Describehere.

Stressful events inspire you to change your appearance

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Leave Britney alone.


In 2007, Britney Spears walked into a salon and shaved her head. It’s said that she suffered a mental breakdown after being denied access to her children.


This was her outcry.


Rebecca Newman, a Philadelphia-based psychotherapist says, “When we’re going through a period of transition that is particularly painful we tend to make decisions that provide immediate relief”. We want to free ourselves from intense emotions. Newman says that changing our physical appearance can feel like shedding a layer of skin which makes us feel better.
It’s normal to go through physical change after stressful experiences. It’s “an effort to construct a particular kind of self,” explains researcher Kiecolt. This may include changing your image to match who you’d like- or need- to be.


Hair is often seen as a symbol of beauty for women. Deciding whether or not to cut your hair, therefore, is an act of vulnerability. It’s the risk of being exposed.


I cut my hair in quarantine, in the summer of 2020. I’d been thinking about it for months. A roller coaster of changes was happening. I’d decided to mentally undo childhood programming. I’d lost relationships with friends and family.
Almost everyone told me not to.

My brother said, “Don’t do it. Guys like girls with long hair.”


A close friend said, “Don’t do it. Black people’s hair doesn’t grow like that.” She was battling with her own hair growth at the time.


My parents were over it at this point.


Despite all of the concerned comments, those dead ends needed to go. So often we hang on them out of fear. They keep us broken and stunt growth. I needed to reclaim my self-worth and create a more powerful version of myself.


Cutting your hair requires confidence. It’s knowing that, even if you absolutely hate it, you’ll be okay. It doesn’t change your worth.



Before cutting my hair, I researched my Kibbie style. Kibbie uses the natural lines and angles of your body along with balancing your masculine and feminine features to pinpoint the hairstyle, clothing, and makeup that suits you best- not what the next trend says you should wear.


After finding my Kibbie style (which referenced Halle Berry, heyyyy!), I showed my hairdresser the hairstyles I liked. She cut my tresses into a short, sultry ‘do.
Guess what? Everybody loved it. My brother, my friend, strangers, and most importantly me.
I had faced my fears and it had given me a renewed sense of bravery, confidence, and attitude.

If you feel the urge to cut your hair but are still absolutely terrified, test it out. There can be so much taboo around natural vs. fake hair, but we forget that hair is also a form of expression. Don’t be afraid to rock a wig or get a weave to see how you’ll look.

You can also release this emotional weight in other ways, such as:

  • Changing your wardrobe
  • Getting rid of clutter
  • Changing your makeup style
  • Starting a new hobby
  • Going skinny dipping

Whatever you decide, change is coming.

Final thoughts

You’re at a turbulent emotional and mental period of your life. Surround yourself with the support you need. Whether it’s therapy, friends, prayer or writing, recognize the signs of emotional overwhelm and change your environment. Reach out to someone who is responsive and compassionate to your needs and rock that hair!

Thanks for reading,

Originally published on Medium

~Arlene~

Hello, climb into my sketchy white van.

Manipulation isn’t always in your face. Manipulative people aren’t “bad”. In fact, you’re probably highly skilled in manipulation. Empaths, codependents and love addicts manipulate. 

I’m good at manipulation. As an empath, I’m sensitive to what people want and I’ve use that to please them in order to keep myself safe. 

Robin Norwood in her book, Women Who Love Too Much, brought me to this sobering reality. This allowed me to become aware and take responsibility for this defense mechanism.

Some manipulation is done innocently while others are deliberate. Some manipulators flat out don’t care and want to hurt, use, and control you.

Their tactics aren’t blatant but subtle. They leave you second guessing yourself.

It’s important to recognize because it can prevent you from getting caught up with the wrong people and bearing your soul to those who wish you harm. It’s okay to take your time, to step more cautiously. It will also help you recognize the areas where you might doing the same.

Anytime someone says anything that makes you shrink a little inside, stop dead in your tracks. 

Ask yourself if they’re exhibiting any of these behaviours.

1. Giving you no or little time to decide.

Manipulators invoke a false sense of urgency. They’ll make it seem like you have to decide, ‘right now’ when there’s no emergency. They’re trying to force you into a decision- usually their decision.

This is how I got duped into my second car. The pressure was heavy to decide now, get the deal right away, and hurry before it’s gone. It was urgent- but no emergency, (eye roll).

2. Being intimidating.

A manipulator knows how to make you feel uncomfortable. You might picture intimidation as someone dominating over you, but this can be more subtle. It can look like standing too close, taking up physical space, raising their voice or constantly questioning your opinions.

If you’ve ever had anyone invade your personal space you know how creepy this is. Stand back Frank, I know what you‘ve had for lunch.

3. Giving compliments and praise.

The ‘butter me up’ is a classic. Be weary of compliments and praise that are over the top, or come right before a request.

Another way manipulators use compliments is by comparing you with someone else. “Wow, you’re amazing, my ex girlfriend couldn’t even cook.” While it may seem innocent it can be a way to lull you into passivity. 

I’ve been hooked by this one. “You’re so happy and easy going, so many girls are mean and bitchy”. Be cautious here. 

4. Frequently saying they’re “just joking” after a rude comment.

People mask what they truly want to say behind humour all the time. Laugh out loud (lol) is the quickest way to soften a blow. People will also use just joking after they’ve dissed you and your mamma to hell and back. “You dress atrociously all the time- just jokingggg.

To make matters worse they’ll say you can’t take a joke or you’re too sensitive. Don’t let them fool you into feeling inferior. 

5. They refuse to take accountability. 

Manipulators and emotional abusers don’t take responsibility for their behaviour.

