Life

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Make your dreams come true.

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“WRITE OUT EXACTLY WHAT YOU YEARN FOR IN EVERY ASPECT OF YOUR LIFE.”

You have the power to shape your life exactly how you want it to be! There are specific steps you can take to do so, and the method is surprisingly simple. But, please do not mistake simple for easy. Some steps are easy to create, while others can be a bit more challenging. 

I have been intensely interested in this manifestation process since a very young age. I understood that we are the masters of our own destinies, and therefore, I actively applied everything I read and knew about conscious creation to my life. I successfully manifested hundreds of amazing things. The problem, until only a couple of years ago, was that I was inconsistent; I also managed to create a ton of terrible circumstances. I perceived that I was mucking up part of the process. After years of trial, I finally figured out a system that works, time after time. You, too, can follow my tried-and-true techniques for having the life you desire:

a) Decide what you really want.

Grab a journal and write out exactly what you yearn for in every aspect of your life. Focus on your physical body; mental attitude; spiritual life; finances; home; vehicle; work; leisure activities; community; family; friends; love life; and any other relevant aspects. Often, people get stuck on this step because they do not know what they desire. That is okay. If you are stuck here, your “want” can be “I want to know what I want.” Otherwise, choose your one area of least satisfaction as a place to begin.

Hint: Your desire must adhere to physical laws; you will not be able to learn how to fly or see through walls.

b) Decide why you want “it.”

This step is important because it will conjure up a feeling inside of you. That feeling is the energy source; the fuel to set things in motion quickly. Without it, you will have to work very hard to achieve your goal.

Hint: Your “why” will likely boil down to “peace” and/or “joy.” If your “why” is “world domination,” please stop reading here.

c) Visualize and affirm achieving your goal with as much energy as you can muster.

Set aside at least 10 minutes every day to practice visualization. While you are envisioning and affirming your desire, be in the energy of already having achieved it.

Hint: You may try this while meditating, jogging, bathing, or, while listening to music that makes you feel great.

d) Believe.

Your inner self holds convictions that have been cultivated over your lifetime. One of the ways to establish a new philosophy is to repeat an affirmation in your conscious mind. That is why you must practice step (c). Your subconscious is like the slide in the presentation of your life. Your energy is the light that illuminates the slide, and your reality is the projected picture.

Hint: If you have a firmly rooted negative belief, you may need to work on dissolving it, before trying to plant your new positive belief.

e) Let go of any attachment to receiving your desired goal.

This may sound counterintuitive, but it is crucial. Attachment to your aim is a fear-based emotion that is in the energy of need, as opposed to desire. Holding a strong need is actually focusing on the lack of what you want, and therefore will create more of the lack.

Hint: Don’t worry, be happy.

f) Take daily action.

Once you start this process you will be inspired to do things. Do not ignore your inspiration; for, while this process will create miracles in your life, it is not magic. We are physical beings who need to take physical action. Though you may need to take many steps that feel scary, overwhelming, and sometimes even painful, it won’t feel like work—because you will know that you are designing your perfect, peaceful, joyful future. It will feel like freedom.

Hint: Act quickly. Do not worry too much about making mistakes because you can always correct your course. Mistakes are incredibly useful learning tools. Success likes momentum.

The time you invest in this process of conscious creation will pay you back several fold. I implore you to give it a serious go, with a light heart. This “life is not a dress rehearsal,” and it is never too late to be the director and shining star of your own show.

“DO NOT IGNORE YOUR INSPIRATION.”

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Take Action Now:
  • Keep a journal.
  • Take a meditation class.
  • Start working out.
  • Go on vacation.
  • Educate yourself by taking a course.
 

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Shake up your life and reap the rewards.

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Definition of Paradox:

A seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true: in a paradox. he has discovered that stepping back from his job has increased the rewards he gleans from it. 

Getting what you want from letting it all go; it may seem difficult, but there are times in life where that is exactly what you must do to succeed.

In my case, one day while everyone was chasing the dream, I decided just to live mine.

Chasing was too much work. I got tired, depressed, fat and cranky.

It always looked like other people had it all. They had what I was chasing–the nice house, the cool car, the rockin’ outfits on their more rockin’ bodies… and then one day, everything stood still.

The day after my sister-in-law passed away, my husband and I had a breakthrough moment. It came from asking ourselves the question: “Did she live exactly the life she wanted? Where, what, why, and with whom?” I believe she did. Doesn’t everyone? In truth, I never asked her. And, the thought hit me. “What if she didn’t?” Next, the big question arose: “What if I’m not? Maybe everyone…doesn’t? And, who am I to judge other people’s situations when I am not fully living my truth?”

So, I gave up chasing, and today, and every day, I feel blessed to be alive. Thanks to my sister-in-law’s passing, I learned to live and embrace the power of paradox. It may seem like an odd lesson, but wait! I plan to turn this whole goal setting, build life of your dreams nonsense on its ear.

Let’s live like we are dying!

This line shows up in songs and movies, but what does it mean? To me, it means if we are killing ourselves doing things we don’t want to do, to get things we don’t really need, or living in places that don’t nurture us, then what’s it all about? The contradiction here is that if we lived every day like we were dying, which we are, then what might we do differently today? Where would you live; what would you be doing; and with whom would you spend time?

Many of my clients have massive goals and demand measurable results. I discovered they shared a common element–the magic of paradox. Paradox is simply the awareness that two completely opposite realities can exist at the same time.

