If you live in the northeast, or have in the past, you'll understand when I say that winter can be a challenging time to feel motivated. Dreary skies, short days, bitter cold, biting snow and wind...a recipe for hibernation!
Is this such a bad thing? Probably not. When we hunker down in wintertime to enjoy warm food, cozy evenings, and indoor activities, we're following the example set by much of nature. Many animals hibernate or slow down in the cold; plants and trees stop growing to conserve energy.
This season of hibernation is a wonderful time for self-care. Notice what does not feel good in your life and find a way to change it - or at least change your attitude toward it. You may not be able to make it sunny every day, but you can be sure your home and workplace are well-lit with full-spectrum bulbs. You can add plants and flowers for a touch of life and spring.
If your body feels sluggish but you don't want to go outside, increase your indoor activity level. Take up yoga or Tai Chi, dance around your living room, make laps around the house, run up and down stairs.
If you feel blue, take daily time for introspection. Start and end your day by listing what you feel deep appreciation for in your life. Meditate or pray more often - and for longer periods. Sleep as much as your body needs to. Fuel yourself with healthy foods to keep your body strong.
Be like the bears. Hibernation is a great place to visit...just don't live there!
I've been on Facebook for a very long time and I appreciate the network I share with. I am also discerning regarding accepting new friend requests. Recently I was reminded of the importance of my boundaries of what is acceptable on my news feed.
Someone I met at a gathering friended me, and because she seemed a pleasant person I accepted. I had only seen a couple of posts in my timeline from her and it was very obvious that we had social views on the opposite end of the spectrum from each other. And that's fine! I believe everyone should post authentically on their own page. Last week, this person shared a meme that was vile. I was disheartened that someone would create it, let alone that anyone would share it as appropriate. And so **click** UNFOLLOW! I felt relief about that.
In my work life, I LOVE being my own boss...I get to decide with whom I work, and I am able to honor boundaries there as well. I have conversed with prospects who either felt angry to me, or operating from ego or fear. I have had unfortunate experiences with a couple of clients who used me to work through their own issues. And through these boundary tests, I have learned that loving ME first is the most important thing. As I honor who I am, what I believe, and what energy I work with, I am more open to those who will benefit from a working relationship with me...those who understand that honoring self first fills your well so that you have abundance to share with others.
And those with whom I choose to not create a relationship will find the perfect match for their energy - but I am not that match!
Now, nay-sayers, be aware I am NOT talking about love. I send love and light everywhere I go. That's a very different thing from honoring personal boundaries.
Become more aware of what you feel when meeting people for the first time, whether live or virtually. Honor yourself and your boundaries, and share your energy as you choose.
It's a well-known fact that the holiday season (or any time of celebration, for that matter) can be a challenge after the loss of a loved one. Good cheer, family gatherings, parties, music and decorations all lose something when your life has lost someone important to you (human or animal). This was very fresh and raw for me last year after the loss of my 30-year best friend and her son (within a day of each other), but this year will be better.
I won't get into the clinical/advice aspect of dealing with grief; that's not my point here. I do want to address how I've dealt with it, in case others may find it helpful. Warning: exposed vulnerability!
My Christmas holiday was for a very long time spent with my now-deceased friends, my "family of choice," with much laughter, singing, wonderful food, and warmth. And so last Christmas found me alone, hurting, caught in that troublesome place between longing to be with someone who loved me and wanting desperately to be alone to grieve. Push-me-pull-you. Wishing for that feeling of fun and mystery I had as a young child and with my friends, and knowing it was no longer there.
This year I have healed a bit from that urgency of grief. I take great joy in decorating and music, traditions, coziness, even if just for me - always have. I know for a fact that what I focus on grows, and so, with a clearer heart and whether I'm alone or not, my intent this year is to truly savor my experiences, my close friends, the joys of nature and the season. To know that life does indeed go on. And that the love and warmth I feel will only grow from here.
