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Finding balance when you're stressed the hell out!

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bal·ance, noun

an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.

"although her job was stressful, she maintained her life-work balance"

 

Okay, so that's the definition, but HOW?!

We have all these different "parts" of ourselves with different responsiblity in different realms: a "work" self, a "partner" self, a "parent" self, a "friend" self, along with whatever other identities are important for you to uphold. Maintaining all these areas of our lives can get SO stressful, and that is the case for the majority of people.

In the US alone, 77% of people experience physical symptoms of stress, and 73% experience psychological symptoms caused by stress (www.stress.org).  That's crazy. We're really all walking around here stressed the hell out.

I have grown up in what was sometimes a chaotic and high stress household. My job as a social worker for the past 5 years can be stressful and at times chaotic. Because of this ongoing exposure to stress, I thought being stressed out was pretty normal and became desensitized to it.  In the past I haven't even known that my stress level is rising, until I get to the point that I'm overwhelmed and start shutting down!

I have had to LEARN how to know when I'm stressed the hell out, and  how to slow down and take care of myself before it gets to the point that I'm burnt out. Emphasis on learn, because a.) I'm still always learning about my process, and b.) ANYONE can learn how to do this too.

You are not destined to live a stressful life; you CAN learn how to manage it in a healthy way.

The other thing is, stress isn't bad. Sometimes it can motivate us to problem solve, let shit go that isn't meant to be in our lives anymore, and it is a normal healthy part of our human experience.

But when stress doesn't let up and it's constant, our body is continuously releasing stress hormones that literally eat away at our physical health, causing physical health issues and shortening the years we're alive. Stress can also lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

Externally, stress is always happening and is a daily reality. But internally, we do have a choice in how we respond to it, and those choices can either improve or deteriorate our lives.

Choices I've learned and am still learning.:

1. LEARN WHAT STRESS LOOKS LIKE FOR YOU: my stress didn't look the way it does for friends and family, and I've had to learn specifically what mine looks like so I can respond and take care of me when I need to. For me, when I'm stressed, I sleep more. I procrastinate. I want to order takeout. I cancel plans with friends. I have thoughts of everything being "too much". I've learned that when I start to notice these behaviors, I'm stressed the hell out! Take some time and even write it down: what does it look like when you're stressed out?

2. STRESS IS A SIGNAL to sometimes slow down. I used to ignore when my "check engine" light was going off and I was clearly getting overwhelmed. I'd assume that if I pushed through and ignored it, it would go away. It took about 28 years to learn that I have to pay attention to my body and emotions so that I can be my best self. I've learned that if I ignore the signs, it just leads to a bigger meltdown for me down the road. Nowadays, I notice the signs of my stress and make it a point to schedule a yoga class, listen to a podcast that makes me feel good and light hearted, or to hang out with a fun friend that I can just laugh with. Even though I want to curl up, order takeout cannolis (yes, I've ordered $12 worth of cannolis before to meet the minimum delivery total), and drown in a pity party of how hard life is, that actually makes me feel worse. So I listen to my signals and I respond to them by taking care of me in a healthier way than I have before.

3. CHANGE YOUR MINDSET. Our way of bonding as humans is often complaining about how busy life has gotten. I'm working on changing my language. I used to use a rhetoric of "ugh life is so busy, I have to do x,y, AND z" as if this proves some kind of worth or connection as a human. Instead, I'm working on noticing all the things I "get" to do. I get to make a living and have money to pay for my apartment! I get to have plans with people I care about! I get to have family members that I care for, and am fortunate enough to have the ability to help them with things. Instead of seeing certain responsibilities as duties or burdens, try to shift the mindset to seeing them as opportunities that other people would love to have.

4. BUDGET YOUR TIME. Anybody else ever ran their credit card bills up and figured out that they may need to write down some of their spending to figure it all out? (slowly raises hand). Time is no different. If you're feeling overwhelmed, your energy account is overdrafted. It's time to get intentional about where you're spending your time and what your priorities are. Try using a planner at the beginning of the week and budgeting out EVERYTHING, including relaxation, self care, work, family time, bae day/friend time, and email/call times. You'll be surprised at how much time there is that may not have been budgeted in to meet your priorities, and once you gain more control over your time, you will feel less overwhelmed.

5. BALANCE IS AN ILLUSION. You are ONE person. You can not give 100% to everything all the time. Sometimes, one area of your life may have to sacrifice some of your energy and attention so that another area of your life can grow. We live in a society of illusions: instagram feeds and snapchat stories, where people can show their results and not the messy process. Equal balance in all areas of life is a lie. Different areas of your life will go through different phases, where some will require more attention than others. The goal isn't 100% perfection in all areas, the goal is to be in harmony with where you are in your life and what brings you the most satisfaction.

6. BE PRESENT. Slow down, tune into what matters the most right now, and focus there. When you are ready to move on, move on and be fully present in the next step, next moment, or area of life. Sometimes we are thinking about so many different things at once, we cheat ourselves out of being efficient in what we're doing at the time, and also really enjoying whatever it is we're doing at the time! This includes relaxing. When you schedule in relaxation time, RELAX. This doesn't mean you are doing nothing while thinking about your to do list; it means you enjoy the act of simply being!

 

So here's to acknowledging that life is messy, we humans have complicated lives, and everything definitely isn't going to be equally balanced. STILL, that doesn't mean we have to feel stressed the hell out, or that we can't find harmony in our lives, because we absolutely can.

 

har·mo·ny noun

the quality of forming a pleasing and consistent whole.

 

"delightful cities where old and new blend in harmony"

"the harmony of the whole structure"

 

Wishing you harmony instead of balance,

 

Chelle

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2017: The year I accepted abundance into my life

Photo by Jamel Mosely 

Photo by Jamel Mosely 

What??! 2017 is almost over??? Is it me, or did time go into hyperwarp speed? Time moves so fast sometimes. I feel like that's why it's so important to take stock of what has actually happened in the past year, to reflect, to extract lessons, to give ourselves credit for the things we've done and what we've been able to move through.

If 2016 was the year of learning to trust myself, 2017 was the year of actually accepting good things into my life. In 2016 I made so many changes to get where I am now: abrupt, big changes. With those changes came the belief that if I had a new job, a new location, a new relationship, a new apartment, I'd have this new sparkly happiness, right?

