Monday, January 31, 2011

About moods, carbs and chocolate...

I have been in a grumpy, foul and just plain irritable mood since Friday. I'm tired, I'm upset, I can't get motivated, I just want to give up on it all and hide under a blanket. This kind of behaviour is, as my husband duly noted, cyclical and temporary, thank goodness (I actually find it ironic that he seems to know my cycles better than me at this point). But it does bring up a conandrum: How do you nurture your self when you don't feel like it? How do you feed your body whole, healthy food that nurture when what you're really craving is junk food and its euphoric "feel good" fix? Is a craving your body's way of asking for what it truly needs or a mind's trick learned to ward-off negative moods? How do you elevate your mood, confidence and motivation when you feel defeated?

These are some of the questions I struggled with this week-end, as I lived on pasta (with butter) and chocolate. I'm afraid I didn't find any mind-blowing answers. Three days of carb and chocolate indulgences later, I feel gross and am trying to fend off the thoughts that want me to see my indulgences as failures. Instead, I'm choosing to see this week-end as a teachable moment, an opportunity to ask myself how do I prepare for the next time my negative moods come back (as they will in roughly 28 days). I think the only answer I came up with is that the only way to nurture myself in these days of feeling low, is if I have a plan in place and a strategy in mind. I'm not sure what my self-care plan is going to look like, but I have four weeks to come up with it which gives me ample time to come up with ideas. How about you? How do you nurture your "Me" when you're feeling low?

Today, I took care of my "Me" by being gentle with myself and not engaging in self-defeating thoughts. I also connected with friends, read a book that made me laugh, and stared at the sunlight while trying to absorb every ray. How about you? How did you take care of your Me today?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

When Being "Me" Inspires Others

"I've learned that loving yourself requires a courage unlike any other. It requires us to believe in and stay loyal to something no one else can see that keeps us in the world - our own self-worth" (Book of Awakenings by Mark Nepo. January 25th)

On Tuesday, while folding laundry, I put on the Oprah show. It was a retrospective show on the evolution of the discourse on being gay and coming out over the 20 years of the Oprah show. It spanned the changes in the public discourse from when "being gay" was taboo and shunned, to the present time when the public discourse is more focused on acceptance and an open dialogue. What allowed the evolution of the discourse was the courage of many individuals, including high-profile celebrities, to speak out and come out about being gay. One such individual featured on the Oprah show was Greg Louganis, who in 1995, chose to live an authentic life by coming out publicly and announcing that he was also HIV positive. At the time of his interview with Oprah in 1995, he said that his reasons for coming out were that he was tired of living life as a fake, constantly having to edit himself, and living with the fear that "How could anybody accept me if they really knew me." But after many years of living as a "fake" and hiding of his true self, Louganis realized that he wanted to live his life "openly and with honesty".

When Louganis came out as an openly gay male, he mostly did so for himself, in order to live authentically no matter what the reaction from others would be. By choosing courage over fear, he declared that he was worthy just as he was. What he didn't know was that his courage would inspire others to live an authentic life. On Tuesday's show, Oprah talked about a young man, Michael, who was 12 years old when Greg Louganis appeared on the 1995 show. When Michael heard Louganis speak about the reasons for his coming out and the need to live life authentically, he realized that being gay still meant that you were worthy of love and was no longer something to be feared. "I'd never seen another gay person. I thought I was the only one." Validation, inspiration, love and self-worth, were gifts that Louganis gave this young boy that day that allowed him to live a life without questioning his self-worth in the world and without fear of the day when he came out. He talked about how his mother asked him "Do you think you're gay?" and his response was "No, Mom. I don't think I'm gay. I know I'm gay." That is the response of a confident, self-assured young man.

Watching this show and the story of Louganis and Michael was a joy for me. It really showed how beneficial it is for your "self" to embrace who you are and to live your life with authenticity. It takes great courage to embrace our differences, our weaknesses, our vulnerability and expose them to others, but it is necessary to do so if we hope to live a life of authenticity, rather than a fake life in which we desperately try to morph into the socially-accepted norm in order to fit in.

