“Break the rules or break yourself”

First, I would like to address the reason for my absence these past months. I have been on my own journey of growth and healing and needed some time off.  Also, I needed to work on myself,  refresh and concentrate on my studies for a while. The truth is, there is no end to what we need to learn and unlearn, it is a constant process.

I owed this effort to myself, my family, my clients and to whomever dare read my blog. Having been preaching about the importance of self-care for a while now, I could only but follow my own advice and take some time to continue evolving without excessive stress, to do some mind wardrobe cleaning, soul healing, and complete some certifications.

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Clean is the word I choose to describe how my heart feels right now. So, back to blogging!

Yesterday, I had an amazing opportunity to be present (via Zoom) during an interview to Pilar Gerasimo, founding editor of Experience Life magazine, co-host (with Dallas Hartwig) of “The Living Experiment” podcast, creator of the “101 Revolutionary Ways to Be Healthy” and author of “A Manifesto for Thriving in a Mixed Up World.” She is amazing and the title to this blog entry comes from her.

From this wonderful interview (I took tons of notes) new insights came to me and I’d like to share some of them. The “Break the Rules or break yourself” applies to the rules each of us carry inside which prevents us to follow our intuition (for our own good or others). Our heads contain rules as to the way things should be or the way we should do things.

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What rules are in my head or your head? Probably those installed by transgenerational learning or by social media, or simply those created by ourselves: Rules about what should be achieved, how it should be performed, controlled, or in what ways we should conform. The thing is, we usually know what we need to do in order to take care of ourselves, but we don’t do it. We place our mind over heart and gut feelings. Most of us are living in ‘reaction’ without even knowing it and the constant stress that this produces takes a high toll. It’s important to know how to disengage and pull our energy back by having quiet slabs of time and relaxation. We cannot take good care of others if we don’t take care of ourselves first.

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How important it is to discover our own thinking and our own feeling about things in life! We live in a world where anxiety sometimes seems to be the only operating system, and everyone is breaking themselves by living this way. Stress insanity is violence against our bodies, hearts and souls.

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“The mind is where the soul goes to hide from the heart”. So, fight to quiet the mind and slow down; emotional care comes first and all others are just a tad behind.

Choose to be kind and grateful.

Images from the internet

The Perks of being a middle-aged woman.

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“To live is to die to how we wanted it to be…” (Jack Kornfield)

Amongst the hormonal havoc and the avalanche of inevitable changes and life readjustments surrounding me these last couple of years, a kind of transfiguration has taken place, leading me towards embracing a whole new way of living. These are now the perks of my middle-age life and I love the idea of sharing them with you:

  • A deep understanding of my true nature.
  • Knowledge of who my true friends are.
  • No more worry about belonging and fitting in.
  • The ability to find joy through pain and allowing myself to feel both at the same time.
  • The choice to thoroughly live each moment.
  • The know-how of my feelings and emotions.
  • The love and true acceptance of myself.
  • True vulnerability.
  • A real sense of who I am. Not who I should be or who people expect me to be.
  • Knowledge in loss and the creation of many opportunities for growth through it.
  • Less urgency and more surrender.
  • A total disregard for anniversaries of any kind because every day is special.
  • True connection to a Higher Source (for me, God) not out of duty or need, but out of unconditional love.
  • Experience: accomplishment does not guarantee success, being busy is not the same as feeling alive, control is an illusion, and happiness is a choice.
  • The wisdom of knowing and accepting that the only thing certain is uncertainty.
  • The freedom to now get anything I missed in life while I was busy pushing, working and achieving.
  • A new deep sense of joy and a strong passion in my professional work.
  • A sense of reprioritizing so reading and nature doesn’t stay last in the list ever again.
  • A deep feeling of freedom from perfection.
  • Being able to accept each and everyone as they are without judgments.
  • Discovering that cats are better than dogs, especially Bengals!

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Choose to be kind and grateful.

Images from the internet

My body during times of emotional distress.

I find myself currently reading two books. I’m very happy to be able to do this since it’s been a while since I had much time to sit, relax, and read. I also wish I had better memory to remember what I read afterwards. It is a fact I tend to forget a lot but there are always a few sentences which will stick and stay, and I’m grateful for it.

The first book is Walking to Listen by Andrew Forsthoefel. Reading this book has been a delight. I have not read a book that made me feel this way since I read All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot a decade ago. Both books are completely different but give me the same (not easy to describe) pleasing, homely, human feeling. This one is simply about walking (through the US) meeting people and being human (it contains so much depth!). It is such a treat and very light to read.