WRONG. 2017 was the year I came face to face with my constant self doubt and inner self critic. I got my LCSW, was able to receive amazing private clients for yoga and therapy, met supportive new friends and an amazing guy, but still realized that nothing external could fulfill the void that was still there. I realized I could have an endless amount of accomplishments and new connections, but if I didn't truly believe in myself I wouldn't be able to fully experience it, accept it, and enjoy it.

This past year I got real about this inner work. I identified where these limited beliefs about myself came from by going to therapy often (oh, hi, childhood shit there you are again). I faced old pain by acknowledging experiences I hadn't fully acknowledged in the past. (P.S.: this will always be an ongoing process, with new depths to explore. Healing work is ongoing and never straight forward!).

I learned what it is to really be kind and gentle with myself.

I took a good look at the limiting beliefs I had about love ("nothing ever lasts, people always leave/hurt you/they ain't shit"), and I got real about thinking in alignment with the life that I want and the reality that we attract what we believe in ("I can trust others, I can let someone in. I am deserving of a healthy loving relationship"). I took a good look at the beliefs I have about money ("there's not enough, social workers are always broke") and am rewriting that narrative for myself ("I am living a financially abundant life while helping others"). I worked on aligning my thoughts, time, and energy with the basic and true concept that I am worthy.

2017 was a year of looking that negative self talk directly in it's face and saying "look, I get it. I get where you came from, I understand you're trying to protect me, but you aren’t true anymore and can take a seat". Of feeling the fear of intimacy in my relationship and opening up anyway. Of realizing that I create my reality with my thoughts, and it can either be limiting or expansive: I choose to expand.

This past year has laid the foundation for me to really shake shit up and move out of my comfort zone in 2018. I now understand it had to start with my mindset and unlearning the limiting mindsets I've picked up along the way about myself.

What lessons have you extracted from 2017? What kind of energy are you intentionally bringing into this New Year?

 

Here's to facing discomfort and enjoying the process of growth,

 

Chelle

 

***SHAMELESS PLUG*** 

 

Join me for a 2 hour workshop to shed what’s holding us back and bring our intentions of growth into this new year! 20$ for group discussion, journaling, Yoga, and meditation. Hope to see you there!  

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Yoga Bliss on the Blvd, 140 Erie Blvd. in Schenectady

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When the holiday season is triggering af

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The holiday season is a time that always makes me feel like there are 2 realities happening at the same time: we have the shiny holiday cover package; the commercials with family members that seem to always be smiling as they spend money, family planning and shopping, and sparkling decorations galore. 

Then there's the reality bubbling right underneath the surface for many people. As a therapist, I get a window into this reality that affects so many people. Crisis visits for suicidal thoughts go up. Attendance to appointments go up. Depression and anxiety go up. 

I'm not saying the holidays aren't actually a joyful time for many people, because I know they are. But for some families, it's their first time celebrating without having one of their loved ones present. Or maybe you're trying to maintain your sobriety from alcohol and drugs, and the holidays are a huge trigger for you to want to use.  Or maybe you've done some work on being a healthier you, but your family hasn't done the work and they are still caught in the same unhealthy patterns that bring up old emotional wounds.

It can feel really isolating to have a hard time around this time of year, and see everything around you look polished and beautifully decorated. Sometimes the collective strength of the "celebration" vibe may make you want to stuff any "negative" emotions into a box and put it in the attic of your brain while you plaster a smile on and go to the next holiday gathering.

You don't have to do that. That exhausting thing where you pretend you're okay; it often makes things feel worse. The only thing you really have to do is honor you. Let's shift the mindset from meeting external demands, to meeting your internal needs. Give yourself permission to nourish you first and foremost.

Here are some ways you can celebrate yourself and your emotional health for this holiday season:

1. Practice checking in with your emotions. So much of our suffering builds because we don't actually acknowledge how we're feeling each day. Especially when the holiday season is a busy one, it's easy to cram our own emotions on the backburner and tell ourselves we'll get to it when things slow down. Spend some time alone with yourself. Maybe you take 5 minutes at the end of each day to just ask yourself how you're doing, and to write down the response. What comes up may not be pretty sometimes, but just the act of treating yourself as if your emotions matter is a healing practice. It's also a great practice to begin to notice that emotions change, and nothing lasts forever. By putting difficult things down on paper, it can also be a way of offering up your emotions; of seeing them and acknowledging them but realizing that you are not your sadness, your anger, or your grief. They are however a part of your experience that need acknowledgment.

2. Assess how involved you want to be in family gatherings. What is the current state of your emotional health? How much energy do you have to be present and interact with family? As we grow and develop, the hopes are that we evolve into a truer representation of ourself and not just what we have been programmed to be. SOMETIMES, family can be dysfunctional af and being around them can feel stifling to your evolved self. Be honest and kind with yourself when knowing if that's the case; maybe you don't fit in with dysfunction anymore and need to make contact with loved ones in small doses. It's okay!

3. Find your soul family. There's the family we're born into, and then if we're lucky, there's our tribe. It could be one person or more than one, but these are the people that "get you" and honor who you are. They acknowledge your strengths and make you feel good about who you are. If the family you're born into becomes overwhelming, or if grief and loss are very present during this time of year, seek out your soul family to refill your cup. Maybe you plan a good vibes exchange, where you share letters of appreciation with your tribe.

 

4. You don’t have to show up to everything. You can skip it this year if you need to. You are allowed to rest, even when it feels the rest of the world is a whirlwind of busy-ness and holiday planning. The quality of your presence at what you do attend will be so much higher if you’ve taken some much needed time to relax.

 

The most important thing to remember is that you get to choose how you spend this time, so pour energy into what fills you up, especially if this is a hard time of year for you. Also know, you are definitely not alone.

 

Here's to saying no to anything drains your energy, and saying yes to yourself!

Chelle

 

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No, you can't just "get over it". And here are 5 reasons why.

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In a time where the #metoo movement is calling attention to sexual abuse and degradation towards woman, and where it feels like weekly you're learning about a new man in a position of authority that used his authority to sexually exploit and abuse women, it's hard to ignore that this is an epidemic.