What I mean is that when things don’t make sense, or are inexplicable, you go for it anyway. The results you get are so outrageous that people think you’re a cheater, or that you must be doing things illegally or immorally. If you want a magical life, you believe in some sort of magic. If you want a normal life, you believe that being comfortable is more important to you than anything else.

“Learn to live.”

I don’t believe in comfort. Human beings tend to seek non-confrontation and the “road to easy.” We actually think we can be in control. Success doesn’t live on Easy Street. Success lives at the bridge of absurd, out of control and crazy. We set everything up to be comfortable, only to realize that “joie de vivre” arrives when we are in creating mode, and feeling out of control.

If your goals are designed for you to end up in comfort, ironically, achieving your goals can begin a downward spiral, leading to anxiety, depression and/or a feeling of un-fulfillment. That is the biggest paradox of all.

To get results, we must tear things down, in order to change and grow–like the contradiction of tearing our muscles during our workouts, in order to build bigger muscles.

My key paradox is to cause great disruption in my life, and the lives of my clients, so that the lives we create are bigger, bolder, and have more abundance than we can imagine. If I can get my clients to the precipice of firing me, I know I have affected change with them.

Stop seeking comfort! It will eventually squish your spirit. Protecting your lifestyle is 100 percent different from creating a life. Love, life, and success of any kind can only be exquisite if you are willing to step away from the safety of what you already know.

“I gave up chasing.”

That is the paradox.

I don’t know about you, but I am done with trying to be happy. My goal now is to tear down the walls of what I spent the last 20 years building, trust that it will support me through the transition, and expand into the person I know I truly am.

Crazy? Yes. Simple? Yes. Easy. No. Then again, if it is easy, it will not be worth it in the end. And, if it’s not the end, it’s not over.

The Paradoxes of Champions:
  1. Only by destroying your comfort zone can you be safe.
  2. Seeking comfort, or the easy way, can be a root cause of anxiety and depression.
  3. There are two ways of being—creating, or consuming.
  4. In order to win (get what you want), you have to lose (let go of what you have).
  5. Do the opposite, not the obvious.
  6. Stand for what you believe in,   not what is right or wrong.
 

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Learn to feel again through meditation

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In 2005, I felt a strong urge to learn more about yoga and meditation. This compulsion marked the beginning of numerous trips to India, New Mexico and California. In short, I took myself out of my regular, familiar, normal, everyday life and threw myself into completely foreign environments where nothing was at all familiar to me.

In India, I travelled to very remote areas, staying in ashrams, meeting with and studying with yogis, swamis, and gurus who had begun practicing yoga as young children. Some masters had been teaching yoga and meditation for over 70 years.

My senses were challenged to the extreme. I saw things I had never seen before and experienced new conditions. Lying in bed, with my eyes closed, I heard strange new sounds. There was no denying I was in a different place, and I no longer needed my eyes to see this. I was reminded of the importance of stretching yourself, getting out of your comfort zone, and trying something new. It is so easy to get into habits and routines. It doesn’t have to be as extreme as my experience, but I suggest you take a new course; try a new sport, restaurant, or yoga and meditation retreat; meet new people, or travel to a new place!

I wanted to take these ancient teachings, integrate them into my lifestyle, and teach others how to do so as well—in the hope of having a better quality of life, physically, mentally and spiritually.

Ten years earlier, I had graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Education degree and was very excited to teach. For the next decade, I taught in the schools and coached and trained athletes—including myself, as I was competing, too.

In 2006, I was still training athletes, but now I was also teaching yoga and meditation in schools; businesses; corporations, and a variety of other facilities—locally and internationally. At the time, there were not many people teaching meditation classes or workshops, especially in the schools and businesses, so it was sometimes met with skepticism and uncertainty. However, once students began the practice, the relaxation and calmness many of them experienced shifted their perception. They began to see the benefits, as they clearly felt a change.

“Life had renewed itself.”

It was an amazing experience to watch people transform right before my eyes. Many students went off their medications, with the guidance of their doctors and psychiatrists. In fact, my clients and I often refer to our meditations as our “meds.” (Please know—I think medication has its place—this is another alternative you may wish to explore.).

There are so many incredible stories I would love to tell, but one has stayed with me to this day. At the end of my meditation classes, I give people an opportunity to share their experiences. About nine years ago, a doctor, who had been coming to my meditation classes for quite some time, spoke for the first time. He said that, before he started meditating, he had been numb (did not really feel anything) for many years. When he spent time with his children, he was not really “there.” After meditating, he now felt “present,” and experienced a deep emotional connection to his children. As well, when he went to work, something had shifted. It was as if his work environment had changed. He now saw everyone and everything so differently that he fell in love with his job again. Life had renewed itself, and his passion was back. He was feeling again. Nothing had changed, except his perception of everything around him. By the time, he finished speaking, there was not a dry eye in the class.

After teaching in schools for 20 years, I could see the stresses and pressure faced by teachers, students, and parents. I even noticed young children whose feelings were “numbed,” much like the doctor in my class. So, with that in mind, I developed a TIME OUT: Mindfulness Kit with techniques and exercises for teachers, students, and parents, which is being used in schools. It can be employed by anyone, anywhere, at any time. The mindfulness techniques are for relaxation; stress reduction; memory; concentration; focus; depression, and increased telomerase activity (which is correlated with slowing the cellular aging process). I invite you to try one of these mindfulness practices (see above). It is simple and easy to do. All you need is you!

