Monthly Archives: March 2014

Love & Anxiety #13: The Peaceful Tortoise vs. the Harried Hare.

Do you remember the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare? The story about the race between the tortoise and the rabbit, where the moral of the story is slow and steady wins the race. While this seems like a nice children’s story, it can also be a cautionary fable about our over-scheduled, distracted, fast paced busy lives. Many of my clients and friends are living a life-style that I call, ‘water skiing across the surface of life’. I know this well because that is how I lived for years. Moving quickly, speed for the sake of getting more done, feeling adrenaline and even, to feel important. (Surely someone this busy must be a valued member of society.)

I am so grateful for wise therapists and spiritual directors who have helped me begin to walk away from this lifestyle. However, many people I know are still stuck racing across life at the water ski pace. There is comfort in this speed, you stay so busy you don’t really have to feel much of anything, and you don’t have to face the unpleasant things or sensations occurring inside your body because you are just moving way too fast to pay attention!

There is a huge downside however, in the long run, this pace causes ill health and physiological problems. And, sadly, you are actually getting less done and accomplishing less than you think you will. There have been recent studies done on human attention spans and productivity and the same results show up. The best cycle for productivity is to be “on” or focused intently for 50 minutes, then “off” or resting for 10 minutes. Our bodies and brains are wired to be at maximum potential when they are working intently for a short amount of time and then resting. Stopping and taking a break makes us more productive mentally, not less. So that “balls to the wall” lifestyle where you don’t take a lunch break, don’t stop to pee or even eat, is not conducive to productivity. You look really busy and important, but you are so full of stress chemicals your mind is not able to work correctly and your ability to focus intently is mostly shot.

The other problem with this lifestyle is that speed generates adrenaline, which is not your friend! It is a stress chemical and its job or purpose is to be released in times of danger, to help us run from a tiger, or lift a car off our child, it is not meant to be used like a secret stash or cache of methamphetamine. When we race about all the time our muscles are braced and the adrenaline is coursing through our bodies. So we unconsciously/physiologically feel as if we were in danger, which brings in our old nemesis, body anxiety. If you don’t believe me, do an experiment. The next time you catch yourself racing, wolfing down your food, moving as if you were being chased, catch yourself. Stop and deliberately move at the speed of a turtle, for a bit. It will be challenging and you may even feel a bit more anxiety at first. However, if you stick with it, notice how your shoulders begin to detach from your ears and how your heart rate begins to decrease and how your breath begins to come in deeper and slower. One of the gifts of Slow is that you will feel calmer and more grounded.

So this week, try slowing down at dinner with the family or friends, slow down as you drive (the freeway will be a safer place), slowing down when you have a conversation and see that you are able to be more present, more available. And the best part, you will be able to feel the love you have for the people in your life and feel their love for you. Love and anxiety originate in different brain regions. So, getting out of the racing/anxiety mode, will allow you to access the parts of your body and brain that experience and take in the love. The love you are blessed enough to be surrounded by on a daily basis. For more information and benefit, read the book called, “In praise of Slow”.

 

 non-harried haresImage


Going Deeper:


1) What is your normal life pace? Is it manageable and relaxing, or is it too fast and too stressful? If so, what maintains this pace on a regular basis? Is it habit, or choice?

2) Take inventory this week. Notice your weekly/daily activities. Is there space to “be”, to breathe, or are you rushing from one activity to the next? Are there places you could create more space and rest by leaving earlier, or saying NO to some invitations or activities?

3) Try doing everything much slower this week. Slow down while eating, washing dishes, even exercising. Try to enjoy each activity and notice how a slower pace allows you to be present in your life. Let me know how it goes!

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Love & Anxiety # 12: Participation vs. Perfection

So many of my clients struggle with the dark misery of perfectionism. Studies show that Perfectionists are less happy and less healthy than non-perfectionists. Today I want to share a simple shift in focus that can help with this bi_ _ _ of a habit. The shift from trying to be perfect in your life to full participation in your life! This is an important shift for your body, Perfectionists struggle with anxiety which is a health squelcher!

Whether your quest for perfection is due to a type A personality, early childhood messages, or just a desire for excellence that got twisted and turbo charged, you set yourself up to fail when you decide perfection is your only option. The more we fail, the higher our anxiety levels climb and the more miserable we feel about ourselves. The more we set ourselves up to be perfect and then miss that mark, the more we fear loss; the loss of respect, loss of other’s love, loss of a job, etc. Fear of loss, activates our amygdala and our body responds with a flood of stress chemicals.

The shift I am suggesting is to move from a drive for perfection, to a striving for full participation in your life, relationships, job, hobbies, friendships, etc., unencumbered by the fear of not doing these perfectly. This shift can be eased along if you think about offering the best you have each day, not needing to be at your best each day. 

