Posts by Liz:
“So come on let it go
Just let it be
Why don’t you be you
And I’ll be me?”
James Bay, Let It Go
We are all tied up in knots.
We are all unraveling.
We are all becoming.
* * * *
When I was in fifth grade my mother took me shoe shopping.
I remember finding the perfect pair. They were a deep foggy blue, a color I adored. They were shiny and had a pretty design on the top. I was so excited. They felt like me.
I skipped into school the next day, in my beautiful blue shoes.
Within minutes of my arrival, two girls walked up to me and asked:
“Who forced you to wear those ugly shoes?!” They walked away laughing.
I stood there, in my beautiful shoes, their words reflecting notions I was just beginning to learn:
I can’t be me. I must conform. I must knot myself up in others’ opinions and expectations.
I was unbecoming…
* * * *
When I first started working as a lawyer, I worked my tail off. Never leaving the office.
Dinner at my desk, every single night. People pleasing till the ends of the earth. They loved me.
As the years went on and I grew more in touch with my soul, I began to prioritize myself. My interests. My time. My dreams.
The more I realized I wasn’t living true to myself, the more my people pleasing dwindled, as did their love.
The more I explored who I really was underneath the fancy suits I found so uncomfortable, the more my carefully crafted world of meeting others’ expectations unfolded.
I slowly began untying all the knots I had bound myself up in.
I was unraveling…
* * * *
I used to exercise daily. Waking up early for kick-boxing classes. Always running. The more sweat and speed, the more freedom I felt.
Freedom from my anxieties. Freedom from my limiting thoughts. Freedom from my easily frayed nerves.
Once I became a mama I more or less said goodbye to exercise. There was no time. I had no energy. They needed me.
And the battle against my nerves grew.
Both kids were out of the house one day. I opened my computer and froze. So many to-dos, no idea where to begin. I had freedom but I was trapped in anxiety.
I realized that yet again I had tied myself into knots and betrayed my needs. This time I was wearing the suit of a self-sacrificing mama who failed to take care of herself in honor of her children. As if that made sense.
I closed the computer and put on my running shoes. I was going to chase down my freedom.
I was going to honor the simple needs of my soul and all of who I am.
* * * *
As we walk through the world we receive so many messages. Messages asking us to conform. To perform. To please.
Those messages sink in deep for sensitive souls, especially when we’re young and impressionable. We hurt easily. We want to make others happy. We prioritize other’s needs over our own.
Slowly but surely we lose parts of who we are. We get knotted up into people’s expectations and demands on who we “should” be, rather than learning and fostering our natural strengths.
If you feel you’ve lost parts of who you are along your way in life, ask yourself these questions:
In what ways have you changed yourself to gain acceptance?
As sensitive souls we are constantly hit with messages asking us to reign ourselves in. Stop being so sensitive, so emotional. Toughen up. So we learn from an early age to put on an act to gain acceptance.
We learn to stay quiet, to not cause trouble, to just focus on making others happy. And we lose parts of ourselves in the process.
The more aware we are of how we change ourselves to fit other’s needs, the more we can make efforts to stop it, so we can live a more authentic life.
In what ways are you living according to other people’s expectations?
When I became a corporate lawyer, I was completely out of touch with who I really was and what my real strengths were. I was simply following a path of high expectations, trying to reach a certain status to prove my worth. And while those met expectations felt wonderful for awhile, they eventually ate away at my soul.
The more I examined why I was doing what I was doing, the more I realized I was following other people’s desires, not my own. Realizing this helped me to change it.
What are your most important values in life and work?
The more I examined my role as a corporate lawyer, the more I realized that it did not reflect my values. I wanted to be of service. I wanted to impact the world in some small way.
I’ve always understood the fragility of life, how little time we have on this planet, I didn’t want to waste it on fancy things. I wanted to leave a small mark that healed at least one broken soul, and I eventually knew I wasn’t going to do that working 80 hours a week on high end contracts in a fancy suit.
The more we understand our values, the more our actions begin to align with them.
