Sunday, November 30, 2014

Love Yourself First: The beauty of choosing… Prioritizing the chaos this December.

We are at the beginning of December, within the eight weeks of holidays and all the chaos that goes during this time.  For me this week brings up all the parts of planning that took me years to address and learn to master.  AND, it is also this week every year that brings up the lists that can eventually tip me over. 

We all have routines in place for work, school (if we still have kids in school), house, food and all the day-to-day management issues.  Once the winter sets in, especially for us in the northern states, we have the addition of snow and ice, putting on snow tires, shoveling, added to what we normally manage.   When we add the holidays and all the additional perceived requirements, we have double stacked stress load on top of a busy schedule.

I was looking at what these additional holiday stressors can be for many of us. Whether we are celebrating Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, or Christmas, or all, there are gifts, shipping, meals, decorations, parties, school events, and kids out for vacation, all taking place in the first 25 days of the month… whew!

How can we step back from all these activities and expectations and learn how to take on only what we want or need during the holidays?  I have been scaling down for the last 15 years and discovered this really great tool that helps to identify what really needs to be done, what are the stressors, and how to prioritize what you really want to do.  It is in creating the options of choice into this busy time of the year that you can truly free yourself and begin to enjoy this time of year.   When you can step back and take a breath and take a look at what is in front of you, you can make decisions based on what role you want to play this December, and then choose this role with growing mastery.

This great tool is called a Brain Dump.  Here it is… Create a 15–30 minute space of uninterrupted time.  Get yourself a pile of clean blank paper and a pen or pencil you like, and a nice cup of tea, because you want to relax into this.  If you are concerned about time, set a timer for 30 minutes so you know there is an end in sight.

Next, take a few deep breaths and ask you brain to allow you to capture all the details that it is holding for you…. All the details.  Tell your brain you are going to dump all the minutia of to do’s, schedules, ideas, and concerns all on these pieces of papers.  This is really important: partner with your brain and let it know it can open the hatch and let it all go, and you will capture it. 

Now, start writing down all the details for the month of December you hold in your head.  It is key to let go of trying to categorize or sort anything, just write it all down as it comes up.  Let your mind wander and capture everything.  My list always jumps around between ideas for gifts, grocery lists, phone calls, RSVP’s, reservations and confirmations, pet food…. It sort of freaked me out the first couple of times, and then I started having a sense of humor and seeing just what I was actually holding onto.

Do this till you cannot find another thing to write down.  Till you feel completely empty and satisfied that you have captured absolutely everything.   Then put the pen down and put the piles of paper together.  Put the papers in a safe place and leave them alone for an hour or up to a day.  Take a moment to thank your brain and your body for letting go of all this valuable information.  When you do this, you can actually feel your body relaxing and your heart opening.  

Later, come back to the brain dump item at a time and put the information into categories, like a grocery list, or a list of phone calls to make, or what needs to be done by what date.  Once you have all the information captured into one place, now you get to take another deep breath and using the tool of the snapshot from last week, take a look at the balance of time at home, time out with friends, costs, calendar conflicts, and all of it, and with the clarity and freedom from carrying all this in your head, you now get to look at it objectively and decide what YOU really want to do.  Prioritize what really works for you, for you and your partner, you and your kids, and you and your finances.  Period.

With this space and objectivity you get to decide what role you want to play this year, what kind of person you want to be.  You get to decide on what level of frenzy you actually want to participate in, and what you can let go.

It is in our freedom to make choices that we get to create something different, something more heart centered and in line with what opens us up, with what allows space for something new to happen.  It is in our choices that we create opportunities.   So get out there and create, and have fun with it!

Next week we're going to address the ways to focus on wants, needs, and giving over the holidays. Look for this on Sunday evening, December 7th.