They’ll try every possible way to make it about you, not them. They’ll guilt trip you, make you feel insane, and diminish your feelings. The next thing you know you’re apologizing when they’re the ones who’re wrong. 

“If you didn’t want me to be late you should have reminded me.” (The nerve right?)

6. They’re inconsistent. 

They may come on strong at first, listening to you, taking you out, texting and calling you. Then they drop off the face of the planet. When you address your concerns they say they’re just busy, or accuse you of being needy. They may even go into a monologue about how nobody understanding them or the things they go through. Here, hold my green smoothie and watch me fiddle. 

7. They use the “you’ve changed” line. 


People will use your growth against you. They’re happy to see you in a place of stagnation. They might even get upset when you try to improve yourself. They don’t want to be left behind, lose a friend, or be forced to look at their issues.

They use, “you’ve changed” to guilt trip you or refuse to accept the person you’ve become.

How to defend yourself against manipulators and abusers.

When you’re in a situation that has you questioning whether or not you’re being manipulated you’re not going to remember a list of points.

I’d like to leave you with one thought, how do you feel? If you feel like shit that’s a enough of a sign. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt something wasn’t right or that someone wasn’t treating me with respect and I let it happen anyway. Even in the midst of poor boundaries and being timid I still felt like something was wrong. 

You might be sensitive, but I’m not taking about feeling wounded because your feelings were hurt, this is more of a danger signal. 

To defend yourself against manipulators, controllers and emotional abusers pay attention to any discomfort you feel. Your first step is to identify the tactics so you can address them.

Train yourself to feel those feelings, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t act on them. I’m 34 and I’ve been working at this since I was 20. Don’t take that as discouragement but be encouraged because I’m learning and getting better. You will too. 

Has this been true for you? Let me know. Until next time luvs,

~Arlene~

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Dance Dancing by Julie Winegard

Ever get into a bad mood for no reason? Yeah, me too. 

I used to beat myself up about it. My life is great! I don’t have much to complain about, so what’s the problem? Anyone who knows what bad moods are like knows how this story ends: instead of psyching myself out of the bad mood, I’d just end up feeling guilty for not being able to power through it.

Then something happened. I first noticed it because I realized that after some time of going through a low mood I’d feel perfectly fine. This made me think that maybe it was normal to have these swings in moods. Maybe some subconscious stuff was going on behind the scenes, to help me snap out of it.

So, I started paying attention to the little details of what went on during my mood swings. Here’s what I tracked, and here’s what helped.

Since I could feel the events leading up to my low mood. I started tracking the main triggers that exacerbated them. A few basic categories emerged:

  • Not getting enough time alone to recharge
  • Persistently stressful situations, including people, environments and a loop of negative thinking
  • Doing too much/being too hard on myself

These are what I called my triggers. Everyone has to deal with these things to some extent, so getting rid of them isn’t really an option. Sometimes it’s difficult to gauge when they get out of hand because you feel fine, then the next thing you know you’re laying in bed in your panties all day- which is kind of fun though. Knowing that these are the things to look out for meant that I was able to emotionally intervene a little earlier with myself.

Identify Mood Triggers

Identifying triggers can be difficult because you might not be aware of what’s going on in your body. This is where you need to take time to notice subtle things that cause a change for you. Each one of us is different. So how are you going to know your triggers? 

You can identify mood triggers by paying attention to your body as well as your mental, emotional, and spiritual state.

  • Take notice of where you feel tense in your body
  • The thoughts that are running through your head in a particular situation. Where do you get caught into looping thoughts?
  • Certain people that you don’t want to be around. If you’re like me, you may identify as an empath, sometimes you don’t even want to be around people that you like because you’re feeling too much of their emotions, even if they are just telling you a story.
  • Notice when you overreact or become volatile in certain situations.
  • Physical environments that shift your mood (lack of sunlight, clutter, dust, lights, sound)
  • Some people identify as highly sensitive people (HSP). Do you easily get overstimulated by noise, movies, or touch more so than other people? 
  • You can no longer pray, or perform your spiritual practice.

Here’s what it looks like for me.  

  • When I feel low moods coming on I spiral into negative thinking and self-accusations.
  • My back becomes very tense.
  • My period becomes more painful, heavy, and irregular times of the month.
  • In severe cases, I sometimes have inflammatory responses. I break out, my face and body get swollen, and it’s more difficult to breathe.
  • I get low moods due to lack of sunlight, cluttered/messy space

See how this works? Although the first step was for me to identify situational triggers, the things I mention above are internal indicators that I am entering bad-mood territory. Triggers often have certain results even before you get into your full-blown depressed mood.

Identify Results of Mood Triggers

Some of us are programmed into certain behaviors that we don’t realize are really coping mechanisms for us. These may show up in things like:

  • Excessive drinking
  • Binge eating (reaching for the pizza, candy, sugar)
  • Love addiction
  • Thrill Seeking

My drug of poison is usually always sugar.  When I’m stressed, my best friend is a bag of M&M’s and licorice (or chocolate-covered licorice-yum). Once, I was on a remote nursing assignment in Northern Manitoba, where I was on call virtually every night. It was a very stressful situation and a new experience for me. Although I tried to eat healthily, I caved and ate M&M’s multiple nights before going to bed, lying there and waiting for the on-call phone to ring.

What’s interesting is that the results of your triggers, or a form of addiction, are usually not singular. They come in pairs, triples, or even more. That’s why people who drink and smoke actually find it easier to quit both than to quit just one: if they force themselves to find healthier coping mechanisms altogether, then they’re more likely to be successful than if they lighten up on one crutch and allow the other one to take over (quitting smoking, for example, but drinking more).

