Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tug of War Wellness? Enough Already!

I feel blessed to be living in the Information Age.  But....sometimes it is so crazy-making!Hundreds of different messages being thrown our way, every day!  Do some of these ring a bell?

Drink lots of water every day.  But don't drink tap water.  Drink bottled. 
No, don't do that either - there are chemicals in bottled water! Drink filtered water!

Exercise every day for at least 30  minutes.  No, three times a week for 45 minutes is perfect!
 Better yet, walk - dance - move - do something - what ever you can! 

Eat six small meals a day!  No four!  Get rid of the, eliminate the fats!!
 No more red meat...wait, fish is bad too, especially bottom-feeders! 

Coffee is, now  a little is ok.  Drink tea...but it stains my teeth!, only if it's two glasses for males, one for females!

Yikes!!  Am I experiencing Tug of War Wellness??  Enough already!!

Wanting to stay informed as to the latest health trends, I will listen to medical experts or read blogs, articles, etc. And, for the most part, I want to be proactive with the information I acquire.  However, what I usually find is that I revert back to three basic guidelines that have served me well and that free me from tug of war wellness!

Know non- negotiables.
  • First -  Know my non-negotiables. 
These are the practices that I know work for me and are good for me. For example, this could be anything from taking necessary medication or participating in various kinds of exercise or therapy; avoiding foods or plants that cause allergies or that trigger disease or relapse; or implementing a certain type of diet (vegan, gluten free); maintaining enough sleep, etc.  These are typically rituals or patterns of our daily living that we've done for so long that they come second nature to us. We know that without them, we put ourselves at risk or in harm's way. As we continue to embrace them, we feel good. It is super important that you are aware of your non-negotiables. It you haven't thought of this, do so now.  In fact,write them down.

  • Second - Respect my routine.    
    Respect Your Routine
I  know what my day looks like.  I know what it feels like to be me.  You do too!  I know what I can take in and take on. I know my limits. Do you?  So, when I think about changing something or adding something new to my routine, I must be realistic.  If I decide to add in  more exercise, where will I fit it in?  If I want to begin a new eating pattern, do I have the time and resources to make it work?  Just be honest with yourself - respect your routine and what works for you.

Let me give you an example.  Over the holidays, my husband and I took a fairly long cruise. Because I love to exercise at least every other day,  I went out to walk on the deck.  It was way too cold and windy,  so I joined the Zumba class that met every morning. It was a blast!  When we got home, I immediately went over to our YMCA where they have Zumba classes everyday. But the classes are never at the same time - morning, at night, sometimes in the afternoon. I knew this wouldn't work for me.  I exercise early in the morning. I ordered some DVD's so that I can exercise right at home!  

So, if you are considering a change or adding something new to your wellness regiment, check out your routine and your level of energy.  Move ahead with realistic expectations.   
  • Third - Maintain my mindset of  moderation.
    Mindset of  Moderation
We hear a lot about finding balance in our lives. I agree balance is super important.

At the same time, if we maintain a mindset of  moderation, we won't need to experience the tension, anxiety, and frustration of tug of war wellness, and we won't find ourselves constantly searching for the balance which keeps eluding us. 

What do I mean?  How is this done? While honoring my non-negotiables and my routine,  I usually navigate life without extremes or excesses. Whether it is time on my technology, or the size of my popcorn bag at the movies, or shopping for clothes (which I love to do!), an internal compass of moderation provides direction for my place of wellness. Over the years, it has served me very well.  Of course, there have been times where I have messed up or taken risks or pushed the envelope. And, I've learned from that too. Sometimes, painfully so. This principle may be the hardest to adopt. So, take your time and apply it to one aspect of your life at a time. In other words, do this in moderation as well!  I think you'll be surprised at how  much better you feel!     

In closing, stay informed.  Keep abreast of the latest insights, discoveries, and practices that will enhance your wellness.  At the same time, if you find yourself being pulled this direction...then that direction, stop and take in a deep breath. Or, if you start something and stop it because it doesn't work for you, it's ok. For now, let go of the rope that is pulling you back and forth. Then, take some time and follow these
Stepping Stones of Wellness.

Stepping Stones of Wellness

Know your non-negotiables.

Respect your routine.

Maintain a mindset of moderation.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Finding A New Way Back From Relapse....In The New Year

I have blogged about relapse so many times, but I think it is such an important topic - especially in the New Year. As most of your know, when I write or talk about relapse, I am not talking to just a few people, but to everyone! You see, I believe that each and every one of us has - at one time or other - regressed or fallen back into a pattern of unhealthy thinking, behaving, or feeling.  It  might be for a day, a week, a month, or even years. However, I think that when we do, most of  us struggle with uncomfortable emotions that range from embarrassment, guilt, and self- doubt to debilitating shame. Tragically and ironically, these very emotions are what keep us bound in our relapse episode.

