Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What to Do When Your Lizard Starts Climbing the Walls

I was sitting at my dining room table last week when I looked up and saw a shadowy visitor making his way up my screen door. One of the backyard's many lizards had decided to take a vertical stroll. I wondered if he was panicking like our inner lizards do when they start climbing the walls.

What's an "inner lizard," you ask?

There's a part of our brain called the amygdala, which governs the stress response and puts us into fight or flight—even over silly things like the mere possibility that we *might* have to speak up in an important meeting or our mother-in-laws *might* show up at our houses unannounced. You know, nothing major like the possibility that a tiger *might* eat us.

Because the less evolved part of our brains is often referred to as the "reptilian brain," my mentor Martha Beck dubbed that panicky amygdala brain voice "The Lizard." It's the voice that pops into your head and shrieks declarations like:
 "You CAN'T do THAT—what will people think?!" 
"You HAVE to do THAT—what will people think if you don't?!"
"If you wear that to the party, everyone will FREAK OUT!" 
"You better not make a career change because you will lose ALL OF YOUR MONEY!" 

It's the part of our noggins that goes all ballistic about stuff that hasn't even—and may not ever—happen. Yet that little lizard voice can send us into adrenaline overload before we even get out of bed in the morning.

So what to do when your lizard starts climbing the walls?

First, recognize that it's your lizard. Stop and be aware of the tone—does it sound like your calm, wise, higher self, inner voice? Or does it sound like anxiety amplified?

Second, take some deep breaths. Breathing helps calm the crazed stress response that the lizard triggers. I'm a big fan of doing alternate nostril breathing with my eyes closed. Pulls me out of stress response every time.

Third, treat it like it's your pet. Imagine patting your lizard on the head and telling it to simmer down. Thank it for trying to protect you from woolly mammoths and fashion faux pas, but tell it you're going to go ahead and do what you want even though it is trying to scare the bejeezus out of you. Let your higher self extinguish its freak out.

Fourth, remember it is the less evolved part of yourself and that's not the part that will guide you toward your best life. The calm inner voice that speaks in cool tones and gut feelings is the one you should listen to. Your lizard may protect you from imaginary threats, but it can also be the thing that stands smack in the way of your ultimate success.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Through Sorrow, the Path to Joy

In the depths of sorrow, remember there will be joy again on the other side.
Nothing is permanent.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

20 Ways to Show Yourself Some Love

Love is in the air this week. Or at least that's what Hallmark would like us to believe. 

But I'd like to invite you to shift the focus away from the lacy, red underwear you may have purchased to wear for someone special, or the paper hearts you've promised to help your child cut and paste to make Valentine's for his or her class. I'd like you to stop and think about yourself.

How are you showing yourself love these days?

Amidst the hustle of everyday life and the stories a lot of us have on repeat in our heads (I don't have time, everyone else's needs have to come before mine, my thighs are too fat to deserve love) we lose sight of the first place love needs to start: inside ourselves.

We can't really love each other if we're not loving ourselves. 

So here's a little primer to get your love pump flowing again. It's based on a question I encountered when doing some Tony Robbins work back in the day. Tony told me to ask myself, "If I really wanted to prove to myself that I loved ME, what would I do?" It was fascinating to explore the answers. I encourage you to come up with your own answers, but here are a few I think might also work for you...

