The Thanksgiving holiday offers opportunities to reflect on what we are grateful for in our lives.  Many times this means other people – our spouse or partner, our children, our friends and neighbors, and the coworkers and clients who matter to us.

As we find ourselves doing special things with others and for others this holiday season, it opens up a space for loving feelings for ourselves as well.  Coming from a space of gratitude and open-heartedness for the people in our lives makes it easier to find compassion, love and acceptance for ourselves.  In a perfect cycle, we are continually enriched and nourished by this circle of loving kindness.

During the holidays, if you find yourself out of sorts and in a phase where extra forgiveness or kindness for yourself is necessary, here’s a valuable exercise:

Practice Unconditional Love for Yourself

Close your eyes and imagine you are cradling yourself in your arms and loving yourself just the way you would love an innocent, beautiful baby, or your “fur baby” pet.  Direct that love at that baby – yourself — in your arms and let that love come from your heart, wash over and encapsulate you.

To everything there is a season . . .

Have you ever gazed at a bare tree in the wintertime at dusk – really seeing it?  Even though the leaves are gone, the stark black branches look achingly beautiful against the pink and orange sky.  Perhaps you love fall foliage and aren’t looking forward to winter.  Maybe you’d rather enjoy spring blossoms on the tree or lie under its shade in the heat of the summer.  Still, you’re appreciating and loving that tree just the way it is, and you’re aware of that unique moment in time.  No matter what the season, the beauty of the experience still infuses you with loving feelings.

The same can be said for yourself – there is beauty and appreciation to be had whether you’re in the summer, autumn or winter of your life.

When you have gratitude for the place you have reached and there is no resistance, no “buts,” no second-guessing, simply total acceptance for your life and the paths you’ve taken – then you are able to go forward with nothing stopping you.

Appreciate and Be Thankful for Who You are Right Now

Like the rings on a tree that record the growth of the tree over time, we too are always personally growing in ways that may or may not be visible to us.  It can be beneficial to acknowledge how we have changed and grown from time to time.

By bringing all the parts of you up to date with who you are now, you will be able to unconditionally love and appreciate yourself more as you move into the new year – with no baggage, regrets or negative feelings.  Take a moment to ponder how you are different now from last Thanksgiving or from five years ago.

Get out some paper and a pen or start a Thanksgiving Journal that year after year you record your self-acknowledgments in a visible record of the “rings in your tree.”  Really take some private, loving time for yourself to answer the following questions truthfully and thoughtfully.

Ask yourself these questions and keep the focus on how you’ve grown or are growing now. If something comes up that was a rough patch or is causing you stress, consider how the experience was of benefit to you or how it’s helping you to personally grow now.

“Who do I know myself to be right now in all of my relationships – with my spouse or partner, family, friends, co-workers, clients, customers and my community?”

“What roles do I play in my relationships and how do I add comfort, ease and joy to the lives of others and make a difference?”

“What commitments, big and small, have I made and how do I honor them with joy and a generosity of spirit?”

“What have I done that has positively affected the overall quality of my life, my whole being, the state of my health, my career and my finances?”

“Where have I put my focus that has made a noticeable difference for me personally or for someone or something else?”

Just as you admired the tree in winter, you’ll likely find you are grateful for challenges that stretched you or showed you how powerful you are.  You’ll see how well you’ve done in your life emotionally and spiritually.  And you’ll find compassion for yourself with the realization that you did the best you could with what you knew at the time.  Only from this place of being thankful for who you are can you move into a place of even greater love, self-acceptance, gratitude and joy.

© Deborah A. Lindholm

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR E-ZINE OR WEBSITE? ? You can, but you must include the following resource information in its entirety: Deborah Lindholm works with individuals ready to move beyond the fear, confusion or doubt that holds them back, by learning to work with their inner awareness and inner power and apply that deep inner wisdom in their life where it counts.