By the way, as Dr BrenĂ© Brown explains in the video from my previous post, the word Courage from it's linguistic roots means "telling the story of who you are with your whole heart." Dr Brown also realized that the happiest people are those who "were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were (....) who fully embraced their vulnerability because they realized that "what made them vulnerable is also what made them beautiful."

So don't be afraid to spread your wings, embrace who you are, and shout it to the world. You happiness will be increase and you might become a role model who inspires others to do the same.

What are you going to do for your "Me" today?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Why the feeling of worthiness matters or "I am enough!"

I was all set to write about a reaction I got while watching an episode of the Oprah show today, when my friend Emma told me about this video. Beyond the fact that I truly enjoyed this wonderful speaker, it's the message that struck a cord with me.

It felt as though everything I had been trying to share through this blog was driven to the point in this particular talk. What was best articulated to me, was the truth that our own sense of worth has an impact not only on our own internal feelings of happiness and joy, but also on the world in which we live and the people we have connections with ("If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy").

It is so important to recognize that by loving ourselves as we are, by accepting our strengths and vulnerabilities, we are able to make ourselves stronger and more confident, and the power we get from that self-acceptance and self-love has a ripple effect on our ability to love and care for others and for the world we live in. As Dr Brown states: "We can't practice compassion with others if we can't treat ourselves kindly."

We, as individuals who treat our "Me" with the most gentle kindness and understanding, can have the power to transform our reality. Simply by accepting that you are beautiful just as you are, including your so-called flaws, and by acknowledging that you are worthy of love, affection, admiration, and kindness, you give yourself permission to tap into a power that is liberating and transforming. It takes courage to shup up the internal demons that tell you otherwise, but remember that the self-destructing thoughts are just that: thoughts and you can choose to listen to them, or to ignore them.

I invite you to take a deep look at your "Me", and to feel the love, because you are amazing, you are worthy, and you are enough just as you are.

Today I took care of "Me" by listening to some fun music and dancing and singing along. It always makes me happy when I dance and sing.

How about you? What have you done for your "Me" today?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Just be "Me"!

When was the last time you were really being your authentic self? If you're taking more than a few seconds to remember, then you might be in need of reclaiming your true "Me". Most days, we are all putting on an act to "be" someone that we might not necessarily be in order to fit in, or to pretend to "be" a certain way so as to not offend others. From putting a smile on our face when we really feel low, or saying "yes" when we really feel like "no". The problem is that every time we define ourselves to meet other's expectations, we lose our identity. So who is your real "Me"?

I've been struggling to define who my real "Me" is for the last year ever since I realized that I have spent many years trying to morph into a person that I wasn't. I was trying so hard to be like other people because I really wanted to "be" the person that I admire in them. One of my friend is an avid gardener and I admire the beauty of her gardens. I tried to garden and like it too, but I realize that I'm not and never will be a gardener. It's just not "Me". Diddo with many other things. Through the self-discovery process I started this year, I have realized how much of me is also defined by what I think other people would like me to be. Trying to love the same things as some of my friends so that they will love me and think I am worthy has been my guiding principle for a long time. But I have now realized that it's ok for me not to be like anyone else, and more important that no matter who "Me" is, I am worthy, I am special, and I am lovable for who I am. Making the decision to just be "Me" is liberating and empowering. So the question now is "What makes me "Me"?

At this point, I'm still trying to figure "Me" out, but a good starting point was to say, what do I truly like? What makes "Me" happy? What brings "Me" joy? Here's a short list of my "Me". It's an ever evolving list that I'm excited to compile as I start falling in love with "Me" again.

1. I am a reader
2. I am a food lover
3. I am a runner
4. I am a great friend
5. I am not a gardener (and that's ok)
6. I am not a homemaker (and that's ok too)
7. I love to sing and dance in my house, in my car
8. I am a dreamer
9. I am a mother
10. I am a wife

There are many more things that make "Me" a great person. What about you? Have you ever thought of writing down what makes you "You"? Try it, it's enlightening. In determining what makes you "You", it's important to listen to your gut feelings. If your head tells you that you really love gardening, but every time you see a spade, you feel deep down that you'd rather be running a half-marathon than playing in dirt, then listen to your gut reaction. It's ok to be different, and actually it's pretty awesome because by being different, we are all bringing into the world a very special piece that nobody else has.

