So much is going on in my life right now. Sometimes I feel like I’m standing at the bottom of a mountain looking up and feeling overwhelmed by the humongous climb, or like I’m standing on the edge of a cliff looking down and feeling terrified of the leap I’m about to take.
This is good though. It mean I’m growing, or at least that I have the opportunity for growth.
I’m 2 pages away from filling a 300 page journal. I always feel like a big change is on it’s way when I get close to finishing a journal. My new art site is in progress, I’m preparing to apply to a big art show, I’m readjusting a lot of things in my life right now, and some other huge changes might be just around the corner. With all this going on around me, sometimes the best thing I can do it be still and feel my feet on the ground. I like to pretend I have roots and that no matter how crazy my life gets, I have stability and peace built into my soul. I can find peace in my roots.
I tried something new with this piece. For awhile now, I’ve been thinking about incorporating 3-D elements into my paintings and sculpting right on the canvas. It took a few tries and tests to find the right product and technique, but I finally settled on a special non-contracting, self-drying clay for the roots. I also mixed dirt with the brown paint for the underground area around the roots.
Creating this was an interesting experience. It took me around a month and at times, I wanted to throw the hole thing in the dumpster. Sometimes I didn’t like the way it looked, sometimes my back hurt from working with such a tall canvas (I don’t use an easel. I usually work on the floor or sitting with the canvas propped up), and the emotions that inspired this feeling were difficult to sit with for that long. I think this is what I needed to work through some fears and scary thoughts.
I don’t think I’ll be with Etsy much longer (stay tuned on that one), so I’m not going to post this is in the shop just yet. If you are interested in purchasing it, send me a convo or email me at email@example.com so I can create a listing for you!
Best wishes for a wonderful week!
This is my experimental winter. I’ve had winter blues since I was a child, but this year I decided to accept it and observe it rather than feel angry.
I’ve learned to accept that this is my slower time of year, that this season is for contemplating and reflecting. I do a lot of that in the summer too, but it’s different.
I’ve realized that winter is when all my inner garbage comes to the surface. Any buried fears, hurts, loneliness, anger, or pain of any sort comes out. For years I’ve stuffed it down with food and denial, and while I’ve done my fair share of emotional eating this winter, I’ve also done a lot of “cleaning.”Issues that I thought I’d resolved and pains I didn’t even know were there are floating up for me to work with. They lift their heads and say “here I am!” and even though they seem like ugly little suckers at first, they all have something valuable to teach me. When I learn, I reap the peace and freedom that comes from letting go, and enjoy it all summer long until the next round of “trash picking” arrives. It’s like rebreaking bones so they’ll set properly. It’s painful and liberating. I know that dealing with these feelings authentically is the only way to move past them.
I’ve understood this for awhile now, but I’m writing about it now because the biggest monster of all has risen to the surface, past hurts lodged deep inside. I’ve had a massive headache all day long and I feel exhausted because haven’t taken the time to sit with him, hear what he needs me to know, and send him on his way. My deepest, slimiest, most gripping fear has come to visit. I doubt this is the last time I’ll see him, but I can feel that our relationship is about to change.
I don’t think I’m the only one who goes through periods like this. I think everyone does to some degree, but not many of us realize it. It’s terrifying and painful when our deep hurts rise up for us to see. We numb them out, we shut our eyes, we pretend they aren’t there, but they don’t leave until they’re acknowledged. Sometimes we call this depression, or a bad day, or getting “triggered.” These times come in all shapes and forms.
Notice when these times come to you. You’ll probably feel tense or grumpy, maybe weepy, you may feel physical discomforts, maybe all of the above like me. Don’t fear it. Meet your monsters, listen to them, and part as friends (or at least call a truce).
Enjoy the peace of letting go.
We all get stressed out sometimes. We all get angry, tired, anxious, or plain burnt out. So what do we do when we get there? How do we take care of ourselves? How do we learn from these emotions?
If you can’t think of the answers to these questions, don’t worry. It’s ok if you don’t know how to handle these emotions yet, because most people don’t. Most of us see these emotions as bad things that should always be avoided, and that something is wrong with us if we experience them. This isn’t always the case.
Uncomfortable emotions aren’t there to get us, they’re often our greatest teachers and road signs. If we’re stressed, anxious, or depressed all the time, we know that something in our life or attitude needs to change. If we get angry, we might have stumbled over an emotional block that we get to work through and release so we can live better.
But how do we do this?
We use a toolbox. Everyone has one. This toolbox contains the tools we use to handle emotions.