As we begin this New Year, I want you to know that you are not alone in your struggle with relapse. I want you to know that after experiencing an extremely painful decline into emotional relapse, I gained a more empathic insight into relapse and a much deeper understanding of it. In my  memoir, Mountain Air: Relapsing and Finding the Way Back...One Breath at a Time, I share a multitude of healing lessons and recovery practices.

 I hope that through my teachings it will lead each of you to ~
Finding  A New Way Back From Relapse....In The New Year.

As you embrace your journey from any type of relapse, I encourage you to begin by listening to my interview with "The Life's Dash" with  Michele Mattia. She is an amazing woman, with a powerful platform!

The Life's Dash With Michele Mattia - "Finding A New Way Back From the New Year"

Then, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Mountain Air and begin...

 breathing in you truths again.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Wellness in the New Year: Step Three: In Letting Go...We Give Back To Ourselves!!

For the past several weeks, we have been "letting go of stuff"!  This is a New Year and we want to cleanse ourselves of those people, places, things, emotions, etc. that bog us down and keep us from being in a well and whole place! In week one, we learned how to identify our "stuff' by completing a thorough self-inventory, and then in week two, we looked at some cognitive-behavioral strategies for "letting go of our stuff'! If you haven't done this yet, please start today.  If you are working on this, great!  Keep going....this is a process!  Go slowly and reward yourself along the way!

Today, we are going to look at Step Three: In Letting Go...We Give Back To Ourselves. Step Three is  not really a "step" in the literal context of the word, but it is a critical concept of our renewal process in the New Year. Let me explain by sharing this short narrative.

In my young adult life and all during my adult years, my dad maintained an extraordinary garden. He grew scrumptious melons, colorful assortments of chili peppers, cucumbers, a variety of beans, and the best tasting tomatoes on this earth! Although my visits home were sporadic, especially as I grew older, whenever I visited I went out into the backyard to check out his garden.

The four seasons always signaled where my dad was in his gardening process. 

After enjoying a Spring, Summer and Fall of delicious delights, the cool temperatures of  Winter brought change with it. My dad meticulously removed all the dead plants from his designated garden boxes,  gently raked, sifted and smoothed out the dirt in each box, and then completed  a thorough investigation of his drip system - making sure all was strong and secure for Winter's call.

Throughout the long cold season, the soil sat in its solitary mode - 
resting, renewing, and reclaiming its nutrients. 

During this time,  my dad ordered his seeds - carefully selecting just the right ones - as well as other organic products and gardening materials. He also nurtured a mulch pile throughout the year, keeping a close eye on its fermentation. As the planting season approached again, my dad tended to his boxes- making sure their structures were solid - checked and rechecked the drip system, and he returned to and re-examined the soil - testing its readiness and preparing it for the season ahead.

When we take the time to let go of our stuff, we clean out the roots of unhealthy thoughts, behaviors, and feelings - preparing our mindset for healthy regrowth. When we release toxic relationships, places, and things, we simultaneously rake, sift, and sort through our hurting spirits - readying them for renewal.

 And when we give ourselves time - both during and after the process of letting go -
 to rest and to breathe in the stillness and freshness of those cleaned out spaces,
 we give back to ourselves - we replenish our beings.

And, just as the soil requires a respite from its period of production in order to produce again, we too, must pay attention to this process. Before we step out and start filling up those empty boxes with just anything, let's do the following:

  • Let's give back to ourselves. Let's take as much time as needed in doing so. 
  • Let's keep a pulse on our readiness and implement strong boundaries along the way.
  • Most importantly, let's choose differently and be more discerning about what we want to put back into our lives and what we want to leave out. 
  • Let's prepare ourselves well for the planting season ahead.

In his gardening, my dad respected the land.
 And under his tender care, the soil continually gave back...season after season.

In letting go, we learn to respect ourselves.
And in doing so, we cultivate a mindset of wellness that gives back to us...time and time again.

Mountain Air - Ch.8 - After the Mountain Fire

For more information on "letting go" and "giving back to ourselves,

please visit Holli Kenley's Website and Author Holli Kenley

And for more on healing from relapse, you are invited to read...
Mountain Air: Relapsing and Finding the Way Back...One Breath at a Time

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Wellness in the New Year - Step Two: Ways of Letting Go of Stuff!

In Step One: Letting Go of Stuff, I asked you to complete a little homework assignment!  Did you do it?  If so, great. If not, let's review.  Take some time -  think about and write down answers to these two questions:

1. What is working in my life? Who or what is contributing to my well-being - augmenting my wellness, enhancing my sense of worth and of self, and fueling me in healthy ways?

2. Along with that, what is not working for me? Who or what is depleting me - taking away my energy, draining my resources, and diminishing my capacity for inner peace, balance, and joy?

