“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

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

 

Grateful by Practice.

We all go through times when we are living in darkness and feeling the brutality of intense pain either physical or emotional. We usually receive sympathy (not good), if we are lucky we get empathy (so much better), sometimes we receive nothing. It is indeed during these dark times when we may hate zen advise the most. We may get to hear things like: “Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations”; “What doesn´t kill you makes you stronger”; “Someone else is happy with less than you have”, etc. Yes, we know these phrases to be true but we are not up for it when in the middle of a storm.

Nevertheless, there are phrases that do help, because they are practical. I particularly like: “I will practice gratitude to access joy” (Brené Brown).

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It is my opinion that being optimistic about the benefits of a new habit while also being realistic about how difficult building the habit may be, is the key to success. Being able to recognize the obstacles (mainly the pain and darkness felt at the moment, amongst others) that may get in the way is absolutely necessary.

In this case, we must accept there is no other way to get to be grateful (even if we definitely don’t feel like it) than to practice. People who are grateful even in the most difficult situations, weren’t born that way, they worked hard to be so and even they failed many times.

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Always reach out for help and support during times of hardship, darkness and pain.

It’s easier to be grateful during good times. I am still practicing being grateful during the hard ones. Would you?

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Choose to be kind and grateful.

(Images from the internet)

 

 

 

 

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

 

A not so simple opinion on forgiveness.

This was one of my first blog posts. I wanted to share it with you again. I would love to hear your opinion on forgiveness…

We all get hurt one way or the other. Such is life. It is the way we react that counts, or so I’ve heard. The truth is we need to forgive constantly in order to move on. In fact, we tend to forgive small things on a daily basis without even noticing. But when a major offense (or group of accumulated offenses) like abuse, serious lies, betrayal or any action resulting in a major loss comes crashing our way, the reaction is different. It may be immediate or it may take some time but we feel hurt, confused, vulnerable and  sadness, resentment and anger explodes within us.

 

 

 

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We have a problem now, besides the offensive act commited againts us I mean. We click into survival mode and find that pain and resentment are so uncomfortable that we try with all our might to put those feelings and emotions away, bury them and forget about them. This process may last hours, days, months or years. The subsequent effort in denying what we feel may create health consequences. Now, this may not be true for some people, but for some people it is. It happens that our heart knows, our soul knows and every cell in our body knows that we are in pain and that we are unable to forgive at the moment, and our whole being acts accordingly, even if our mind says otherwise.

Permanent unforgiveness causes chronic stress. Our feelings and emotions are alive and if buried, they will try to find a way out. This chronic stress response causes our body to release cortisol and excess insulin, to say the least, which results in short term or long term health issues that may include: low immune defense system, indigestion, weight gain, inability to loose weight, excess weight loss because of malnutrition or malnourishment, headaches and even depression.

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It is important to notice that forgiveness of a major offense will not take away the pain and resentment right away. Forgiveness is the switch that turns the power of healing on. Healing is a process, a slow one sometimes, which would be easier to undestand with an example of physical injury. Such may be the case of a person  riding a motorcycle when, suddenly, a newly licensed texting and driving teenager hits this person. They rush him/her to the ER and after a month in intensive care, this teen comes to see this person looking for forgiveness. This is a nice person, so compassion fills his/her heart and he/she forgives the kid. Did this person got out of the hospital the minute he/she forgave? Did the pain go away? Did the broken bones heal instantly? No. Healing will be a process of months, maybe a year or more. He/she will have scars, maybe for life and will need therapy, probably. But this person will go on and life will be good again someday because he/she is strong and just helped the recovery proccess by forgiving the kid for everything.

When a person is devastaded on the inside, the healing process may be slower than a physical one. It may take an hour, a day, a week, months even years but forgiveness always starts the healing process.

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Time doesn’t heal everything, it can make it worse actually, specially if we don’t forgive. So we have to choose either to forgive, let go and start healing or to resent, hold, bury and start affecting our health. So, forgiveness becomes a self care decision. We don’t forgive for the offender, we mainly forgive for our own self. Because we should love ourselves enough to care for our own well being. Because we live once and do not want to waste away life. Because we want to help our body, soul and heart to let go and relax in order to have a good working metabolism, better health and live in the best way possible.

It is so important to take our unresolved emotional and psychological issues into account when there is a physical health problem and viceversa. Forgiveness is key, it is within our reach and it is so worth it.

Choose to be kind and grateful. 

Images from the internet

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

Body confidence: A battle for many, who only a few dare describe.

An epidemic which silently steals away energy, happiness, and life itself! I hear stories like the one portrayed here ever more often than I wish. Please take the time to read it completely. Thank you to Embracing Authenticity for sharing this. You are so right!

Raise your hand if you’ve ever looked in the mirror and been left feeling utterly deflated. Believe me you’re not alone, I have both hands raised too! Thinking about it I don’t really know anyone who is completely satisfied with their body, it’s either too big, too small, to short. Blotches, pimples, wrinkles and hair […]

via Body Confidence – Why it’s not all about change… — Embracing Authenticity

Choose to be kind and grateful.

Image from the internet

Recognizing the difference between guilt, humiliation, and shame in order to live and not only survive in life.

Is it natural to feel ashamed or humiliated? Yes, of course it is natural, it is human. What can we do about it? Well, first it is important to recognize it and acknowledge that everybody experiences these emotions- yes, everybody.  But they are not one and the same, there is some difference between them, giving shame the opportunity to be the worst among them.

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Here is a very oversimplified way to differentiate these very complex emotions by our own thoughts or beliefs:

“I am bad” (shame)

“I did something bad” (guilt)

“I deserve this” (shame)

“I don’t deserve this” (humiliation)

All of the above may result from one same situation lived by different people and vary according to each person’s previous experiences. The same event may cause humiliation for someone and also cause deep damaging shame for another. This is important because humiliation fades away but shame remains.

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“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging” (Brené Brown).

I wanted to write about this topic so badly but it was so hard to comprise it in only a few words. Thanks to Brené Brown’s work, we all have a world of information about shame through her books.

Please be sure not to be bullying yourself into shame, because we only live once and shame stops you from living.

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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

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.