Category Archives: psychology

Your job

heal true nature - martha beck.png

I am making a compromise with myself. I may not write every day, but following the advice of Brené Brown, Liz Gilbert and Martha Beck, I will indulge in creativity every day, have a little fun with this blog, and sometimes post quotes from favorite authors.

Spring

I recently discovered a great graphic design tool called Canva, and I am experimenting so that I can design brochures, banners or info-graphics. It is a free tool, so check it out at Canva.com if you want. For those of us who are a little shy about graphics, but occasionally would like to invent a meme or frame a cool quote, it works very well!

What ways will you have fun today and express your creativity?

fun with Canva.png

 

 

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Energy and resistance

I recently decided to cut myself some slack in not posting as often on my blog, giving myself Tuesdays and Thursdays off my internal obligation to write, so that I could free up time to work on a few other things, like my coaching homework.

Observations so far:
  • Yesterday I felt an urge to fill my usual writing time with media input instead, in the form of podcasts and audio books. I had a hard time turning these off as I was getting ready for the day. It’s like I was trying to get a cheap thrill rather than the nourishment I usually feel in writing.
  • I had a lot less energy for work-related stuff, and even for coaching homework. I felt like something was missing; I sensed a loss of what gives me a zip of energy in the morning, the process of creating something complete, even if short, and publishing it.
  • I had a sense of dragging myself through the day, trying to “bribe” myself to do work, but not managing to stay very focused.  Usually I have a lot of meetings scheduled on Tuesdays, and this time, I only had one. There may be a certain calm before the storm at work, as it is close to fiscal year end for us (April).
  • I did some hand-written journalling throughout my day as I tried to get myself out of this “funk” but it just seemed to weigh me down further. Yuck.
  • I procrastinated on things I wanted to get done, rather than tackling them right away in the morning like I usually do. There was a lot of thinking and noodling around, and some research, but it did not feel very satisfying, and I did not complete anything on my list. Lot of of unsatisfying starting and stopping rather than follow-through…

Conclusion: Sometimes time is not the relevant variable in our day. The energy we bring to a task is just as relevant, and the resistance we feel toward doing some tasks can be very draining. I realize that even though I had blocked off time to do the necessary things I’d planned to do, I just didn’t get the “oomph” needed to do them. Maybe it was just a bad day. This is very atypical for me, and when I get going in the morning, I am able to knock a bunch of things off my list by noon, giving me proper momentum in a day.

The other possible factor: I have been procrastinating at completing the budget and finance piece of my coaching homework. I know this is dragging me down as well. Last August I purchased a “Money Clarity” course – there were 10 lessons space over the course of a month. I did the “easy 6” and skipped the 4 hard lessons. It’s time to come back to those now. There is no way I am going to figure out my “next big thing” without getting very comfortable with my money management.
Much as my “inner brat” likes to throw a tantrum rather than work on this, it is time to face the facts and live and spend more consciously, rather than throwing my money away or spending frivolously instead of intentionally. I have done this close and intentional observation work before on food. Like Geneen Roth says in her book Lost and Found: Unexpected Revelations about Food and Money many of the principles are the same, but they take hard work at first, until they become more regular habits. It is time!
While it is natural to feel resistance to change, sometimes our long-term well-being depends on it.

Two hundred!

This is my 200th post on this blog!

I have been posting daily since last October after launching in September. It seems fitting that I celebrate this milestone while in Scottsdale Arizona to see two of my favorite authors, Liz Gilbert and Martha Beck at a Celebrate Your Life weekend event.

martha beck2

Martha Beck – photo credit link

Friday evening a group of maybe 700-800 women attended a conversation with both of them in which they talked about the kind of magic that springs forth when we trust our true nature rather than culture. Martha spoke about the fact that we are participating in a shift in human consciousness. But it is a transformation that will involve joy and rest, not continuous striving.

To me, there were profoundly moving stories, and so much wisdom and lightness in the way they engaged the audience and engaged each other in a playful dialogue. They spoke about topics that were collected from cards submitted by their audience. I am recording a few take-away ideas from my notes.

Transformation: this happens throughout our lives, not just once or twice.

Trust: you must trust in the face of fear, and as you do this you become stronger and more resilient.

Gratitude: There is no happiness without gratitude. But feel for this gratitude in your body, rather than “force-feeding it” to yourself.

