Life Is NOT an Emergency

 
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Do you feel like you live with a sense of constant urgency, anticipation and fear? Do you find that your mind is constantly in a state of chatter, worry, evaluating the worst-case scenario? If so, you are not even sort of alone. But also--if so, you are placing your body in a state of constant stress. If you are living in this space of thinking, worrying and anticipating the WORST, then you are potentially harming your body, mind, spirit and life.

The truth is, life is not an emergency. It just isn’t. However, we are living at a pace where it feels like making coffee in the morning feels like an emergency! When you add in thoughts about food, what to eat, what not to eat, body image, self-judgment and all the other things that are rolling through your mind, you are set up for serious stress. When you are in this state for an extended period of time you become more prone to big-time health problems.

The remedy is first to know that life is NOT an emergency. Then you have to remind yourself of this constantly—over and over again! You will need to say to yourself when you are rushing to make your coffee: “life is not an emergency”, when you are rushing to where ever you are headed next: “life is not an emergency”, when you are worrying about the right thing to eat or mentally punishing yourself for what you did or didn’t eat: “life is not an emergency.”

When you say this to yourself you begin to relax into the awareness that it is so. When you are stuck in the tension created mentally and physically by all the mental noise that creates the illusion that life is indeed an emergency, the stress response is activated. When you live in that constant state of stress response activation, you suffer. This is why your new mantra needs to be: “life is not an emergency!”

The truth is that stress is a killer. It robs you of the present moment, it robs you of joy, it robs you of your health and wellbeing. I will clarify that when I say stress, I really mean our response to the stress that will inevitably exist in your life. We ultimately have the final say in how we will respond to a particular stressor. We can *freak out* mentally and emotionally, or we can acknowledge that life is not an emergency and find a more useful way to handle the presented stressor.

Begin to evaluate where in your life that you perceive it to be an emergency. Start by bringing in this new mantra: “life is not an emergency.” Notice the impact that this simple awareness has on your life, your mood and your wellbeing. Notice how your muscles relax and the tension in your stomach and chest releases. When you are not in a state of feeling as though your perceived stressors are emergencies your body will respond by relaxing and releasing.

Your body does not know the difference as to whether your stress is actually occurring or if it is only in your mind. This provides good and bad news. The bad news first, if you are living in a state where you feel that your life is an emergency and live in that space in your head, then you are seriously *stressed* and your body is living in a constant state of flooded cortisol and adrenaline. The good news is, if you remind yourself that life is not an emergency, you are able to calm your mind and body and live within what is true right now. When you live in a space of what is true right now you can release the stress of the past and the future and find an ability to relax and just be here now.

If you have been living in a space of anxiety, stress and fear, the good news is that you can clear your mind over and over with this new reminder that life is not an emergency. While this may take time, effort and a determined focus, it is worth it to create the healing your mind, body and spirit crave.

Healing Emotional Eating With Mindfulness

 
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Mindfulness is something of a buzzword these days. When concepts, words or disciplines become buzzwords they can lose their true meaning and power. Mindfulness is paying attention from moment to moment with a nonjudgmental awareness. When you are practicing mindfulness you do not judge the present moment, you experience it. When you are living mindfully, each moment of life as it is experienced just as it is unfolding in the here and the now. The ability to stay present invites you to experience your life in a meaningful way, where you are not simply responding to past experiences and stress or future worries. Engaging with the present moment is experiencing what is true right now.

When you are able to experience what is true right now you are able to acknowledge, feel and accept your emotions. The act of being mindful—of being completely engaged in the present moment—offers the opportunity to no longer act or respond to life out of your unconscious mental and emotional programming. When you step away from acting out of autopilot mode, you can begin to make conscious choices about how to live your life right now. When you are able to both be aware of your emotions and make a conscious choice, emotional eating becomes less overbearing and more within your conscious control.

While mindfulness may seem like a simple concept, it is definitely not an easy practice. While there are helpful apps, classes and books you can use to learn and practice mindfulness, having quiet time to be present and reflect on your experience of the present moment is where your power lies. The power is in the practice, not it in the learning about and studying the practice itself.