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The second book I‘m reading is The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van der Kolk, M.D. A book packed with science and powerful human stories, it’s been amazingly interesting to say the least.

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As of late, while reading both books, I have been going through some very stressful situations, so I decided to share how my body usually reacts during hard times. Believe me when I tell you that both books are related to my train of thought in curious ways.

I am imperfectly human and unashamed to describe how sometimes I go through rough patches. Some expect psychologists to be perfect, have perfect families and perfect knowledge or control over our emotions.  Such ideas are nonsense. The more experienced (in life) and humble about it the psychologist is, the more he/she is able to help people. Perfection helps no one.

The way my body reacts during times of stress is that every single time I experience overwhelming stress or a strong negative experience there is a direct effect on my weight. Yes, weight gain (even if I don’t eat) and stressful times seem to be inevitably linked for me. My digestive system is also invariably affected, migraines and muscular pain are the next step, lack of good sleep, and finally exhaustion are my most common symptoms during hard times (not that all of these happen all the time or in the order in which are mentioned). Always varying in intensity depending on the event, these symptoms are the very reason I got passionate about self-care and eating psychology in the first place. This is the way my body process emotional distress. Through time, I have learn to work on these reactions (and ask for help when necessary), to take care of myself better during difficult times in order to minimize the blow and the recovery time. There is always room for improvement and since life goes on, we never stop learning (or healing).

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I am a strong believer in sharing our experiences in order to help one another. I am also a strong believer in empathy. I believe that there are no bad events or experiences that last forever (unless we keep feeding them). Self-care is a priority, healing is always possible and that’s why I am really enjoying both books so much right now.

Choose to be kind and grateful.

Images from the web

 

Challenge accepted!

As I’m writing this, my oldest daughter is saying goodbyes to her high school friends in our backyard. She is leaving for college next week.

Joy, grief, change, and time have all conspired to dramatically alter the inner landscape of my being.  What once was familiar and solid seemed foreign and out of balance for a while. It’s been quite a journey.

I dare describe change (for me) as something inevitable, desired and feared, refreshing, and uncomfortable at the same time: A challenge. In this case, there was only one thing left for me to say: “Challenge accepted!”

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When we spend our years taking care of everyone else, suddenly stopping and being there for ourselves may get really uncomfortable. You see, when we are busy enough and distracted enough, covering up emotions and feelings turns out to be a much easier task.

After being forced to deal with health issues, I have aimed for a slower/quieter life these past couple of years. Consequently, I have made time to mourn myself as I was and as I am no longer. Also, I have made time to mourn for what will never be again: My family’s dynamics have changed dramatically for good. In solitude, I chose to feel and confront, to desire and fear. Mourning is complicated and cannot be rushed, but it’s the only way forward.

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What threatened to be diminishment has, in the end, turned out to be growth: evolution. I chose this and worked hard on it (I’m still working hard on it). I’m grateful for the chance to live through this whole process, I had a chance to stop, look within and relearn that it is ok. In a way, it’s been a relief to let everything fall away; to let go of my usual beliefs, opinions and expectations in order to let the new, refreshing surprises unfold.

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It’s only the beginning and it’s been amazing, profound and (even though painful) it’s been thoroughly enjoyable. After all, it’s a fact that every life event prepares you for the next one, so I am now ready. Bring it on!

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Choose to be kind and grateful.

Images from the web

 

Diets everywhere I go.

I felt compelled to write about the subject because it seems to be everywhere. Last week, I attended four dinner parties, two brunches and a (whole day) pool party last Sunday. Those who know me well may swiftly testify that such a quantity of events is huge and abnormal for me. Still, I could not manage to avoid the subject (diets) at any of them!

Peer pressure is defined as “a feeling that one must do the same things as other people of one’s age and social group in order to be liked or respected by them”. Diet peer pressure exists. There are hundreds of serious articles published about this.

I’m 45 and even though many may think I’m in need of one, I am not on a “diet”. Nevertheless, my personal health, the same as my family’s, is always a top priority for me. We all happily exercise in whatever way we enjoy the most (because healthy exercise is supposed to be about joy not torture) and we thoroughly enjoy eating (quality food) mindfully and joyously. My life has not been ruled by diets for years. Notwithstanding, it still bothers me… the fact that diets overpower any other subject as conversation topic at dinners, brunches and everywhere else. Even though I’m sure about my lifestyle choices, I can still feel the social pressure and general dissatisfaction.