Soul-mates: you can have many soulmates throughout your life that are not necessarily lovers.

Love: it is the relationship between yourself and the universal love around and within you that is most important.

Motivation: Martha said to ask yourself “not just want to you want, but what do you yearn for?” Then make a pledge to keep working for what we year for, without letting the cultural models blind us to these yearnings.

Purpose: this one struck me profoundly. Liz Gilbert said that the purpose of our lives is to know that we are loved. That’s all. Just to know we are loved, exactly the way we are. It is so profound, and it hit me as truth, in my body. Wow.

Diversity: the final question was on this and Liz wanted to pass the mike because realizing the privilege of being part of a pair of white women made her want to give voice to another. The African American woman who came forward was Felicia and she said “diversity is being willing to open your heart with everyone, no matter their color, station in life or area of difference.” Beautiful.

On Saturday we are supposed to bring notebooks, sit next to people we do not know (easy, since I did not travel here in a group) and leave our phones behind. I’m really looking forward to the day! Morning workshop with Liz; afternoon workshop with Martha.

What a great privilege to hear from two wonderful authors that I “know” and love from reading so many of their books! Tremendous gratitude for this experience. Hope y’all have a wonderful weekend.

 

Done is Better than Good

Right now I am preparing to work on a few cover letters for some jobs I already applied for at my current company. The application process does not actually require them, but I believe that it is probably best to explain what interests me about these positions, and why I see myself as the best fit for them.

I am re-listening to Liz Gilbert’s wonderful book, Big Magic. She has a chapter on avoiding the trap of perfectionism, and making sure we complete our work. I love this book so much, and if you ever suffer during your creative moments, it is a must-read. I love her way of describing the beautiful gift of creative practice, this wonderful ability we humans have to engage with our gifts.

In the past, I have sometimes not completed things like job applications, a sort of failure ahead of time, convinced the result would not be good enough. Really what I was responding to was my inner “chicken,” the voice of fear that nearly all of us have (but some have overcome it more effectively) that avoids risk and seeks reward. There is no shame in realizing we have this voice. Risk aversion is a developmental necessity to keep us safe from threats, but sadly, we over-generalize it at some point in our lives.

The only way to overcome it is to practice acting despite our fears, realizing that everything we produce will have some imperfection, and yet putting it out there anyway. It helps if we can constrain the time we work on it, or give ourselves deadlines “ahead of time” so that if final polishing is necessary, we allow adequate time. But sometimes that is not practical, or there are enough other things clamoring for our attention, that if we waited for the ideal, we would never get there.

So I will keep this relatively short, and allow some time to write these cover letter while it is early and I still have optimal morning focus. Two of them will be relatively easy to write: I am very interested in those positions and one excites me greatly even though it is a stretch. The other two may be a little more tricky, since they are more “exploratory’ in nature, and I want to learn more about the positions, and am not necessarily sold on them.

What is it that you are putting off because you do not think it will be “good enough?” 

I will end with a quote from Liz Gilbert in Big Magic (p 177):

“You may want your work to be perfect, in other words; I just want mine to be finished.”

Inviting yourself back

One of my favorite meditations from Insight Timer is by Anna Guest-Jelly called “May I Know What I Know.” It involves a body scan in which we are moved through body starting with the feet, and moving to each region. After the exercise, we consider if there are any places we could not feel, that may have been “offline” from our awareness, so to speak.

The more I practice this body awareness and deliberately tune into places in the body that may be mysterious, the more I tune into emotions. Sometimes I realize why there are “frozen” parts – those emotions may be difficult ones, like grief or anger. I am still learning to feel those emotions all the way through, and sit with them. It is an exercise in compassion and patience to realize I have habitually escaped those feelings, or pushed them under with distraction, food, or other buffers (like busy-ness) rather than to be still with them.

But now that I realize these feelings are an important emotional compass for me, I have begun to “invite myself back” more often. I tune into that channel – my gut, my shoulders, my back, sometimes my lower spine, when they are trying to tell me something. Rather than get lost in thought, and spinning mental energy, I aim to come back to the body, invite my whole self back.

This tendency to abandon the body and thus abandon ourselves is well-supported by our culture. Feeling our emotions and tuning into our intuition is seen as fluffy or woo-woo in many circles. But as I do it more, and acknowledge the times when I have buried my needs and wants in favor of pleasing other people, it gives me pause.

