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How to survive a toxic environment

Run. Fast.

You’ve been off work sick for a week. Stress-related sick leave. You felt tender spots on your body that you were sure were lumps. They weren’t, thank god. Your mind went straight to the worst case scenario, because that’s what it tends to do. And, because the person you’ve replaced in this job ignored signs that something was up. She’s spent the last year in treatment for cancer.

The phone rings. You see who’s calling and don’t answer. You wait till he’s left a voicemail and listen to it. As you hear his voice, you feel the fear rising in you.

He wants to have a meeting with you the next day. He doesn’t say why. The fear rises even higher, and your mind goes into overdrive.

“Does he want to fire me?”

“Does he want to reduce my hours?”

“What will I say if he says this?”

“What will I say if he says that?”

After a panicked hour or so, you have it all figured out. You have an answer for all the ifs and buts you can think of. Your answers tread that fine line — the one between standing up for yourself, and making sure you don’t get fired. You need this job — the longer you can stay in it, the higher your unemployment insurance will be when he does fire you. Which he will. He made that crystal clear in your last conversation. The “you’re just plugging holes until I find good people” one. That’s the one that pushed you into the arms of your doctor.

You’re dreading the next day.

•  •  •

Still feeling shook some time later, you call me for moral support. And to ask why I think hearing his voice made you feel so scared. “Maybe it’s my subconscious protecting me”, you say. “What do you think?”

“I think you should get the hell out of there, that’s what I think,” is my reply. “You feel scared around him, because he’s toxic. Your not-so-sub-conscious is telling you to get away from him.”

“But if I quit, I won’t get unemployment insurance. I’ll only get that if he fires me,” you reply.

“Then do whatever you need to do to get fired,” I say.

•  •  •
It’s hard to believe we’re having this conversation. We’ve had it many times before — or one just like it. You’ve talked yourself down from it each time. Because you need this job — the longer you’re in it, the higher your unemployment insurance will be.

Yeah, I know.

But I don’t care about that. I really don’t.

Here’s what I care about.

I care about you. About having you around for as long as possible. About your health. But I feel like a stuck record, because I’m the only one talking about this.

Everyone else is talking about how lucky you are to have a job, especially ‘at your age’. You believe this, too.

I call bullshit on this way of thinking. Because this way of thinking will be the death of you. Really. Every minute you spend in that job, near that toxic man, is at least one minute off your life expectancy. You think you can take it, that you’re strong. But I call bullshit on that, too. No one walks away from toxic people unscathed. You might be fine on the surface, but that toxicity is eating away at you, somewhere. That’s what toxicity does. But you know that, don’t you. It ate away at the last person in your job. The one who’s been in cancer treatment for the last year.

So I beg you, please, please, please do whatever you need to do to get fired. Get away from that toxic man and his fear-based workplace. You don’t need that job — no one needs that job. You need something quite different.

You need to believe that your health is worth more than any job. That you’re worth more than the way you’re being treated. You need to believe that you deserve health and happiness.

I believe this. So can you believe it, too?

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

critical-thinking-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

How critical thinking transformed my life…

After overthinking screwed me up

I grew up in a family that valued intelligence above all. It also valued thinking. Not critical thinking, but overthinking.

There’s a crucial difference between overthinking and critical thinking. Overthinking has overtones of obsessing about a subject. Usually someone’s behaviour, often your own. You keep replaying what happened in your head, as if you’re trying to understand it. I say ‘as if’, because you’re not trying to understand it. You’re judging it. You ask questions designed to show that someone is right and someone else is wrong. Overthinking isn’t productive, it’s destructive. It stalls you, prevents you from moving forward.

Critical thinking is all about seeking to understand. It involves no judgement. You ask questions designed to elicit useful information. Questions that bring you closer to a deeper understanding.

Critical thinking had no role in my life as a child. We were expected to tow the line given by whichever authority figure was present. A parent. A teacher. A house mistress. It didn’t matter whether we agreed with what these authority figures were saying. We had to go along with it. Without question.