And that awareness is a good thing. We need to shine the light on the shadows and the way people are hurting underneath the surface so we can address the problem. It's hard to know where to even begin to work towards undoing patriarchy's undermining of women's rights to their bodies and safety, but calling it out is a necessary step.

But we have to have a conversation about what's left when you have been abused. About how sometimes, although a person can have survived abuse, it can leave you with a lingering feeling that you are never really safe. People who have survived trauma do the best they can to cope with the painful memories, the guilt, and the shame. Sometimes a person may use an excess of sex, drugs, alcohol, self harm, creating chaos in relationships, or any other numbing or distracting behaviors that can then lead to a whole other range of issues for a person. And on top of all of that, if the person is able to open up to others about what they went through, they could possibly have to deal with people who don't fully understand that experience and tell them "it happened ___ years ago, it's time to move on now", or question the survivor about whether the event(s) "really" happened the way they say they did, dismissing that person's whole experience.

The truth of the matter is those who have endured abuse want nothing more than to be able to be fully in the present and let go of the past. It just isn't always that easy. I'm not saying this is the way trauma and abuse manifests itself for everyone, but I think it's important to talk about how this kind of pain can take a very long time to work through, and there are physical, emotional, spiritual, and even neurobiological reasons why. If you are a survivor of trauma, know that there's no one way to heal. You may never talk about it and that's okay. You may want to talk about it as part of your healing journey and that's okay too.

My hopes are that you KNOW you aren't broken. Because you aren't, and you are not what happened to you. My hopes are that these facts will reinforce that this healing work is work, and the fact that you're here and showing up for yourself every day is something honorable even if it doesn't always feel that way.

There are many kinds of trauma, and it's important to know that not everyone who experiences trauma becomes traumatized. It's also important to know that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US have the capacity to heal from the things we've been through.

 

Here are 5 reasons why, no, you can't "just get over it":

 

1. Traumatic memories don't get stored in the same way normal memories do. That trip to the grocery store from the other day? That memory is a story with a beginning, middle, and an end. However when trauma occurs and the brain registers danger, our limbic system or "fight or flight" brain gets activated, and the parts of our brain that control language, perception of time, and memory are not as active. What that means is that sometimes you literally don't have the language for what happened to you, you can have a sense that the trauma never really ENDED, and when certain memories are activated they can feel like they are occurring RIGHT NOW even if it was years ago.

2. Trauma can be registered by the body even more than in your conscious awareness. A study cited in Bessel Van Der Kolk's book The Body Keeps the Score (amazing book on trauma if you want to learn more about this) cites a study that found a connection between experiences of trauma and auto immune illnesses. The rationale was that after experiencing trauma, the body has registered the threat of the external world so deeply that even the physical cells of the person are not able to trust outside of themselves; they literally attack their own cells. Let that register: trauma can impact the physical body on a cellular level.

3. Repression is real. Sometimes in order to survive, memories are blocked out or may feel like a dream/blur. This is a protective mechanism of the brain to help the individual continue to function (and also part of the memory part of the brain, the hippocampus, sometimes shutting down during the traumatic event). What sometimes happens is that later on fragmented parts of memories may be triggered and come into awareness even years after the trauma occurred. That can be SO confusing and unsettling for a survivor!

4. Traumatic memories sometimes get stored in the same rationale as the age of when the trauma occurred. That's a loaded sentence, so I hope this makes sense: when we are younger, we think the world revolves around us. This sometimes extends to when bad things happen to us: we may assign blame to ourselves even if that blame does not belong to us. Even if our adult self understands that a child can't possibly be responsible for abuse, the memory may get stored as if it was our fault, and our adult selves may be carrying this burdensome thought pattern around.

5. The reaction of loved ones to the trauma can further traumatize a person. Say you go to a loved one about something terrible that happens to you, and they either imply that it was your fault, or outright don't believe you? That can make it even harder later on in life to open up to yourself and others about these difficult experiences.

 

If you have experienced trauma and it's something you still struggle with, please treat yourself with care. Gingerly and tenderly, because this stuff can go very deep. Don't be afraid to reach out for help if it's needed: working with a therapist whom you trust can really help the healing process. These things that happen to us even though we don't deserve them, they can cause so much pain, yes. But they don't define us, and there is nothing we can't heal ourselves through. Finding a community that you can be vulnerable in is important, and finding grounding practices to begin feeling safe in your body can be so healing as well. You are love and you are worthy, and be patient with your healing as it is definitely a process and takes time.

 

Sending you love,

Chelle

 

 

Resources:

Sexual Assault & Crime Victims Assistance:
24-hour Hotline: 518-271-3257
2200 Burdett Avenue
Troy, NY 12180

518-271-3445

 

National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline: Call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

 

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Self Care Toolkit: things to help you love up on your mind, body, and soul.

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Hi babies! I've been thinking alot about self care lately, not only because it is central to my own emotional/physical/spiritual health, or because I recently talked about it on the wonderful Goddess Talks podcast (see how I did that shameless plug there?), but because I'm learning how active we each have to be in this life if we want to get the most out of it.

And I don't mean active in terms of how much we can produce or get done, I mean active in behaving in a loving and caring way towards ourselves, so we can be fully in touch with all this life has to offer. This is by no means a prescription for what self care has to look like for you, but just a collection of things I've picked up along my way that help me care for myself. Many of them are free or low cost, because self care is NOT a luxurious spa day that only a few can afford (I mean it could be, but caring for yourself intentionally is for EVERYBODY). Self care is purposefully choosing how we want to live and making sure that what we take into our lives is raising our energetic vibrations. Take what you need from below, and leave the rest!

 

Love up on your mind:

Be intentional about what you consume.

Podcasts:

Black Girl In Om: Hosted by Lauren Ash and Deun Ivory, this podcast talks all things wellness, self-care, and self-love for women of color.

Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations: I mean, come on, it's Oprah. She picks her favorite interviews with thought-leaders, light workers, and wellness experts.

Hey, girl.: Hosted by author Alex Elle, she interviews women who inspire her. This podcast covers topics ranging from entrepeunership, to heartbreak, to self care, to mental health, and beyond.

Books:

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho: this fictional story follows a young man's journey across the world as he looks for his purpose. I swear no matter what stage of life you're in, this book will speak to you in some way. A quick and easy read, but it has enough depth that it can be read again and again!