If you know how to identify your bad mood—or maybe even preemptively see it coming—based on behaviors you’ve learned are associated with bad moods, then that gives you that much more of an advantage when it comes to reacting to it.

Track The Amount of Time Spent In Your Low Mood

Is there an amount of time that you “typically” spend in a bad mood? Like I mentioned earlier, I often snap out of a bad mood without really realizing it, and for what seems to be no good reason at all. If you’re able to identify how long it typically takes you to feel better, you can “emotionally quarantine” until you feel better, just like staying home from work or school on a day when you feel sick.

Track The Things That Make You Feel Better

I admit: “munching on candy, in bed, in my underwear all day is not a sustainable  way to deal with my problems.” But, if doing this has been your coping mechanism, then maybe don’t beat yourself up about it.

While these behaviours aren’t sustainable or healthy in the long run, it’s even worse to stress about it. Learning healthy ways to deal with stress is just as important to help us maintain good mental health, but that’s a topic for another day. What you do on a timescale of weeks is more important than what you do on a timescale of hours or days.

Here’s an example of what this looks like for me. You know those movies where you see the girl dealing with the bad breakup, surrounded by cheap snacks and binge-watching low-grade romances? YUP. The time in bed is my recharge. I just have to make sure I don’t stay there, maybe replace the snack with healthier choices, but it works for me. 

Add To The Things That Make You Feel Better

I’ve helped to run some workshops on managing depression and anxiety. In doing so, I’ve learned some pretty valuable techniques for taking care of myself when I’m feeling like crap.

  • Hide in my car. This is my favorite. I’m introverted by nature. No, that doesn’t mean I don’t like people! It means that I like being with people, but that social situations wear me down, and being alone recharges me. The “car” part isn’t the important part; the “hide” part is. Get away from everyone and everything. Listen to music, pray, read a book. Some of my favorite times are just driving to scenic places, opening the door, and sitting in the sun.
  • Hot and cold showers. It’s a no caffeine kick. Caffeine makes depression and anxiety worse, but it’s a hard habit to kick. The equivalent to a slap in the face in the morning is having a hot and cold shower. I do 3 minutes hot and 30 seconds cold for a minimum of 3 cycles, always ending on cold—you can pick whatever time intervals work for you. The hot water opens the blood vessels and gets them pumping, the cold water constricts them slowing the blood down, thus the end result acts as a pump, which actually helps pumps stagnant blood.

This alternation between very hot and very cold water is also a miracle method for headaches. I have used this method to get instant relief. Take two basins, fill one with ice water, and the other with water as hot as you can stand. Submerge your feet into the basic, same thing 3 minutes hot, 30 seconds cold, alternate for three cycles and end on cold. Of course beware if you have PVD, or any other circulatory issues.

Adjust and Repeat

I’ve almost got my depression routine down to a science… almost.

Without using any of the steps listed above—identifying triggers, seeing signs, taking preventative measures, and giving myself some self-care therapy—I can go into a funk that lasts for a couple of weeks. If I’m on top of it, I can shorten those bouts to 2-3 days. Of course, the toughest part of any mental health challenge is that if you’re in a dip in mental health, that tends to mean you also have decreased resources to stave it off. But think about it. Isn’t some extra effort worth the payoff of getting those couple of weeks back? In my mind, the answer is clear.

Tracking your moods can help you identify, and decrease your triggers. This lessens the time you feel down and lets you know that it’s normal to have ups and downs in life- the key is not staying there.

Arlene

Originally published on Swaay media

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Give yourself time

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We barely got over one hurt before they gave us another, sometimes dropping them off at the same time. We would run back and forth between them, soothing one while flaming the other.

We gave them names like “never again” and “only this once”. Some stayed many years while others were fleeting.

Some returned to visit although we kissed them goodbye. We treated some like lovers listening to their incantations,

why me?, why me?, why me ?

We handled them gently as they etched their way into our hearts.

We couldn’t let them go. We studied every detail of their memory, we remembered every drench of sweat they made us work for.

We hated them, and we loved them. We loved hating them, though it was fleeting.

Those hurts came in flavours. Some bitter in the same instant, while others a steady sweetness that faded away, but most came in rancid, simply stinkin’ rancid.

So we worked. We worked until we knew them well. We worked until they did not sting, until they did not burn. We worked until they did not scratch.

We worked until we were strong.


Originally published on Medium

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YOUR PERSPECTIVE, OUTLOOK, EXPECTATIONS, AND BOUNDARIES CHANGED.

You think that your life miraculously got better, but the truth is, life runs on monotonous cycles offering the good with the bad to everyone.

Our environment affects how much good we’re able to see or pull out of life.

Your life didn’t suddenly get better, you did.

Your perspective, outlook, expectations, and boundaries changed.

Before you saw limited options, now you create opportunity.

You’ve taken time to discover yourself, in part voluntarily, and in part through forced life experiences.

The job you hated 10 years ago is a piece of cake compared to what you’re doing now.

The relationship you thought you couldn’t stand 5 years ago is the same relationship you’re searching for now.

The friendships you’ve had since high school are the same friends who are strangers now.

The family members you were striving to please are the same ones you’re distancing yourself from now.

Opportunities to thrive are presented time and time again but you’ll never see them until you’re ready.

You know you’re ready when your ego dies a little bit.

It’s when you simultaneously realize your vulnerability and your strength. It’s when you’ve learned through your mistakes and experiences. It’s when you take responsibility and stop blaming other people.

It’s the feeling of having drunk too much and now reality hits. You’re sober.

