Obsessing about the outcome is our attempt to control and ease anticipated pain.

We fear being happy. What we fear even more is having our happiness taken away.

We live in constant terror of what if, never allowing ourselves to immerse in what is.

We’ve heard the answer to ‘living in the present’ is letting go of attachment, but that sounds like a mystical far-off task. It’s a little easier to let go of our attachment to material possessions, but it’s harder to let go of attachment to people.

Impactful people become part of our energetic makeup. They circulate through our bodies and cycle through our hearts and mind until we let them go. They conflict with, and compliment parts of ourselves. That’s why it feels so gut-wrenching when they’re gone. We feel like a part of us is missing.

Instead of trying vehemently to “live in the present” and “let go”, have the mindset that,

You’re resilient enough to withstand whatever happens to you in the end.

You’re equipped enough to soothe yourself through the circumstances.

And you’re resourceful enough to get more. So live your life.

You’ve felt emotions you thought would kill you. You’ve felt chest pain and little rips in your heart.

You’ve felt the physical symptoms of nausea, vomiting, headaches, and sudden illness.

You’ve been stuck in bed for days, unable to shower, eat, or move.

These are uncomfortable experiences that will pass as you gain the strength to navigate.

Not all happy experiences end in pain, though you may feel painful emotion if you’re attached to it, simply because it has meaning to you.

Our bodies and minds care for us. Everything they do is an attempt to protect us. It’s our job to sort out the real danger from unwarranted fear. Pain gets our attention.

I remember when my brother unknowingly ruptured his kidney during a football game. He kept on playing, but the pain intensified.

He eventually went to the hospital where he had emergency surgery and was admitted, which saved his life.

His soreness warned him that something was wrong.

What’s your pain trying to tell you?

Maybe it’s bringing awareness to something you want. Maybe it’s telling you that you strongly care for a person. Maybe it’s telling you to look deeper at yourself.

Regardless of what lessons our afflictions are trying to teach us, we don’t have to turn it into fear.

We can allow ourselves to step unnerved and fully present in our experiences. This isn’t because we’re naïve to the fact that circumstances may change, but because we can never live if we’re petrified of the outcome.

This is what anxiety looks like. We don’t need more deep breathing and grounding. We know what to do.

We need to believe that we’re not going to die from embarrassment or anxiety, that we’re capable enough to survive the results. We embrace new experiences when we recognize that pain isn’t the enemy and we have tools of combat.

Tools to help your ease pain

It’s easy to list off mindful habits-pray, ground yourself, exercise, get sunshine, eat your veggies, but it always comes down to your perspective, resilience, and mindset.

Our individual processes for achieving this look different, but the theory is the same.

You’re not searching for new information, you’re searching for reminders. You’re searching for stories that are relevant to you.

This is how humans work. We need the same lessons, in different ways, by different people, in different formats, until something clicks.

The tools that help you overcome your pain are habits that aren’t self-destructive (ex. excessive drinking, binge eating), yet motivate you to grow and make you feel good.

I can’t tell you what that looks like for you. I can only direct you toward how to find it. Pay attention to what you’re doing when you feel good, who you’re around, what you’re reading and watching. Do more of those things. It takes stillness, awareness, and conscious effort.

A safe place to start is a hobby that awakens your creativity.

Remember, overcoming discomfort takes time, weeks, months, even years. It’s not linear. You may regress before moving forward. You may stagnate, you’ll take the slowest steps, even drag yourself, but you’ll progress if you’re determined to.

I’d love to know the tools you use to transition through pain.

Start opening your eyes to those that do.

Originally published on Medium- Assemblage

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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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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

Ask yourself whose hero are you trying to be? And why? You may find that the life you’re living isn’t even yours.
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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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