When Every Setback Feels Like a Failure

 

Raise your hand if you start emails with apologies.

“Sorry it took me so long to reply…”
“I’m sorry your email got lost in the pile…”
“I’m sorry to have missed your thing…”

I’m resisting that urge big-time today. Something happened to offset my commitment to put my thoughts to paper (screen) every other week and I desperately feel the need to apologise for it – like I’ve failed.

I can logically see that yes, life happened in a way that focused my attention away from my plans: I was in a small car accident – no injuries other than my car, but it still turned my world upside down if even briefly.

To be honest, my thoughts were mostly focused on self-indulgent musings about why such a thing happened (the awkward part of believing that we create our own reality) and wracking my brain for the lesson so that I could move on. (As you can imagine, that part hasn’t quite sorted itself out yet.)

Now that I’m back to the land of the living, I find I’m beating myself up for not having done all the shoulds I let fall to the wayside for a few weeks.

Do you ever feel that way?

Like when you set out every morning with the best of intentions for how you’ll eat well and meditate and exercise, only to find yourself at the bottom of a bag of chips by the mid-afternoon.

Or when you write out the agenda of what you’re determined to accomplish in a day and get lost on Facebook for an hour before you even get started.

Or when you decide to recharge the love in your marriage only to be triggered by that thing he says as he walks in the door.

So you feel like you failed, and why do you even try, and you’ll be stuck here forever.

Where did that come from, the belief that a setback is a failure? More importantly, what can you do to get over it?

Two words: perfection paralysis

To loosely quote my friend Casey, that’s the way we freeze our lives to maintain the high standards we set for ourselves in response to high standards society sets for us.

Here are 3 ways to defrost that need for those perfect standards and move forward:

1. Stop trying to do it all at once! (aka take baby steps)

Rather than revamp all your eating habits overnight, take one thing from that list the health coach gave you and do that for a few days before you attempt the next one.

Take one task you want to accomplish today and break it into the 3 steps it actually requires, and let that be your agenda.

Rather than expect rainbows and sunshine, avoid going down the rabbit hole of negativity by giving your man a smile and offer him a fun little piece from your day.

2. Get in touch with your own perfection

Sit quietly, breathe into your belly and open yourself up to the light and love waiting in there (possibly hiding quite deeply) for you to feel it.

This may take a few tries to get…this stuff can be subtle and quiet, especially as compared to the loud and persistent voice of your inner critic and whip-slinger who is always ready to lynch you for the slightest transgression.

Put on a timer for 10 minutes to keep you from getting frustrated or trying too hard. Do it again tomorrow and the next day and the next.

3. Set the bar from the inside

Again, get in touch with that perfect you.

Listen to your body for clues as to what you need, as to what standards you want to adhere, as to what the first next step is.

And here’s the key…possibly even the hardest part: when you’ve got your answer about that step? Take it!

I’ll bet you know at least 3 women who get stuck in perfection paralysis. Send this to them, using any (or all!) of these share buttons.

How to Overcome Resistance Before It Overpowers You

 

Many of the health-based conversations I have lately revolve around motivation. Actually, it’s not just with health. We’ve got so many reasons why we can’t find the energy to improve our eating habits or our self-care routines or our parenting or our relationships or our work.

Excuses run rampant through your head and stuff happens in your life which stops you from moving forward with your best intentions.

Like when you make a conscious decision to eat more vegetables, cut out the sugar and take a proper break for lunch. Then the usual reasons come flooding in, “reminding” you why you need eat at your desk, and grab a slice of banana bread every afternoon.

You have too much to do and there’s a bonus attached to finishing that contract…it takes time to actually cook the squash and beets and greens you finally remembered to buy…your kid’s hockey schedule changes at the last minute…an email alerts you to a crisis that needs your immediate attention,…

How many times do you blame your boss or a colleague for the amount of stress at work, or your husband for the lack of intimacy in your marriage?

Even in my woo-woo circles, people seem to love hearing that Mercury Retrograde is in full swing, because it offers a cosmic reason why every type of communication and forward motion they attempt gets derailed for days or weeks at a time.