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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Love Yourself First: Shifting In When Life is Chaotic on the Outside

Week 1:  Shifting In When Life is Chaotic on the Outside

Welcome to the first blog of seven aimed at bringing some awareness on how to put yourself first during this holiday season. Basically, from Halloween through New Years, we are constantly being invited, reminded, and inundated with our American culture about how to celebrate a series of holidays all crammed into 8 weeks.  It can bring out the stress in us, tension in our relationships, and become financially draining!  This blog will hopefully provide some insights on how you can step back, choose who you want to be, and how you would like to participate in this time of year. 

I have noticed some interesting issues about the holidays over the last few years.  They start earlier and earlier in the fall and keep escalating and telling us what we need to do to “rock” and outshine others this holiday.  In my work with parents, I am struck by a couple of key observations with my clients. 

First, we are struggling with codependence as a culture.   I define codependence as a reliance on what is outside of us: the external.  Think about it, we have learned to watch and scan the world out there, and react to it, copy it, or push away from it.  We watch for signs of what to do, when to plan, what to buy, what we need, and how we see ourselves.  The problem is, when we can only see ourselves in the external, we can be pulled and pushed in all the directions of others.  We can be swayed by others…. by our partners, our children, our co-workers, and by the media all too easily when we are reliant on these needs for our own sense of self.

The second observation is the way the holiday season is taking our reliance on the outside and moving us around like pawns on a chessboard.  We often are moved into places we may not want to be, or spending time with people, or spending money we do not really have or want to spend.  The holidays bring up an escalation of expectations, triggers and stressors that become one really yucky hot bed of emotions.  And we endure them, with a smile on our face, and wait it all out till after the New Years.

Do you feel this way?  Do you find yourself committing to more of these events and gatherings than you can realistically handle?  Is this based on obligations?  Or out of guilt?  Are you happy and excited with these reunions of family and friends yet at the end of the holidays, do you find you spent more than you wanted and wore yourself out? 

I have a quick exercise for you to consider.  It will only take a moment.   As you sit there reading this, settle in and get comfortable.  Relax your shoulders and your neck.  Put your feet on the ground and get yourself into a nice, rested space.

Ready?  Here we go….  Today is Sunday, November 23rd, and there are 4 days till 
Thanksgiving. ….. only four days. 

Repeat to yourself: “Today is Sunday, November 23rd, and there are 4 days till Thanksgiving. ….. only four days. “

Now stop.  Think about those four days ahead and then freeze.  Take a deep breath in and hold all you can of what you see and feel, then let it go as you exhale. 

Sit in this moment.

When you are ready, write down how you feel.  Can you identify any areas in your body that tightened up?  Where is this in your body?  Are there other places?

What images came into your head?  When you see these images, are they connected to any feelings in your body?  What memories, emotions and/or feelings arise?

Now that you have captured that snapshot: thank it and let it go. It has served you.

Give yourself a couple of these moments of breathe through out the week to create and grab an internal check in. You have created a way to stop the external and move inside. 

You have created a way to put yourself first.

This is a quick and easy way to do an internal check in when you are going into a week as packed full of memories, pains, joys, anticipations, and challenges as this one usually is.  If you can give yourself a couple of these little moments along the way to create and grab an internal check in, you will have a very valuable tool of information for what you can choose to do next.  You have created a way to stop the external and move inside.  You have created a way to put yourself first.

This is the last weekend before we all start the countdown to Thanksgiving.  Some of us will be alone, some of us will be working, many of us will be with family and friends.  Whatever it is you have planned, remember yourself in each day.  Take the time to open the door of your own feelings and let them guide you forward, so you can do the best you can with this holiday and celebration.

I will continue to take a deeper look at each week as we move towards the end of 2014 and offer some awareness and tools for you as you go along.  Next week we are going to explore how to prioritize the massive amounts of time and responsibilities ahead in the month of December, while honoring you and how you can support yourself.

Be well.  Love yourself first, so you can let that love spill onto others.


p.s.  Take this exercise with you over the next week and use it when you feel the need to stop and move inside for a moment.

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