I wanted you to list both the healthy and unhealthy items because sometimes we start beating ourselves up when we focus only on the negatives in our lives.  So, congratulate yourself for the positive influences, emotions, or behaviors that you embrace! Looking over your list of 'who or what is depleting me', there could be quite a variety of people, places, emotions/attitudes/feelings, behaviors or habits, and so on. So, I am going to give you a few cognitive behavioral strategies for ways of letting go.

First, there is one general reason for why most of us have a hard time letting go. This is important.

Letting go of anyone or anything is usually a process.  It is usually not a one time event! So, it is vital to take your time, do a little at a time, and do not move forward until you have experienced success at your current level. 

Many years ago, when I was attending graduate school in psychology, the professor asked us to work on letting go of a behavior that was not serving us in healthy ways.  I decided to work on my "worrying" - something I had done all my life! Believe me, this was no easy task!  I followed a step by step cognitive- behavioral plan, and for the most part, it greatly reduced my degree of worrying. If you are working on letting go of a habit or behavior, feeling/emotion/or attitude, or obsessive thoughts - try this exercise.

1. Take a baseline count of your unhealthy behavior, emotion, etc.  On an index card or your iPhone or anywhere that is handy, take a count of how many times a day you fall into this behavior.  Do this for at least 3-5 days (so you get an average count). When I was taking a baseline of my worrying, it was hysterical! I was constantly running over to my index card (while I was teaching middle schoolers) and making a mark every time I started worrying! But, this gave me important information!
Take Baseline and Set Goals

2.  After you get a solid idea of your baseline, SET YOUR GOALS! Do this using a sort of "sliding scale". For example, for the first week, decrease your baseline by 5 each day.  For my worrying exercise, I wanted to see if I could let go of worrying at least 5 times a day, each day. If I could do more, great.  If I could not meet this goal, I would NOT go on to  my next goal - not until this one was accomplished. This is so important because this is where we tend to give up or become discouraged! Maybe your first goal needs to be adjusted; if so do it! Do not move forward until you feel success at this level!

Once you have your baseline and you have set reasonable goals, implement any of the following strategies:

3. Put a rubber band around your wrist so that it fits pretty snugly.  Every time you start to fall back into your behavior, thought, emotion, etc., snap the rubber band. Yep, snap it!  Not too hard, but hard enough that you stop your unhealthy behavior, thought, and so on.

4. Once you have stopped the unhealthy pattern, immediately REPLACE it with something else - something pleasing, positive, and healthy! Have this replacement behavior or thought ready - at your fingertips! When I would start worrying, I snapped my rubber band and replaced the worry with thoughts of my favorite place, or song, or verses of a poem. This works!  We can't think two opposing thoughts at the same time. If you are working on an unhealthy habit or pattern of behaving, have a healthy behavior ready to implement.  I remember working with a client who had a horrible anger problem.  He learned to give himself a 'time out' and go for a walk whenever he felt his anger creeping up on him. If the old unhealthy thought or behavior returns, keep repeating the process.
Reward Yourself!
5. Reward yourself along the way!  Choose something that you enjoy and that does not sabotage your hard work!  When I was working on my worrying, if I met my goal, I rewarded myself at the end of every day (at first) with an iced coffee-mocha! Later, to make myself work even harder, I rewarded myself just at the end of each week.  

In addition to these cognitive-behavioral exercises, there are other strategies or ways of letting go, especially when it comes to unhealthy people, relationships, friendships, places and things.

6. Boundary work is critical.  Decide what you will accept or not accept from this person, friendship, etc. Decide what you want or don't want.  I have many exercises on boundary work in Breaking Through Betrayal  (Chapter 9: Boundary Work- Bracing Yourself With Supportive Structures) that will help you with this.  For now, remember...

We teach others how to treat us. It is up to us to show others what we expect from them and of ourselves.

7. Communication is vital.  Expressing yourself in healthy ways that clearly delineate your position and place helps greatly in letting go of toxic emotions that often accompany unhealthy relationships or friendships. Use short effective"I" statements such as the following:

I am feeling......because....... (avoid the word 'you' and focus on the problem).  I need......

Example:  I am feeling hurt by the lack of respect in the relationship.  I need to take some time for myself.

8.  Use practices or rituals for letting go that are already a part of your routine:  journaling, praying, meditating, walking, etc.

When I was working on letting go of my worrying, I did not completely eradicate it!  But, I did improve
Letting Go of Stuff!!
upon the amount of time I was worrying.  And that is a success!  Even today, exactly 20 years later, when I start to worry, I remember that exercise and implement it. It still works!

Homework:  Take a few days and complete your baseline and set your goals for the next several weeks.

Then, begin implementing the steps that help you to let go of stuff!!

Next time: Step Three:  In Letting Go...We Give Back To Ourselves!!

For more healing tools and resources, visit Holli Kenley, M.A., MFT

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