The Ugly Side of Depression

The most challenging aspect of depression is never knowing when it might show up. There you are, sitting in your abundant world, enjoying your many blessings and all of a sudden your life is crashed; depression pops in with its party dress on, ready to take over

I have been absent from this blog in recent weeks (months) because, well, because…

As someone who has dealt with depression for 30+ years, I am still taken aback that I do not recognize it immediately and put into action the many tools I have discovered work for me. But I don’t and that is okay.

I wanted to share some of my tools in the hopes they can offer some respite and light during the dark days.

  • Get outside: I walk in rain or shine because I know this works for me. I prefer to walk a trail or somewhere quiet but neighborhood streets will work in a pinch. About half the time I walk in silence, the other half I listen to one of my spiritual teachers.
  • Stress relief: For me this translates to yoga, for you it may be Tai Chi, meditation, swimming. Anything you see as your practice works. Once I step onto my mat and into my body, I feel more present, more aware of who I am.
  • Gratitude journal: I mentioned this a few months ago and it bears repeating here. Every night before I go to bed, I write 5 things from my day. It can be tough to do this in the darkest days and that’s when I write something like “grateful for food” “grateful for house”.
  • Do the list: When things were really bad I had a list of 10 things posted in my bathroom, for example – brush teeth, shower, eat an apple, and my goal was to do 3 of them a day. It helped keep my head above water.
  • Reach out: This is probably the hardest step for many of us who deal with depression. The best place to start is your doctor but a good friend or family member can be a step.

My prayer today is that it’s 5am and the party is over; depression is going home to sleep off another hangover.

Namaste.

To hell with it…let’s open the Chianti

Returning home is hard when you no longer have a home. After more than 8 months on the road we are back in the Seattle area, trying to figure out what we will do from here.

We sold our house and have been fortunate to rent it back for a short time; at least we don’t have to sleep in tents for a while. It has allowed us the space we needed both physically and emotionally to finish our travels, take a breath and ask the big questions.

  • Who have we become over the past 9 months? None of the three of us is the same person who left here last July/August. For Tom and me, this means overwhelming gratitude that B has grown into the young man we always knew existed. Tom and I have also changed, though perhaps not quite so dramatically. IN many ways we are more flexible, in others, less so. For example, the idea of compromising to live a life we do not want is anathema.
  • Where do we want to live, for now? How I wish one of us had a place we longed to live. I miss Dublin but am not sure I long to live there. I love new experiences and am open to almost every foreign city I hear mentioned. While I do not want to continue travelling the way we have been, I am very ready to try another city, country, continent for a few years. Tom is less a wanderlust than I; he likes the idea of a home but as soon as that thought is out of his mouth he brings up a job in Belgium or some other interesting place. Brendan is by far the most decisive – he wants to play rugby, on a good team. Anything else is gravy!! When we threw out the idea of Belgium his second question was if real Belgian waffles are better than those he has tasted in America!!
  • What kind of work do we want to do? Brendan’s only job for now is to finish high school and that can be done in myriad ways all over the world, much to his dismay!! I am also decided on this; I want to write. This too can be done in myriad ways all over the world. Unfortunately, Tom cannot answer the job question so definitively.

Big decisions are always difficult, too many huge decisions have left me suffering with decision paralysis; and so I find myself spinning in circles, unsure what is next. Thankfully we don’t need to decide today; instead I walked the dog, Tom rode his bike, and B ran. Sometimes (actually, always!!) life happens in the small experiences, the teeny-tiny decisions. And for now I choose to indulge my love of food and cook dinner, and of course, have a glass of Chianti.

Namaste.

Does abundance = cash flow?

WordsAbundance is a word that often brings money to mind and while that is not where my thoughts go when I use the word, there is nothing wrong with looking at the money (or lack thereof) in your life if you want to step into the abundance that is your birthright.

How much money do you need to live your dream life? Have you ever calculated it? Do you have a clear vision of what your dream life is? What are the things that fill your heart, make you smile?