Categories : Health & Well-Being
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The word power almost always conjures up images of power in the outside world. Power seems to be outer-directed; power dominates — having power over another, a situation, a corporation or geographic areas or populations.

However, we often forget that personal power has nothing to do with domination.  Personal power is about being comfortable with yourself, being able to be as kind to yourself as you are to others, and speaking your mind rather than stuffing your thoughts or emotions.  Personal power feels good, it helps you get projects done with positive energy, it gives you courage, and it makes you strong and leads to leadership and finding your unique mission and purpose.

Often, there are signs in daily life that show us how we are blocking our personal power.  These signals can be small and subtle and they come from within, beckoning us to express our personal power.

The First Sign

The first sign that you are afraid of your own power is that you hold yourself back when you want to express something.  Perhaps you are afraid of being recognized or you sense that the wisdom is coming from a place deep inside – this is not any off-the cuff remark – it has real substance and it takes courage to put it out there.

You really get to know you were holding yourself back when someone else expresses the exact same statement you were going to say and they get all sorts of positive feedback for it.  People are actually in awe of it.

The First Remedy

What can you do to make yourself feel better and purge your disappointment when you know you’ve held yourself back?

Stream-of-consciousness writing helps clear the emotions and is very effective, but go a step further.  Practice writing with your non-dominant hand, letting whatever wants to come out flow onto the page.  This bypasses resistance so you can get to the root of what’s stopping you and then ease yourself out of this pattern of holding back.

Sign Number Two

You get an impulse or a fleeting idea, an impression of something to do or to take action on, or a precognition.  It’s nothing fearful; it’s more of a neutral “hit” or intuition. But you ignore it, and you don’t act on it.  Maybe it’s as simple as seeing a tablecloth on sale that you really want and you talk yourself out of it.  Later, at an impromptu party, it’s the perfect thing you could have used.

You find yourself saying, “Darn, I knew that,”  “I didn’t listen to myself” or “I should have done that.’

Remedy Number Two

It’s a little thing, so it’s a great opportunity to practice forgiveness.  You learned something from it, after all!  Say something such as, “I’ll be sure to listen next time.”  It’s important not to make a big deal out of it and condemn yourself.

Practicing forgiveness for ourselves is beneficial because if we can do it in the little things, we can do it in the bigger things.  Then there’s less baggage to take with us into future situations.  We can be clearer, and when we are operating in clarity, we achieve results – there are no dueling intentions, cross purposes and mixed messages.

The Third Sign

The third sign is that you’re not giving yourself enough credit for how connected you are to your inner awareness.  You’re lacking self-appreciation and recognition of the role your inner guidance plays all the time and you’re just not noticing it.

The Third Remedy

You are learning to follow your guidance and the prompting’s of your own heart.  This is not an exact science.  So give yourself credit and express gratitude to yourself.

A fun remedy is to make yourself a personal commercial about how wonderful you are.  A good time to do this is in the morning when you are brushing your teeth or hair.

Look in the mirror and say, “I appreciate everything about you.  I appreciate all that you are and your wise counsel.” We don’t really stop and appreciate ourselves enough.  So look yourself in the eyes and give yourself loving and meaningful messages for at least one minute.

When you become conscious of the signs that you are afraid of your inner power and then you apply the remedies, you’ll be allowing your inner power to shine through — and it has no choice but to magnificently reflect itself in the outer world.

© Deborah A. Lindholm

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Anxiety Disorders Are Real

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We’ve all felt anxious at one point or another; it’s a perfectly normal response to stress.  Feeling fear and anxiety actually helps us to accurately respond to unsafe situations when there is a real danger or threat.  However, people with anxiety disorders feel stress even if there is nothing in reality to set it off.  This can cause problems with their mental health, personal relationships, jobs, finances and physical health.

Not all anxiety disorders are the same; there are actually several different classes.  Plus, just because someone has one disorder doesn’t mean they can’t have another, or at least have some overlapping symptoms.   Here’s a basic overview of the broad types of anxiety disorders.

