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.

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.

I’m Good All Day, then I Lose It after Supper

 

If I had a dime for every time I hear that one… clients and friends who start each day fresh, with new resolve to eat better and take better care of themselves, only to find themselves at the bottom of a cookie bag by bedtime.

I know the drill: you just want a little something sweet. One cookie turns to 3…plus a square of chocolate. Maybe a handful of chips, …may as well get a bowl…

Raise your hand if you’ve caught yourself in front of the fridge looking for something to do.

My mind also likes another type of rationale when I’ve eaten one of my no-nos (dairy & gluten), because that’s what was on offer or because there was a particularly fabulous version I didn’t want to pass up. Since I’ve already “cheated”, I may as well keep going.

I know perfectly well that one croissant or grilled cheese sandwich, once in a blue moon, won’t do me much harm, but, I definitely suffer when I overdo it.

Sure, there’s the 80/20 rule and cutting yourself some slack, and being forgiving rather than beating yourself up. What’s going on when things shift to 20/80 or the premenstrual grazing becomes a daily habit?

When the exception becomes the rule, it’s a sign there’s something more going on.

It may be a physical addiction to sugar or to an allergen. Yes, you can get addicted to things you’re mildly allergic to because it sets you up for a cascade of adrenaline and other stimulating biochemicals which give you a certain satisfaction beyond the taste of the food. Anything that tickles the ol’ brain chemistry is going to have your body calling out for more.

Certain aspects of addiction are about associations, so, we also start looking for the psychological need for a certain food.

Yes, it means digging around in the stories of your past yet again to discover the source of the issue. Once you shed light on it, though, you can more easily dust out the corners and then let its significance fade into the background.

A single woman came to me with headaches and other discomforts. Going through her eating habits, she admitted that she often ate a large bag of chips for supper. As we sifted through that fact, she remembered her alcoholic father, cruel and abusive most of the time, would occasionally come home on a bender, lavishing joyful attention on the kids, and declare it a party, complete with pop and chips. In her childhood mind, chips became indelibly linked with love. What more obvious food choice to make when the adult arrives home, stressed and lonely at the end of the day?

The fact is, under all of your grazing there’s an emotional need for something more.

A divorced man needed my help him with weight loss; a mother of a difficult teenager wanted my support to stick to her anti-inflammatory diet. Both were the epitome of the mindful eater who loses it after supper. One struggled with anger management and feared he’d never have someone in his life again; the other couldn’t get over the way her husband walked out the year before and left her to deal with the child alone. Both were clearly using the snacks as a way of burying the huge and overwhelming feelings that were never far from the surface – rage, grief and self-hatred and a basic desire to be loved. Scary stuff – the kind that you fear will take over and never leave if you let them in.

Without the junk-food as a crutch and a hiding place, they were each forced to come face-to-face with what they were feeling, experience it and move through it.

Maybe you don’t have any overt drama in your past and you’re not suppressing any big emotions, thank you very much. Maybe it’s just a few snacks in front of the TV.

How to get through the evening without snacks

 

Nothing wrong with that on occasion. If, however, that’s the norm; if you can’t face the evening without numbing out with TV & snacks, then it’s time to address what’s going on underneath.

  • Compensating for a lack of love,
  • Hiding from grief or anger or loneliness;
  • Craving something in your life but can’t put your finger on it;
  • Knowing what you want, but can’t sort out how to get it.

Until you sit with those thoughts & feelings, say hello to them, let them expand so you can explore what they need from you, you will stay stuck in that vicious cycle of grazing.

 

Offer yourself the white space for your thoughts and feelings to emerge.

It might will get messy and uncomfortable; let it be so.

Take some flower essences.

Call on your support system when you need them.

 

The peace you find on the other side with be well worth it.

 

What happens to you, inside, when you choose to stay away from the evening snacks? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

 

Send this post to a friend who’s stuck on this wheel, and let her know that you’ve got her back while she works through whatever comes up.

How Your Body Tells You What It Needs Right Now

 

The other day, I was talking on the phone with a friend who’s being overwhelmed by physical issues since her marriage fell apart – constant nausea and pain from an old wrist injury acting up.