It’s letting go of unrealistic expectations, not because you’ve given up but because it wasn’t ever the life you wanted.

It’s when you realize that you’ve based so much of your happiness on other people and societal norms instead of what you really want.

It’s when you realize you can do whatever you want.

You’ve had to change. You were faced with trauma that shattered your being and emotions to the core.

You’ve suffered enough and decided it’s not serving you anymore. You’ve experienced joy, a taste of something more, so you commit to choosing better.

As you change so do your needs. As you become more self-sufficient, you require less. You pinpoint the make it or break it factors, what really matters, and leave the rest.

You realize that life isn’t some fairy-tale, it’s what you make of it. Life didn’t improve, it’s always been there. You adapted.

So now what?

Do you live in mediocrity? Hell no.

You keep on exploring and figuring out what an actualized life looks like for you.

It’s easy to lose ourselves along the way. It’s easy to forget how far we’ve come, to get discouraged and feel alone.

What you need are reminders, it’s about tracking the little wins instead of looking at what everyone else is doing. This is about you. Your path is different.

Look at everything that’s going right for you and keep evolving.

You see, your life didn’t change, you did.

It was always you.

~Arlene~

Story originally published on Medium publication- The Assemblage

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Creative therapies have been linked to decreased anxiety, depression, stress levels, increased immunity, self-worth, and social identity.
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I’m a Registered nurse, writer, and spoken word poet. I dabble in various forms of creative arts.

I’m most balanced in my health and emotions when I’m creative. I’ve called it the sixth vital sign.

Creativity isn’t optional, but now a necessity for my health.  

Creativity is a non-negotiable part of holistic health, especially for women. John Gray, authour of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus says that women have twice as much stress as men. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is twice as high when she walks into the house. She’s thinking about everything she has to do.

It may not necessarily be that she has more stress, but that she feels more stressed. This is why socks on the floor or dirty dishes may send her through the roof. It’s added to her list of stressors, while it may not be a big deal for her partner.

This may contribute to women losing attraction and sexual desire for their partner.

The quickest way to a woman’s heart and libido is doing anything that promotes less stress- it’s probably the same for men as well. 

Hey, let’s stop stressing each other, and ourselves out. 

Gray, suggests one of three de-stressors women can do for themselves is to, 

“do the things they love to do.”

Enter creativity.

Throughout documented history, people have used stories, drawings, dances, and chants as healing rituals.

Music Therapy

Music therapy has been shown to reduce anxiety. I help facilitate a depression and anxiety seminar by Dr.Neil Nedley and we specifically use classical music to help with reducing anxiety. 

Studies show that enjoying music with someone can also create emotional balance.

Even music that’s added to positive words is shown to reduce the effects of pain. Research results on cancer and coronary artery disease patients showed a reduction in heart rate, oxygen demands, and tension levels- producing a calming effect after music therapy.

Music is an expression of what is felt but not said. It represents the range of your emotions. Music represents the range of your personality. 

Practical Use

  • Try incorporating, specifically classical music into your day, in your car ride, or as you wake up.
  • Use it in combination with other health modalities such as walking outside, sunlight, or while taking a hot-and-cold shower.

Here is my Spotify writing playlist. It’s not all classical, but some of my favourite tunes.

Visual Arts

Art helps us express experiences too difficult to put into words

Visual art is a part of self-expression that can help you think good about yourself, especially if you’ve received a new health diagnosis. 

In trauma, cancer, dialysis, and chronic illness patients the positive effects of visual arts therapy were identified as, a distraction from thoughts of illness, reduced depression, improved outlook on self-worth, life experiences, and social identity. 

Women participating in art, especially things they could touch, such as pottery, textiles, card making, collages, and pottery saw 4 specific benefits.

  1. Focusing more on positive life experiences.
  2. Increased self-worth and identity by creating opportunities to overcome challenges, grow, and reach personal achievement.
  3. Positive social identity by not letting their illness define them.
  4. Expression of feelings in a symbolic way when words are difficult.

Practical use

-Incorporate touch with creativity. Sleep on silk sheets, arrange flowers in your home. Wear a plush bathrobe. Make a vision board. Create multiple levels of healing.

The first time I went for therapy they had adult colouring books. I didn’t even know it was a thing back then. All I knew, was that it brought my anxiety levels down and made expressing myself easier. 

Movement Based Creative Expression

In middle-aged women, elderly patients, and breast cancer patients, movement-based therapy has shown improvement in physical symptoms such as walking. But also in mental, such as learning ability (through theater training), and mindfulness.

I’m memorizing lines for a theatre audition right now. It’s sure exercising my recall ability, which doesn’t seem to be as sharp as before. Wish me luck! 

Body movement is linked to the mind. Movement moves emotions. 

There’s a type of primal therapy, which encourages the release of suppressed emotions through instincts like screaming, dancing, and movement. 

Primal therapy says, let me run free, like how I was as a child. Even during social distancing we can go into a quiet spot in nature and move our bodies.

Practical use

-Dance, put on some music, loosen up, even if just in your living room.

-Transmute your suppressed emotion into repetitive action, chopping wood, boxing, knitting, sewing.

You’ll find me at home or on the grass dancing, doing cartwheels, stretching, or air boxing while listening to Sia-The Greatest.

Expressive Writing

Last, but not least, my baby, writing. 

Pennebaker, a leading researcher on the healing aspects of journaling and expressive writing, has seen countless results in people who have improved their illness by writing. 

People who write about their traumatic experiences have significant improvements in physical health, immune system function, and their ability to socialize.