When you weed through the tangle of every possible reason you can’t or don’t move forward, it usually filters down to some form of resistance.

Resistance is the current catchword that practically gives us permission to stay stuck where we are.

We post about it in our favourite groups, so our friends can nod knowingly and send us a virtual hug and some sympathy – “Yeah, been there, know what you’re going through, sister!”

Now you feel heard and understood, but you’re no further ahead in the face of your frustrations.

What if resistance weren’t a bad thing? What if it had a purpose other than making you feel that the Universe is conspiring against every effort you try to make?

What is resistance anyway?

Let’s start by doing a little physics lesson.

A resistor is a passive component in an electrical circuit that converts electricity into heat, which dissipates into the air. A resistor impacts how easily electricity can flow, depending what it’s made of; a metal tube has little resistance, a piece of plastic, a lot. When passing through a material with high resistance, the current has to work much harder to get through it. (The technical definition of resistance is the voltage needed for 1 amp of current to flow through a circuit.)

Electrical resistance is valuable. You actually make practical use of it; without it, the appliances in your house wouldn’t work.

It takes so much energy for the flow to get through the little filament in a standard lightbulb, that the wire heats up and gives off light. The element in your kettle and oven work the same way. The volume control on your TV has a variable resistor that lets more or less sound out when a little or a lot of resistance is applied.

What does that mean for you?

Apply the same principles to the flow of movement you want to create in your life, like when you’re trying to eat better.

First and very important point to repeat: a resistor is a passive component. Like the rain, it’s neither good nor bad, it’s not the Universe’s way of trying to derail your efforts. It’s just there. It’s the nature of the resistor and your level of opposition to it that causes the issues, and determine how hard you have to work to get around it.

So, you’ve decided to cut out sugar. Inevitable circumstances happen (as described above) which make it harder to plan and get around the shortcuts.

* The self-denigrating voices start in your head, “I can’t do this…I don’t know what to eat…I hate kale…it’s too much work…I’ll never look like Kate Moss no matter what I try…”

* Your mother’s voice nags in there too, “Just eat smaller portions and you’ll be fine…have you seen all the weight Betty lost on her diet…”

* The associations start to surface: the need for a cookie or a big plate of pasta after an argument, the need for a drink after a hard day at work.

Those parts of life come up. They just are.

You can choose to fight those facts and listen to the voices, you can let them derail you – not to mention increase the pain of the pressure they inflict by beating yourself up about it. Like with the electrical resistor, the energy you use to let these circumstances antagonize you will only get dissipated.

All the effort you would have put into the doing of the improvement gets diverted in any number of ways.

Functionally an electrical resistor will

  • slow the flow of current, that is, make it seem like no progress is being made, like when your pants still don’t fit;
  • adjust levels, or make the goal harder to meet, like when the excuses for why you can’t accomplish this simple goal get the better of you, “I don’t have time…I’m too tired…it’ll never work…”;
  • divide voltages, that is, distract you from your original intention and/or split your focus, like when you finally decide to go ahead and eat Paleo, only to come across a great article about the virtues of veganism and your best friend raves how the Mediterranean diet changed her life;
  • terminate transmission lines, in other words, stop you in your efforts altogether, like when you cheat on the second day and give up completely.

Great for the electrician who places a particular component into his circuit to achieve one of those specific electrical effects, but how can this have a purpose for you?

Could it be that the Universe places those resistors in your life for a specific reason as well?

Going back to the cosmic example will make this point easier to understand. As frustrating as it can be, Mercury Retrograde has a purpose in your soul’s journey. It forces you to stop what you’re doing, take stock and re-evaluate whether those are in fact the steps you want to be taking. Its energy could even make you look backwards and force you to see (and shed!) some of the baggage that’s still dragging you down around this particular movement.

What if, like with Mercury Retrograde, you could look at those circumstances as a need to slow down and re-evaluate?

Is your time worth more that the overall quality of the food you eat?

How can you set yourself up to weather sudden changes in the day?

Do you need to recognize the voices in your head as your ego trying to steer you clear of failure?