I remember school teachers sending me to stand in the corridor for asking questions. Not the “How do you do this?” sort. More the “Why is it done like this?” sort. At first, I asked them because I was trying to understand something. I either couldn’t ‘get’ their way or argument, or could see a different way or argument. When this was met with a show of authority instead of an answer, my reason for asking questions soon changed. I then started asking questions to amuse myself – and annoy the teachers. But this behaviour ground to a halt when my school threatened me with suspension. So I stopped asking questions at school.

I’d never even tried asking questions at home. I’d seen early on what happened when you did and didn’t like what I saw. So I learned to tow the line. At first, the questions I wanted to ask came into my head, but after a while, they stopped. I guess my questioning mind turned itself off through underuse.

It’s fair to say that I came to see asking questions as a sign of weakness. “Only unintelligent people ask questions!” I thought. Because intelligent people knew everything. They were always right. So said the prevailing wisdom around me at the time.

It’s also fair to say that this view screwed me up. Big time.

It screwed me up in many ways. First, I became scared of asking questions. I wanted people to think that I knew about whatever it was that was being discussed. That I understood everything. Which I didn’t. And in those pre-internet days, it was much harder to fake it till you Googled it. I got good at bullshitting – I managed to glean enough from people’s often baffled responses to get by.

Second, I became scared of trusting people. If it’s not safe to ask people questions, then trusting people can’t be safe. Contorted logic, I know, but that’s what happens when fear takes hold.

Third, I got myself into a lot of messes. When you don’t ask questions, you make a lot of assumptions. And assumptions make messes. I’ve never had an assumption of mine prove to be correct.

So life wasn’t always easy. But I learned a lot. After a while, I could see the patterns in my behaviour, and the results. And I took action. Despite my fear of asking questions and trusting, I wasn’t paralysed by fear otherwise. I took many risks and changed almost everything about my life.

After decades of relentless self-improvement work, I learned much.

  • I learned that where overthinking seeks to judge, critical thinking seeks to understand.
  • I learned that overthinking is toxic, and mostly self-directed. Overthinking is your inner critics at play, making you feel less than enough.
  • I learned that critical thinking is liberating and enriching. It opens your mind… and heart.
  • I learned that trusting other people is essential for a happy, fulfilled life. If you don’t trust, your heart remains closed to the amazingness others have to offer.
  • I learned that asking questions helped me learn to trust others. Asking questions allowed me to keep my heart open – to trust – whilst protecting myself from harm. The answers I received enabled me to make wiser decisions.

Today, I’m no longer an over-thinker… most of the time. I still have my moments, but they’re rare. I catch myself when I start to make assumptions, and flip into question mode instead. I catch myself when I start to judge, and instead celebrate the difference between us. And I trust, even though this makes me vulnerable.

I trust, because it makes me vulnerable.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

self-awareness-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

7 tips to help you manage the holiday season

Let’s be honest.

You have a love-hate relationship with the holiday season. You love-hate the partying, the abundance of food, the family time, the rush, the gifting, the music, the cheer, the lights, the traditions, the excessive consumption.

So you love-hate most things about it – except for the stress. You hate the stress.

I totally understand. I had a love-hate relationship with the holiday season myself – and it was more hate than love. It used to stress me out BIG TIME – so much so that by Christmas Day itself, I was almost out of good cheer. Sure, it was pretty complicated logistically – not surprising when your parents are divorced and you have to try to spend equal time with both parties. But that wasn’t all of it. Something just didn’t work for me. I continued to have this love-hate relationship with the holiday season until decades later – until I truly understood WHY. Why it bothered me so much when at its core was something I loved – sharing time with people I care about.

My ‘why’ was this. I found much of the holiday season inauthentic and forced. I also found that most of the original intention behind it – sharing time with loved ones – was lost. Lost in a fog of consumerism. And consumerism and inauthenticity go against my values.

Now I know this, the holiday season goes MUCH more smoothly for me. I avoid the bits I hate – I don’t play the consumerism game. I relish is the bits I love – I spend quality (i.e. unstressed) time with loved ones.