In HIV positive, chronic, and fibromyalgia patients the positive effects of writing have shown improvement in CD4 lymphocyte counts. Low lymphocyte counts can indicate infection or illness. Writing has also shown improvements in feelings of anger, pain, lethargy, and depression.

I’ve used journaling most of my life to work through my emotions. I also use it to write my prayers when I feel too distracted to say them out loud. I think it’s kind of neat to have documentation of my life. 

I’ve also had positive experiences in poetry therapy, where I’ve met with other like-minded individuals to analyze, create, read, and express emotions through poetry.

Considerations

Creative expression is beneficial for emotional, and physical health. If you’re feeling discouraged, if you’re out of ideas if you want to feel grounded again, start with creative expression that feels right for you. You’ve had an emotional year, you’re allowed to give yourself a break. 

Given the benefits of healing through creativity, I wonder…

Why isn’t creative therapy a bigger part of health care? 

In the hospital, I’ve noticed creative therapy being used frequently with children. 

What about adults? I have an inkling that we’re not as open with our creative minds. We want a pill for everything. Hey, I get it. If there was an eat-healthy-pill, I’d be interested. 

Many patients come into the hospital for stress-related cardiac or anxiety events. Yes, we treat them with medication, but that doesn’t fix the underlying problem we all have. We’re stressed. 

We need more than a pill, we need a lifestyle change. While we might not be able to change the circumstances looming in the world, perhaps we can incorporate more play in our lives. More healing through creativity.

It’s not easy, especially in the climate of politics, illnesses, and economic strain.

Now, is the best time to heal yourself, as history has shown, we’re going to be faced with different versions of the same events. There’s not always going to be a perfect opportunity.

While creative arts therapy has come a long way, it’s up to us, to not wait, but recognize the importance of these practices in healing.

We can start healing by bringing creating backinto creativity. We can sit in our stillness and start healing ourselves through creative expression. 

~Arlene~

Originally published on Medium

Find more of me here


Stuckey HL, Nobel J. The connection between art, healing, and public health: a review of current literature. Am J Public Health. 2010;100(2):254–263. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2008.156497

We’ve lost the power of healing through mournful songs, dance, and crying out our pain. 
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Crying garners unique yet universal responses from individuals. It can make us uncomfortable. We either want it to stop or to provide comfort. Unlike any other emotion, genuine tears can be quite difficult to control, and almost impossible to fake, it basically says, hey, I need you right now


There we were, at my grandmother’s funeral, 13 of her kids, and several dozen of us grandchildren. 

The priest was trying to complete the reading of his passage- but my one aunt had a moment. I’m not gonna lie it was a little nerve-wracking she poured out her pain through crying and weeping. It kept interrupting the service.

The priest said a few words-she’d cry out.

He’d say some more-she’d wail until she was comforted and gently ushered out by one of her brothers.

I realized that I was holding my breath the entire time, only exhaling a sigh of relief when she sat down, but why?

We were in a safe, comfortable place. I was back home in St.Vincent and this form of expression was more normal than not. People were expressive, you knew if they liked you, you knew if they didn’t, they sang when they were happy, they cried when they were sad without fault.

After the funeral, there was the traditional wake, the celebration of life, filled with singing, dancing, crying, and exorbitant amounts of drinking.

I was uncomfortable because subconsciously I’d told myself that crying- no wailing out loud wasn’t socially acceptable. It made people uncomfortable. It was a feeling I didn’t know how to handle so I thought it should be subdued, that other people should filter their crying.

We’ve lost the art of sharing to our pain, longings, and disappointment through unrestrained expression.

We hold back tears when we want to cry uncontrollably. 

We pretend we’re fine when we want to run into the streets and scream our heads off.

We get angry when we really want to be held and comforted.

We’re all trying to practice socially acceptable behaviour, but we’re killing our natural human instincts.

Crying out is therapeutic, it’s a kind of Primal Therapy, which suggests that some raw behaviours, like screaming, can help us reach repressed emotions, actually releasing and processing them.

Go ahead, find a quiet place in nature, maybe in your car, and scream out the mixed emotions of the year, the frustration of losing a job, having your wedding canceled, not being able to see your friends, that relationship that didn’t work out, the passing of your loved one, and everything in between.

The number one killer in the world today is not cancer or heart disease, it is repression.-Arthur Janov

Crying, weeping, and mournful song are the acts that bind us together, that keep us resilient through otherwise unbearable times. 

When we don’t express our pain we create room for mental and physical illness within ourselves.


What’s The Purpose Of Crying?

Crying Soothes Your Pain

Crying is a natural pain killer that we’ve turned into an act of shame. We’ve made it acceptable for women to cry yet an area of emasculation for men.

Crying doesn’t discriminate. It has a self-soothing effect. It helps decrease stress levels, calm distress, and balance our emotions. 

Sometimes our tears seem to shed down without our approval because our bodies know that we need to shed dead ends, that we need to heal.

Allowing ourselves to cry is an act of self-care. It shows our compassion, vulnerability, and strength. It’s our deepest self saying, hey, I know you’re overwhelmed right now but I’m going to take care of you.

Crying Let’s You Know That Something Has To Change

Sometimes you need to breakdown to get your life back.

I was on the tail end of a relationship that ate away at my self-esteem when a big dutty cry came out of nowhere. I prided myself on keeping my shit together for the outside world, especially when it came to work. This day was different, I went to work, as usual, but the moment I stepped into the department it was like the world was in slow motion, the weight of my pain and suppressed emotions buried me. I had to go back home.

I ended taking some personal days to process what was happening. I wasn’t the type of person who let those emotions get to me at work. That was the day I knew something was seriously wrong, that something had to change.