“I was reminded of the importance of stretching yourself.”
MINDFULNESS PRACTICE

Posture:

Sit tall, chin in, with a straight spine, and crossed legs (easy pose)or in a chair with feet flat on the floor (do not cross ankles or legs. Place arms across the chest with hands under the armpits, and palms open against the body.

Raise (shrug) the shoulders up, toward the earlobes, without cramping the neck muscles. Close eyes and breathe through the nostrils.

Breath:

Practice long, deep breathing for 3-11 minutes. If your mind wanders, try counting backwards from 27 to 1 (Inhale 27, Exhale 27; Inhale 26, Exhale 26, and so on.), or mentally say the following mantra:  Sat Nam (pronounced Sut Nom). Inhale Sat, Exhale Nam.

 

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Learn to have a healthy relationship with yourself.

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The first time I met Donna Zazulak, publisher of WELLNESS, we spoke about the unusual name of my company, Holistic Body Love. To me, the concept of holistic body love means being in a healthy relationship with yourself in four important realms of life: mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Let’s define these four areas:

Mental: This is our self-talk; what we say to ourselves about ourselves. Ideally, we want to engage in positive self-talk significantly more than negative self-talk.

Emotional: This is the way we feel about ourselves, and the ability to regulate our own emotions positively. The way we think about ourselves leads to how we feel about ourselves.

Physical: This involves our physical body, not in appearance, but rather, the health condition of our body (e.g., a strong immune system; organs that function well; a body that is well-nourished with nutrients, and has abundant energy to thrive).

Spiritual: This element can have multiple meanings. For some, it is an ability to tune into intuitive wisdom. For others, it may be a connection with a Higher Power. Essentially, it is the ability to see the bigger picture and connect with sacred aspects of life, so that life has fulfillment through deeper meaning and purpose.

“You can change the story of your life.”

Having balance in these four dimensions can help us to feel more present, grounded and empowered in who we are–as an individual, and in the various roles we take on.

Holistic body love means being kind to yourself, treating yourself with love and respect,  and having healthy and flexible boundaries so you exclude things that do not serve you (Drama anyone? No thanks!). The concept also encompasses feeling gratitude for all that you have in your life, and feeling enough abundance with what you have now (rather than feeling deprived or believing that “the grass is always greener on the other side”). These are just some examples, and there are many more. Ultimately, it’s about being your own best friend.

I did not always have an amazing relationship with me. In fact, I was my own worst enemy and persecuted myself all the time because I was not “fit-looking” enough; did not have six-pack abs; my hips weren’t small enough; my arms were not defined enough; and because that little piece of flesh on my upper back behind my armpit was too fleshy and soft! I restricted myself from eating certain kinds of foods because I thought those foods would exacerbate my “problem areas.” So, I stayed away from sugar, opting instead for chemically-enhanced sweeteners (at least they are calorie free) and fat-free food products. This made me feel good, and feel (falsely) safe because I was eating perfectly. I would bring my food to social gatherings because I was anxious about eating anything outside of my diet. I would try on clothes for hours, because nothing fit right or gave me the look I wanted. I became so stressed out packing for vacation (Okay, I admit I still do but for different reasons now!) because I couldn’t decide what to wear–since I couldn’t predict how my body would look each day that I would be away from home. And, when I was alone, I binged. I ate, and ate, and ate all the foods I previously deprived myself of–peanut butter, cookies, bread and anything high in sugar and carbs. I would feel guilt and shame for binging, so I “erased” those feelings by over-exercising. It became a silent, vicious cycle.

This kind of relationship with myself went on for years. Even when I did achieve my then “ideal body” by competing in a bodybuilding competition, it didn’t bring me the happiness I was seeking for, because nothing inside me changed—mentally, emotionally or spiritually. My “capsule” only changed on the outside.

Then, I made a choice. I found the courage to go on a self-healing journey:  through therapy; through my own professional training in a mindfulness-based method called Hakomi (in which I’m certified now); and through exploring Eastern practices such as yoga, acupuncture and naturopathy. I developed new practices to be kinder to myself—slowing down; being more present; learning how to shift out of limiting core beliefs and patterns; and living in a new way–to think, feel, and behave in my relationship with my new best friend, me!

Now, I try to serve me, so that I can serve the world from a deeper, loving, and authentic place. When I show love to me, the world benefits.  I can give back ten-fold, because I’m happy right here in my mind, heart and body. I have stopped abandoning myself, and I have returned home to a peaceful and happy individual.

The difficulties I experienced in my relationship with myself were expressed in the areas of food and body. However, for others, these struggles may manifest in other areas, such as being in relationships that are unhealthy, or abusive. These associations may be with partners, business partners, family members or friends. These struggles with self could relate to feeling deprived; chronically stressed; tired; or anxious. It may mean feeling low self-worth, or having judgmental thoughts about others. Oftentimes, these issues are unconsciously deep-rooted.

You can change the story of your life by first being open to exploring your relationship with you. Start by reading an appealing self-help book, or talk to a therapist who can guide you. Invite curiosity, courage and hope into life!

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Premenstrual symptoms give insights into hormone imbalances

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PMS is often joked about or misunderstood. But, the symptoms that many women experience are no laughing matter. Premenstrual symptoms can be a sign that something is out of balance in the body, as well as a call for greater self-care.

For many women, premenstruation and menstruation are times of heightened sensitivity. Your hearing, eyesight, and senses of taste and smell may actually be keener, making ordinary stimuli more overwhelming. It can help to unplug from the world and give yourself a quiet rest break.

