9 strategies for surviving the holidays with an open heart

The holiday season can be a mixed bag – joy, laughter, generosity, drama, triggers, conflict.

For some it’s a season to look forward to; for others it’s a season to dread. No matter how you feel about the holiday season there are practices you can engage in to survive the holiday season with an open heart.

burn your to-do list

You know the list that has been running your life for the last month, year, decade? Burn it along with your Yule log. It has no business following you into the holidays, they are stressful enough.

If it’s really important you will remember it.
It will get done.

When the holiday spirit moves you into action, let yourself be moved. Until then, watch the fire burn.

schedule what matters

Over the holidays, schedule days to be completely off – nothing wiggles into your day{s} off except for what opens your heart.

It’s a day to spend time in nature, read the book you’ve been wanting to read, make green smoothies, call someone you want to call, sip herbal tea sweetened with raw honey, feel what you are feeling, write gratitude cards, do some belly breathing, share a meal with a person who opens your heart, go for a run, lay in Savasana.

If you don’t schedule what matters, the holiday stress may swallow you up and spit you out in the New Year.

sleep

Block off time in your schedule for extra sleep so your mind and body can recharge and recover.

When you block it off, schedule it in and make space for it, it’s much easier to stick to it. Putting it in your schedule makes it official and gives you permission to keep your commitment to yourself.

indulge

Indulge in things that nourish your soul – soaking in a bubble bath, creating a rockin’ playlist, throwing paint on a canvas, making snow angels.

When your soul is full, it’s easier to not fill up on things that make you feel gross {one more Nanaimo bar will compliment this bottle of Merlo perfectly!}

return to your roots, with love

When you spend time with family consciously choose to share happy stories, fond memories, and good times. No matter how small or fleeting those things were, they were there.

Often we’re so caught up in the drama we forget the peace.
Pay attention to the peace and it will grow.

Listen to positive songs from your past, reminisce over delightful photos, bring out the childhood book you loved and read it again.

gratitude

Make gratitude a daily practice – cards, text messages, phone calls, flowers, thoughtful gifts you can afford.

Think of all the awesome things in your life.
These things didn’t happen without the love and support of others.
Acknowledge and appreciate the good.
examine expectations

Expectations of how we should be, our family should be, the holidays should be are crazy-making.

When we expect to give the perfect gift, get the perfect gift, cook the perfect turkey, or have the perfect conversation we miss the messy, beautiful, imperfection of life.

It’s the imperfection that makes life real and interesting.
Honor it.
slooooooow down and tune in

You have a reliable internal guidance system. How is your body feeling when you say yes to making 6 dozen squares, hosting a 30-person dinner party and providing gifts for everyone? Are you light and energized? Are you heavy and exhausted?

Say yes to what you want to say yes to.
Say no to what you want to say no to.
Invite the people you want to invite.
Bake what you want to bake.
 
If you don’t want to buy presents, try giving the gift of your presence instead.
hire a pro

Holidays can be a rough time — emotions run high, triggers are flying, people are crying, drama is soaring.

You may be able to manage it and you may not.

If you can’t manage it on your own there are professionals who can help you. Reach out to your favorite psychologist or local distress center. You are not alone.

For better or for worse, the holidays only come once a year.
Follow your heart, do what matters, remember to love.

5 practices for a more peaceful life

I’ve been searching for peace for most of my life and, thankfully, I’ve found a few practices that help me live in a state of peace most of the time. Here are five of my favourite practices for peace.

1. Cultivate Mindfulness

When my mind is spinning into a vortex of future tripping, and I can’t seem to settle it, I gentle coax my monkey mind into mindfulness.

I laser my concentration onto my senses and notice the moment. What am I hearing? Seeing? Physically feeling? Smelling? Tasting?

If I really need to amp up my practice I’ll add something interesting and engaging into the moment – like a piece of raw, organic, superfood dark chocolate or crank up my favorite Songza playlist and dance around the living room.

2. Explore Meditation

I’m inconsistent with my meditation practice and I am a impatient meditator. I set my Peace Alarm for ten minutes and when I peek at the timer I’m shocked to discover only seconds have passed.

I haven’t found a practice I’m ready to devote to. But, I experiment and explore different meditation practices with the intention to find my practice. Even though I’m not a dedicated meditator, I still take time to add a dash of peace to my day by focusing on my breath, a candle, or loving kindness.

If I need a physical distraction to focus my mind I’ll play my crystal singing bowl or do a round of mantra meditation with my Precious Mala.

3. Drop Judgment

Training my brain to drop judgment was one of the kindest things I did for myself.

Judgment spins us into a world of tense frenzy and frantic chaos. Of course, you can never completely escape judgment, but being liberated from the drama that arises when we fearfully or harshly judge ourselves, or others, makes space for wholehearted living and loving.

4. Ease Expectations

Being handcuffed to expectations about how life should go, how others should behave, and how I should be creates buckets of misery and disappointment.