Is it time that you released your mother’s “helpful” comments into the compost of no-longer-serve-you items?

If you can’t avoid stopping for food as you rush from A to B, is there a wiser choice you can make? If not, can you swallow a side order of compassion with the chicken nuggets?

 

The other term that comes to mind as I let the word dance around in my head is resistance training, AKA strength training. This is the practice – with weights, machines, straps and certain yoga poses – whereby you contract a muscle against an external force to improve strength, tone and endurance.

What if you use the resistance that shows in your life up as the means to strengthen your resolve and your efforts? That is, sometimes we need to be reminded that life changes, big projects, enriched relationships take a certain amount of effort and work.

The pride you feel from saying no to the fries or the cookie on offer provides an energy boost to your stamina for doing better yet again tomorrow. The more you exercise the buy-&-cook-more-vegetables muscle this week, the more efficiently you’ll flex it next. The relief of saying No, that is when the pressure to say to say Yes is lifted from your shoulders, you’ll be able to stand that much taller in your resolve and your needs.

Strength training also improves bone density, your circulation, blood sugar balance and coordination – it impacts more than just the muscles doing the direct work. Using your energy to lean into, work through or push past the hindrances that show up in your life will have an overall benefit to your entire being. Balance, flow and peace of mind can only follow when you move with life as it happens rather than fighting it.

 

Slowing down to work with the resistance that shows up in your life gives you the energy necessary to shine brightly and speak loud & clear through the flow of your personal current.

Let me put this another way: the root of the word resist is sistere, Latin for “to take a stand”.

When faced with resistance, you are being called to (again) take a stand for who you are, your values, your priorities, and how you want to move through life.

 

Stop fighting it!

Go with the flow!

 

Need more concrete help moving through the many faces of resistance in your life? Here are some suggestion to help you withstand a few of them:

 

How do you get past the resistance that blocks your efforts? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

Don’t hold this idea back – let it flow to your friends so they can shine more brightly too:

I credit Wikipedia and explainthatstuff.com for a bit of a physics refresher.
Thanks to emedicine.com and nerdfitness.com for details about strength training.

Not Me, But…

 

The stories have been coming out of the woodwork, stories from young women and older women. Women I’ve known for ages and those I barely know. Stories of vulnerability and shame laid bare for all of Facebook to witness. Stories of minor transgressions and stories of abuse that have left indelible scars on the lives of those who lived them.

As much as I feel compassion for all these women (and men) who’ve had chinks of themselves gouged by their experiences, my first reaction was to give gratitude for not being one of them. I’ve never had to endure the inappropriate requests of a superior or the demeaning come-ons of a supposed friend. I count my blessings that I’ve never been assaulted. In light of the – now obviously skewed – statistics, I count my blessings I’ve never been assaulted.

Still the stories poured in, the hashtag filled feeds everywhere, until I became nagged by that cynical impatience I often have with social media: the sense that people are throwing their two cents in for the sake of attention or a need to feel a part of the action.

OK, you too. Now what?!?

What are you going to do about it?

Will these facts change anything? Or, like every other heated trend on Facebook, will the wave surge until everyone gets over-saturated or bored, and the next inane comment by Trump comes along to draw our fury elsewhere?

Even as these reactions were vying for top spot in my ever-whirling mind, my own stories started to bubble up from the lost shadows of my memory pool. They happened, they were unpleasant at the time, but they didn’t affect me.

That’s when one friend’s post caught my eye.

“Not me, but I’m here in solidarity, witnessing and supporting all the women who…”

A comment in her thread asked, “Really? Never? No cat call or rude comment or pass in that male-dominated world you inhabit?”

“Yes, of course, those things, but I don’t consider them to be assault, abuse or harrassment.”

That’s when I said, “Yes, me too.”

That’s when the bubbles gently burst open on the surface, forcing me to pause and take a closer look.

There was that time in the park. I was in grade 5 and I’d decided I didn’t want to go to ballet that day, so I walked home as usual with my friend. As we rounded the path near the baseball diamond, a man stepped out, dropped his pants, grabbed me and asked me – begged me – to touch him.

