5 Ways I am Managing my Stress

I’ve been reflecting and came to the realization that for the first time in a very long time (16 years to be exact) I have a very full life, balancing and juggling quite a few things. I can only describe it as ‘living again.’

Last time I was this busy, I was raising my daughter, attending college, working and caring for my mom as much as possible through her cancer journey. Not to mention attempting to save a failing relationship with my boyfriend. My mom would literally catch me spinning in circles, talking to myself trying to remember everything I needed to do, and she would calmly say, “Breathe”, I joked “how am I going to remember to breathe without you mom”. After her passing, I didn’t have the strength or ability to juggle anymore and had my mental breakdown.

Today I am juggling my herbal apprenticeship (classes, intern hours homework), with a business course through vocational rehab and preparing to launch my own business (which is way more work than I dreamed). Along with still “raising” my adult child, trying to support and encourage her in becoming independent, and developing and maintaining relationships with my family, my coven, and my friends old and new. When I have a spare moment, I am tending to my gardens and doing housework, or simply collapsed.

At first I was severely stressed and riddled with anxiety and panic attacks. I became so overwhelmed I would just sit and cry. After learning more through my herbal classes about how stress depletes our bodies and yes, kills us, I decided I need to get a grip.

I have a few unhealthy coping skills but am developing healthier habits as well. I thought I would share a few ways I am managing my stress, each of these could probably be a full post, but here are the highlights:

1) Shift my perspective, They say things are not as bad as they seem, but when you struggle with mental health, they can seem monstrous! I remember my mom being so stressed out and struggling with depression, when things went wrong, she reacted like it was the end of the world and our family doomed. I understand the reaction, and have been guilty of it myself, but I now know it isn’t necessary or even accurate. In my overwhelmed mind, it feels catastrophic, but reacting this way only adds to the stress. Still, it is challenging. There have been so many obstacles on my business journey, I take a step forward, something happens and it feels like it puts be two steps back, but I now realize this is an illusion. I only feel like it sets me back, when in reality it makes me stronger and in a position to make improvements. When downfalls happen, I immediately stress and panic, but have learned to observe my reaction and shift the way I look at it.

2) Shake it off and let it go. My mama used to say, “let it roll off you like water off a duck’s ass”, yup she was a character! She had a point though. It makes such a big difference to be able to let things go and not brood, or overthink. I can not worry about things I cannot control, and I can’t control other people’s hurtful actions or rude comments. I can’t control the long line at the grocery store or sitting in traffic. If I let these things get to me, it only makes me sick. I constantly remind myself of this. If I catch my mind in race mode, I try to calm myself and breathe. “Worrying is like a rocking chair, you can do it all day but gets you no where!” I try to not be so hard on myself on all the things I don’t get done and acknowledge and celebrate my daily accomplishments.

3) Morning routine. This is a lifesaver for me. I have mentioned before I am not very good at routine or consistency. It took me a long time to develop, tweak and maintain my morning routine but it is an immense help to begin my day in a manner that will carry me peacefully into my day. I get up early and try to make it the same time every day. I have hot lemon and ginger water, meditate to music and affirmations, do yoga and workout, and pray at my altar, giving thanks for another day, followed by my coffee, while I read or journal, or I have my coffee outside marveling at the birds and chipmunks. Then I begin my work for the day.

4) Self care. Self love and care have been a journey for me. I carried a lot of trauma and low self worth because of it. Therapy is a great way to care for yourself, and it has helped me tremendously with integration and my mental health. Other ways I practice self care is to do things that nourish my soul, like gardening, time in nature, loving my pets, time with friends and family, a nice bath, or a cup of herbal tea. Also, basic self care, like eating healthy as much as possible, taking my supplements and/or medications, exercise and time to just sit and be silent.

5) Herbs. I try to take teas, tinctures, infusions and homemade capsules everyday, made with nettles, holy basil, lemon balm, calendula, chamomile, wild lettuce, mullein, dandelion, turmeric and ginger. I use Bach’s Rescue Remedy drops and spray, and I also smoke marijuana (which helped me quit my Xanax and anti depressants years ago) because it helps me center, ground and tune into my spirit.

Of course, I am a work in progress, and have unhealthy habits too, like smoking too much marijuana sometimes, or my wine and Netflix escapes, and recently I have relapsed on smoking cigs, but I know I am doing the best I can and I am proud of where I am. Not long ago I was not able to get up out of bed, get through a day without crying or my heart racing or my mind. I couldn’t socialize or function. My old self could not even imagine that I would be here now, with this full and beautiful life.

Where ever you are in your mental health recovery, please don’t give up, keep going, it does get better and easier. Just keep showing up for your life, one baby step at a time, take a break when you need it, but don’t stay down.

Wishing you love, luck, light, peace and power!

