How to Cope with Mental Stress during Pregnancy

The gift of life begins with pregnancy. As magical as it sounds, the responsibility of bringing a new being into existence arrives with a common but heavy baggage: stress.

Pregnancy is a period of change. Your body physically adjusts, your emotions constantly shift, and the lives of your loved ones are greatly affected. While the changes may be something you welcome, all these factors eventually build up and manifest as a heart-pounding, gut-wrenching and one-of-a-kind type of stress.


It may begin as early as suspecting that you have finally conceived. Your body begins to experience different changes and that alone could be the root, the trigger and the exclamation point of the mental stresses you might feel. From missed periods and spotting, to the uneasy and uncomfortable feeling from morning sickness, those early signs of pregnancy may cause you to look at pregnancy anxiety straight in its eyes.

Now, if you do start to feel your body changing and you catch yourself asking “What are the most obvious early pregnancy signs, exactly?” you need to take a deep breath, think of happy thoughts and be more mindful of your actions and reactions. Keep in mind however, that pregnancy is different for every woman. Some may manifest all or a combination of the symptoms, others may experience two or nothing at all.

You are pregnant. You are about to face a huge challenge for the next few months of your life. Get ready as you are on your way to a whole lot of stress, both inside and out.

What can be stressful for a pregnant woman?

Asking questions like “am I eating the right food?”, “am I allowed to exercise?” and “am I even ready to become a parent?” are common during pregnancy. The constant worrying is normal, but once you become too stressed, it gradually becomes uncomfortable. Suddenly, you have a hard time getting proper sleep, headaches become more frequent and your eating habits are altered.

Moreover, stress prompts the body to activate its “fight or flight mode,” which signals the release of cortisol along with other stress hormones. When you are in danger, these same hormones are triggered. They stimulate your muscles and make you heart pump blood a lot faster to prime you for escape.


Less likely but not at all uncommon, when a pregnant women has a hard time coping with the stress of carrying a child in her womb, she may turn to drinking alcohol, smoking and taking recreational drugs. While this may temporarily alleviate the stress, it may manifest more serious complications during pregnancy and most importantly, after childbirth.

If the stress continues at an elevated level for long periods of time, this could alter the body’s stress management systems and cause health problems – such as a sudden increase in blood pressure, acute heart conditions and organ inflammation. These conditions and bodily responses have been linked to a more labored pregnancy and infant developmental problems. It increases the chance of delivering prematurely or having a baby with low birth weight.

Infants born under poor conditions are more prone to health complications that have lasting effect. Behavioral problems, weak immune system and difficulty in paying attention are more prevalent in babies as they grow up as well.

What are the causes of these stresses?

There are practically limitless reasons how and why stress is triggered for a pregnant woman. However, the bottom line is that stress levels rise due to discomforts that comes along with pregnancy, such as fatigue, nausea, headache, back pain and constipation. Constantly changing hormones throw women into mood swings which also make it more difficult to handle stress.

While the physical discomfort brought about by pregnancy may cause stress levels to rise, it is the mental burden that really affects a woman during pregnancy.  Worrying about a safe and successful pregnancy, labor and delivery expectations, as well as the prospect of parenthood (for new moms) add up to an overwhelming amount of mental stress. For a working soon-to-be mom, the responsibility of turning over important tasks and preparing her co-workers or boss for time off can be mentally and physically exhausting as well. There is also an added pressure due to time constraints.

Then again, stress is not entirely negative. If managed properly, stress enables you to become more resilient and insightful in your decisions.

Also, experiencing high levels of stress during pregnancy does not guarantee problems with the unborn child. Others experience overwhelming stress but are able to deliver healthy babies. However, there are certain types of stress that women should be aware of that make it definitely more difficult to cope while being pregnant:

Negative life events – such as serious illness, divorce, death in the family, losing a job or home

Catastrophic events – like earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, typhoons or terrorist attacks

Long-lasting stress – being abused, having financial problems, coping with serious health problems or being depressed

How can a pregnant woman deal with it?

Having someone to share your feelings with can always help lighten the burden of pregnancy anxiety. Seek support from your partner, family, friend or health care provider to help figure out which aspect of the pregnancy is making you more uncomfortable than normal. Rest assured that any discomforts you are feeling during pregnancy are temporary. Consult your doctor on how you can better manage the discomfort.

It is also important to stay healthy and physically fit. Eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of rest and exercise can help reduce stress and ease common pregnancy discomforts. Remember to restrain yourself from doing unnecessary activities. It can be simple tasks like cleaning or accompanying you to the doctor for check-ups.

Ask for help from people you trust when you need it. Don’t be afraid to accept help either. A good support network can do wonders in reducing stress and anxiety brought about by pregnancy.


If you have friends who have young children or who are pregnant as well, spend time with them to share the excitement of giving birth or exchange tips on how to deal with pregnancy concerns. Not only can it establish support, but it can also make you feel that you are not alone through the whole process. With the support of people who are going through or have gone through the same state as you are in, you can come to realize that you’re not the only one who experiences the worries of pregnancy and that it’s okay to learn as you go along.

As advised by a great number of physicians, you can also consider having childbirth education classes to give you knowledge on what to expect during pregnancy and after the baby arrives. You can learn helpful breathing and relaxation techniques. Try taking it a little bit further and engage in relaxation activities like meditation, talk therapy or prenatal yoga.

Another great tool to help you out is music. It has been proven to help regulate cortisol levels in the body, especially now that your body may be full of it. Listening to music or singing songs can definitely help you relax. At this point, It doesn’t even matter if you can sing or not. As long as you are in the zone for music, just do it and let your anxieties fly away.

If all else fails, you can find comfort in doing little calming activities like taking a warm bath, having a glass of your favorite juice or gorging on that book you’ve been dying to read. Treat yourself to the movies or go on dates with friends. After all, once the baby is born, you’ll have barely enough time to spoil yourself again.

September 9, 2016

Three of the Safest and Most Effective Nootropics for a Mental Boost

Athletes, gym trainees, or anyone who’s about to participate in a physically-demanding activity may often-times drink nutrient supplements that can help their body perform better. You have protein shakes, amino pills, strength boosters, etc. It is indeed very helpful for the human body to have these supplements as they are proven to increase physical performance.

However, what about supplements for the brain during mentally challenging activities?


Typically, you’ll see supplements that focus on the heart, the lungs, the muscles, the stomach, and other parts of the body. Perhaps you’ve probably never heard of the term nootropic – supplements that target the brain and are associated with increasing intelligence, motivation, and mental energy.

By definition, Nootropics are part of a class of cognitive enhancing supplements that are used to improve concentration and boost memory power. They are often used to increase attention spans, help individuals focus and serve as effective studying aids. Simply put, a nootropic is a brain supplement – hence being more famous as “smart drugs” – you can take them to enhance brain function, or lower unproductive conditions such as anxiety, hyperactivity, and inattention.

Nootropics are supplements that keep your brain sharp and healthy. There are many ways this is done. As such, it is important to know which ones to take, which nootropics work well together for synergistic benefits, and who the most common users are.

Here are some of the most famous nootropics that you can take if you need a mental boost for any mental engagements in your daily life.

Disclaimer: while the following nootropic suggestions are user-proven and well-researched, it is always the best course of action to talk to your physician first when taking any supplements.


Modafinil is one of the most famous smart drugs because of its reliability. Initially, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of Modafinil (Provigil) as treatment for people suffering from sleep disorders such as those who have narcolepsy, a brain disorder which causes an individual to experience excessive sleepiness or suddenly fall asleep at inappropriate times.


Studies have shown that Modafinil actually works as a smart drug for some individuals. The findings, which were published in the European journal Neuropsychopharmacology, suggest that in healthy people, the drug can improve attention, learning and memory as well as increase what is known as fluid intelligence, or a person’s ability to solve problems and think creatively.

