Working through Anxiety.

 

During my 1st-grade choir concert, Meg Hennessey fainted from the top row of the bleachers and, in a subconscious gesture of empathy, I went down right after her, breaking my glasses and flailing on the gymnasium floor.

After that traumatic episode, I generalized my anxiety (or gesture of empathy) and passed out: during church services, in dentist chairs, and the exact second any needle pierced through my skin.

Basically, anywhere I imagined it'd be inconvenient to faint, I'd feel faint (and sometimes follow through on it).  There was nothing physically wrong with me (I had several tests). I just scared myself to the point of fainting.

This anxiety escalated. I never let fear prevent me from doing things, but there was almost always inner struggles and cautious dread.  And it made living in the moment very difficult.

Years went by and the anxiety spread to other situations—my health and driving.

My fear ran so deep and was so powerful that it physically controlled me.   

 

I tried to run and hide from this fear but it didn’t work. It escalated.

 

But what did work was:

Confronting it.

Leaning into it.

Breathing through it.

Caring for myself, physically and emotionally.

 

And guess what happened?

The clouds parted.

I saw myself undefined by fear.

I caught sight of my true potential.

 

These days, fear says to me:

Don’t send the email. Don’t raise your hand. Don’t sign up for that seminar. Don’t apply for that job. Don’t ask for help. Don’t take the risk.

Do all the housework yourself.  Check Facebook one more time. Meditate tomorrow. It’s not perfect. Give up.  Wait longer. You can’t. You won’t. You shouldn’t.

 

Ahhh!  These words are familiar and comforting.  

 

But when I listen to them, I realize I'm not evolving at all.  I’m stuck in a place that’s keeping me from jumping and dancing and exploring—from truly living.

 

So fear will try to protect me and I'll refuse to let it. Because I don’t need it anymore.

 

We don’t need it anymore.

 

Can you toss fear in the trash, banishing it from your life forever?

Nope. Nada. Never.

 

It’ll always be with you. But what you can do and should do—is venture on despite it. You are more powerful, more amazing, more true to yourself than ever before.

 

If you think fear may be holding you back from something take a moment to consider what it would be like to stand up to it—to stop pretending it doesn’t exist.

 

And the sooner you do, the sooner you'll begin to fly.

 

 

The Dreaded F Word.

 

So you’ve determined that fear is in your way.  And you know this because… 
 

You want a new job.
You’ve been talking a lot about working out and getting in shape.
You’re still holding on to your burning desire to start a photography business.


Yet you’re stuck doing the same ‘ole things.



It’s hard to change habits. 


If you’re anything like me, you’ve tried to change your thoughts, to stop procrastinating, to take action. It lasts a few days, maybe a week or two if you’re lucky, and then you’re back to your old ways, the old patterns. Like clockwork.

 

Well, that’s fear for you. So predictable.
 

And it will remain your default setting unless you do something about it. 


Guess what? Now is the time to do something about it.

 

6 steps to break the fear cycle and move forward.   

 

1. Acknowledge it.
It’s holding you back from something.


2. Notice it.
It might show up as:

  • Procrastination

  • Perfectionism

  • Negative self-talk
     

3. Separate from it.

  • What does it look like?

  • What's its name?

  • What does it sound like?

 
4. Talk to it.

  • What is it trying to protect you from?

  • What’s the worse that will happen if you listen to it?

  • What’s the worse that will happen if you don’t listen to it?


5. Thank it.

  • Appreciate that it’s trying to protect you.

  • Most of the time, you don’t need its help.

  • Come right out and tell your fear you’ve got it covered.  

 

If I left you with these five steps, you’d probably be able to move forward, maybe even get that new job or lose five pounds.


But I’d be leaving out a critical step. 

 

If you don’t lean into your fears and face them head on, they’ll come back as strong or stronger than before.  

 How do you lean into your fears?

  • Look at your old beliefs. Where did the fear originate?
  • Notice where the fear shows up in your body.
  • Breathe through the urge to run and bolt the other way.

 

This is not easy. This is scary. But this, my friend, is the good stuff. The worthwhile stuff.

Fear will continue to return in full force until you allow yourself to stand up to your fears and look them in the eye. A good coach can help with this step.
 

And know this: 

You are not your fear. Your fear is not you.

It is separate from your inner being, your wisdom, your guidance, your truth.