May be an image of flower, nature and text that says 'Transformation formation in progress... @beyouthentic'
I was lucky enough to catch this picture of a Monarch butterfly pollinating my Calendula flower! Butterflies represent transformation and affirms that I am right where I need to be. My healing and metamorphosis is in progress! I AM TRANFORMING!
May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'I HAVE THE POWER TO CREATE THE LIFE I DESERVE!!! @BEYOUTHENTIC'
On the recent New Moon in Leo and the Lion’s gate portal, I thought it was a good time to set a powerful intention!! Yes, I do have the power to create the life I deserve! I AM WORTHY!

Body Healing Habits

I have learned the hard way that emotional pain sits in the body and festers.

A few weeks before I began my EMDR therapy; My body was in a lot of pain. My neck and back were locked up for a few weeks, my stomach was a mess, and my ovaries were acting up. I’ve often had episodes like this throughout my life. My therapist proposed that my body was trying to tell me something and she suggested spending an hour a day with my body really listening to it. I laughed with disbelief and then honestly admitted I couldn’t imagine taking a whole hour to be still and listen; but, I promised that I would check in daily.

Listening to my body has been a whole new process. I have always made it a habit to stay busy, or distracted, I think I’ve been afraid that if I sit still and be open, some horrible memory, image or realization will manifest and grab hold of me.

I turned to EMDR to finally heal these old wounds. The side effects, have thrown my body for a loop! Anxiety, headaches, nausea, flashbacks and even vomiting while my trauma releases. I am slowly processing and nurturing myself through this healing process.

These are a few body healing habits that I have been using to tune in, listen to my body and heal.

You could use any of these methods for any type of anxiety, illness, or pain.

Grounding/Earthing

My therapist suggested this visualization:

Take your shoes off, feel the earth beneath your feet and take a few deep breaths.

Imagine your feet are sprouting roots into the earth and you are solidly grounded.

Take the anxiety and negative thoughts and let them pass through those roots,

Into the Earth, where the energy can be transformed and used to nurture the Earth.

I did this visualization after EMDR each time, and ended with hugging a tree.

Mother Earth resonates with me and I always feel healed in nature.

Epsom Salt Baths

I always knew Epsom Salts were food for aching muscles; but, I came across the above image recently and remembered my mom once telling me that Salt has cleansing properties. Perfect for cleansing old emotional wounds!

I mix up Epsom salts, sea salt and a few drops of lavender oil and soak for about twenty minutes.

Guided Meditation and Binaural Beats

I occasionally do the following meditation by Jason Stephenson while in the bath or before sleeping. It’s only 20 minutes and it helps me slow down, listen to and heal my body specifically.

Jason Stephenson has many wonderful meditations on his youtube channel.

Also, awhile ago I started listening to Binaural Beats with meditation music. I found a bunch of them on youtube and often listen to them as I am falling asleep. Binaural beats are specific tones and frequencies believed to be able to relax and heal the body and mind. It’s most effective if listened to with headphones.

 

 

EMDR: My next step in therapy

This week in therapy, I will begin EMDR  (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing). I was supposed to begin it in the beginning of this month; but, I postponed because I wanted to enjoy the very last bit of summer without being overcome by painful memories.

Regardless, just the thought of EMDR approaching had forced those same memories to surface anyway. As a result, my physical health is suffering and depression looms over me. After discussing with my therapist, we decided to begin as soon as possible.

EMDR therapy is used to treat PTSD but it has also been known to treat other mental illnesses and addiction. I will have to relive past traumas and while I do, my therapist will instruct me on particular eye movements. There is also a machine involved that I saw in her office; but, I am not sure how it works. I only know that it’s time to finally release this pain and hopefully retrain my brain.

It’s been explained to me, that our body processes traumas and keeps those memories. When something traumatic happens, our brain takes a photo or a still frame of the smells, surroundings and environment. This flash memory later becomes what we learn are our triggers.  EMDR will retrain my brain, so that when I have these memories my body won’t suffer as much. For example, I will be able to visit my home town without severe anxiety and fear.

I started learning about how our body has it’s own memories of traumas shortly after my surgery. Listening to my body hasn’t been easy. There are many wounds that are crying to be healed.

Presently, my anxiety is at a high level with EMDR approaching; but, the truth is that I am living in pain with my past on my shoulders. I am afraid to formally visit these memories; but, optimistic that I can heal, my mind, body and soul.

Learning to Listen to my Body~

So, it’s only been a little over a week since my surgery; but, a few days ago I was feeling kind of good and without any pain pills. Naturally, my antsy stubborn self took over and started moving around furniture and lifting things, trying to distract myself from the unpacked boxes. Suddenly, it felt like my belly button ripped! This is where the incision from my surgery is. I didn’t look at it. I immediately sat down and put an ice pack on it. My mind taunted, “Always gotta learn the hard way, don’t ya?”

After sitting about a half hour with ice on my belly, I felt a little better. What do I do? Well, I realized I couldn’t do any lifting, so I cleaned. Did this still agitate my wound,,,,YES! I don’t know why I like to believe I am invincible sometimes. I looked at my incision and it was separated slightly and looked kind of swollen. Frightened and in pain, I spent the rest of the evening with ice and took a pain pill.