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Sometimes it even pains me. Yes, it pains me to watch life’s moments wasted away like that, energy that could otherwise be used for so many positive topics. But the worst part is to perceive that uneasy feeling silently shared by everyone: The feeling of not being beautiful enough, not thin enough, and not good enough; the feeling that lingers silently within each amazing soul I see at the table around me. Such valuable people, accomplished women, incredible and amazing daughters and moms who have achieved so much, such big beautiful hearts being uncomfortable, terribly uncomfortable with themselves.

The situation may bother me but most of all worries me. Since dieting is a temporary food plan, diets are not sustainable and neither do they create sustainable change for most people. Moreover, the deprivation of restrictive diets may lead to a diet-binge cycle which in turn may lead to guilt and frustration, finally leading towards self-loathing (specially in teens /// all other women or men not excluded though). Also, years of chronic dieting may result in slowing down metabolism and health issues.

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I really hope lack of self-appreciation not to be the result of the permanent year round ‘in a diet’ status of the wonderful people I saw recently. I hope it with all my heart. I also hope to go to a ‘diet free’ social event and soon.

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Choose to be kind and grateful.

Images from the internet

You don’t need an eating disorder for your weight loss pursuit to become a chronic form of self-abuse.

I have two beautiful daughters. I have fought hard to help them choose to deter themselves from materialism, to love themselves and their bodies, to respect themselves and their souls above all.

We live in a difficult city where looks and what you own takes precedence above all. Now more than ever, I would like to tell so many teenagers that they are beautiful just as they are. Just the same, I would like to tell so many women that the fact that 40 does not usually look like 20 is not a tragedy and that obsessing about it depletes life of energy and takes away time that could otherwise be dedicated to loved ones and to new, enriching, and exciting experiences.

Some weeks ago I read another blogger’s (Tracy I, Fit is a feminist issue) as she wrote about having been suffering from food poisoning. She wrote what follows: “Back in the day I, or one of the friends whom I complained to about my affliction, would have thought or said something like, “at least you’ll lose some weight.” Now, this is a ridiculous thing to say, I realize. But back then it was assumed that weight loss was an ever present goal in the life of every woman”. Sadly, I believe it still is an ever present goal that somehow has morphed into this idea that losing weight will make every trouble in life go away. So, lets do ourselves a favor and post this somewhere we can see it as often as needed:

Important note to self:

Loving myself and taking care of myself and my health is a priority, if the self-care nourishing process I choose includes losing pounds it´s ok. However, if the way I am or the way my body looks prevents me from living a full, happy life and I choose then to attack myself and my body until the process becomes a perennial obsession, then it’s not ok. Get help.

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Choose to be kind and grateful.

Images from the internet

The rebel inside me; the one that never settles.

Some things will never settle easily inside my soul, my mind, my heart or my body. Once received, some ideas will never be allowed to settle peacefully inside me. The rebel within me will not be silenced, at least not easily. That’s why I had learned that it is better to listen rather than try to control such a rebel, mainly because the cause of the uproar will in fact, almost every time, be right and in more than one way justified.

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I have learned to love my rebel, the one that lives within me, the one who shows up to stir everything up when something is not right, the one that signals that change is imminent and utterly necessary, the one that never takes no for an answer.

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The rebel inside me: The rebel that fights to let go of anger, the one that fights to be free from fears, to move forward, to take responsibility, to fully commit, the rebel that challenges perspective and attitude, and wisely fights to let go of useless expectations while choosing love and health instead. The rebel who fiercely defends and shows that God loves me and is ever present.

Choose to be kind and grateful.

Images from the internet

 

Tips from a highly sensitive person (HSP) living within a highly sensitive family.

Featured image by Geoff Hunter at geoffhunterwildlifeart.wordpress.com

I dare describe being an HSP as having but one constant: its own inconsistency. Living in a household full of HSPs has been the adventure of a lifetime or better said a lifetime of adventure.

Together, through helping each other and learning from each other is how we have learned to thrive. Getting to know each other´s potential and limitations and respecting each other through them has been key in making of sensitivities an opportunity to become better people.

The highly sensitive person has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.” (Elaine Aron, Ph.D.)

I would like to share some tips we find helpful as an HSP family:

-Accepting that we cannot handle our sensitivity while being very tired or hungry. Therefore we try to prevent this and if not possible, we understand a limit has been reached and either try to minimize the blow for the HSP in turn or respect their space.

-Accepting that sometimes people don’t understand what being an HSP is all about so our home and family are our safe haven.

