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Scarcity and Lack: The Ringmasters of Holiday Stress


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Holidays can be lovely time full of joy, connection and reflection, but more often than not, that potential gets buried under feelings of stress, overwhelm and even dread. But why? Where do these feeling arise from as we navigate through the purportedly “happiest time of the year,” and is there anything we can do to avoid the compensatory behaviors we often find ourselves in (think: over-eating, over-drinking, under-exercising) in an attempt to cope?

 

Yes, and, let me explain.

 

In a culture of consumerism, the messages we’re given centralize around the theme, “You need this.” While there are incomprehensible ways to accomplish this, the basic premise of economics is: Sell people things they need in order to collect money you need in order to buy things you need… and the cycle continues. But before I go on further, let me just say that I don’t necessarily see anything fundamentally wrong with this picture. I have needs. You have needs. We have to find ways to meet those needs. Nothing wrong with that. So, for those of you out there rolling your eyes, thinking I’m shaming the world for consuming and trying to sway you into a counter-culture of communing and trading, I’m not. Let’s be clear.

 

I am, however, going to suggest to you that your needs, and what marketing companies tell you are you *needs, are two, very different things, and that believing your needs are never fully met is stressful to the body and mind, which is particularly present during the holiday season leads to unavoidable holiday gloom.

 

In other words, the constant highlight of the fact that we don’t have enough and will never be enough unless we buy, get or have ‘The Thing’ being sold to us, creates feelings of scarcity and lack. And furthermore, while actual scarcity has been shown in studies to be associated with decline in cognitive function as well as feelings of tenseness, irritability, fatigue and overwhelm, mere thoughts about scarcity lead to the same outcome. Meaning: Whether you don’t have enough, or whether you BELIEVE you don’t have enough, the results are much the same.

 

And to that point, no amount of breathing exercises, yoga, meditation or anti-inflammatory foods will be able to combat the stress you feel if your central belief is “I’m not enough. I don’t have enough.” Those two thoughts, which have an evolutionary basis in needs of safety, are not only stressful but destabilizing as well. Yet, we are inundated on a daily basis with messaging and marketing made to make us feel just that: Not enough.  

 

Turn on the TV and you will see endless advertisements directed at pointing out your flaws, what’s wrong with the world or how you can “fix” your life with this one simple tool. Cue the late night infomercials. But, it’s not always quite as boisterous as that either. A subtle message about those pesky grey hairs may seem totally normal to you based on the culture we’ve grown accustom to, but essentially the storyline is the same old song on repeat: You’re not enough the way you are – here, fix it with this.

 

No wonder we are all walking around tense, needy and irritable. I don’t know about you, but when I start to feel less-than or not-enough, I immediately want to dig into a box of cookies, a bottle of wine or, better yet, snap at the nearest person next to me just for existing.

 

In fact, when we feel fearful, stressed or uneasy about our lives, we tend to want to anesthetize that pain with creature comforts such as sugar, alcohol, sex, shopping or exercise. While in moderation, none of these things are inherently harmful, but excessive amounts of them can lead to negative consequences down the road, as most of us are aware. When we spend a whole month (or three considering they put out Christmas decorations at Halloween now) in the feeling of stress around upcoming holidays, we can easily begin to lean on these crutches more often than not, creating detrimental effects for our health.

 

To demonstrate this point even further, there has been some amazing work coming out of Princeton and Harvard professors Eldar Shafir and Sendhil Mullainathan pointing to the fact that scarcity, and the feelings of scarcity, actually lower cognitive abilities. Meaning, as humans, our decision making skills sort of fly out the window when dealing with the stress of scarcity. Now, they were mostly referring to financial scarcity in these studies, but have alluded to the fact in other articles that it doesn’t necessarily matter what the subject matter is. The reason being that when the human brain experiences stress, glucose levels plummet as energy demands increase in response to stress hormones being released into the bloodstream, and our attention focuses myopically on the stressor at hand, ultimately, making us dumber and hyper-reflexive in nature.

 

Now, this might seem like an intense description to lay out as a case against watching TV commercials, but nonetheless I think it’s worth mentioning since we are inundated with these messages more often than most of us care to recognize, making us victims of our own culture.

 

So, what to do? Because, let’s be honest, thinking about the ways your thoughts stress your body out is stressful in and of itself, and that’s not good for anyone.

