Use the power of your breath to ease anxiety

When there’s an anxiety-producing event looming – an important presentation, dental surgery, a first date – you can start to calm your nerves the day before with this exercise. Close your eyes and gently bring your lips together. Inhale through your nose. As you exhale (also through your nose), make a humming sound: “Mmmmmm.” Let this hum last as long as it is comfortable. Then inhale and repeat. Don’t try to control it too much. Just breathe in and hum out. If you try to extend the hum longer than is natural, you might tighten up. Play with the tone until you find the place where your “mmmmmm” flows out in a comfortable, lowish pitch, audible but quiet enough that no one except, say, the person right next to you on the bus would hear it. The humming breath has a way of loosening your jaw, mouth, lips, and tongue – areas that tend to tense up when you’re nervous. Once you’ve found your hum, repeat it whenever you start to feel anxious – whether you’re standing, sitting, or walking. Let it be easy and fun. Over the course of the day, the soothing effect will build, helping you become more and more relaxed for the big event.

Exercise by Cyndi Lee, founder of OM Yoga. Taken from Real Simple Magazine, September 2015

Advertisements

Assault is not your fault

Sexual assault, rape, molestation, unwanted fondling, unwanted attention, stalking, sexual harassment, battering, emotional abuse, domestic violence…. NONE of it is your fault.

Decide to find a trusted soul who can supportively listen as you talk about what happened, share your feelings and begin to release some of the shame, self-blame and pain. You didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t do anything to cause yourself to be hurt. It is not your fault.

National Domestic Violence Hotline:http://www.thehotline.org/. 1.800.799.SAFE(7233)

Women’s Resource Center to End Domestic Violence: http://www.wrcdv.org/. 404.688.9436

National Sexual Assault Hotline: https://rainn.org/get-help/national-sexual-assault-hotline. 1.800.656.HOPE (4673)

National Child Sexual Abuse Helpline: http://www.d2l.org/site/. 1-866-FOR-LIGHT (866-367-5444)

National Association of Working Women: http://9to5.org/home/. 1.800.522.0925

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: http://www.eeoc.gov/. 1.800.669.4000

You can be okay again. You are not alone.

Take time to take care of yourself

In a recent issue of the Atlanta Journal Constitution Helena Oliviero offered an article titled, Balance in Life Starts with you.  Oliviero shared tips from various life coaches and wellness gurus. Gabby Reese, fitness guru, mom of three and entrepreneur, contributed these eight nuggets of advice for achieving balance in life. I added some thoughts about Gabby’s advice. Take what works for you and make it your own.

  • Schedule exercise – Appointments with yourself are just as important as appointments you make with and for others. Write workout time on your calendar and show up for yourself just like you show up for everyone else. Think investment rather than chore.
  • Plan meals in advance – Deciding what you will eat in advance makes it more likely that you will choose foods that help you feel your best. Last minute or convenience choices usually dishonor healthy eating goals.
  • Leave work at work – Technology makes it easy to blur the lines between work and home. For many of us it can feel like we are always working, even when we are “off” Blurred lines between work and personal time can rob us of the rest time we need to restore and be our best.
  • Decide what is important and write it down – It can be very clarifying to commit to personal priorities in writing. Use your list to stay on track and minimize distractions. As you make daily choices it can be helpful to look at your list and ask yourself – is what I am about to do going to move me closer to or farther from my goals and priorities?
  • Concentrate on one thing at a time – Multitasking may seem like a good idea but studies show that doing one thing at a time is more efficient. Multitasking slows you down and increases stress levels.
  • Keep only one calendar – Writing everything down in one place can make it easier to see all work, life and family plans so you can spread them out and not become too overwhelmed. Wouldn’t it be great not to be overwhelmed at all? Work on that!
  • Schedule at least one thing you look forward to everyday – This is something just for you. Pick something you love – it doesn’t have to cost money – and find a way to fit it in for at least a few minutes everyday. It could be coffee on your deck with relaxing music or a book, yoga, a walk with your dog or a visit with a friend. Whatever it is, give yourself permission to make it happen.
  • Set up some accountability – Ask someone who is emotionally healthy enough to be supportive of your self-care plans. Check in about how you are doing. You may even consider doing some things together. Maybe if your goal is to try a triathlon or learn how to swim, you can sign up and train together. It is harder to skip your workout when you know your fitness buddy is waiting for you.

There is a saying that goes, if it is to be it is up to be. That is especially true when it comes to taking care of yourself. It really is up to you. Make it happen for yourself.

It is okay to ask for help

“God helps those who help themselves”

  • This common phrase is not actually a bible verse
  • It is intended as a way of encouraging initiative, but often functions as a way of shaming instead

The real truth…if you don’t speak up for yourself, who will?

  • No one understands your needs better than you do
  • You are your own best advocate
  • Asking for help should not be understood as a sign of weakness
  • Strong, capable people need help just like everybody else
  • Having initiative does not mean you have to be completely self-reliant.
  • Identifying and advocating for your needs is one way of taking the initiative for getting those needs met.
  • Choosing not to remain silent about what you need and want is a way of practicing self care.

Living Intentionally

And if only one more hour…? Those may not be the exact words, but that is the gist of a quote I came across several months ago. I cut the words into a small strip of paper that is now pinned to a bulletin board in my office.

We all know that death is inevitable. We hope the day is far away. But what if it isn’t?

Reading those words reminded me of how precious time is. Still, I squander time and take my relationships with self and others for granted. I refuse to abandon the superfluous, choosing instead to occupy myself with things, thoughts and activities that really don’t matter.

Perhaps it sounds cliché, but for those of us with seemingly endless days ahead it is very important to live in a way that, at least occasionally, considers the question – and if only one more hour…? It does not seem reasonable or prudent to take for granted the gift of health or time. Everyone does not get to enjoy these gifts.