Sometimes these toolboxes are well-stocked so that we can handle any job life throws at us. Some of our toolboxes are rather sparse. Others are full of hammers when what we really need are screwdrivers.
Let’s take a look at our toolboxes. What kind of tool could we find in there? Let’s take a look at my toolbox first. It may not look like your ideal toolbox, but it sure works for me:
- Yoga, walking and hiking outside
- Uplifting reading like my religious texts, blogs, and books like Healing from the Heart by Dr. Judith Moore (this book was key in my recovery)
- Talking to my husband, Mom, or friend.
- Cleaning my apartment, artmaking, and cooking. Great activities for when my hands need something to do while I think.
- iPod: good music, inspiring podcasts and my SoulArt courses.
- Dangerous behaviors like using drugs, smoking, self-inflicted injury, having unprotected sex or drinking.
- Zoning out in front of the TV or computer
- Blowing up at someone to express anger
- Wearing ourselves out by overworking or overexercising
- Bingeing or restricting food
- Bottling up emotions until they make us sick.
- Supporting rituals like “you-time”
- Supportive friends, family or a counselor you can talk to
- Journaling and creative expression
- Service to others
- Good books and other resources to help you work through emotions
- Activities that help you unwind without tuning out. Yoga, reading, and that old self-care cliche, the hot bubble bath.
- Anxiety-soothing activities that keep your hand or body busy while your mind is free to think like cleaning, knitting, wire-jewelry making, kneading bread dough, whatever.
Well, the past few months have been crazy awesome busy, and hopefully I’ll be able to unveil my secret project later this week!
Also, with this underway I’m planning on posting regularly again, so stay tuned for regular spouting from McKella’s fountain of wisdom. Ha.
Ok, with housekeeping out of the way, it’s time for me to share with you one of the most important things I’ve learned in this year of tremendous growth. Just two little words, a special mantra I’ve used to keep my head on straight through stress and fear.
This is actually one of many mantras I’ve used over the past few months, but let me tell you why this one is special.
- It’s reminds us that we are the masters of our own lives, and that we are powerful. If something isn’t working out for us, if we’re struggling to overcome a harmful habit or if we feel trapped, we can always choose something else. We live in a free country where we always have options, and you can always make a choice to change.
- Knowing we have a choice changes our mindset. Instead of thinking in terms of “should” and “have to”, we can see our abundance of options. Instead of feeling overpowered to binge or let people walk all over us, we can choose to listen to our bodies, to stand up for ourselves. Having a choice sets us free.
I’m a slow-learned sometimes, especially with intuitive eating. I first discovered IE in October 2008 and I’ve just recently gotten the hang of actually obeying my body’s signals more than 2 1/2 years later.
I knew the principles, I ate when I was hungry, but I struggled with actually letting myself get hungry and most of all, emotional eating. For a long time, I chose to focus on the emotional eating while refusing to deal with the underlying issues. I believed eating was the problem either because I had a physical addiction or because I was just hard-wired to eat when I felt bad. I never actually thought about why I felt bad. (By the way if you’re stuck in this place, that’s perfectly fine. It was a few years before I was ready to deal with the real issues. Don’t pressure yourself to jump into anything you’re not ready for.)
Recently, I left a situation that wasn’t working for me. My creativity wasn’t flowing and my depression and anxiety got out of control. Now that I’m in a better place (physically and emotionally) I discovered that I was ready to deal with my issues.
The amazing thing is, once that barrier of emotional eating started to disappear, I couldn’t believe how much more myself I felt. I could finally connect to my emotions and work through them. Emotions and creativity flowed through me, unhampered by my former tendency to block them out with food.
I rarely feel compelled to overeat and I usually don’t want to eat if I’m not hungry, but if I do (like when I know my blood sugar is low but my tummy’s not hungry) I eat. No biggie. I actually feel hunger at least once a day, which is a miracle because I used to go weeks without ever letting myself get hungry.
This is the other half of the gift of intuitive eating. On one side, IE frees us from food obsession, but on the other side, it allows us to replace that obsession with something incredible: our potential. Without those unhealthy thoughts and feelings towards foods, we free up so much mental energy and clear so many channels. We gain full access to our true desires, interests, and goals.
Here’s some questions to ponder:
- What could you accomplish with the time you spend thinking about food in an unhealthy way?
- What underlying potential could you have access to if you overcame emotional eating?
- How free could you be if you accepted your body rather than striving for an unrealistic ideal?