Generalized anxiety disorder – While it is normal for people to worry occasionally about things when there are lots of stressors, people with generalized anxiety disorder tend to never stop worrying.  They may be worried about finances even if they have adequate resources, or constantly expecting bad things to happen even when they don’t.  This constant stress can also lead to physical symptoms like fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, trembling, twitching, hot flashes, sweating, and difficulty swallowing.

Panic disorder – Unlike generalized anxiety disorder, people with panic disorder don’t have anxiety all the time.  Anxiety attacks hit suddenly and without warning or cause.  An anxiety or panic attack is characterized by a tight, pounding chest, terror, difficulty breathing, dizziness, shaking, nausea, numbness in extremities, chills or hot flashes, and a fear of losing control.

Social anxiety disorder – This is also known as social phobia and is an extreme fear of social interaction.  People with this disorder are constantly worried about people judging them or about being embarrassed in front of others.  For some people, the disorder is so severe they don’t participate in normal social activities and some are even mute in certain situations.

Post traumatic stress disorder – This diagnosis has become much more prevalent in the past few years.  Often, people become ridden with anxiety after a traumatic event and constantly worry about similar situations happening again.  For more severe cases, the person can be left unable to live their normal life again.  While stressful events trigger the symptoms, not everyone in a similar situation will develop PTSD.

Obsessive compulsive disorder – This is an anxiety disorder that includes persistent unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions).  Someone may obsess over germs and then compulsively clean and sanitize.  Compulsive behavior often includes rituals that must be done before a person can go on with their daily lives and activities.

The problem with some anxiety disorders is that many people don’t even realize they have them.  If they’ve had the problem their whole life, it’s something they simply see as a normal part of life.  Others may likely see them as overprotective or simply a worry wart and just write it off.  While it may just seem like an inconvenience, it can build into a real problem and have consequences.

The good news is that these disorders are treatable.  Medications are helpful for people with severe anxiety disorders.  Often, for women in particular, the correction of hormonal imbalances will alleviate symptoms of anxiety.  In the case of milder anxiety disorders, there are many complementary therapies and self-help treatments that can bring relief and help a person live a normal, healthy life.  According to a study in the October 2004 issue of MJA, evidence supports the effectiveness of exercise, kava, relaxation training, audio programs, acupuncture, music and meditation as treatments for these disorders.

© Deborah A. Lindholm

Categories : Health & Well-Being
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When Your Heart’s Not in It

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It’s usually hard to do something when your heart is not in it. Of course, it depends on what the task or situation is and how important it is to you and the duration of time involved. Every day, people manage to be with someone or do things or participate in something that they don’t particularly care for, whether it’s inconsequential or something important. We do the best we can to meet our obligations.

When it comes to responsibilities to self or to each other or to a job or business or anything connected to our safety and security, and our heart is just not in it, well the stakes get higher. It can be more complicated. Other people will likely be involved and our well-being may be affected. We’re talking about circumstances like:

  • Putting up with an unhappy relationship because you feel responsible
  • Working at an unsatisfying job because it pays the bills
  • Cooking dinner every night because you’re the mother
  • Exercising at the gym because it’s paid for, but you dread it
  • Completing any obligation that feels like a huge burden

It may feel like a noble thing to do or a sacrifice you’re willing to make when you consistently fulfill obligations that you cannot stand. In the end, if you do feel good about it and proud and happy, then keep it up because your heart is engaged in some way even if it’s not obvious to you.

Whatever approach you take, be honest about it. Life gives us clues and looking at what’s going on with an intention to know the truth will bring you closer to what your heart wants. We all usually know when a relationship is one-sided or brings out the worse in us rather than the best. If it’s a job, maybe you’re good at it, but there’s no challenge left or your creativity feels stifled. Or, it could be that whatever it is, you find it too hard to do or painful. Honesty really is the best policy here because we can’t really make any effective changes if we’re denying the reality and the truth.