Make it the happiest of holiday seasons! And so it is.
I recently wrote about how important it is to incorporate play into your time. Play can be a component of "down time" if it is restful, but if play for you is competing in sports, running, or other physical activity, it's also important to remember to rest.
I've always been a hard worker, and as you fellow entrepreneurs know, running your own business is more work than you may have expected. I love the work I do for my clients, and find it vastly fulfilling, but I tire more easily that I used to. (We all know sitting in front of a computer for hours is not healthy!)
Even after all these years as a VA, I am just now getting to the point where I remember to take frequent breaks. Every hour or so I stand and stretch, do some Tai Chi moves, or deep breathing. I take at least half an hour for lunch, and include some light housework (which I usually find restful), light reading, or simply gazing out into the woods. Then in the mid-afternoon, I'll take another "consciousness" break for a few minutes to get away from the computer and back into the real world. What an incredible difference this practice has made in my mood, stamina and productivity!
One problem many business owners struggle with is keeping strict office hours. It's easy when working from home to get so lost in the deadlines that you skip meals, rise too early, go to bed too late, and forget to hydrate. I know a business owner who has made himself so busy that he has neglected his spouse, the properties he owns, and indeed his own well-being. There can be nothing effective or efficient about that!
Take a few moments now to bring to your consciousness how often you rest during the work week. "Log off" often throughout your day, and then at the appropriate time for your business and family situation, "shut down" and let tomorrow take care of itself!
I have noticed several times in recent years that I don't play enough. And I think that's the case for many people. We get so caught up in the "must do" and "oughtta do" that we ignore the "wanna do."
Play, of course, can mean different things to different people. Racing or working out may be play for some, while artistic projects may be for others. Sometimes play is recreation, sometimes stillness, and sometimes creativity. The key is that playfulness is its own reward; the goal is not results but enjoyment.
I've always been a fairly solitary person, but what defines play for me depends on my mood. Sometimes it's having fun with friends at the local medieval fair, and sometimes it's spending hours reading a wonderful book with a cup of tea. Although I can't relate to those for whom play is very competitive or action-driven, I can understand how these activities would appeal to people.
Regardless of what play looks like for you, make sure you actually DO it! All work and no play doesn't just make Jack a dull boy, it leads to all sorts of stress-related dis-ease and emotional disturbance! We are human BE-ings, and enjoyment of that BE-ing is key to a healthy, holistic lifestyle.
If you don't know of the movie "Gaslight" with Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer, find it and watch it. It is a superb suspense film full of mood and character. The focus is on the gradual, deliberate manipulation of a wife by her husband, to convince the wife and anyone who knows her that she is delusional. One of the chief ways he does this is to dim the gas lights in the house but insist to the wife, when she wonders why the lights dimmed, that they did not and she's seeing things.
It is unfortunate that this scenario is too often played out in our "real world." The abused wife whose husband undermines everything she says and does. The boss who tries to convince his staff that he did not say or do what he really did say or do. The political or religious leader who convinces followers that they are powerless.
With ready access to tools for communication and for assistance, it is more important than ever to speak up when someone is being gaslighted. It's time to be aware of and never lose sight of our individual power. I have been powerless, and in the past gave up my power out of learned habit. But no longer. Whether in a personal, professional or political situation, remember who you are. Remind others of who they are - powerful, creative, talented individuals. Leave gaslighting to the movies!
I know this is the most honest and personal post I've ever written but it is the time to share in hope that my story may uplift someone else. This, you see, is a story about grief.
In the spring of this year, my closest and dearest friend, my sister-of-the-heart, died suddenly of a heart attack. We had been friends for nearly thirty years, half of my life, and we were far closer than either of us were with our blood family. For all the losses I've had, this was the most difficult I've ever faced.
And worse...tragically the morning after her death, her 43-year-old son took his own life. In one day, I lost two heart-family members. The pain was quite literally overwhelming - I basically shut down. I found myself revisiting those events over and over in disbelief.