- How much more energy would you have if you learned to feed your body the healthy food it craves?
Intuitive eating takes a lot of work, time and emotional digging, but the rewards are innumerable, and I’m only in the beginning. Whether you are still in the preparation stages or if you’re well into your intuitive eating journey, remember why you’re doing this and what it will do for you.
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Actually, I’ve always been a writer. Short stories, poetry, a play, magazine articles, travel writing, blogging, you name it. I’m even editing my first novel. Sometimes about pouring myself out on the page feels so right to me. My thoughts flow better with a pen in my hand.
I thought I’d share part of my Relief Society lesson from yesterday. Relief Society is a women’s organization in my religion that meets every Sunday during church. We discussed one of the steps of a church sponsored addiction recovery program, which is to truthfully write about our lives so we can better understand our struggles and their roots. This recovery program suggests writing your life story from start to finish so you can see patterns in the big picture.
I’ve kept a journal for years, and it’s been my go-to tool for getting to the bottom of what ails me. I have a plastic tote box under my bed full of my journals from high school on, and another shelf in my studio groaning under the weight of my “commonplace books” which also serve as journals. Writing is a fabulous tool, and different writers can use it in different ways for different purposes. It’s wonderful for exploring and understanding emotions and the events that cause them, and using that knowledge to overcome depression, fear, addiction, etc.
Here are a few reasons why writing is an awesome soul-searching tool:
- Sometimes expressing our feelings through writing is the first step to letting go of them.
- Writing allows us to distance ourselves from the situations so that we can see them in a more objective way, and therefore figure them out.
- Writing gives us a safe place in which to say things we’d be afraid to say otherwise. Afraid someone will read it? Burn it. Flush it. Bury it. The act of destroying the writings is healing in itself.
- Writing forces us to slow down our thoughts, because we write slower than our thoughts. Slowing down gives us the time to actually examine out thoughts.
- Writing allows us to organize our thoughts.
Many of us (especially bloggers!) have used writing to clarify our emotions at some point. Here are some tips to help you get started on your Soul Journaling:
- Find a safe place to keep your words, whether it’s a journal that you hide in a safe box or something, an online journal or pieces of paper that get thrown in the fireplace as soon as you’re done.
- Write in the third person if you need some extra distance from your life in order to see more clearly.
- Do it every day. I carry a Mead notebook with my everywhere to jot down ideas, but also to explore a difficult situation if I need to .
- Ask “why?” If a certain event triggered a reaction to something, ask yourself “why?” If something makes you uncomfortable or brings out your obsessive tendencies, ask “why?”
- Dig deeper, get to the roots. It’s scary, but you can’t fix a problem if you don’t understand it. If you feel inferior around certain people, write down the exact emotions you feel around them. Have you felt that way before? When? Why? When you get to the bottom, ask yourself what you really want. Do you feel inferior because that person seems more exciting and has more friends than you? Maybe you want to feel loved, or to manifest more fun in your life.
- Dig yourself back out. When you get to the bottom of your emotions and discover what you want, ask yourself how you can get what you want. Say you want to feel loved, and you want to have more fun in your life. How can you manifest more fun and love? How can you give more love, so that you’ll attract it back to you?
- Read. Writing honestly takes a lot of practice because most people have difficulty recognizing uncomfortable emotions because they’re so used to shunning them or covering them with food or another addiction. I’ve found that reading the honest writing of others, whether it’s blogs, scriptures, or other inspiring books is a great way to loosen up. If we see those emotions in others, we learn to see them in ourselves. Talking with a counselor or trusted friend can also help. Learn to feel your emotions, get in touch with them.
So something happened yesterday that hasn’t happened for a few months: I ate compulsively. It wasn’t an obvious binge, but over the course of the day I noticed that I never felt hungry once, but I never felt satisfied and I kept eating. I didn’t get upset or anything, I didn’t think those awful thoughts that usually come with a binge. “Why are you doing this?! You’re so weak. You must not care about your body. All the hard work you’ve done, and you throw it away just to keep tasting.”
Nope, none of that. I just let it happen, knowing that something wasn’t quite right with me and that I didn’t quite have the strength to deal with it in the moment, which is fine. So I ate, and it all tasted delicious.
Later in my journal, I realized that I might just need to go back to the basics.
I believe that all compulsive eating behaviors come from a mixture of emotional and physical roots. I know my physical and chemical roots well, and the way I ate yesterday-lots of sugar and simple carbohydrates, no protein, healthy fat or veggies-could only set me up for more binging. I’m sure my blood sugar was going nuts.
