Author Archives: Laurel Holmes

Accept Yourself Now

Take a look at these faces. Mirror neurons allow you to feel what they are feeling: Mirror neurons live inside the brain, allowing humans to read each other in split seconds. What are they feeling? Depressed, worried, sad, frustrated?

This is an article on performance, anxiety and depression. Its about growing up in a family where love was conditional.

Jennifer Santos Madriaga, writes:

Prove yourself. “For years my life was defined by deep feelings of inadequacy as well as concurrent actions of striving to keep those feelings at bay. Even as a young child, I felt nothing I did was good enough, and I can still recall feelings of intense anxiety, sometimes terror, at simply waking up and knowing I had to go to school.  While my parents meant well, I was inculcated with the belief that to be loved meant having to prove your worth each and every day, which meant doing things in a certain way—staying quiet, doing what you were told, getting good grades, taking certain subjects.  In other words, I was given a supposed checklist of success, which would supposedly lead to this elusive state called “happiness.”

I must not fail. I was taught to be competitive, to believe that my self-worth was directly tied to accomplishment. I could not be of value unless I achieved something. This is a belief system embraced by many, and for me, it only served to deepen the feelings of emptiness and downright devastation that I experienced, especially if I failed at something. When one lives in a constant state of competition, there is no such thing as ever being good enough. One lives in a constant fear that you have to PROVE yourself at every turn.

Is this all there is? Even as I continually achieved and collected accolades, I suffered from constant panic attacks, chronic anxiety and depression. Therapy and anti-depressants would provide short-lived respite. However, even as I spent most of waking time dedicated to “doing,” part of me was suspicious of what the point exactly was to all this “doing.” A secret voice was always asking, “Is this all there is?” Part of me was deeply ashamed that this voice even existed. After all, society was reinforcing that I was doing things the “right way.” I dutifully checked off the items on my checklist of success, completely believing that once I completed each task, I would be closer and closer to that state called “happiness.” However, with each accomplishment, I only felt empty.

Living externally A part of me resigned myself to believing that perhaps what I really wanted could never be attained, that it was elusive and outside myself. But even as I tried to give into resignation, that voice and its question “Is this all there is?” continued to plague me. I had become an adult and done everything that was expected of me. And I was completely miserable. “Is this all there is?” became an accusation. But I busied myself with tasks to which I attached great importance. I cooked gourmet meals. I traveled to faraway places. I did yoga. I went through the motions of what a good life was supposed to be, never realizing in all those years that what I had longed for resided within myself. My self-worth still resided in the external— from accomplishments and material possessions, in the need for validation from others. It never occurred to me that I could give myself validation because I had never been taught that.

Self acceptance. I remember back in 2001 discovering a book by Thich Nhat Hanh, in which he spoke about suffering. It struck a chord with me, but I could not understand it. For he said to lessen suffering in the world, you had to reduce suffering within yourself. That concept seemed completely foreign to me. I did not understand how lessening MY suffering could possibly lessen the suffering of others. So even when we are well-meaning in focusing on the suffering of others, it only serves to distract from addressing what needs to change within ourselves.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” ~ Joseph Campbell

Fast forward to the present, I now realize that we cannot possibly give or receive love without knowing love within ourselves first. And how did I finally understand this? It was when I heard the words, “Who you are… is enough.”  I don’t know from whom or exactly when I heard this, but the concept was so revolutionary to me that I shed tears. And for the first time, I felt free. I have heard this mantra echoed numerous times from many spiritual teachings and teachers since hearing it the first time, but I finally understood what Thich Nhat Hanh meant.

I have dedicated the past few years to releasing my old belief systems related to worthiness. When the inner voice asked the question “Is there all there is?” it was really asking, “Are you good enough?” And the answer has been and always will be, “I am enough.”

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Fresh Start?

You know you need a fresh start.

Here’s some excerpts from Dana Claudet on Fresh Starts. If you’ve been feeling stuck, blue, or bored – a fresh start may be exactly what you need.