Once you have started reconnecting with who you really are, then "BE" that person all the time. Honour the fact that what you are is different from others, and that it's ok. When you are truly acting like yourself, and really loving who you are, then it won't matter what others think or whether they will love you. If you love your "Me" then you won't need the validation of others to make you feel worthy and lovable. In a 1986 song by Whitney Houston titled "Greatest Love of All", the chorus declares that "Learning to love yourself/It is the greatest love of all." I couldn't agree more.

What I have done for "Me" so far today? I've lived in the moment, enjoyed a peaceful house, exercised and spent some time thinking about "Me". How about you? What have you done for your "Me" today?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Balancing Act

There is something I want to clarify for fear that I may have sparked some crazy ideas in your head. Embarking on a journey to nurture, discover, and appreciate your "Me", while being a task that you should devote yourself to daily, does not mean that caring for your self is the only thing that you should be focusing on from now on (although sometimes I do fancy a mother-tantrum of giant proportion when I fantasize telling everyone and everything that I'm just done, going away to finally take care of Me and I'll come back when I feel like it!). I'm not asking you to reverse the trend from days spent taking care of everyone else with no time for yourself, to days where your only focus is to take care of yourself at the expense of others. Once we start listening to our needs, and making time for our selves, it can be very hard not to want to devote hours to reconnecting with "Me". But life, unfortunately, does not provide us with such quality time.

The idea is to create balance in your life by including all the roles you assume in your day, while still leaving a chunck of time dedicated to you (which is, by the way, non negotiable). That chunck of time might be 1 minute, 10 minutes, 1 hour, it doesn't matter as long as you make it a priority every day to nurture your self while living your busy life. Life is not going to get less busy, so you might as well make it a point to create space for yourself in your busy schedule. That sometimes means reassessing commitments you are considering or have made, and saying "NO" to things that come in the way of your time for "Me". You choose how you spend your time, don't let others direct your schedule. And really, it's ok to say "no" to that appointment time and reschedule it for a day that fits your schedule better. It might be hard to say "no" at first, but it gets easier once you realize how empowering it is to be in control of your time.  

This scale really looks like someone holding plates with strong arms. Make sure your time for "Me" weighs in with the rest of the items on your "to-do" list.

 Which on a day-to-day basis can be a really difficult thing to do, especially when busy days abound. So how can you create moments for yourself every day? I find that planning my day the night before and trying to fit "Me" in the schedule helps a lot. And though some days I don't have a lot of extended periods of time when I'm able to have some time to myself, if I can steal even 2 minutes a few times a day (which means that sometimes I lock myself in the bathroom for peace and quiet!), then I feel like I have taken care of "Me".

Here are some ideas for "Me" time:
- If you only have a few minutes: Find a quiet place, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, listen to the silence and say a few positive affirmations such as "I am great." "I am powerful". "I am worthy". "I matter". "I love "Me" just as I am"
- If you have 10 minutes: Listen to some great music, read a chapter of a book, read some inspiring quotes that strengthen your love for "Me", go for a quick brisk walk, dance.
- If you have an hour: Meditate, have a nap, exercise, nourish your body with food/drink, sit quietly and observe the world around you, journal, just "be".

The sky is the limit when it comes to deciding how to use your "Me" time. Making a list of things that make you happy ahead of time can help you choose what you feel most like doing. Sometimes having 10 minutes of "Me" time can bring on the indecision about how to best use this long-awaited and needed break (similar to having writer's block while facing a blank page). By being prepared, you can jump right in and indulge in some well-deserved pampering.

Today, for my "Me" time, I exercised and made some bread. While the bread-making wasn't done just by myself, it was nurturing to make bread from scratch which I knew would be good for my body. And making it with Logan also nurtured me as we shared a fun activity together. So as you can see, sometimes you can combine me-time with other "to-dos" and still feel completely like you've made yourself a priority in the scale of life.

What did you do for your "Me" today?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Checking In

Last Spring I took an Anxiety Management Course in order to learn tools and techniques to manage my anxiety. A lot of the discussion involved self-nurturing as a way to decrease anxiety, in particular the notion of the importance of listening to the body. Many people with anxiety spend the majority of their awake hours in their head, and forget that there's a body around their thoughts that needs nurturing. The link between a healthy body and a sound mind is crucial. If you don't feed or care for your body, your mind can't possibly work well, and a mind that doesn't function well can then impact the health of a body.