If you think of the premenstrual time as an opportunity for a monthly spa break and reward yourself with baths, massages, a good book, or whatever nourishes you, it can even become something to be appreciated. You may find that your intuition and creativity are heightened at this time. I know a writer who sets aside the premenstrual week for writing and brainstorming, thereby taking advantage of the increased flow of ideas.

“It can help to unplug from the world and give yourself a quiet rest break.”

It can be helpful to keep a record of your premenstrual symptoms. This will allow you to recognize and anticipate your cyclical hormonal patterns. Dr. Guy Abraham identified four different types of PMS, each of which points to a different underlying hormonal profile. It’s also possible to have symptoms from more than one PMS type. In all cases,  Dr. Abraham identified deficiencies of magnesium and vitamin B6. Read on to see if you recognize yourself in any of these profiles:

PMS A – Anxiety

In the week before her period, Aliyah finds herself dealing with uncontrollable mood swings and compulsive behaviours. She often feels anxious, and the smallest things make her angry or irritated. A few times a year, her nervous tension escalates into full blown panic attacks. She is up at nights with insomnia and sometimes, diarrhea.

According to Dr. Katharina Dalton, Aliyah’s PMS-A is related to progesterone deficiency. She can increase her intake of magnesium and B vitamins to help calm her anxiety and nervous tension. Taking beta-carotene, evening primrose oil, and certain herbs throughout the cycle can support her progesterone production. Self-care is especially important for Aliyah: over time, she has learned to be gentle with herself and get extra rest. When she notices her PMS coming on, she adjusts her schedule to avoid things which may trigger anxiety, irritation or panic attacks.

PMS D – Depression

A few days before her period rolls around, Dominique gets depressed, weepy and very emotional. She becomes very thin-skinned and easily moved to tears. She tends to withdraw into herself and she feels much more tired than usual. She has noticed that she becomes uncoordinated and clumsy at that time, and sometimes her joints ache. On her worst months, she feels fearful and paranoid for a few days.

Dominique’s PMS-D is associated with low levels of serotonin, and may be related to high stress levels putting a strain on her adrenal and thyroid glands. In addition to B vitamins and magnesium, she can support her adrenal health with vitamin C, vitamin B5, licorice tea, and Celtic sea salt, and support her thyroid gland with sea vegetables, iodine, and selenium. She can also support her emotional health by setting up comfort measures for her premenstrual time, confiding in a trusted friend, and looking for ways to lighten her load.

PMS C – Cravings

Chris’s PMS-C is all about the cravings: usually for sweets, sometimes for salty foods, and often for alcohol. She has an increased appetite, and she has noticed that she often winds up eating compulsively or going on binges. At these times, Chris’s heart is pounding and she sometimes feels dizzy or on the verge of fainting. Her bowels are upset, premenstrually, and she usually has either diarrhea or constipation.

Chris’s cravings may mean that her adrenal glands are overworked, since cravings are often associated with adrenal stress. Along with taking B vitamins and magnesium, she can support her adrenal health with vitamin C, vitamin B5, licorice tea, and Celtic sea salt. Chromium can help stabilize her blood sugar and reduce her hypoglycemia. She may need to plan ahead to ensure she’s eating balanced meals with a higher portion of protein and can keep healthy snacks on hand to stave off her cravings. Finally, Chris can work to decrease her alcohol and sugar intake, getting emotional support where necessary.

Keep a record of your premenstrual symptoms.”

PMS H: Headache/Heaviness

Helen always knows when she’s going to get her period because her pants get tight from abdominal bloating. Her feet swell, her rings get tight, and her breasts are tender. Helen feels wiped out with fatigue and she is prone to menstrual migraines. She becomes constipated, her joints ache, and she feels uncoordinated and unbalanced. After her period, her weight drops noticeably once the fluid retention lets up.

Helen’s PMS-H is related to stress on her adrenals, liver, and gut, as well as to possible thyroid dysfunction. She can get some relief by decreasing her intake of sugar, salt, caffeine, and alcohol, and eating a balanced whole foods diet. Helen would benefit from comprehensive testing to identify the underlying hormonal imbalances. A skilled health practitioner can assess her for food allergies, gut dysbiosis (imbalance in intestinal bacteria), adrenal insufficiency, and thyroid dysfunction.

PMS Survival Strategies
  • Your menstrual cycle health is a reflection of your overall health and well-being. Taking care of your body, mind, and spirit can make your cycles more enjoyable.
  • Emotional self-care is extremely important. Try journalling, dancing, or talking it out with a friend – whatever works for you to express and move your emotions.
  • A regular exercise routine will improve your circulation, energy, and moods.
  • Limiting refined and artificial sugars will help improve your moods, reduce water retention, and decrease cravings over time.
  • Cutting back on caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine can reduce bloating, fatigue and depression.
  • Limit processed foods and refined flours, and choose whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, meats and fish, whole grains        and legumes.
  • Make sure your diet includes healthy fats and oils, like avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, flax oil, and fish oils. Avoid highly processed trans-fats.
  • A daily multivitamin with vitamin B6, a B complex, magnesium, Vitamin E, and Vitamin C may help reduce many PMS symptoms.
  • Discuss with your physician whether going off the Pill or other birth-control hormones may be an option for you. Some women seem to feel worse on synthetic hormones or feel they contribute to problematic PMS symptoms.
 

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Offering more flexible work options for employees is the key to success

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Clearly, people are at their most productive when they are healthy, happy and have some control in their lives. In fact, stress is inversely related in virtually all situations to our amount of control. So, allowing employees more authority is usually a really good thing. With that in mind, wise leaders should consider how we might better support our employees’ needs to have more controlespecially over their scarcest resourcetime!