If you put aside the world’s expectations, what would you do more of?
For me, I began exploring whatever interested me. I started volunteering every weekend at a dog shelter. I took classes that explored my creative side, like photography. Eventually, I began writing.
With each new thing I did, something clicked. I discovered parts of me that were always there, tucked away deep, waiting to be seen.
Make a list of all the things that interest you. Find ways to incorporate them into your life, you never know where they will lead you.
How can you honor your needs more fully?
Shifting to a more authentic life is not something that happens over night, it can take years. But the more aware you are of what your values and needs are, the more you’ll take actions that align with your soul.
Allow yourself to dream. Find role models who inspire you. Explore the things you enjoy. Create a vision for your life. What would you be doing everyday in that vision?
Give yourself permission to be you. Your potential is endless. And you don’t need to change who you are to realize it.
The world will wrap you up in expectations. It’s up to you to unravel them. To find and honor who you truly are, the person who’s been there all along, waiting to be fully seen.
With each knot you untie, you step into a more authentic life.
What knots have you gotten tied up in?
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Sometimes it’s hard to follow your heart.
But tears don’t mean you’re losing, everybody’s bruising,
There’s nothing wrong with who you are…” Jessie J
Life can be so hard sometimes.
Our obligations battle our desires. Our bills battle our dreams. Our hearts battle our heads.
Our striving to do more, to keep up, to achieve as much as possible battles our quest for inner peace and self-acceptance.
And when we feel complicated emotions like anger, frustration, loneliness, sadness, fear, rejection, loss, we have to choose between trying to stifle those feelings or sitting with them, uncomfortably.
Our battles aren’t just internal. We turn on the news and the world seems to be falling apart. Feelings of hopelessness, shock and despair constantly fall over us.
We question ourselves. Are we doing enough? Are we contributing? Are we happy enough? Are we living life to the best of our ability? Are we broken if we experience too much sadness?
Sometimes the more we try to answer these questions, the more we lose ourselves. And when life throws extra curve balls like tragedy, illness or loss, it can all just feel like too much…
Know That It’s Okay to Fall Apart
The other day I was not okay.
I was worn down and desperately needing alone time to recharge away from all the duties, demands and dishes of mamahood. I was also nervously waiting to find out if my beloved aging dog is suffering from kidney failure, and what the implications of that would be. The thought of it was wearing on me, heavily.
After rushing my kids up our hill to the car, because of course we were running late, I realized my two-year old had stolen my car keys out of my purse and hidden them somewhere back at home. It was the tiniest thing, but it felt like the biggest defeat.
Sometimes when we’re standing strong through tough storms for too long, it’s the lightest feather that finally knocks us over.
I wanted to break down, and so I did. We went back home, I stepped away and I cried in private. Because I needed to. Because I had to. Because in that moment life was feeling so hard and the only way I could move forward was to feel it all.
When we’re on the verge of falling apart, that’s often exactly what we need to do. We need to feel it all so we can heal and emerge stronger. We must break down so we can rebuild. We need to take a break from judging ourselves and just let our emotions run their course.
Because life is beautiful but it is hard. And sometimes it really is okay to not be okay.
And in these moments, the biggest mistake we can make is trying to force happiness upon ourselves when we’re not ready for it. We need to love and accept ourselves in our weakest moments as strongly as we love and accept ourselves in our strengths.
And in learning how to love ourselves in our weakness we can find our way back to happiness once again, stronger and sturdier than we were before.
Remember That Less Is More
I went to a funeral last week. A good friend’s father passed away. A friend I’ve had since kindergarten.
I watched my brave friend and her sister give dynamic and emotional eulogies honoring their father. I had so many memories of him myself.
I worried I’d never find the right words of comfort for my friend, so I just showed up and prayed that would be enough.
A few days later she told me how supported she felt. Just seeing her old friends there. Watching us as she shared her memories. Our mere presence gave her the strength she needed. Our act of showing up and bearing witness to her loss lifted her more than any words of comfort could have.
