Changing My Thoughts

One of my goals/intentions/hopes is to catch myself when I am heading down a dark hole (catastrophizing or other cognitive distortions) and to stop, breathe, and break the cycle. I was reading a blog post today, and the author wrote that she says to herself: This is not a big deal. I like that. Most of what happens to us is NOT a big deal.

I also don’t beat myself up for letting this happen over and over because my mind has been “trained” to do this. Regardless of what the early little t’s (small traumas) were or how often they happened, they had an impact. It’s an automatic response when the negative voices in my head start in. Today I caught myself, and said, “Susie, this is not a big deal.” Then I went to the kitchen and made blueberry muffins.

It worked.


What I’m reading/listening to:

Peter Attila’s new book: Outlive (the last section on mental health had the most impact for me)

Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris and Jon Kabat-Zinn “Tripping Out With a Legend”

If You Can’t Say Something Nice

I hate the word “nice.” It’s been used to describe me one too many times.

I suppose being nice is better than being a bitch, but nice, which rhymes with rice, another bland something, is the opposite of spice. Now spice–that has gumption.

Nice is another way of saying–no backbone, boring.Being nice started early in my life, when I heard my mother even when she wasn’t around, saying: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Not a bad philosophy I suppose, but when being nice begins to shape who you are, then you’re in trouble.

Being nice translates into “don’t confront,” “don’t disagree,” don’t speak your mind.” All dangerous. These moments translate into stupid, dangerous, and careless moments. A drink too many, a lie allowed to grow, saying yes when I should have said no.

When I left a previous job, the editor said: “All the niceness has now left the office.” She meant it as a compliment, but I knew better.

You Have No Regrets Scheduled Today

Photo by Fahmi Fakhrudin on Unsplash

When I opened my calendar email today, I instead of “no events” I saw: You have no regrets scheduled for today.

Now that is a sign from the universe. Perhaps I’ve been spending just a little too much time in the past.

Part of my wellness plan is staying in the present, which is so important for mental health. I tend to go back, rethinking decisions and go forward, trying to predict outcomes. Instead, I am learning to take a deep breath and focus on being right here, right now. It was difficult at first, but it’s becoming easier.

Self care means asking myself “what do I need right now?” Sometimes it’s a nap, and often it’s a walk. This also helps me make good food (and alcohol) choices. Yes, these routines are easier in retirement. But I wish I’d learned to focus more on myself when I was younger. Worrying about what everyone else thinks drains me. It can be downright debilitating.

The biggest shift for me, though, is trying to have no regrets– I did what I could with what I had at the moment. And meditating on that keeps me present.

Things I am reading and listening to:

Self-kindness meditation from Ten Percent Happier

Forgive yourself for who you used to be

Food to eat (or not) for gut issues

Yoga for anxiety

What a Long Journey

Sometimes I wonder why I am so drawn to readings, podcasts, and videos about emotional health. Mostly, it’s because I had to clean up my own struggles, understand where they were coming from, and learn to recognize I would have good days but also bad moments. The human experience.

This takes time. And if often takes words from experts to get you through the dark spots.

What I’ve learned:

  • We must live with imperfection and failure.
  • We will all experience moments of doubt, hurt, and pain. It’s what we do with those times that will push us through to the other side.
  • Knowledge of how the mind works is essential.
  • We can only release shame when we become vulnerable and share our stories.
  • Focusing on breath solves many problems.
  • I really can’t change the past; I can create a future that heals my heart.

I love this Brene Brown quote: “Stillness is not about focusing on nothingness; it’s about creating a clearing. It’s opening up an emotionally clutter-free space and allowing ourselves to feel and think and dream and question.”

Ten years ago, the walls I had erected to protect me started to crumble. I’ve learned those walls had to go. When we are kind to ourselves, we open up fields and forests of relationships that can grow. Start by forgiving yourself and see what happens.

Self-Esteem or Self-Compassion?

I’ve spent the better part of the last two years studying self-compassion. In this podcast, Laurie Santos talks to Kristin Neff about why self-compassion is so important. Don’t let the term self-love or self-compassion bother you (I had to work through that, too). But know it is key to having a “fierce tenderness” about the world as you move through it.

Self-esteem in itself is good, but not if it comes at the expense of perfectionism, fear of failure, and an inability to function (all possible). Self-compassion, on the other hand, means to know that we recognize our common humanity, that we all make mistakes, and that we can recognize suffering but move on from it. We must limit self-criticism and embrace a tenderness toward ourselves. Really, it works!

The podcast is worth listening to as Kristen shares her own challenges with being compassionate toward herself as she raised her autistic child.

“Painful feelings are, by their very nature, temporary. They will weaken over time as long as we don’t prolong or amplify them through resistance or avoidance. The only way to eventually free ourselves from debilitating pain, therefore, is to be with it as it is. The only way out is through.”

Kristin Neff