 

Luckily, I believe the antidote to this conundrum is much simpler than we might assume. While I talk about it a lot, awareness – simple, sweet awareness – is once again key. Even reading this post, you will most likely think about things a little bit differently, and that, I believe is enough. Because next time you catch yourself feeling badly that you don’t have the latest style of workout pants or a bigger, fancier car or new furniture for your house or all the books you could ever want to read or the newest kitchen gadget from La Creuset, you might just stop and ask yourself, “Will this thing somehow make me better?” “Do I really need it?” “If I do want it, why? And lastly, “Even without this thing, can I be enough?”

 

Again, I don’t write this post to scare you out of wanting fun things, shopping for your loved ones or getting caught up in the Christmas spirit. We all celebrate differently, and if that feels good to you, and excites you and conjures feelings of joy – by all means, DO THE THINGS THAT BRING YOU JOY. But, if you find yourself feeling badly, feeling like you're lacking or ungrateful for all that you already do have, perhaps check in and tune in to see if the message is yours, or if you’ve been paying a bit too much attention to those outside voices whose message will always, and forever, be: You’re not enough.

 

Until next time,

Sy 

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The Nocebo Effect: Can You Think Yourself Sick?

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The Body is Not A Textbook

When it comes to healing the body, I’m the type practitioner who believes it’s more an art form than a science, but only because I’ve witnessed what happens when we reduce the body to a textbook.

 

You see, for many years, I made my body a textbook. I figured the more I knew the better, and set out to learn everything I could about the intricacies of internal human landscape as I worked to heal my own debilitating conditions. I was the woman “doing everything right,” by all evidence-based standards, but who was still mired in fear, doubt and a host of physical ailments that left me hanging by a thread. And, not only was I caught in this puzzling web of confusion, but I still see it time and time again in my practice in women dealing not only with whatever diagnoses or host of symptoms they’re plagued with, but also burn out from all the routines, rituals, supplements and protocols of which they’re strictly adhering.

 

To be fair, these prescriptions and recommendations are helpful. For short term data-collection, plans and supplemental support can absolutely be useful, and I’ll never be one to refute the power of cleansing leafy greens or gut-healing bone broth. Yet, ultimately, finding out what the body needs to repair itself requires more than a pantry full of vitamins and piles of expensive doctor bills. Rather, it requires a gentle, subtle tuning in that starts with our beliefs about it’s ability to do so.

 

Many of us have heard of the placebo effect in medicine and health, but less so the Nocebo effect. While the placebo effect demonstrates the positive correlation between the mind-body connection (the body’s ability to heal itself), the nocebo effect points to it’s negative implications. Essentially, the nocebo effect is a branch of mind-body healing dedicated to understanding the correlation between the negative beliefs we hold about our body and how they manifest physically and mentally.

 

What I I want to discuss in this post is how certain beliefs and thoughts you may harboring could be holding you back from that which you want – to live a healthy, free and happy life.

 

Understanding the Mind-Body Connection

 

The mind is powerful, this we know. But just how powerful is less charted territory, particularly because our Western medicine culture doesn’t leave a lot of room for anecdotal, or what is often termed woo-woo, evidence. Without good hypothesis and proof, we don’t consider research like that to be valid. And we certainly don’t find clinical evidence to be enough to constitute fact. Meaning that just because I see something repeated in my practice, doesn’t mean it’s true. But, nonetheless, when all else fails and we’ve tested every lab imaginable with no movement toward improvement, its worth looking into what else could be causing the block.

 

Enter: Mind-body healing. Unfortunately, it’s still last on the list for most people after all other efforts have failed, but then again, I don’t really care how you got here, only that you did.

 

To demonstrate the Nocebo Effect in action, let’s take a look at a few examples that have been recorded throughout the years:

 

·      In a controlled study done for a new chemotherapy drug, control patients were given saline water as their placebo, yet 30% of them lost their hair.

 

·      In another study, control patients were given a sugar pill they were told could cause nausea. 80% of them vomited.

 

·      Patients on antidepressants who were reporting a decrease in depression were told they would be getting randomized placebos – meaning they may or may not be continuing their medication. Both patients who continued their medication, and those on the placebo, reported a returning and worsening of symptoms.