When life is at its hardest, it helps to remember that less is more. A long hug, a cup of tea, a private moment to let yourself feel it all free of shame and judgement, a simple moment of pause.
Just showing up… for the ones we love, for ourselves. Not demanding perfection, just presence and acceptance. Allowing ourselves to hurt and not rushing or shoving the hurt away. Simply surrendering to it, bearing witness to it, and letting it break us down so that we can rebuild with an even stronger foundation.
One day at a time. One minute at a time. One healing thought at a time.
When life gets hard we don’t need to have all the answers, all the right words or all the solutions, we just need honor all that each moment is asking of us.
Walk with Compassion
As I walked in the rain Tuesday morning with my dog, still waiting for his test results, I couldn’t take my eyes off him.
He was walking so much slower than normal, his tail tucked between his legs. My tears mixed with the rain as a deep sadness fell over me. My constant companion for over ten years who never leaves my side, my shadow. Did I do enough for him?
I worried I should have brought him for testing sooner. I worried that maybe life for him has been hard with two toddlers at home, despite how loving and gentle he is with them. I worried that whatever he is suffering from is all my fault.
But as he nuzzled against me, so sweetly as he always does, I was reminded that I need to be as compassionate with myself as I am with him.
I must love, not betray, myself through my pain.
Your Struggles Are an Invitation
“What if pain — like love — is just a place brave people visit.” Glennon Doyle Melton
Author Glennon Doyle Melton describes pain as an invitation in her book Love Warrior. She explains that we must run toward our pain, not away from it, to learn the lessons we’re meant to learn.
Her words ring so true to me as every good thing I have and strive for in life was once seeded in pain.
Each struggle, each loss, each tragedy, each horrific news story is an invitation.
An invitation to break down and rebuild stronger than we were before. An invitation to feel deeply and learn the lessons our souls long for. An invitation to use the marks those lessons leave on our hearts to help heal and empower those around us. An invitation to learn more and more about what it means to love.
We cannot avoid pain, it is all around us. And sometimes we will buckle under its pressure or get knocked over by something as light as a feather. But the more we sit with our pain and learn from it the stronger we will be.
So when life gets really hard, know that you’re not alone. We all feel it. We are all bearing witness to it.
And with enough compassion and patience, we can get through anything.
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The way we start our morning sets the tone for the entire rest of the day.
If we wake up feeling stressed, down or overwhelmed, we will spread those toxic feelings into every hour thereafter. I’ve certainly been guilty of that, especially during early motherhood. Taking control of our perspective right from the start of the day can transform how we tackle all that gets thrown at us once we step foot into the outside world.
For those of us whose emotions are often close to the surface, it is particularly important that we empower ourselves so that we’re not allowing the negativity or harshness of the world to run us down at any whim.
Below are seven morning mantras to help you lead the most empowered days possible. You can read them all every morning or choose one for each day of the week and repeat them to yourself over and over so they sink in.
I hope they help you start your day feeling confident, in control and courageous.
1. I am enough.
Everything I have done up until this point is enough. No matter what has happened in my life, I am starting fresh today with nothing but possibilities. I was created with divine energy and I will honor that divinity within myself. I can and I will choose to believe in myself today, and every day forward.
2. I have power over overwhelm, stress & anxiety.
I can change those feelings by changing my focus. Instead of focusing on areas of lack, I will focus on areas of strength. Instead of focusing on my mistakes, I will focus on the lessons I have learned. Instead of focusing on my fears, I will focus on my potential. And if things get really bad, I will remember that I am not alone, others have battled far worse, and love can save me from anything.
3. I will care for myself as fiercely as I care for others.
I will remember that I am deserving and that I cannot serve others when I am depleted and worn down. I will honor my needs for sleep, love, self-care and creativity. I will honor my emotions and all they may be asking me to address. I will make my needs and wants a priority so that I can live a well-balanced and joyful life.