Here are my top tips for managing the holiday season.

  1. Get CLEAR on what you want from it. How much family time, how much partying, how much gifting, how much eating, how much tradition, etc.
  2. PLAN your time out so you spend it the way you want. If you don’t, you’ll end up spending your time the way others want you to spend it.
  3. Make sure you leave some ALONE time. You’ll need it to recharge yourself, even if you’re having a great time.
  4. Take a technology TIME OUT. Only check your messages, emails and social media a couple of times a day, turn OFF your phone and computer by 9 p.m. and don’t turn them on until after breakfast.
  5. Take FIVE when someone presses your button(s). Count to five and let it go – do NOT react, this only fuels the fire.
  6. Make PHYSICAL ACTIVITY a part of every day. Taking a 30-minute walk every day improves your mood – who can say no to that?
  7. Love MORE, fear LESS. Being grateful for what you have is a great way to foster love. Start a daily gratitude practice at the dinner table – get everyone to list three things they were grateful for that day.

This year, don’t use escapism – bingeing on food, drink, shopping, etc. – to distract you from the miserable time you’re having during the festive season. Take control of your feelings by being aware and preparing yourself throughly.

It will make your holiday season the best one yet.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

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Why you find it so hard to make decisions – and how to change that

You know things aren’t right, that something has to give. You’re just not sure what. You’ve got that feeling you know so well, the one that raises an alarm in you, without telling you why. You don’t know what to do. So you push the feeling aside and carry on as you were.

Pretty soon, it’s back. That feeling. You think and think and think about it, but you still can’t figure out what it’s about. So you push it aside again. This goes on for weeks, sometimes months. Then, one morning you wake up and know. You know exactly what’s wrong. But instead of feeling relief, you feel anxiety, which paralyses you. It paralyses you, because now you have to make a decision. And you suck at decisions.

You don’t suck at decisions. You’re afraid of making a wrong decision, a mistake.

In fact, you’re so afraid of making wrong decisions – especially the important ones, the ones that will have a meaningful impact on your life – that you do nothing. But doing nothing is actually a decision – you decide to do nothing.

If you do nothing when faced with an important decision, you’re really making THIS decision: to stay stuck with something that’s wrong for you.

The decisions you make in your life define you. The decisions to do something AND the decisions to do nothing. For some reason, you’re more afraid of making what you IMAGINE to be a wrong decision than you are of staying stuck in something you KNOW to be wrong.

You’re choosing the POSSIBILITY of something being wrong over the KNOWLEDGE that something is wrong.

Let’s face it, no one intends to make a decision like that. The way to stop being afraid of making wrong decisions and start choosing to move away from something that’s not working for you is this. You take a deep breath and say out loud as many times as you need until you believe it: “Just because I’m making this decision today, it doesn’t mean that I can’t make a completely different one down the road.” 

Imagine that. Decisions aren’t actually cast in stone! But if you think about it, how can they be? The situation you were in when you made a decision – the way you felt, what was going on in your life, what was going on around you – was unique to that moment.

How can a decision made a week or a month or a year ago possibly be as right for you now as it was then, when how you feel, what’s going on in your life and what’s going on around you have inevitably changed?

The only decision that’s always wrong is the one to do nothing when you know that you need to change something in your life. All other decisions are right – right for you in the moment you took them. Let’s say you decide to move to another country one day, and then decide to move back some time later. That’s great! Your situation (legal, personal, financial, etc.) changed. Let’s say you decide to try your hand at being an entrepreneur and change the type of business you have a few times before you find the right one. That’s great! Your situation (knowledge, market conditions, awareness, etc.) changed.

The other reason you’re afraid of making wrong decisions is that you’re afraid of appearing stupid / incompetent / indecisive / unstable to those around you. You’re worried that they’ll judge you in some way over your change of plans. The first thing to understand is that if people do judge you, their judgement just reflects their OWN fear of making wrong decisions and their misunderstanding of the true nature of decisions. The second thing is that you are the ONLY person who can make decisions for yourself – no one else knows you as well as you do. So if you allow what others think about your decisions to derail you, you’re saying that other people know you better than you do. By all means seek feedback from those close to you, but the final decision lies with YOU.