 

This process takes time. Continue practicing.

 

Learn to respect it. Create boundaries around it. Get curious, seek answers. Hold it at a distance, allowing your heart to trump it every time (unless you’re being chased by a bear).

Then run like hell!
 

How a blank piece of paper can change your life.

 

While working out this morning, I had a million thoughts.

February break began today.

I told the kids I’d take them to Skyzone.

I had client calls.

A newsletter was due.

And, where would we go on my husband’s day off?

It was a perfect week to clean out the garage. And my office needed painting.

 

Too much.

I knew what I wanted to do and I knew what I needed to do but when everything added up I was stuck like that cliche’ deer-in-headlights right in the middle of the road.

That was when my thoughts were interrupted.

"Hook, Hook, Jab, Cross, Hook,” my instructor shouted as I began my next round on the punching bag.

My rhythm was off. I didn’t even know how to do this. I was incorrectly jabbing here and punching there.

So I tried it again. Hook, Hook, Jab, Hook, Hook, Jab. That time it was almost too easy.

It was too easy.  

My instructor interrupted me. “It's Hook, Hook, Jab, Cross, Hook.”

I tried again. Hook, Hook, Jab, Cross, Hook.  Aha! I found the cadence.

So, here's what I know:

Sometimes it takes going back to the basics.

Simplifying. It’s much easier to add on later. And the bonus is… you remain in control.

 

Of your day.

Of your week.

Of your life.

 

Start with a blank sheet of paper.

Let go of everything that's on your mind.  Choose your top three priorities and remain focused.  

Is it really that easy? No, of course not.  The squirrel is my spirit animal. I struggle daily with maintaining focus on what is most important to me and resist the urge to do a little bit of everything.

But in the world of boxing, be the Rocky Balboa.

No flailing around aimlessly trying to get it all done.

Take control. Put one fist in front of the other and find your flow.


And in the words of the big guy himself,  “If this is something you wanna do, and if this is something you gotta do, then you do it." -Rocky

5 ways to stay sane this month.

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It seems like everyone I talk to these days is overwhelmed with December obligations.

What happened to this magical month? Why has it turned into dread mixed with hustle and a splash of bustle? Instead of peace, sugar plums (what are these anyway?) and snowflakes, all we see is craziness.

 

If you’re feeling less than excited about the upcoming weeks, there’s still hope.

 

You may not be able to stop events from happening, but below are 5 tips that will help you manage overwhelm so that you can enjoy the holiday season again!

 

1. Breathe.

Find 30 seconds twice a day to notice yourself breathing. You can do this while you’re driving (keep your hands on the wheel), waiting in line at the grocery store or walking down the street. You can go all out and use a special technique (there are many options) or choose the more realistic approach and take one or two deep breaths. The end.

 

2. Get clear.

Get clear on what you have to do. Sometimes just thinking about everything you have to do is overwhelming. Try writing it down and seeing it in front of you. Can you make a list of everything that has to do be done and then give it a realistic timeline?

 

It’s impossible to do it all and do it all well. So, make a decision.

 

  • What can you let go of?

 

  • What can you delegate? Meaning what can you be OK with someone else doing for you (even if it’s not the way you’d do it).

 

  • What’s really important to you?


 

3.  Change your mindset.

My favorite overwhelm quote from Jen Sincero is so helpful in remembering who’s in charge of how you feel this month (that’s you).

“When you make the unhelpful decision to stop breathing, lose perspective and forget you’re in control of life.” -Jen Sincero

 

Take back control this month. You, my friend, are in charge. If you want to feel pissed off at the sales clerk at Dick’s Sporting Goods because you’re pretty sure he smoked a joint this morning and he’s working in slow motion, go for it. If you want to feel energized and blast your favorite holiday tune from the car windows (with the heat on for some of us), by all means do it!

Take a moment and think about how you want to feel this month and feel it.

 

4. Put yourself first.  

I know, I know...there’s no time for this but really… it’s non-negotiable. The holidays can get to us, emotionally and physically. Take time to do what you need to do to recharge and restore.


 

5. Gratitude.

I know I talk gratitude often, but it works. When I start perseverating over little things and find myself distracted with the shit I have to do, I gently remind myself to return to the moment and stay grateful.

 

What tools and techniques can you use right now to start shaking things up this month? Please comment below and share or drop me an email!

 

What's scarier than meditating?