After the emotional work I did last week, I know that I’m still struggling with the feeling of urgency, of feeling rushed and trying to relieve that tension by eating. Though I worked out the feeling last week, I haven’t let it go yet.
So what did I decide to do?
This week, I’m hitting my reset button and returning to the basics, to what I know works for my body and mind.
- Eating foods that make me feel good (lots of veggies with some fruits, nuts, eggs, fish and sprouted grains) and avoiding the foods that mess up my body signals (sugars, dairy, white flour)
- Eating consciously-chewing thoroughly, eating at the table without a book or my computer, and blowing off mealtimes and eating when I feel like it.
- Joyful movement, my way. This usually means a good walk or run in the morning, a few shorter walks throughout the day and my yoga practice.
- Taking my time, removing all the pressure. Taking time to do yoga and study my scriptures, taking time to lock myself in my studio to play or just think if I want, and taking time to be slow.
- This comes from a place of self-love and a desire to heal.
- Unlike a diet, this is all about removing pressure on the body and spirit
- This is non-obsessive and feels like a relief. It’s not exciting the same way dieting. It just feels good, like falling asleep after a long day.
Ok, let’s back up for a second. I participated in last month’s Self-Discovery Word-by-Word, and I loved it so much I wanted to contribute to this month’s too. When I realized that this month’s word is “Anger”, I almost decided to skip it. “What do I know about anger?” I thought. “I hardly ever get angry.”
That was two weeks ago, and since then I’ve realized that there are two kinds of people in this world that don’t get angry: People like my Uncle Rhett, who never take crap from people but deal with it in a low-key way, and people who get walked all over and pushed around until they finally explode.
How did I never see it?
I’ve never been good at standing up for myself. My mom often says that when I was little, I never got candy when the pinata broke because I wouldn’t dive in and fight for it like the other kids. I cry when people get mad at me. I avoid conflict of any sort and when someone pisses me off, I keep my mouth shut.
I’ve lived this way all my life, afraid to express any emotion I considered negative or inconvenient for other people and those corked-up feelings manifested in my body though weight gain, adrenal fatigue, compulsive and restrictive eating, depression and anxiety.
When I discovered Intuitive Eating a few years ago, I realized that I had a whole underground chamber of emotions to sort through before I could ever be free of eating problems, and I’ve only recently reached the point where I can deal with these emotions without gorging myself on chocolate chip cookies. I’ve slowly let my suppressed anger bubble to the surface so I can experience it and then let it go.
I’ve learned that emotions aren’t good or bad, they’re just emotions, and I’ve finally…finally…given myself permission to experience them. I’m not a bad person for feeling angry or sad or competitive. With this kind of emotional freedom comes a greater ability to experience feelings and understand their roots, to go deeper and deeper and fully understand why I hurt in the first place. With this understanding comes freedom of choice: “Should I really let this bother me?” or “Is this really a big deal?”. It’s like a ladder to greater mindfulness, and embracing my anger was the first step.
Now, emotions allow me to gauge how I’m doing and how I need to take care of myself. They’re like pressure gauges and thermometers. Pissed off? Time to get some space. Overwhelmed? Time for self-care. Resentful? There’s a misunderstanding somewhere and we’d better work it out.
In this sense, anger is a gift for self-awareness. When used properly, it’s a tool for self-improvement. Learn from it, experience it, use it. It’s a beautiful thing.
This post was written as part of the Self -Discovery Word-by-Word series. The May series is hosted by Jules at Big Girl Bomshell. Get details here to participate!
What a week! I’m finally moved into an apartment that I LOVE, Sam and I have both found jobs and things seem to be coming together. Things will be tight, but we’ll make it. I feel like I can finally breathe. I’ve gotten out of a situation that wasn’t good for me and now I feel like it’s time for some healing for body and spirit.
We often think of health as purely a matter of body, but our emotional state has a profound effect on our bodies, so if we’re stressed, sad, angry, or fearful, expect to feel it in your body. Ever gotten sick during finals week? Yeah, me too. As for me, my chronic stress has run my poor adrenal glands ragged, which in turn messed up my glucose levels, which exacerbates my compulsive eating tendencies which also feed on emotional distress. Though emotional discomfort is not fun on its own, it’s taken a toll on my body.