The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes: She's not only the creator of Scandal and Grey's Anatomy, but she also is an incredible author. I found myself laughing out loud while reading this book, and couldn't put it down once I started it. She tells her own story of letting go of self limiting beliefs to fully step into her power.

You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hayes: Louise Hayes emphasizes the power of our words and intentions and how they help shape our life. Affirmations for every ailment you could think of are in this book, as well as great journalling prompts.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur: A book filled with poetry separated into the 3 different stages of having trauma be a part of your life experience. As you read through the different sections, you can see Rupi healing from a survivor to a thriver.

Planner:

Passion Planner : I've found that part of my self care is getting all my "to-do's" out of my head and onto paper. Once I can prioritize my tasks and manage my time, I can really invest the time I deserve into taking care of myself. I even write in time blocks for my self care, whether it's taking a bath, putting on a face mask, or sitting with myself and listening to my own breathing. I love this planner because it also includes inspirational quotes, spaces to include what you're grateful for, and coaches you through breaking down big goals to small action steps.

Journal:

Any piece of paper, anywhere. Sometimes emotions get intense, and rather than be reactive it can help to write it out and just explore why you're feeling what you're feeling. It also is a great way to allow yourself space to process any intense ish you've been holding in or dealing with.

 

Love up on your body:

Because, endorphins.

Yoga: (predictable)

Yoga with Adriene: I LOVE her videos. She's down to earth, has videos for all levels (and physical abilities), and even has videos specifically to address depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Even when I'm not in the mood to practice, just by throwing on a 10 minute yoga video with Adriene I can feel my mood shift. She's the shit!

Exercise:

Workout routines: Bodybuilding.com has HUNDREDS of workout tips, plans, and nutrition plans FOR THE FREE. I do well with a plan and structure (Hi, I'm a Virgo), so I always get an extra boost of motivation when I start a new workout plan and it helps me not fall off of my healthy routines.

Self Massage:

Ayurvedic healing encourages daily self massage with oils to release stress, decrease impact of aging, improve sleep, increase circulation, and lubricate your joints. Even if it's just 5-10 minutes after a long day of rubbing your own shoulders with some massage oil, or giving yourself a good foot massage, it really does make a difference.

Essential Oils:

Lavender is one of my favs, but there are several other essential oils that have great emotional and physical health benefits. Whether you put it in an essential oil diffuser in your bedroom, or rub some on your hands to practice some deep breathing with, lavender essential oil sends a signal to your parasympathetic nervous system so your brain will RELAX.

 

Love up on your soul:

It's all within, but sometimes we need a little help getting there.

Meditation:

 I love using the Calm App for daily meditation reminders, quotes, and gold stars when I meditate (I love gold stars). I also recently downloaded the 72 names of god app and the meditation prompts and visuals on there are bomb; anytime I open it up I instantly feel calmer! If you aren't feeling using an app, just stop anytime throughout the day and put one hand on your heart and the other on your stomach. Count 5 in and out breaths, paying special attention to each inhale and exhale. Voila, you are an expert meditator (that's not a thing).

Therapy:

I'm not saying this because I'm a therapist, I swear. Ever since I found the RIGHT therapist (key word, right, because sometimes it does take a few tries), I have noticed so much personal growth. You have a neutral non judgmental person that you can air out any issues you're having, and it can help bring a different perspective on issues and give you tools to practice to handle life's many challenges.

Create:

 Recently for my birthday, I made a vision board using paint and magazine clippings. I threw on some Jill Scott and just zoned out. There was something about creating something with my hands and getting lost in the moment creating that helped me feel like I was getting in touch with my highest self. Whatever it is for you, whether it's music, crocheting, writing lyrics/poetry, whatever, reflecting your own creative light outwards is a way to recharge and renew yourself especially if you're feeling drained or disconnected.

Affirmations:

Words. Are. Powerful. Either to drain your energy or to raise your vibrations. Be intentional about what you think, speak, and write down and know that it can change your life. Post powerful phrases up in spaces that you are in the most. It sounds very "self-help"-y, but it really does change the way you feel when you repeat powerful words out loud. Here are 35 affirmations that I've found to be really helpful.

Nature:

Go outside and notice what's around you. If you have access to trees, really look at them and meditate on the fact that they are your external lungs! We are always exchanging energy with our environment, and when you are close to the source of energy itself (nature), there is something so energizing and grounding about that. Even if it's just putting your feet in a patch of grass if that's all you have access to at the time, do that! Feel the earth beneath you, feel supported, and take some deep breaths.

 

 

These are just a few tools that have helped me along the way, but I'd love to hear how you have learned to take care of yourself over time. What is your favorite self care practice?

 

Love, light, stardust, unicorn sparkles, allat, etc.,

Chelle

 

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6 things I've learned about high functioning depression

 

I wanted to make this a generic post about high functioning depression. Because I'm a therapist and I can play it off like it's about my clients (which it easily could be, I see many people who struggle with this as well). But honestly, this is about me. When I experience depression (usually when my self care isn't fully on point), it doesn't look like the stereotype of Major Depressive Disorder you may have in your mind: I'm not stuck in bed for days, I'm not crying all the time. I'm still going to work, hanging out with friends, taking on new projects, sometimes making myself too busy to avoid how I feel. High functioning depression can creep in under the surface, and if it's not acknowledged or treated, can grow to be a larger problem.

Here are 6 things that my experience with depression has taught me, and that I continue to re-learn:

1. Just because someone can eloquently express how they feel, does not mean they are okay. Just because they can smile, respond appropriately in social settings, and look like they have it all together, does not mean they have access to their inner joy. There are so many people who suffer silently because they feel the weight of having it all together all the time. To those people I hope you know: it's okay to not be okay. We all are a mess sometimes. I'm still learning to take off the socially acceptable outer mask when I'm having a moment (with people I trust), and that It's okay to be vulnerable.

2. Some days I can be in touch with how beautiful the world is; I can look up at the sky and feel like I am so lucky to be able to breathe in that very moment. When depression creeps in, I can't access that part of myself. I can't think my way to it, I can't positive affirmation my way to it, I can't breathe my way to it. I can't "cope" my way out of it (I have tried like a hamster running on a coping skills wheel and just ended up frustrated with myself and like I am fighting my own feelings).

