What is Your Life Teaching You?

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I was the kind of person that loved college and loved to learn. I went to a liberal arts university and couldn’t get enough philosophy, psychology, and theology. I loved asking questions like What is the purpose of life? How should we be living? Why do people act the way they do? What is God and what is God’s function in this world and in our lives?

These questions were rumblings in my soul from a very young age. So, when I got to college and I was actually able to explore these questions and take classes on them – for me, this was the dream!

However, after college, I had a long few years of grieving the loss of learning. I wanted to be at college forever. To always be taking classes that would cause me to be learning and growing and changing.

It took me a long time to realize that I was still enrolled in courses that were teaching, growing, and changing me.

Think of your life as a liberal arts college. What courses are you enrolled in right now? What practicums are you taking right now?

What is your life teaching you?

The most wonderful thing about this perspective, is that it transforms the struggles and challenges in our lives, into opportunity for wisdom and growth. If we are able to make this mental shift, it will greatly improve our wellbeing.

Right now,

I am struggling to maintain focus at my job when I have hours of paperwork to complete.

At times I am anxious about the future and in my daily life.

I can become stressed with the busyness of life.

I still struggle at times with self doubt.

 

So, I could simply think of these things as frustrations in my life. OR, I could think of them in the perspective of What is my life teaching me? What life courses am I enrolled in right now?

 

Right now,

I am enrolled in Mindfulness 101.

This class has a focus on relaxation skills, introduction to meditation, and emphasizes mindfulness practices through a variety of practicums. Practicum #1 will explore the importance of focused attention and how to observe thoughts and re-direct thoughts to increase ability to focus. Practicum #2 will focus on the importance of self talk and how it affects the brain and body. There will also be a strong focus on how Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works and an emphasis on how our thoughts affect the way we feel. Practicum #3 will teach basic relaxation techniques including exercises such as meditation and taking mindful walks. Finally, practicum #4 will build off of practicum #2, and focus on topics of self compassion. There will also be an exercise in which the student must engage in an activity that further brings out their strengths.

Book list/Assignments: Read Mindfully ADD book resources, listen to Attention Talk Radio podcast, utilize Meditones for meditation, participate in Discover Your Inner Voice writing class, participate in Life Works coaching for anxiety and self-doubt, listen to The Mindful Kind podcast, listen to Help Me Be Me podcast, join and participate in Facebook group for League of Extraordinary Introverts

 

So, maybe you are reading that, and think it’s a little weird.

I have a lot of “weird” ideas. But if there is one thing I have realized in my life, it is often the weird ideas that have helped me the most. Maybe you would be willing to try out this way of thinking, even if it does seem a little unusual?

As I said before, thinking of these challenges as a class to learn and grow from, totally changes the perspective, and therefore totally changes the experience.

But, the same as when you are in a college class – you have to do your homework and really engage in the class – or you are not going to get anything out of it!

Also denial won’t help. Whether you wanted to enroll in this class or not, a life circumstance you didn’t want may have forced you to. Accept this is the case and show up for class.

What are the “assignments” that will help you gain the most from this experience? Do you need to find a book or a podcast on the thing you are struggling with? Do you need to take an online course on the subject or do life coaching or counseling? Do you need to start a practice of meditation or journaling?

I can’t tell you what the answer is for you. I am just telling you, a “life class” is a nuisance if you do not fully engage it. Negative events and emotions will simply be negative things in your life that you will wish would go away. However, if you learn to embrace these events as teachers, you will have a strange mental shift, in which you feel gratitude for the lessons that are being brought to you. We never have to call a negative event “good,” but we can still be thankful for the lessons that it brings us.

 

Journal Questions:

  1. First, identify the struggles that you are currently facing. What is a struggle in your life right now? What is a challenge? What is a frustration? Try to list a few, if you can.
  2. With these struggles in mind, what life course would you be enrolled in? What would the name of it be?
  3. Are you showing up for class? Are doing the homework & assignments that would truly help you gain the wisdom and growth from this circumstance?
  4. What are the homework & assignments you are already utilizing? A book? A podcast? A daily practice? What homework & assignments do you need to add to engage more fully?
  5. If you are feeling creative – go ahead and write out everything like I did in the post. Your class name, your course description, and your books & assignments. You definitely don’t have to do this if you don’t want to, but it might help to give a full perspective for yourself. (And be kind of fun!)
  6. How can you imagine this new perspective transforming your struggles? Or if you have used this way of thinking before, how has it helped you in the past?

 

Wishing you many beautiful lessons.

Yours,

signaturesmaller

 

What to Do When You are Stressed & Anxious

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Calm Your Body with Self-Talk

We tell our bodies how to react.

If you find yourself stressed and anxious about situations that do not merit that amount of stress or anxiety – realize that it is your thoughts informing your body on how to respond.

You are telling your body to release stress and anxiety chemicals.

This response might be helpful if we still lived in the wilderness. The “fight or flight” response was helpful in that scenario.

But my guess is, when a stress/anxiety inducing situation comes up in your life, it is not because you live in the wilderness and a wild animal is after you.

You probably do not need your cortisol levels skyrocketing.

Instead, you probably need a calm and rational mind in that moment.

So, the good news is, you have the power to calm your body with self talk.

I personally have a problem with anxiety, and it is likely because I am quick to jump to worst case scenarios. These worst case scenario thoughts send my body into a panic and have even caused me to pass out before. However, for these situations – passing out was not the most helpful thing – being alert and rational is what needed to happen instead.

Last Thursday when I woke up my husband, I found that he had had a severe allergic reaction of some sort. I didn’t know how bad it was – I just knew that he did not look okay. I will spare you the details, but he was a frightful sight. I felt my mind wanting to go into panic/worst case scenario mode.

However, I knew how unhelpful I would be to my husband if I was in this state.

So instead I told myself,

Yes, it does look pretty bad. But we will get him to Urgent Care, the swelling will go down, and he will be fine.

And by telling myself that, I actually had the ability to handle the situation. My anxiety did not get to take over.

I also did some deep breathing too. When you breathe shallow breaths you are telling your body there is a stressful situation. When you breathe deep slow breaths you are telling your body that you are calm, peaceful, and safe.

This may sound weird, but think of your body as a child. It doesn’t know how to react – it is just taking cues from you. If you make it feel there is danger then it will react that way, but if you tell it that it is safe, and everything will be okay, it will be comforted and calm.

 

Realize What is Truly Important

When we face stress, it is often because we are making everything important, when really, only some things are important.

We face stress because we are trying to reach perfect standards.

We face stress because we don’t let ourselves believe that there are other options.

We face stress because we don’t ask for help.

Let me give you another example from last weekend, as it was very anxious/stressful weekend.

I am someone who needs a lot of downtime in order to not feel stressed. My husband and I had planned a busy Thursday evening, Friday evening, and Sunday (which we were hosting a Mother’s Day cookout at our house). Therefore, I knew in order for me not to be stressed, I needed to protect my Saturday and make sure I had plenty of downtime.