4. I am in complete control of my reactions.
No matter what life throws at me today or what words get spoken in my presence, I will consciously and mindfully determine how I react. My words and actions are not subject to the whims of others, they are within my authority alone. What other people say and do is their business, my behavior is mine.
5. I will carry abundance & gratitude into my day.
I will take long, deep, slow abundant breaths whenever I feel lack. I will move gracefully and mindfully instead of stressfully rushing. I will see all that I have, instead of all that I do not. I will focus on all I have to be thankful for, instead of all I wish I could change. I will have patience with myself and patience with others.
6. I will be the light I want to see.
I will brighten someone’s day. I will empower someone’s heart. I will point out the good instead of highlighting the negative. And when I falter, I will start over again. I will remember that I am here to serve a greater purpose. I will use my thoughts, words and actions contribute to the well-being of the world and all of its creatures. I will be an encourager, protector and nurturer for both myself and others.
7. I can live a courageous life.
I can take chances. I can act despite my fears. I can do bold things. Life can get hard and throw lots of curveballs, but today and everyday forward, I will rise to the challenge. I will not hold myself back. I will not be my greatest enemy. I will remember that I am enough, I am deserving and I am strong. And I can live a life full of love and courage.
What mantras do you use to help you feel empowered?
If you’d like to print this, you can find a pdf download here: 7 Morning Mantras to Empower Your Day PDF
If you like this post, please “like it”, share it & leave a comment. I love hearing your thoughts <3
Discovering the term Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) changed my life.
I learned why I operate the way I do. Why I struggle in some areas and shine in others. And why boundaries around my time and energy are vital to my well-being.
Dr. Elaine Aaron is the psychotherapist and researcher who coined the term Highly Sensitive Person, also know as Sensory-Processing Sensitivity. She identifies Sensory Processing Sensitivity as a normal temperament trait, not a disorder, found in approximately 20% of the population.
In a nutshell, you have a more sensitive nervous system and process things more deeply. According to her research, biologists have found this trait in over 100 species from birds, to dogs and cats, to horses.
The world has stereotyped sensitive souls to be weak and broken, but nothing could be farther from the truth. It is often the sensitive souls who are the ones striving to create a more fair, humane and just world. And there are far more of us than you might think.
Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Dalai Lama, Eleanor Roosevelt, Steve Jobs, Princess Diana, Jane Goodall, Scarlette Johansson, Nicole Kidman, Taye Diggs, Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Elton Jon, Alanis Morissette, Jim Morrison, Jewel, Jack Johnson, Dolly Parton, Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Dickinson, Virginia Woolf, E.E. Cummings, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Frost, and so many more.
If you’re just learning the term HSP or if you’ve heard it before but aren’t sure if you fall within its realm, here are 25 signs (the good & the bad) that you might be a highly sensitive person:
1. You feel it all
You’ve likely been labeled as too sensitive or too emotional throughout your life.
Your emotions get triggered easily. Whether watching a movie, listening to music or seeing a beautiful piece of art, the feelings being conveyed captivate you and quickly send you into an emotional realm.
You are deeply empathetic to the pain of others. Their hurt is your hurt. You are a bleeding heart for world issues and often take on social causes, always wishing you could do more to help those in need.
When you’re in a safe environment where you don’t have to keep your guard up, you cry often. Your emotions are right there at the surface.
You simply feel it all and wish the world was kinder and more sympathetic to the struggles of others than it is.
2. You read between the lines
You seem to notice the invisible and unspoken. You pick up on the energies around you quickly.
The mood of a person, the vibe of a conversation you walk into, the words that are left unspoken, you feel them instantly.
You can see people’s eagerness or withdrawal, their insecurities or ego, whether they’re being authentic or putting on an act.
You know if something feels off with someone or within a relationship. You can often even tell if someone is lying or holding things back.
3. You were labeled as a shy or timid child
You likely always felt a little different as a child. And if you weren’t in an environment that supported or understood your sensitivity, you may have withdrawn.
The more you withdrew, the more you were perceived as shy and the more isolated you felt, only further perpetuating your shyness.