Most of this nootropic’s users, particularly students, use it off label when studying for exams believing that this could help them focus regardless of lack of evidence that the drug can work this way. Modafinil is a nootropic that increases alertness and energy levels – especially in people who do not get enough sleep. It is frequently used as a component in nootropic stacks designed for studying and productivity.


This nootropic is also a good supplement for those who don’t get to enjoy the luxury of sleep. Modafinil has been shown to help people stay awake and active, as well as make their mind much clearer if their memory has been previously worsened by the onset of sleep deprivation. Studies have successfully shown a correlation between the use of this drug and retaining cognitive function in a healthy state against factors like lack of sleep.


Aniracetam is a popular choice among nootropic users for its ability to enhance cognition while reducing anxiety and boosting your mood. It’s also moderately priced and has little to no reported side effects when taken at recommended dosages. Aniracetam is chemically classed as a racetam (a drug that shares a pyrrolidone nucleus) but is clinically proven to be much better. Like most racetams, it works largely by modulating neurotransmitters.

Clinically, it is proven that Aniracetam increases literary fluidity and learning of abstract concepts in its users. It also contains ampakine, which causes increased memory retention when taken. Aniracetam is also a natural anxiolytic or mood enhancer. Moreover, this nootropic increases right brain functioning to boost creativity, while still helping its users’ vision to appear sharper and more vivid.


Aniracetam’s well-documented positive mood and anti-anxiety properties, combined with powerful cognitive enhancements and a demonstrated lack of side effects, make it one of the most popular nootropics on the market. While some users report an initial feeling of mental fogginess, the effect is usually temporary, and within a day or two, Aniracetam’s true nootropic nature starts to have a noticeable effect.

In addition to generally elevating mood and lessening anxiety, Aniracetam can improve verbal fluency, enhance creativity, and make understanding and remembering complex information faster and easier. In this regard, if you’re a creative speaker, check out Aniracetam especially when you want to be sharper during your engagements.

Users have reported a distinct feeling of calm and relaxation along with increased learning capacity, greater social ease and fluency, and better focus and attention to mental tasks over longer periods. Also, there are also reports that visual stimulation may seem more enhanced by aniracetam, making everything in your surroundings appear to have deeper details and become more vivid.


Aniracetam is fat soluble and is metabolized in the liver. Though it is fast acting (i.e. able to cross the blood-brain barrier in as little as 30 minutes), it has a relatively brief half-life of just one to three hours so multiple doses over a period of hours may be needed to maintain effects.


Ashwagandha is very interesting as a nootropic, since it is all natural. It has tons of benefits, holds an excellent safety record, is highly backed-up by a great number of researches, and has been used for thousands of years. Neuroprotection, enhanced virility, anti-cancer, and anti-anxiety effects are just some of the benefits of this wonderful herb.


Ashwagandha is a common name for the plant withania somnifera. This is a plant with tons of health benefits. It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries to treat a number of different conditions and as a general healing tonic.

As a nootropic, dealing with anxiety and improving cognition and memory are just two of the many benefits of Ashwagandha. This nootropic is excellent in calming the nerves of its users while essentially lowering anxiety levels through reducing stress.

Ashwagandha is also believed to promote social interaction and has been shown to reduce the negative effects of prolonged social isolation. This makes it an excellent supplement for people trying to overcome social anxiety.

While it can be effective at reducing social anxiety on its own, Ashwagandha seems to work best when taken with other anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) substances. It potentiates the effectiveness of other anxiolytics that affect GABA (one of the most abundant neurotransmitters), including alcohol.

Along with reducing anxiety and stress levels, the cognitive function of your brain is also improved by taking Ashwagandha. The healthier and more fluid brain function allows its users to be able to tackle problems at a much faster pace, concentrate for longer hours, and increase their attention span.

Another benefit of this herb is that it has been known for its effect on memory. You may not suddenly develop a super eidetic memory, however, your memory can drastically improve if you are the type of person who has been having highly inconvenient problems with it.

12 Amazing Places To Find Your Inner Peace

“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”

– Sydney J. Harris

Busy streets overflowing with rushing people and loud cars. Pressure at work from the heavy workload and seemingly endless deadlines. Overdue bills. Loud neighbors.  Sleepless nights.

In spite of all this new-aged chaos, people still try to cope and survive in this modern fairy tale called life.

However, everyone has their breaking point. People cannot deny the fact that time will come when they need to let go of their junk cars and old lives just to blow off steam, or else, they will erupt like a volcano. At this critical junction, some people opt to trample anyone in their way, justifying their actions by blaming others in the difficulty of living life.

Or they can stop for a second, take a deep breath, and recollect.

Just like the old saying goes, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s about time to take that well-deserved leave, have a break and find that inner peace in these breathtaking places.

1. Table Mountain – Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa

People can find peace in Table Mountain for it is the home of four great energy vortices of the earth. South Africa considers this place as the most sacred area in their country. With its unique natural landscape, people can enjoy the calming view of how the mountains merge with the sea. It is also a serene place that is fitting to converse with a higher being and reconnect with one’s self, leaving all the stresses of city life.

2. Batanes Islands – Batanes, Philippines

Batanes Islands.

The Islands of Batanes are located at the northernmost region of the Philippines. The place holds the record of the least populated province in the country, and it practically has a zero crime rate record. For those who look for a place that can give them a peaceful environment, Batanes is one of the best place to go.

3. Lourdes Town – Lourdes, France

Lourdes, France

Catholics who want to reconnect with their faith can visit Lourdes in France. According to the locals, the place is popular for the 1858 apparition of Virgin Mary to a shepherd girl. Groups of devotees who seek peace through religious endeavors join the annual pilgrimage to Lourdes. Attendees have the tradition to bathe and drink in the spring near the place where the apparition is said to have taken place. As such, they believe that the spring has the power to cure someone’s physical, emotional and spiritual agony.

4. Mount Mitchell – North Carolina, USA

Mount Mitchell, North Carolina

Mount Mitchell is known for its ability to release nexus energy due to the global ley lines that run through it. The global ley lines serve as the connection among sacred sites around the world. People can meditate atop, around or near the mountain and feel the soothing energy from around the globe. Thus, it is highly suggested to try reaching its peak since it is where the sacred energies are the strongest.

5. Blue Hole Mineral Spring – Westmoreland, Jamaica

Blue Hole Mineral Spring, Jamaica.

Blue Hole Mineral Spring is one of the most popular places in Jamaica for people who look for healing. There are testimonies in which visitors share their experience how they feel a unique connection with nature as they bathe in the mineral spring. Moreover, some visitors even experience healing from their physical ailments. According to those who have visited the place, they see how the spring marries with warm sunlight to give off a welcoming atmosphere, especially for those who want to find peace and relax during troubled times.

6. Kusatsu Onsen, – Gunma Prefecture, Japan

Kutsatsu Onsen

Kusatsu Onsen is an invigorating place for people to find and recollect themselves. It is said that visitors can get the chance not just to connect with nature but from the people in the past. The spa is still carrying out their 1600s tradition in which visitors say a prayer in the shrine, and once they are done, they follow the ritual of pouring water over their head.

7. Stonehenge – Wiltshire, England

Stonehenge, England.

Stonehenge is one of the most well-known historic places because of its mesmerizing formation and enigmatic aura . There is no historical data that can explain how and why the stones are formed the way they are. Some says it serves as a way of reading astronomical movements. Ironically, the mystery behind the Stonehenge gives a sense of clarity to visitors, giving them a new perspective in life. People who find peace in mystery can find the Stonehenge a perfect place to visit for recollection.

8. Sedona Vortex – Arizona, USA

Sedona Vortex, Arizona.

No one leaves Sedona Vortex without feeling the energy that flows in the place. People who are trying to find clarity visit this place to be motivated and encourage themselves to pursue passion for art. Visitors get an uncanny feeling, and for some reason, find themselves highly inspired and start painting this serene place. Some simply return just to reignite their artistic calling.

9. Western Wall – Israel, Jerusalem

Western Wall.