Friday morning I received a call from a good friend of mine who had found out some bad news and asked if I would drive the 1.5 hour to her house to spend the day with her on Saturday.

This is not a friend who is needy or usually asks for much, so the fact that she was asking me this meant she really needed it.

I knew that seeing my friend was so important. And I also knew that self care and downtime was so important. And I felt the walls of stress closing in on me.

I began to think,

What do I do if EVERYTHING is important?!?

And that’s when I stopped in my tracks. Self care and downtime was important. Seeing my friend was important. But was everything else really that important?

I realized one of the other things that was stressing me out was hosting the Mother’s Day cookout. Cleaning the house..preparing the food..

I texted my sister and asked if she was would be willing to host. She said yes. And I felt the stress dissipate.

Yes, in my perfect standards, I would have done it all. I wouldn’t have had to ask for help.

But, if we give ourselves a minute to realize that we do have options, and we can prioritize what is important and what is not, we save ourselves a lot of unnecessary stress.

 

Spend Time in Nature

It is really hard to be stressed or anxious while in nature. I am not saying it is impossible, just hard.

If you want to take a natural anti-anxiety medication/stress reliever – take a walk in nature.

Be mindful about it. Direct your thoughts to the present moment – what you see, hear, and feel.

Feel the wind on your skin. Hear the birds sing their songs. Notice the green of the leaves. Smell the scent of the flowers.

Nature also has this strange way of bringing us to a place of clarity and peace. Time often feels like it has slowed down.

During my stressful weekend, I spent a little time in nature and was surprised how my cares and woes began to fade into the background.

Enjoy the free gift that the earth has given us.

 

Journal Questions:

I know that I have gained a lot from reading blog entries and I also know if I took the time and journaled about them for a few minutes they would affect me in an even deeper way and bring me to some truths I may have not come to otherwise.

So if you have a few extra minutes and your journal handy…here you go!

  1. Think of a time you were recently stressed or anxious. What were the thoughts that were going through your mind? What kind of self-talk were you telling your body? What would have been better thoughts / self talk to have in this moment? What kind of self talk would have calmed you down?
  2. In reflection, which of these points causes you the most stress? Are you not prioritizing what is truly important? Have you given yourself standards of perfection? Are you unwilling to explore or acknowledge that there are other options? Are you unwilling to ask for help? Take some time to think about which of these may be causing you stress and how you can let go.
  3. This final question is less a question, and more an action step. Make a plan to go into nature – today or tomorrow if possible. Take a mindful walk in which you notice and have gratitude for the beauty around you. Once you have finished the walk, find a spot to sit down and journal about what clarity or insight that may have come to you. Nature has a way of clearing our minds and bringing forth clarity -you just might be surprised!

Wishing you many days of peace.

Yours,

signaturesmaller

7 Ways to Reduce Mental Clutter

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DO THINGS YOUR WAY

This one is huge. You will greatly reduce mental clutter, if you just allow yourself to do things your own way.

I have wasted much mental energy in the past trying to do things someone else’s way. Not only is this frustrating and draining, it usually doesn’t work. I’m different from them and that’s okay. Maybe you are too?

You may not have the same skills as others. But guess what, they may not have the same skills as you.

Use the skills you have.

Maybe someone else has the skill of just “toughing it out.” But if you don’t have that skill, you don’t need to pretend to. Instead, maybe you have the skills of creativity and problem solving and would know how to get out of or avoid a difficult situation. Use the skill you actually have.

We were all given a set of skills to get through this life. Life is going to be difficult if you try to use the skills of others, rather than your own natural abilities.

Let go of the mental clutter that is caused by trying to do it their way. You are allowed to do things your own way.

 

TRUST THAT THINGS WILL WORK OUT

We waste a lot of mental space on worry.

However, the majority of the things we worry about never become the worst case scenario that we imagined.

Most things turn out just fine. Or even better than we had thought.

Trust that things will work out. Optimism is so much more enjoyable than pessimism.

Most likely, everything will turn out okay.

And if it doesn’t turn out okay – an optimistic and positive mindset is a lot better at dealing with that outcome, than a pessimistic negative one.

Also, keep in mind, sometimes thinking about the worst possible thing is actually worse than the worst possible thing.

When the worst possible thing happens, we go into action mode and problem solving mode, because what has happened, has happened. However, when we are thinking about some terrible outcome that could happen, we are simply dwelling.

Don’t create misery for yourself. It’s not worth it.

 

FOLLOW YOUR INTUITION

I used to aggressively weigh my pros and cons every time I tried to make a decision. I would become stuck in analysis paralysis. Not only did this take up a lot of mental energy, but I also would never actually make a decision.

Being open to following your intuition will rid you of a significant amount of mental clutter. Whether it is the everyday little decisions or the bigger life change decisions.

Your intuition is telling you something – try to tap into it. Mental clutter will also arise when you are trying to force yourself to do the “rational” thing, but your intuition is telling you something different.

Intuition does not mean making decisions based on emotions. Intuition is just trusting that there is an inner wisdom that goes beyond the rational mind.

Since I have started to follow my intuition, I not only have reduced my mental clutter, but my life has also started going in a direction I am more aligned with.

Maybe this will happen for you too?

 
REALIZE CRITICISM IS JUST ABOUT PREFERENCES

I used to allow a lot of mental clutter by being concerned about what other people thought of me and taking their criticisms personally.

I wish someone had told me sooner: Criticism is just about preferences.

Don’t believe me?

Try looking up your favorite book on Amazon. You will find both the harshest criticisms along with raving reviews.

And often times, they are criticizing and raving over the exact same things.

“This book was not well researched or backed by scientific evidence. I could not take the author seriously.”

“I loved the author’s down to earth conversational tone! She doesn’t take an academic assuming approach, but rather shares her own thoughts based on her experiences!”

Imagine these being two reviews about the same book. As you can see, the first review, which was the “criticism” was purely based on a preference for a researched scientific book.

This happened for me at a job once. I had a supervisor who identified my strengths as being patient, empathetic, and willing to give grace to the clients in our youth program.

After this, I got a new supervisor. She said my weaknesses were that I was too patient with clients and let them off the hook too easy.

The exact same thing. But one person thought it was my strength and another person thought it was my weakness.

So, this is how we reduce the mental clutter surrounding criticism. Next time someone criticizes you, you do not need to go into a tizzy of  endless What’s wrong with me? thoughts. Rather, just realize your style is not their preference, and move on.

 

REALIZE YOUR GREATEST WEAKNESS IS YOUR GREATEST STRENGTH

Sometimes we don’t need the criticisms of others to beat ourselves up, we do it to ourselves already. We think Why am I not like this? Why am I so bad at that? Why can’t I get this right?

This is where we need to remember that our greatest weakness is also our greatest strength.

It’s the thing that makes you special. It’s the thing that makes you stand out.