If you’re experiencing any emotional distress, I urge you to take some time to heal before it damages your precious body. I’ve spent a lot of quiet time with my mind and body lately, paying attention to those tiny nagging pains, the fatigue, the anxiety, and all of my emotions, good and bad. I ask myself, “What do I need to heal my emotions, my tired adrenal glands and my relationship with food?” As yourself what you need, and take the time to find answers. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Emotional safety– Let’s start at the beginning: if you don’t feel safe to feel and express your emotions, they will fester inside of you and wreck all kinds of havoc on your body. Do whatever you need to do to feel safe. If you feel trapped in anything, whether it’s a damaging relationship, a ridiculously stressful job, a less-than-ideal living situation, get out. It’s scary, it’s hard, but it’s the first and biggest step.
- Rest– Our bodies and minds don’t function properly without sufficient sleep and downtime, and if you’re strained you probably need more than most people. The recommended eight hours is just a guideline; if you’re emotionally depleted or fighting off an illness, take more. It’s not excessive, or self-indulgent, it’s what you need. If you need more than twenty minutes of “you time” every day, do whatever you need to take it without feeling guilty. Remember, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else.
- Nutritional support– Food is more than stuff to keep that nagging growling stomach at bay, or to soothe our emotions. Food is what our bodies use to rebuild themselves and to function, so if you constantly feed it damaged food, you’re going to get a damaged body. Learn to listen to your body, pay attention to how certain foods make you feel so you can feel yourself the right things. Use high-quality supplements to fill in some gaps if necessary, at least a whole food multi and possibly fish oil as well.
- Creative expression– Everyone is creative, even if you don’t paint or write novels or compose symphonies. Return to a creative activity you loved as a child, or try a new one. Visit art galleries, go to plays, read mystery novels and look for little opportunities to be creating, like when you’re making dinner or helping your kids with school project. If you’re a very artistic person whose been blocked for awhile, (like yours truly) this is especially important. Creative constipation is damaging to the spirit. Creativity is part of being human and a huge part of being healthy. Recognize it, cultivate it.
- Grounding rituals– Life is hectic. Duh. A couple soothing rituals can serve as anchors in the midst of all the craziness, whether it’s getting up ten minutes earlier for a cup of herbal tea, taking five minutes to mediate after work, or doing relaxing stretches to prepare for bed. Come back to these rituals a few times every day to root yourself down.
- Meditative movement– The physical and mental benefits of exercise are well-documented, but the spiritual perks are immeasurable. Find a way of moving that connects you to your body and nature. Walking works well for just about everyone, but try dance, yoga, martial arts, biking, or even canoeing. Appreciate what your body can do and use your movement sessions not only to tone your body, but to listen to it and to clear your head.
- A constant positive outlook– Surround yourself with positivity. Plaster your home with sticky notes bearing uplifting messages. Guided mediations are awesome, so get some CDs or podcasts. Carry a journal constantly to write through negative feelings and come back to a positive place. Train yourself to replace your destructive thoughts with healing ones. Spend time with people who think highly of you.
The world is full of books on each of these steps. Some people learn these the hard way and some cultivate these skills early on to avoid learning them the hard way. The key is to listen to your emotions and your body simultaneously. They both speak to you in symphony and it’s amazing what they’ll tell you.
How have your emotions affected your body?
I’m relishing the first time I’ve gotten to be be lazy on my couch all week.
I know I’m still getting the hang of blogging and being completely authentic to my readers. (All eight of you reading this…:) so get ready for all the authenticity you can handle.
Some days, I hate my life. Nearly every day this week, I’ve thought about telling my aunt I’m done nannying, and how writing just isn’t happening lately, how my sense of purpose is in the toilet and how I’m sick of being 15 or so pounds above my happy weight. I’m also sick of pretending I’ve got it all together.
To make a really long story short, I’ve actually made progress this week both on the intuitive eating front and in learning to take life as it comes. I’ve started keeping a food/mood journal according to the guidelines on Christie’s blog and I’ve probably been more mindful of my food and my body than I have during the past two years of trying to practice intuitive eating. I’ve also decided that this is where I need to be, taking care of my six cousins and helping my aunt even though it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had. I’ve also felt more like myself than I have in years because I got my no-kid-stick removed (aka, hormonal birth control)
I’ve barely had time to shower this week, let alone write, but I have journaled, and I think that’s what got me through. Good ol’ journal, I could never live without you. Seeing how this is an authenticity blog and all, I’ve decided to kill two flies with one swatter and overlap my blogging and journaling a bit, not only because that’s the only way I’ll get ’em both done, but because my journal is the real me. Handprint Soul is the real me. This is the real me.