2. Over time I have learned to ride my waves. I know that when it comes, it will also leave. I am lucky enough that the depressive moments I've gone through are few and far between, because I know other people where it is a daily/hourly/minute by minute struggle. When those waves come, they feel like they are going to swallow me whole and I will never remember what it's like to be afloat. I have to consciously remind myself of my strength and that it will pass, because it does. And I eventually find my way back to myself. Every time I do this, it's a little easier to remind myself the next time that it will pass and that those thoughts and that feeling is not who I am, it's just a part of my experience in that moment. 

3. Self care is imperative for my survival. My yoga practice isn't a fad, it isn't some cute thing I do to get abs. I don't eat healthy because I want to watch my figure. I don't make sure I get adequate sleep because I am secretly a little old lady. I have learned over time that physical movement to release, doing things that help me access my spirit and highest self, putting good food into my body, and giving my body the rest it needs are the only chance I have at accessing joy and being able to feel and heal my way through my dark moments. I see my therapist regularly even when I'm doing really well, because if I take a preventative stance for my physical health why not do it for my mental health? Mental health issues are a very real thing in my family and I can't play with how I take care of myself, I don't have that luxury.

4. I need people around me that won't flinch when I'm in my darker spaces. I need people to not be afraid when I tell them I feel like I'm sinking. I need those friends that will hold my hand, look me in my eye, and just tell me they're in there with me until I come out of it. That in itself makes the load feel a little lighter.

5. I am learning how to communicate what I need. To let go of the shame in admitting that sometimes I'm a hot mess. That it's okay to feel down even when from the outside everything is going right. I'm learning that I can be both healthy, happy with so many things in my life, and also have shadowy dark moments.

6. I am grateful for my shadows and my darkness. I don't see them as debilitating. They are heavy af sometimes, but I see myself as someone who feels deeply. Everything. All the time. Anyone who knows me well knows I appreciate things out loud, OFTEN. I will annoyingly commentate on everything I enjoy. I soak in the good qualities of people and the world around me. But I'll also feel pain really deeply, and I don't think I could have one side without the other, and it is a reminder of how full and intricate this life is. It also has taught me how to hold space for others that are in deep emotional/psychic pain. I'm grateful to be so in tune with all of it, and for the way it's forced me to learn and know myself, and to heal myself.

 

 I know I am far from alone and there are many people who experience this too, but are afraid of or ashamed to show/acknowledge their darker sides. Who isolate and don't talk about what's really going on for fear of judgment. That is such a painful way to live, denying a whole part of your lived experience. So I'm opening up about my experience in hopes that maybe someone can recognize themselves in this and that may bring some kind of comfort.

And also because, can we remove the stigma already? Experiencing depression, anxiety, or any other experience on the mental health spectrum doesn't make you any less human. It is a part of your human experience and there are ways to work through it, but it can't be worked through if we don't acknowledge it! Sometimes slowing down, acknowledging our WHOLE experience of how we feel, and getting support can save our lives. Healing is messy work, but being able to be fully in touch with life is SO worth it. We don't have to figure it out all by ourselves. If you need help or can relate to this at all, don't be ashamed to reach out to a therapist or even a friend  to have an honest conversation about how you're feeling and what you need.

Sending you love, light, and even shadowy dark healing vibes,

Chelle

 

 

 

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Lessons on grief from a psychic

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Last week I went away to spend time with family and just relax. No social media, completely unplugged, by a body of water, with a few days of meditation, yoga, journaling, and family time. While there, synchronicity led me to an intuition development workshop with...a psychic! It was my first experience meeting with a psychic and I decided to schedule a reading with her. As we met, she gave me messages from people in my life that have since passed on to another dimension, and it was SO eye opening. Here are some things I took away from that meeting that I hope resonate with you as well.

 

1. Grief is a unique and individual process. Grief can be related to the death of a loved one, a miscarriage, abortion, or stillborn, the absence of a parent that is still alive, the incarceration of a loved one, or even a break up or end of a friendship. If we look at the origin of the word grief, it allows space for all of these different experiences we may have: the latin word gravar means weighty, heavy, burdensome, a "hardship, suffering, pain, bodily affliction". When we think of grief in black and white terms (it can ONLY be experienced when someone dies), or when we think of healing while grieving in black and white terms ("it has been 10 years, I should not still feel this way") we rob ourselves of our personal unique ability to feel and heal our way through loss. I am learning to allow grief to show up when it shows up, and to acknowledge that there are so many different ways to experience and identify loss and that this may change for me depending on what stage of life I am in, or even moment to moment.

2. Grief is not linear: there are losses/events that I felt I had come to terms with. That I had done "the work" about; talk therapy, EMDR trauma work, cries and shares with friends, being able to talk about events without my voice wavering; but when I met with that psychic, BAM! The floodgate of feels was opened. Time doesn't always feel linear. Sometimes a loss can be so powerful that at a certain time of day for whatever reason, it knocks the wind out of you and feels like a freshly opened wound, even years/decades later. And you know what I realized? That's not a bad thing, it just is. Which brings me to #3.

3. Energy and impact doesn't die. However strong that emotional pain is from the loss? That is a reminder of what a strong impact that person has had on your life. And what a gift to have been impacted in that way, to have the ability to love and to maybe have even been loved so much that the absence of that causes pain. If it is indeed a death that is the loss, every time you miss that person you are acknowledging the impact their life has had and still has on yours. Every person you connect to or have had time with leaves an imprint, and that doesn't die.

4. We are all kaleidoscopes. We take in light and reflect out possibilities, beauty, pain, prisms of color, and always have the ability to change and expand. At the end of the psychic reading, she looked at me and said "this spirit wants me to tell you, she's holding a kaleidoscope in her hand, and telling me that this is you; she needs you to understand that". That moment reminded me of the light and expansiveness that is always within me, and that it's not in spite of my losses, but rather because of my many experiences (including grief!) that I have the space to hold and reflect out so much light.

