Category: Personal Challenges & Moments of Growth

Life isn’t easy, sometimes you need a helmet, but at the end of the day you are better off for having put in the effort.

Seeking Intention and a Plan to Tackle Anxiety

making-plan-17872651Anyone who knows me knows I am a planner. Not only to I know my schedule for the rest of the day but I know what I am doing the rest of the week – and I know where I will be and approximately what  I will be doing for each major holiday, family birthday, and community event from now until 2015. This is outrageous. Granted, at least 50% of my current plans will change but honestly, knowing I have a general plan for what is coming makes me feel so much better!

It is a huge relief to know that I have already considered my options and have decided on a course of action so when the event arises I don’t have any big decisions to make – I made those decisions at least 4 months ago. We all have our own ways of relieving situational anxiety or anxiety around certain events/functions. Mine is to have a plan (along with a plan B,C, and D – just for good measure).

What does yours look like? How well does it work?

Is your anxiety relief a nervous habit or does it serve a real purpose?

How intentional are you with relieving those feelings of worry?

As intentional as I am with making plans and trying to take care of my own anxiety in advance, I find that when plans have to change at the last second I go into panic mode, I am mad at everyone, and I can ruin what was supposed to be a good day. That is where I need some work – to make my intentional plan but to have flexibility as well. You know how healthy trees bend and sway in the wind but they don’t break and they have a destination, a purpose – to grow up and out!

With that being said here is your homework:

Examine the ways you try to manage your anxiety. The ways you plan or soothe yourself. Look at the front end and how you accomplish that but then look at the back end where either it worked, it didn’t work, or things shifted. What was that like? What needs to shift?

Working with anxiety is like that – we all need to adjust a bit here and there until we get things right. Peace is not a destination it is a process with multiple opportunities to grow and learn.1


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You don’t have to be a Superhero

Do you feel frantic? Like, all the time?!

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It seems that in today’s fast paced world there is always somewhere to be and something to do. If you are waiting then you have probably already missed your cue or if you rest for just a moment than an opportunity will pass you by.

I don’t know about you but I am tired. Worn out by the constant frenzy. I need a moment to just be, to rest and for that to be ok. This past week I looked at my calendar and I had triple booked myself. I guess I thought I was superhuman and was capable of being in 3 different locations at once. That is when I had to reality check myself and slow down! Which leads me to today.

Today I am seizing an opportunity to do as little as possible. I don’t want to have to rush all over the place to get a million things done. I want to drink tea and wrap up in a sweatshirt. Enough of this constant motion and enough of worrying over what I have missed.

Did you know that it is ok for you to give yourself permission to relax? Permission to take care of yourself?

Please take comfort in the knowledge that today you do not have to hold up the world, you don’t have to save the day, and you don’t have to impress anyone with your superhuman capacity to propel forward without any fuel. In the next two days take a weekend! Do nothing or do something that will fuel you for the next week. Take a walk in the changing leaves, read a book, take a long hot bath. However you need it, gift yourself with stillness and relaxation.1


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Family Survival 101


I have been doing a lot of thinking lately on my family – which raises a lot of different emotions for a lot of different reasons. Sometimes families suck! No one knows how to push your buttons like your family members and no one knows just how to make you feel better like your mom, dad, or closest sibling.

As stressful as families are I am trying to be more intentionally positive towards my family members – especially as the holidays loom closer and closer all the time.  I have a few homework assignments I have given myself to try to acknowledge the positive and unique aspects of each person as well as make myself aware of the negative effect they can have on me sometimes. This is my daily family survival 101!  So here is step by step how I am surviving my family.

