Surviving the Holidays

One of the biggest stress makers during the Holidays is when you spend an extended length of time with your family. Here are 5 tips for finding your Middle Ground … and feeling more balance this year.

perfect thanksgiving family

Let’s face it, spending 24-7 with anyone can be stressful, so here is some wisdom to help you make it through this year with less drama, tears and opening of old wounds.

1. Lower your expectations. This isn’t the movies, this is real life. And life has its ups and downs! We may put a lot of work into the decorations, food and the family setting to make it look perfect, but it can it really be like in the movies? Accept that there will be emotional baggage being brought into the house and through the Holidays. When we recognize that, we can think about how we want to handle it – before we get triggered. So reset your expectations and accept the reality that things don’t always go the way you planned them or hoped for.

2. Let it go. Have you ever noticed that you end up having the same argument or rehashing old sore points year after year? It’s time to let it go. This is not the time to get into an argument wishing your mother would not interfere in the kitchen. She will. Let her. It’s what she has always done, so be kind and let her feel useful.  This year resolve not to get sucked in. If your brother, sister, cousin, father, daughter or son  has a tried and true aggravating behavior … take a moment and ask yourself. Can I let this go this year? Is this truly a battle worth fighting?…. What’s more important to us as a family?

3. Be smart and be present with what you are saying and doing. Don’t over indulge as a way to escape. You can’t control other people, but you can control your own attitude and behaviors. If you want this year to be more peaceful and loving,  then take action that comes from kindness rather than being right or getting back at people! Whenever you notice you are being judgmental and critical, then take a deep breath … and choose to be kind. Resolve not to add fuel to the fire but to be the peacemaker.

take time out

4. Take a time out. If you find yourself starting to feel resentful or lashing out in your head, give yourself permission to have down time. Leave the room, take a walk, have a bath, take a nap, meditate or hit a yoga class. You need to unwind and recharge – and that’s okay. Encourage others to do the same. We all need a break from being “on” 24-7. Remember that laughter and deep breathing release dopamine and serotonin in our bloodstream and make us feel good.  Direct that pent up energy in a positive way and let it move through you!

5. Appreciate. Make a list of the positive reasons to spend the holiday with your family. There must be a reason, you show up every year! – And the family does too! Pull out the list whenever you hit a rocky moment. One thing about families is that you’ve got a long history with them, and unlike your friends, you have no choice.

On the other hand your family are just that – yours. Be grateful for them. Without them you may not be here …. and you would definitely not be the person you are today.

Resolve to let gratitude in, keep your heart open and be present.

p.s. Refer to the guide on practicing being present by clicking here.

* A Self Love Inspiration for Today

“The time will come

when, with elation,

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror,

and each will smile at the others welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.

blue door to our true nature

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine. Give bread, Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.”

– Derek Walcott, “Love After Love” 1974

No matter what has happened in the past, all your past experiences have brought you to this present moment.

Let this awareness open your heart in loving kindness and gratitude.

Now is the time to come home.

Find your Self waiting with open arms.

The Hardest Step on Our Journey

Looking back on my own journey, I realize that the first step – getting to know myself, was exciting and captivating – as long as I only looked at the things I liked about myself…..images

Being an observer of all aspects of ourselves – without judgment – is the hardest step of all.

As a coach, I really wanted to be good at my own personal growth, and was hard on myself when I wasn’t! While I was able to be understanding and compassionate to others, I wasn’t able to give myself that same compassion. I gave myself an A for empathy … but when it came to myself I was a poor C.

This went on for years. I thought I was evolving. Helping and supporting others. Becoming a more caring human being. Becoming more giving…..

…  And then my yoga practice helped me see the truth. I was kidding myself. No one can be enlightened without being compassionate towards themselves.

Kitten seeing reflectionGetting real about ourselves is an empowering step on our evolution as human beings. When we accept ourselves just as we are, without judgment – on the yoga mat or off it –  then we find our middle ground.

It took me years to get over this conditioning and to start being kind and accepting of myself.

Its never too late to start on this journey of acceptance and self caring. The next time you hear your inner critic, ask yourself  “Is this really the truth or could this be a habit that no longer serves me”?

Then give yourself a big hug 😊

* Finding Middle Ground at Kripalu

Kripalu LakeI’m just back from 10 days of yoga training and retreat at Kripalu Health and Yoga center. It is truly an amazing place. Kripalu means compassion in sanskrit …. and the center and people reflect the message in everything they do. It is a place where seekers come to find their Middle Ground. How cool it is to be in community with 57 classmates all on the same path.

Its one of the most nurturing places I have been to…. as well as a stimulating learning experience from masterful pranayama and meditation teachers Larissa Carlson and Sudhir Jonathan Foust.