For me, I have a “messy brain.” My thoughts are everywhere and there are sticky notes all over my desk at work. But guess what? I am very creative.

Also, I am an introvert. I tend to be very quiet in meetings at work. But guess what, I am incredibly observant.

What is it for you?

Next time you find yourself feeling bad about a weakness of yours – take a moment – and flip the thought around. Realize how this very thing you are calling a weakness has also been the source of your greatest strength.

 

EXPEND MENTAL ENERGY WISELY

Mental energy is a finite resource. It runs outs.

We must budget our mental energy just like we would budget our finances.

Where can we reserve mental energy in our life, so that we are able to increase mental energy in other areas?

An example in my own life, is my wardrobe. I used to try to stay up with the latest fashion trends. I used to strategically pick out what I was going to where every day. I tried to go weeks without wearing the same outfit twice.

For me, this took a lot of mental energy. Especially having to decide what to wear to work every morning. My job requires a lot of my mental energy, and I had used up quite a bit already, just deciding what to wear.

This is my new wardrobe for work: I wear pretty much the same thing every week. Nobody notices. I spend zero mental energy deciding what to wear. My shirts for work are simple button ups of varying colors. If I need new clothes, I limit myself to shopping at one store I really like, rather than going on a massive clothing hunt which is very exhausting for me.

This has reduced a significant amount of unneeded mental clutter and has provided me more mental energy for other areas in my life. Now I can invest my mental energy into blogging or writing, rather than perfecting a wardrobe.

This is my example. This does not have to be your example. If creating your wardrobe and choosing your outfits is a source of enjoyment, then do it! It’s all about realizing what is energizing us and what is draining us. And realizing we can’t use our mental energy on everything at all times, so choosing carefully what we decide to use it on.

 

DEVELOP SELF-COMPASSION

Treat yourself like you would treat a friend.
Cheer yourself on.
Give yourself a break if you mess up.

A lot of mental clutter exists because we are berating ourselves.

Why can’t you get this right?
Why are you still struggling with this?

This has to stop.

Would you allow someone to talk to your best friend like this?

If not, why would you let yourself be talked to this way?

I am not saying this is something that can be fixed overnight. These thoughts are pretty automatic. But next time you find your inner critic telling you something negative, just make sure to correct the thought.

Try,

You are feeling bad right now and that’s okay. It’s frustrating, but you are going to keep working on this. Even if it doesn’t get better immediately, it will get better.

Be gentle with yourself.

 

CONCLUSION

I used to be of the mindset that my problem with mental clutter could not be fixed. I used to believe that there would always be these negative, anxious, uncertain, critical voices swirling around my head.

I am here to tell you it does not have to be that way.

I’m not saying I have reached some zen state where this does not happen at all. I still do struggle with these things.

But with that being said, I have seen huge changes in myself in the last two years by implementing the above practices. I have a new inner voice – and that inner voice is kind and compassionate. She is confident and just a little more sure of herself. She trusts that things will work out. She allows and encourages me to be who I am, with no apologies.

Is the other voice still there? The “mean girl” that lives inside me is still there. But as the voice of the “Encourager” becomes louder and louder…the critical voice becomes fainter and fainter.

I hope and pray this can happen for you too.

Yours,

signaturesmaller

 

JOURNAL QUESTIONS:
1.    What would it mean for you to start doing things your own way? Have you felt pressured to do things someone else’s way? Would you be willing to let go of this pressure? What would that look like? What would you do differently?

 
2.    Do you operate in the mindset of optimism or pessimism? Do you dwell on worst case scenarios? Would you be willing to allow for more optimism and trust that things will work out? What would this look like for you?

 
3.    What is your relationship with intuition? Do you trust it? Why or why not? Would you be willing to start trusting your intuition more? Think of some decisions in your life right now. What is your intuition telling you?

 
4.    Have you ever thought about the idea that criticism might just be about other people’s preferences? What is your reaction to this? If you started thinking this way, how would it affect your life? Do you think you would be able to handle criticism more easily? Are you able to look at times in your past when you have been criticized and with this new understanding re-frame the way you are thinking about it?

 
5.    Make a list of what you consider as your weaknesses. Now next to these “weaknesses,” write out how these same things take the form of a strength. Are you willing to recognize that your weaknesses are your greatest strengths?

 
6.    How do you currently expend your mental energy? Are you using it wisely? Or are you using it on things that don’t matter to you, and not having any left for things that do? If the latter is true, how could you change this? What action steps could you take to make a change?

 
7.    Do you currently offer yourself self-compassion? Why or why not? When something doesn’t go as planned or you “mess up,” what do you tell yourself? Is it kind or is it mean? If it is not kind, what could you tell yourself instead?

 
8.    Are you willing to implement these practices into your own life? Develop a plan to start today/this week so that you can reduce mental clutter and enjoy the freedom and joy you were meant to have.

 

ADDITIONAL:
If you are really serious about this, I want to offer you two additional pieces of advice.

1)    Patience
2)    Everyday mind renewal

First, I say patience because as I said, I have seen a huge change in myself in the last 1-2 years. That’s not an overnight fix. However, I do think you can begin to see changes right away. But you may find yourself doing great one day and back to negative patterns the next day. Don’t feel bad about this – this is part of the process. Trust that over time, as long as you continue to work on this, it will change and it will become easier and easier.

Second, to find the change I wanted I had to “renew” my mind daily. I didn’t read one book and suddenly change, rather, I kept putting positivity into my life daily. You can check out my previous resource list post for some additional resources to use for the renewal of your mind. Some books I have not read but have heard highly recommended (and are on my reading list!) are Loving-kindness by Sharon Salzberg, You Can Heal Your Life by Louise L. Hay, The Gifts of Imperfection  by Brene Brown, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, and Self Compassion by Kristin Neff. I also recently found Katie Dean through a podcast I listen to – I have not read her stuff yet but thoroughly enjoyed her podcast presence and know she speaks on these topics on her blog.

Wishing you patience, perseverance, and the renewal of your mind.

Free ebook!

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Hi all!

I have some fun & exciting news!

I developed an ebook & am starting a newsletter!

If you subscribe to the newsletter you will receive your free copy of my ebook!

The e-mail newsletter will provide updates for when Live Meaningful updates and other new happenings on the site.

Once you subscribe, you will receive a link for your ebook download.

The ebook is called: Live Meaningful Reflection Guide: 5 Days to Becoming more Intentional, Authentic, Daring, and Intuitive

When you are finished with the ebook, please comment on this post…your response/feedback will likely influence if I do something like this again in the future!

Click on the picture below to get your free ebook & subscribe to the newsletter!

ebookcover

Yours,

signaturesmaller

Are You Putting Enough Joy in Your Life?

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This week on Live Meaningful, we are doing a Joy inventory. So, part of experiencing joy, is having gratitude, which I talked about a couple weeks ago. But honestly, there are many, many forms that joy takes and can show up in our life. Sometimes joy shows up unexpectedly and naturally, when we least expect it. But sometimes we need to make the effort to invite joy into our lives.