For Judaism, the Western Wall serves as one of the most sacred sites for its followers. Similarly, travelers take the time to get a glimpse of this place for its historic value, being the only wall left in the Second Temple of Jerusalem. The people can also start reconnecting with their fellow visitors of varying faiths since the place is not strictly for those who believe in Judaism. Despite the different religions and cultures of the visitors, this holy site has become a sacred place for anyone who wants to express their faith to a higher being.

10. Ayers Rock – Uluru, Australia

Ayer's Rock.

Ayers Rock serves as a great spot in finding that inner peace in life. Protected by indigenous tribes, this unique rock formation also serves as an energy vortex along the Dreamtime Track. According to these tribes, the deities walk along the energy vortex after they have created the earth. People can also feel the positive energy even without climbing the rock. Watching its beauty from afar is already enough to get be inspired.

11. The Golden Temple – Punjab, India

The Golden Temple.

With its intricate design and form, the Golden Temple has served as the central religious site for Sikhs. Visitors can throw their worries away as they walk around and inside the structure during its open pilgrimage. The holy activities conducted in the Golden Temple are focused on helping the attendees find spiritual comfort and solace to reach a state of inner balance and serenity.

12. Pamukkale Hot Springs – Pamukkale, Turkey


Pumakkale Hot Springs serves as one of the oldest spas in the world. People in the community believe that the hot spring has the ability to heal whoever bathes in it. The heat generated from the hot spring comes from natural heat generated from the earth, inducing a relaxing and invigorating sensation. People can experience a deep connection with nature and one’s self through the hot springs’ good ambiance and uniquely satisfying setting.

Sometimes people just need a break to continue with life. In time of turmoil and duress, reconnecting with the one’s self is one of the best ways to relax the spiritual and physical faculties of a person. It definitely is a must try to visit one (if not all) of these places.

The trip to these sites may just give the inner peace and holistic wellness the modern man has been searching for all his or her life.

Acupuncture: Benefits, Types, & Why You Should Try It

Acupuncture: Benefits, Types, & Why You Should Try It

You may find it really amusing (or for some, a bit disturbing) to see someone lying down with tiny metal protrusions in their body. You now wonder if you are in a spa, or if you are suddenly transported to a scene from Hellraiser.

Apparently, you are in the balancing and relaxing world of acupuncture therapy.

Then curiosity strikes. Your mind now wanders. It plays with ideas and theories on how and why people would want tiny metal rods to be placed on seemingly random parts of their body. You surrender to the idea that these needles are placed on the body just because the acupuncturist can.

A closeup of acupuncture needles.

In the middle of your thoughts, you are called in by your acupuncturist for your turn. At this point, you begin to tell a different story. You try to convince yourself that it’s not all that bad…since you’re about to lie down and be the one who gets pricked.

As you lie on the bed waiting for the next needle to be drilled into your body, allow yourself to drift off. Absorb the true nature of acupuncture and learn how it can bring you the balance you have always sought for in your life.

What Is Acupuncture? Does Acupuncture Work?

Acupuncture is considered one of the most common traditional Chinese practices in treating ailments. Acupuncture follows a science that deals with your body’s pressure points. These points, or the focus of your body, are the specific locations in which the acupuncturists strategically place the needles to achieve a desired healing effect.

The most common use of acupuncture is to address your body’s pains. According to Chinese tradition, your body is prone to experiencing agony if the energy that flows through your body is in jeopardy. There is an imbalance of energy that needs to be fixed.

With its seemingly painful process, this olden art of healing is actually focused on balancing the flow of energy in the body, known as chi. As the acupuncturists place the needles, the energy finds its balance, making you feel better after just one session.

Acupuncture Types

It may come to you as a surprise, but acupuncture has types that address different specific physiological needs, usually based around the method of finding balance.

Imagine overhauling and redesigning your backyard garden. When everything seems to be working inside your house, you want to make sure everything else outside your house complements the overall feel of your home. You need to create a balance. What is the first thing you need to do? You dig deeper in your backyard to set-up the ground works. Go to a mini excavator rental and choose the best equipment for your terrain, then find the right spots to dig. Everything else follows.

Similarly, acupuncture presents a wide range of options for your requirement. It may have started with China’s traditional healing methods, but other cultures have developed various styles in mastering the art of acupuncture. Whichever you choose, the bottom line is that you need to dig deep to tap your innermost core so you can regulate it.

With different methods to choose from, you may need to know first what it is you need for your body, then work with the best method type for you.

  1.   Traditional Chinese Acupuncture – this is the most common style of acupuncture. As stated above, the objective of traditional Chinese acupuncture is to allow the free flow of energy to help the body reach a sustainable balance. Your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual energies must have a good flow of energy. If focus is lost, then your whole body is affected.
  2.   Japanese Style Acupuncture – this style of acupuncture is more subtle compared to the Chinese way. Japanese acupuncture uses thinner needles in order to have less stimulation. The objective of the Japanese style acupuncture is to practice the Five Element Theory.
  3.   Korean Acupuncture – this style also observes the Japanese way of treatment. The only difference between the two is that Korean acupuncture uses more needles, at least 100, during its sessions.
  4.   Korean Hand Acupuncture – there are types of acupuncture that do not use needles, and this style is one of them. From the name itself, acupuncturists use their hands instead of needles in addressing your acupuncture points.
  5.   Auricular Acupuncture – this may sound uncommon, but auricular acupuncture stimulates the energy from the ears to treat your body. This kind of acupuncture is good for pain control, alcohol and nicotine addiction.

Ear acupuncture.

  1.   Medical Acupuncture – this kind of acupuncture uses neurology in order to identify your acupuncture points. The use of electric simulation with the needles is what makes medical acupuncture different from others.

Acupuncture For Anxiety, Fertility, Back Pain, And Much, Much More

The following are the health conditions that acupuncture can address.

Electric acupuncture around the knee.


  1.   Allergies
  2.   Depression
  3.   Facial pain
  4.   Dysmenorrhea
  5.   Headache
  6.   Hypertension
  7.   Knee pain
  8.   Hypotension
  9.   Low back pain
  10. Morning sickness
  11. Vomiting
  12. Toothaches
  13. Renal colic
  14. Sprains
  15. Strokes
  16. Sciatica
  17. Arthritis pain
  18. Pain in the shoulders
  19. Neck pain
  20. Leukopenia

Furthermore, researchers are currently studying and identifying what other diseases and symptoms acupuncture can potentially handle for you. However, the following still need more scientific tests and medical studies in order to strengthen the acupuncture medicinal claim.

  1.   Acne vulgaris
  2.   Cancer pain
  3.   Cardiac neurosis
  4.   Cholelithiasis
  5.   Diabetes mellitus
  6.   Earache
  7.   Facial spasm
  8.   Female fertility
  9.   Eye pain
  10. Female urethral syndrome
  11. Hepatitis B virus carrier
  12. Insomnia
  13. Labor pain
  14. Lactation
  15. Male sexual dysfunction
  16. Neuralgia
  17. Obesity
  18. Pain due to endoscopic examination
  19. Polycystic ovary syndrome
  20. Pruritus
  21. Raynaud syndrome
  22. Urinary-tract infection or UTI
  23. Sore throat
  24. Stiff neck
  25. Vascular dementia

Why You Should Try Acupuncture

Acupuncture is not just about inserting needles in your body to treat your back or neck pain. Acupuncture can also provide relief from the stresses of life, and strengthen your spiritual life.

  1.   Acupuncture can treat depression. There are certain studies where researchers were able to find out that acupuncture is better than counseling. With counseling, you address the source of depression through mental development. On the other hand, acupuncture’s needles send happy-making neurotransmitters in your brain that can treat your depression.
  2.   Acupuncture can lessen your stress and anxiety. When your chaotic environment has taken its toll on you, you need to find your balance and be grounded. This is where acupuncture can help you. It can calm your senses, promote natural deep breathing, and lower your risks of having high blood pressure.

Back acupuncture.