4. You need time alone, often
You need alone time like you need oxygen. Without it you completely deplete your energy reserves and unravel.
Because you process things so deeply, interactions with others and the outside world take a lot out of you. You need time completely alone to recover and recharge.
If you are often exhausted without understanding why, it’s likely that you’re not carving out enough time alone.
5. You feel a special connection to animals
You feel a deeper connection to animals than most. In some ways, it feels almost spiritual.
You cannot stand to see them hurt. You treat them with as much kindness and respect as you would treat a person.
And animals sense this in you. They are drawn to you, even if they are timid. They know they are safe in your presence.
6. You are a nurturer
Nurturing others comes naturally to you.
You give your all to take care of those who are counting on you. A comforting embrace, food on the table, your devoted time and attention. You go the extra mile to give your love.
This is a strength but you’re prone to giving too much of yourself. If you don’t prioritize your needs your energy will deplete quickly making it very hard for you to show up at your best.
7. You are deeply intuitive
You get gut feelings about things and those feelings usually prove to be true.
You can sense things about people’s characters that others don’t see and can predict things before they happen based on those senses.
Your intuition leads you in the right direction even when you don’t fully understand why. Sometimes it strongly contradicts what others are telling you but you later realize just how right it was.
And every time you don’t listen to it, you regret it.
8. You get overwhelmed easily
If too much stimuli is coming at you at once or if you are trying to do too many things at once, you quickly feel anxious and overwhelmed.
If those around you are creating a chaotic energy or if there is a lot of yelling in your home, you feel consumed with anxiety.
You cherish peacefulness and simplicity and constantly search for it in every area of your life.
9. You are very conscientious
You believe in the words “please” and “thank you.” You mean it when you say them.
You honor the power of communication and love it when others share this value. Just as you thank others generously, you also like to receive thanks for all that you give of yourself.
You struggle when others don’t respect the power of their words and communicate irresponsibly.
10. You feel let down frequently
You see such strong value in treating others with kindness that you often cannot fathom the cruel things people say and do.
You often feel let down by the world around you and struggle to make sense of it all.
You may have even grown a hard shell to try and protect yourself from the cruelness of the world.
11. You have a hard time making decisions
You are extremely analytical. So when confronted with too many options, you struggle to make a decision.
You imagine the outcomes of all scenarios and worry about making the wrong choice and suffering the consequences.
This often leaves you feeling stuck, anxious and worried.
12. You react strongly to perceived wrongs
You are extremely rattled by very insensitive people and often have strong reactions to them.
It enrages you to see how selfish, hurtful and harsh others can be. You find it hard to control your reactions to these people if you are consumed with emotion. This can sometimes lead you to say things you regret.
13. You’ve had unexplainable physical illnesses
You may have gotten sick a lot throughout your life without a clear medical diagnosis or understanding of why.
Stomach problems, headaches, brain fog, chronic fatigue… your body is as sensitive as your soul and it reacts to any stressful or negative stimuli around you in unpredictable ways.
The more in tune you are with your sensitivity, the more you’ll understand your body’s reactions.
14. Stimulants affect you strongly
Your sensitive body responds quickly to stimulants like caffeine and reacts in unpredictable ways to medications. While some people can drink multiple cups of coffee per day, too much (or any) caffeine leaves you feeling anxious for hours.
You may also have unusual reactions to certain foods or chemicals and it can be very difficult to pin point exactly what is causing those reactions.
You might crave sweets if your energy is depleting, but too much sugar will just have you feeling even more depleted and foggy once the rush wears off.
15. You have a creative spirit
You are wonderfully imaginative and constantly day dreaming. You have an eye for subtle beauty.
You love to express yourself creatively whether through art, acting, writing or any other pursuit that allows you to release all of the emotions that are circulating through you.
You feel it all so you can capture those feelings artistically more easily than others. Creativity allows you to channel all of your emotions in a way that feels both peaceful and invigorating.
16. You are incredibly detail oriented
You have an unrelenting eye for detail.