 

Love and light to all you other kaleidoscopes out there,

Chelle

 

For support around grieving and loss, here are some resources:  

The Community Hospice's Grief Services provides free support to anyone who has experienced the death of a friend or family member; they're located in upstate NY and their number is (518) 285-8116 

 

CARES is a Perinatal Bereavement resource for pregnancy and infant loss support for those in upstate NY, their number is  (518) 525-1388

 

 

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The path to self forgiveness

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In my work as a therapist, I've worked with many clients who can't let themselves off of the hook. Sheeeit I myself have a hard time letting myself off the hook sometimes. Carrying a burden of guilt, anxiety, or feeling ashamed can really get in the way of enjoying this life we're here to live. Sometimes we hold ourselves to an unrealistic standard, expecting perfection of ourselves and shaming ourselves when we don't meet unrealistic expectations. Or minimizing all of our magical qualities and magnifying our flaws. We can be so hard on ourselves sometimes!

Don't get me wrong, we shouldn't ignore guilt. All emotions that come up are messages; guilt isn't necessarily bad. If we've made a mistake that doesn't correlate with our personal values, we may feel guilt, and that can be motivation to make amends or to change our behavior in the future. However SHAME, that's where we start to hurt ourselves in ways we don't deserve. Shame is that sneaky voice that tells you that you're bad, you're not good enough, that you are undeserving as a person.

We are all inherently worthy and whole, and healing is about remembering that (sometimes we forget). Healing to remember is a process, it isn't a straight line, and it takes shedding (false) stories that we may have internalized over time. It isn't 1,2,3, I have forgiven myself; it's incredibly hard work. But you know what's even harder? Living life with negative thoughts about yourself swirling around in your beautiful head.

Check Your Narrative:

Your narrative is the way you have storied your life to yourself. Believe it or not, we are actually really inaccurate sometimes and need to "fact check" what our brains tell us about ourselves.

I truly believe we are all doing the best we can. If you're having a hard time forgiving yourself for an action or decision you made, let's operate off of the assumption that what we do is the best option we consciously saw available at the time, and that decision was based on either love or fear. Determine what was driving your decision making, and allow yourself some grace for being a beautifully flawed human that made the choice they felt was best (or the only available to you) at the time.

Conversely, if you are guilting/shaming yourself for something that was done to you, that maybe you felt you "put up with" or "should've stopped" or "should've known better" about, halt that narrative. Give some compassion and understanding for the person you were at the time, for the struggles you may have been going through at the time, and release the burden of being responsible for how another person behaved. If this is in the context of an abusive or toxic relationship, know that the cycle of abuse is complex and that so many intelligent, highly capable people fall into abusive and toxic cycles. Release the narrative that you are bad, stupid, naive, or unworthy by developing a new narrative: one that is understanding of who you were at that time and how things came to be the way they are, and develop this narrative with compassion for the main character: you. Also keep in mind, sometimes we have to repeat interactions until we take a lesson that is needed for our growth. That can take some time. Don't fault yourself for that!

Meditate/Journal on Compassion Towards the Self:

Maybe you write love letters to yourself. Maybe you send loving thoughts to a younger you, where you were around the age of whatever experience you are having a hard time forgiving yourself for. You can even take a picture of yourself at that age and send loving thoughts and energy to that younger you. Whatever way you choose, the point here is to be very kind to yourself and to practice restructuring your thoughts towards yourself away from negative and shameful to loving, compassionate, and accepting. It'll feel weird at first, but over time you'll realize it feels SO much better than the cycling negative thoughts.

Be Vulnerable:

Sometimes, we hold beliefs about ourselves inside for so long they become a part of who we are, how we think, and how we behave towards ourselves. Try saying these thoughts out loud to a close trusted friend. See how they land; you may need a reminder from others that you are deserving and worthy of forgiveness, simply because you are you. Ask close friends to write you the lovable qualities about yourself and put these in a self love notebook whenever you need a reminder.

Know Your Triggers:

Notice when the shame and guilt narrative are set off, and make sure you have something to replace them with. Whether it's positive affirmations of self love, practicing acceptance of you in the here and now, or your compassion meditation/journaling, get intentional about your thoughts.

 

Self forgiveness isn't easy and it's not "one and done". It's an ongoing process. It's noticing when the anxious thoughts or shameful thoughts come up, and redirecting our attention to our core, which is love. If you're working on healing yourself, give yourself credit for doing something incredibly uncomfortable, and know that it will pay off and that you deserve healing and to feel free. Random reminder related to self-forgiveness: none of us have it all together. Sending you a hug.

 

Love and light,

Chelle

 

 

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Toxic Relationships

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I'm sitting across from one of my favorite clients: she's intelligent, funny, self aware, and has such positive energy. We're having another talk about her girlfriend coming home with hickeys on her neck...that aren't from her. Last week we talked about her girlfriend kicking her out of the car far from home and how far she had to walk before her girlfriend turned around. The week before that, it was the verbal abuse rants and people she's had to cut out of her life to avoid her girlfriend's jealous rages. The week before that....well, you get the point.

And she's still there, loving her, hoping she'll change. And I don't judge her; not only because it's my job not to judge, but even on a personal level: I understand her. I understand how toxic relationships don't always start out that way, and how you can get so hooked on who that person was in the beginning that you begin to believe maybe if you stick it out, maybe if you don't make them mad, maybe things will get better. I mean they're under so much pressure right now, right? Or you know about their childhood and you know they don't MEAN it, they just don't know any better. Or, they've told you it's your fault you make them act this way so many times, you actually start to believe it.

So I get it. I get how unhealthy dynamics can become the norm, and when you're in it sometimes it's so hard to see it for yourself. But you know what else I get? How scary it is that you can lose yourself in someone else, and they can drain your vitality. A toxic relationship will have you thinking these dynamics are normal, and that everyone has to "put up with something", and "love conquers all".

Yes, love is powerful. But love shouldn't hurt you physically or emotionally, love isn't control or ownership, love isn't someone projecting their hurt onto you because they haven't healed themselves yet. That isn't love, that is dysfunctional toxic attachment. And who we attach to, who we spend most of our time with, who we choose to love, changes us. It influences our thought patterns, our mood, our energy field, even our physical day to day habits; so we have to be careful about what kind of changes are happening as a result of relationship dynamics. If you are questioning whether or not your relationship is toxic, chances are there's definitely something to take a closer look at.