You don’t need to force it. In fact, joy is not something that can probably be forced. But you may need to step out, and invite.

Listed below are some forms of joy and happiness that are gifts for us to experience in this life. Grab your journal and begin the inventory. I will be asking questions about how you already invite these forms of joy into your life, in what ways they show up, and encourage you to reflect on how you can invite them into your life just a little bit more!

En-JOY!

 

Peacefulness:

In what ways does peacefulness show up in your life already? What brings you a sense of peace or calm? What relaxes the mind and eases the stresses of life?

Do you gain peace on a walk in nature, hearing the birds chirp and feeling the cool breeze on your face? Do you feel peace when you take a warm bath after a long day at work? Do you experience peace through journaling and sorting through your many thoughts? Is peace found in spending time with those you love? Or is it found in reading an uplifting and encouraging book?
Take an honest assessment of how peace shows up in your life currently, what activities lead you to a state of peacefulness, and how often you allow yourself to engage in these activities. Do you need to allow more peace into your life? More time for relaxation? More time to de-stress? Life can be busy, but where are the little pockets of life in which you could place more peace?

 

 

Excitement:

How is excitement showing up in your life? What activities make you feel excited? What is the excitement that will get you out of bed in the morning or keeps you chugging along in the week?

Is it working on a book you are writing? Is it a love for travel and the anticipation of your next trip? Is it a gathering with friends? Is it a creative project you just love?

We were meant to feel excitement in life. To feel excited to wake up in the morning and feel excited for days ahead of us. If life feels dull or stagnant, consider what makes you feel excited and find the spaces in your life where you can allow excitement.

 

 

Fun:

In what ways can you invite more fun into your life? Of course, we are adults and have responsibilities, but just as we make time for respsonsibilities, we also need to make time for fun. The kind of fun that is carefree and makes us feel like a child again. We need to engage in play.

What is it for you? Is it a girls’ night with all your friends full of excessive laughter? Is it going for a bike ride? Is it playing with your kids? Going to a festival? Try to access your inner child to help you remember what fun means to you.

Fun can be anything. Maybe you find things fun that others would not understand as fun. That’s okay! Be honest about what is fun for you, rather than other people’s definitions of fun.

How much fun do you allow into your life currently? Where do you need to add fun to your life and how will you do this?

 

 

Interest/Curiosity:

What completely engages your mind? What could you talk about all day? What could you research for hours, and still be wanting more? What engages your mind and immerses you so completely?

Is it an interest in psychology? Art? Movies? Science?

Find your interest and allow yourself to get lost in it.

Or as Elizabeth Gilbert would say, “follow your curiosity.”

 

 

Growth:

There is no joy in standing still, we were meant to grow. How are you growing in your life currently? What are you progressing toward? How are you changing for the better?

What helps you experience growth? Is it through church? A podcast? Journaling? A book? A mentor? A class?

How can you experience more growth in your life? Which of the above examples could be something you could implement in your life to experience more of a sense of growth? What could you do that would propel you forward into a new version of yourself and your life?

 

 

Adventure:

Are you allowing enough adventure in your life? Is there any adventure at all?

What would adventure be to you? Traveling to somewhere new and exploring? Going on a mission trip? Writing a book or a blog? Meeting new people? Hiking?

What is your version of adventure? Is it in your life currently? Why not? How could you put more adventure into your life?

 

 

Purpose:

Where do you find a sense of purpose in your life? Is it being a mom to your children or an aunt to your nieces or nephews? Are you a role model? Are you a mentor to someone? Do you share your wisdom with others? Are you a teacher of some sort? Do you volunteer somewhere? Do you help others in some way?

What makes your life feel like it has purpose? Is there something you could be doing to give yourself more of a sense of purpose?

 

 

Passion:

What lights you up and makes you feel totally alive? What can you not get enough of? What, when doing it, makes life feel meaningful. What do you absolutely love to do?

Is it art, photography, or writing? Is it a creative pursuit of some sort? Is it helping others? Is it travel?

Identify that passion and make sure that you are making time for it.

 

 

Discovery:

In what ways do you experience a sense of discovery? The “aha!” moments of life.

Is it while you journal? Is it taking a class and learning something new?

What does discovery mean to you? Is it in your life? How could it become more a part of your life?

 

 

Amazement/Wonder:

Life can become very practical and very day to day, and sometimes that causes us to forget there is such a thing as amazement and wonder. When have you had this feeling before? When was that last time you had it?

Looking up at the stars in the night sky? Looking at the ocean? Traveling to another country?

It is those moments, when you take a step back from the everyday tasks, and see what a miracle life really is.

How often do you have these moments? How could you invite more moments like this into your life?

 

 

Authenticity/Being Known:

One of the truest forms of joy, is the experience of being known completely. Being known and appreciated as your truest self.

Maybe you have this with your partner? Your best friend? At your job? At your church?

If you don’t feel you have a place where you can be authentic, and “known,” go on a search to find this place. Find your tribe. Where could you find the people who might be similar to you? Where might be a place where your authentic self could show up and be appreciated?

 

 

Quest:

How are you on a quest in your life? What is your mission? What is this journey you are on? A quest for knowledge or wisdom? A quest to help others? A quest of self discovery? A quest of self-improvement? A quest to share your gifts in the world?

If your life does not feel like a quest or a journey, how could you make it feel a little bit more like this? Is it a shift in your perspective or a shift in how you live your life?

 

 

Pleasure:

What forms of pleasure do you allow into your life? Is it that warm bath after a long day at work? It is allowing yourself to eat your favorite ice cream every once in awhile? Is allowing yourself to sleep in? Is it spending all day in the sun and forgetting about responsibilities for awhile? Is it getting lost in a book and reading for hours?

Sometimes pleasure sounds like a bad thing or sounds overly self-indulgent. It is only a bad thing in excess. And honestly, pleasure stops being pleasure if you do it in excess. But, we should all be able to allow a little bit of pleasure into our life.

 

 

Creativity:

We were designed to create.

In what ways are you inviting creativity into your life? Do you allow space in your life for the creative process? What kind of creativity calls out to you? Writing? Art? Photography? Cooking?

Find your creative passion and allow space in your life to express yourself and engage this creative side of you.

 

 

Kindness:

Although it is important to allow for pleasure and self-care, we must not forget about kindness. There is great joy in kindness. Helping a friend work through a problem. Helping someone in need. Donating to a cause you care about. Volunteering at a homeless shelter.

How are you experiencing the joy of kindness? How could you experience it more?

 

 

Gratitude:

As I said, there is a whole article on gratitude from a couple weeks ago, but it is so important, I could not leave it off this list.

How are you practicing gratitude? How are you making sure to be thankful for the everyday moments of your life? How could you develop your gratitude skills and experience it more in your daily life?