You see things others miss, you work best with detailed checklists, and you are often not satisfied until every bit of minutia has been taken care of.
While this makes you a reliable and diligent worker, you sometimes forget to step back and see the bigger picture. And you often struggle with perfectionism which can prevent you from accomplishing the things you need to.
17. You are a people pleaser
It is in your soul, you love to make others happy.
Your people pleasing nature makes you reliable, trustworthy, and a hard worker. You often put the needs of others above yourself.
However, you often work yourself to the bone to make others happy and do things simply to avoid disappointing people or receiving criticism.
You often have trouble saying no and give too much of yourself. In doing so, you put your needs and interests last, leading you to feel unhappy and unsatisfied.
18. You are easily offended by harsh words
Harsh words cut you to your core.
You might put on a stiff upper lip and not respond, but the pain of those words lingers within you for a very long time.
You will carry that pain with you even if deep down you know those words don’t have truth to them.
Learning how to handle the sting of harsh words is vital to your emotional health and well-being.
19. You work better alone but collaborate well
You need solitude to focus. If there are too many co-workers or noises around you, you struggle to get things done.
You are often too courteous to fend off co-workers who seem to constantly want to chat so you struggle to be as productive as you would like to be in an open office environment. When you are given the space you need, you can diligently hammer through tasks with extreme focus.
But because you are such a diligent and conscientious worker, you do well collaborating with a team .
20. You don’t like being in large crowds
Concerts, parades, sporting events with huge crowds of people, etc., put you on edge and fill you with anxiety.
The yelling, people pushing and frenzied energy can feel like sensory overload.
You try to have fun, and perhaps you do enjoy yourself for some time, but you often can’t wait to get home while others are in no rush to leave.
21. You react strongly to noises, lights and textures
Loud noises and bright lights overwhelm you. You like your environments to be quiet and dim (but natural sunlight is great).
You startle very easily. You are also sensitive to rough fabrics, you like things to be soft and comfortable.
22. You crave peace
You thrive in calm, peaceful and supportive environments.
Negative environments push you over the edge. You can’t stand to be around too much yelling, harshness or chaos as you absorb those energies more than most.
You strive to make your home a calm, peaceful sanctuary and are likely a bit of a homebody.
23. You give free therapy
Because you are so empathetic, people are often drawn to you and quickly share their problems with you.
You are a deep thinker, analytical, emotionally intelligent and you love to lend a helping hand.
You know how to make people feel seen, heard and comforted.
Your natural instinct is to help, but sometimes you give too much of yourself. You need to be careful of people who try to take advantage of your conscientiousness and constantly unload their problems on you.
24. You romanticize
You love intensely. You fall hard and fast.
Love can consume you. When you find it you hold on to it tightly. This makes you a loyal partner but can sometimes cause you to hold on to a failing relationship for longer than you should.
In friendships, you go deep not broad. You likely have a small handful of lifelong friends you can count on through the thick and thin.
You don’t feel the need to be friends with everyone but would rather keep your circle small and stable.
Society may have equated sensitivity with weakness but that’s a misconception. You have a deep and reliable strength that sometimes surprises you.
You are a fully awake to the world and emotionally intelligent. You are the advisors, the encouragers, the artists and the compassionate souls who help to make this a more colorful and humane world.
You believe in lifting others up, instead of diminishing them. You believe in the power of kindness. You believe in doing what is right, even when it’s not easy.
You are the light in a sometimes very dark world. And the world is counting on you to let your light shine.
Did the majority of these signs ring true for you? If you’d like to learn more about being an HSP, check out Dr. Elaine Aaron’s website: The Highly Sensitive Person
If you like this post, please “like it”, share it & leave a comment. I love hearing your thoughts <3
But for many years there’s also been a part of me that’s dreaded it. The endless amount of presents that need to be purchased, often at the last minute. The overeating and food hangovers. And for us, we’ve spent the last decade rushing to three separate houses in the span of two days (Christmas eve and Christmas day) to see our various family members. By the time it’s all over, I’m completely fried.
