stress management tips

How to Find Your Mantra

Life mantra

This month, I wanted to talk about why mantras or positive statements we repeat to ourselves can play an important part in helping us get through challenging times. Mantras can help us feel more centered, grounded, and empowered while we are feeling a bit scared, sad, or even angry.  

In 2017, I discovered that one of my favorite singers (Ani DiFranco) would be performing in Edinburgh. I thought about how fun it would be to see her play and thought I could take this opportunity to make my first solo trip. Although I have flown alone many times, I had always had plans to meet someone on the other end before. But an entire week in Scotland ending with Ani sounded like the perfect adventure!

Until uncertainty and self-doubt emerged, I started to think, “What if I miss my connecting flight? What if I get lost? What if I feel awkward eating dinner alone? What if, what if, what if…”

I knew I wanted to go, but the thought of going also made me feel scared and anxious. I also knew that this challenge would be an opportunity to embrace fear and uncertainty—a great opportunity for personal growth. So that’s when I said to myself, “If something makes me anxious, I am going to do it anyway.” That has been my mantra ever since.

My new mantra helped me move through the fear and book the trip. I am so glad I did it because I had a blast. I met new people. I had dinner alone and loved it. I went on tours and walked around the city. I did not get lost, but I did almost miss my connection on the way back to Boston. I reframed that experience by saying, “If I miss my connection, I can spend a night in Ireland, which wouldn’t be such a bad thing.”

This new mantra has also helped me both personally and professionally.

In my personal life, I’ve been taking risks by joining clubs and attending different events on my own, something I might not have done before. I’ve made good friends out of those experiences. Now I also know that I enjoy dinners alone, and I feel confident taking more social risks.

On the professional side, I have created a blog, written for HuffingtonPost.com, Today.com Parenting, and ThriveGlobal.com. I’ve done interviews for Bustle.com, PopSugar.com, and many other national media outlets. I have agreed to be a guest on national podcasts and radio stations where I talked about stress and anxiety management. I have even written a stress management course called Breaking Everyday into Slivers Not Chunks: Practical Skills to Manage Every Day Stressors. Doing this work made me feel anxious, nervous, excited, and scared all rolled up into one. I’d never done any of these things before. And I said “yes” to it all.  

Answering “yes” to such opportunities can lead to amazing experiences. But I know it also brings uncertainty and risk, which means I open myself up to fail. I just remind myself that if I do flub or bomb, then at least I’ll learn from it and possibly get a good story out of the experience!

I’ve learned that, sometimes, we have to experience some discomfort in order to grow. If it makes me anxious, I am going to do it anyway.

I’m not talking about being-alone-in-a-dark-alley-at-midnight type of anxiety where there is a likelihood of actual danger. I’m talking about when anxiety tries to convince us that the idea of failure is too strong to take a risk, and tries to force us to make a decision to not go for something we want. 

If it makes me anxious, I am going to do it anyway. This is what I say to myself on a regular basis, and this way of thinking has served me well. I want to pass along this experience in case it helps others like it has helped me.

I encourage you to find a statement, quote, or mantra that you truly feel holds your feet to the fire when there is an opportunity to embrace uncertainty rather than run away from it.

Skills to Help You Cope Through Loss

How to cope with loss

Coping through loss. Not a very fun sounding newsletter, is it?  But I think it’s an important and meaningful topic, and I hope this issue of the newsletter will help some of you. In recent months I have heard a lot about loss in my practice. Losing of loved ones, ending relationships, leaving college life and feeling shaky about what comes next, and moving on from friends and familiar places.  Loss comes in all different forms, but it’s always difficult. How the heck are we supposed to get through it?!
 
Regardless of what type of loss it is, emotions can overtake us and try to control what we do or don’t do. Disappointment, shock, depression, anger—they all call out to us in times of loss. And while these emotions are important to pay attention to, it is also important to pay attention to what we need to move through this pain we feel.
 
There are two skills that I have found particularly helpful in times of loss, and that I recommend you try too.
 
1). Set aside about 20 minutes (you can even set a timer if you want) and gather what you need to help you just be with whatever feelings arise. Get the aloe tissues ready, a glass of water to stay hydrated, a pillow to hug, or even stuffed animals (we won’t judge). 

Remember to be kind to yourself as you feel all those emotions.  And after that time limit, make sure you have something planned that helps you feel grounded. It could be watching something on Netflix, seeing a friend, taking a hot shower or bath, or listening to music you find soothing. Whatever it is, tend to yourself.

2). Structure can be your best friend in times of pain and loss. The last thing we need is to be on the couch in a dark room all day. (You can do that if you want, but refer to option 1 for some guidelines.) So give yourself some structure. Get out your weekly planner. If you don’t have one, make one. Look at your week and add in your work, school, family, and any other commitments you have to take care of. Then fill in the gaps. When do you want to see friends? When do you want to be alone and cry or journal? When do you want to watch TV or read that book you’ve been meaning to? When do you want to go for a walk or run? 

Scheduling yourself will create a structure that can help you move through emotions thoughtfully, kindly, and with built-in support. Of course, you can always move things around—nothing is ever set in stone. But knowing you have things to look forward to is so important. It’s part of being kind to yourself in a time of loss.

Going through a loss of any kind is a process. Emotions are important, and we need to create space to feel them so we can create space to heal. I hope you find these two methods of creating that space as helpful as I have.
 
Wishing you all good things.
 
Angela

Emotional Spring Cleaning

Spring Clean Your Life

When you think of spring, you often think of shedding the old and bringing in the new. But that doesn’t have to mean just throwing out those old sweaters to make room for new ones. You can apply the same idea to the emotional clutter you collect and hold on to.

Just like unused clothes in a closet, emotions can take up room you can’t spare in your brain. That’s because you unintentionally hoard emotions like guilt, shame, sadness, and anxiety.

But what purpose does this collection of unfortunate emotions serve? None!

It's time to clean out that closet, weed that garden, take out the trash … you get the idea. It might not be as easy to throw out emotional clutter as it is to donate that ratty old sweater, but it can be done with a little patience and kindness.

Below are three steps to guide you through your emotional spring cleaning.

1. Emotional Sorting

Take those emotions off your mental shelf and look at them one by one. Do you need this emotion right now? Do you enjoy wearing it? If not, toss it into the trash. If you want to hold on to it, ask yourself why you want to keep it and for how long. I find these questions can help separate us from our thoughts and emotions, and help us answer honestly.

If you need some distance, I encourage you to ask these questions out loud. Talking it out can help! When you decide which thoughts and emotions are taking up too much space, you can take the next step in letting them go.

2. Journal

Put those thoughts from the trash pile onto a page. No judgment, no editing (swear words included), no holding back. Writing these thoughts down helps free your mind of any ruminative thinking. After you finish writing it all down, you can choose to keep it, shred it, or throw it out. Throwing out the physical evidence of those emotions can be particularly cathartic for many people.

3. Make a Self-Care List

Practice being kind to yourself. To loosen the grip of negative thoughts and emotions, and fully let go, you also need to put good things into your life. Go to the movies, read a book for fun, go for a walk, or do something you love on your own or with a friend. Make a list of activities that make you happy and pick something from it at least once a week.

Remember that these steps may need to be repeated several times before you feel the full effect of

letting go. Do not give up!

It is hard cleaning out old stuff, even when you desperately want to kick it to the curb. This is especially true of emotions. Be patient with yourself. You can always spend some extra time on Step 3 if you feel stuck.

Sending good energy your way!