Your life is the sum of your decisions. Make them count.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

easy-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

What would it look like if it were easy?

You listen to – and believe – all of the lies about yourself, especially the ones you hear on repeat in your head. The lies that tell you you’re not [______________] enough or not as [______________] as her/him; that you have to be perfect; that people will only like you if you do what they ask you to do and behave like they want you to behave; that you have to over-achieve in order to be accepted.

You’re afraid to try or start something, because you’re sure you’ll fail at it. You lack the self-confidence to go for it, so you play it safe. You get overwhelmed and stuck, unable to move forward even if it’s something you want to complete.

You feel useless, empty and scared – and then numb your feelings so you can make it through every day. You judge your every action – and those of others – harshly, constantly using “I/you should…”, “I/you must…”, “I/you always…” and “if only..”. You take things personally and hold onto grudges. You are competitive off the sports field, needing to be the best or always right.

You say one thing, and do another, and worry about the past AND the future. You feel the need to be the centre of attention, thriving on drama to such an extent that you unintentionally create it. You spend time around toxic people and in toxic places.

You live hard and fast, sacrificing your own health and well-being to get ahead. You make assumptions about everything around you, preferring this to looking stupid by asking questions for clarification.

You believe that you aren’t enough. You aren’t compassionate with yourself, so you can’t be with others, and don’t live in a way that nourishes you. You prioritize success over happiness, thinking that success leads to happiness, which it obviously doesn’t, because you start chasing a new success the minute you’ve achieved the last one.

You fight situations and people if they’re not how you want them to be, and cling onto everything, even if it no longer serves you. You NEVER forgive – your indignation at how you were treated feels much more satisfying. You say what others want you to say, believe what they want you to believe, follow their rules and have no idea how you spend your time.

You’re terrified of failure so keep on doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result – which never comes. You don’t bother having life dreams any more, because you know they’ll never come true. You never ask for help as you think it makes you look weak. You try to control everything, because you secretly believe that you can’t control anything.

You beat yourself up so badly that it makes you want to beat up others, too – to deflect the attention of your inner critics away from you for a few minutes. You bottle up everything you feel until it erupts uncontrollably when you least want it to.  You  feel hard done by, as if life has dealt you a bad hand.

You don’t want to stand out from the crowd, you want to fit in and do things the way others do them. Fitting in is so important, you’ve become a people-pleaser, doing whatever is asked of you. This makes you feel used – but you feel even worse when they don’t ask you for help. You spend more time trying to fit in than you do with the people who truly value and love you.

 

What would it look like if it were easy?

It would look nothing like this. 

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

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How to feel the connection you crave

You turn around, waving at your family for the last time. You’re on your way, living your dream.

You’re ready for a big adventure, To live life courageously, pushing past your comfort zone and living every day to the max. You’re ready to meet new people, to experience new cultures. You think about the people you’re leaving behind – your people – but know they won’t be far away. You’ll be sharing every moment of your adventure with them.

You’ve got an action-packed trip. You’ll be constantly moving from place to place, witnessing the most extraordinary things – exquisite sunsets, mind-blowing architecture, the bluest of seas – and the most humbling of things – grinding poverty, extreme violence. You just know you’ll have sensory overload from the newness and wonder of it all.

Six months and thousands of miles later, you pause for breath. Your adventure has been bigger and better than you ever imagined. You’ve seen and experienced so much. You’ve made so many new connections. You’ve grown so much as a result of your experiences and from being on your own. And you’ve given so much pleasure to your people back home, who are living their own adventures vicariously through your blog and Instagram.

You feel alive.

Your aliveness comes from your knowing that you’ve made a deep and meaningful connection on this adventure, With yourself. You’ve always been so distracted at home that you never really spent any quality time alone. Now that you have, you plan to stay connected. Knowing who you truly are feels so good.