I’m looking forward to sharing some of the insights and learnings here and in my yoga classes, as the stirred up mud settles in the water.

floating lotusNamaste and Jai Bhagwan!

* Do You Need to be Kinder to Yourself? (….. the answer is yes!)

When you find yourself riding the waves of life or swinging on life’s pendulum and its hard to bring yourself to your middle ground, do you notice that you are more critical of yourself and judging of others…..?

Our inner critic keeps us on this roller coaster of emotions and struggle! Its when we start being kinder to ourselves that we can find our middle ground.

self compassionDr Kristen Neff  has done some great research into self compassion and its impact on our mental well being.  She wrote in a recent article in Psychology Today:

“When our inner voice continually criticizes and berates us we end up feeling worthless, incompetent and insecure, and we often end up in negative cycles of self sabotage and self harm. However, when our inner voice plays the role of a supportive friend we can – when we notice some personal failing – feel safe and accepted enough to both see ourselves clearly and make the changes needed for us to be healthier and happier.”

She continues:

“But what is self-compassion exactly? Drawing on the writings of various Buddhist scholars, I have defined self-compassion as having 3 main components:

Heart pebble

(a) self-kindness

(b) a sense of common humanity

(c) mindfulness

Self-kindness refers to the tendency to be caring and understanding with oneself rather than being harshly critical or judgmental. Instead of taking a cold ‘stiff-upper-lip’ approach in times of suffering, self-kindness offers soothing and comfort to the self.

Common humanity involves recognizing that all humans are imperfect, fail and make mistakes. It connects one’s own flawed condition to the shared human condition so that one can take greater perspective towards one’s personal shortcomings and difficulties.

Mindfulness involves being aware of one’s painful feelings in a clear and balanced manner so that one neither ignores nor obsesses about disliked aspects of oneself or one’s life.

The three together combine to create a self-compassionate frame of mind: a compassion that can be extended toward the self when suffering occurs through no fault of one’s own – when the external circumstances of life are simply too painful or difficult to bear – or else when our suffering stems from one’s own mistakes, failures or personal inadequacies.

Much of the research conducted on self-compassion has used the Self-Compassion Scale I created.”

If you want to test your own self-compassion level and find out if you need to start being kinder to yourself click here!

Love this work!!

Beginning …. to Find Your Middle Ground

Where do you find direction towards that place of contentment, peace of mind and connection? Your Middle Ground?

The first step is all about self discovery – really getting to know yourself.

Often we think of ourselves in terms of the roles we have in this life – in our families as parent, sister or spouse, or at work as an employee or professional, or in communities as a neighbor or volunteer etc. We’re so bound up with others that we miss getting to understand ourselves. We think we know ourselves, but we often only see ourselves in relation to other people.

Ask yourself,  “Who am I … without my children, my grandchildren, my spouse, my career?”….

Take time to get to know yourself and become aware of who you really are – your natural talents, core beliefs, values, needs, passions, triggers and fears. Much of what you will discover has come from those around you … yet there is so much more that is uniquely you! So freeing!

woman freeWhen we start to explore who we are, and see all aspects of ourselves,  we can become authentic in the world. No longer trying to live up to others’ expectations or playing a role. Our mask can be set aside and we become free to let our true nature shine through.

You become more grounded and confident, courageous and compassionate.

In my experience there are 2 ways to get to know yourself in this way:

Being Mindful

The first way to self discovery can come from yoga and the practice of mindfulness.  Noticing without judgment what is going on in your mind and your body, and acknowledging  it is incredibly powerful. I recall times on my yoga mat, when my left hip flexor tightens for no apparent reason. In the beginning I wanted the discomfort to go away and so I worked to stretch it out even more. Taking it to its limits in order to bring it into my idea of what it should be. Of course, I came across more resistance and more contraction instead. When I realized it needed some tender loving care and I backed off, the pain dissipated. I swear that hip of mine hears my thoughts!

Once you see and feel more clearly, you can choose to respond more skillfully and appropriately. My biggest lesson about myself in yoga is letting go of needing to control and accepting the way my body is….. and not to trust my thinking as being the truth.

Getting Curious

The second way to self discovery  is by taking  a coach approach and getting curious. Start to ask  yourself and answer these questions:

What are the best moments of my week?Woman journaling
What brings me happiness and joy?
What do I do at an excellent level?
What am I afraid of?
What beliefs, values and needs are important to me?
(Tip – Notice what makes you angry, because it is usually a belief or value that has been transgressed or an unmet need)
What do I want that I don’t have?

…. What else comes to mind about who you are and what you want?

In this place of questions and discovery, you may find it hard to access this inner part of yourself, or lots of judgments come up……. and that’s okay. It shows that there is room to grow into your true self!

This is just the beginning.

I truly enjoy connecting with those of you beginning this journey. Please reach out to me privately if you’d like a guide and supporter: