An Antidote to Fear

An Antidote to Fear

I’ve been feeling a lot of fear lately.  Maybe you have too? 

Fear is not usually helpful, unless a tiger is chasing you and fear makes you run.  Then it is super helpful!

When we are afraid, our brain shuts downs.  We get less blood flow to the decision-making parts of our brain.  The most primitive part of our brain, the amygdala, is in charge.  Again, this is awesome when we literally need to fight or run for our lives, but not great when we are in an argument with someone, or in bed at night trying to sleep.

Because my go-to response is overwhelm or a sense of helplessness, I always look for how I got back to a sense of agency.  How I can choose to respond, instead of my brain shutting down.

Yesterday I was feeling a lot of fear for humanity.  I’m afraid of our isolation and our inability to see each other because we are wearing masks.  Masks cover the parts of our face that convey whether we are dangerous or safe to others. 

For the brain geeks reading this, the part of our face between our eyes and mouth constantly has micro-movements we can’t consciously control.  The nervous system takes that information and tells our body whether we can relax with someone or be on guard. 

Back to the antidote (woohoo!)  One of the best antidotes to fear is connecting—connecting to ourselves, others, pets, nature.  Connecting gets your brain on board.

Yesterday was a beautiful, warm, sunny afternoon in Seattle, and I was filled with fear.  It was time to be in nature.

As soon as I was done working, I hauled my towel, a good book, snacks, and my floatie to my favorite place in the summer—Greenlake—a lake in the middle of Seattle.

I floated in the lake, feeling the water on my legs, looking at the blue sky, the ducks, and the people swimming.  I got out of my head and into the amazing part of the world that is still here, even during the coronavirus.

I felt peace and calm and joy.  Greenlake brought me back to myself. 

Nature has the power to bring us out of our minds, so we can come back to ourselves.

There are many ways to connect.  A favorite way to connect is to talk to people I love.  Even leaving a voicemail saying I called to say I love them makes me feel connected.  I pet my cats.  I get out of my fear-based mind and am present with what is outside my mind and my negative thoughts.

What are your ways to connect?  Use them, especially now that the world is set up to disrupt our connections.  It is important that we intentionally choose to connect and relate, and be in our hearts versus in fear. 

My new favorite way to connect is through being on podcasts.  I am always amazed at the conversations I have.  The connection that occurs in the space of an hour, even when I’ve never spoken to the person before, still surprises me. 

I invariably leave the interview feeling deep gratitude for the experience and the person I just spent time with.

In this Love Note I am including a podcast recently posted.  Conveniently, the Podcast is Connectfulness.

I’ve known Rebecca Wong for several years.  We met at a conference for therapists.  I connected with her right away.  And during this podcast I remembered one of the things that drew me to her—her skill at listening and being present to the conversation are unparalleled.

Have a listen, and see if you feel more connected as a result.

Take care,

P.S.  As I type this up, a little later, I am feeling ridiculously good.  The world is not any different than yesterday, but I am different in it, because I made the choice to connect rather than stay in fear.  Woohoo! 

Now is The Time to Take Action Against Racism

Now is The Time to Take Action Against Racism

Now is the time. 

Now is the time to do whatever we can to fight racism.

That doing will not be the same for everyone.

Many of my clients, and I, are saying and feeling, “I’m not doing enough.” 

I am of two minds about this.

First, it is true.  There is more we could do, always.  There is more to do than we can ever do.  Even if we do all we can, we alone, cannot fix all the oppression in the world.

Do not let this stop you.  Don’t let it draw you into hopelessness.  There is always something you can do.  Seek those actions out and do them, even if they are small. 

Small actions matter.  They add up.  They make a difference.

Small actions feed you.  They feed you so you have energy to do more.  They work.  They help. 

My second mind says, when we spend so much energy telling ourselves we aren’t doing enough, we help less.  We have less motivation to take action.  We drain ourselves. 

Draining ourselves helps no one. 

When you are drained, you have less to give to create change.  Give yourself time and space for what nourishes you.  When you are replenished, you have more to give.  

Let yourself be fed by the actions you are taking for yourself, and to fight racism. 

Let them feed you, and you will feed others. 

One of the actions I am taking is to educate myself about oppression. 

If you are white, please read White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. 

It is a hard book to read.  You will feel bad.  You will learn ways you are racist that you never knew. 

I did.

You will also have information to help you counter the implicit racist perceptions we ALL have, simply by living in the United States.  It will make you more aware. 

When we are aware, we can make different choices. 

PBS is screening, for free, Reconstruction:  America After the Civil War. It will show you the long history of oppression that still affects us today. 

If you want to take action, and are not sure what would be helpful, this article is for you; It lists 75 things people can do for racial justice.

Another article, Dear White People, This is What We Want You to Do,    is full of emotionally difficult truths, but they are important to know. 

It is hard to know these things.  It is emotionally draining.  I don’t know anyone who claps for joy at seeing others’ pain, or seeing our own blindness. 

Allow yourself to feel the pain.  Don’t shut down.  Let it open you up.  Let it feed you. 

When our heart is broken open, it becomes bigger.  We have more compassion. 

More compassion is what we ALL need right now. 

Take care,

Dig Deep and Know Your Strength

Dig Deep and Know Your Strength

I believe tragedy shows us who we are, at our core.

In my twenties I often wondered how I would have responded in WWII if I were in Germany and not Jewish. Would I have turned in Jews? Would I have punished others? Would I have helped Jews, risking my life and those I love—to be humane in a time of hatred? Would I have stood by silently, hoping to get through unharmed–trying not to feel the enormity of lives lost? I don’t know.

One sunny afternoon, when I was in college, a group of my friends and I were sitting in a loose circle on the floor of a dorm room, talking about whatever was on our minds at the time. I looked around the circle, wondering why we all choose to be friends.

It hit me—we had all suffered a trauma of some sort. Each of us. Yet here we were, winding our way through a very demanding college, making friends, having fun, thriving.

Being the overly-philosophical one of the group, I asked my friends what they thought—were our traumas what brought us together?

It was not our trauma, we decided—it was our strength.

We all had a sureness, a solidness, we each unconsciously recognized. It drew us to each other. Don’t mistake me—we (or at least I) all had our own brand of insecurity, suffering, and angst. But we felt strength below that.

We are in a time of mass trauma. Listening to the news yesterday morning. I almost sank to my knees, as further realization of the devastation sank in.

I wondered how I was going to handle all the pain I was feeling.

Then it hit me—I’ve been in training for this most of my life. I’ve been through tragedy and survived. I’ve felt immense pain and moved through, and past it.

I love reading fantasy novels, books with other worlds, magic, villains, and very flawed heroes and heroines. The characters dig deep, find their strength, and save themselves and others as a result.

Sadly, what we are living through with COVID-19 is not fantasy. The entire world is experiencing the very real struggles, uncertainty, and fears too many face all their lives.

Many of us have already been tested, and though we still struggle, we know our strength. We will make it through, stronger, even if the end result is death.

This is a time for us to dig deep and remember—or discover—our strength, our resilience, our human need to connect, love, and care.

Some will be too scared and will shut down, closing in on themselves to ward off the knowledge of what is happening. Give them your compassion.

Find loved ones in your life, or authors, speakers, and leaders who inspire you. Spend time with their words, wisdom, and strength.

Let their strength touch your strength.

For me, Brene Brown is a touchstone. She reminds me of who I want to be—who I can be. She just started a podcast, Unlocking Us. As I type this, I’m listening to Liz Gilbert being interviewed by Chris Anderson of TED. It is a worthy way to spend an hour.   John McCutcheon is a folk artist who is, quite simply, a good human being. I am more in love with the world every time I hear his music. 

Be kind to yourself, dear one. As Liz Gilbert said, cover yourself with a “blanket of mercy.” We are all struggling.

Struggle is ok, it is natural. Allow yourself to feel the pain. You will survive.

Remember your strength, your courage, your ability to care. Let this time hone you. Let yourself come out stronger, more courageous, more honest, more caring, more you.

I love you. You can do this.

Take care,

Reduce Stress & Increase Focus through Alpha Wave Music

Reduce Stress & Increase Focus through Alpha Wave Music

Hello!

This love note is about a powerful tool for stress reduction—alpha wave music.

I don’t know about you, but my last month was, shall we say, FILLED with stress. I may talk about that in a later newsletter, but the events of last month prompted me to share one of my favorite tools to help reduce stress, and focus more easily.

When alpha waves are produced in your brain, your body and mind calm down. A calm mind and body means reduced stress. Yay!

Not only do alpha waves help reduce our stress, they also increase our ability to use our mind. Alpha waves bring both hemispheres of our brain on-line, increasing our cognitive abilities, creativity, problem-solving, and ability to learn.

One of the fastest ways to generate alpha waves is through alpha wave music. (I’m listening to alpha wave music as I write this.)

There are many, many options out there for alpha wave music. Two of my favorites are:

DEEP ALPHA Relaxing Music plus Brainwave Entrainment for Meditation and Healing by Steven Halpern. You can find it at www.StevenHalpernMusic.com.

The one I’m listening to right now is from You Tube. It is 6 Hour Study Music Alpha Waves: Relaxing Studying Music, Brain Power, Focus Concentration Music https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lecITZkWqzg

I encourage you to listen to some options and choose what feels right to you.

Take care,

Jane

 

Want to make your New Year’s Resolution last more than a week?

Want to make your New Year’s Resolution last more than a week?

Welcome to the season of goal setting and self-flagellation!

I stopped setting New Year goals years ago, because I always started off the year feeling like a failure.  I am not alone.

Research has shown that less than 25% of people are still keeping their goals by the end of January.  Worse, only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals.  

Nevertheless, we are still driven to set big goals, create vision boards, buy gym shoes, and hope for huge changes–because of a day on the calendar.  