In traditional workplaces, not enough thought is given to this issue. The effects become quite obvious when looking at the struggle that many people have in combining their personal and family needs with an inflexible work schedule. This amplifies the stress in the lives of our staff members, as they try to attend to the health needs of themselves and their dependents, get their kids to and from school and their activities, care for aging parents… well you get it, the list goes on and on.

“Staff can feel isolated and alone with their problems.”

It’s unfortunate that, in many companies, work-life balance issues are seen to be exclusively the worker’s responsibility. Parenting issues, for example, are not seen to be at all relevant to the business of the employer, and employees often feel they must conceal home concerns. 

In these organizations, the view of bosses is that work and personal issues are separate, and they seek to avoid discussion of family matters when they arise. Staff can feel isolated and alone with their problems, with little in the way of support within the workplace and/or with inflexible work schedules, and thus, motivation, productivity and retention rates can suffer.

“Employers would do far better to accept, and even encourage, flexibility in work structures.”

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Contrasting that, in “workplaces of choice” (what many employers these days say they are, or wish to become), bosses and others clearly recognize that people at work “have a life.” The quality of that life is recognized and valued by the employer as the link to performance, morale, and ultimately, the success of the organization. People are encouraged in their efforts to keep a healthy and effective balance between their work and their needs and commitments away from the job.

In this instance, bosses show an interest in their employees as people and are more alert to what is happening in their lives. People feel valued, and connected, in the company. The bottom line is that this type of business thinks longer-term, and workers less-often fail and burn-out.

Therefore, why not think of work options that afford staff members increased flexibility, so they can better respond to the competition for their time and attention between work and home? There is one option I liked most when I was an employee—one that recognizes that no two human beings are exactly the same, and that we are subject to different needs and pressures. I am talking about getting away from the “in the box” mindset that everyone must work the same days, the same number of hours, and the same shifts at the same locations. I prefer to ask employees “what works best for you?”

I am suggesting that, wherever possible, employers would do far better to accept and even encourage flexibility in work structures, including being open to alternate work schedules and compressed hours of work. Avoid taking a ‘cookie cutter’ approach to work arrangements. As a further example, be open to telecommuting and other arrangements that will not only allow the work to get done, but also may yield a happier more productive employee! Remember, happy workers tend to want to stay!

“Avoid taking a cookie cutter approach to work.”

As we see our employees heading out the door at the end of each day, we can make it more likely that they will have well-deserved opportunities to spend quality time with their families and others by recharging their bodies, minds and creative spirits. Adaptable work schedules can directly contribute to that result, and often the work can be designed so that it is done just as well using alternate arrangements, and may even be performed more efficiently at less cost!

The Work-life Balance Reality
  • Absences due to work-life conflict have doubled in recent years and are estimated to cost over $4 billion per year in Canada (Canadian Policy Research Networks 2001)
  • Work-life conflict affects most people, not just those with children.
  • Many people with conflict in their life point to work as a major cause.
  • In companies struggling to retain valued employees, failure to support work-life balance is often a major contributing factor.
 

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Coping with challenging people

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When I was younger I loved action movies. The explosions and fights, fueled by testosterone, were fun to watch. I didn’t realize that I was also learning an important lesson about how to deal with others. No, I’m not talking about blowing them up! I was being schooled in the “Steven Seagal approach to dealing with difficult people.”

Steven Seagal, an action star from the 1990s (Remember the movies Under Siege, Above the Law, and Hard to Kill?), practiced the martial art Aikido. The idea of this concept is to absorb the opponent’s force and redirect it. Most of us have been taught the “boxing approach” to dealing with problematic people and relationships. We either meet force with a matching force, or “absorb the punch with our face.”

“Validate, accept and support before trying to teach, correct, influence, or fix the problem.”

The “Aikido way” to do this is to validate, accept and support before trying to teach, correct, influence, or fix the problem. And, it is not enough to say, “Yeah, I know what you mean.” It works way better if you show someone you understand by repeating their words back to them in your own way, while listening for the feelings behind their words. I call this “drive-thru talking,” echoing the order to make sure you got it right. It works something like this: if the other person says, “I hate this weather,” you can reflect this back, “So, what you’re saying is this weather is really getting you down?” I know this sounds like a lot of extra effort, but if you can show that you understand, and validate how the other person is feeling, most of the issue is already resolved. You don’t have to agree with the other person’s feelings or opinion to validate that they see it that way. If you acknowledge it is true for them (feelings, opinions, etc.), that’s all you need to do. Once people feel heard and understood they are much more open to discussion.

There’s another thing I learned from Steven Seagal. He was criticized for being deadpan and not showing emotion in his “acting.” This is an approach you can adopt; not being blank, but being calm. Of course, it is not easy to be engaged and unattached at the same time —but that’s exactly what is needed when you are dealing with conflict or a difficult person. You have more success when you are fully engaged in the process, and with the individual, but are unattached to having situations go a certain way. Stay open to how matters may develop, and practice “drive-thru talking.”

The importance of being engaged while staying unattached was hammered home to me in my training (both as a psychologist, and as a black belt in Karate), and is important to you, too. Your main task is to manage your own emotional and physical state. There are at least two reasons for this. The first is that you perform at your best (hear, think, and speak more clearly) when you’re calm. The second reason is that when you are more stable, you provide a template for the other person to settle down. If you know you are going to have to deal with someone difficult, prepare yourself. Visualize something pleasant; get some extra rest; eat well; go for a quick walk, or do whatever it takes to help you get into a positive and calm headspace. If you are ambushed, call a “time-out” by going to the bathroom, and take a moment to get yourself together.

