Tuesday, 26 May 2020

The reality of the change timeline

After two months of wearing masks, social distancing and hand washing, my partner shared with me, "even after two months, someone stuck their hand out to shake and it was like second nature to shake back." (Luckily there is soap and water to wash away to mistake). This is such a great example of how ingrained our habits are and how it takes a long time to unlearn one habit and learn a
new one.

Patience with the change process is important on the path to healing and self-growth.  Change doesn't happen over night.  It starts with awareness of the pattern and then takes conscious effort and self-discipline to do it differently.  Especially if this pattern has been happening for decades!

Just imagine, if you decided to start taking your shirt off by crossing your arms the other way than what is normal for you. What that would be like?  Go ahead, take a moment to try it. Most likely it will feel weird, awkward, and your muscles don't even know how to really work this way.  If you wanted to make this your new habit, think about how many hundreds, if not thousands of times, you would have to take your shirt off in this new way before it started to feel comfortable, let alone for it to become the habit of taking your shirt off - without even thinking about it.  Whew!

Translate this into changing the way you think about yourself and the world.  If you believe, "I'm not ____ enough," (and most of us have some version of this as an underlying belief deep down), and you decided you're tired of believing this and feeling this way, so you want to start believing, "I am enough." 

It will take time, effort, practice and practice and practice...to change your thinking.

It's amazing how many places our negative beliefs show up, running in the background without us even being aware. It's like peeling back the payers of an onion. First you become aware of the surface
layers of that negative belief, so you practice unlearning that negative belief and start believing, "I am enough." Then that negative belief rears it's head somewhere else. The process continues with each new layer. Kind of like a Whack-O-Mole game.

The amazing part is those more surface layers of a negative belief allow you to practice the new belief so as you find the deeper layers of the negative belief, you are only strengthening that new, positive belief.  It gets to the point that the negative belief is truly helping you and guiding you to where you need more practice with the new belief, "I am enough."

So, the next time you find yourself thinking, "I shouldn't feel this way anymore," give yourself a break!  That old belief is hanging on for dear life and will get sneaky.  Instead, meet that "shouldn't" with a "Hell, yeah!  There you are again, I'm aware of you and I don't have to keep going with you.  I'm going with 'I am enough' instead."

Patience and Practice.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Take it From a Recovering Worrier

I think I was born into this world with a mind ready to worry.  It's an emotion
I've felt ever since I can
remember and an action I've practiced forever.  Despite this, pretty early on, I grew tired of this way of being.  Around the third grade, I consciously decided, "I'm not doing this anymore!"  The first step to changing it was around the worry of what other's thought of me.

I was so consumed with this at times that it would keep me from reaching out to people, asking for what I needed, or keeping me from doing things I really wanted to do.  I was labelled as "shy," but looking back at it, I was just so worried that I would be judged, shot down and told I wasn't good enough, so I didn't take that risk of putting myself out there.

When I came to the decision that I was going to put myself out there in third grade, I started to slowly do things despite the worry and fear screaming at me to stop. I would force myself to start talking more and putting myself out there.

This is still a practice for me today.  Owning my own business provides opportunities to practice putting myself out there, reaching out to others, and talking to people I don't know well.  Some days that worry part of me isn't even around because I've been practicing with it for so long.  But some days, when I'm more tired or stressed, there she is, right beside me, making excuses and inviting self-doubt to the party.

Here are some concrete things I do to take action despite what worry says or how she makes me feel.

1. The first step is just to be aware she's even there.  When worry is present, my mind is racing, I'm shallow breathing, I sweat more and my heart races.

2. The second step is to take some conscious breaths - down into my belly, slowly exhaling through
my nose.

3. And then I listen. What is worry trying to tell me now?  I let myself feel all the sensations of worry. Basically letting the energy of worry move through me instead of blocking that energy. I find just by doing this, worry starts to settle down because she's got my attention.

4. Then I get curious and question the message worry is trying to tell me is true.  Questions like, "Is that really 100% true?  Why am I even trying to take this action?  What is the real issue here?  Does
this situation remind me of some other time?"  By getting curious and questioning, usually I am able to find clarity in what action I really want to take, rather than avoid and withdraw. 

5. Then I thank worry as she's helped me to get more clear and focused.

There are some days when I need to use other tools as well, like talking to someone I trust, writing things out, taking a break to get outside or just do something else before coming back to the issue.  These four steps, though, happen at some point in the process and it may take more than one visit with worry to move through it.

The practice of being aware of reactions in our mind/body system and using the breath to be present are core practices of yoga and yoga for self-transformation.  Even in an asana (pose) class, these two practices are an essential part and a big part of what contributes to all the positive benefits you may feel at the end of a class.

So, use worry as a part of practicing yoga in daily life. Begin to own worry sensations and start to lean into worry with curiosity. 

Worry is and, most likely, will always be a part of my life.  She no longer runs the show and I consider her a friend to embrace. She is not who I am, just a part of the gift of the human experience to learn and grow from.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Are You Doing These Three Basics for Mental Well Being Right Now?

Change is always happening, right? Fear is such a normal part of change because change shakes the foundation of our comfort zones. If we go with the fear reaction, we might find ourselves feeling overwhelmed and scared, trying to find things outside of ourselves to self-soothe. Some things we are doing might be more healthy, like exercise, cooking wholesome meals, talking with friends, and doing projects we have put off for years. Some things might not be healthy and even making things worse, like overeating, too much screen/ TV time, sleeping way too much, staying up really late, drinking more alcohol and using more substances...all to numb out.
If the latter is happening to you, please, it’s time to do something different. Here are top three things to make sure you are doing for your own mental care right now:
- Routine! Keeping a routine is very important in times of change. When change happens, think of the comfort zone again. It’s been uprooted so it’s a time when we can feel ungrounded, lost, without purpose. Routine helps to keep grounded.
  1. First and foremost, keep the time you wake up and go to bed the same. I’ve been hearing about people, especially teens, that have completely had their sleep times turned upside down. Awake and night and sleeping during the day. This alone will spiral into a depressive state. Get the sleep schedule back on track!
  2. Keep a regular morning and evening routine that includes hygiene, exercise and time without a screen on.  Have some evenings where TV is not allowed and read, play games with others, learn an instrument...do something different.
  3. Eat at the same time each day. This helps to keep the body and mind more clear and focused.

- Get outside! I know this will be more of a challenge depending where you live but it’s very important.
Staying inside all the time is like putting blinders on a horse, the mind forgets there’s an amazing world out there and starts to get more afraid. Get fresh air, Vitamin D, and connect with nature if possible. Even in cities, the changes in nature right now are stunning. Go experience it. Even if you need to put on a mask, it’s so worth it.

      - Be kind to yourself. This is an aspect of self-compassion. When you are aware you’re feeling sad or overwhelmed, reach out to someone, let yourself cry, give yourself a self-massage, listen to uplifting music… Have no tolerance to thoughts that are negative and self-judging. Read things that are inspiring and lift you up, which means
      limiting yourself to how much news you are watching or reading. If your FB feed is bringing you down, take a break from it, seek out groups that are more inspiring and block those who are only negative. It’s time to start treating yourself like you would a dear friend.

      These are three things I recommend at any time for mental well being. They are also the some of the first things to be let go of when we are stressed and overwhelmed. If you have any questions about how to implement these coping tools or feel you need more support, feel free to contact me through www.samyayogahealing.com/contact/ .