Thursday, April 6, 2017

How to Save a Life: Get Out of Your Head and Start Living

A little over a month ago, I wanted to die.

Now granted, I had those feelings at peak PMS when estrogen was soaring and progesterone plummeting. But the root feelings were real, just amplified by a hormonal tornado.

No joke. I felt so lonely, so empty, and so hopeless that I stood in my bathroom staring in the mirror and thought I'd be better off dead than living my pointless, lonely life. As I mentioned in a previous post, I wound up crying myself to sleep that night. My despair over not having found a job, having been rejected before I even had a chance to interview, coupled with my lack of solid new friendships in my new town had pulled me down into the depths of sorrow I hadn't felt since I had post-partum depression 10 years earlier. And oh yeah...I hated my body and the extra 10 lbs. it had accumulated since my move.

I believe I also mentioned a moment of serendipity that occurred that night that I believe may have saved my life. Or at the very least, started me on the path of rebuilding my life and becoming the person I want to be.

Sometime around 2:00 a.m., I awoke and turned, as I often do when awake at that hour, to Twitter, looking for something to read that would help me fall back to sleep. Or maybe this time I was perusing Instagram. At any rate, I landed on reading this post. It didn't exactly make me sleepy.

It did give me a spark of hope as I lay in bed mentally listing friends, people I know, people I've worked with, tiny steps I could take to regain my fitness. And it made me laugh. Something I thought I'd never do again a few hours earlier.

More than that, it made me stop and just be present. I was able to accept that where I was sucked, but it was okay. I could rest there for a minute, but I didn't have to stay. With that knowledge, I fell back asleep dreaming of my alternate futures...

The next morning, I got up and the fear and angst rose up again. Instead of giving in to them, I decided to do one small thing. In a reading shared in the women's collective I joined after moving to Chattanooga, there was an exercise that required asking 5 people what they admire about you and what your unique gift is...I messaged 4 people I loved and asked them if they would mind answering those questions. I chose to do that because I was so terrified of doing it and I instinctively knew that I had to do it because it scared me so much. I feared they would come up with nothing nice to say about me or they'd think my asking was needy or narcissistic. Instead, the people I loved took their time and sent me kind, thoughtful, reflective answers that have ultimately guided me to a decision about what I can do with my life, how I can create and follow my own path while being authentically myself.

The lesson in that exercise for me – and one you might benefit from as well, Seeker – is to trust your friends and those whom you love to nurture and support you. Fear of looking stupid may be the number one obstacle any of us face in being open to and receiving the love and guidance we deserve.

Not only did I put myself out on an imaginary limb by asking for support from my friends, I had a heart to heart with my husband who is being totally supportive of my journey to figure all this shit out. In fact, he actually redirected me from trying to keep pushing to find a full-time job and encouraged me to dig deeper in figuring out what I can offer the world by reading James Altucher's book Reinvent Yourself.

Reading this book and the original Altucher post I linked above were incredibly helpful. If you don't know James Altucher, I encourage you to read his blog, listen to his podcast, check out his books, and learn from his hard-won wisdom. With one simple sentence, he moved me out of my stasis. "The past is dead." And indeed, it is. I cannot go back to the life I had in Atlanta. And yearning for yard, my friendships, my job, my position (as little as it was) in our school community...was never going to bring it back or let me move forward.

I was stuck and maybe you are, too. Having someone else help me see that was the smack in the face I needed. I can't hold on to that past life and I can't – nor should I – recreate it. Seeing that gave me the freedom to be right there, hurting and letting go, mourning what I lost, but also, making room for what is coming.

I did have to sit with some seriously uncomfortable thoughts and think about how I ended up here. Thoughts about purpose and career; friendships; my parenting style; my body image insecurities that affect my relationship with my husband...every part of my life was up for examination and reinvention. So, here I am, learning to live again by taking small daily actions to get unstuck from the self-pity, sadness, and self-defeat I fell into.

I don't know where you are on your path...maybe you're loving life and right where you want to be. If so, I am so happy for you! Genuinely happy because you can share that joy with the world and help it thrive. If you're not happy, if you feel like you're at the bottom like I did a few weeks ago, know that you are right where you are supposed to be right now. Yes, it totally sucks and I hate it for you. But sometimes we need a catalyst to launch us into what comes next. The key is to not get stuck where you are. Trust yourself to feel all the feels and know that it can and will get better. But you'll have to do the work. Also, consider this the outstretched hand of a friend, offering to help you stand up.  So, here are five things I recommend (and am finding helpful in my own journey) to pull yourself out of the muck and mire of depression and create the life you want. And while I'm not all the way to where I want to be, I'm making a start.

In the last few weeks, I've landed my first Chattanooga freelance client, started running again, joined Pure Barre, been nominated President of the Home & School Association at my kids' school, discovered that I really want to help other women live their best lives and to that end recommitted myself to writing this blog, and reinvested myself in growing a home-based business that also has the power to change lives. Here are five things that are working for me:

1. Let Go 
Let go of fear and worry. Let go of negative thoughts that tell you you can't. Trust me, you can. Align your thoughts with love for yourself and whenever a negative thought creeps in, let it go. Just remind yourself over and over and over again that the negative voice you hear is your false self and let it go. And let's kiss fear goodbye, too. Fear is also your false self, trying to hold the real you back. Every day try to do something that scares you. I'm doing that right now and I'll be doing it tonight, too, when I go have drinks with people I didn't even know four weeks ago when this process started for me.