  1.   Acupuncture influences energy levels. Balancing your energy flow can enable you to access the inner energy sources in your body, leaving your more invigorated and ready to face life.
  2.   Acupuncture can combat insomnia. Acupuncture can help you calm down by relieving you of your negative energy during stressful nights. You can finally have the good night sleep you have always been dreaming of.
  3.  Acupuncture can help increase focus, concentration and patience. You may be used to your fast-paced world where everything that is happening around you happens practically at a blink of an eye. For you to maximize acupuncture, you really need patience as the process is tedious and takes some time of getting used to. During this time, you can find your inner peace and achieve your inner equilibrium.
June 2, 2016

How to Deal With Depression and Survive It

Are you one of those students who continue beating themselves up for not passing their midterms? Are you one of those employees who constantly remind themselves how they could have had a better life if only they had accepted that other job offer? Are you someone who tells themselves that they are wasting their life – not knowing what you really want to do?

You’re unable to go about living your normal life because you feel you can’t accomplish even the smallest of tasks. Every time an opportunity to be productive appears, you shrug it off without even trying.

depressed girl

You find it hard to be excited about anything. Going to parties, watching the latest movies, buying your favorite things, and even spending time with your loved ones all seem to just feel wrong.

Maybe you are just a person who thinks too much. Apparently, your too much has become so destructive that you can no longer control it. Unknowingly, it has already begun to control you.

You may be building up some deep-seated sadness. You may be experiencing depression.

What is depression?

Depression is a type of psychological disorder that lowers one’s thoughts, feelings, behavior and overall mood. There are number of things that you can feel when you are depressed – It’s not just about sadness. You can also feel anxious, empty, hopeless, worthless, helpless, irritable, ashamed or angry.

depressed man on bench

In addition, you might start to lose interest in activities that used to make you happy. You may have a hard time concentrating on a certain goal. You might experience a lot of problems making wise decisions for yourself.

In The United States, there is an estimated 350 million cases of depression spanning many different age groups. With depression, it’s not just about “the blues”. It is more than that. Do not be afraid to speak and seek help if you think you are experiencing depression. You are not the only one.

How to know if you have depression?

The following might help you decide whether or not you are already experiencing depression:

  1.  You always feel helpless and hopeless. You tend to spend that day thinking that nothing will ever improve in your life. You feel as though you are stuck in a hole of sadness forever. You always tell yourself that there are no other ways to make things better.
  2. You lose interest in engaging with your daily activities. You no longer want to participate in the activities that you normally would have. For example, you grow up playing volleyball then suddenly, a court, a ball and the adrenaline of the game does not excite you anymore. It seems like it was never your favorite sport. However, you know deep down inside that it has value – based on how much time and energy you invested just to become a good player.

depressed girl against wall

  1. Your sleeping pattern has changed. There are two different cases with regards to a change in your sleep pattern: either you are sleeping too much or you are sleeping less than you should. You may stay in bed most of, or even the entire day.
  2.  You always feel angry or irritable. You lash out on people even though they are not doing anything to harm or annoy you. You always feel agitated about everything.
  3.  You seem to experience a general loss of energy. You always feel fatigued. Sometimes, you feel sluggish or physically drained. Your feel it’s difficult or requires too much out of you just to move your body for the day.
  4.  You have reckless behavior. You take substances that can harm your health. Reckless driving can also be considered a symptom of depression, and you may end up ruining the custom seat covers you bought with your military discount.
  5.  You are unable to concentrate. You simply cannot focus on doing things. You start to have difficulty making decisions.
  6.  You have trouble remember things. You start to forget important things. For example, birthdays of special people in your life, appointments, and the like.
  7.  You experience seemingly unknown physical pains. You always have complaints on how your body feels. You have headaches, back pains, muscle aches, and stomach pains, all of which somehow came out of the blue.

What are the causes of depression?

  1.  Perhaps you experienced abuse. You experienced some form of physical, emotional or sexual abuse that left a lasting impression on you.
  2.  You had been abusing certain drugs. You took potentially dangerous drugs so much that they left a long-last or even permanent effect on your mental health.
  3.  You experienced the loss of someone important to you. The death of someone that you treasured may have sent you over the edge.
  4. Members of your family have depression. Depression is also something that is hereditary. If your family has a history of depression, then there is higher probability that may too.
  5. There have been recent major changes in your life. Major events in your life, even something as seemingly innocuous as a graduation or a wedding, can still lead to depression. There are cases where you begin to whether or not you deserve to be happy during actual moments of happiness. Depression may have also kicked in from your fear that your happiness might be taken away from you, and you may no longer find it again for yourself.

How to transcend from depression to happiness?

happy woman

  1.  You must be vigilante for the symptoms. You have to learn how to assess whether you are already experiencing depression. You can try writing down your thoughts throughout the day. You can also take note if there are changes in your behavior.
  2.  Learn to seek help from doctors. Don’t give into the stigma that you are already a “crazy person” just because you visited a doctor. If you think you need help, then go ask for help.  Always remember that you are not alone.
  3.  Learn to understand your own emotional cycle. Everyone has different emotional cycles. There are days when you are okay. Then there are circumstances that trigger your anger or sadness. You might feel you are perfectly happy for days or weeks, and then depression will hit you. You have to understand that both happiness and sadness are something that passes over time.
  4.  Surround yourself with positive people. The people that you interact with play an important role in how you view the world and yourself. It is important that you surround yourself with people that can help lead you to positive thoughts and away from negativity.
  5.  Try to remember past successes. This can help you to remember that you are not in a some metaphorical hole of darkness for your entire life. There are moments when light has been the center of your life. This can help bring back your old, more invigorating, perspective of life.
  6.  Try to have gratitude for everything. This is the best way to learn how to appreciate everything, even the little things. This can also help you to see that when many positive small things pile up, they can become something great.
  7.  Try to put yourself in a different, more positive environment. Maybe your usual environment has been triggering moments of stress and pain. Finding a new, healthier environment can make you feel like you are starting a new life that is full of possibilities.
  8. Try to think about the bigger picture. This can help you to understand that there are things aside from sadness. This can help you appreciate the blessings of the universe for you instead of focusing on certain bad thing that happened.

5 Common Regrets and How to Avoid Them

“I don’t regret the things I’ve done, I regret the things I didn’t do when I had the chance.” ~Unknown

If you had a second chance at life, what would you resolve to do differently? What would you regret from your past if you had the power to change it in your future?

In 2011, Bronnie Ware wrote a wonderful book called Top 5 Regrets Of The Dying.

As a palliative care nurse, Bronnie spent several years working with patients during their final weeks of life. She documented the dying epiphanies of her patients and began to notice some similarities—five in particular (hence, the title of her book).

It’s a beautiful reminder not to take life for granted and to live a life you would be proud of.

Regret Is a Terrible Thing to Witness

For many years I have witnessed the regret of the living—my fellow patients, in over five different hospitals, both interstate and internationally. I’ve been a patient in many ward types (intensive care, cardiac, vascular, orthopedic, infection control, plastics, emergency, and rehabilitation, just to name some). But palliative care has not been one of them.

I spent over a year in hospital. The first time, and the majority of that time, was in rehabilitation. Over the years I’ve returned for more surgery, and again I would pass through rehabilitation wards for several days or weeks.

In regab at 25, learning to walk again.

Above: In rehab, learning to walk again.

Where the purpose of a palliative care ward is to provide care at the end of life, the purpose of a rehabilitation ward is, as the name suggests, to rehabilitate people and teach them to live again.

There’s always an eclectic mix of people in a rehab ward. Some were stroke patients, like me. Some were learning to stand with a new prosthetic leg following amputation, like me. Others were adjusting to new methods of movement without using their arms after open-heart surgery. Also like me.

Regardless of the reason we were all in the hospital, one thing we all had in common was that, unlike Bronnie’s palliative care patients, eventually we were going to go home to start living again.

The hospital can be a very lonely place, and many patients, despite their wounds and ailments, were simply craving conversation.

