with you over days? Months? A lingering sadness or anger over your situation?

Maybe life has felt tough.

It’s important to allow feelings to be expressed in a healthy way so that we can face them and heal –  we know that time has to run its course, that healing doesn’t happen overnight.

But what if we reflect and realize that time has passed and that feeling of sadness, anger, being a victim, has gotten very comfortable inside – it’s made a little home, it’s tucked itself into bed with a cozy blanket and has no plans to move anytime soon.

Things are cozy in the blanket. Rest and recuperation are important and what better place than in a warm blanket where things feel safe, familiar, secure.

But then there is an inkling…barely noticeable at first but it keeps poking at you to change, to make a choice to live differently, think differently, move out of the comfort and grow.

‘But it’s so warm here!’ you scream back… and so the familiar feeling snuggles in a little deeper.

Friends and family come along, reminding you of different perspectives. You tell yourself they don’t understand and for a time this feels right – no one can truly be in your shoes. But then you haven’t walked in theirs either – everyone has their story, struggle, setback, triumph. Maybe advice, perspective can be more general, more widely applicable?

Can we see past the person giving advice and simply see the choice in front of us?

Maybe today we decide that we will shift our feeling, perspective, state.  YOU choose.  There is an extreme power in this. Be empowered.

It won’t be easy. You’ll find yourself saying it’s so hard – others will empathize and you will linger in the warmth a little longer  – but you will always come back to the choice.

It’s not our situations that are the problem; it’s our reaction to them.

A tough pill to swallow because that means change is in our control – it’s so much easier to blame someone or something else.

Are you ready to choose? Here are 4 steps to help:

1. Get to know your sh*t

Get familiar with what’s keeping you in the cozy blanket.

What do you feel? 

At the root of most feelings is fear. We’re afraid of failure, afraid we’re not good enough, afraid to get hurt, afraid to be alone, afraid of being rejected, afraid of what others will think. What are you afraid of?

What habits have you created based on this fear?

We see fear as a threat and so we create patterns to protect ourselves, to avoid feeling discomfort and pain. Consider how you’re responding to your feelings, to your fear.

Do you close yourself off to others? To new experiences? To being challenged?

2. Re-frame it

How could you look at it differently? There is opportunity for growth in every setback. What is life teaching you? What is it showing you?

The impermanence of things? A pattern that needs breaking? A new opportunity?

How can you create more growth, more love, more joy, more peace, more smiles and laughter? What will serve YOUR core?

3. Say ‘I Choose…’

These are strong words. They send the message that you are in control. Your best self is taking over, moving into the driving seat, setting direction, setting the intention.

I choose to see the opportunity here. I choose to grow from this experience. I choose to face my fear. I choose to forgive.  I choose to see myself in a new light. I choose to live my best life. I choose to love. I choose to open up. I choose to stay with it.

What do you choose?  Say It. You may not believe it, you may not be convinced. That’s okay. Say it anyway.

4. Repeat # 3 again…and again…

This is the most important step.

Think about being wrapped up in a cozy blanket, feeling warm and relaxed – it may take a lot of convincing to get you to come out of the blanket. You may come out for a little bit, reluctantly at that…and then feeling the chill, run back for cover.

Come back to the choice and re-commit. As often as needed. Allow yourself to feel like a broken record. Eventually the choice becomes your new reality.

The choice is there for the making.

See it, say it, re-commit.


 

‘Urgent’ 

of a state or situation requiring immediate action or attention’

Living life in a state of urgency takes its toll on the body and the mind. I know, I lived this way for years.

I expected things to be efficient, clear, on schedule and immediate. If they weren’t, I was impatient, irritated and critical.

Transportation, conversations, appointments – I didn’t want to wait. “get out of the way” and “hurry up” were common statements circulating in my head and almost escaping out loud.

I wanted the quick fix – to take away sadness, anger, frustration, fatigue and discomfort. I reached for food, relationships, stimulants, intense exercise and television – these were common GO-TOs for my ready fix.

Feed the urgency, find the fix. I unknowingly lived this unhealthy cycle for years.

How did I know it was time to stop living this way?

I believe life first sends you messages in a whisper and if you don’t listen, it starts to yell. Well, life screamed at me in a way that I had no choice but to stop dead in my tracks and take notice. A lifestyle of urgency had impacted my health, relationships and mental wellbeing.

My body was tense, which resulted in headaches and severe neck and shoulder pain. I was taking my friends and family for granted, not spending enough time and giving enough attention to the people I should. And most importantly, I wasn’t facing my fears of being good enough, smart enough, strong enough, of being alone. By avoiding these feelings I not only hindered my own growth but limited my ability to relate and feel compassion towards others. Hope and fear – we all struggle with the same stuff.

So, enough was enough.

How did I change?

Not overnight. I’m still working on it but I have come a long way. Here are 4 steps I still use to deal with the urgency:

1. Take notice.

The first step is awareness. Reflect on when the state of urgency hits you. What are your triggers? What do you reach for as your quick fix?

For example, maybe you get antsy when you’re alone and you reach for the television.

2. Call it out and accept it.

The next time your trigger hits, call it out and make it real for yourself. State what’s happening.

“I’m feeling frustrated at the traffic”  “I’m feeling lonely”  “I’m feeling bored”  “I’m feeling impatient at this line-up”

We have hundreds of thoughts demanding our attention at any given moment – calling out a specific feeling or thought focuses our attention and awareness.

It also helps us face our fear. We often reach for distractions because we are afraid to face that which we’ve been conditioned to interpret as negative or weak:  loneliness, insecurity, anger, sadness, hurt and fear itself. When we call it out, we can try to see it, make it tangible and workable instead of all-consuming.

Accept it. It’s happening, it’s already there – you’re not alone, you’re human. Love yourself enough to accept all parts of yourself.

It’s not the thoughts or feelings that are the problem; it’s our reaction to them.

3. Do nothing for 1 minute (….and then 2)

Once you’ve called it out, pause for one minute.

Wait one minute before doing anything – before calling someone, consuming something, criticizing, blaming – before reaching for anything. Then do what you need to.

Often, your reaction will be different when you call it out and give it some space.

Holding the space without reacting may feel challenging and uncomfortable. You’re breaking a habit and that takes discipline and time. Start small, start with 1 minute.

Focus on your breath. Slow down the breath, slow down the mind.  Release the tension with each exhale and let the urgency for a quick fix go.

Next time give it two minutes. Then five…

4. Be prepared with a healthy substitute.

Have a healthy substitute in mind for the next time your trigger hits. Give it space and then allow yourself to shift to something that serves you well.

You can call a safe and trustworthy friend. Go for a walk. Stretch. Meditate.

Be deliberate, instead of habitually reactive.

Notice it  – State it & Accept it – Pause with it –  Shift it