Wellness Wednesday – What do you do when triggered?

I was not proud of my angry response to an inflammatory post from someone in my WordPress feed over the weekend. I was temporarily unable to step away and I got side-tracked from the intention I had for that morning. It made me want to fight, defend and debate.

In reflecting on this phenomenon later, I realized that I had been “triggered” but that I had a choice about how to respond. Eventually, when I realized I was not going to get anything productive out of the interaction, I stepped away and disengaged. I re-directed my attention and moved on to more fulfilling and satisfying endeavors.

In truth, someone who has been through trauma has a much more difficult time dealing with a situation that triggers them. I cannot recall any specific trauma that led to this response, so I was able to bring my frontal cortex back online relatively quickly from that amygdala “hijack” by telling myself there was no need to add fuel to the flames. There was clearly high emotion on both sides, and we were not able to “hear” one another arguments.

triggers graphic
Photo credit link

I also realized in hearing the testimony of Dr. Blasey Ford, and the humiliation she endured after her assault, I deeply empathized with her story. I could feel viscerally that shame she must have felt, even though I am one of the fortunate few who has not suffered assault.

It occurred to me that so many women who have similar stories are likely feeling a little more vulnerable and emotionally rocked by the testimony. And it is good for those of us with empathy to be there to reassure our friends that their reactions are valid, and that we are willing to sit with them during their process.

Some time ago I became intrigued by some research on trauma and PTSD by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, who was featured in the On Being podcast episode. He explains that trauma leaves an imprint on the body, not just the brain, in sensory and hormonal systems. Of the treatment options, body-centered practices like Yoga help develop a body that is strong and feels comfortable.

In an article published at the Trauma Center, explains that “Yoga offers a way to reprogram automatic physical responses.”

“Yoga helps regulate emotional and physiological states. It allows the body to regain its natural movement and teaches the use of breath for self-regulation. What is beautiful about Yoga is that it teaches use – and this is a critical point for those who feel trapped in their memory sensations – that things come to an end…

The process of being in a safe space and staying with whatever sensations emerge and seeing how they come to and end is a positive imprinting process. Yoga helps them befriend their bodies that have betrayed them by failing to guarantee safety.”

Yoga also teaches us to use the breath. Western culture tends to solve our issues through means from the outside, rather than teaching us how we can master our own physiology. This is where the intersection of these practices can and should be used in conjunction with “modern” medicine in the treatment of trauma and its effects.

Perhaps this is why I am such a big “evangelist” of yoga and why I am developing a course on “yoga and mindful leadership.” Based on my own consistent practice of yoga and meditation, I have seen the effects in my own life. I am always grateful when I also come across strong research to back this up.

So, what to do when we are triggered? The first thing is to breathe deeply a few times and slow down. We can realize that our physiological response is real, but that it does not reflect present danger. We honor that part of our primitive brain that is trying to keep us safe, and recognize that we need timely self-care to calm our nervous system. Over time, with practice, it is possible to heal with the right support.

Be well,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

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What are your habits?

Hi Friends,

This morning I awoke after going to bed early and getting a nice, juicy 10 hours of sleep. I had dream fragments on my mind, so wrote them down in my journal before I forgot them. Whenever I sleep more than 8 hours, I seem to dream so vividly. Clearly my subconscious is doing some important work, and I am allowing plenty of space for that to happen.

I woke up with a sense of possibility, now that my sabbatical is officially over, and October has begun. While part of me hoped to have my venture more defined and certain by now, an equal part of me knew I needed to have plenty of spaciousness and time for incubation in my life.

After a year of writing nearly daily, I realize that I can create any habit which I really care to develop. That gives me a lot of confidence for the habits I need to adopt as a self-employed person. Aristotle said that “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence therefore is not an act, but a habit.”

As I sit to work on my plan for the next 3 months, it occurs to me to ask myself and also you:

What are your habits? Which habits serve you? 

Which habits to you intend to keep?

Which new habits to you want to begin?

Which old habits are you ready to release?

happy october

Wellness Wednesday – What is essential?

How often do you ask yourself the question in your life:  What is essential? Or a variation: what is essential for me right now? 