I’d frequently chat with my fellow patients. It was a good way to pass the time and distract ourselves from the monotony of repetitive (but important) rehabilitative movements.

My fellow patients, all strangers, would often open up to me in a way that I would not experience had I started talking to that same stranger in the outside world.

Similar to Bronnie’s experiences, I heard a lot about regret. But following the confession of regret would come resolutions to do things differently “this time around.”

I’ve paraphrased these most common responses that I’ve heard over the years in rehab—the top five regrets of the living.

1. I wish I’d experienced more.

Upon reflection, many of my fellow rehab patients regretted not having experienced more, and vowed to do so once they “got out.” The experiences ranged from various things to do, see, or hear, but the most common was the regret at having not traveled more.

The sad irony was that many patients, like me, would be leaving the hospital in a wheelchair or with restricted movement. So experiencing more travel would not be an option.

Resolution: From now on I’m going to experience more.

2. I wish I’d listened more.

Many patients regretted not listening more to the advice of their doctor, family members, or well-meaning friends. I remember one larger woman who recalled her doctor advising her to lose weight. At the time, she believed he was “fat shaming” her and had not listened, until she had a resulting stroke.

One man regretted not having listened to his “nagging” family who had warned him against frequently poor diet choices. Diabetes took his leg and left him with regret.

Resolution: From now on I’m going to listen more.

3. I wish I hadn’t been so afraid to fail.

With their second chance at life, many patients were prepared to step out of their comfort zones in the future. Some patients had been so close to death (arguably the ultimate failure) that they no longer feared so many little failures in their day, such as failing to live up to other people’s expectations.

Resolution: From now on I won’t fear failure.

4. I wish I’d stood up for myself more.

Patients regretted not having voiced their opinions more frequently and stood up for themselves and their values or beliefs. Some had spent years in unhappy relationships or unfulfilling work, and it was only their hospitalization that had been their catalyst for change.

Resolution: From now on I’ll stand up for myself more.

5. I wish I hadn’t waited so long to…

The regret of procrastination was also common, and something that resonated with me. Patients said that they wished they’d done a certain something sooner—pick up the phone, seen the doctor, reunite with a friend… The list went on.

Resolution: From now on I’m going to stop waiting and start doing!

There were many similarities between the regrets of the dying and the regrets of the living.

However, the key difference was that my fellow patients and I all had an opportunity to take action on our regrets of the past and ensure they would not be regrets of the future.

What This Means for You

Going back to my question at the beginning of this post: If you had a second chance at life, what would you do differently?

It’s normal to have regrets. If you’ve ever had menu envy, you’ll regret not ordering X instead of Y.

I have regrets, but I make a point of not dwelling on them. Sure, I have relationships, jobs, or situations that I regret not leaving sooner, but those failures have helped make me who I am today.

So don’t be afraid to experience more. Step outside your comfort zone and live life on your terms, free from regret. Listen more to those who only have your best interests at heart. Stand up for yourself, embrace failure, and stop waiting for someone else to live your life for you.

Take it from my fellow rehab patients who have been there before. Those who have regrets but also have the opportunity to reflect on this regret and resolve to make changes.

Take the blinkers of and stop procrastinating. Take responsibility for your own life and your own happiness. We all have challenges, but we all have choices.

Two Kind Words That Can Change or Save a Life

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~Leo Buscaglia

My fiancé and I escaped to the northern wilderness. We wanted to build our home and our life off grid, off the beaten path, far from civilization.

It didn’t matter that I was a city girl who couldn’t handle a chainsaw, fix a pickup, or read the warnings of wind and sky. My fiancé was a mountain man, skilled in survival. That was all we needed for a life in the middle of nowhere. Alone, but together, and we loved it.

We were independent and resourceful. Nothing fazed us. My fiancé had a solution for everything: broken generators, shortage of water, staying safe on hikes through the hills that we shared with wolves, coyotes, and bears.

Never once did we doubt our ability to survive.

And never once did we think that our biggest challenge would come from anything other than the wilderness itself.

Our days were consumed by nature. We were always one step ahead. One step ahead of hungry bears, deadly windstorms, drought, wildfire, and maintaining the only road that connected us to far-flung humanity. We were always one step ahead.

Until we weren’t.

All of a sudden, my fiancé lost his appetite, his skin turned a pea soup green, and his jeans hung off him, a size too big.

The wilderness was no place to get sick: lack of cell-phone access, few doctors, often-impassable roads, and a five-hour drive to the nearest hospital. Suddenly the idea of “challenge” took on a whole new meaning.

Finally, after many delays, tests, comings and goings, a diagnosis was confirmed: cancer. My fiancé was stoic. But the news hit me with hurricane force.

Our world flipped upside down.

Suddenly we were thrown into the scary unknown, a place far more challenging than the wilderness of the bush.

Surgery was booked. My once strong, ever-so-independent mountain man was forced to let go, to place his trust in the skill of a surgeon and the goodwill of the universe. I was terrified, but in my role of “pillar of support,” I acted brave by swallowing my fear.

In the faraway town where the operation would take place, I would sleep at the Easter Seal House. It was close to the hospital and affordable. But it was also a dorm.

The idea of sharing accommodation added to my stress. I was an introvert; I’d been living in the bush. The last thing I wanted was to socialize with strangers when my mind was consumed with worries for my man.

But there was no choice.

The following day, the operation, they said it would last a few hours. It took much longer. Then finally some news. “All is well, ” the surgeon said. And the relief of it almost felled me.

I thanked the surgeon; thanked the universe for throwing a lifeline. There would be a tomorrow, after all. And a tomorrow after that.

Two days later, results showed a spread of the disease.

We were not in the clear after all.

That night, I stayed as late as possible at the hospital with my fiancé. I wanted to curl up in his narrow bed, but he was hooked up to so many tubes and wires, and the eighteen-inch wound running down his belly was tender and sore.

When I reluctantly left to walk back to the “dorm,” the night was late and frigidly cold. My mood was as black and as slippery as the ice underfoot. All I wanted to do was to curl up and cry. The thought of facing a group of strangers sunk me further.

At the front door of the Easter Seal House, a small group of old men huddled under the outdoor light, sucking on cigarettes and stamping their feet to stay warm. They looked as miserable as I felt.

Inside, a new guest had arrived to share my room. She was setting up an oxygen machine that would keep her lungs safe through the night. The room was too cramped to make use of my offer to help, so I retreated to the lounge.

The TV in the lounge blasted a comedy. I slipped into the only spare spot, at the edge of the threadbare couch. A plump woman with bleached blond, coifed hair and rose-polished nails giggled wildly at the antics of the TV characters.

My mood was too dark to laugh; instead, I was flooded with gnarly judgments about the stupidity of TV, of sitcoms, of sharing accommodation with strangers.

I told myself I don’t belong with this group, with this coifed blond giggler and her rose-polished nails. As the judgments in my mind exploded, my mood turned surly.

At the break for an ad, the volume on the TV spiked. The blond reached for the remote, decreased the sound. One small mercy. A few minutes later, volume up again. Part of me wanted to seize the remote and hurl it out the window.

The sitcom resumed. Some inane stunt threw the giggler into hysterics.

Suddenly, she turned in my direction, clearly wanting to share the joke that I so obviously didn’t get.

Quickly she scanned me, and whatever it was that she saw prompted her to switch the TV right off, right in the middle of her show. She turned back to me again, this time swiveling her entire body right around to face me.

“Tell me,” she said.

And then I saw. Past the pristine rose nails and frilly sweater, past the coifed bleached hair and perfect makeup, I now saw a pair of soft, welcoming eyes. “Tell me,” she repeated in a gentle invitation.

And I did. And something inside me broke. All the feelings of tension and sorrow melted as I accepted her invitation.

I told her about my fiancé’s surgery, the cancer, its spread, and the hope for future treatments. I told her about my fears for our isolated life in the wilderness. How would I manage? And she listened. She listened with gentle eyes. She listened with her whole body, nodding, as if to say, “I hear you, I understand.”