Go ahead and write your dream day schedule, then consider what other elements you want in your dream week, month or year. Don’t just think the list…write it down; makes a huge difference!!

When I have done this exercise I better understand what is important to me, and the funny thing is that the most important aspects of my life are almost free – a daily walk and yoga practice, a weekly hike or bike ride or the annual gathering of our growing family.  Not everything I enjoy is free but most of what fills my bucket at the deepest soul level is. What does that say about abundance and the human spirit?

As always, I wish you a life of abundance, whether or not that includes a decent cash flow.

Namaste.

 

 

 

Fully alive ’til I am fully dead!

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How does your body feel today? On a scale of 1-10, where would you rank your body today, in the past week and 5 years ago?

Aging is a natural process, I often hear people saying they hate getting older and I can never understand why; aging is a gift for the alternative is death!! I am sure every reader has known someone who did not have the opportunity to age and if you are reading this, it is our responsibility to embrace life while we have it, including the grey hairs, aching bodies and sagging skin.

Today I feel  at a level 7, this past week drops to a 5 (I did not walk daily and only practiced yoga once),  5 years ago was consistently an 8+ – I was still running, practicing yoga daily, swimming pain free and doing those crazy spin classes. Now I walk, swim as my shoulder allows and cycle at my own pace out on the trails and I try to go to my mat daily. I do not intend to grow old gracefully; I think that is a cop-out. I plan to fight it every step of the way; I plan to be out walking on my last day; I plan to practice yoga hours before I head off to the great beyond; I plan to stay strong, active and go out in a ball of flames.

Yes, I am passionate about being fully alive till I am fully dead and I hope to inspire others to be the same. Being fully alive is a mental attitude rather than a physical practice; we take what gifts and abilities we have and we suck the marrow from them. In this way we are guaranteed to find abundant health, joy, happiness and perhaps even the meaning of life!

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly wish I did not have arthritis, epilepsy, hearing loss or deteriorating eye sight but I prefer to enjoy what I can rather than ponder what I cannot. But I have two choices, I can wallow or I can live; I choose to live. What about you?

Gratitude journals

I have missed several posting days for very good reason; we have spent the past 10 days immersed in family, exploring new places and learning more about each other. It is an abundance feast and my heart overflows with joy and love. I feel blessed to have time with 4 of our kids (though it makes me miss the other 2 even more), I feel blessed to visit places that fill me with happiness and I feel blessed to still enjoy being with my beloved. All in all, I feel blessed!!

Sequoia National Park

It is easy to be aware of the blessings in life when they are as obvious as a family picnic on the beach at sunset or an amazing hike to see the oldest living beings on earth (the Sequoias). It is much more challenging to feel blessed when it is another tough day at work, traffic is lousy, you didn’t sleep well last night etc…

I have found a gratitude journal to be of great support at all times and especially on a daily basis in my normal, everyday life. I began keeping a gratitude journal in 1999, taking the time to write 5 things I felt thankful for each evening as I went to bed. Over the following months and years, it was the journal that kept me breathing through the death of my dearest friend, through the many months while Tom was deployed, through the challenging days of single-parenting 4 rambunctious and opinionated children. There were nights when all I could write was “I am grateful to have food to eat…an inside bathroom…a car to drive…” For those of us connected to the internet, these may not seem like big blessings but they are and they can be a life raft through the stormiest of seas. It is possible to be thankful for the rain to nourish the land, the sun to bring forth the blooms, the clouds to protect us from the heat, all on the same day (especially if you live in Dublin or Seattle!!).

Even in the darkest times, there is always something to be grateful for. If you struggle with the concept of abundance, if you feel you have little to be happy about in your life, keep a gratitude journal. If life is going great and you are on top of the world, keep a gratitude journal. In good times and especially in bad, keep a gratitude journal; you just might find yourself noticing the blessings that surround you every day.

Namaste.

Depression, PTSD, anxiety? Can yoga help?