When you can experience your rich internal emotional world without hesitation or attempt to flee from any emotional distress or discomfort, your self-awareness grows. Through a consistent mindfulness practice, your ability to make a choice in the present moment is enhanced. When you practice mindfulness in a disciplined manner, over time, you free yourself from the binds of emotional eating. While this progression may sound simple, or too good to be true, remember that it requires these two elements that allow it to be integrated, over time, into your life: dedication and self-discipline.

When you bring the element of dedication to the practice of mindfulness you can offer yourself time daily to pause, reflect and release any emotions that are triggering your emotional eating. (You can read more about creating this personalized plan from a previous blog on this process here.) The importance of self-discipline is all about showing up for the practice, showing up for yourself and your emotions for the long-term. When you are fully conscious of your emotions, they become less uncomfortable and more of a message about your experience of your life. When you are more deeply connected to your internal emotional world, you can respond in an empowered way to your emotions and therefore not run from them, not attempt to escape them with food—or anything else that only serves to numb out your emotions.

To establish a mindfulness practice, it is best to start with one minute and then build from there. One minute of attempting to witness your emotions, thoughts, body sensations and external environment can feel like a really long time when you first begin the practice! After two to five days, increase to two minutes. Over time you may find that ten minutes feels really great! I recommend spending some time in reflection following the practice whether through journaling or simply acknowledging what the experience was like for you. I also recommend logging the minutes and making some simple notes about how you felt before and after the practice and any emotions or thoughts that arose, just to notice, not to judge.

As you apply this practice to food, eating, and further into your life, you will see how showing up for yourself in this way is empowering and freeing. You will see how allowing yourself to experience your emotions offers you valuable and deeply meaningful information about your experience of your life. Being mindful and emotionally aware allows you to make a choice about how to respond. Over time, food becomes less of a coping tool and more of a space where you can derive nourishment and pleasure. When you begin to integrate a consistent mindfulness practice into your life you open the opportunity to truly make peace with food.

The Keys to Self-Love

 
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Do you love yourself? Do you feel as though you are enough, just as you are, right now in this moment? Do accept yourself unconditionally? Here’s the radical, complete and honest truth, you are lovable, you are enough, just as you are right in this very moment. Not because I say so but because you are alive, you are here and it is your birthright to feel whole, to feel as though you are enough. It is your birthright to love yourself unconditionally. 

While this might sound really nice to love and accept yourself without condition, self-love can be a missing element and hard to come by for so many. Some view self-love as a negative, ego-driven problem. Others of you may view self-love as a challenge. If that’s you, is it because you put your love out into the world and into others and don’t reserve any for yourself? Self-love is important, it is vital to living a fulfilling, peaceful life. Self-love is more about how you view, value and treat yourself internally and externally. The good news is that self-love can be created, grown and developed with consistent practice.

First, let’s address the faulty belief that self-love is a negative, ego-driven problem. While it can be easy to label others as selfish if it seems that they are only considering their problems or needs when they make choices in their lives, that does not necessarily mean that they actually love themselves. The ego can be dangerous and overbearing. When you are living from a space solely based of the needs of your ego, it will cause problems in relationships and interpersonal interactions. However, someone who has the ability to truly love themselves is able to set boundaries and create a way of communicating their needs in a way that is diplomatic, grounded, kind and reasonable.

Having a strong sense of yourself, your values, beliefs, strengths and weaknesses is a good thing. Understanding the cravings and desires of your ego is a good thing as well. You just don’t want to over-identify with your ego’s often frivolous cravings and shallow desires such as attention, material attainments or praise for the hope of being viewed by others as superior, better than or even worthy. This is not self-love, this the ego’s desperate attempt to gain attention and love from others in a way that is not healthy or from a space of knowing yourself deeply. These attempts for external validation of being lovable or worthy can stem from fear that you are falling short in the opinions of others and need to over-compensate through an over-striving ego. Phew, that was a mouthful…I could go on and on about the ego. It is a challenging, dynamic and important topic, but right now I really want to get to the good stuff about self-love!

When you are practicing self-love you are treating yourself with respect and care. Self-love is striving to grow into who you know you can be and truly are at your highest, strongest, healthiest version of yourself. Most importantly, self-love is never giving up on yourself. When you truly love yourself you are resilient, courageous and confident—because you love you! When you truly love yourself you don’t seek love from others, however you are completely open and unafraid to receive love from others. When you truly love yourself you believe that you are indeed lovable and worthy. Is this how you feel? If not, you are not alone. Many people at times feel inadequate, not good enough or not deserving of good things, like love, in their lives. When these negative beliefs are strong and overwhelming it can cause self-sabotage or relationship sabotage.