And it amazed me, this gentle space that she had created through the depth of her presence. It amazed me how her kindness helped me peel open months of fear and anguish. Her invitation to tell my story was an invitation I didn’t even know I needed, yet desperately did.

One by one, the old smokers lumbered back in from the frigid night. They and others joined us. A semi-circle formed around the woman and myself. Haggard, jaundiced faces, bandaged arms; it struck me how all of us were wounded in one way or another, fellow travellers on a shared and complicated journey.

By the time I finished my story, a soft gratitude had filled my heart and eased my worries. My burden shared was a burden halved.

In the wee hours before dawn, sleep came gently in a way that it hadn’t for a very long time.

I never saw that woman again. But her generosity, in switching off a sitcom that she so clearly enjoyed to welcome instead my story, was a gift.

It allowed me to move past a sense of disconnection from others, to share my vulnerability, to be heard and understood. And it gave me solace and a feeling of connection when I needed it most.

Above all, that woman and her gift of compassion showed me that no matter how small, an act of kindness truly does have the power transform a life.

It transformed mine. By lightening my load, it created space for the challenges that lay ahead.

So many of us walk around carrying heavy burdens, desperate for a sense of relief. It may seem so simple, but two little words can dramatically ease our pain and our suffering. Such simple little words: Tell me.

Follow Your Heart, Not Your Fear: How to Make Choices That Are Right for You

Follow your heart

“Unnecessary fear of a bad decision is a major stumbling block to good decisions.” ~Jim Camp

Twenty years ago, my wife and I decided to move from Montréal, where we had lived for the first 35 years of our lives, to Nova Scotia, 800 miles away, where we had no connections whatsoever. Neither a small decision, nor undertaking, since this involved our four kids and the entire contents of our house (not to mention a dog and two cats!)

Why were we moving? We were not moving because of a job opportunity; we enjoyed the life we had in Montréal. And there was nothing—as far as we knew—waiting for us in Nova Scotia. Nothing, except our future, the next stage of our lives.

But we both had a strong, clear feeling—a felt sense—that it was time to leave. And we both had a strong, clear feeling that Nova Scotia was the right place to move to. Simple as that.

There were lots of reasons to think that we shouldn’t make this move and take all the risks involved. In the year before we moved, every attempt I made at getting work there fell through. Every attempt I made at finding a house to rent fell through. It was literally only three weeks before we moved that we finally had a place to move to!

There was plenty of worry, stress, and anxiety, plenty of thoughts saying that this was a bad decision.

By this point in my life, though, I had learned to listen to my intuition, and to the signals of my heart, to guide me in my life choices.

I had learned not let my thoughts (that is to say, my worries, doubts, fears, anxieties, and apprehensions) paralyze me in my decision-making. I had learned to have more confidence in what my body felt than in what my mind said.

There was a time when I would have wasted a lot of time and energy debating back and forth, and then made a choice I was neither sure was the right one, nor fully happy with. For the first three decades or more of my life, I was a person who struggled intensely with making choices and decisions.

I was usually afraid of making the wrong choice, and unsure of how to know whether I was making the right choice. Aside from any question about “right versus wrong” choices, I worried about what others would think, or how others would feel, if I made this or that choice.

This indecision, this self-doubt, resulted in significant stress and anxiety—sometimes, to the point of feeling too paralyzed to act at all—as well as resulting in wasted time, lost opportunities, and regrets.

Over the years, I worked in therapy on overcoming anxiety and other issues, and learned and practiced meditation and mindfulness, and yoga. Over time, and with consistent practice, I gradually learned how to find a calm center in the midst of those conflicted thoughts.

I also learned how to tune into my heart, with heart-focused meditations.

I discovered that my heart would always tell me what I really needed. There was always one clear answer from the heart, about what was right for me in any given situation. And when I experimented with acting on those choices, the outcomes were always good, and I never felt doubt or regret. There was a consistent sense of acting in alignment with my true self, my true purpose…my truth.

The fundamental basis for this approach to making decisions is mindfulness. Being mindful means being able to “sink down” below the turbulent surface of thoughts, projections, fears, and perceptions that all clamour for my attention when I have a decision to make. It means having a still center from which I can then be aware of the quieter, and subtler, signals in my body, my heart.

When you mindfully tune into your heart, when you separate from your thoughts and emotional reactions, you discover that the heart has a very clear, although sometimes, a very subtle, way of saying “yes” and “no.”

A sensation or feeling of opening, relaxing, warmth, moving toward, is a “Yes.” A feeling or sensation of closing, hardening, pulling back, tensing is a “No.”

I have learned to trust that this response from the heart tells me what is best for my overall, integral being, for my physical health, my mental health, my social relationships, my family relationships, and the unfolding of my life purpose.

Mindfulness is the basis from which this approach to decision-making stems, but making decisions this way as a practice also enhances my ability to be mindful in everyday life.

It is an exercise in letting go of attachment—attachment to desires and fears; attachment to expectations of myself, of others, or of the future; attachment to thoughts about what I “should” do; attachment to what other people might think and feel.

Most of our stress, anxiety, indecision, and doubt around making decisions is rooted in fear. We fear unknown outcomes, or we fear negative outcomes that we project might happen.

Fear reactions always serve to dissociate us from our true and integral Self in the moment.

In his book The Biology of Belief, Bruce Lipton talks about how a cell is either in defence mode or in growth mode; it cannot be in both at once. The same is true psychologically.

If we are—even just in our thoughts—engaged in fear, and trying to defend ourselves from negative outcomes, then the choices we make will be based in trying to protect ourselves from whatever it is we fear; they will not be grounded in hope, confidence, and faith; they will not be conducive to growth and thriving.

It isn’t necessarily easy to resist the fear, and to listen to your heart. Our brains are wired to prioritize safety; this means that the brain will pay attention to fear and let it guide our thinking. It takes practice and perseverance to find a calm center beneath and within the fear; it is the work of mindfulness, applied to actions.

Mindfulness is fundamental as it trains you to detach from the narrative of the fear-based thoughts. But making decisions to act in ways that challenge those fears takes the challenge up a notch.

Part of the solution is reminding yourself of what has always happened in the past when you acted according to these fears. You will find that there is always some kind of dissatisfaction or disappointment, if not outright frustration, that resulted.

Part of the solution is working on reducing those fears (try Energy Psychology techniques or, my favorite, Logosynthesis); and part of the solution is in “feeling the fear and doing it anyways”—pushing through the fear, and experiencing the positive outcomes.

I have come to make all my decisions in this heart-centered way, and I have never been disappointed. On the one hand, I can say that I have never been disappointed because the outcome has always been good.

On the other hand, there is a feeling that comes simply from making a decision this way, based on a felt response in the body, where I physically experience my body saying yes or no, that allows me to detach from expectations about the outcome altogether, and to feel good and confident about my decision, regardless of the outcome.

I feel good and strong simply because I am making the decision that I know is right for me.

The outcomes we wish for are not always the outcomes we need, or that will be best for us. The outcomes we wish for are often based in a sense of lack, longing, or insufficiency. In my emotional heart I may fear, I may want to avoid something, or I may long for something, desire it.

In my energetic heart, the response will not be based on any sense of fear, avoidance, lack, or insufficiency. It is based in a consistent, integral sense of Self, in relationship to others, to the world, and to life itself.

I used to be afraid of confrontation, or even of risking a confrontation by displeasing people. So when it became clear that the dynamics of my (birth) family’s gatherings were too stressful for my wife, and detrimental to her well-being, I was forced to look at it more closely and acknowledge that I felt uncomfortable in those situations, as well.

I had the usual reaction: “But it’s my family! I can’t just decide not to go for Christmas!” But in my heart I felt clearly that the right choice was to stop attending. Having to take this action and tell them caused me a lot of anxiety.

I was afraid of the anger and rejection I felt certain would come of it. I delayed and avoided.