Crying, weeping, wailing out, and uncontrolled tears, let’s you know that something has to change.

Crying Brings Community and Support

Sometimes our tears come down in front of other people unexpectedly because too many of us are crying behind closed doors. Crying is meant to bring support from our community. 

We’ve been crying since birth. It was our primary way of communicating our needs to our parents, as adults, crying is still a behaviour about connection. It’s a survival tool to let others know that we need social support. 

A 2016 study suggests that crying is a survival skill especially for those of us who have a high avoidance attachment style. It’s the style where we suppress our emotions, our need to be seen, heard, and validated. It’s when we are experts at taking care of others but refuse to let others get too close to us for fear of abandonment or getting hurt.

Crying is a defense mechanism against attempts to withdraw ourselves. It physically draws people near to us, to alert them that something is wrong, to garner support, or share in our joy.

Let it Out. Cry. 

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Hallelujah for the joy, Hallelujah for the joy. Hallelujah for the joy, joy comes in the morning!” 

I grew up hearing, especially the women in my Caribbean community joining hands, clapping, and singing this upbeat song until their collective pain was a little less. Each verse louder, each conviction stronger.

Crying out our pain, weeping, mournful song, and dance, especially in front of others can be uncomfortable but it’s a primal behaviour that helps us release, even process repressed emotions. When we don’t release our pain we create room for mental and physical breakdowns.

Crying helps us to heal, it soothes our pain, it helps us know that something has to change, and it brings community support.

The next time you feel overcome with sad or happy emotion don’t be afraid to pour out your soul for healing through your tears.

xox Thanks for reading, Arlene

Originally published in Carefree Magazine

Ask yourself whose hero are you trying to be? And why? You may find that the life you’re living isn’t even yours.
Photo by Joshua Abner on Pexels.com

You’re struggling with not feeling good enough. Someone told you through their words, actions, or lack thereof that you weren’t enough for them just the way you are, without doing or being anything else- and you believed it.

Feelings of inadequacy are fueled by shame. Shame is uncomfortable. It’s a self-conscious emotion that comes from looking at yourself poorly. It makes you feel anxious, exposed, deceived, and powerless.

Unaddressed feelings of inadequacy create people-pleasing behaviour. This comes at the cost of destroying your core being, who you really are, not the person hidden behind your spouse, gender, or religion.

You were not meant to be invisible. You were meant to enjoy life, add value to it by being yourself, and express your unique personality, talents, and skills.

Women are multidimensional, we are not easily compartmentalized as the world would like to have us seem. We are vines shaped every day by our experiences. We twist, turn, adapt, grow, and continually bloom through different seasons of life. The song lyrics that come to mind when I think of this is Alanis Morissette’s, “ I’m a bitch, I’m a mother, I’m a child, I’m a lover, I’m a sinner, I’m a saint, I do not feel ashamed.”

Shame is a thief that robs you of power. To disarm shame you have to get to its root, which is almost always the thought of, I’m not good enough.

You must have a defiant spirit that is able to take an ego bruise, yet be your unwavering motivator.

It’s that kick, scream, claw blood, and skin, until you break nails, type of determination.

There are two key concepts in taking your power back when you feel like you’re not good enough.

1. Reject the cycle of shame, and feelings of low self-worth by relentlessly choosing yourself.

Reduce people-pleasing.

Make small choices about what you want to do. Take time, scan your body to figure out what feels right, safe, and authentic. At first, it will go against every fiber of your being. It may bring up feelings of guilt, pain, and loneliness. People in your life might get upset but stick to it.

Exercise the discomfort of repeatedly choosing yourself, knowing you will get through. Choosing yourself is not going to tip you over into some self-absorbed world of no return where you don’t care about other people. Caring is too ingrained in your psyche for that.

Continue to people-please and see how you feel. Hey, why not? Take note of the pain, self-loathing, and resentment you feel afterward. I would convince myself to do just one more favour for someone, even when I was tired or just didn’t feel like it. To be fair, I felt that they were for completely valid reasons- it was for my friends, it was for church, it was for someone uber nice, it was for someone who had nobody else, it was for someone who was sick, and the list goes on.

If continually extending yourself to other people turns you into a bitter, unrecognizable person then you’re living in inauthenticity.

A wise quote says that God loves a cheerful giver, being a cheerful giver comes from being happy with yourself and your life.

2. Stop the spread of shame by having grace, empathy, and self-compassion. You must choose to believe more of the good stories about yourself over the negative ones.

I don’t know about you but when I mess up, my default is to beat myself up. I say you should have known better, how could you let this happen? and the negative self-talk continues. I wouldn’t say these things to my friends, so why do I say it to myself?

It’s hard to have self-compassion when you’re a perfectionist, when you see mistakes as a weakness or when you hold yourself to a high bar.

Ask yourself whose hero are you trying to be? And why? Most of the time the things we’re doing, the life we’re living have nothing to do with us.

No wonder you’re hard on yourself and unhappy. This isn’t even your life.

Cultivate self-compassion by having grace, by saying more kind words about yourself. Below are some of my favourites, when I’m present enough to remember (eek face), if not you can always remind yourself after the moment.

I’m still learning

I’m in recovery.

This is something I still need to work on, good to know.

This is still a trigger for me so I need extra support.

When thinking you’ve done something “stupid” you don’t even want to hear about compassion. It’s challenging to talk yourself out of negativity, but no one else can do it for you. Each new experience helps you learn triggers and is a reminder that healing work is continual.

We can summarize grace by a quote from Brené Brown, a researcher in shame, vulnerability, courage, and empathy, that says,

Grace means that all of your mistakes now serve a purpose instead of serving shame.