2. Find Your Gurus
Whether in your community of friends or in the realm of books, podcasts, audiobooks, or documentaries, seek out the wisdom and positivity of people who can inspire you, motivate you, and help you make the changes you want to see in your life. Listen and re-listen to the things that uplift and motivate you. And on the other side of the coin, try to limit your intake of negativity. Limit the amount of news you consume and the sources you get it from. And yes, limit exposure to friends and family members who question you or challenge you on the changes you are making. You only get one life and you might as well go for it and make it the best life you can imagine. Is your broke, lazy friend going to tell you anything that will help you get ahead or is s/he going to try and hold you down where they are? Okay, right.... So here are some of the things I'm listening to or reading in addition to James Altucher's books and podcast (which I highly recommend): Anything by Dr. Wayne Dyer, but especially How to Be a No-Limit Person. Tony Robbins's Awaken the Giant Within. You are a Badass by Jen Sincero. Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It by Kamal Ravikant. Ask and It is Given by Abraham Hicks (or really any of the Abraham books). Oh! Also, watch the documentary Happy! It's a life changer!  But, if none of these resonate with you, go to your library or online and explore books on positive psychology. And seriously, check out James Altucher's podcast. There's always a different guest with a different perspective, and even the ones I don't necessarily like can still teach me a thing or two about success and pursuing a goal. The important thing is to learn that you can choose your thoughts and the best way to have happier more positive thoughts from which to choose is to feed your brain a steady diet of positivity, inspiration, and encouragement.

3. Nurture Your Physical Health
Eat well. Stay Hydrated. Sleep. Get some exercise. These things are easy to neglect, especially if you're down in the dumps or working two jobs or living a life you don't love. But, to change any of those things you have to love yourself and one of the simplest ways to love yourself, is to start nurturing your body. Try to limit processed foods. Maybe just start by adding one fresh fruit or vegetable to your diet each day. Cut back on caffeine after noon. Drink more water. I start each day with a glass of water with a drop of lemon oil. It starts flushing out toxins that my body was processing overnight and gets my hydration off to a good start. If you work in an office, maybe take the stairs instead of the elevator or at least take them up to the second floor to catch the elevator to start with. When the weather is nice, go out for a walk at lunchtime. Sunshine is a great mood-lifter and gives you a dose of Vitamin D, which is actually a mild antidepressant. If you're really motivated in the exercise department, try a class. I've tried Zumba, Pilates, and Pure Barre and have loved them all. For me, physical exercise is the best thing I can do to keep all the clutter in my mind from taking over. I feel so alive and happy after a good workout! Even if you don't make it all the way through the first time, it will be easier the second and you can feel proud that you made the effort! Change is not easy and it does not happen overnight. However, the sooner you start making changes, the sooner you can feel and see their benefits.

4. Feed Your Spirit (Even if You're Not Religious)
There are benefits to stillness and quieting the monkey-mind that go beyond any religious implications. And don't get turned off here if you are religious. Meditation can become whatever you want it to be: a powerful tool to calm your mind and increase your connection to Source energy (God, if you prefer), or it can simply provide a space of stillness to clear out the clutter and calm your mind so that you can free yourself from daily stress and open your mind to receive ideas and inspiration. Whether you take a formal Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class or start with guided meditation videos on YouTube, giving your essence some quiet time to unpack and release the accumulated detritus in your mind frees you to simply be. It is restful and restorative and it is a gift you can give to yourself each and every day. I think you'll be surprised and delighted at how this simple change can open you up to the possibilities that await you.

5. Make Lists
Okay. Some people would tell you to set goals, make a five-year plan, write affirmations. And those things are all great. But they can be daunting. So, if you prefer to think about it that way, go for it. For me, I needed to start more simply. So, I made lists of the things I'm good at. And lists of the things I enjoy doing. A list of people I admire. Start where you are...If you're trying to figure out how to get happy, make a list of things that make you laugh. Watch a few videos related to the list. Make a list of books you want to read (maybe add one from my list above). Make a list of friends who seem happy in their careers and interview them to see what they like about their jobs. Make a list of places you want to visit. Maybe make a list of things you want to accomplish, but when you write them, write them as "I am" statements and as you write, try to imagine how you would feel if you were already in that place. Make a list of all the things you love about yourself. Just getting these kinds of thoughts and ideas out of your head and onto paper (or the glowing screen in front of you) can help you start to formulate a vision of the person you want to be. It's like creating a road map to help you reach your destination.

I know a lot of this may sound corny and maybe you've always cast a scornful eye on the idea of "self-help," but seriously...Who else is going to help you make a personal transformation if not your Self? And that's where we are right now. You can change or you can stay where you are. In order to change, you have to tell your Ego to sit down, shut the fuck up, and let you get on with it. But you have to decide that you are worth it. Trust are. I am reminded of and want to share with you this final thought which author and one of my chosen mentors Kamal Ravikant shared in a podcast. He mentioned that when he struggles he returns to a line by the Persian mystic and poet Hafiz. I leave you with this: "I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being."

Be well loves. And please, please, share your thoughts in the comments. I love hearing from you and as always, please share this with anyone who needs it.

Love to all.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Terra Heck, thank you for visiting Belle of the Blog and sharing your thoughts on the trailer for The Zookeeper's Wife! You have won a $25 Fandango gift certificate!

Ashley Stein also won a $25 Fandango gift certificate for liking the Belle of the Blog Facebook page and commenting on the post over there!

I am so grateful to all my readers and hope you'll keep coming back!

And for anyone who is interested in reading The Zookeeper's Wife prior to seeing the movie, you can get the book here