Last time I wrote about how the simple shift and commitment to seeing if yoga could help my back eventually impacted every aspect of my life. While yoga can be a spiritual practice in and of itself, I do not promote yoga from that aspect; yoga moves the physical body in ways that allow the mind and spirit to flourish and that is something that is available to every person.

Yoga is known to make the body more flexible; would it surprise you to know it makes the mind flexible also? Yoga strengthens the body; no shocker then that the spirit also strengthens. Yoga heals the body in untold ways; are you willing to practice yoga and see if it can possibly heal your mind and spirit as effectively?

I have been reading a lot of FB posts about friends who have dealt with depression, PTSD and other traumatic mental health concerns and this is my gift and response. It is essential to seek professional help to walk this journey with you and it is also essential to support yourself with kind and nurturing practices to allow healing to happen. Yoga is one of those supportive elements and today I offer a single pose that has transformed my relationship to the depression and traumas of my life.

Warrior 2

Warrior 2 is a challenging pose that all bodies can try. Over time you will feel stronger, more balanced, better able to relax through the challenge. It is best if you can incorporate this pose into a short practice that might include cat/cow and a gentle twist.

  • Stand with the feet 2-3’apart, left foot facing the wall to the side, right foot pigeon-toed, left heel facing into right arch. Lift up out of the hips, and lift arms to a T, palms facing to the floor.
  • Allow the gaze to follow out past the left fingers and as you exhale, bend the left knee so the knee is directly above the ankle. Eventually the thigh may be parallel to the floor.
  • Breathe as fully as possible. Inhale to stand back up.
  • Repeat other side.

I strongly recommend you do 5-10 minutes of yoga daily, find the poses that feel nourishing and if you are dealing with depression, PTSD, anxiety or other mental health concerns please add Warrior 2; you might discover the incredible strength within as the body learns its own power.

Please email me directly if you are not comfortable asking questions in the comment section of this blog.

Namaste.

Baby steps lead to massive changes

Is there something you want to change in your life? Perhaps you want to be healthier, maybe you want to quit smoking, do you want to strengthen your relationships or improve your bank balance?

Any one of these goals seems to require untold shifts and changes in your life and can be overwhelming, which is why we so often express the desire but never actually follow through. Take a step back, sit down with a cup of tea and an index card and be ready to have your world changed!!

Ready??? First of all, write down the one thing you most want to change (yes, you are only allowed one thing!!). Next, pick the smallest, simplest step you can take in the direction of your goal. Using the above examples:

  • To be healthier: Walk once around the block, every day, no excuses (not even the rain)
  • To quit smoking: Next time you pick up the pack, set it down, put on the timer (start with 10 minutes and work your way up to 30). Then have your cigarette.
  • Strengthen relationships: Text a message to one person once a week expressing your love for them.
  • Improve your Bank Balance: Write down what you spend one day a week.

Put the index card with your goal and baby step on the fridge or your bathroom mirror. Commit to this practice and do not get ahead of yourself and add things you “have to do”. Two things happen when you make a subtle shift like this in your life:

  1. You make and keep a promise to yourself which triggers all sorts of positive feedback; your self-esteem improves; you appreciate yourself more; and you begin to feel like you deserve this.
  2. Over time you will want to make other changes to move you towards your goal. (Remember these are not commitments, simply a choice you might make on a particular day.)

Yoga has changed every aspect of my life and for the longest time I could not understand how touching my toes could possibly soothe my depression. I made a tiny shift in my life with the sole goal of easing constant back pain; I did a few poses most days and my pain went away, so I kept doing it.

I recently read Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit” and he does a wonderful job of explaining our habits and how they impact our lives. Check it out from your local library.

No matter how enormous your ultimate goal might feel, find the smallest habit you can and begin there; I can almost guarantee that this simple act will change your world in untold ways.

Prepare for the abundance to come rushing in.

Namaste.

Gandhi

Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
Mahatma Gandhi