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As you can see, there are many ways to experience joy in this life, and this list could go on. Sometimes we chase after big life changes to add more joy in our lives. This is not a bad thing, but sometimes big life changes aren’t always possible. The good news is, by taking this joy inventory you can reflect on your everyday life and be intentional about creating more joy filled moments.

Joy can be found in the margins of life. There are a million tiny little moments in our life, but these little tiny moments make up our whole lives. Why not fill these moments with joy?

Yours,

signaturesmaller

My Favorite Resources for Life Change!

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I recently was asked what resources inspire me. There are far too many to name, but I will list a few here. I may be adding to this list as time goes on.

For me, putting positive things into my life daily has been key to gaining a more positive and inspired life. I fill my early morning coffee time with encouraging articles. I fill my half hour commutes to and from work with encouraging podcasts.

What I have found is, the inspiring voices of others start to get stuck in my head. I get to work and there is stress, workloads, paperwork, problems etc. My mind wants to get all worked up and stressed. But the positive voices of podcasters, bloggers, and authors are stuck in my head.

You can only do your best.
You have unique wonderful skills, even if everyone doesn’t recognize them.
You owe yourself self-compassion.
There is hope. There is inspiration. There is beauty.

I recently heard the comment made on the Jess Lively show, that sometimes we have to “borrow the thoughts of others.”

This is so true.

Sometimes we are down. We are broken. We are hopeless. We are uninspired. We are discouraged.

And in these moments, we must borrow the thoughts of those who are hopeful and those who are inspired. We must let them help us remember the joy that we have forgotten.

Below are just a few of the resources that inspire me. Also, there are few journal questions to reflect on at the end of this list. Enjoy!

 

Positivity, Gratitude, Happiness, Self Compassion

Mindful

This is a website dedicated to cultivating healthy mindsets. Each article is backed by scientific evidence. I read their articles every morning before work. I have started many healthy mindset habits because of this site!

Help Me Be Me Podcast

I love the Help Me Be Me podcast! This podcast has been one of the most helpful podcasts I have come across in regard to cultivating a healthy mindset. This podcast focuses on topics of gratitude and positivity. This is one of my staples for morning commutes and a great go-to if I am feeling down and need a quick pick-me-up. Highly recommended!

Allison Fallon

Every blog post Allison puts out seems to resonate with me so deeply. She writes a lot on mental health and the healing effects of writing. Also, she always has many wonderful resources she provides with her posts. I read her posts every Monday morning to start my week and they always provide a wonderful source of inspiration!

The Jess Lively Show

This is a podcast I just recently started listening to. Jess discusses topics of self compassion, intuition, gaining clarity in your life, and living out your dreams. A great inspiration for my drive into work!

Happier Podcast

This is a podcast dedicated to developing healthy habits and cultivating happiness. Very practical and helpful solutions to implement into your everyday life! Also, Gretchen and her sister Elizabeth have great dynamics on the show, so it is a fun listen as well!

The Top Five Movement

This website is actually a very recent discovery for me. It is a website all about developing gratitude habits. I am still in the exploration phase of what this website is all about…but am definitely excited about it and eager to learn!

 

Simplicity, Minimalism, Meaningful Life

The Minimalists

I have been following the minimalists for quite some time now. I have learned so much about the power of letting go of the stuff that holds us down in order to find freedom and a meaningful life! These guys are full of wisdom!

Becoming Minimalist

This is another blog focused on finding freedom in letting go and re-focusing us on what is truly important in this life. Many great articles on this site!

 

Anxiety, Stress, Depression

The Confident Mind Podcast

A great resource if you struggle with social anxiety or any other type of anxiety.

The Anxiety Coaches Podcast

Another great resource for those who suffer from anxiety!

Do One Thing Different – Bill O’Hanlon (Book)

This book was a wonderful source of inspiration for me in a very difficult time in my life. Not only was it a source of hope, but it also gave many practical tips to help me out of that difficult place!

The One You Feed Podcast

A podcast full of conversations on topics of depression, anxiety, and living a life worth living. Much wisdom to be gained from this podcast!

 

Introversion, High Sensitivity

Introvert, Dear

Many many articles to help introverts and highly sensitive people live their best possible life! So many helpful tips and advice on this site!

Katherine Mackenize-Smith

Life and business coach dedicated to empowering introverts. I especially recommend her book Shhh… An Introvert’s Guide to Creating An Exceptionally Beautiful Life. I read it in one sitting. It was such a wonderful “feel good” resource that made me feel at peace with myself and my place in this life.

 

Spirituality

The Robcast Podcast

Always has wonderful spiritual insight. A deep thinking podcast I listen to on my morning commutes.

 

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Again, these are just the first few that come to mind. There are so many more!
If there are resources (books, blogs, podcasts) that you have loved or have inspired you, please share them with me in the comments below! I would love to hear about them and be inspired by them too!

 

JOURNAL QUESTIONS:

1. When do you find yourself most needing to “borrow the thoughts of others?” At work? At home? When you are stressed? When you are discouraged? Reflect on the times and situations when your thoughts are at their worst.

2. What area of self growth needs the most focus for you right now? Do you need to focus more on positivity? On gratitude? Self compassion? Do you need to build your confidence? Do you need to learn coping skills to deal with anxiety and stress? Do you need to be inspired to live out your goals? Reflect on what areas feel the most important to focus on right now.

3. How will you implement your own routine in which you put the positive thoughts and voices of others into your own life? Take into account the times/situations when you need it the most and the areas of self growth you need to focus on, as you described in the first two questions. Brainstorm how you will implement these practices into your daily life.

 

Yours,

signaturesmaller

Gratitude.

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Gratitude is a hot topic theses days.

And for good reason.

However, I will be the first to admit, when I started seeing all the articles and research about how practicing gratitude affects happiness, I was skeptical.

It wasn’t that it didn’t make sense. Of course focusing on the positive would cause you to feel more positive. But I guess I was skeptical about how big of an impact the gratitude research was promising.

Over the past year I have probably read/listened to over a hundred books/blog articles/podcasts on the topic of gratitude. And as much as I rejected it, it crept into my mind, and I started practicing it.

It changed my life.

I would have a frustration at my job, but instead of dwelling on this, my thoughts would switch to, Wow how lucky I get to come home to my husband whom I share such good times with.

Or I would notice a sunset, a blooming tree, or a bird singing and find an appreciation for it.

Previously I have had a habit of getting really stuck in the nostalgia of the past or the worries of the future.

But sometimes, when I am practicing gratitude, I think,

These are the good ol’ days. I am living in them right now.

Another reason I was previously skeptical about this whole gratitude thing, is because I thought I would have to pretend to be grateful for something I wasn’t actually grateful for. I learned you don’t have to do this.

It is more about savoring.

Not everything in life is wonderful. But find the things that are and savor them.

Notice them.
Say thanks for them.
Meditate on them.
Think about them.