A fresh start can fill us with optimism and excitement.
It’s not always convenient to make a fresh start. After all, there’s already so much going on and so many things we’re committed to.
Here are a few signs that a fresh start may be overdue:
1. You’re always late.
Lateness is often a big sign of chaos or disconnection from the day. It’s a sign you’re not as committed as you could be.
2. You feel perpetually uninspired.
When you can’t find pleasure in simple things– or even big and splashy things, this reflects that your deepest self may be deprived.
3. You’re waiting for a breakthrough because you’re tired of the way things are.
Monotony doesn’t end through magical acts of intervention by the universe, like a big lottery win or meeting your twin flame soul mate. Most of the time, you have to actively choose to break out of the rut you’re in!
4. Clutter overwhelms you.
All around your spaces, your car, your room, is peripheral mess. Try organizing it, getting rid of it, paying attention to it: it moves energy.
5. You feel drained by your days rather than energized by them.
If your routine takes the life out of you rather than bringing you fulfillment, you may need a fresh start.
6. You’re tempted to make excuses and blame people for how you feel.
When the boredom, drained energy and chaos carries on for too long, I notice that’s typically when responsibility flies out the window and its everyone else’s fault. But, can you be clear how you are responsible for creating something that feels really exhausting, repetitive or dull? It will help.
7. You have a lot of mood swings.
This is when the roller coaster ride of chaos seems to really be setting in and it’s become a habit to feel cluttered, overwhelmed and drained. The misperception is “I never have time to do what I really want”- which isn’t true.
8. You perpetually talk about making a big change, but don’t do it.
The breaking point usually comes when it feels far better to take a risk and dare to break old habits/make a fresh start– than to stay miserable.

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joshua tree, CA

You probably want to know how to start making that fresh start?

There’s no instruction manual for the fresh start you specifically need, but lots of life coaches focus on getting to a deeper part of yourself. Grab a journal or notebook and begin by jotting down responses to these questions:

1. Analyze your happiness:
What have been the 10 peak experiences in your life so far? (Include times in childhood). Who were you with? What were your thoughts? What were your emotions? Analyze your happiness.
2. Analyze yourself in relationship to others:
Who are your favorite people? How do they make you feel? What do you value about them? Who are you when you’re with them?
3. Analyze your days:
What the part of your day where you feel most focused, alert, engaged? How would you enhance your awareness and deepen your experience in that part of your day?
4. Analyze and deepen your creativity: When do you feel most creative, imaginative, full of ideas, or like your brain is energized? What are your I textual or artistic creative outlets? How can you enhance their place in your daily life?

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Here are a few Basics to generate energies for a fresh start:
-Clean your house/office/studio
You’d be surprised how much a detailed, clean space can do for your mind! Read up on The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.
-Water is the element of fresh starts. You might want to take more baths or swim if you can. Ice baths have been proven to create euphoria for up to 5 hours after soaking in water with 2 bags of ice!
-Go Adventure
It’s one of the best ways to get rid of bad habits and habitual thought patterns. Hike in the woods. Take a long, long walk. Vacation.
-Create
Create art, write songs or poetry, take photos, paint, garden, write your biography, design food, sculpture, or sing. There are tons of guides and tutorials online to support you. Your creative energy is the best–and endless–source of living a great life.
What ways do you create a fresh start for yourself? Share…we all need to hear the encouragement.

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Journaling~ prompts for dialoguing with yourself

“Above is a photo of all the journals I’ve been writing in since about 1981.  I have more from high school and earlier, in a box, in my dad’s attic. Why keep a journal? To catch your ideas, process your feelings, and know yourself.

“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter. And lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” —Jack London.

Austin Kloen, author of “Steal Like an Artist” has a helpful video on journaling to capture your creative ideas https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pktz3rPM2QI. I’ll share my personal favorite tips in a minute.