If you’re like me, and you often toss your needs and well-being aside to meet holiday expectations, here are some tips to help you survive this holiday season (and a free Holiday Survival Guide you can download at the end of the post):
Create a Guiding Feeling
This year, I want the holidays to feel like *magic*.
Now that my little ones are full blown toddlers, I want them to experience magic, not overwhelm. With this feeling in mind, I will spend less time shopping, and more time creating new traditions and memories.
Letters to Santa that are filled with more gratitude than requests, ornaments that we make ourselves, vegan sugar cookies in the oven. Simple instead of hectic. Experiences more than purchases. Magic. That feeling won’t happen all on its on, I need to consciously create it with new traditions and intentional limitations, so that’s what I’m working on.
What feeling are you longing for this holiday season? How can you use it to consciously create your holiday experience and guide you through each day of the season?
Be a Little Selfish
For the first time in over a decade, we won’t be driving all over New York to three separate families in two days. It’s what we’ve always done, what’s expected of us, but we’re creating new traditions for our little ones and exhaustion isn’t one of them.
This change in our holiday plans feels selfish and I fill with guilt at the mere thought of it. But I also fill with relief, knowing that I am honoring the feeling that’s guiding me as our family has evolved.
How can you take better care of yourself this holiday season? Even if it means being a little selfish.
When overwhelm starts to take over, pausing to take deep breaths can calm and center you. Whether you meditate regularly or not, the simple practice of taking slow deep breaths can ease your anxiety, reduce your overwhelm and help you make decisions faster. Stretching your muscles afterward can also do wonders to reduce stress, and it can be done in just a couple of minutes.
Feeling overwhelmed? Remember, there is nothing you can’t handle. You are stronger than any overwhelm that comes your way. Pause and breathe deeply and you will be reminded of that.
This year I refuse to subject myself to last minute stressful holiday shopping. I have scheduled time in my calendar to have all presents purchased by December 12th. Considering I’ve been known to run around purchasing presents up until the day before Christmas, this is an improvement. I want to enjoy the lead up to Christmas, without stress and shopping malls.
By when would you like to have all of your holiday to-dos accomplished? Make a list of everything you need to purchase and schedule time for it in your calendar so that you’re not putting undue stress on yourself at the last minute.
I have always struggled with the focus on material items during the holidays. There have been countless years where I found myself buying item after item as if that would prove to someone just how much I loved them. In reality, all it does it add to their amount of “stuff” and put a gaping hole in my bank account. This year, I’m focusing on thoughtfulness over quantity, with no more than two presents per person (well, the kids will get a little more). I’ve also already asked our family to please keep the gifts to a minimum, as we already have all we need.
If you’re struggling financially, or if you also don’t love getting caught up in the consumer driven culture of the holidays, remember that there are so many ways to show love and create the holiday spirit. What really matters is the feeling you create for your loved ones, not the money you spend.
To help make this holiday season as stress-free for you as possible, I created a Holiday Survival Guide printable. It’s free, you can download it here: Holiday Survival Guide
I hope it helps to keep you stress-free, focused on what matters, and organized as you head into the holidays.
How will you create a little more magic and a little less overwhelm for yourself this holiday season?
We’re at my daughter’s school and it’s freezing. The wind is blowing so hard I can barely open the car door. My little girl is in the backseat, eagerly waiting for the heat to turn on.
I try again and again and again. Nothing.
I bundle her up in my oversized scarf. Her school is closed, all the parents are gone, it’s about to get dark, the car is at a hydrant, and my phone is almost dead. Panic and overwhelm start to creep in. It was one of those days where everything seemed to be going wrong.
I call for help and pray my phone doesn’t fail me.
Someone arrives to give me a jump start. What should have taken a few minutes ends up taking over half an hour. He tries and tries to no avail, while standing out in the cold, with no coat on. No matter what he does, the car just won’t start.
Nothing is working, but as I watch this man, I fill with gratitude. For his effort, his time and his determination.