On my best day, after a good night sleep, my energy is high. I am pumped full of seretonin, and all is going right in my life. On that day I may perform better than on my worst day, where nothing goes right and my energy is low. But even on my worst day, if I strive to offer my best, some kind of multiplication magic seems to occur. Somehow, my best seems to be enough for each situation. My intention of fully participating and giving my all, somehow is perceived by the recipient and people feel my care, interest, and love, even on my worst day! Try it for yourself! See what happens.

If you shift your focus from being perfect to full participation in your life, you  and those you love will enjoy your life so much more. News flash, if you are a driven perfectionist, you are often a challenge to be around. Others are picking up on your misery at not meeting your own impossible expectations, which sort of defeats the purpose of trying to be perfect! Don’t take my word for it, ask your loved ones if they think you might be a perfectionist. My clients report very positive feedback from their families when they make the shift from perfection to participation. 

So I invite you, this next week practice being proud of yourself for giving your all! Shut down the negative voice, the non-paying tenant in your mind’s prime real estate, that demands the impossible. It needs a break as much as you do. Your body, and your family and friends will thank you! Let today be the day you shift from perfection into participation.

ImageShelley & I, far from perfect, but having fun!

 Going Deeper:

1) Ask yourself why is being perfect is of utmost importance for you? What do you gain from trying to be perfect? Whatever you come up with, ask yourself if this gain is more important than good health and really enjoying your life. This may take a while to wrestle with but I encourage you to try.

2) Think about the last situation you struggled to be perfect. Try replaying it in your head, but this time imagine you are fully participating in the situation, giving it your best effort. Notice the difference you feel in your body with the 2 scenarios.

 To learn how to evict the anxiety in your life, join one of my 3-week anxiety reduction workshops. Go to http://www.sdtraumatherapy.com for more information. Mention this blog when you sign up and receive a 10% discount! Happy Loving.

Series Blog #11: Love & Anxiety, the Teeter Totter We Balance Upon.

Today’s blog is about how love and anxiety work together; or more accurately, in opposition to each other. The body state of being deeply loved, or deeply loving, is the polar opposite of the body state of fear and anxiety. When we are afraid, our amygdala is signaling danger and our body is being shot full of a solution of cortisol and adrenaline.

When we are full of love or desire for something or someone, we move toward that person or goal. However, when we are very afraid of someone or something, we move away from that person or goal. I often share this simple formula with my clients. ‘When your love or desire for something is greater than your fear, you will pursue and risk. But if your fear is greater than your love or desire for something, you will retreat and not risk’. So, if you have a situation where you really want a certain goal or outcome but you are very afraid, the best thing you can do is to work on increasing your desire for the end goal. As your love/desire grows, your fear will begin to give way. The love/desire is a stronger and more powerful motivator  than fear is, but fear SCREAMS louder in our minds, and grabs our attention much more quickly.

I will use my own experience this morning to illustrate. My friends have been asking me repeatedly to join the early morning surf party. My first experience with surfing was negative, I got hurt and never tried again, (I know how sad). And, I really don’t enjoy cold water, or being cold, you could almost say it scares me. So between the two thoughts, cold water and I might get hurt again, my fear of going was much stronger than my desire to go. However, I attended a conference and by chance surf lessons were included. So I went and had a great time, and a very positive experience. Along with the patient encouragement of my dear friend Char I had so much new motivation that my desire to go surfing began to grow and my fear began to recede, just like the ocean tide!

So this morning, I wiggle into my sausage skin, (read full wetsuit), and head for the water. My desire to try is strong, but my fear is still there. Though my friends were with me, the first 30 minutes, I was mostly aware of how cold my body was, (you can’t die from 30 mins in cold water can you?) and how big the waves seemed. So I took a short break to warm up. But, the second time I went in, Char came along and stood beside me. Remember, we need each other for a sense of safety. And that time I caught a few small waves, and I stood up!! Though I might have resembled a drunk staggering out of a saloon, I did it, and it was awesome! Now my fear is much smaller and my desire is much greater.

Image

So just remind yourself, desire and fear can’t both stay high. One goes up and one goes down. So go for it, try that new thing, idea, business, relationship! You can do it. Allow yourself to experience the power of love/desire as a motivational source. As the bible succinctly puts its, “Perfect love casts out fear”.

Going Deeper:

1) What is it that you long for but are afraid of pursuing? Write out your fear in pencil, but then list all the reasons for your desire in lovely colors. Notice how you feel just looking at both sides

2) If you dare, spend this next week just thinking every day about this desire. Try to feel it in your body and nurture its flame. Avoid focusing on the fear, just stick with the feelings and thoughts of your desire. Let me know what happens!