Its important to journal, because you’re talking to yourself, you’re focusing on your thoughts, and your inner life. Lots of daily life is passively watching stuff outside ourselves. Journaling is a chance to stay connected to your inner self. If you’re in transition, physically or emotionally, keeping a journal handy–keeps you processing with yourself.

When I was 14, I would journal about 14-yo issues such as my wonky emotions regarding boys, and all about my best friends and our insane gossip and worry about everyone. When I was 18, I started trying to write poems,  wanting to sound like  Jeff Jewell and the Beat poets–not many original thoughts or images, but lotsa heart. When I went to college, I used journaling to process heady, philosophical thoughts, and liked to pretend I was an intellectual. In my mid-20’s, I used journals for annotating every book I read. There were a couple of travel journals in there (England/Scotland), full of memorable little drawings.  A journal can be a friend who goes everywhere with you, a little buddy to pour your heart out to.

By my 30’s I was back to annotating books, capturing favorite quotes, and writing lists of creative ideas. Ah lists. This is now my drug of choice. Lately, I have been making these lists inside my own handmade books.   Making inspirational lists is so hopeful,  and tickles my A.D.D. bone so hard, that’s its unlikely I’ll ever stop.

Here are my favorite journaling ideas/prompts by Mr. Kloen, along with a few of my own. I would argue that these enhance your inner dialogue with yourself and help optimize you and your relationship with YOU:

-write down 9-10 things you’d like to learn to do

-write something to cross out. That’s right, get used to generating ideas, not necessarily ones you’ll fulfill, but that keep you generating ideas. Take the top idea, and formulate 2-3 steps towards it.

-doodle until you get an idea (I like to think a word is a doodle). Or, doodle a feeling, until you want to write about it.

-write what was the best moment, day or month of this past year and why. Notice how this exercise focuses you on what you care about.

-sit in your studio or office, look around, write about the most interesting thing you see

-write about the sublime and the mundane…what are you taking care of? Diet? Pets? Plants? What needs to be let go of?

-hang onto mementos, cards. Use a little envelope glued to the inside of the back flap to keep these…what are the feelings they generate? Do those feelings tell you about whats important in your life?

Become a journalista, for processing and reflecting on the most important relationship you have: the one with inner self.

Natural Remedies for tip-top Mental Health

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The Path~ LH

This is an informative post with info from Howard Rosenthal, blogger for Psychotherapy.Net:

“This is the first generation of psychotherapy clients who are often better informed about natural mental health remedies than their their therapists.” Go ahead, read on, and be one of those clients. In an age when self-advocacy as a patient is so crucial, here is some key ingredients to maintaining your own mental health:

St. John’s Wort (SJW), an herbal remedy, has become the darling of the alternative mental health treatment movement. Incidentally, that’s wort, not wart, so you need not see a dermatologist. Wort is Old English for plant. Your more educated clients may refer to it as “hypericum” the scientific name, but thanks to this blog, you’ll know they are referring to good old St. John’s Wort. In some statistical studies St. John’s Wort ran neck and neck with prescription counterparts for depression and anxiety. Detractors often point out that St. John’s Wort can cause sun sensitivity, but so can antibiotics and pain relief medications.

SAMe (Typically enunciated SAMMY) was discovered in Italy many years ago. This nutraceutical has been used for depression, fibromyalgia and arthritis in other countries with a high degree of success. The key selling point is that SAMe often works faster than prescription medicines and negative side effects are extremely rare.

5 HTP or 5-Hydroxytryptophan. This super star is reputed to be superior to psychiatric medicinals in terms of raising serotonin levels in the brain. Some folks also insist it can help you shed a few pounds and swear it works wonders as a sleep aid. Rumors abound that athletes involved in extreme endurance sports have used it for years to counteract the depression brought on by very high levels of aerobic exercise.