At this point, my daughter is shaking. I take her out of the car and walk towards her school, praying someone is still there. I ring the bell, there is one teacher left, she offers to watch my daughter while I deal with getting the car towed. I head back out in the cold, my warm scarf still wrapped tightly around my little girl.
I have no idea how long I’ll have to wait, but as I walk away, I fill with gratitude. For this teacher’s presence, patience and generosity.
I sit in the cold car, the window is all the way down and with the battery dead I can’t roll it up. My husband makes it to the school in record time so I can wait inside.
I didn’t like feeling so helpless, but as I look at him, I fill with gratitude. For his speed, comfort and protective spirit.
And for the next hour, my daughter and I play inside her classroom, during what becomes our windy night adventure…
Learning How to Find Gratitude
Life can be so hard. From simple things like a broken down car at an inconvenient time, to massive health or family issues. And it can be hard to see the gratitude. But the more you look, the more it’s there.
When I became a mother of one, I was drowning in gratitude. When I became a mother of two, I was drowning in overwhelm and exhaustion. I couldn’t see the forest through the trees anymore. I was so deeply tired and struggling far more than I could ever admit out loud.
And then a failed project helped to save me…
When the holidays rolled around last year, I wanted to gift my husband with a family photo album. I imagined how beautiful it would be, carefully capturing so many special moments. But it was so much work. I had two babies and a job, and I just couldn’t get it done.
I filled with disappointment and quickly made a calendar of photos instead. It was simpler and faster. That was the best I could do.
After I gave it to him and the days rolled on I started making little notes in that calendar. Notes about the cute things the girls said or did. The funny words or antics they used. The small things I cherished but knew I would forget.
Before I knew it, filling in that calendar became my grounding ritual amongst the chaos and exhaustion of life.
With each tiny update to our calendar, I taught myself how to look for gratitude. How to wait for it patiently, knowing that it would come each day. I didn’t dare leave a blank spot.
This little calendar has taught me so much. It’s taught me that gratitude can be simple and easy. Just a few short words. Tiny moments captured that create huge shifts in perspective.
It’s taught me that we don’t have to wait for life to be perfect, to be easy, to be less overwhelming. We can find gratitude in every ordinary day, every hard day, every day that pushes our sensitive nerves to their limits. We can even find it in the toughest of relationships.
On the days where life seemed impossible, the demands were too much, my energy was too low and my overwhelm too high, I’d wait to find my special moments. The little moments that would save me from overwhelm and bring me back to what matters.
Because of my calendar, those moments wouldn’t go unnoticed.
Life may not always go exactly as we like and overwhelm may take over at times but the more we search for gratitude, the more it will ground and save us.
When my car broke down on a cold New York night, noticing each moment I had to be grateful for is what eased my anxiety and helped me remain calm for my little one and turn a frustrating situation into our adventure.
When I can never keep up with my endless to-do list and I have to scratch things off my list not because they are accomplished but because I just have to let them go, I remind myself that failed projects can lead to cherished treasures.
When the house is a mess, the dishes are piled high, the girls need a bath, the dog needs a walk, and I feel so stretched thin, but then my little one runs over and hugs my legs, shaking her body with uncontrollable excitement as she yells “Mama!,” it is my calendar of gratitude that reminds me to focus on how beautiful each moment is amongst the chaos.
Life isn’t always full of picture perfect moments. Nor are the holidays. But special moments are always there when we look for them.
For those who might be feeling weary this Thanksgiving. For those who will sit at the table with strained relationships, for those who might even be sitting alone, perhaps you can look for your calendar moments and see where they lead you, see how they lift you up, see what treasures they unlock.
Each small gesture, each hard lesson learned, each loving moment that doesn’t go unnoticed can transform your outlook, your holidays and your life.
One tiny moment at a time.
For those who celebrate, I wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving.
My daughter celebrated her 4th birthday this past weekend.
Her sister thoroughly enjoyed the vegan chocolate cupcakes!