-Avoiding (when possible) hostile environments (no matter what people say). Since this kind of situation drains our energy fast and it’s hard not to be affected by the negative energy around.

-Learning to let go easily. Knowing that what may look as “a bad temper outburst” is seldom personal. Instead, we try remembering that it’s probably the result from overstimulation.

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-Spending time in nature or exercising outside. We have learned never to underestimate the power of this one. In our family we know gyms are not for us.

-Having a personal private space. It doesn’t have to be a room. For example, one of our daughter’s private personal space is her bed, if she is there reading, working or even doing nothing she should not be bothered, we know she is recharging.

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-Kindness. Kindness against fears, against negative thoughts and against mistakes, knowing that as HSPs we tend to be harsh on ourselves.

-Practicing receiving. Simply because sometimes we are not good at receiving help or compliments.

-Going for the next best feeling. Some feelings and sensations are hard to overcome and trying to go from overwhelmed and negative to cheerful-positive is impossible; therefore, just taking one step at a time is better and completely ok.

-Learning to take responsibility. Knowing when a person or situation is too much simply because I am the sensitive one and knowing this (too) is completely ok.

-Doing our best. Which means softening the standards (we tend to be very hard on ourselves) and doing what we can at the moment: not what we “should” or what is expected, but what we can.

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Choose to be kind and grateful.

Some images from the internet.

 

About food, an overwhelming day, and my love for hiking.

We just celebrated my oldest daughter’s birthday and the fridge is full: muffins, banana cake, banana pie, and cookies. After a completely overwhelming day full of unexpected news about work and money, together with several events highlighting (still partially digested) truths about how my life is upside-down now, and a day in which I had planned to take a break to just read and rest… finding myself craving what’s inside the fridge freaked me out at first (I don’t even like banana! I can’t stand it).

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AAAhhhh anxiety! I’m tired and dehydrated. There, problem detected and accepted, emotions validated… now what?… Breathe…

After having a cup of soothing herbal tea I get prepared to call it a day. I tried to pray but it was not working. Of course He is always with me but I don’t want to talk neither listen, I’m too tired. I proceeded to do some tapping but I was not being that comfortable about it either. Panic… I was not going to be able to sleep like these. Breathe…

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I thought: “I will go mind hiking! Yes”.  I closed my eyes and started taking deep breaths… I was walking… there’s so much green, the smells, the wind, the temperature was just right for me. I could hear the wind through the trees. The wind… the lake is just around the corner… it was so silent and peaceful. I was able to pray there. I was able to rest there too. I wanted to stay there and never wake up…

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I really love hiking but I can’t do it as often as I wish I could. Therefore, I do my mind hiking and regain whatever strength I can gather from it. It is so important to release stress before sleep at night. There are so many ways of achieving this. What do you do to release stress before sleep?

Choose to be kind and grateful.

Images from the internet

About a mirror challenge.

 

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?”

I have been ‘face to face’  with an array of mirror references these past couple of months. Things like: “The power of looking at yourself in the mirror”, “mirror exercises”, “mirror therapy”,  “affirmations in front of mirror” and such things just kept appearing in my life via conversations, classes, books, tv programs and movies.

So, I got interested in the subject and paid attention. I even read some more about it and experimented with it. I discovered that sometimes we look at ourselves in the mirror and get a very satisfying result, but also discovered that mostly when we look, when we really look, the results are not so satisfying.

Sometimes we observe and what happens next goes like this: We look too old, too tired, too skinny, too fat, too weird, too tall, too short, big this, small that, too wrinkled, too young, too hairy, too big, too small, etc. Also, on rare occasions, we may even look at ourselves with such daring attention that we achieve eye contact with our reflection and we do not like what we see or how we feel.

On the other hand, while practicing and experimenting on myself, I discovered a doorway to amazing thoughts and feelings to work upon. It was really interesting.

So I thought I could share some simple ideas in case anyone got interested and wanted to try working a little on self discovery, self care and self love through mirror work. It requires daily practice and some courage.

Practice A: Learn to look at youself in the eyes in front of mirror for some minutes and then say to yourself: “I love you” several times each day.

Practice B: Get in front of mirror and promise yourself: “I will take care of you and even if it takes a lifetime, I will learn to love you, you have my deepest commitment”.

Practice C: Look at yourself and for each thing you see that you don’t like, find two things that are good about your body or yourself (one per day).

Practice D: Smile daily in the mirror and dance! Just move and enjoy being alive.

 

Choose to be kind and grateful.

Image from the internet.