Increase your exposure to sunlight or full spectrum lighting. Psychiatrist Dr. Norman Rosenthal (no relation to this author) first described Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which afflicts 7 million women and a rather large number of men. SAD is a type of depression which manifests itself when the days get darker and shorter limiting one’s sun exposure. Alternative mental health practitioners worry that the recommendation to wear sunscreen at all times and to avoid the sun has made individuals more prone to SAD. For those who cannot spend time in the sun, full spectrum lights and phototherapy devices are available. Word of warning: Your friendly neighborhood dermatologist who is determined to prevent cancer and related skin damage is not a fan of this theory!

Vitamin D, or should I say hormone D. Cutting edge theory asserts that vitamin D is not a vitamin, but a hormone. Appropriate levels of this nutrient, um I mean hormone, help fight mood disorders and seemingly drastically boost the immune system. The problem: It is possible that traditional government recommendations were way too low. Some clients now ingest 10 to 125 times the amount of vitamin D suggested by Uncle Sam just a few years ago. Interestingly enough, even mainstream physicians who initially scuffed at this idea are now routinely insisting that patients get their vitamin D levels checked. Skeptics warn that we don’t know the long term effects of taking such high doses. Zealots, insist that a day on the beach is the equivalent of taking a handful of vitamin D pills. Stay tuned, this one should get interesting.

Fish Oil to raise Omega 3 EPA/DHA levels. In at least one research study, the experiment was stopped because bi-polar subjects receiving fish oil were progressing much better than those who did not, and quite frankly it didn’t seem fair to the group who was not ingesting the supplement.
Many therapists have heard the rumor that kids living in fishing towns have lower levels of ADHD and adults residing in these areas suffer from fewer bouts of depression and anxiety. Fish oil, in addition to its ability to stabilize one’s mood, also theoretically promotes cardiovascular health and is often championed as beneficial for eyes, skin and joints. As of late, a couple of anecdotal reports indicate massive dosages might even help in cases of seemingly incurable brain trauma (e.g., after an auto or mining accident). The prescription to “eat more fish” is likely not the ideal since our waters are polluted. Moreover, studies in this area use fish oil capsules (not a generous helping of salmon) to enhance scientific rigor and the ability to regulate the dosage.

If you, or your clients, do purchase fish oil, it is best to stick to brands packaged in dark glass or plastic bottles and keep the supplement refrigerated to avoid rancidity. Finally, be acutely aware that the number of milligrams on the front of the bottle — generally a huge selling point (say 1200 mg) — has nothing to do with the actual milligrams of the beneficial omega-3 content (which might be 324 mg or some such number). Always scope out the label that graces the back of the bottle to determine the actual omega 3EPA/DHA content.

Niacin vitamin B3 therapy. All-right, here’s a question that I’m betting not a single reader can answer correctly: How did Bill Wilson (aka Bill W) co-founder of AA cure his longstanding anxiety? If you said, “duh, he used AA,” then you are absolutely, positively wrong! (Nice try though.) Question number 2: What did Bill Wilson say he wanted to be remembered for on his death bed? If you said, “AA” congratulations, you are zero for two!

Bill Wilson loved AA and believed in it with all his heart and soul. He used it to help his own drinking problem. Nonetheless, AA did nothing to help his debilitating anxiety and depression. What did help? Seriously large dosages of vitamin B3, also known as niacin. Bill Wilson spent nearly the last third of his life trying to get AA groups to promote niacin as a treatment for alcoholism, depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia. It never happened and worse yet the saga has been virtually absent from all the major sources on addiction treatment.

Probiotics. These are supplements that promote healthy bacteria in the intestinal tract. Many practitioners are convinced probiotics can be helpful in an array of mental health and digestion disorders; especially autism spectrum disorder. Probiotics have virtually no negative side effects, but some brands require refrigeration or freezing temperatures to survive. Like automobiles, television sets, and vacuum cleaners, every brand claims to be the best, so it’s difficult to make a purchase decision.