I just listened to the audio book (and am re-listening, because it resonated so much) that many of you minimalists out there probably already know, called “Essentialism: the Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown. It is resonating with me on so many levels. essentialism.JPG

We can find a life of greater meaning, purpose and satisfaction with the mantra “less but better.” McKeown echoes many of the concepts of mindfulness as well as other wisdom I have discovered in other books like Deep Work by Cal Newport and The One Thing by Gary Keller. I find many applications here in how I am thinking about designing my new life and work for the future. The principle of essentialism is deeply connected to our personal wellness so I will focus on that aspect.

We face a plethora of choices every day about what to do and how to spend our time. There are many more options for what we can do in any given day and so many more decisions we are thus privileged (some would say forced) to make. Each hour, each minute, even in one breath, we choose. Do I meditate? Do I listen to a favorite podcast? Read a book? Finish that article I’m working on? Join that online webinar? Attend a yoga class?

And yet choose we must. Decisions are a part of life. We want to “have it all” and indeed many advertisers try to convince us that we can. But this is folly, because by attempting to do everything, we focus on nothing. It all becomes noise, and it is insignificant. It produces no real results, and we become frustrated at a lack of progress.

When we think we *have* to do it all, we are lying to ourselves. When we choose only what is essential to us, and pare down what is extraneous, we are rapidly able to better discern what is important. There are applications in terms of possessions, commitments, activities, memberships, or even new habits we are trying to implement. When we are spread too thin, we devote less attention to what is important. The problem is that many of us believe the illusion that everything is important. It is simply not true.

So to answer the question of what is essential for me, I would boil it down this way: sleep, play/creativity, rest, relationships and work. I was going to put work before play. But I realized I am not technically working (for money) now, and I am doing just fine.  Sleep, play and rest have been essential to my sabbatical. Since I worked and saved, I am able to rest and play now for a period. I know that reflects some privilege. But it also reflects choices I have made in my life about what is essential.

What is essential to you? How can you focus more deeply on that today? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

Sunday blues as habit

I had a weird feeling as I was doing my chores on Sunday, getting ready for the upcoming week. My husband has been on vacation with me for the past 3 weeks of my sabbatical and he has to head back to work tomorrow. It was that “Sunday blues” feeling…

Sunday near Prescott
No excuse for the blues: we had a lovely motorcycle ride out to Prescott, Wisconsin and beyond. Gorgeous day to be outside.

But then when I remembered I am not going back to the corporate job I had before, I had a sudden burst of happiness and relief. This was quickly followed by the realization that I do not have an income right now, so will begin work in earnest to conjure up freelance consulting projects.

I will work from home and finish revising a piece for I was asked to write for my alumni magazine. I will narrow down my focus and the “offer” for my consulting practice, attend a session with my coach, and schedule networking appointments. I will go to a Zumba/dance class for fun in the evening. I will de-clutter and map out my plan for the next couple months. I look forward to these activities, so the Sunday blues is not necessary. That feeling is simply a habit, not actual dread for the week (as I used to experience so regularly, especially facing the hundreds of emails post-vacation).

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I know my former team will be meeting in Miami this week. I won’t be there, but I was initially involved in choosing the meeting date. I will miss them, but I am relieved not to attend the meeting. Is this feeling vicarious dread for the cross-functional meetings they will have to endure (that I found so painful and pointless)?

Perhaps. That is some weird pathological empathy, methinks. Maybe I will explore this with my coach.

My husband suggested my blues may be related to the uncertainty of not knowing what is next. I agree. I will need to make my own decisions about where to focus and what to prioritize. While I also did this before, it was often more a function of which department was most “on fire” rather than what was truly most important.

This week is mine. I get to define how I will spend it, as we all do. I will choose how to make the most of it. This new beginning is a time of joy, gratitude and opportunity. I will overcome those habitual responses, and embrace my freedom.

Do you ever sing the Sunday blues? Are there ways you can change your tune? 

 

 

A dedicated journalist

I was sitting in a cafe yesterday writing in my handwritten journal, having dumped coffee on it 10 minutes earlier in my haste to start eating my breakfast.

The older man asked me, “are you a dedicated journalist?”

I responded, “I do enjoy writing. And I do it every day, or nearly so.”

“Wow,” he said, “I write often but sometimes not for months.”

Then he told me a story of some notes he’d taken last November while his wife was sick and in the hospital for 2 weeks with a mysterious illness. She asked him to record some of the things that happened, and the symptoms. He said it was hard to go back and write that up, even though he had a lot of notes.