Being aware of, and managing, your own state works great in the moment—but practice doing it all the time—so the technique is there when you need it (like Steven did – practicing and training in Aikido long before he had to deal with any bad guys in his movies). Start by taking mini-breaks of one to two minutes, where you just sit or stand and take a few deep breaths, noticing what your body is doing (mindfulness), a few times during the day. This can make a huge difference in your overall state of calm. You will quickly learn that it’s okay to slow down, and you will begin to automatically stop moving every now and then, so you don’t get caught in a spiral of emotions or negativity. You will find that you are calmer in general, have more energy at the end of the day, feel happier, and sleep better, too!

“You perform at your best when you’re calm.”

Happiness is also an important condition to focus on when you’re not in active conflict. Think of your life like balance scales (e.g., the scales of justice). The more energy draining concerns you have on one side, the more you need energy giving things on the other, if you want to stay balanced. My goal is to make you unbalanced in the positive direction!

Some other elements that can add positivity to your life include:  sleep; vacations; a healthy diet; spirituality; a good psychologist; friends; hobbies, and journalling. Remember, “The better you feel—the better you do!” This is especially so if you find yourself “Under Siege” when dealing with difficult people.

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Two simple steps to detoxify your body

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As winter turns to spring, it’s traditional to clean house to clear out all the dust and debris that accumulates over the cold months. As you get your house in order, why not do a spring cleansing for your body?

Our bodies have an amazing ability to process and eliminate wastes and toxins. However, sometimes these systems can get overwhelmed, especially in a time when there are so many chemicals in our food, air and water.

“Cosmetics and personal care products can be another culprit of toxic stressors on the body.”

I’m not an advocate of extreme cleanses or fasts, because they can put unnecessary stress on the body. Detoxification can be done slowly and gently if you follow two simple guidelines: reduce the harmful substances you are taking into your body and; support the systems of your body that remove toxins.

Step 1: Reduce the harmful substances you are taking into your body.

A good place to start is by looking at your diet. Artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated oils, trans fatty acids, and refined sugar can all put stress on the liver and slow down detoxification. Cleaning up your diet can make it easier for your liver to get to work on removing stored toxins.

If you despair at the idea of giving up your junk food fix permanently, try simplifying your diet for a short period of time, such as six weeks. It can be easier to take a break from favourite foods if you know it’s on a temporary basis. You can then re-evaluate your diet at the end of the temporary period based on how you feel.

Emphasize whole foods in your diet such as fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and legumes, lean meats and fish. Choose organic produce and free-range, organic, antibiotic-free meats wherever possible. You can search online for the ‘Dirty Dozen’ and the ‘Clean Fifteen’ to see which fruits and vegetables are most affected by pesticide spraying, and therefore, most important to buy organic or from small local farmers.

“Be sure to eat plenty of fibre through a good intake of fruits and vegetables.”

When you do your spring housecleaning, take a close look at the ingredients in your cleaning products. Many well-known household products contain hazardous ingredients that can linger in your home and end up accumulating in your body. Cosmetics and personal care products can be another culprit of toxic stressors on the body, especially if they contain petroleum or unspecified fragrances. The book Toxin Toxout has some good advice about what products to avoid.

Mercury fillings can also be a persistent source of long-term toxicity. Have your mercury fillings removed by an experienced dentist, and consider getting a urine test to assess the heavy metal levels in your body.

Step 2: Support the systems of your body that remove toxins.

Many systems of the body do a great job of cleansing and purification, so let’s acknowledge them for their hard work! The liver helps break down chemicals, the bowels and urinary tract excrete wastes, and the skin can get rid of wastes through sweat.

Supporting your liver is an essential part of successful detoxification. Relieve stress on your liver by drinking less alcohol (or cutting out alcohol altogether). Eating bitter greens like dandelion, kale, mustard greens, and arugula can stimulate the liver to produce bile, which helps to break down hormones. Squeezing the juice of half an organic lemon in warm water every morning is another gentle way to stimulate the liver, as is eating a raw carrot in the mornings before breakfast.

Regular bowel movements are extremely important to detoxification – if you’re regularly constipated, take that as a warning sign. Drink the recommended eight or more glasses of water per day, and be sure to eat plenty of fibre through a good intake of fruits and vegetables. Another option to increase your fibre intake is to include psyllium husks, ground flax or chia seeds in your porridge or smoothies. Traditionally fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, and kefir help populate your gut with friendly microorganisms that boost digestion and detoxification.

Baths are not only relaxing and soothing, but great for gently detoxifying through your skin. Epsom salts or baking soda in your bath water help draw the toxins out, and the magnesium in Epsom salts is a natural muscle relaxant. Saunas also stimulate your skin to sweat out toxins. Indulge often if you’re lucky enough to have one in your home, or see if your gym has one you can relax in after a workout. After your bath or sauna, gentle exfoliation with a washcloth or salt scrub helps remove dead skin cells and lets your skin breathe better.

Exercise and movement also play an important role in detoxification. Regular, enjoyable exercise can get your heart rate up, improve circulation, and help you sweat out the bad stuff. So get moving!

Finally, a cautionary note: introduce detoxifying practices very gradually, as the body can easily be overwhelmed by a sudden release of toxins. If you notice flu-like symptoms, diarrhea, or muscle aches, ease off for a few days. Be gentle with yourself, drink plenty of water, and wait until the healing crisis passes.