Takeaway

We struggle with never feeling good enough when people tell us through their words, actions, or lack thereof that we aren’t enough for them- just the way we are.

These feelings of inadequacy are rooted in shame. If we don’t reject shame it will destroy our core being, robbing the world of our talents, values, and unique personality.

We can take our power back by rejecting shame through…

-relentlessly choosing ourselves,

-having grace, empathy, and self-compassion by believing more of the good stories about ourselves. We also do this through the words we tell ourselves like, I’m still learning.

Lastly, I want us to remember that shame is all around us, it can be overwhelming, daunting, and discouraging, but the most powerful thing we can do is to decide, decide that we are moving forward no matter how slow or how long we take, continue to reject shame.

Originally published on Medium

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When your life didn’t turn out how you thought it would.

I’m working on a stress reduction e-book. The more I work on it, the more stressed and defeated I feel.

The feelings seemingly came out of nowhere. I have a few things on my mind, but my environmental stress is minimal. I have a job, I’m not starving, I have a quiet place that I don’t have to share with any extroverts. What’s my problem?

Have you ever felt sad for no reason?

You’re a beautiful soul. You aren’t sad for no reason, though it feels that way. You’re sad because even if your life is relatively stable- you’re not homeless on the streets- you’re told you should feel happy. But you feel the weight of a life bigger than your own. You feel an undertone of constant grief from pushing against the world.

Everything is a fight, not with guns but with your essence. You grasp to keep pieces of your soul, each day trying to grip tighter. You feel like a fraction of who you once were.

You see the emptiness behind people’s smile, you see the innocent child and think of their future of ups and downs.

No matter how happy you are as an adult freedom doesn’t feel the same as childhood, back then, you didn’t have a care- or bill payment in the world.

I guess that’s what the ancient Bible story means when it references the tree of life. A tree that held the power to know good and evil. When its fruit was eaten by Adam and Eve (who were newly created by God) their eyes were open. They weren’t carefree like children anymore.

Likewise, you no longer view the world through the eyes of a child, you have a sense of responsibility. You have a sense of right and wrong and sometimes seeing all the wrong makes you feel defeated.

You hear the buzz of the media, though you try to tune it out. You see more deaths from a pandemic sweeping the nation, you see increasing numbers of violence, racist attacks, and death.

Maybe being so aware, so well-read, so educated, or such a self-help enthusiast makes it worse. In theory, you can figure out how to be happy, and you have moments of genuine happiness. In fact, you have a bank of happy memories for the future.

You know you need to live life in the present, but there’s a nagging that says, “how long will the good times last?”

I guess that’s why they call you a dreamer.

This is for the people who dream too much, people with beautiful minds. You can’t be lied to. You think far beyond the moment because deep down you have hope that you can save yourself from your future.

You believe that you can save other people from their future. It’s like you’re living in a time warp. You keep jumping to the same timestamp trying to warn them, but you’re always too late.

You’re far from being sad for no reason. You’ve loved, mourned for love, and dreamt about love. Life didn’t turn out how you expected, but you’re still here, making the best of it.

You’re sad for many reasons that aren’t yours. You’re sad about the suffering, and deceit in the world. It’s an unknown longing that also brings an eerie sense of peace.

That’s why you’re complicated to understand, but I’ve never met anyone like you who wasn’t resilient.

You don’t have to drive the future of innovation. You don’t have to save the world, but you want to, not in a tycoon type of way, but from your place of understanding, a place of healing.

It’s different for straight A people, they see logic-they are good at completing projects and finding solutions. Some aren’t concerned about the abstract concepts that you are. Some aren’t feeling the emotions of hundreds of people. They execute because things need to get done.

You have a challenging time doing tasks that don’t have personal meaning or value. It’s difficult to carry out work you’re not passionate about.

I’m going to make it more complicated. What if you’re able to toggle between the two? No wonder you feel defeated.

You still strive for kindness when you have a plethora of reasons not to. You maintain your character, even though you seem like a ruff rider on the outside.

You are a survivor in a war that only a few can see. Many people think you’re losing, but you’re not fighting their war.

Don’t let defeat get you down, you have a warrior’s heart. A heart that values legacy, character, and truth. Success has a deeper meaning for you.

We often measure success by productivity, by doing, and constantly going. We have no time for stillness, and when there is, it brings anxiety. Stillness makes you painfully aware of the life you want, wish you had, and life you’re not even sure you want.

Some of us are stuck in stillness, some of us are stuck in productivity. Are we so different? One has a difficult time getting started, the other doesn’t know how to stop. Both slaves of not being good enough.

We aren’t sad for no reason. We feel the weight of a life bigger than our own.

We are constantly being told what to do, how to feel, and how to act.

Find freedom from pressure, expectations, or advice, even if for a moment.

If you’re deep in your feelings today, you may already know how to get yourself up, you don’t need more advice, you don’t need to feel pressured to do anything.

Just let yourself be…(if you want to)

This story was originally publish on Medium

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This year has been the emotional roller coaster you never expected

At the beginning of this coronavirus pandemic year, I remember waking up with a tingling through my body that said, this is the most alive I’ve ever felt.

It’s not something I said out loud because it wasn’t about glorifying death and chaos, it was about becoming interested in life. It was about challenging beliefs, stretching the depths of who we are as humans, a sense of knowing our purpose, of empathy, and healing amidst sudden life changes.

This year has been the emotional rollercoaster you never expected. The kind that leaves you cliff-hanging with the anticipation of when it will start again.

You’ve lashed out at the very people you love in efforts to sort out your own emotions.