It also comes from your having made so many other connections on your adventure. Whilst they’ve not been as deep, they’ve shown you an important life truth – that all beings on this planet are connected. You now understand that you share the same emotions with people everywhere – joy, sadness, happiness, despair, love, fear – and that you are as one with them. Your connection with the natural world has also changed – the wildness you experienced touched the wildness in you – and you understand that you are as one with this world, too.

You feel alive. And yet you feel something else, too. As though something’s missing from your life. This troubles you – how can you be anything but 100% grateful for the life you’re living? You push it aside and carry on, focussing on all the good in your life, and on enjoying your adventure. But, try as you might, you can’t shake the feeling that’s something’s missing. Then, after connecting virtually with your family one morning, you get it.

You’re missing your people. You’re missing the physical connection with your loved ones. You thought that keeping in touch virtually would be enough, but it’s not. You realise that this physical connection with your people is an important to you as your deep connection with yourself.

It’s time to head home, for now. Safe in the knowledge that your expanded horizons will never leave you. Safe in the knowledge that your understanding of connection – to yourself, to your people, to everyone and everything in the world – is now deep.

Safe in the knowledge that you need all three types of connection in your life to feel whole.

Baggage in hand, you rush through the sliding doors. You look quickly to the left, then to the right, your homing beacon flashing bright. You see them. Your people.

You’re home.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

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Why being yourself and having boundaries go together

For most of my life, I’ve had trouble with personal boundaries. Both with stepping over other people’s boundaries, and with allowing others to step over mine.

In my particular family dynamics, there was no such thing as personal boundaries. Walls, yes, but not boundaries. I had to do what I was told and wasn’t allowed to question anything people in positions of authority said or did. This led to my boundaries being crashed endlessly.

Back then, I didn’t have the awareness to know what was going on, just that it didn’t feel good. That having no voice and being made to go along with things I didn’t agree with sucked.

Boundaries are lines that define you. What you’re willing to do, and not do. What belongs to you, and what belongs to others.

Part of being yourself fully is deciding where your boundaries are. That’s why it feels so bad when someone else decides this for you.

Boundaries are crucial in all your interactions – with other people, with animals, with organisations. They’re a matter of respect. They’re being violated every time someone invades your privacy, or tells you what to do or how to behave. If someone’s presence or input is uninvited, it’s disrespectful.

Boundary setting comes from deep within. It’s based on your beliefs about what’s right for you in your life. You get to define how you behave, how you respond to someone else’s behaviour, what’s your to do. You also get to maintain your boundaries. And that means learning to say NO.

Whenever I’m feeling frustrated or angry, it’s because I’ve not maintained my boundaries. I’ve not said NO when I should have. This tends to happen when I rush into something, or when I feel sorry for someone. I’m suffering the consequences of my failure to say NO right now. I’m looking after someone’s dog, an incredibly needy, inactive dog, whose presence in my home prevents me from living my life. I love dogs, but don’t have the bandwidth right now to deal with a dog whose modus operandi is so different from mine.

You can learn to say NO in response to someone asking you to do something that’s not right for you. And you can learn to say NO in anticipation of someone offering you unsolicited advice. e.g. “I’d love to share something with you and just want you to listen – I’m NOT looking for any input about it.”

If you don’t maintain your boundaries, you cannot fully be yourself. Your ‘you-ness’ is compromised by every failure to say NO. If being yourself is important to you, then boundary setting and maintaining must also be important to you.

It takes courage to say NO. It also takes strong guiding principles. The reward is your freedom and a more joyful life.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

ease-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

How to live with greater ease

I live about 500 metres up a VERY steep hill, at the start of which is a sharp bend in the single-track road. This morning, as I was driving home, I started up the hill and thought to myself: “Ah, here’s that bend I hate! I’d better turn the steering wheel the right amount or I’ll hit the wall!!!”. The minute that thought came to me, I had to act quickly so I didn’t hit the wall.

You see, that thought itself almost caused me to hit the wall.

Over-thinking almost caused me to hit the wall.