Sometimes it’s necessary to accept what the situation is, because of other factors. The problem is that when your heart is not in it, anger and resentment and feeling unappreciated can build up. When this happens, it can be helpful to get a fresh perspective.

  • Focus on how you’re serving others and yourself
  • Notice your purpose and the greater purpose
  • Appreciate yourself for the difference you make
  • Continue to envision a better scenario
  • Make a plan to move beyond the status quo

If this doesn’t do it for you, then greater attention is warranted. After all, when your heart’s not in it, then you’re suffering in some way and that can’t be a good thing unless you really like being a martyr. Keeping yourself locked in a relationship or in a career or situation that is causing you to suffer shows a lack of self-love. And, we are talking about the heart here so if there’s a lack of self-love, self-care or self-appreciation, then loving change of some nature is called for. Take some time to ponder and evaluate and acknowledge the reality of the situation or relationship. Love yourself enough to reach out and get some help, embracing the change that makes your heart sing.

© Deborah A. Lindholm

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Perfection is likely the goal when it comes to balancing your checkbook, following a cake recipe, getting your hair colored or traveling by air. We want our checkbook to balance, the cake to come out great, our hair color to be perfect and our flights to be safe and on time.

A lot of things in life however do not necessarily require perfect action. A job may need to be done to a certain standard, but there are times when mistakes are made, your energy is low or there are other contributing factors outside of your control. The whole business doesn’t shut down because you had an “off” day. Maybe no one, except you, even noticed the mistake or your decreased productivity or that you were imperfect at your job. Unless, of course, you are a perfectionist and then you notice it all and disparage yourself for your short-comings.

Having high standards and expectations and applying a perfectionist attitude, which leads to success and achievement, can be desirable qualities. Many of us though have trouble pursuing perfection and then letting go of the results when they fall short, rather than using the experience for feedback. The answers to a few questions can help you get clearer about whether or not perfectionist tendencies are holding you back. Ask yourself:

  • How do my actions show that I am doing the best I can?
  • How much time do I consistently apply my efforts?
  • What additional skills and training are needed for me to do this?
  • Do I believe I am good enough to do this and if yes or no, why or why not?
  • Do I have an all or nothing attitude, giving up when obstacles arise?

There can be a tendency with perfectionist traits to blame ourselves or others or to assert control over others. We may feel the need to do it all ourselves, which can lead to overwhelm or the hesitation to go forward until all preparations are perfect. Sometimes, we are indecisive and end up doing little or nothing.

Many of our endeavors, of course, require us to be prepared or to follow a set of steps to get the desired results or an expected outcome. Sometimes those steps have to be perfect and sometimes they do not. Perfection can be a matter of perspective.

Often it’s better to take some action, even if imperfect, rather than none. To stand on the sidelines out of the fear of making a mistake or eliciting disapproval may keep you stuck and immobilized. To take no action in the direction of a goal until all your ducks are lined up in a row may be a form of self-sabotage. Taking imperfect action is beneficial and it can naturally:

  • Build self-confidence
  • Empower you to do more
  • Eliminate an all or nothing attitude
  • Keep you flexible and better able to respond
  • Help you be more forgiving of yourself and others
  • Provide information for course corrections and adjustments
  • Support you to develop inner resources

The reality is that very little in life will ever be measurably perfect, but many things can be subjectively perfect. With the adoption of an attitude that some action is better than no action, it’s possible to take a step and then re-evaluate and take another step. People who take action are generally happier than those who are inert. Start looking at the results of your imperfect action as feedback rather than failure. You’ll soon learn that your actions get more perfect as you go along and you may even transform an unbalanced attachment to perfectionism.

© Deborah A. Lindholm

Categories : Empowerment
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As always, please consult with qualified health professionals before putting session or workshop ideas into practice. The ideas and techniques are not meant to diagnose or replace the need for medical attention or professional mental health care.

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