I know there may be many different faith/spirituality traditions reading this blog. I personally come from a Christian context, and a verse I have always loved is in Philippians 4:8 (NIV):

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

We were never meant to dwell on our fears, our problems, or our hang ups. Anxiety and problem solving can be tools to guide us, if used properly. But we were never meant to dwell on such things.

We are meant to dwell on what is lovely.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. Phillipians 4:6-7 (NLT)

It is my belief, that we were designed to be in a spirit of praise, of thankfulness, of gratitude. And when we do this, there is a peace that overcomes us. It is not easy to be grateful always, it is a discipline for sure. But I believe when we do this, there is a peace we are able to access that is like no other.

And when we pray, I believe we should pray with a hope and an optimism. If you do not pray, then when you journal, journal with a hope and an optimism. I know it can be cathartic at times to get all the negative emotions out, so I am not saying there is never a time for this.

However, if all of our prayers or journal entries are about how much we hate our life, we likely will not feel a peace afterward. But if your prayers/journal entries are focused on the joy you are experiencing now and the joy and circumstances you are hoping will come, then this will bring you a peace that passes all understanding.

 

JOURNAL QUESTIONS

1. What are you feeling grateful for right now in this moment? A happy memory? The weather? Your family? It can big or small, serious or silly. List 5-10 things. Take some time to reflect and savor these things.

2. In what ways do you allow anxiety and worry take away peace? How could you make changes in this area?

3. Take a minute to think about your anxieties and concerns for the future and the things you don’t like about the present. Now journal in the lens of hope and optimism. No complaining, no feeling sorry for yourself. Journal about how you would like these situations to transform and allow yourself to have a hope about this. Not only is hope more enjoyable, it also makes it more likely to happen.

4. How will you begin a practice of gratitude? Jot down the first few things that come to mind.(Some ideas are keeping a gratitude journal, doing a daily gratitude meditation, going on gratitude walks, or listening to podcasts focused on gratitude and positive thinking)

Wishing you many moments of peace and gratitude..

Yours,

signaturesmaller

Imagine Your Life as Good as it Could Possibly Be…

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I recently read a study that shared the benefits of imagining our ideal self. It is not a daydream that it is a waste of time, but rather, it has real measurable benefits.

Why? First, imagining our ideal self and our ideal life improves mood. It takes us to a more positive mental space. If improved mood in itself isn’t enough, being in a more positive mental space helps us make better decisions that will then lead to a better life. Also, when we focus our mind daily on this version of our self and this version of our life, it is simply more likely to happen. We are more focused on creating this life and more intentional in the decisions we make. We look for and find opportunities we may have been blind to otherwise.

I can look at my own life as a case study, and see how true this is. When I was in high school and college I used to journal everyday about my ideal self and my ideal life. I would journal about my ideal college, my ideal spouse, my ideal job..etc. I remember months or years later almost being in shock when I would look back at old journal entries and the things I envisioned were all coming to fruition.

The qualities of a college I journaled about somehow describe the college I attended. The qualities of a future spouse I journaled about somehow describes that qualities of my husband. The qualities of the job I journaled about somehow matched the job I landed after college. Was this by pure chance? Probably not.

We create our own realities.

With that being said, I know sometimes things definitely do not go as planned. There are unexpected losses that come about and twists in our life that we did not expect and did not ask for. But, this study still carries good news. We have control. We have control to move forward. We have control to create a better future for ourselves. Do we have control over everything? No, there are times we have to let go of control. But be careful, don’t give away your power. Don’t let yourself just be tossed by the waves, without realizing the control you truly have to steer your life in a different direction.

But as I am sure you know, there is no steering without movement. And you must have vision first, so you know which way to steer.

So it was after college, when I stopped journaling. I had met my husband and started my job and was ready to just float for awhile. It’s okay to float for a little while. We do not need to be tirelessly pursuing something every single moment. But I floated too long. And I began to get confused about how I ended up where I did. I began to get confused about what direction I was going in the first place. I began drifting. And the destination was not where I intended to go.

If you are not actively moving forward, if you are not actively steering, you are drifting. With drifting, I suppose there is a chance you might just happen to drift toward something desirable. But my guess is, if you are reading this blog, the drift did not serve you well. You have drifted to somewhere you did not wish to go, and you are ready to move forward in a new direction.

I am happy to say, I am no longer drifting anymore. Am I sailing fearlessly ahead at full speed? Okay, maybe not. But I’m paddling. It takes some work, for sure. And there will definitely be some rapids to move through. But, whatever you do, don’t just be carried by the waves. Cast your vision and start moving forward.

 

REFLECTION EXERCISE

Below is a reflection journal exercise I came up with to help you start focusing on your ideal self and ideal life. Please feel free to come up with your own questions that will guide your thoughts in the direction they need to go. Journal about specific areas in your life that come to mind. If you want to skip these questions altogether and just journal free association thoughts about your ideal life & self, you can do that instead. Just keep in mind that the more days a week you do a practice like this, the more effective it will be.

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Imagine your life as good as it could possibly be.

What would it be like?

What would you be like?

What would you no longer struggle with?

In what ways would you be more fulfilled?

How would you spend your days differently?

Imagine how your mornings would be different.

Imagine how your afternoons would be different.

Imagine how your evenings would be different.

How would your thoughts be different?

What would you spend your time and energy on?

How would you make a positive impact on the world?

How would you give hope to others?

 

And to put you into motion…

Imagine that life starting today.

Imagine how you could think differently today.

Imagine how you could plan your day differently today.

Imagine doing something that would fulfill you today.

Imagine how your morning could be different today.

Imagine how your afternoon could be different today.

Imagine how your evening could be different today.

What could you spend your time and energy on today?

How could you make a positive impact today?

How could you give hope to someone today?

 
How could you give hope to  yourself today?

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If you would like to read more about the study I referenced, you can see it here.

If this article or journal questions impacted you in some way, I would love to hear about it.

Yours,

signaturesmaller

Find Your “Live Meaningful” – Journal Activity & Action Steps

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STEP 1 – REFLECT

Think about what you would do if you could do anything. Pretend for a moment that you didn’t have to make money. Pretend you had endless amounts of time. Pretend you had no obligations. Pretend whatever you wanted to do didn’t cost money. Pretend there was no such thing as unrealistic. Pretend there is no such thing as “shoulds.”

What would you do?

Think of what you are passionate about. Think about what makes you feel fully alive. Think about times in your life that you felt “fully alive” – what were you doing? What are you excited about? What have you been excited about in the past?

What gives you a sense of meaning? When has your life felt meaningful? Has your life ever felt like you were on a mission or journey? Why did it feel this way? If you never felt this way, could you imagine a life in which you felt this way?

What are your talents? When do you feel you are most using your talents? What are you good at that you also really enjoy?

If you could use your life to help others – who would you help? Is there a people group you would feel passionate about helping? Is there a struggle you have overcome, that you would be passionate to help others to overcome? Is there something inside of you, that needs to come out, that needs to be shown to the world?

How could you impact the world? How could you impact others?