The key to building and creating self-love is to know yourself fully and deeply and to actually like and accept who you truly are. To know and accept yourself means that you are not afraid of your shadow side (the not so great stuff about yourself that you fear others will figure out about you and then run fast and far) and that you actually embrace and accept the shadow parts of yourself as a part of the totality of who you are. This can directly have a positive impact on your ability to accept and embrace elements of others that you may find to be “unacceptable.” Light-bulb: this will help expand the unconditional love you are able to offer yourself to others as well!

One way to practice building and creating self-love is self-reflection. There are many ways to reflect, including journaling, meditation and attending therapy. For today I will focus on journaling as it super accessible. Using a journal consistently will help you reflect and know yourself more deeply creating an opportunity to grow and build self-love. To begin, use prompts such as: “what are my strengths?” “what are my weaknesses?” “what do I like about myself?” “what would I like to improve about myself?” “what are my personal values?” “what do I struggle to accept within myself, why?” what do I struggle to accept about others, why?” When you start answering these questions and take time to review them, what stands out to you? Thank yourself for taking the time to reflect and grow in your ability to love yourself through the process of self-reflection.

Another way to create self-love is to date yourself. When was the last time you did exactly what you wanted to do exactly when you wanted to do it? If it wasn’t pretty recent, chances are you are depending on others too much for your happiness. When you take yourself out on a date you get to choose everything you want! Do you want to go a particular restaurant? Then go there! Do you want to see a specific movie? Take yourself to it! Do you want to curl up with a good book and cup of tea? Do it! When you learn to befriend and love yourself, you are never alone. When you find yourself wanting something from someone else and they are not—in your opinion—providing it for you, give it to yourself! See how this feels to spend time, to get to know and care for yourself. Meet your own needs and be proud of the relationship you can cultivate with yourself. There is nothing ego-based about that!

On this same line of thinking other ways to offer yourself self-love is to write yourself love notes, positive affirmations and positive messages. Remind yourself that you are worth time, effort, reflection and getting to know. Remind yourself what you like about yourself, what you accept about yourself and that you want to have a healthy, loving relationship with you.

One last way to create more self-love is to change patterns of negative thinking that have led to not loving yourself unconditionally in the first place. This requires hard work, but it’s totally worth it. Examine your thoughts, beliefs and opinions you have about yourself. How do those make you feel about yourself? What kinds of words are running through your mind about yourself in the form of thoughts? How do those thoughts make you feel in your body? Is it pleasant? Are they kind? Are they negative, self-deprecating and harsh? Do your thoughts support being loving and kind towards yourself? If not, write them down and practice the powerful technique of Reframing.

Reframing is taking your negative or unkind thoughts and putting them into a more neutral, reality based statement. For example, if your thought is, “I knew I’d fail at ___________” (which triggers feeling as though you are inadequate/not good enough/unlovable), try changing the thought to something such as, “Failure is an opportunity to grow, I will figure this out” or “I have failed in the past and survived and I will survive this time as well.” Note: this is not the power of positive thinking, (which I do recommend, just not for this process). This is reframing your thoughts so they are more aligned with what is real and what is true RIGHT NOW. This is allowing yourself to build trust in yourself that your mind will not continue to cause and perpetuate a harmful, conditional-love-based relationship with yourself.

This all may seem like a lot. And while I wanted to write about it all from a happy-happy-happy place of self-love and acceptance since it’s Valentine’s Day and all, this is the reality. This is what you are faced with within your own mind on the regular. It’s time to take ownership over your mind, your thoughts, your beliefs and your actions. This includes how you treat yourself. If you want to be loved, love yourself! If you want to be treated well, treat yourself well! It all starts and it all ends with you—no one else can create self-love for you. While this may feel daunting and maybe even harsh, it’s powerful when you put it into practice! You can create the reality you desire not by seeking love but by creating love. Not by pouring out all of your love but by giving yourself love, refilling your own self-love cup. Remember, there is an infinite supply of love. You deserve to be loved. You deserve to love yourself. You deserve love.

What will you do to grow your self-love today?