1. Replace self-criticism with self-kindness (I'm talking to you, thigh comments).
2. Buy yourself flowers. Even the cheapest bouquet at Trader Joe's feels good.
3. Wrap up in a cozy blanket or wear really soft socks or slippers.
4. Spritz your pillow with lavender spray at night to help lull you to sleep.
5. Take yourself on a date. Go see a movie, read a book at a coffee shop, visit your favorite museum, drive to a pretty spot and look at the view—whatever makes you feel loved.
6. Stand up for yourself (including TO yourself if it's you who's doing the mistreating).
7. Accept love from others without feeling like you have to go overboard to return it. Just enjoy it.
8. Treat yourself to something silly like a Hello Kitty pencil or clown ice cream sundae or a balloon animal at the farmer's market.
9. Buy a head massager. Trust me. It's life changing.
10. Do that thing that makes you feel sexy (not THAT thing...but go ahead and do that too)—wear your favorite lipstick, blow out your hair, put on heels. Allow yourself to bask in the confidence boost.
11. Congratulate yourself on a job well done. Write yourself a note about it and heap on the praise.
12. Push yourself a little—stay on the treadmill for a minute longer, speak up even if you're feeling nervous, try the recipe that seems too complicated—and then reward yourself for going further than you planned.
13. Quit comparing yourself to other people's social media feeds. No one is as perfect as their profile appears. So stop it. Go outside and do something fun.
14. Massage really yummy lotion into your hands and feet.
15. Make that doctor's or dentist's appointment. Caring for your body is a huge piece of self love.
16. Take a bubble bath or a hot shower with some nice bath gel. It may sound cliché, but it really does do the trick.
17. Allow yourself to sit in silence, with no demanding bosses, hungry kids, or stressed friends in sight. Just sit and let your body relax and breathe.
18. Say hi to yourself in the mirror. Love starts with acknowledgement.
19. Ask for what you want and need. Use your voice.
20. Let yourself daydream. No rules, no restrictions. Fantasize about Clooney or the convertible or whatever it is that floats your boat and enjoy the deliciousness of what your mind creates. You never know—it could come true. 

Wishing you lots of love this Heart Day. And hoping most of that love comes from within yourself.

Friday, February 7, 2014

One-Minute Meditation: Fire on a Winter's Day

I grew up camping and have always been mesmerized by fire. There's just something about watching its lapping flames and orangey glowing embers. Like witnessing some sort of hero's journey—and you can't look away because don't want to miss what's going to happen next. I wonder if the cavemen found it as meditative to sit by as I do...

Monday, February 3, 2014

Putting Your Realest Foot Forward

Last week I hosted my first girls' night with women who live in the town where I moved over the summer. I hadn't spent much time with either of them, so I was nervous about inviting them into our home.

It meant they'd see all the flaws.

It's scary letting new friends into our lives, isn't it? 

Because what if we show them who we are and they decide they don't like us? What if they see our vulnerable little underbellies and decide to run?

As I busied myself dusting and mopping and hiding papers and clutter in unsuspecting cupboards, I kept getting hung up on a particular piece of damaged furniture in our living room. The leather chair in the corner has two circular "burn" marks on one arm. Not from a wild night of smoking. From a time I propped the running vacuum on the arm while I tried to suck a cobweb down from the ceiling of our old house. The spinning brush burned the faux leather right off it.

I wanted to hide it from my houseguests.

I draped a blanket over the arm of the chair, trying to make it look casually intentional.

And then it occurred to me that I'd have to drape that blanket every time my new friends came over.

Hiding a flaw once can quickly lead to hiding that flaw indefinitely. 

And who wants to do that? The thought of it immediately exhausted me. So, although I was afraid of being judged for my shabby chair, I decided it would be better to just put it out there and risk the embarrassment and shame.

The people who make us feel bad like that aren't the people we should be spending our time with, anyway. 

I left the chair's scar visible and made my peace with the other imperfections around my home.

What happened may or may not have had anything to do with my decision. It may have had everything to do with the pure delightfulness of my new friends. But as we sat around my coffee table, drinking wine and eating crackers and goat cheese-pesto dip, we all started revealing vulnerabilities. We traded fears and pointed out things that make us feel like others are looking at us with a critical eye. We talked about how hard it is when you speak up in a room full of people—taking a chance on something that feels scary to say—and no one reassures you. Perhaps because they're terrified of not seeming perfect.

It was a great night and I was so thankful that I left my chair uncovered.

Being real might just be the fastest way to connect with the people who'll appreciate the real you.