What do you love to do? What makes you feel like a kid again? What so completely immerses and engages you that you lose track of time?

What brings you joy? Not a good feeling, or entertainment, or even laughter.

But joy, in its truest sense.

What thing, if you did it, would make life make more sense? Would make you believe again that life has purpose and you have purpose.

 

STEP 2- JOURNAL

I want you to begin to journal about all the questions listed above. Think very slowly and very deeply. Make sure you decide to do this journaling activity when you actually have time to. This exercise will not be as helpful, unless you spend time in deep reflection. Answering these questions should take up several journal pages.

The key to this journal activity is not to limit yourself. Many times we feel lost and don’t even know what we want to do, because we have never allowed ourselves to think about what we would do, if we could do anything. We often think of barriers first, which is the quickest way to shut down our dreams.

What I am asking you to do, is think about the dream first, and barriers second. For this journal activity there is no thinking of barriers allowed!

 
STEP 3- ACKNOWLEDGE BARRIERS

After completing the journal activity, you hopefully have some idea of what you love, what brings joy, what your talents are, where your strengths are, what you would do if you could do anything.

Now you can think about the barriers.

Make a list. I would keep the list to 5 points or under. You are looking at the main barriers. It may just be 2 or 3 things, or it may 5 things. Either is fine.

 

STEP 4- BRAINSTORM ALTERNATE OPTIONS

Look at your list. For each barrier, write down a way you could do the thing you want to do, with this barrier in mind. You don’t even have to necessarily overcome the barrier, you just have to come up with a way you could do it despite the barrier.

Here are some examples of what I mean. You can write it out in this format.

What I want to do:

I want to share my insights and ideas with others.

Barriers:

I am introverted and shy.

Alternative Options:

Rather than share my insights and ideas in group settings, which is difficult for me, I could share my ideas on a blog.

For alternative options, I would actually think of a few ideas if you can. Brainstorm a little bit, and then you can decide what the best option is. Also, I am not saying there is no place for overcoming barriers, but this is often a long process and we probably haven’t overcome the barriers yet for a reason. Instead of waiting to overcome the barrier, find a way to work with it.

I wrote a bit about this in my post 5 Ways to Live More Meaningful in 2016, but common barriers often seem to be time or money.

The same strategy can be helpful for these, which is minimalism. What can you give up in order to get more of these things?

Could you give up an extra hour of sleep and give yourself more time so you could get up early and write in the morning? Could you give up a weekly activity to give yourself an evening to invest in your passion? Could you give up going out to dinner every weekend and invest this money into your passion? Could you give up having new clothes, and use the money you would have spent, on your passion?

Also, don’t ever fall into the trap of thinking that your passion is not worth spending your time and money on. This is your life. This is important. No one gets to their death bed wishing they didn’t spend time or money on their passion!

 

STEP 5- DON’T LET THE PERFECT BE THE ENEMY OF THE GOOD

Take a look at your list of your alternative options.

Are they perfect options? Probably not.
Are they options that will move you more toward your passion or dream? Probably so.

Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. There are ways you can start moving toward your goals now. Don’t halt this process because it is less than ideal. You will be glad you took these steps, even if they aren’t perfect.

 

STEP 6- COMMIT TO SOMETHING THAT WILL PROPEL YOU FORWARD

If you are anything like me, you can spend a lot of time overthinking things, and never actually move forward.

This is why I suggest that you commit to something that will propel you forward.

Here are some options:

Find a Guide – Find a mentor, counselor, or coach. Someone you commit to meet with at least weekly or bi-weekly to help you toward your passion/dream. It is easy to get excited about an idea, but then let it fall by the wayside as soon as work, routines, and reality enter back into the picture. Find someone that is dedicated to helping you get to where you want to be – they will help guide you down the path, and it will be a lot harder to forget about this dream, if you are meeting with this person regularly.

Take a Class– Take a class that will help you get to where you want to go, even if you don’t know exactly what that looks like. Take a class on your passion – whether in person or online. This class may help inspire more ideas and depending on what kind of class it is, you may also be able to connect with like minded individuals on a similar path as yours.

Attend a Conference– Is there a conference that is held about your interest/passion? Conferences are often a great source of inspiration and again, a way to connect with like minded individuals. You may attend the conference not knowing why you are there, but may leave with an idea or inspiration to take a new direction in your life.

Start googling! Look up local counselors in your area. Look up online coaching that might be a good fit for you. Think of a mentor that might be helpful to you, and consider asking for their mentorship. Look up classes. Look up what is offered on Coursera or other free class options. Look up if your favorite bloggers are offering a class. Look up classes at your local university that you can audit – or look into online university classes. Look up conferences – whatever you are interested in. There are conferences for everything – writing, photography, counseling, mental health, youth work…the possibilities are endless. Sign up for a conference and put it on the calender.

You know what would be the best fit for you, but whatever you do, do not end this activity without an action step. Commit to something!

IN CLOSURE…

That thing that you do, after your day job, in your free time, too early in the morning, too late at night. That thing you read about, write about, think about, in fact fantasize about. That thing you do when you’re all alone and there’s no one to impress, nothing to prove, no money to be made, simply a passion to pursue. That’s it. That’s your thing. That’s your heart, your guide. That’s the thing you must, must do.   -author unknown

Go do that thing that fills you.

Find what fills you with joy. Acknowledge and accept the barriers and use your creativity to find a way to do it anyway. Find sources of inspiration and people who will help guide you along the way.

But whatever you do, don’t ignore it. It is there for a reason.

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Yours,

signaturesmaller

How to Struggle Gracefully

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This post is for anyone who is in the midst of struggle, whether big or small.

There is no denying the struggle is there.

But, is there a way, is there such a thing, as struggling well?

Are you flailing your arms everywhere in fear of drowning?

Would you be willing to try floating instead? Until you make it to shore?

Struggle is a part of life and we must accept this, at least to some degree. But maybe we can struggle a little bit differently. Maybe there is a better way to struggle.

I know struggling gracefully sounds like an oxymoron. And I am not saying that there isn’t a time for venting, frustration, and crying. But sometimes, not for anyone else, but for ourselves, we must learn to struggle gracefully.

 

GIVE YOURSELF GRACE

The first step to struggling gracefully is the obvious – give yourself grace. But not only yourself. Give your life grace.

I shouldn’t be having this struggle.

Give yourself grace.

I should be over this by now.

Give yourself grace.

I never thought this would be a problem I would have.

Give yourself grace.

As you may already know, much of a struggle, is the struggle we give ourselves. Either for having the problem in the first place, or not knowing how to fix the problem quick enough.

We also must give our life grace, and allow it not to always be perfect.

I didn’t think my life would go this way.

Give your life grace.

I didn’t expect to have this problem in this time in my life.

Give your life grace.

If you are a parent, or could imagine being a parent, my guess is, you would want to be a parent that gives grace. Sure, you could have high standards for your child, but you would allow them to make mistakes, have slip ups, and give them time if they don’t have everything figured out right away.