She screamed and ran.  I struggled and elbowed my way out of his grasp and caught up with her; we ran the rest of the way to her house where we called my mother and the police. My parents were sympathetic, but no big deal was made out of it, and the occurrence faded into the background. We never discussed it again.

What about when us 13-year-olds used to play CCK (Chase, Catch, Kiss – shit! even the name of the game speaks volumes!) in the field down the street? I was usually chased and caught by the rude and smelly kid, who eventually gave up on kissing in favour of sticking his hand up my shirt to maul my already developed breasts. I would laugh hysterically. That helpless laughter of someone being tortured by too intense tickling. He probably figured I liked it. I hated it, but I never stopped playing the game nor told him to take a hike.

Or that morning I spent a gruelling 5 minutes of an overly crowded bus ride trying to convince myself the guy behind me wasn’t actually pressing his erection into my butt.

Or, the time I didn’t say No because I had the distinct feeling I would be in danger if I did.

How many more incidences will I remember with this common denominator of not speaking up?

Not sharing the stories keeps them locked in the cesspool of shame, allowing them to eat away at us from the inside. Not sharing the stories downplays how pervasive and insidious this dynamic is. Not talking about them is what lets them happen again and again and again.

We treat these situations as normal.

And so, in all of these stories I didn’t feel like a victim – not to belittle anyone who has felt victimised by what they’ve endured – to me, they just happened.

They were a normal part of life as a girl.

“Normal” is how I tend to characterise my life. There have been no great traumas or tragedies. No life-defining drama. We were a “normal” family with “normal” ups & downs.

Our version  of “normal” meant that you didn’t interact with your body beyond feeding it, washing it and giving it medicine when it was sick. The unspoken rules were about following what was told to us, making do with what happened to us. There was no room for countering the status quo and no role-model for questioning authority.

We didn’t talk about what happened in our bodies, let alone our hearts and souls, just like we never talked about what had happened in the park. This disconnection left no room for creating boundaries, no platform for understanding when something felt wrong.

Years later, when pregnancy, yoga and bodywork closed the gap between my head and the rest of me, it became glaringly clear that life-long tendencies in my body were not normal and I needed to address them.

Remembering my #metoo experiences today, from this place of connection to my body, I feel ill.

In bringing them out, shaking the decades of dust off of them over the last few days, my skin crawls at the thought of those unwanted hands touching me. I am filled with the fear and anger I didn’t know to express then, and I am nauseous even as I type the details. The fact is, these events do have an effect on me.

The old memories have been lodged in my body, locked away in my cells and I have no doubt that they’ve had an impact on my health as directly and subtly as the poor diet and habits that created my chronic symptoms – all parts of “normal” life.

As I write this piece, I struggle with the intention of adding my voice to the crowd.

Another of our “normal” rules was that sex and feelings were not up for discussion; airing them publicly, completely out of the question.

This attitude contributes to the societal norms that set the stage for these crimes against humanity to happen in the first place. I know that, yet the thought of voicing my stories fights against the shame-mongering that permeated my upbringing. Its pull is strong; it threatens to hold me back once again.

I also know that giving into its pull will only serve to perpetuate the problem.

I’m not writing anything that others haven’t said already, and I realise it’s but a tip of a vastly complex iceberg. The important part is that now the issue has come to such intense light, I will speak up and speak out – even the tiniest bit, when it’s too scary – to keep this connection alive, The connection that reminds me how not normal, how unhealthy this aspect of our culture has been.

And, what are we going to do about it?

We can continue the conversation. We can offer the women in our lives the chance to feel into their unpleasant encounters, rather than sweep them under the muffling carpet of normalcy.

Whether you share your stories on social media or privately take them out for an honest look in your journal is up to you. In feeling what has been, you can acknowledge the truth of your experiences, because that’s the first step in the evolution of change.

When All your Stress Goes to your Stomach

 

It’s a quiet day. You’ve finished up that contract before your vacation. The kids really like their new day camp. You feel pretty good, considering the roller coaster you’ve been on recently. You’re excited thinking about that new chicken recipe you’ll try tonight.