I commented on writing about times that are difficult in our lives. It can be difficult, when the event or period was emotionally charged in some way. It requires us to relive that time, and sometimes we re-experience those emotions. But at the same time the writing is therapeutic, and it releases something, like therapy when the story is told and “witnessed” by ourselves or a compassionate person.

We talked for a couple minutes and he apologized for the interruption but I went back to think about his question, “are you a dedicated journalist?”

Yes.

I love the act of writing, so much so that I lose myself in it at times.

It occurs to me that Brene Brown and Liz Gilbert have written about this concept at times, the sad fact that we only value things that we get paid for in this society.

But some of us create art, writing, music, poetry because we must. Not because we expect to get paid. I mean, certainly making a living is important. In fact, I need to dig up some consulting work in the next couple of months or I’ll be looking for a “regular” job again. But sometimes we must release something in us onto a page. Brene Brown said once in the Magic Lessons podcast “unused creativity metastasizes.” I believe it.

Maybe I’ll add “dedicated journalist” to my Linked In profile and see what comes of it.

Cheers & happy weekend,

Cristy

art-from-yoshi-airbnb.jpg
Art from a London Airbnb, taken September 16, 2018

 

 

 

Far from the madding crowd

Landscape at Milton
Landscape from a nearby hill. 16 Sept 2018

Yesterday we arrived at the Milton of Cambus Farmhouse Airbnb (in Doune, Scotland) that I had booked on Saturday when I decided that another two days of train trips to get back to London from Edinburgh was too much.

As we arrived, I realized it was the best decision I had made for this trip. Feeling a bit weary of train travel, these two introverts on the road on day 11 were feeling in need of open space, field of sheep and cows, fresh air and time away from crowds. Here at the farmhouse we received those wishes.

Cows at Milton
Cows, rather curious about us. 16 Sept 2018

Our hosts, Rosemary and David, have been so kind. Knowing that we lacked transportation, they picked us up at the airport and even offered a lovely dinner for a small fee, even though they do not usually provide that. We are the first guests that have arrived without a car, and they seemed so willing to make us feel at home.

My only regret is that we do not have longer to stay here. They are travel writers, and they publish a number of Simple Guides and Safari Maps covering places here in Scotland as well as East Africa. Their books on the Maasai Mara region and Kenya are beautifully illustrated and get me thinking about traveling there, even though this area was not high on my list before.

We told them last night how this experience of staying with them is “breaking the curve” on every Airbnb (and regular B&B) experience we have had so far. David explained that they have often had such good treatment while traveling, and they like to provide what they would want to their guests, as much as possible. What a lovely way to look at hosting.

Sheep at Milton
I tried to get closer to the sheep, but they were not fond of strangers, so they ran in the other direction when I approached.

During this trip we have had 6 other Airbnb hosts, and they varied widely in the quality of what they were able to offer. Some were limited by the space and neighborhoods they had, so that was not within the control of the hosts. Some were highly interactive and others more withdrawn and absent.

As introverts, we do not need or want constant conversation with our hosts or other guests at the Airbnb. But I think it is important to feel welcome, or at least feel as though we are not an imposition on the host. Learning some history about an area or receiving suggestions about local activities is a precious part of hosting. Feeling welcome and cared for is such a great gift.

We fly back to London today for our final Airbnb in Canary Wharf before returning home this Wednesday. I am so grateful for this time and for our journey together on this trip. I am sure to process it and write more in the coming weeks. For now, I am just grateful we have had time away to rest and relax. I am starting to miss my cats and my own bed.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Sheep on hill
It is idyllic countryside, here in Doune, Scotland. I will miss it when we leave. 

Travel notes to self

Hello Friends,

My usual Saturday share is on holiday as I am traveling on my honeymoon/1-year anniversary trip with my husband until the 19th. As I work out final travel details for this trip, I thought I would reflect a bit on the best and hardest parts of this trip so far, and what I am “filing away” for future reference.

We had a lovely visit to Loch Lormond, Glencoe, Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness yesterday. I definitely recommend a visit to the Scottish Highlands if you travel here – the beauty of the landscape is worth it. We used Timberbush Tours, because I found a brochure in the train station in Glasgow that offered some options we could consider. Definitely worth trying to book a few days in advance or a couple weeks, since a couple of the tours we considered were already full for just one day in advance.