 

 

Listen to your gut and set your boundaries

A warning sign that a relationship is heading for or is in toxic waters is if your partner makes you feel responsible for their behavior, and/or doesn't respect your personal boundaries. Yes, we all have things to work on and should consider our partner's emotions. But if their actions are setting off warning bells, that "gut feeling" that something isn't right, listen to that. You can trust yourself.

Also, pay attention to if it's always something. If it isn't one thing you're doing to get an explosive reaction from your partner, it's another. Now you're walking on eggshells, always trying to anticipate what your partner's reaction might be. That hypervigilance of feeling emotionally unsafe around your partner for fear/anxiety about their reaction? That isn't healthy for you on an energetic, emotional, or even physical level. Your nervous system is rigged, and your body is pumping stress hormones constantly, which can even lead to eventual health issues!

 You are absolutely allowed to express how these reactions make you feel and set boundaries around what healthy communication is for you (and follow this boundary yourself too; don't tell your partner not to do something as you freely do this behavior yourself). Example: for you, maybe it isn't okay for your partner to call you a crazy b*tch just because they are angry. Your partner is still responsible for their words when they are angry. And if they continue to talk to you this way, even knowing how it makes you feel? They don't respect your boundaries, your emotions, or you. Toxicity alert.

 

Don't save them

I know you're loving, you're caring, and you know what they've been through. You know the saying "hurt people, hurt people". We all have a story for why we are the way we are, but you still don't deserve to be treated like shit, and your job is not to raise another adult. Not only is it not your job, but it doesn't work! We are all responsible for working on ourselves to become better and healthier; you can't do the work for your partner. Many of us get stuck in the trap of trying to fix others, but not only does that leave you in a relationship where you are doing nothing but giving all of your energy and could end up being drained, let me say it again for the people in the back, it doesn't work. That person has to want the change themselves and do the work for them. You can be a support, but you are not responsible for "fixing" them or changing their unhealthy dynamics.

 

 Love yourself

If you're in an unhealthy/toxic relationship, it's not clearcut or easy to decide how to move forward. Maybe you don't pick up and leave. But take a closer look at it. Consider you, separate from the relationship. Consider what this dynamic is doing to your emotional and spiritual health. Sometimes there is even a belief that "I deserve to be treated this way". In the case of my favorite client, being neglected emotionally was a familiar feeling; her parents had done it throughout her whole childhood. But familiar and deserved are NOT the same thing. No matter your past or how others have treated you, you are deserving and worthy of whole, full, reciprocal, healthy love.

 

if this hits home, I'll say to you what I said to my client (and would say to a younger me): You are not being sensitive, you can trust your instincts. You are allowed to speak up and set boundaries for how you want to be treated. You are also allowed to walk away if a relationship is draining you; that's not you giving up on that person, it's saying that you matter and your emotional wellbeing matters. 

 

If you are in a toxic and/or abusive relationship, you are not alone and there are resources for you. Unity House in Troy, NY has a 24/7 DV hotline where you can talk to a counselor at anytime: (518) 272-2370. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has advocates you can talk to at anytime as well: 1-800-799-7233.

 

Light and love,

Chelle

 

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Show up as your whole self: Vulnerability pt. 2

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It's been 2 and a half years since I completed my yoga teacher training. Weekend after weekend I joined my yogi peers as we learned about the practice of yoga. There was something so intimate about meeting with this group of people and moving our bodies to the rhythm of our breath weekend after weekend. After a while, it started to register that this yoga practice is about the bigger journey of life and how to be fully present for ALL OF IT, highs and lows. Those weekends taught me how to love myself fully, even the parts that weren't pretty or put together!

The most powerful moment for me was an exercise we did where we went around in a circle and shared the one thing most people don't know about us. People shared stories of being abused, of their infidelity, of having abortions, of desires they aren't proud of. We bared the parts of ourselves that we have been taught not to accept. I remember when it came closer to being my turn, it felt like my heart was beating out of my chest. I walked to the center of the circle, shared the part of myself I felt was the most "shameful", and actually couldn't finish talking; I burst into tears. One of the other yogis came up and hugged me, telling me to "just breathe", and eventually I got the words out with her holding me the entire time. When I sat back down I was met with unconditional acceptance; hugs, words of encouragement, and a feeling of being fully seen. 

That weekend changed my life. Not only by speaking my whole truth and being met with acceptance, but by seeing others who I assumed had it all together and seeing that not one of us did, and they were even more beautiful because they owned it that day. I learned that we all have "darkness" within us, and it can't be ostracized to the basement in our brains. We can pretend that those parts don't exist, but they actually are a part of who we are.

Ironic, isn't it? That we keep parts of ourselves hidden to be acceptable/loved by ourselves and others. Come to find out, true love and connection relies on us showing up wholly, and sharing parts of ourselves that we may not feel comfortable with. Because essentially, acknowledging all parts of our story is owning that we are enough just as we are. We can present a cool, perfectly filtered instagram highlight reel to others, but if we walk through life with that mask on we are missing out on our opportunity to be fully present and connected in our relatively short time here.

And maybe there is a "shadowy" part of your story that you don't want to own, but those shadows have contributed to your light as well, whether you see it right now or not. You can/will fully appreciate the light because you know how bad things can get, or maybe your shadows and struggles have built an inner strength, an ability to see challenges through to the other side of them. For me, my pain, my shadows, show me that when I'm having days where I feel GOOD, I mean really good, I am so grateful because I know nothing is constant and I have to appreciate that moment; I know that there have been bad days too.

So I challenge you to begin being vulnerable in whatever way you can, even if it's just by being vulnerable with yourself. Put pen to paper and write your truth, WITHOUT JUDGMENT. Journaling is a helluva way to get to know you and practice self care, and it can help you to practice being authentic and honest about you.

Also practice being vulnerable and authentic with others in your life by really opening up and sharing the "imperfect" parts of yourself. Sometimes this is just acknowledging that we sometimes need other people, because we do! I don't know when it became cool to pretend we don't want to be connected to others, but we are wired for connection, and the "I don't need anyone, I have it all together" social shield may protect you from pain and disappointment, but in the end it cheats you of a whole realm of love, connection, and joy (which you do deserve).

Sure, by opening up there is a potential to be hurt; but life includes some pain sometimes. Be fully here for all of it. You have to remove the social shield to let people in and to truly accept yourself as you are. If it's comforting at all, remember we are all here trying to figure it out. No one has it all figured out. Take risks in your relationship with yourself and others, and bring along the messy parts that make up YOU. They are good enough too, I promise.