Do the same for yourself. Give yourself grace. Give your life grace.

 

GIVE YOURSELF ENJOYMENT

Sometimes when have a struggle in our life, we have a bad habit of turning our whole life into that struggle.

It feels like we have to spend all our time and energy on that struggle until it is completely resolved. We can’t enjoy our lives in any capacity, until the struggle is over.

Again, I am not saying there is not a time to be problem solving and addressing your issues. There definitely is.

But, you also need allow time for enjoyment. The only way you are going to be able to cope with this struggle is by still giving yourself the “good stuff” of life, to balance out the “not so good stuff.”

Maybe your life feels really “not normal” right now…all the more reason to get out and do something normal. Go out with friends and do whatever it is you usually do with them. Allow yourself to be distracted from the problem and experience normal life. Allow yourself to have fun.

Also, allow yourself to do something that really interests you. Become completely engaged in an interest of yours that has nothing to do with your current struggle.

Even in the midst of your struggle, remember there is such a thing as fun, normalcy, and interest. Access these things as you are able to.

I am not saying ignore your problem, but don’t spend all your waking hours focused on your struggle. Spend some time forgetting about it.

 

GIVE YOURSELF A MEANINGFUL PERSPECTIVE

Give your struggle meaning. Think about how you may be able to help someone someday because of the experience you are having now.

Victor Frankl, the psychiatrist behind this approach, did this very thing in his own life. He was in a Nazi concentration camp nearing death, and the one thing that kept him alive was the thought,

One day I will use this experience to help others. One day I will share these stories and help others with their own struggles, because of the pain I have gone through.

And he did. He spoke at conferences, he wrote books, he helped patients in therapy.

He changed lives.

By thinking this way in the midst of the struggle, he gave his own struggle meaning. Struggle is never easy, but if we can give our struggle meaning, it changes it. The experience becomes richer and deeper, even if it is still painful.

I have experienced this myself. I went through a bout of intense anxiety – something very different than the mild everyday anxiety I was used to facing. I feared my anxiety would overcome me, and keep me from living my life normally.

But in my fear, I had the thought,

This isn’t fun. I don’t like this. But this is a learning experience. And as I learn how to move through this anxiety, and once I overcome this anxiety, this experience will give me insight that will help me help others who are also facing this same intense anxiety. This experience will give me knowledge I would not have otherwise had.

Of course, the struggle still remained a struggle, but after this thought, the struggle had meaning and the struggle had purpose.

 

GIVE YOURSELF A REDEEMING PERSPECTIVE

This goes along with having a meaningful perspective.

What are you learning because you are going through this struggle? What wisdom are you gaining? What insight? What skills? What character traits?

We never wish struggle into our lives. But we tend to learn a lot from struggle. Struggle is often the best teacher.

When I was going through the bout of anxiety, I kept thinking to myself:

This is a crash course in Mindfulness. This is a crash course in Mindfulness.

I know that seems kind of funny, but it helped. I have always wanted to develop my mindfulness skills, but the truth was, I truly was not good at anything related to mindfulness and meditation. And although these skills would have always been helpful in my everyday life, I was able to manage without them.

Until the anxiety hit. I had no choice but to learn these skills. My anxiety would start. I had no choice but take deep mindful breaths. I had no choice but to mindfully focus my attention. If I didn’t do these things, it would turn into a full blown anxiety attack.

Was it fun? No. Did it teach me mindfulness skills that will help me throughout the rest of my life? Yes. Definitely yes.

What is your struggle teaching you? Once you move through this struggle, what lessons, wisdom, skills, insights do you get to take with you because this happened to you?

Every struggle leaves you with an amazing gift card, make sure you redeem the value of it.

 

GIVE YOURSELF GRATITUDE

I know that being grateful is one of the most difficult things to do while in the midst of a struggle. And I know it also sounds funny to think of it as a gift you give yourself. For most people, having gratitude feels like work.

Well, it is a discipline, at least. But, a discipline that is very rewarding. Exercise is also a discipline, but there are wonderful rewards to be gained from it.

When you are within a struggle, gratitude may feel the hardest, but this is the time that it is most important.

Yes, maybe your life feels like it’s falling apart right now. But, what is in it, to feel thankful for?

Supportive friends?
Supportive family?
A warm cozy home?
A passion to write?
Something you are good at?
Hope for the future?
Wonderful memories in the past?
A job?
Food?
Your life?

Write down everything you are grateful for. In a time of suffering, it is incredibly important to remember and think upon these things.

And if you can tie gratitude to your suffering, do that. Maybe you have become closer to your friends or loved ones because of this suffering? We don’t need to call the suffering “good,” but there is likely some kind of gratitude that can be found within it.

 

A LESSON, OR A BLESSING

I once worked with a client who was going through a difficult time. She expressed the difficulty of her struggle but shared that her grandmother’s words of wisdom had helped her tremendously,

Honey, everything in life is a lesson or a blessing.

It’s true really.

And honestly, I think we often experience both at once.

We struggle in our marriages, but have friends that are wonderful blessings.

We struggle with our finances, but have family that is loving and supportive.

We struggle at our job, but have a passion that fills us with joy on the weekends.

There will always be a struggle in your life that is teaching you a new lesson. It will challenge you in ways you may not wish to be challenged. But take the challenge, embrace the challenge, own the challenge. And when it is over, reap the fruit of your labor.

And remember, along with these challenges will always be blessings. Give gratitude for these blessings. Enjoy them fully.

Life is not a lesson or a blessing.

Life is a lesson and a blessing.

Accept this truth and live out a journey full of wisdom from hardship, joy from hope, insight from difficulty, and blessing from the many gifts you have been given.

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JOURNAL QUESTIONS:
I know that I have gained a lot from reading blog entries and I also know if I took the time and journaled about them for a few minutes they would affect me in an even deeper way and bring me to some truths I may have not come to otherwise. So if you have a few extra minutes and your journal handy…here you go!

1. Where do you need to give yourself grace and your life grace? Are you able to give yourself grace in the challenges and imperfections you are facing in your life right now?

2. How can you work on experiencing enjoyment in the midst of your struggle? What is something fun or interesting you can commit to doing today or this week to get your mind away from your struggle?

3. How will you give meaningful perspective to your struggle? How could you help someone else because you traversed this struggle?

4. How will you redeem your struggle? What gifts of knowledge, wisdom, insight, or character traits are being gained because you are going through this struggle?

5. What do you have to be grateful for, despite your struggle? Or because of your struggle? Jot down at least 10 things you can have gratitude for.

6. Do you believe life is both a lesson and a blessing? Where are your lessons right now? Where are your blessings?

 

I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR COMMENTS!
Let me know if this entry helped you in any way, if you have any further questions, or if there is anything else you would be interested in learning related to this topic!

Also, I would love to hear how you are learning to “struggle gracefully” in your own life.

Thanks for reading!

Yours,

signaturesmaller