Women are well-conditioned to attending to others’ needs and taking care of partners, children, bosses, teammates, even parents sometimes. But we do not always attend to our own bodies, our own yearnings. I inadvertently learned in my family that we could (and perhaps should) ignore these needs in favor of taking care of others. This abandonment does not serve us long-term though.

Even the airlines tell us to put on our own mask before helping others. Inviting ourselves back can feel like a radical act of rebellion against patriarchy. It asks us to make everyone else comfortable, and to remain small and and of service, never demanding anything for ourselves. And yes, I think it is patriarchy that promotes this idea of the “good daughter” and it is one we must dismantle.

When we invite ourselves back, we ground ourselves in our truth. We allow ourselves to live in greater harmony with nature, and with our bodies, part of nature. We begin to understand the connected nature of all people, of all parts of the universe. We feel compassion for ourselves and for others in their struggles. We make different choices that are more sustainable for ourselves and thus can serve others with a spirit of generosity rather than resentment.

Inviting ourselves back means we have to set appropriate boundaries and say no to things that do not align with our purpose or intention. That can be very hard for those of us who were trained to say “yes” to everything we are asked to do. We can be perceived as “uppity” or trouble-makers, or not those nice girls we used to be.

It is a daily practice, inviting ourselves back. It does not simply happen one day, and then all things change. It is a daily choice, a habit that grows easier with regular practice. If we want to make sustainable change in the world, I believe it is non-negotiable. The world needs our whole and integrated selves. Our souls call for this as well.

Consider inviting yourself back today and centering on what your body is telling you. I would love to know how this changes or decisions and your results.

Post trip caffeine detox

I write this from the Caribou Coffee near my home. Fittingly, my drip coffee maker decided to stop working, and is no longer pulling the water up. I am not sure if it is the hard water coating the mechanism or what. Ugh. Maybe I’ll get a french press for a while and just us my water heater to make the coffee.

In any case, the only solution was to find another source. Going without coffee is not a viable option for me. I’ve done dietary detox “cleanses” before, in which I have given up gluten, alcohol, sugar, caffeine, and animal products for a period of 14 days or 21 days. Both times I struggled most with giving up the caffeine, and also dairy.

As someone who both thrives and struggles with a.d.d., I have taken a stimulant medication to help with focus for about 14 years. There are biochemical reasons behind why this has been helpful for me, and why I tend to get addicted to caffeine very quickly. A lot of people with a.d.d. struggle with nicotine addition for this reason as well – it helps with focus.

While this may seem counter-intuitive, if you think of it as stimulating the “brake center” or the executive functioning center of the brain, it makes more sense. People think that stimulants should make you hyperactive, but the opposite is true. They tend to calm down an attention-challenged person. The exception for me is that when my synapses feel “burned” from too many days on too little sleep, typical for me after more than 3-4 days of a work trip.

When the body and brain need rest, they need rest. There is no substitute. In the two years I have really worked to make sure I get better sleep, take care of myself physically and focus on dietary factors which help me sleep better. I weaned myself off full-strength coffee on a day-to-day basis at home. I typically make myself a half caf blend in the morning and I savor it slowly with full fat cream, Putting a shake of cardamon and cinnamon in the coffee maker is delicious also.

Now that I am home again after 7 nights away, I know I will have to detox from the higher amount coffee I consumed in Argentina and Brazil. Coffee is a larger part of the culture, and it is absolutely delicious there, though the Argentinians frequently leave out milk or cream, so I find it’s too acidic for my system to overindulge too much on coffee.

Caribou

Caribou Coffee this morning, not too crowded at 7:30 a.m.

It doesn’t change the fact that I am, in effect, “double dosing” when I travel, since the half caf option doesn’t really exist on the road. I limited myself to 3 a day (which is usually 3 half-cafs at home). People looked at my strangely in the past when I’ve asked for decaf espresso or cappuccino in a restaurant. My Argentina colleague has an espresso after dinner at 10 p.m. at night and I tell him I’d be up all night if I did that.  He reassures me: it doesn’t even affect him.

I disagree, it probably does. Though the brain and body have a way of down-regulating hormones and neuro-chemicals when we have become accustomed to too much. When we allow ourselves to scale back on a stimulant substance like caffeine, we start to realize how much we had been depending on it, and our body adjusts back to a more normal baseline.