My clients were lovely and understanding, however I still had to keep up with their needs, as well as my own. Dear friends were very supportive and helpful, but I couldn't be helpful to myself.
As the months went on, the intensity of the grief, as it always does, gradually eased and life largely went back to normal. However I recently had a strong realization (the one that prompted this writing) how subconsciously I have not been doing as "well" as I thought. My focus and attention to detail have suffered in my work. I've been forgetful and often lose my train of thought. My eating and sleeping habits have changed. I realize that this is normal and will continue to improve, however I still find it a bit disturbing.
The reason I am writing this story now is that I spent the last 15 years of Christmases with my friend and her son, and the intensity of grief has risen again. I am torn between wanting to be alone to feel what I feel, and yet to be part of something loving the way I was with my "family of the heart." I miss the love, the laughter, the goofiness, the generosity and abundance, the music, the coziness, the tradition. But I know that both of them are where they need to be, living in complete unconditional love.
And so, to allow healing, I allow the feelings to come up to release the energy. But I do not now dwell or focus on the tragedies of last April. I acknowledge the loss but I focus instead on the beauty of the season and all I am grateful for.
And so I share this story with you, hoping that anything I have said may help you or someone you know. Accept and honor the pain. Feel it. But just visit, don't live in it. Live instead in all the goodness around you, all that you still have, and above all, focus on love. That's what this season is supposed to be all about.
Those of us who live in "light" (i.e. love, understanding, one-ness) often find ourselves running into what I'd call "darkness," people who have forgotten that they too are light. (I wrote this story several years ago - a perfect example.) We can choose to confront the dark, or ignore it, or try to change it, or we can simply continue to shine.
I've been involved in a situation for a few years that has progressed (perhaps regressed) into one of increasing darkness, as those people involved are caught in ego, competition and hatred. I admit that it has been a challenge to deal with, as I'm very sensitive to energy and emotion, but it is a situation I have not been able to instantly change in my life. I recently realized that I have allowed this condition to influence my own peace of mind. Rather than simply shining, I withheld my light from those around me (who, if I am honest, might need light more than most) as I grumbled and resented and crabbed.
So, now that I realize that I have dipped a toe into the darkness, I choose to change my outlook. While I will not participate in these people's agendas, which would take me further out of my natural state, I will simply be myself, doing what I choose to do, and enjoying the warmth of the light.
The only thing that can counteract darkness is the light.
So now it's your turn - in what situations do you find yourself that could benefit from a change in perspective?
When summer arrives, we all think of vacations, breaks from school and routine, and leisure. I was thinking about "breaks" this past week as I contemplated taking a few days for myself away from this work that I love. And that in turn got me thinking...
However you choose to take a break from routine, make it a special occasion that feeds you, mind, body and spirit, and really enjoy this summer.
What does flourishing mean to you? At this season we usually think of a flourishing, thriving garden, full growth, lush fruits and flowers. But what if your garden is arid, unproductive, dwindling? Of course we realize then that something is missing – water, nutrients, sun, or some other live-giving property.
This is your life. Is it arid or flourishing? Abundant and lush or weedy and sparse? The same properties apply: how are you nourishing your life?
Do you feed, nourish and rest your physical body? How can you change your nutrition and eating plan? What forms of mild exercise can you add? What changes can be made to your sleeping to enhance your rest?
And what of your spirit? An important “nutrient,” your spirit governs how your mind and body thrive. What attention are you giving your inner life? Meditation? Prayer? Journaling? Find a way to give more attention to your spiritual connection to whatever you call The Source. It makes no sense to complain that your device is not working if it’s not plugged in – the battery needs fuel!
If you want your garden to thrive, make the changes necessary in your life. Only you can decide what those are. Pay attention to your inner “knowing” – your “higher self” knows exactly what is needed.