  1. List everyone’s unique qualities. Do they make you laugh? Do they comfort you well? Are they a great family provider? To they help keep someone else in check?
  2. List the good feelings you get when you are around your family member. Do this for each person in your family. Does Mom make you feel like I make her proud? Does your sister make you feel like a good role model?
  3. List the feelings I get around each family member that I don’t like feeling. Maybe your dad makes you feel very small and irresponsible, and you don’t like to feel like that. Your older brother makes you feel like you don’t make enough money at your job. Your little sister makes you feel like you missed out on her growing up. Whatever it is this is how you DON’T want to feel!
  4. List out what things your family member does or says that bring up those feelings. Find the root of those gross feelings!
  5. Find a remedy for those bad feelings. You already thought about what good things you think and feel for each family member so maybe you need to remind yourself of that. Replace the negative with the positive. Or maybe you need to get yourself ready to say something. Call them out! If they are using the nickname from 6th grade where you were awkwardly growing and that luminescently terrible complexion then maybe they need to drop that from their vocabulary.

I am trying to give my family the benefit of the doubt. A lot of times when they do or say something hurtful they genuinely didn’t realize they were making me feel bad. Once I told them, “look, I am an adult and I don’t eat French fries everyday anymore – Spud no longer applies and it makes me angry when you call me that.” My parent’s dropped that one really fast after that! They had no idea the name was making me feel like I was a kid and they don’t want me to feel that way.

By listing out what about everyone in my family makes me feel good I am finding I like everyone a lot more and I have a sense of gratitude to them for making me feel important. It is really nice to have a warm fuzzy for the twerp that used to steal my favorite shirt! And exploring everyone’s unique qualities makes me appreciate how different we all are and how cool our family really is! That all sounds a little idealistic and it is a slow process but it has actually been a lot of fun so far. I encourage you to give it a go before the holidays set in and you have to spend a lot of time with these people that deep down you really do love so much!1



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Finding Joy

I am a self-admitted NPR Junkie. If I am in a car I am listening to some new story or a bit of world news. You would think that I am an incredibly informed individual – not the case, really the news will drift in one ear and out the other. The personal stories are the ones I remember the best.

Recently I was listening to Steve Inskeep’s interview with 12 year old Emily Bear. She is what some would call a prodigy, outrageously talented on the piano and was performing in large concert halls at the age of 5. By every definition of the word prodigy, Emily fits the ticket, but for the Bear family that word is not how they want their daughters natural gift to be labeled.  To them it sounds like she is obligated to forced to practice and perfect her talent and the reality is so far from the truth. Emily’s discovery of her skill at the piano happened very organically and every step has been a step of joy. Joy not only for Emily but for those around her, those who are fortunate enough to hear her gift.

My first reaction to the story was

“At age 5 I was spending a huge chunk of time making mud pies in the back yard or prancing around the house in a Cinderella costume.”

When comparing my 5-yr-old accomplishments to Emily’s I fall short. Way, way short! But the second reaction was that the whole point of the story was to share Emily’s joy of music. When we are authentically ourselves and we practice joy we bring joy to others. Who knows, had I kept on making mud pies I could have been and incredible mud pie maker by now and something about that joyful activity would have made my little corner of the world a better place.

Comparison and labeling are the enemies of joy. In order to truly experience joy you must be authentically you – running from any moment when you find you are trying to imitate someone else’s success or achievement. You are the best you there is.

The story is genuinely very touching and Emily oozes happiness – this is one of my favorite pictures of a girl at 12 and one of her passions. Check out the NPR link here.1


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First World Problems

Have you ever seen those “First World Problems” online?  They tend to go a little something like this:

 “Someone didn’t refill the Brita pitcher . . .  and now I have to wait 30 seconds for water.”

 “I can’t find the right balance between my fan and my electric blanket.”

As Louisville makes the switch between Insight to Time Warner Cable, many residents are experiencing their own version of first world problems as we work to upgrade our services, cancel services, or begin services all together. I recently decided to upgrade from standard internet to internet and digital cable. Ten days three service appointments, and four technicians later, I finally had cable. I also got the bonus of having cords run all over the floor and dealing with the challenge of hiding the cables to create a safe living space. THEN the day after cable was finally installed the cable and internet went out all together. Lovely. My initial reaction was to throw something out the window. I was so frustrated, so I dial up Time Warner and ask them to sort things out.