Detoxifying Essentials

  • Cilantro helps remove mercury from the body. Add it to your cooking or take cilantro drops up to four times per day.
  • Garlic is a great digestive healing agent and antimicrobial. Cook with it to your heart’s content or try garlic capsules.
  • Probiotics help your gut function more effectively, digesting food more thoroughly and making for better elimination of wastes.
  • Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps break down and remove toxins. A good dose for detoxifying is 500-3000 mg/day.
  • Turmeric is very effective for supporting liver function and limiting inflammation. Use it as a spice in your cooking or try capsules.
  • Milk Thistle helps regenerate liver cells and protects the liver from damage.
  • Dandelion root and leaves provide a gentle herbal tonic for the liver.
  • Diindolylmethane (DIM) and Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C) are supplements derived from plants in the cabbage family that help the body break down estrogen-mimicking chemicals.
  • A good multivitamin and multimineral supplement will help cover all the bases needed for optimal detoxification.
 

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Understanding why the spark is gone is half the battle

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It’s Friday night and the time is right, you want to have some fun, show each other how it’s done, TGIF. But wait, you’re exhausted, the laundry is piling up, the dishes are still sitting there, and you’ve got plans for the weekend (and it’s not to just relax).

Years ago, it wouldn’t have mattered what you needed to do, you and your partner would’ve jumped passionately into each other’s as soon as you got home, and everything else could’ve waited. Instead, you find yourself barely acknowledging your partner because you’re caught up in whatever you’re doing, you give them a peck on the cheek, and you meet up again to either watch a TV show or say goodnight. You still love your partner, but the intensity is gone. The days of constant sex seem forever ago and both of you have noticed it enough to sigh about your new reality, but you’re too tired to really do anything about it.

Let’s call our imaginary couple Shawn and Shelley, and see what their sex-life is like. Another Saturday rolls around and Shelley realizes that she and Shawn haven’t had sex in weeks. That night, she starts kissing Shawn when they get into bed. They are both exhausted but it seems like they should do it. After all, isn’t that what healthy couples do? So, Shawn rolls over on her, intercourse happens in missionary position, and 5-7 minutes later he orgasms. The whole event took place in the dark, not much talking happened, and they immediately go to sleep after. Shelley may or may not have orgasmed, and if they were feeling frisky, maybe they tried one other position and groaned a bit more.

Sound familiar? Sex Therapists call this heteronormative sexuality, and it’s the trap that is a natural response to being with the same partner for a while (also, don’t let it fool you because it can affect homosexual couples too).

“You have to work at it and you have to create new stimuli in your relationship.”

There are at least two factors that lead to this response. One is called habituation, whereby our brain stops responding to the same stimulus as intensely as it once did. This is adaptive, and it’s the same response we have to winter. When winter first strikes, it’s a big deal and it seems really cold at -5 degrees. But if it was -5 in the middle of January, we’d all be jumping for joy and probably wearing T-shirts again.

Our brain is designed to respond more to new information, and as that new information becomes repetitive, our brain doesn’t pay as much attention to it. So, when you’re first dating, a new stimulus in your brain is lighting up and you can’t get enough sex or intimacy with that novel person. But, after enough time, your brain doesn’t respond the same way and that person doesn’t produce the same response.

The other factor, which is related, is well-researched by Dr. Helen Fisher in her book “The Anatomy of Love” (among others) and suggests that the human brain is designed for three stages of love as an evolutionary mechanism. The first stage is lust, driven by testosterone and estrogen, which causes us to be voracious for our partner. The second stage is attraction, driven by adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin, which causes us to be love-struck by our partner, the time that we don’t think straight and lose sleep. The third stage is attachment, driven by oxytocin and vasopressin, and leads to a longer-lasting commitment.

Put habituation and the three stages of love together and people are left with the normal effect of heteronormative sexuality. Here’s the thing though – it doesn’t have to be like this. Just because there are factors that contribute to it, it doesn’t mean it’s an inevitability, and it doesn’t mean you can’t change it. If you understand the mechanisms at play here, you are already understanding how to change it.

To prevent habituation, you have to work at it and you have to create new stimuli in your relationship. Just because the person is the same, doesn’t mean that they can’t stimulate you differently. We have five senses to take advantage of here.

What excites you visually? Actually turning the lights on and looking at each other perhaps? Lingerie? Looking into each other’s eyes? What arouses you with touch? Gentle or hard? Where do you like to be touched? Make sure you tell your partner because they can’t read your mind no matter how much you wish they could. What about smells? Do you have a favourite fragrance your partner can wear? Is it better to try after, or in, a shower? Ever think about taste? Do you need your partner to brush their teeth first? Would it help to involve flavours on your partner’s body? You could try fruit or something candy-like. Finally, our sense of hearing is also often overlooked. Do you like to hear dirty-talk? Is it sexy to have some Barry White in the background? Does it turn you on when your partner screams? Tell them.

If you take into account the fact that an attached relationship will likely be challenged by losing that spark, you can take that as an opportunity to make a more meaningful connect with your partner, since that opportunity wouldn’t exist if it was just based on the novelty of a new person. Notice how you would actually have to communicate with your partner about all those five senses? That’s what builds intimacy, knowing your partner, and allowing yourself to be known. Sounds a bit scary doesn’t it? It is, but that’s how you know it’s worth it. If you don’t push yourself out of your comfort zone you wouldn’t  be right where you are now. That’s fine if you choose, but if you want a spark, you’ll need to soothe yourself as you try something new.