What's scarier than meditation?

Not much.

I’m a doer, a shaker, a seeker a searcher. A “don’t stop or life will pass you by” kind of girl.

In the past, the mere thought of quietly sitting still for two minutes made me fight the urge to run screaming out the back door with a kitchen knife in my hand.
 

But silence really is golden.

In quiet stillness we get clear. We stop, we breathe, we listen, we train our minds, we take back our power.

We’re reassured of the energy running through our body. We reconnect to the wisdom of our soul.

If we can only stop the noise for even a short period of time.

 

I believe this because I’ve experienced it.

Yet I don’t meditate as often as I should. There’s usually something pressing I have to do. In other words, I choose to let something else become more important.


My meditation practice has increased over the years as I’ve eased my way into sitting for longer increments of time.
 

  • Do I have a clear mind for the entire duration? HELLS to the NO. 
  • Does my mind wander to thoughts of dirty dishes, the turquoise pillow I plan to buy with my Target coupon and drinks with friends? YEP.
  • Am I able to do it every damn day? IT’S A GOAL.

 

On most days, I do make a concerted effort to sit in silence, take notice of my mental activity and redirect my thoughts back to my breath. It's amazing what even one minute can do to calm the nerves.

Meditation isn’t about the mind not wandering. (It really isn’t. I promise). It’s about noticing the mind wandering. 


I agree, meditation can feel more like a trick than a treat, but go ahead and give it a try (or try it again). Push through that fear and commit to one minute a day. You may surprise yourself.

If you're reading this and want/need extra motivation to meditate, please join me on my Facebook Group, Power Shift for a 4 day challenge in November. 

If you ate an apple a day.

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While apple picking with my family last month, my 8-year old son shouted, "Where are all the apples?"

I had to laugh as I looked around at shiny, red apples hanging off every tree in sight. It got me thinking about how easy it is to miss seeing what's in clear view.

We often get distracted by thoughts that pull us out of the present moment. 

We may be thinking about the latest news story, what we're having for dinner or how we'll get our kids to start helping us out around the house (I've given up on chore charts).

For most of my life, disconnection from the present moment was my standard mode of operation. In fact, my habitual response of ruminating often prevented me from experiencing joy. 

At the orchard I picked this rare find off the tree.

I couldn't help but wonder how many treasures I'd missed throughout the years and if paying attention was the beginning of a new habit for me—where mindfulness was my new jam.

What can we see when we begin to look around? What signs are out there waiting for us?

My relationship with the Universe has been heating up lately as I meditate more, practice gratitude daily and trust that I'm on the right path.

What I'm learning is:

  • It's easier to be in the moment when things are going well, but a consistent meditation practice helps tame our every day monkey mind.
  • In hard times, being in the present is not about pretending things are different, it's about staying in the sadness, the worry, the fear and finding a way (through prayer, thought or action) to shift our energy to love.


Mindfulness is about breathing in. It's about breathing out.

It's about becoming aware of our thoughts and choosing to hold onto the ones that serve us and let go of the ones that don't.

When we make the powerful choice to stay present, we become fully alive in the wonder of each moment.

An extra scoop of ice cream and my favorite hoodie.

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Summer's ending and I'm overwhelmed with the change.

I'm not ready. But I am ready. But I'm not. But I am. But I'm not.

Summer was amazing: sleeping in, traveling, pushing back deadlines, basking in the sun. I'm holding on tightly to the branch and fighting this change with all my might. 

But it's time to let go.

My kids need some structure and I need a few moments of peace to work on my business goals for this quarter (among other things). I'm craving time with my friends and am finally tired of eating out, ordering burgers and french fries. Plus, I think my favorite hoodie misses me. 

And struggling to keep things the way they are isn't working.

It's preventing me from enjoying the last days of August.

So, I'll choose to be the leaf not shown in this picture. The one that's at peace with being part green and part red. One that's holding onto the memories of the summer with gratitude and looking forward to the season ahead—ready to embrace the structure and the new possibilities it brings with it.   


Although I might just need an extra scoop of ice cream as I work through these feelings.

 

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How to step up your gratitude game in 5 minutes.

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Gratitude has changed my life. I’ve always known I had much to be thankful for but I chose the implied appreciation approach. When I’d hear someone mention the importance of gratitude, my eyes would roll back and I’d think, oh plllleeaaaassse... I’m totally grateful. You don’t have to tell me to count my blessings.