Then your mother calls to say that your father’s in the hospital again. It’s nothing major, but at his age, isn’t everything potentially major?

All thoughts of dinner leave your head.

In fact, your appetite gets kicked to the curb for the next few days, even once you know everything’s okay. Then your mystery cramps come back. You’re bloated and have to rush to the bathroom every couple of hours.

It’s how you felt before you admitted your marriage was done. It’s how you felt when you were finishing your Masters, when you were applying to university,… As long as you can remember, all your stress has gone to your belly.

You chalked it up to hormones, blamed it on your menstrual cycle.

You went through phases of fat-free diets, sugar-free diets, candida cures and giving up gluten. You’ve been tested for allergies and GERD with inconclusive results. You’ve taken Tums like candy and occasionally graduate to Pantoloc.

Some things help. Some don’t.

Some help until the next upset comes, and you start to understand the pattern.

 

You (over)react readily to everything. You feel things so deeply.

You’re sensitive.

I bet you grew up hearing that as if it were a bad thing.

“You’re so sensitive!” thrown out by other kids when you cried from missing the ball.

Your mother apologizing to strangers for your tantrum with, “she’s very sensitive.”

“Toughen up!”

You eventually learned to curb your reactions to life so as not to upset other people and not draw unwanted attention to yourself. Come to think of it, that’s when your belly started acting up.

Yes, you’re sensitive.

Your senses are highly attuned to your environment – that’s a good thing!

The 5 senses are the feelers that inform your nervous system of impending danger. Being able to recognize when you’re not safe is a strong survival instinct!

You’re sensitive also means that you are likely vulnerable to the subtler energy all around you:

  • your mother’s anger at your father as she quietly makes dinner;
  • the noise & chaos of all those kids in the class;
  • the overwhelming vibrations of the people on a crowded subway or at a concert;
  • the electromagnetic impulses whirling around your TV and computer and cell phone.

You are picking up more than you know, more than you want, and it plays into how much you can tolerate within your usual day.

With such a fine-tuned nervous system, your emotions are also closer to the surface, quicker to react.

Emotions are the movement that allows you to respond to that potential danger, and get you to safety. (Read more about the movement of emotions here.)

The French word for sensitive is sensible.

Sensible. The word we use in English to denote rational or logical. Considering that your survival is at stake, I’d say it’s rather sensible to be sensitive.

 

How your belly gets involved

A good portion of your nervous and immune systems are active in your digestive tract. Makes sense, considering that it’s one of the main ways we interact with the outside world, taking it directly into our bodies.

Serotonin, the neurotransmitter that makes us feel good and calms us down as part of the relaxation response, plays a role in appetite and digestive capacity.

If your nerves are reacting strongly to life, then so will your digestion.

It’s not just you. We all do: butterflies in the stomach when we’re nervous, can’t eat or eat too much under stress.

The more sensitive your nervous system, the more you’ll feel in your gut. The longer your digestion gets jostled by your stress level, the more it will lead to physiological issues and problems related to inflammation. Think about it, the “inflammation” itself is a direct manifestation of reaction to stress and emotion (anger).

Certain foods will be a problem for a variety of reasons.

  • Overstimulation from a food you eat all the time, in the same way you can get “sick” of the same pop song coming on every radio station every hour.
  • An underlying allergy to a food
  • Inflammation or genetic conditions impairing your ability to digest certain food
  • Poor quality foods, like trans fats, refined sugar, rancidity or mold, that your body doesn’t recognize as food and provoke inflammation
  • Reactions to the additives, bleaches, preservatives, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and radiation meant to keep our food safe
  • The way food was grown, harvested, processed, transported and handled by retailers will effect the energy of the food itself. If you’re highly sensitive, you may also be picking up on the vibrations and emotional states of the people involved in getting it to your table.

 

What can you do about it?

Here are but a few ideas to get you started:

Eat in a state of calm – engage the relaxation response by taking deep breaths or take a moment to give gratitude before you eat.

Meditate, to calm your nervous system in general.

Ground any anxiety with movement or by getting out in Nature regularly.

Eat clean.

Eat local and get to know the people who grow and prepare your food.