Eliminate wheat. Wheat gluten and mental illness(most notably schizophrenia) have a longstanding relationship. Although mainstream medicine insists wheat is healthy (if not a required food group), newer research posits that ingesting wheat based products has a detrimental effect on one’s blood sugar, emotional state, and might even be implicated in Alzheimer’s. The problem may not be so much the wheat itself, but the fact that today’s wheat has been hopelessly genetically altered. Or to put it a different way, this isn’t your father’s whole wheat bagel! The bun that graced a 1970s fast food burger bears no resemblance to the bun you wolfed down for lunch. Proponents of the new don’t eat wheat theory, feel strongly that whole grain, 7 grain, gluten free whatever (!!!) products may be just as bad if not worse for you than the run of the mill white bread type foodstuffs.

(Take a look at David Perlmutter, M.D.’s book Grain Brain if you think I am exaggerating.)

Strategies to boost cholesterol. Say what? Al-right, I’ll admit it. I save the most controversial alternative strategy for last. Although most doctors are prescribing statin drugs to lower your so-called bad LDL cholesterol, a number of avant garde thinkers point out that higher may be better. If your cholesterol is below the 160 mark, your physician will give you a big hug and a smooch. But some research shows that if you have low cholesterol your chances of suffering from a major depression or committing suicide goes through the roof. So eat your grass-fed butter, your coconut & olive oils. Everyday. The brain, as they point out, is basically cholesterol. Proponents of the cutting edge, increase your cholesterol theory if you want better mental health, have gone as far as suggesting that a minimum requirement for cholesterol should be added to the food charts in the near future. There is also the issue of longevity. Older adults in good health seem to have elevated cholesterol.

It would be an understatement to say that the aforementioned information seems totally the opposite of what we have been told for years.”

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Why are Relationships so Hard?!

Stan Tatkin’s neurobiological approach to couples work is utterly useful, fascinating, and personally gratifying to use in the office –and at home 😊. Here’s an article by Jeff Pincus that describes why attaching to someone is complex.

“Emotional development doesn’t happen in isolation. The entire field of psychotherapy rests upon the premise that one human being can help another to move beyond vestigial strategies developed in the context of the distant past and to live life in a way that is less encumbered by personal history. We consider this to be emotional or psychological growth. Part of the blessing of being human is that this process can be ongoing as we learn, grow, and continue to develop across our entire lifespan.

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As a PACT therapist, PACT trainer, and husband who continues to put PACT principles to the test in my own marriage, I have been awed by the acceleration of development and maturation that occurs within a committed partnership when both parties co-create a foundation of secure functioning. This is the bedrock that PACT helps couples stand upon, and that supports a resurgence of development where there has been regression, idleness, and apathy….

…When our safety and security are perceived to be at risk, our attention and behaviors are dominated by the tasks of mobilizing away from threat (fleeing), subduing danger (fighting), or shutting down (collapse). When processes organized around the drive for survival consume a relationship, couples stay in an immature state where there is no room for practicing….

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….Secure functioning both requires and facilitates each partner to develop emotionally, take pro-relationship risks with each other, and be collaborative….

…During a session, (Pact therapists) may direct them to reach out even when their instinctual impulse is to withdraw, to maintain eye contact when the habitual tendency is to gaze avert, or to say something loving when the reflex is to attack or defend.

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Through such practicing, each member of the dyad risks shedding old, primitive defenses to become a more resilient and robust adult. Each takes greater responsibility for the current state of the relationship, and for moving it forward toward deeper satisfaction. This is true differentiation. PACT therapy helps couples become their best adult selves in a relationship where growth and personal development are a natural outcome of love and commitment.” ~Jeff Pincus, PACT Therapist.

If you like this, go read building a secure couple bubble

Building a healthy Couple Bubble

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A couple bubble is a power tool.

Everyday, I continue to be blown away at the effects of teaching others–and practicing at home–what a secure couple bubble feels like, and how to care for it. It’s a very basic concept of behaving reassuringly toward your partner (I apply it as a parent and friend too). When 2 people commit to providing this for each other…things change fast.