Easing up on my fearful, lofty, unconscious expectations leads me into a more compassionate relationship with myself, others, and life.

5. Embrace Uncertainty

In the past, my need for control was out of control. It fuelled anxiety and kept me stuck.

I would pass up amazing opportunities unless I was certain about the outcome. Of course, it was all an illusion. Even if I tried to control the outcome there was still no certainty, I just convinced myself there was.

The reality is, I have no idea what the future will be. Shit will happen no matter how much I try to avoid it.

Trading avoidance and control for trust and surrender brought a whole lot of peace into my life. And, there has been some really incredible things that have happened because I let love take the lead and put fear in the back seat.

 

Find the peace practices that work for you.
You deserve it, our world needs it.

 

10 ways to avoid seasonal affective disorder

Every year around this time, Seasonal Affect Disorder {SAD} settles into the hearts and minds of many.

I said goodnight to the sun at 4:00pm this week.
The winter is long and the days are short.
The conditions for SAD are ripe.

Feeling energetically drained?
Moody?
Hypersensitive?
Avoiding others?
Feeling fatigued?
Unmotivated?
Winter blues?
Need a drink at the end of the day?
Blowing off your workouts?
Watching too much TV?

The season may be messing with your serotonin, melatonin, and circadian rhythm. SAD may be setting in.

In the past I too could feel myself sinking a little lower when the days got shorter.

Here are 10 things you can do to help protect yourself from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is super important for mental and physical health. Vitamin D is linked to depression, cognitive performance, osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, immune system functioning, cancer, respiratory infection, inflammation, blood pressure. In Calgary, where I live, most people are Vitamin D deficient and don’t even know it. Make sure you’re getting your D.

Light

Many of my clients use light therapy on darker days to get a dose of good rays. Carve out thirty minutes to sit in front of a 10,000 lux light box to help boost your mood and protect your mind.

Exercise

Get your heart working to help ward of depressive feelings. Go for a quick walk, do some jumping jacks, greet the day with a sun salutation, take the stairs, strap on some ice cleats and go for a sunrise run, park further away, put on your favorite tunes and get your groove on. Every little bit counts — thirty minutes a day five days a week is ideal.

Omega 3

The feel good neurotransmitters can be regulated by Omega 3 to help optimize your winter happiness. Because I’m a vegetarian, I get mine through flaxseed and walnut oil but a good fish oil will give you a hefty dose too.

Nature

Have you seen Grounded? If they can get outside in Alaska and transform their health, surely we can add a little nature into our life. Be brave. Dress warm. Go outside.

Social.

Join a book club, say yes to the invitation, sign up for a yoga retreat, invite your soul sisters over for a tea-tasting party. Resist the urge to isolate and become a hermit. We are wired for connection. It soothes our nervous system and adds to our happiness.

Nourish.

I love eating salads in the summer, but when winter comes just thinking about eating a salad makes me cold. Nourish your body in warm, whole, healthy ways. Soups. Stews. Teas. By consciously nourishing your body you can avoid binging on food that will mess up your brain chemistry and make you feel gross.

Sleep.

Get into a sleep routine. Make it sacred. Stick to it. My routine {usually} includes cuddling with my boys, bedtime stories, a candlelit bath with a book of poetry, a super dark room, heavy blankets and sleeping by 9:00pm. You know how much sleep you need. Get it. It’s one of the kindest gifts you can give yourself.

Change.

If you can change your scenery, do it. Go somewhere warm. Take a few days off work and have a stay-cation dedicated to your wellbeing.

Love.

Yourself. Self-love is a necessity if SAD is setting in. Look in the mirror and appreciate every little bit of you. Get a massage or give yourself a massage. Practice radical self-acceptance. Treat yourself to a set of flannel onsie pajamas. Love yourself and do what you love – read the books you love, meet with the people you love, pursue the hobbies you love.

Connection.

You are not alone. Many people struggle with SAD. Reach out. Find a support group. Share your truth.

 

4 ways we stay stuck

Many of my clients struggle with fear, anxiety, depression, self-sabotage, and procrastination. There are many causes to these symptoms, but they often originate from living a life based on outdated beliefs, desires, goals, and roles.

We are always outgrowing the previous versions of ourselves. Who we are now is different than who we were ten years ago. When our inner world changes, we need to make changes in our outer world in order to feel aligned.

When our soul is ready for a life redesign and our ego is too afraid to change we can crumble, regress, distract, and numb in order to avoid making the changes we need to make.

Crumble

When our beliefs, values, and ideas about the world crumble we become vulnerable to a breakdown. People often experience nervous breakdowns when they are flooded with a new truth that goes against an old truth. When we are unable to process, accept, and make changes based on new information we can crumble.

Regress

Anytime we’re stressed or overwhelmed our natural inclination is to fall back on the behavioral habits, emotional strategies, and cognitive patterns of our past. We return to old assumptions, familiar roles, and tired beliefs in a desperate attempt to regain security. If we do this we stop growing.