 

 

Journalling prompts:

What does vulnerability mean to me? What does authenticity mean to me?

What parts of myself do I hide from others, and what is the fear about that holds me back from sharing?

What parts of myself do I wish I could share easily with others?

How can I start to be more vulnerable/open with myself and others?

 

 

Light and love,

 

Chelle

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The power of intention

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This morning I met with a group of motivated positive people (shout out to the Power Breakfast) and was asked the question "what is your goal for this week?". Here I am, someone who plans everything out, I feel I'm pretty clear on what my long term goals are, and I actually didn't know the answer to that question.

It got me thinking about how easy it is for things to get so busy that we forget each moment is an opportunity to be purposeful in what it is that we're doing and why we're doing it. There's the daily grind, and while you're in it, it can be hard to slow down and zoom out to where you want to go. So for me, I have this "big picture" idea of where I'm going, but in reality all the "big picture" is are all these little moments, day to day, week to week. So if your little moments are filled with you monotonously following a cruise control routine with no purpose or intention driving your actions, how do you expect to end up where you want to go?

This is where setting intentions comes in. And it just so happens that tonight is a New Moon, which is the beginning of a lunar cycle for this upcoming month. The New Moon can be looked at as a "blank slate", a great time to set goals and intentions for the coming month. If we get really intentional about what we're doing here, we grow as time goes on, just as the moon becomes more and more visible in the sky throughout it's cycle.

Take the energy of tonight and be clear about what you want to manifest for this week, and this month. Write it down, but write it down as if it has happened already. For example, you don't wish you could have $2,000 in your savings, you have it already. You don't hope that one day you will get that job you really want, you write down that you have it, and you put down as many details about you being successful in this new job as possible. Language is very important; the words we think, the words we say, and the words we write. Where attention goes energy flows so stay away from the negatives. Focus on what you want to attract into your life rather than what you don't want (Example: instead of writing "I don't want to be broke anymore", you could say "I am living in financial abundance and money is not a worry"). 

This exercise of getting specific, writing it down, and visualizing your intention puts your mind and energy in a state that you are ready to receive what it is that you say you want in your life. Because sometimes we just talk shit, right? Like sometimes we say we really want this thing to happen, but we are afraid of success or failure and therefore don't attract it into our lives. So by doing this practice of imagining that you are there already, you're claiming your goal in spite of the fear (fear will be there if you're growing and changing, but it doesn't have to limit you). You're stating with confidence that this path you want is yours already and not only do you deserve it, but you are so capable of having it.

 

Happy New Moon Intention setting, wishing you lots of abundance and good vibes!

 

Love and light,

Chelle

 

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Letting go

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A fear of being hurt. Fear of rejection. Believing in overnight success (avoidance of hard work). The imposter syndrome (fear of being "found out" to be a fraud, or not really competent at what you do). Indecisiveness; fear of making a decision. The unknown, what can't be controlled. "What if's"; the fear that a wrong decision was made.

These are some of the responses I got on a post I put out asking what you all wanted and/or needed to let go of, and I don't know about you, but I see a theme: fear. Evolution gave us this great protective system in our brains that looks for danger around every corner, because back in the day (like really back in the day, when we had to hunt and gather), we needed that system to survive. Nowadays, not so much, but this "alarm system" is alive and well and it is always scanning our environment for danger. It will even go as far as to project hypothetical situations and tell us to be alarmed about some possible future situation that hasn't even happened yet!

Pair that with our tendency to cling to the familiar, and to use past experiences as the blueprint for every moment ahead of us, and we are destined to repeat old patterns even if they are toxic just for the sake of them being known to us; I can't even count how many times someone has told me they are staying in a shitty situation because they truly believe there is nothing better out there for them.

So what do I need to let go of to grow to be my highest self? For me it's the need to be "perfect" (quotations, because, that doesn't even exist). I hold back and second guess myself often, for fear of being wrong or not living up to some ridiculous imaginary standard that I created for myself. I condition my day to day with long lists of "should's", and that sometimes sets me up for some major disappointments, because life doesn't always go by my terms (who knew?!).

I can acknowledge this need to be perfect on a surface level and chalk it up to being a Virgo, but I know there is a deeper reason for that need. The fear underneath the need is that I'm not enough; that I always have to prove my worth and if I don't measure up to my standards I have set for myself well, then I have failed. Which is craziness because I remember when I was much younger I never even doubted that I was enough. But over time, my brain has taken all the negative experiences I've had and amplified them. It's turned them into negative thought patterns that ring off false alarms and prevent me from being able to just "be", and my thoughts tell me there is a way I'm "supposed to be" to be worthy. Dear brain, that is bullshit.

For me letting go of this need for perfection has been a process of embracing my vulnerability. It's showing up just as I am and chancing rejection. It's reminding myself how worthy I am, and how I am enough simply by being me. It's approaching life and myself through a lens of love and compassion rather than one of fear and avoidance. It's noticing when that inner self critic shows up, and telling it to take a seat while I actually enjoy my life.

I challenge you to look behind that habit or thought pattern you need to let go of, and ask yourself where it's coming from. What are you really afraid of? Maybe that fear was something you needed to survive or even thrive at some point in your life, but I have a feeling if it came up as something to let go of it isn't serving you anymore.

Letting go isn't an easy process; but you know when something is limiting your growth. And I think a lot of us don't like the idea of having a void after you let go because it's uncomfortable AF: it's unknown. But I promise you, as you shed things that no longer serve your growth, lean into that discomfort. You're making room for what is going to bring you to the next step of your evolution and your future self will thank you.

Bonus challenge: write down purposefully what you are releasing in your life, like you are writing down a vow to your future self. Commit to a new way of thinking about what you're letting go of that is not based on fear. For example, letting go of your imposter syndrome? Whenever it comes up choose what thoughts to embrace instead: "I am here serving my purpose". Releasing your fear of being hurt? "I will have/am worthy of a loving and healthy relationship". Find your mantra, the one that cuts through fear and resonates with your truth, and write it down. Say it as much as you need to so it becomes your new normal.

Light and Love,

Chelle

 

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