Usually, I drive up the road with no problem. I don’t love that bend, but my instincts make sure I take it correctly. My instincts know exactly how much I have to turn the steering wheel to make that bend.

As it is in this story, so it is in life.

Over-thinking is a curse that plagues many of us.

Until recently, I was a habitual over-thinker. If there was a way I could over-think and over-complicate things, I would. It wasn’t intentional. It was a habit I learned very young from my father, who was a life-long over-thinker.

Most people believe all thinking is good and that there’s no such thing as over-thinking.

I hold a very different opinion. I believe that there’s a time and a place for thinking, that only certain, very specific tasks are suited to thinking. And I believe that the rest are suited to instinct.

Take driving. When I was learning to drive, I used my mind – thinking – to learn how a car works and the rules of the road. Now that I know these things, it’s my instincts that keep me safe. By staying fully present when I drive, I’m alert to everything that arises. If, however, I fail to stay present whilst I’m driving and start thinking – about how to stay safe or anything else at all – I put myself and others at risk. Driving is not a task for which our minds are suited.

Our minds are amazing at analysing, storing and retrieving information.

Our instincts are amazing at reading, seeing, hearing, sensing and feeling information.

When I was an over-thinker, my mind was mostly in control. It would do all my work and make all my decisions for me. It NEVER assigned any tasks to my instincts, because the mind ALWAYS thinks it knows best. So, I ended up doing a lot of bad work and making a lot of bad decisions.

These days, my instincts are mostly in control. They are very generous and share out tasks according to competence. My instincts give my mind ALL tasks that involve information analysis, storage and retrieval. And keep the rest for themselves. Since I’ve been operating this way, my life has been going much more smoothly. I still do make mistakes, of course, but less often, and I recover from them more quickly.

I made the change from mind to instincts by learning to stay present. The present is the place from which all correct actions and thoughts take place. Here’s how I learned to stay present and stop over-thinking:

  • Meditation. I’ve been meditating for at least 30-60 minutes a day for some years, and on-and-off before then. It’s my best tool for learning presence… and for staying present. I highly recommend you look into it for yourself.
  • Acceptance. Accepting things EXACTLY as they are is perhaps the most powerful thing you can do for yourself. Acceptance means not fighting or denying the existence of a reality we don’t like. For example, I don’t like that I have ulcerative colitis, but I accept that I do. Acceptance allows me to take action around it, it allows me to be highly functional with what is for many a debilitating disease.
  • Letting go. Of the past. Of decisions taken. Of actions taken. Of your baggage. Of your views on how your life is supposed to have been. Of your Inner Critics’ views on all of this. Letting go doesn’t mean that you agree with or approve of difficult situations or people. It just means that you are letting go of the control ALL of this has over you. It is not an angry notion. I like to think of letting go as releasing something / someone into a flow of love, and respectfully keeping your distance.
  • Deep focus on the matter at hand. I devote myself fully to whatever it is I’m doing. I remove all distractions and make sure I give myself regular breaks to refresh myself. For me, this means moving around – I love the Move app, which gives me exercises to do!

Take action to end your curse of over-thinking today. You won’t regret it.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

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How to take action when life hits us hard

When we’re in a bad place, we have a choice.

We can distract ourselves to lessen the pain. Temporarily.

Or we can take action to alleviate the pain. Permanently.

Most of us choose to distract ourselves. In a shopping mall, with shiny new things we don’t need. With food, usually unhealthy salty and sugary snacks. With drink, whatever takes our fancy. With drugs, ‘legal’ and otherwise. With work, the longer the hours, the better. With sex, not intimacy.

I used to be a master of self-distraction. Work was my chosen poison. I would take on complex projects with impossible deadlines and bury myself in them. The more hours I spent at and on work, the fewer there were left to do anything other than eat and sleep.

This approach worked for me for years… until, one winter’s day, I imploded. There was simply no more space inside me to bury the pain. I knew I had to make a decision.

I could either choose to distract myself more effectively and deeply (drugs and booze, anyone?).

Or I could choose to start alleviating the pain.