In my daily life as a mother of three, I spend a lot of time in my head, thinking of all the various things that need to be done. I've often spent so much time thinking or doing, that I ignore my body's call for nurturing. How many times I have delayed a bathroom trip because I had to finish something. How often I have eaten more that I needed because I was lost in thought and ignored my body's signals that I was full. I have realized that by losing touch with my body's most basic needs and signals, I have also lost touch with myself.

The Anxiety Course helped to make me understand the fundamental importance of caring for my body. One specific tool is very helpful in keeping me grounded and in teaching me how to listen to my body. It's a simple check-in performed various times a day that gets me out of my head and helps me reconnect with my body's needs for nurturing. When I check-in, I ask myself two basic questions:

1. How do I feel?
2. What do I need?

Once I have figured out how I feel and what I need, I immediately do what is needed to care for my body. For example, right now, I notice that my tongue is dry and I feel thirsty. I need a glass of water. So I'm going to go get some water to make my body feel better. Simple as that.

Try and check-in with yourself a few times a day and listen to your body. If it needs something like a glass of water, don't ignore it. Go take care of your body, and your body will reward you by making you feel amazing. 

What did I do for "Me" today? I got a massage and started reading a new book. And I'm now going to go to bed early. I've been ignoring my body's needs for rest the last few days, so it's time to check-in and nurture myself by sleeping.

Good night! 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Narcissistic, Selfish or just Plain Genius?

It's taken me some time to work up the courage to create this new blog. After all, who would be interested in reading the adventures of someone devoted to spending a whole lot of time working on her very important self?  Who would care? And why would I be doing this in the first place? Sharing my intimate mental conversations with myself and what I do to make "Me" feel good no matter what the day brings might be just plain boring and unappealing to the masses.

But then again maybe not. After all, I believe that I am one of many women who consistently puts herself last on the to-do list, who has lost a sense of who she is under the pile of obligations, and who spends most days waging a war in her head between satisfying her needs versus that of others. If I'm right about this, then maybe my efforts at trying to put my "Me" back front and centre day after day can inspire other women (and maybe men) to do the same for themselves. Because, though it may sound narcisstic to want to spend a whole lot of time caring for "me", the reality is, as the eminent Dr Phil says: "If Mommy ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." Now, I'm not a big fan of Dr Phil, but this is one statement that rings profoundly true to me.

My resolution this year, and at the onset of this journey, is to treat myself as though I would treat my best friend. Have you noticed how nice and generous we can be to the people we love most, and even to perfect strangers? We spend hours on end giving our whole to the benefit of others, without realizing that the person that needs nurturing the most is the "me" inside us. I have been a nurturer and a pleaser for most of my adult life. I did it with love, without restraint, I gave it my whole. In the process, I forgot about "Me". Physically, this has meant weight gain, body image issues and a slow descent into physical self-loathing. Emotionally, it has lead to frustrations, anger, anxiety and the feeling of being drained and having nothing left to give. And that, here, is the heart of the matter my friends: if you give out too much without putting anything in, your burn out and have nothing left to give.

So the journey on the path of learning the best ways to love, nurture and appreciate the "me" inside, is neither narcissistic nor selfish. In my humble opinion, it is plain and pure genius. Every day, I resolve to do one thing to take care of me and I will share my daily act of self-kindness. I'll be looking for ideas too, so don't be shy and help me out.

I hope that this journey will help me rediscover the great person that I am and in the process I know that by treating "me" with love and respect, it will make me a better wife, mother, daughter and friend.

Today's act of "Me" kindness: writing this blog. I very often let fear come in the way of achieving even the most simple of tasks, because I lack self-confidence. I often don't trust in my own power and prefer to let my worries over what others will think dominate my desire to do something just because it makes me happy. Each little step that I take in combating that fear brings me closer to my authentic "me" who wants to soar and be successful. So tonight's blog creation and blog entry is a defiant action to let go of self-reducing fears and choose to let "me" soar once again.

How about you? What have you done for your "me" today?