(Don’t even get me started on how weird I think it is that we are supposed to be awake, excitedly happy, kissing someone, and jumping up and down blowing a horn because the clock goes from 11:59 to 12 on a cold, dark, night of the year…)

But back to the original topic…There is a lot of information out there on how to set goals and keep them.  Yet we continue to fail. Why?

Most of us don’t keep our goals because we don’t believe we deserve them.  

If you decide to set a goal for yourself, I suggest a small, gentle practice to help you create a shift in your beliefs. 

Say to yourself “I’m the kind of person who (insert your goal.)”

I first learned this tool on a visit to the East Coast to meet with my coach.  I stay with my friend Mellissa when I first arrive. I usually didn’t exercise on those trips, because the meetings start at 8am, (5am my internal clock time).  That felt WAY too early for me to get up early to exercise.  

Melissa asked me “do you want an idea to help with that?”  Since she is a mindset maven, I of course answered “yes.” She said “say to yourself ‘I’m the kind of person who exercises.’”  

She learned this idea from James Wedmore’s podcast interview with Colin Boyd  http://mindyourbusinesspodcast.com/podcast/255

I said it.  It felt good.  I said it several more times that day to Melissa.  I said it before I went to bed. I said it when my alarm went off at 6am (3am my internal time.)  And I got up and exercised! For good measure, I said it while I was exercising. That felt super good!  That was a year ago, and I still use that practice when I’m on the East Coast. I feel SO much better having exercised before sitting all day.  

Here are 4 reasons it worked.  

  1. I didn’t actually set a goal.  I just kept repeating how I wanted to act.  I didn’t qualify my success on a certain behavior.  I just kept repeating to myself what I wanted to believe about myself.

     

  2. I didn’t make the statement too audacious. I didn’t say “I’m the kind of person who exercises every day for an hour, for the rest of my life.” Ack! I would instantly rebel. That goal is too big and unforgiving. The first day I didn’t exercise, my goal would be a failure.
  3. Because I chose a statement that was a stretch, but not too big, it felt good to say it. I literally felt better just by saying the statement.
  4. I kept repeating the statement. Remember, beliefs are just thoughts we keep thinking. When we keep repeating a statement, positive or negative, it becomes a belief.

If you have a behavior you want to shift, practice saying “I’m the kind of person who (insert the behavior you want.).  Notice how it feels to say that thought. If it doesn’t feel good, try other statements until you find one that feels good to say.  

Repeat it.  Say it out loud, write it on sticky notes, put a reminder on your phone, tell a friend.  Repeat it until it feels like a belief about you. If you believe you are the kind of person who…you will be the kind of person who…

Let me know how it works for you!


Take care,

 

Why Gratitude is so Powerful for your Brain

Why Gratitude is so Powerful for your Brain

Why is the simple practice of gratitude so helpful?
It is good for our brain and makes us more effective:

  1. Positive emotions fill our brain with dopamine and serotonin.  These chemicals make us feel good and increase our ability to learn.  They help us process new information, keep that information in the brain longer, and remember it faster later on.

     

  2. Feeling happy improves our ability to perform tasks and solve problems.

     

  3. We feel better when we think happy thoughts.  People who are grateful are more energetic and emotionally intelligent.

Gratitude is powerful!

Many years ago, I decided to try out this gratitude thing.  It sounded good, but I always test things on myself to see if they work, before I share them with my clients.  After 2-4 weeks of a daily gratitude practice, I noticed I started feeling spontaneously grateful throughout the day.  It actually caught me by surprise!  I could tell my neural pathways were being built and strengthened.
What’s the best way to practice gratitude? 
Our neural pathways can be rewired faster if we have a feeling attached to the thoughts because it uses more of our brain.  
Here are two simple exercises you can do to help retrain your brain into grateful thinking: 

  1. Spend 30 seconds just FEELING gratitude.  Pay attention to what is happening in your body.  Do you feel your chest expanding?  Do you feel it becoming bigger and warmer? Do you notice a change in your breathing? There is no right way to feel gratitude.  Just notice how it feels in your body.

     

  2. List 3 things for which you are grateful.  Feel true gratitude for what you listed. Some people prefer lists, either written or spoken aloud.  It can include the same things over and over again, or it can be as varied as you’d like.

When is a good time to do this practice?
Morning sets you up for your day and bed-time thinking shapes how you perceive the experiences in your life.  Both are important, and feel free to award yourself plenty of bonus points if you practice morning and night!
While the time of day is an important factor, the most important part is the actual feeling.  You can take 30 seconds at any point during the day to feel gratitude!
Practice it and let me know how it works for you!  


I am thrilled to announce I am offering my on-line course 7 Powerful Practices for Your Inner Perfectionist in January! 
What if everything you knew about being perfect was wrong? 

  1. Are you hard on yourself?
  2. Do you worry about being judged by others?
  3. Do you always judge your results as not good enough, no matter how hard you worked?
  4. Do you want to be a better person?

If you answered “yes” to 2 or more of these questions, this course is for you!  

Take care

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