Some of us are, inexplicably, given more time. It seems a shame to squander it when so many others wish desperately for another, day, year, or decade. Assuming you have it how will you make the most of it?

Living intentionally invites us to consider some of life’s larger questions. So, if only one more hour…? How you answer may uncover some clues that help you improve the quality of your time, your choices and your life.

“You can go your own way”

Women are making some strides politically and in the corporate world, but what about socially? Not so much.

There remains an underlying vein of discomfort – even guilt – as we break away from long loathed limits. “Having it all” comes up often, but that isn’t the real issue. The real issue is having the freedom from cultural pressure to identify and choose what we want. Then to actually go for whatever that is without apology.

The dreams our great-grandmothers, grandmothers, and even mothers, dreamt are becoming real. We have more choices about what we can do, but not as many real choices about how we can be. There is still a great deal of tension related to identity, gender socialization and life choices.

For example, do we choose from the multiple roles available to us (employee, mother, leader, wife, partner, etc.) or does the cultural current simply carry us along until we settle into these roles. How do they fit together and how do we reconcile the sometimes conflicting responsibilities of each? How do we find (and use) our voices when our subconscious minds still believe on some level that women should be accommodating and made of the requisite sugar, spice and everything nice?

The next frontier we conquer must be social and cultural norms. Our job as women with more choices is to actually embrace and exercise them without regard for the cultural limits that keep us in conflict with ourselves. You know the limits. They show up in our willingness to speak up for everyone except ourselves; torment us whether we work in or outside the home, encourage us to stay in unhappy relationships, and fill us with doubt about our life choices.

The fear of cultural backlash can make it difficult for women to be honest about who they are and what they want. We worry about being perceived as a “ball buster” or a bad mom. We worry about how it will look if we are single, without children or divorced. We worry about fitting in and about not upsetting the status quo. We’ve had a lifetime of worrying about the right way to be a woman. That will not earn us a second life. We will still get only one.

Some warning signs of domestic violence

Isolation – In the beginning it may not be obvious that you are spending less time with family and friends because it feels like you have some choice in the matter. You may hear things like, don’t go out with them tonight, I haven’t seen you all week, I miss you. Your partner’s behavior may also appear initially as chivalrous as in – you don’t need a car or to learn your way around, I don’t mind taking you where you want to go.

Criticism – You may begin to feel that you can’t do anything right. Suddenly there is something lacking in your shape, size, parenting, housekeeping, education, conversation, abilities, etc.

Blaming – Abusers often fail to take responsibility for their feelings or circumstances. They insist their intimate partner makes them angry and causes them to be hurtful and mean, or they complain that the partner is responsible for everything from a bad day to the promotion they did not get.

Jealousy – Women in abusive relationships are sometimes accused of being unfaithful. The batterer scrutinizes every aspect of her behavior and sees infidelity where it does not exist. For example, if a woman casually greets a neighbor or changes her hairstyle, “she must be having an affair.” Gradually, many women will self-isolate, limiting where they go and whom they talk to in order to avoid a potential confrontation.

Past Abuse – There is no reason to assume that a person who has battered will not continue doing so. Change can happen, but not without hard work. That means the person using violence to control their intimate partner must accept responsibility for their behavior and actively work on adopting new behaviors. Just saying you are going to be different does not make it so.

Intimidation – This may take the form of breaking or slamming things and other shows of physical strength or prowess designed to incite fear.

Tension – Women at risk of or experiencing domestic violence often describe a tense atmosphere in which they “walk on eggshells,” constantly worried about doing or saying anything that will “set their partner off.”

This list is not exhaustive. The most important warning sign of domestic violence is your instinct. It is okay to trust your gut when it tells you something is not right. Help is available. Contact the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or ncadv.org for confidential, free resources and support in your area.

It is estimated that 1 in 3 women will experience some form of domestic violence in her lifetime. You are not alone.

Living with domestic violence

There is a saying that goes, do not allow yourself to be led away from the truth by what you would like to believe.

Domestic violence can be particularly difficult to come to terms with because of the complexity of emotions, values and hopes involved. Letting go of the hope that everything will be okay happens over a period of time, rather than in a day or a single moment. Some women leave and go back several times. If that describes you – never give up on yourself. You deserve a relationship free from physical and emotional violence. If that describes someone you know – never give up on her or assume “she likes it.” All people want and deserve to be happy and free from suffering.

Check back tomorrow for some of the warning signs of domestic violence

Prioritize Ruthlessly

Prioritize ruthlessly – Tina Tchen

Don’t let meaningless busyness or petty distractions steal the time you need for restoration, relationships, goals or any must-do’s that are deeply important to you.

You can make it happen – whatever “it” is – when you give yourself permission to clarify priorities and focus on them with deliberate intention.

Leap for your dreams

Take the leap. You have already failed in a thousand big and small ways – you did not die. You learned, you adjusted, you kept growing forward. Why not risk failure for something that really matters to you? Go ahead and launch your business, get sober, write a book, ask a question, sign up for the race, step out, take that class, say yes to whatever your dream is. Go big, and if you fail it will be in the knowledge that you took a glorious leap toward the deep longing you have felt. It is okay to let yourself be pulled forward by that longing. Allow it to fill you, it might even quiet some of your fears.

Know that you will be okay no matter what happens. You may even be better as you decide to answer your urge and nurture courage instead of discontent. So decide to take the leap. You will not die if you stumble or even if you fall (embarrassment or whatever else you might feel will not kill you). Besides, if you don’t succeed you can rework your plan and try again as many times as you need to. You are worth the effort and the risk.