 

How does stress show up in your body? When you share your experiences in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

 

Make a gift of this article to your friend with the constantly upset stomach, using any of the links here.

Why Worry about Calories? There’s enough to worry about already

 

Rather than count calories, I prefer to follow the kindergarten rules, or what my family calls the cottage rules.

You know, eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. The very basics of listening to your body also include sleeping when you’re tired and going to the bathroom when you get the urge.

Yes, there are days when I don’t heed those signals. Some days I eat too much; other times I eat too little or stay up too late.

In the end, it all evens out…more or less, maybe gaining or losing a few pounds here and there.

Being healthy is the key for me, more than the weight. Feeling energized enough to do what I want to do in life, and fitting comfortably into my clothes.

With so many variables in life draining our worry batteries, something as basic as eating ought not be added to that list. Better to stay present to your body and your food while you eat it, and pay attention to when it’s had enough or needs more.

So, let me expand on some of those rules.

Here’s a rough guide to some of the ways your body talks to you at mealtime, what it might be saying, and how you might want to respond.

1. Hunger is your body’s way of saying your blood sugar’s getting low, i.e. your brain needs food.

Choose something nutrient dense (not refined) to ensure that your blood sugar will stay on an even keel for a good while.

 

2. When you start to feel energized during a meal, that’s a sign you’ve had enough and your digestive tract has started to work on it. Yes, this requires you to slow down and draw a certain amount of awareness to your body as you eat.

Stop eating. (Anything left on your plate can be packed away for snack later, or tomorrow’s lunch.)

 

3. If you feel sluggish at the end of a meal, you may have eaten too much, and more energy than necessary has been diverted to its digestion.

Other than just wait it out, and not engage in anything too strenuous, you can take some bitters to speed the emptying of your stomach.

 

4. Getting jittery or sleepy immediately after you eat starchy/sweet food can be a signal that you’ve eaten too little protein or fat or fibre in that meal/snack.

Eat a stalk of celery, to help your body metabolize the excess sugar, and a handful of nuts or seeds to add protein, fat and fibre into the mix.

 

5. A heavy feeling, like the food’s just sitting in your stomach can be the result of a fat-rich meal. For me, it’s always the creamy dessert at the end of a big meal that does it. Alcohol can also slow down or even stop your digestion.

The heavy feeling may also indicate low stomach acid, especially if you just ate a meat meal. Heartburn, belching, constipation and gas are other symptoms of that state.

Drink a shot of water with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to stimulate your stomach and get things going.

 

Adolescent rules that also make sense:

When I was 14, my girlfriend and I came up with the rule that if you eat the same number of calories as your best friend, they cancel each other out. We were notorious for making Dagwood-worthy sandwiches and decadently dressed ice cream sundaes, so it was crucial that we find a way to be “allowed” to eat that way and still be true to our Seventeen-inspired world.

There may be no scientific proof, but I still believe in that theory.

Enjoying a meal in the company of people you love, of friends who make you laugh and stimulate your mind – people with whom you can truly be yourself – is just as nourishing to your being as the food on your plate.

Have you ever noticed you can eat some of your no-no food on holiday without issue and you might even lose weight? Or, that you can drink cocktails & wine at a party where you deeply connect with others and get no hangover?

If your heart, your mind and your soul are nourished as well as your body, you raise your vibration, stoke your inner fire, which raises your metabolism. Everything works better, when you’re in your body, in your flow, including your ability to digest, absorb, assimilate and eliminate – you extract the goodness and release anything that doesn’t serve you on all levels.

Which leads me to conclude that the connection to, and expression of, who you are is what matters most to good eating habits. It’s a matter of being your Self.

The bonus? When you’re satiated at a deeper level, you body won’t be looking for the love, connection, attention and fulfillment in a bag of chips or a pint of ice cream.

 

Note: If you’re working hard to lose weight or have just started a running program or intense exercise of some sort, and it’s best that you do count calories for a time, read this first.

 

What do you notice your body doing during a meal? Does it change depending on the day? When you share your thoughts in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

Pass this along to your calorie-concerned friends using any (or all!) of these links.