I chose the latter. I knew this was my only real choice if I wanted to be healthy and happy. Which I did.

I looked at EVERY aspect of my life to see what needed to change to get to the root cause of the pain.

I took action, and started to make the changes in my life that needed to be made.

I found my path out of the pain. And continue to work on it, every day.

Here are some things that have helped me and others work through our pain.

  • Find solace in nature. Nature just allows you to be, with no judgement and no expectations. It gives unconditionally. There is such peace to be found in nature that it can only help you to find the peace within you. Nature is the gift that keeps on giving.
  • Find solace in friends. Your true friends are a bit like nature. You feel held and supported when you are with them. If you don’t feel this, they are not true friends.
  • Find solace in meditation. A meditation practice helps you get out of your head and into your heart. And your heart is a much kinder place to be! When you find the type of meditation that works for you, it’s another gift that keeps on giving.
  • Find solace in animals. Animals have much to teach us about how to live fully in the moment. And this is the secret of happiness. You can walk a dog along the same route every day and he will never get bored. For him, the route is new every day, it’s full of experiences (smells, tastes, sights, sounds, sensations) that weren’t there the day before.
  • Find solace in therapy. Therapy can really help some people get to the point where these other forms of solace really work. The key is finding a therapist who fully resonates with you.

Distracting ourselves is NEVER the answer to feelings of pain. Distraction is denial and ALWAYS leads to more and deeper pain.

We should choose to grow, to alleviate the pain permanently. This is the ONLY route to happiness. Such personal growth isn’t easy. It takes courage, diligence and patience.

And you’re worth it.

Image credit: Sarah Blick

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

grounded-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

How to stay grounded during times of change

I’ve been going through a lot of change of late and have been feeling a bit lost. Not because the change is unwelcome. Not because I haven’t known how to move forward.

I’ve been feeling a bit lost because I’ve not been very anchored.

Anchoring yourself is hard at the best of times. But when you’re moving a lot, like I am, it becomes much harder. I was recently talking to two dear friends of mine who are travelling around Asia right now and they confirmed this. After a couple of months on the road, they’re feeling in strong need of some anchoring.

As a concept, anchoring is hard to explain. It’s not about staying still and putting down roots – although that IS anchoring.

It’s more about finding some constancy when you’re constantly moving.

It helps if you think of a boat. It anchors to stay safe and secure when briefly stopping somewhere before moving on again. A house, on the other hand, roots itself to one place and stays put. Its rootedness also helps keep you safe and secure, but in a different way.

So, how do you anchor yourself?

Here are some possible ways:

  • By creating a routine. Routines can help you feel connected to a place, even if you’re there for a short time. My travelling friends eat in the same restaurant for most meals, that anchors them.
  • By spending time in nature. Nature is grounding, it anchors you just by being itself. I get maximum anchoring from walking barefoot on wet sand, dewy grass or forest floors.
  • By creating a ritual. No matter where I am, I start the day with a cup of mega strong, black tea. The tea reminds me that, even if everything around me is constantly changing, some things in my life remains the same.
  • By meditating. A regular meditation practice can really help keep you grounded. In itself, and as a ritual.
  • By making time to connect with loved ones. There is nothing that connecting with our loved ones can’t help resolve! Deeply, not superficially.

If you’re feeling really unanchored, you may need to do all of these. A lot. It’s worth taking time to do this, even if you’re busy. You might find that some of these work better than others at a given moment. I recently found myself creating more and more routines in response to my unanchoredness, and that started to feel too rigid. I finally realised that I’ve not been spending enough time in nature – I’ve been living in cities for the last 18 months. So I’m amping up my nature time.

We humans are community-oriented creatures at heart. So when we stray from that life, even for something exciting like exploring new places and people, we often feel a little lost. Then we feel guilty for feeling lost, for not appreciating the new experiences we’re having.

Instead of feeling lost or guilty, anchor yourself and those new experiences will again start to feel wonderful.

 

photo credit: Final Anchorage 2 via photopin (license)

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).