Distract

We are surrounded with an abundance of distractions {working, television, gossip, drama, video games, internet porn, social media, shopping, to-do lists} that allow us to avoid feeling what we need to feel in order to make the changes we need to make.

Numb

We have an endless supply of ways to numb – cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, sugar, prescriptions, food. If numbing actually worked we would know by now; sadly, we are more in debt, obese, addicted, and medicated than ever before. Obviously, our attempts to numb are destructive and futile.

 . . .

Rather than avoiding discomfort and resisting change, we can make a different choice.

We can redesign.

In every moment, we are provided with an opportunity to make a choice. We can do what we’ve always done or we can do something new.

Redesigning means creating a fresh map of new habits, supportive thought patterns, aligned beliefs, and goals with soul.

It’s about consciously reflecting on what no longer fits.

  • What have you outgrown?
  • What are you pretending not to know?
  • Which parts of your life feel too small?
  • What do you want now, that you didn’t want then?
  • What did you want then, that you don’t want now?

At the deepest level you know what you want and you know what to do in order to live the life you want to live.

Seek the truth, be brave, and take action.

I’m not saying it will be easy {though, it might be}. I’m saying you don’t have to crumble, regress, distract, numb or hit rock bottom before you start to live a more authentic life.

You can keep your inner world and your outer world aligned by returning to these questions, calling on courage, cultivating consciousness, and trusting yourself to design a life that matters based on who you are now.

Sometimes, it’s hard to let go of the past, what is predictable and familiar often feels comfortable. But, the comfort you are holding onto from the past may be pushing away the great life that is waiting for you in the future.

The more you are willing to consciously examine your life, the more you will be able to design a life you love.

5 ways to boost your energy

There are soulful goals you want to achieve, places you want to explore, and passions you want to pursue. In order to live a life you love, you must do more of what you love.

But, wait! Who has the time? I get it, life can be crazy.

Living by your sacred yes and honouring no will help you create more time.

But really, I think the bigger issue is energy. Maybe you don’t need more time, maybe you just need more energy.

Here are five ways to boost your energy so you can step more fully into your great life.

Be mindful

Practicing mindfulness will help you avoid getting lost in stories of the past and wound in anticipation of the future. Living in the past or the future for too long zaps energy and can lead to depression and anxiety.

Play with this practice to bring you into a state of mindfulness.

  1. Notice three things you see and say them out loud.
  2. Notice two things you hear and say them out loud.
  3. Notice one things you smell and say it out loud.
  4. Now, take deep three breaths and focus on the sensation of your breath moving through your lungs.
  5. Repeat the process until you settle into the present.

More mindfulness means more energy.

Spend time in nature

Nature is energizing and healing. By soaking up the sun you’re welcoming a natural dose of Vitamin D, serotonin, and melatonin into your cells.

Feeling depressed? Difficulty focusing? Struggling with weight? Low energy? You might be experiencing Nature Deficit Disorder.

The solution?
Go outside.
Get grounded.
Develop an intimate relationship with your body

Every body is different. What works for my body, might not work for yours. Despite the plethora of gurus shouting about what to eat and how to exercise, only you can know what your body truly needs. Notice what makes you feel light, energized, inspired, and nourished.

Does your body feel rested and refreshed after six hours of sleep, or do you need eight?

Does your soul feel energized when you dive into the pool and fall into the hypnotic rythmn of your stroke or does it want to bump and grind in a pole fitness class?

How about breakfast? Notice what your body feels like after you enjoy a hearty breakfast compared to sipping green juice and watching the sunrise.

Does coffee make you anxious?

Does sugar make you crazy?

Noticing what nourishes your body will boost your energy and your health.

Consciously create rituals

How we live each day is primarily a result of unconscious ways of being and subconscious rituals – the food we eat, the way we talk to our children, whether we pour ourselves a drink at the end of the day or go for a run, how we spend our money, the way we deal with emails, how we feel in relationship, what we think when we look at ourselves in the mirror. More than 40% of the actions we take are based on subconscious rituals.

What kinds of rituals will add energy to your life?

A series of sun salutations to greet the morning? Using half of your lunch break to go for a walk? Greeting your kids enthusiastically by exclaiming I’m so happy to see you! Drinking a glass of warm water with lemon every morning? Lighting a candle and slipping into a hot bath at the end of the day?

Rituals are used all over the world, by all kinds of people, in all kinds of ways. While there’s tremendous variety in the types of rituals performed, they all have one thing in common — people who perform rituals report feeling better about their lives.

Explore

Try new things – routines, habits, schedules, driving routes, meditation practices, book genres, foods, entertainment, music, fitness classes, words, ways of relating, clothing styles.

Just because you’re trying something new doesn’t mean you need to commit to it. Exploring different options will help you deepen your self-awareness.

What do you like?
What do you dislike?
What brings you pleasure?
What would you rather avoid?
 

Make it playful – explore one new thing each week.

Curiosity, exploration, and self awareness can add energy to your life.

Your great life is waiting for you.
Boosting your energy will help you live it fully.

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