It was definitely a satisfying day though quite long, starting at 7:45 a.m. to meet the bus and not returning to the city center until 7:30 p.m. at night. But the drive was worth it. My hubby got some excellent photos and I will be sure to share them in future posts.

Urquhart Castle
Castle Urquhart, taken September 14, 2018.  Use only with attribution to mexi-minnesotana, please.

This morning I woke up thinking about how to modify our trip to perhaps cut one long(er) train trip out and replace it with a short flight. We have one night in Edinburgh, one night in Manchester and two nights in London reserved via AirBnB for the final days of our trip. I realize that having only one night in a place versus two can feel too rushed on a trip like this.

In our first 6 nights here, we had two nights in each location, and that felt like a good pace, time to settle in and also time to explore. Then we only had one night in Liverpool, and I could have used two. Arriving in Glassgow I felt very tired and trip weary.

I am researching a change to two nights in Edinburgh, and two nights in London, canceling the visit to Manchester and flying directly from Edinburgh to London, making it a shorter trip back. I am considering that idea, though it looks like our Edinburgh host does not have a second day available so we would still have to find a 2nd night there.

What I am learning is that my exuberance in seeing so many places needs to be balanced with our need for rest and relaxation on a trip. I think in the future, I will try to book 2-3 nights in each place and be more selective about the number of locations we visit. It is so hard to choose! I want to see everything and go everywhere!

But in the end, I do not want to arrive home exhausted, feeling like I need a rest to “recover” from my vacation. So I will make mindful choices after this trip experience and with our needs and desires in mind.

Cheers & happy weekend, all.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Wellness Wednesday – pack your snacks

Hello All,

While I am traveling, I am reflecting on wellness practices that I use during my trips (anything lasting longer than about 3 days). In situations where you will be navigating time changes, or spending time on trains, where there is some schedule uncertainty, it may be wise to pack some snacks.

Pack your snacks
My packed snacks are on the bottom in Ziplocs. I also discovered the most excellent Sea Salt & Black Pepper cashews at the Tesco market here in Salisbury.

I am not opposed to some “trip fasting” when you don’t get to eat a meal at the usual time. We all carry more than adequate stores of fat on our bodies (at least most of the Western World) that we can survive many days (indeed weeks) without food.

However, given the uncertainty of meals and the fact that many train stations and  cafes are stocked with carbs and sugar or foods likely fried in trans fats, I like to have healthy alternatives stashed in my backpack. I like mixed nuts because they pack a lot of nutritional value in a fairly small space. I am not a perfect minimalist when it comes to travel, but they take very little space. A small handful of nuts can go a long way when you’ve missed lunch and are on a delayed train. My hubby notices that I can get a little “hangry” when it has been 5+ hours since I’ve had a good meal.

This is less urgent in recent years since I’ve typically fasted overnight for 12-14 hours,  and one day a week I fast for 16-18 hours by skipping breakfast on Saturdays when I attend morning yoga. My body has become sufficiently “keto adapted” that I do not typically have any problems with low blood sugar. However, it is the mental game sometimes, not the physical one, that can get us into trouble.

When traveling, your mind can be taxed to capacity, particularly if you are unfamiliar with an area. You have been calculating currency conversions in your head. Your train is late, so you missed the connection. Your wi-fi isn’t working on the train and you are running out of clean laundry.

Any of these circumstances are fairly benign. But added up, they can make you feel fatigued and cranky. So you do not need to add to the problem by yelling at your spouse or allowing your tension to boil over. Even if I never access my snacks on a typical travel day, just knowing they are there helps me avoid “famine brain,” which can stress me out unnecessarily.

Sometimes hunger is true and physical. It is best to wait for this physical signal in order to eat, if we do not want to add extra weight. Sometimes our hunger is actually more of a emotional issue. We may hunger for rest, or connection with our partners. Eating is the solution in these cases. However, for me, my primitive brain seems to do better when it does not have to work overtime to solve any scarcities.

Do you pack food for travel? What are your favorite trip snacks? 

cristy@meximinnesota.com

Together at Stonehenge
Photo of me with my hubby at Stonehenge on Sept 11, 2018. There is a fine cafe there with delicious steak pasties and cheese and onion pasties which we had for brunch before our tour.