When I did tell them, I was met with confusion, anger, and blame. The response I feared did happen. What didn’t happen is what I really feared—that I would not be okay if they were unhappy with me.

I was okay…We were okay. It made my relationship stronger because my wife knew I would take her needs seriously, and act on them, even though it was uncomfortable for me. It made me stronger, because it helped me to realize that even if I made other people unhappy, I could still be okay.

Knowing I was making the right choice for myself, there was a clear distinction between what other people might think was “right” or “wrong,” and what I knew in my heart.

Letting go of fear opened me up to growth.

The more you practice decision-making in this way, the more you develop an incredible sense of freedom, an ability to move in this world in a way that is true to yourself and to your life purpose. It helps to cultivate the “courageous self-acceptance” and the “fearless heart” described in Buddhist teachings.

And when making your decisions becomes clearer, less stressful, and less conflicted, it makes your relationships with others a lot easier. You let go of people pleasing, of guilt, of feeling like you have to explain yourself or even to compromise yourself and make decisions that aren’t right for you.

You may be afraid that if you act according to your heart, you will make people angry. And that may be exactly what happens. But your great fears of the consequences of people being angry with you never happen. You realize that even if you have to deal with loss, you have regained something of yourself.

Relationships become simpler as you feel a sense of wholeness, of integrity. You know you are acting with integrity, and so you feel comfortable affirming your choices. You feel less defensive when people disagree with you. This is a freedom we should all wish for each other, and grant each other.

And, in case you were wondering, nineteen years later, we still love living in Nova Scotia. It is home now, and we would never think of leaving. Within a couple of months of moving here I was working full-time. It has been a great place to live, to work and to raise our children and we would never think of leaving.

Our hearts drew us to a place that became home in a way that the place we grew up and began our adult lives in could never quite be. Our hearts drew us to our destinies.

A Simple Way to Calm Yourself When Feeling Strong Emotions

Peaceful Woman

“This is the root of Self. You are not your thoughts; you are aware of your thoughts. You are not your emotions; you feel your emotions…. You are the conscious being who is aware that you are aware of all these inner and outer things.” ~Michael Singer

I sat across from my colleague with a growing sense of discomfort. I had accepted an assignment from the boss, but I heard from my colleague an undercurrent of questioning and uncertainty—or so it seemed. It was so subtle that I couldn’t quite tell what was going on.

Did she not believe I could do it? Nobody else was stepping forward to meet the need. Was she saying it’s better to go with nobody than with me?

All I knew for sure was that I wasn’t hearing this outright. I decided to let it go, head on home, think about it tomorrow, and be fully present with my family instead. But the next morning as I pulled into my parking spot in front of the office, a subtle agitation rumbled in my stomach.

I walked into the quiet building and set my things down in the office, distracted by my disquiet and wishing I could focus on my task list. The thoughts prickling at me wouldn’t let go.

I laid my pen down and asked myself, “Okay, what’s going on?”

In my top drawer I keep a deck of “grok” cards that I bought from the folks at the Center for Nonviolent Communication. Each one has the name of a need or value—things like “hope,” “trust,” and “balance” show up in this deck. I frequently use these when I can’t quite put a finger on what’s bothering me.

I flipped through the cards and sorted them as I went. In the “not now” pile went cards like “freedom,” “competence,” and “creativity.” In the next pile, the “Maybe?” pile, went cards like “security,” “meaning/purpose,” and “friendship.”

I went on sorting between just these two piles until I hit one that resonated: “Acknowledgement.” That went into a new pile: “Yes.”

A couple of cards after it I found “Appreciation.” That went into the “Yes” pile too, and then I noticed something really interesting happen: I got angry.

Usually when I sort through these cards, the experience of finding the right word to put on my current needs or values results in feeling more settled, more clear. Frequently my agitation will be replaced by a sense of gratitude, or courage to act in a way that helps me meet my needs.

Typically, that is the value for me in identifying my needs. It helps me find a more straightforward and effective path toward getting those needs met. But it didn’t happen this time.

Instead, the voice in my head just became louder and more insistent.

My coworker should be grateful for my willingness to take on this new project! She wasn’t going to step in and do anything. Why wasn’t she acknowledging that I was making a sacrifice on behalf of the team?

This narrative swept me up. It threatened to pull me under.

Slowly, I started to notice another, quieter voice saying, “Why am I getting so upset? That doesn’t usually happen after I go through the GROK cards. What can I do for myself that won’t be so negative?”

I’m going to admit this was an odd experience for me. I don’t typically have this second, quieter voice. Or, if I’ve had it, I haven’t been able to hear it.

But I did hear it this time, and it called to mind Michael Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul. I read it just about a month before.

“You are not the voice of the mind,” he wrote. “You are the one that hears it.”

He suggests that when we’re bothered by something, we can change what we identify with. Rather than identifying with all of those thoughts and feelings, we can instead identify ourselves as “the observer” or witness of what is being experienced.

As I felt myself getting swept up in defensiveness against my coworker, I decided to try it. What would happen, I wondered? I started up a new voice in my head that said, “I am not all of these thoughts and feelings. I am the observer who is noticing that Amy is having a powerful experience.”

It was almost meditation, but not quite the same as my usual practice. Michael Singer might say I was doing it wrong. A psychiatrist might have a lot of questions for me—I don’t know.

What I do know is what happened inside myself. As I identified myself as “the observer who is noticing that Amy is having a powerful experience,” I relaxed. I let go of the waves of negative thinking.

I realized that I could talk to myself the way I would talk to a dear friend who is feeling unacknowledged and underappreciated. I realized I could give myself compassion.

I imagined telling myself, “I’m sorry you haven’t been appreciated. That’s hard. You are still okay.”

I admit I feel extra vulnerable as I type that out. Part of me doesn’t want to admit that I talk to myself in this way. On the other hand, this was such an amazing experience!

I was able to walk myself through processing my own needs and emotions in ways I’ve never done before. As soon as it happened, I wanted to shout it out to the rest of the world, “Hey, I’ve found a path that looks like it leads somewhere good! Come check it out!”

Do you ever feel the emotional undertow of unpleasant, uncomfortable feelings? Have you tried to resist them without success? Perhaps it would help to identify yourself as the observer.

Accept that the feelings and thoughts are there, but instead of identifying with them, try identifying yourself as the observer or witness who is noticing that this experience is flowing through.

Perhaps you already know this part of the path. Have you tried a practice like this? What works for you?

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The Face Everything Technique: Why Avoiding Difficulties Doesn’t Work

We are, all of us, amazing at avoiding things.

Our minds are less “thinking machines” than they are “avoiding machines.” And the incredible thing is that we aren’t even usually aware that we’re avoiding thinking about something.

I’ll give you a few examples:

  • Right now you’re reading this article but probably avoiding the difficult thing you don’t want to think about.
  • We are constantly checking messages, news, feeds, notifications … to avoid doing something we don’t want to face.
  • When we’re facing difficulties in life, we try to tell ourselves that’s it’s OK because (fill in the blank), or get busy with some activity or numbing agent (like alcohol) so we don’t have to face the difficulties.
  • When a problem comes up, our reaction is to want to go do something else, put it off.
  • We put off paying bills, doing taxes, dealing with long emails, dealing with clutter, because we don’t want to face these difficulties.
  • We put off exercise because it’s uncomfortable.

In fact, there are thousands more examples, every day, that come up and that we don’t even notice, because our minds switch to thinking about something else.

Try this right now: pause for a minute and think about what difficulty you’re avoiding thinking about right now.

You will either notice a difficulty you don’t like, or your mind will quickly turn to doing something else before the minute is up.

What you’ve done is part of what I call the Face Everything Technique … which I’ll explain in a minute, after we talk about why avoiding everything is an ineffective strategy.

Avoidance Doesn’t Work

Our minds want to run from whatever discomfort, pain, difficulty we’re facing … and this is a good strategy for temporarily not having to deal with difficulty and pain. So in the present moment, we might feel some temporary relief.