Not only had I been very patient throughout the whole process, rearranging my work schedule and being as polite as possible on the phone, but I have been a loyal customer for years. A situation like this can go one of two ways. You can blow up at the person on the other end of the phone just for breathing because you are so mad at a situation they had no part in creating or you can be as nice as humanly possible, get your services fixed and maybe, just maybe get some kind of credit towards your next bill. The initial reaction is to blast the first person you speak with – this is a problem and it needs to be fixed. Now! But does that really serve you? Does that fix your problem or make you feel better? And really – this is a luxurious problem to have. This was my first world problem and while it was legitimately frustrating, it is just cable.

When presented with challenges it is difficult to take time to process and to have a reaction that is both positive and productive. However, giving ourselves time and space to constructively handle situations in a way that is not only serving us well but also serves those around us well makes for a better way of living. These first world problems will pop up all the time and we can’t control that but we can control how we let that affect us.

(I did get my services fixed – and the phone representatives were very gracious in giving me a small credit to my next bill!)1


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TomAto, TOmato.

Caveat: Please take agriculture advice with caution.  This therapist is not a licensed horticulturist or approved by the Commission on Agriculture. 

My husband and mother-in-law taught me an interesting lesson over mother’s day. As we walked in to my mother-in-law’s house, proudly with our gift of tomato plants grown from seed, we anxiously awaited her review of our newly-found farming techniques.  Through the early part of the year, we had converted our small “mud-room” into a make-shift greenhouse, carefully tending our little seedlings.  They received plenty of light, water & attention in a well-tended environment, they grew tall and were the perfect leafy green.  In other words, we provided a lot of nurture to our young seedlings in a well controlled environment.

My mother-in-law thanked us and was ecstatic about our attempt.  She and her husband had farmed much of their lives, as had their parents before them, and our interest showed perhaps we were not a total lost cause in agricultural ventures.  After awhile she asked how often we were watering the plants and when we were planning on planting them outside.

Becoming instantly protective over our little seedlings we said that it was too soon to let them outside, there was no way to know when the next frost may be, that, as she knew, we had had an unusual spring, with surprising frosts and windy storms and we gave them water regularly every day, etc. etc.

She looked at us and shook her head, telling us that we should water them right when they started to look “sad” and droopy, that they would tell us when they needed to be watered and that they needed to be outside where the wind made their stocks strong and their leaves “bunchier” and full.  WHAT?? We were supposed to wait until our plants looked dead before they gave them what they needed, put them outside against the wind and expose them to the elements so they could thrive? WHAT??  She smiled and said, “Exactly.”

As we took her advice, I began to think about how we do this in our own lives, protecting ourselves, our lives and our families from the elements in a perfectly controlled environment.  When the elements come to us; elements of change, stress, and life events that alter how we see the world and see ourselves in the world we get frustrated and yell to the winds of change to stop so we can get back to the business of growing and enjoying the sunshine from the windowsill and cool drinks of water.   However, the funny thing is, that those are the times that shape us, make us “bushier” (as my mother-in-law would say) also make us stronger.   The most important thing is that those are the times that create us to be capable of holding the “fruit” that we are able to bring to the world.  My mother-in-law had said that with our perfectly nurtured tomato plants would do fine, until it tried to grow a tomato.  Then, under the weight of the fruit, (what the tomato plant is supposed to produce!) the branch would just break off before the fruit was even developed.

In this I learned a lesson about the relationship between change, growth and purpose.  Change provides challenge which causes us to grow so that we will be able to hold our purpose.  And, bring what we were always supposed to produce (whatever kind of tomato that may be!) to the world to make it better and to give to others so that they may grow too.

If the winds of change are blowing in your life, it may be the development of strength inside of you to be able to hold your purpose.  This doesn’t mean it is not difficult, but it does mean that you will get through it, and on the other side you will be able to see how those times shaped you to be able to support the meaning and purpose in your life.