Our conversation had a more personal focus, but she did ask me my professional opinion about what she could do to help remedy one or the other of those symptoms. As always, I suggested she talk to her wrist and stomach – listen to what they have to say, listen to what they need.

At which point, she very kindly asked, “Ok, I get the idea of listening to my body, but how do I do that?”

Of course! Here I am, constantly spouting off about something that’s obvious to me – and to someone who’s already worked with me – but that idea on its own may mean nothing to you, or you might have a notion that’s only somewhat related to what I’m talking about.

 

Let’s clear that up right now. What do I mean when I say “listen to your body”?

Starting with the obvious

Your body speaks to you on a daily basis. When you get hungry or tired or have a pain, your body sends you a bunch of signals to indicate that something needs your attention. Ideally, you eat when you’re hungry and sleep when you’re tired, and step away from the computer to rest your wrist when it hurts: that’s you listening to your body.

If you’re well tuned into your body and actually heed its signals, it doesn’t need to speak very loudly.

Sometimes, though, you ignore those signals, or you’re not in touch enough to actually hear them. In which case, your body starts to speak more loudly: you feel faint and irritable from low blood sugar, your mind is foggy from lack of sleep, or your wrist is so badly inflamed, you can’t work for 3 days.

Your body acts like a little kid looking for loving attention. Do you see what she needs after the first gentle “Mom?”, or do you ignore her until she’s escalated through “Mom. Mom? Moom. Mooo-oooom! MOM!”

 

Listening as a way of fixing a problem

More specifically, you need to listen to your body when trying to sort out how best to address a certain ailment and to understand if certain remedies are working. Let’s say we’re talking about my friend’s nausea. I would ask her to take a few days to notice if there’s a time of day it acts up more than others, if certain foods or activities aggravate it or make it better. Then, once I’ve made certain suggestions about her eating habits and herbs, she’s going to check in to see if there’s any change – for better or worse.

One issue that comes up often with clients is women who graze mindlessly or fall into some other aspect of emotional eating. There again, it’s a matter of understanding if there’s any actual hunger involved. Is the hunger for food, or for a deeper need? Maybe the need for food is a way of avoiding something else. (This is a big topic, and I’ll come back to address it more substantially in another post soon.)

 

Listening to your Body is a way of hearing the needs of your soul.

Don’t worry, there’s a how-to audio for this part at the end.

The other concept I throw around a lot is based on that Teilhard de Chardin quote about us being souls having a human experience: the idea that the body is a container which allows the soul to move on the earth. The body is how we interact in this existence. So it stands to reason that if the soul wants to send us a message, it’s going to do so through medium of the body.

The sensations you feel in your body are your soul speaking to you in a language you can understand.

In that regard, listening to your body involves so much more than noticing your symptoms after certain foods. Listening to your body is part of a healing conversation.

 

When you tune in and hear what your soul is saying to you via the body, you are engaging in a conversation with your self. You are deepening the relationship to your self – in the same way that conversations with the women in your life have turned them from acquaintances into friends into besties.

Conversations aren’t one-sided. They are a back and forth exchange – speaking as well as listening, asking as well as answering; giving and receiving.

When you speak your concerns aloud, whether to yourself or a friend, you draw them out of the shadow of fear and into the light for release.

When you share the experience of what you’re feeling in your body with your practitioner, you’re giving her a fuller picture of why your body is reacting the way it does and how to best approach its healing.

 

What I teach women is based on a technique known as Focusing – developed by psychologist Eugene Gendlin. Some people refer to it as hearing your inner voice or your soul voice or your higher self. Basically, you’re talking to YOU.

Learning how to listen to your body – having a conversation to better understand how it works, how you work – what lights you up and what drags you down – is an essential part of the healing journey.

Put your info in the grey box to access the audio guide which walks you through the steps.

In my next post, once you’ve had a bit of time to practice and get to know yourself in a new way, I’m going to offer a key to making this work as a more effective tool for how you heal and grow. (And let you know what happened with my friend and here wrist.)

Know anyone else who wants to understand how to (re)connect with her body? Share this post using any (or all!) of the buttons here.