10 Tips To Get That Spark Back

  1. Know what you like by thinking about it and experimenting on your own with all five senses.
  2. Tell your partner what you want and ask them what they want.
  3. Don’t take anything personally – you have to allow your partner the freedom to express themselves – you don’t have to agree, just understand.
  4. Set your own limits and boundaries and be assertive about them – sometimes a fantasy is better talked about than actually lived.
  5. Set aside 30 minutes each week to talk about sex and set goals for the week – ie. In the next week I’d like to try having sex after we have a shower together.
  6. Go easy on yourself and don’t get too upset if the spark is gone – this is normal if you don’t do anything about it.
  7. Do it differently – nobody gets excited about having bad sex, so don’t do it if it’s because you feel you should.
  8. Have sex because you want to, and create reasons to want it – ie. Pleasure, connection, etc.
  9. Intercourse is a very small part of the sexual experience – don’t make it the only part.
  10. Take the loss of spark as an opportunity to create meaningful and deep bonds with your partner.
 

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Taking responsibility for your actions helps others heal

I am sorry messageAs we leap past Valentine’s Day and “the month of love,” into March, it’s good to look at what goes into building and maintaining a lasting relationship long after all the chocolates are eaten and the flowers have died. One of the things I’ve noticed in my years of practice is that people don’t always get how, when, or even why to apologize. Much less knowing how to do it so it lands right – instead of triggering Armageddon. Here are some thoughts and ideas that will help you say “sorry” the right way the first time.

Why should you apologize?

You apologize to fix the relationship, not because of the obligations of society. When you say “sorry” it’s your attempt to repair the damage, so you can continue the way things were, or build things even better. Just trying to make thing right builds depth and intimacy even more than if you didn’t mess up in the first place.

When should you apologize?

There is no “best before date” on saying “sorry.” Whenever you realize, or are made aware that you have hurt some one, it’s totally appropriate to apologize. Even years later, a heart-felt apology can be extremely meaningful to someone receiving it.

But don’t say “sorry” just to make the problem go away. First off, it will seem fake and then you lose credibility for the future; secondly, it’s not fair for you to take responsibility for things that aren’t yours – you rob the other person of their opportunity to grow and you’ll start to resent the relationship and the other person after awhile.

What is an apology?

When you apologize you are letting the other person know that you are taking responsibility for how your actions caused them pain. Whether you intended it or not!

An example I use a lot in my talks and with my clients is: If I walk over to you to give you a birthday present, but I stumble and step on your toes; most reasonable people would think that it would be appropriate to apologize. I would be acknowledging how my actions (stepping on your toes) hurt you – even if my intent was to help you (delivering your gift.) So you don’t need to have bad intent to offer an apology. Just acknowledge the other persons feelings and take ownership for your actions. “I’m so sorry I broke your toe when I stepped on your foot. Can I take you to the hospital or get you some ice?”

So when you say “sorry” you’re not saying that it was all your fault. In fact, you’re not saying anything about fault at all. You’re just being responsible and grown up.

An apology is not a sign of weakness, but rather it’s a sign of strength and maturity. People respect others who can own their own stuff. You grow in the eyes of other healthy people – not shrink.

“Sorry” is also not a magic word that guarantees you’ll be forgiven. If you really care about the other person, you will understand (and even let them know) that they may need some time to let the apology sink in and feel safe with you again.

What does a good apology look like?

The truth is that the best apology is the simplest apology. You should acknowledge that you hurt the other person and identify their feelings if possible. You take responsibility for your behavior. You offer to make it right. And then you should stop talking!

Most people can understand the first three parts but mess up by not keeping quiet after. Anything you say after this weakens the apology. If they ask you what was going on, or for clarification then you can give it, but this is not the time for explanations (and definitely not excuses) with out being asked for one!

“An apology is not a sign of weakness, but rather it’s a sign of strength and maturity.”

What does a bad one look like?

If you really want to screw up your relationship, you can also use the word “sorry” in one of these abusive ways that makes the other person wrong:

  • “Sorry your toe is broken” (denying your role in the toe-breaking).
  • “Jeeesse, I’m sooorrrry!” (dripping with sarcasm and with the obligatory eye-roll).
  • “Sorry your feet are so big” or “sorry your toes are soooo sensitive!”
  • “Sorry I broke your toe, but you know I’m clumsy. It’s not my fault!”
  • “Sorry I broke your toe, but if your feet weren’t in the way, or you were smart enough to wear steel-toed boots, none of this would have happened!”

I think you get the idea. If you really care about the other person, don’t make their pain or your actions their fault.

So remember, acknowledge how your actions caused the other person pain, offer to make it right and then keep quiet!  You’ll not only be able to fix your relationship when you mess up, but you’ll be able to build strength and intimacy with the person you care about.

Points to remember:

  1. You apologize to restore (and build) the relationship.
  2. Don’t say “sorry” just to make the argument or problem go away.
  3. Only strong, healthy people say “sorry.”
  4. Take responsibility for your actions.
  5. Acknowledge the other person’s feelings.
  6. Try to make it right where you can.
  7. Shut up!! Don’t justify or make excuses – just say “sorry” and stop talking.
  8. You can say “sorry” even if you didn’t intend to hurt the other person.
  9. It’s NEVER too latean apology doesn’t have an expiration date.
  10. It may take time for the other person to forgive you – “sorry” is NOT a magic word.
 
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