I like to allow myself a couple of days to gradually scale back the caffeine, while getting juicy, wonderful 9-10 hour nights of sleep. I log my sleep daily (clinical researcher here). When I looked at a stretch of 4 days in which my average sleep was 5.75 hours, I realized that I will need to allow myself at least an equal period of time to restore the balance. If I do not, I will suffer. Pure and simple.

I also notice my weight has been up a bit this month, and that’s typically an indicator that my body is stressed. But I know that when I give my body what it needs: rest, good, healthy food, lots more salads (god, I hate what they feed us on airplanes, that’s a post for another day), time to relax, yoga practice 3+ days a week, solitude, good time with my hubby and my kitties, my body returns to normal.

So while a detox can be challenging, filling my life with all the good things that keep me vital and happy also feels really, really good.

Happy Thursday, peeps!

 

 

Virtual vs in person meetings

Yesterday I arrived in Buenos Aires and attended meetings in the afternoon with a relatively new contractor who started with us in January to cover for the maternity leave of another employee. We started things off with a meeting at one of our clinical research sites, a well-known cardiovascular specialty center that is also a teaching hospital. Two prominent physicians met with us, along with their medical fellow (who does most of the actual work of entering patient data).

When I make an appearance now and then and travel here from far away, these physicians like to “talk research” with me and present ideas they have about new therapies and studies in which they enroll patients. It is an engaging and interesting discussion and I really enjoy the enthusiasm of these fellow researchers. They ask hard questions! Fortunately I was on my game, even after only 4 hours of sleep on the plane the previous night.

After the site visit, my contractor and I sat to have a late lunch, since I had skipped that in favor of getting to the site visit on time. We had time to visit and get to know each other in a casual environment. I learned more about her career path in this field. We have both been in clinical research for 11 years, and we both entered though a “side door” not knowing the field existed prior to entering.

Puerto Madero - view from hotel

View from my hotel in Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires

I work with an international team, with all of my direct reports living in other countries. We spend a lot of time on conference calls, corresponding via email and doing a lot of what I think of as virtual, rather than real-time communication. It is nice that electronic tools give us the flexibility to work remotely when necessary, and to come together as a team for our monthly operations meetings, for example.

I believe there is NO substitute for some old-fashioned, face-to-face, trust-building time with your coworkers. None at all. Video-conferencing can be helpful, and I am glad it exists. Looking people in the eye, and getting to absorb their gestures and body language is simply irreplaceable, especially when there may be language barriers.

My Spanish has improved greatly in the 11 years I have worked in a Latin American division, without question. But it still is my second language, not my first. Being able to know with real-time feedback whether communication is understood, or whether there is a gap, is SO much easier in person. It is also more relaxing, and you may not feel like you are “on stage” the way I sometimes do when I’m on video-conference.

For this reason, as well as many other cultural factors that are probably relevant to trust-building in Latino cultures, it is very important for me to have in person meetings to set the foundation for trust. There is something irreplaceable about real human contact, and there are certain messages that are easier to deliver in person. For this reason, even though travel makes me a bit weary, it is always worthwhile to make the journey.

Cheers, peeps! Happy Friday!

 

Saturday Share

It is Saturday Share day so I will take a day  off writing and instead highlight a couple of blogs that I have discovered and enjoy.

Dr. PerryThe first one is Dr. Perry of the MakeItUltra™Psychology to Motivate blog. Dr. Perry is a psychotherapist from Sherman Oaks, California. He writes about self-care, depression, anxiety, narcissism, grief, and many other topics of interest in psychology. His writing is clear and relevant to the problems and issues of today.

Dr. Perry also gives back generously to the blogging community by allowing space on his site for others to promote their blogs as well.  This exemplifies a generous spirit of creating space for others while contributing to our knowledge of psychology. Check out his blog if you get a chance.

calling in well.JPGAnother blog I like is Calling In Well, which documents experiments and adventures in well-being. The categories are: food, happiness, health, mindfulness and travel. All kinds of my favorite things. Conceptually I love the idea of calling in well. Her photography is beautiful and I enjoy reading women who (like me) do their own experiments in various wellness practices and write about it.

So if you are looking for some good reads on your weekend, check them out and give them some love.

Hope you have an awesome weekend, friends! Make the most of it!