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Here is Eva Van Prooyen, M.F.T., from the PACT group to describe elements of a secure couple bubble: “Healthy, secure relationships are a source of vital energy…people feel good when they understand how to be successful partners. We are energized by a secure connection to another person. Our need to be securely attached is so powerful that it can get us through the hardest of times and help us float through day-to-day routines with ease, skill, and grace.

Secure functioning is based on a high degree of respect for one another’s experience. Interactions and shared experiences are fair, just, and sensitive. If your partner feels even slightly unwanted, undervalued, disliked, unseen, or unimportant, he or she will—quite frankly—act weird and underperform in the relationship.

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Insecurity and insecure attachment negatively affect brain performance. Development can be slowed down because the brain is using most of its resources to manage being in survival mode instead of being free to move toward evolution, growth, and complexity. In general, couples can get tripped up in creating a secure and healthy relationship and end up not liking their partners, situations, or experiences because they don’t know what to do or how to manage them. This can leave them feeling badly about themselves as well as their partner. “….we each have to know our sensitivities and how we move through the world, and also to understand who are partner is, and how they operate. To be clear, that is not how we wish our partner operated, but how our partner actually operates, navigates, and maneuvers through the world.

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This knowledge, which requires a healthy dose of curiosity and attention, creates a strong foundation of understanding. It pushes forth the secure-functioning principles that “your partner is your responsibility and in your care,” and “you are responsible for knowing how to manage your partner.” Your partner then holds a sacred and honored position no one else in the world gets to occupy. That said, we often joke that actual wedding vows should probably include, “I take you to be my perfect pain in the butt.” “…The idea of being responsible for knowing and caring for your partner in this way and putting the relationship first –tends to be the hard sell for some couples. When you truly understand the benefits of adopting this idea, the stance of “but it’s always about them, it never gets to be about me” loses its power as an argument.

My answer is, “You do this because it serves you and it comes back to you. You get your needs met by shoring up the vulnerabilitied in your partner so he or she can in return do the same for you. You both get the benefits of that investment.”

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Love and genuine connection create libidinal energy—life force energy that can be renewed in an instant through a simple act of friendliness, a glance, a look, a moment, and a knowing that “my person likes me.” Part of creating a secure relationship is making sure you are helping your partner stay connected at an optimal level. To do that, messages that communicate “I’m good at you,” “I’m good at being with you,” and “You are in my care” must be reflected every day.

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If you want to put this into practice, one way I encourage that is to pay attention to everything your partner hears you say about him or her. What messages are you conveying? Another thing you can do is to introduce your partner to other people, when you are together in public, in a way that is elevating…” Go ahead, have a discussion with your partner tonight about securing the couple bubble through these reassuring behaviors. If questions or complaints come up, leave a comment. 😉

You’re the Average of the 5 People You Hang Around

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Blue Bird Girl

Hi! Here are some intriguing tidbits from the illuminating James Altucher:

Your Awareness is the average of

*the 5 things that inspire you the most

*the 5 things you eat

*the 5 things you think about most often

*the 5 things you read

….Sometimes my thoughts need an upgrade. My food, friends, sources of inspiration, reading materials are all great. I’m lucky. And focused. But when it comes to thoughts….ugh- often my brain goes over the most boring things again and again. “That needs cleaning” “I need to finish that” “I’m late” “Where is my son now?” “More dishes” “I have to get something done” “How much time do I have left?” “I’m going to write that down” ~an endless chattering.

What would I rather be thinking? In order to upgrade my average OVERALL thinking platitude? “That would be awesome to paint” “I’m going to go paint right now” “I love him” “I’m so lucky” “I feel great” “Everyone is so special” “I am a being of light”

I’m trying to bring in more mindfulness these days. A walking meditation of sorts. Here’s a great definition:

“Mindfulness is being present to whatever is happening. Without judgement”

Enjoy!