But what it does is relegate us to a life of running. A life of distraction and never facing what ails us. We keep ourselves busy, but never learn to deal with what’s inside us, what’s in front of us.

This means we are at the mercy of our fears, of our discomforts. We are like little children who don’t want to do any hard work, but want the latest shiny fun thing.

This results in not working on the important work (or at least putting it off until it starts to get painful). The same is true of exercise, healthy eating, finances, clutter, relationships, and more.

In the end, we usually have to deal with these things, but they’ve just gotten worse. It would have been better to face them early on, when they weren’t such a big deal.

The Face Everything Technique

This technique is based on the idea that it’s better to be aware of things, and to deal with them like an adult, instead of running.

And if we do, none of it’s that big of a deal.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Create awareness by asking, “What am I doing right now?” Throughout the day, set reminders or put little notes that remind you to ask, “What am I doing right now?” The answer might be, “Checking Facebook,” or “Switching to a new browser tab,” or “Eating some chips.” Something simple and mundane like that, but just ask yourself what you’re doing, to start to bring awareness.
  2. Next, ask yourself, “What am I avoiding?” When things get difficult or uncomfortable, we automatically switch to something else. We run. We avoid, like crazy. You’re doing it all day long, but not realizing it. Ask what you’re avoiding: some fear, some difficult task, some difficult emotion, some discomfort, or just staying present in the current moment? Name what you’re avoiding.
  3. Now face it. Just stay with this fear, discomfort, difficulty, in the present moment. Not your story about it that you’re telling yourself in your head, but the actual physical feeling in your body in the present moment. How bad is it? You’ll find that it’s No Big Deal. Stay with it for a little longer. And a little longer after that — challenge yourself.
  4. Take appropriate action. Now that you’ve faced it and have seen that it’s not such a big deal, you can act like an adult rather than a little child: you can decide what the best action is right now. If you’re afraid of doing some task, but you’ve faced it and seen that the fear is not such a big deal … you can remind yourself that the task will benefit you and others, and is much more important than your little fear. If you’re avoiding a difficult conversation with someone because you’re angry, you can see that the anger and offense is not such a big deal, and you can talk to the person calmly and appropriately, with empathy and compassion, and figure out a solution.

Of course, not all problems will just evaporate using this method, but I can tell you that you’ll be able to face many more things as you practice this method. You’ll get better at dealing with discomfort, instead of running from it as most people do. You’ll get better at not procrastinating, and doing uncomfortable tasks. You’ll be more present and more willing to stay in the moment rather than needing distractions all the time. Not overnight, but with practice.

You might have the urge to dismiss this article, to avoid practicing this technique. That too is avoidance, and I urge you to face it this moment.

This Moment is Enough

I was in a plane descending into Portland for a quick stopover, and I gazed upon a brilliant pink sunrise over blue and purple mountains, and my heart ached.

Instinctively, I looked over to Eva to share this breath-taking moment, but she was sleeping. I felt incomplete, not being able to share the moment with her, or with anyone. Its beauty was slipping through my fingers.

This was a teachable moment for me: I somehow felt this moment wasn’t enough, without being able to share it. It took me a second to remind myself: this moment is enough.

It’s enough, without needing to be shared or photographed or improved or commented upon. It’s enough, awe-inspiring just as it is.

I’m not alone in this feeling, that the moment needs to be captured by photo to be complete, or shared somehow on social media. It’s the entire reason for Instagram, for instance.

We feel the moment isn’t enough unless we talk about it, share it, somehow solidify it. The moment is ephemeral, and we want solidity and permanence. This kind of groundlessness can scare us.

This feeling of not-enoughness is fairly pervasive in our lives:

  • We sit down to eat and feel we should be reading something online, checking messages, doing work. As if eating the food weren’t enough.
  • We get annoyed with people when they don’t act as we want them to — the way they are feels like it’s not enough.
  • We feel directionless and lost in life, as if the life we have is not already enough.
  • We procrastinate when we know we should sit down to do important work, going for distractions, as if the work is not enough for us.
  • We always feel there’s something else we should be doing, and can’t just sit in peace.
  • We mourn the loss of people, of the past, of traditions … because the present feels like it’s not enough.
  • We are constantly thinking about what’s to come, as if it’s not enough to focus on what’s right in front of us.
  • We constantly look to improve ourselves, or to improve others, as if we and they are not already enough as we are.
  • We reject situations, reject people, reject ourselves, because we feel they’re not enough.

What if we accepted this present moment, and everyone and everything in it, as exactly enough?

What if we needed nothing more?

What if we accepted that this moment will slip away when it’s done, and saw the fleeting time we had with the moment as enough, without needing to share it or capture it?

What if we said yes to things, instead of rejecting them?

What if we accepted the “bad” with the good, the failures with the attempts, the irritating with the beautiful, the fear with the opportunity, as part of a package deal that this moment is offering us?

What if we paused right now, and saw everything in this present moment around us (including ourselves), and just appreciated it for what it is, as perfectly enough?


Five Ways to Nurse Your Ego to Health

By Patrick Cole

Five Ways to Nurse Your Ego to Health

Low self-esteem is a common problem among us. Even those who you will deny it might find hard to say that they have never faced a situation in which they were left with a bruised ego – either a bad breakup, a job loss or just a bad hair day.

Of course, some of us take these moments a bit more to the heart. It also might lead to several conditions and complexes, from a simple and long crying day to depression. So, if you are dealing with any of these situations right now, here are five ways that you can apply to your life so to try to nurse your ego to health, and make yourself feel worthy again.

1 – Accept your flaws

It might sound strange that the first way mentioned here regarding how to nurse your ego is accepting your flaws, but this is the pure and simple truth.

If you wish to ensure that you will become happier about the person that you are, you will have to accept that you aren’t perfect. But the goal here is not to feel sorry for yourself, but to forgive yourself, and to understand that you are worthy of a great life despite it.

2 – Nothing out there is perfect

On the other hand, you should be sure that nothing and nobody are perfect out there. People have flaws and problems even if they are billionaires, sex symbols, or the CEO of the biggest companies in the world. Tabloids are full of countless stories of anorexia, bulimia, cheating, bankruptcy, corruption, and more from the world of celebrities, just as an example.

So stop comparing yourself to the others and rest assured that most of what you call perfection is just Photoshop and good PR. Understand the world is as we dream it, and get ready to build yours.

3 – Congratulate yourself

If nobody is there to do it, do it yourself. If you are getting compliments, do it anyway. Being able to congratulate yourself even for your smallest accomplishments will nurse your ego and make you feel good about yourself. That is to say that you don’t need to get a promotion or win the Olympic Games so you can congratulate yourself. Anything significant that happens in your life should be used as an excuse in this case.

This is called positive self-talk, and it is a proven way to boost self-esteem. It also means to stop listening to your inner critic when it doesn’t have anything useful to say. You can also take short self-appreciation breaks throughout the day and make it part of your routine.

4 – Keep a list of your best characteristics

If you tend to forget how good you are and your best achievements in life, make a list of them and keep it where you can find it. Don’t be shy or afraid to be overestimating your qualities – here what matters is what you consider as important. Remember that this is your private list and that you can write whatever you want.

So put everything into words and you will see how writing is good for your brain – and how it will make you feel better about yourself. Studies have proved it, and you can see their applications in the classroom and real life in many schools and universities nowadays.

5 – Help other people

We all know that we should be doing it just to be a helpful part the community, but it is also true that supporting other people is a great ego booster. Nothing better than hear a thank you or see the smile on their faces after giving a hand to someone. So, make of love your true goal, and look for volunteering opportunities, or, at least, try to be more available when you know that you could be of help. It might be what you just need to feel better about yourself.

In Conclusion

There is nothing wrong in nursing your ego if what you are looking for is to increase your self-esteem. And the simple and easy five ways listed above will help on your mission that makes yourself a happier person, proud of who you are and of your achievements.

And rest assured that it will reflect on the way that you see and participate in the world. So this will be a win-win situation for everybody, starting with you.

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