Until I stepped up my gratitude game. I finally heard enough talk about the benefits of gratitude that when my friend gave me a journal for my birthday, I decided to put it to the test. 

For the last six months, I've been writing away. In the mornings, I fill out the first half of the page, set my daily intention and create a mantra.  If that's all I get to, I'm happy. But if I'm on a roll, I return before bed to jot down an amazing thing that happened to me that day. That's it. Daily gratitude done. Mic drop!

My gratitude journal holds me accountable. It offers me 5 minutes (and really, that’s all it takes) of reflection. It doesn’t expect anything from me. It challenges me when I come up empty and holds my truth for me when I’m feeling vulnerable. It gives me courage and hope. But most of all, it allows me the space to reflect on the little parts of the day that I would have normally overlooked: the smile from a stranger, my kids laughing in the pool, my new facial moisturizer. 

This gratitude journal is one of the eight books that have impacted my life. Want to read about the other seven? Sign up for my free PDF and download a copy of the 8 Books that will turn your overwhelm into empowerment.

The turtle or the hare?

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I’ve been thinking about turtles. This week, my kids and their cousins found a baby one meandering in the grass near a pond. Hard exterior, soft and cute on the inside. We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare—well in this case it’s a turtle and it can teach us a thing or two.

Now I am no poster child for slow and steady. My second grade teacher would utter, “Haste makes waste” to me on a weekly basis. In fact, I came out of the womb fast and furious. No slow and steady for me. While moving at warp speed seems to have served me well over the years (give or take several half-assed mistakes), slow and steady has become much more appealing to me these days.

Why is that? I’ve come to realize that much of what I want (and need) doesn’t happen immediately. Personal growth, for example, takes time and requires commitment. There are no overnight sensations or immediate fixes.

The “We want to change and we want it now” mentality burns us out and can be defeating. In fact, making the assumption that transformation is dropped on our doorstep in a cute little package the minute we ask for it sets ourselves up for frustration and disappointment.

Remember the turtle? The good news is we have a tough exterior that offers us a place of protection. When we decide to change, rather than speeding up and running to the finish line, we must slow down and straighten our shell. Underneath is a place of calmness and peace. A home of solitude and truth. At first this may not be easy or comfortable as it requires us to swim in the unfamiliar waters of patience and longevity. But over time, we begin to see the wisdom in the turtle’s ways—moving forward with endurance and simple acceptance of all that we are and all that is in the Universe.

How do you fill your cup?

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Feeling lonely and confused was starting to become a bad habit for me.  On this particular morning, it struck me hard. My two oldest children had left for elementary school and my youngest was at pre-school, appearing to have skipped over his toddler years altogether. Looking around my house, all that remained were dirty dishes in the sink and a pile of underwear on the floor.  Something was missing.

“What the hell?” spun through my head as I drank my last sip of coffee.

I had spent two decades of my life consumed with accomplishing the next goal: high school, college, corporate America, grad school, job, house, marriage, job, babies, house.

How could I feel discontent when I finally had everything I ever wanted?

I needed a career that would light me up. A part-time, money-making perfection of a job. That, I determined, was the key to everlasting happiness and never-ending joy.  So I set out in search of a passion. Over the next three years, I thought really hard about it. I hoped that the right opportunity would come knocking on my door. I willed with all of my might that abundance and satisfaction would appear and complete me. And silently cried when my friends boasted about their new promotions and business ventures on Facebook. I journaled, read self-help books and searched the want ads looking for the posting from the Universe titled, This is it, Carly.

I was convinced that the JOB was the key to fulfillment.

That day as I decided on the next arts and craft project to create with my kids, I had no way of knowing I was beginning a journey of self-discovery. In my endless quest for more-more recognition, more accomplishments, more things, I didn’t see that the missing piece was not in a flexible job, an exciting vacation or a new outfit that made me look thirty.

When you put in the effort but nonetheless feel empty, it’s time to refill your coffee mug and take a closer look.

Are you depending on outside sources and events to make you happy?

Are you trying to mentally or physically push and force your way to a particular outcome?

You may not need to switch to drinking tea (this is one change I refuse to make) but you can consider a better option. Why not let go of trying to change it all and accept the path as it is in the moment? The loneliness, the confusion. Yup, accept all of it. Breathe right into that missing piece with every bone in your body. This is fulfillment.