You’ve reclaimed emotions you weren’t aware of. Things that were bubbling unconsciously, but have spilled over to the surface.

You’ve come face to face with how you really feel about yourself. Your perceived lack, your hidden blessings.

This year has brought a lot of changes for you. This has been a year of self-discovery.

This year you’ve realized your thirst for love

You realized that even though you can do it all on your own, you don’t want to. You’re tired. You want to have someone that means more than just a place to exchange toxic sexual fluids.

Maybe hookup culture is not all it’s cracked up to be. You can feel what you want but don’t know what it looks like, or how to get it.

This year has taught you to surrender. To stop hiding, to just ask.

You’ve recognized the people who have snuck into your heart. The ones that mean the most to you, while others have escaped, they were also the ones that meant the most to you.

You’re scared. You’ve seen loss all around, it prevents you from getting close to people. You never know when they’ll leave.

You protect yourself by shutting people out, by becoming a master of self-sabotage.

It’s been an emotional year, you’re allowed to be unsure of what’s next. You’re allowed to temporarily retreat.

This year we realized that life is short, this isn’t a reason to act out of fear, but it’s reason enough to cut all your bullshit. Cut through the need to protect yourself, cut through your insecurities, cut through your fears, look in the mirror, and face yourself damn it. You might be surprised that we’re all facing similar fears. The right people are more accepting than you realize.

This year you’ve lost love

This year you realized that while you were busy living, you let the people and things you love slip away. You’ve accumulated dry bones, missed the heart of your love, become empty, strangers.

You’ve been disconnected for a long time, this was the catalyst needed to realize that you weren’t watering your relationships.

You think you’ve grown on your own, when in fact each person you meet is meant to challenge you, rub you the wrong way, catapult your growth.

This is a year of mourning. You’ve faced broken relationships, engagements, marriages, families, and friendships.

You’ve lost love, and reclaimed pieces of yourself.

This year you’ve faced death

Death is a fickle thing. My cousin passed away recently and I stared at my phone replaying her voice notes, not fully understanding how she could be gone. Death takes a while before it becomes real. It changes your perspective.

You’ve had to deal with the loss of people you love. Even if you knew it was coming, you could never really prepare. You still weren’t ready for the shearing effect it’d have on your heart. You’re not sure how to deal with the feelings of hurt, even resentment beneath it all. You’re questioning if there was something more you could have done, words you could have said, anything to make it better.

Life doesn’t stop. I imagined that life would pause and say, here humans, take time to reflect, but it keeps going. It makes you realize how insignificant a body is. A body is just a conduit for your soul. The essence of your being is in everything you are, everything you’re passionate about. We spend so much time surviving that we never really live.

We think we need to do more in life when it’s usually a matter of doing less.

In the end, all we’re left with are the memories we make. Make memories, make fierce, passionate, compassionate, shake your head, ghastly ones.

Loss came in many forms. Some have lost jobs. You’ve spent months in anxiety, searching for the next meal, trying to keep a roof over your head.

Some have lost independence. Your safe place. You’ve had to share living spaces, been forced to move out, to leave toxic environments, to disrupt the only world you’ve ever known.

Loss doesn’t just come in physical death, it comes as everything in between.

This year you’ve had to learn to self-regulate your emotions.

I’ve blown up at a few people, whoops. The beauty I’ve learned is that my emotions are my responsibility. I can’t force anyone to make me feel better, everyone is already at their emotional capacity. I can’t necessarily depend on others to heal me. We need to learn coping habits, new ways of being, how to regulate ourselves. We need to be able to self soothe, to make ourselves happy.

Here I am drinking my green smoothie, listening to smooth writing music on Spotify, a candle burning beside me, and spilling my heart to you on this “paper”. In this single moment, I have everything I need and am happy.

Give Yourself A Break

You’ve turned to addiction, drinking, smoking, drugs, and lashing out to numb the pain. The pain that comes from the cycle of questioning, am I good enough, what have I done with my life? What do I do next? Have I done enough? What’s the point of all this?

We live in a world of doing, productivity is what keeps many of us alive. We perform because people are relying on us, we have families, fans, a mission, a purpose that doesn’t stop. I understand that.

You’re allowed to have off moments. Moments where you’re quite not yourself, moments where you’re a little sadder than before, moments where you need to pull away from everyone, moments where you take care of yourself first, moments where you don’t put in 100 percent, moments of screaming into the air, crying into a pillow. Just don’t pull so far away that you never come back. (advice from my Mom)

You don’t need to beat yourself up this year, not after everything you’ve gone through. Everything you’ve survived.

You don’t need to take things personally, everyone is a little off-kilter, a little more volatile, a little on edge.

Give yourself a break, it doesn’t mean that you have to stop going. It just means that you can reject the negative dialogue.

I help facilitate a depression and anxiety workshop and one of the best and most difficult exercises for my mental health is not saying anything negative for 14 days. If you say anything negative, you restart the process. It helps you realize how many negative things you say. It helps clear the mind.

Another way to stop being so hard on yourself is a lesson I learned from behavioral expert Marissa Peer. Instead of beating yourself up, use the phrase, “oh silly me”, then move on, try next time to correct your behavior.

Give yourself a break. You’ve had a year of aspiring to love, you’ve had a year of lost love, you’ve had a year of death, you’ve had a year of overwhelming emotions.

We are being forced to evaluate our lives, refocus our purpose, face who we are and what makes us feel most uncomfortable.

When we are burned in the fires of tribulation, we forge new, better versions of ourselves.

~Arlene~

Thanks for reading. This article was originally published on Medium’s publication, Assemblage.

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