The next day I felt better. I had therapy scheduled for 11:30am, and stopped at the house in Kingston to grab some things. LIGHT things. Did I overdo and pack a basket that should not have been dragged into the car? Of course I did. Feeling the pain, I made myself a little ice pack and got ready for therapy. Physically I did not feel like going; but, I was already in the area and mentally I knew I had to go.

On the ride over, my mind taunted again, “Do you want to end up in the hospital with a ripped belly?” “Because if you ignore me, you know it’ll get worse until you listen!” Then I realized, this wasn’t my mind, it was my body speaking to me.

I sat in my session letting the tears and words fly. I learned that not only do I have mental triggers to these particular sections of my body that have been traumatized; but, that my body has those memories too. Therefore, it is to be expected that I would have more symptoms. It was a relief to understand that may be why I have had a hard time healing.

I asked for guidance on how to cope with another week of feeling anxious and not being able to do anything. My therapist then asked me what I thought it meant, that I could not be still and let my body heal. I replied proudly that I had learned quite a few years ago that the reason I used to have to be busy all the time is because I was afraid to be still and listen, and feel. and think. I feared what may surface or how I would cope with it. Although, I have come a far way from the busy wanna be super woman; I still have to learn more about listening to my body. Really listening.

I detached from my body years ago to cope with abuse. As an adult, I learned to care for my body with exercise and nutrition, and it felt good; but, I was still detached. I did not care for my body because I loved it. I viewed my body as an asset. In my modeling. In my dancing. In my relationships. I was disconnected.

I have heard my body but I never really listened. My body tried to send signals, I’m hungry. I’m tired. I need rest. My mind always responded, “I hear ya; but we just gotta do this first!” Usually as a result, I’d end up flat on my back somehow.

I am so glad that I dragged myself to therapy yesterday. I observe my situation and stop feeling anxious and frustrated that I can’t do more right now. I can look at it as an opportunity to relax and to be still. To really bond and incorporate my body into the healing process.

I apologize to my body for so many years of neglect. I thank it for always getting me through. Today, I vow to to nurture and to heal. To care for and respect my body’s needs and limitations. I will learn to listen to and eventually love my body.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letting Go (poem)

 Letting go 
of anger and shame,
the self-made demons
and inflicted pain.
Letting go
of self beatings
and all the abuse.
Letting go
of memories
I no longer need to use.
Letting go
of all who have hurt me.
Letting go
to be free.
Never…
letting go
of gratitude and compassion,
or my ability to love another.
Never…
letting go
of the gift and responsibility
of being a mother.
Or the lessons and spirit
of my own mother.
Letting go with grace.
Letting go to embrace…
Embracing
the present moment,
myself and my destiny.
Embracing
the part of me
that has suffered so,
a helpless prisoner
in my soul.
I embrace
her,
to allow her,
to just
LET GO.

Checking in and Checking out

checking in photo: CHECKING IN GreenTea_CheckingIn__lmr07.jpg
Last week my therapist assigned me to ‘check in’ with my emotions daily.  The reason for this is to be aware of and learn to process my feelings before they accumulate and I have an emotional meltdown (an every so often occurrence).
I’m used to blocking out my feelings. It’s what I did for a large portion of my life to survive. Now, I have to unlearn that pattern and learn a new one.
I bought a small notebook, and checked with myself every morning. By the end of the week I was scribbling in large letters….EXHAUSTED…SENSE OF DOOM…ANGRY. I’m not sure what was making me so anxious,tired or angry; but I didn’t like the way it felt. My therapist had said not to try and figure it out but to just jot it down and then work on it with her.
Tomorrow I see her, and hopefully will gain some insight.  Meanwhile I check in with myself on a need to basis but haven’t been jotting it down, until I can move through the anxiety.
Unfortunately, I kind of shut down in my writing all together.
Today is the last assignment of the Blogging 101 course I’ve been taking. I feel sad and anxious for a few reasons. 1) I have never liked goodbyes 2) I feel I’ve failed because I am so many assignments behind.
If I stop ‘checking in’ so intensely and put the sad feelings aside; then I am able to peacefully check out.
I really don’t have to say goodbye because I am following blogs of many peers I’ve met and they are following me. It’s okay to stop beating myself up for feeling like a failure; because I can still make up the assignments.
Checking in with myself without the sad or anxious feelings; I can feel happy. I can reflect on how challenging and rewarding the past 30 days have been with my new blogging family. I can revel in the fact that I went from zero to hero! I can be proud. I can move forward and continue to commit to myself, my blog and my peers. 
My goal is to ‘check in’ and blog once a week & ‘check out’ what my peers are blogging about.
I thank you all for this wonderfully emotional experience. 

happy sad photo: faces facebg.jpg

 See you around the blogosphere! 🙂