What I learned from dating fear.

For much of my life, I have been in a relationship with fear. Last year, it became pretty serious between the two of us and I knew things had to change.

I noticed how often fear controlled my thoughts but also how safe I felt in its predictability and steadiness. Moreover, I relied on these feelings to protect me from vulnerability and to shield me from the rawness underneath my layers of protection. However, this security came at a price. It robbed me of living and feeling real joy.

Knowing it was time to let go, I pushed and struggled to break free; I ignored it, I pronounced, “I am letting go of you!” and I attempted to outsmart it by predicting all of the hidden dangers and possible disappointments in my life. If I remained prepared, I’d stay in charge.

It didn’t work. Fear pushed back harder and stayed longer.

Our relationship went on like this for a while and finally I understood. It was impossible to will fear away. There was no off switch.

There was only a shift in power.

By choosing to lean into my inner wisdom, I showed fear that it no longer controlled me and in doing this, strengthened my own potential. I trusted in myself again.

Fear and I remain close friends.  When she comes knocking on my door, I kindly ask what it is that I need to learn and then listen respectfully. Yes, fear challenges me and teaches me to grow, but I am so much more fulfilled in my new relationship. Trust never hovers or holds me back from success. She believes in me unconditionally and provides me with the comfort of knowing that indeed, I am enough.

Perfect Shmerfect

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I’m not perfect.

Not even close. Most days, dishes are in the sink, homework is all over the kitchen counter, and the beds are unmade. In fact, last night I went to my son’s basketball practice with a huge hole in the back of my paint-stained sweatpants. Don’t even get me started on the trash in the backseat of my car.

So it came as a surprise to me when I sat down to write a blog post and realized perfection was standing in my way.  Huh? No way, it couldn’t be.

I had ideas to share and I really wanted to publish them on my website. Following through on this goal was nearly impossible. It would require a whole lot of work and take forever. Who had the time or energy to commit to forever? It wasn’t getting done.

Needing to be perfect was preventing me from making movement toward my goal.

Perfectionism shows up in the following ways:

  • Procrastinating
  • Resisting or refusing to accept or comply
  • Lacking commitment and follow-through
  • Comparing to others
  • Creating excuses, such as overwhelm or being too busy
  • Hoping to please and be accepted by all

When you are feeling stuck in some area of your life, dig a little deeper and notice if perfection is holding you back.

 

Some tips in helping you move forward:

  • Chances are it’s fear talking. Get curious. What is the fear trying to tell you?
  • Baby steps, my friend. Take one tiny movement forward at a time. Small is good.
  • Scale back your goal. Is there a more realistic version available?
  • Break down the task into more manageable chunks. What can I get done in 15 minutes?
  • Think about your bigger purpose and higher intention. Will this help you get there?
  • It’s not about the end result. How can you choose to show up along the way?
  • Feel the feels and do it anyway! That’s how you get to the other side.

Are there other areas in my life in which perfectionism is preventing me from moving forward? Maybe it’s time for me to take a closer look. But what I do know is that I moved it out of the way long enough to trust that my authentic light would shine beyond the clouds of imperfection.

In the Jungle

I worried about my trip to Costa Rica for weeks.

I anticipated all that could go wrong. From a tarantula in the house (there was one in the house a week before—true story) to an earthquake in the area. Fear, being my constant companion, once again accompanied me to the nearest hazard.

I couldn’t avoid it any longer. My family wanted to go swimming in the ocean. They assured me it was the calmest beach in the area.  Surveying the dangers and feeling pretty safe and secure, I tried to coerce my son to jump the waves with me. He refused, so I went out with my daughter. A rogue wave came up and crushed us. I clenched my daughter’s hand and feared for our lives.  When the calm returned, we were shaken but relieved.  We had survived (although I did lose my favorite pair of sunglasses, which may scar me for life).

I had anticipated every worst case scenario but never feared a large wave sweeping us off our feet on the calmest beach with the smallest waves in Costa Rica. As I rode home that day, I pondered what was to learn. 


Life can’t be controlled.  Anything can happen at any time. We can ruin a vacation worrying about our zipline breaking in midair or a poisonous dart frog attacking us in our sleep. We can choose to allow the rogue thoughts to control us or we can let go and know that the waves will guide us back to something greater.