 

Now, these are just three of many studies done on the same topic, but they aptly showcase what I mean when I say “the mind is king.” In other words, what you think you shall see. NOT what you see, you shall think.

 

Our brain’s ability to construct our reality is real, and worth examining if we find ourselves unable to kick certain illnesses, symptoms, beliefs, patterns or conditions.

 

How to Know If The Nocebo Effect is Affecting You

 

I often tell my clients to start out writing a list of things they believe to be true about their bodies. For example: If someone is struggling with chronic fatigue, they may list out beliefs like:

 

I’m always tired.

I can’t exercise without needing a nap.

I don’t’ sleep well.

I never know how my body will feel.

I’m just kind of a weak and sickly person. Always have been, always will be.

 

Someone who is trying and failing to lose weight may believe things like:

 

I can’t quit sugar, I’ve tried hundreds of times

Working out is really hard

I just look at food and gain weight

My love handles get bigger every year

My body was just built to be big

 

Bear in mind that these will vary depending on whatever it is you’re considering a struggle.

Then, after they’ve done that, I ask them to see how many on their list serve them well and how many do not. And by serve them, I mean are helpful to their healing. Most of the time, there are very few which serve them, and many, many that hinder their efforts and cause emotional responses like depression, anxiety, sadness, hopelessness and powerlessness.

 

When we get clear on what our beliefs about our body or condition or life circumstances are, it becomes easier to see what sorts of responses are resulting as a consequence. Simply put, if I wake up everyday believing that I am tired and didn’t get enough sleep, that is what I will most likely find to be true day in and day out.

 

While the Nocebo Effect isn’t widely understood from a scientific viewpoint (it’s hard to get approval for studies that knowingly cause harm), some researchers point to the stress effect that negative beliefs or thoughts can have on the body and attribute the physical decline that occurs in response to the Nocebo Effect. In other words, your worrisome and stressful thoughts about your condition trigger a physical stress response in your body which causes all kinds of symptom manifestations.

 

Yet, this doesn’t necessarily describe the “how” behind the specificity like the cases listed above. But, whether or not we have a fully functional explanation, it’s clear to see that the mind plays a HUGE role in whether or not the body will be able to heal, and I see this in my practice often. Which is exactly why I believe healing the mind and body must be done congruently. When we talk about root cause medicine, we’re referring to finding the root of the problem and digging it out so to speak to the issue can resolve. When the root cause is a belief, that must be addressed as well and can start with something as little as being willing to notice the beliefs that are working for your benefit, and the ones that are not, and then working to replace them slowly.

 

Even a statement as tiny as, “I don’t know if my body will ever heal, but I’m willing to hold out hope,” can be enough to open up the door of possibilities previously closed to you by your unwillingness to see them.

 

We know that the power of the placebo effect is real and mighty and can lead to dramatic, spontaneous healings in the body and mind. With that said, it would only make sense that the opposite it true as well, in which case, paying attention to our daily, even moment-to-moment, thoughts about our life could and would be worthwhile.

 

Til next time,

Sy

 

 

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Relationships: It's not them, it's you.


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I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships lately. Platonic, intimate, acquaintances and everything in between. The nature of them, how they affect our well-being, our health, our mindset and how, despite sometimes wishing they weren’t, they are integral to our joy and fulfillment during this lifetime. So, as I usually do with things I think about intensely, I decided to write about it.

 

Being an NTP, you’d think my job description ended at food, but what I’ve found over the years is that food is rarely the place of conclusion. In fact, it’s usually the commencement, the place where it all starts and continues to unfold into a deeper understanding of what health really means.

 

To me, health means being able to wake up in the morning satisfied and eager. Happy and content with your life and where it’s heading. Receptive and open to contrast as a learning tool, but not afraid and fearful of its presence in your life. Health means alignment between your body, mind and soul and a feeling of connection to a greater collective than you can concretely wrap your head around.

 

Can all of that be accomplished with food? I think not. Which is why I feel it necessary for us to take a holistic approach to our wellness and address all the conditions of our lives, including our loved ones – our loathed ones – and ones we don’t give much thought to, but who still exist in our awareness.

 

Whether we like it or not, relationships are central to our existence and we are in a “relationship” with everyone we meet. To demonstrate my point, according to the dictionary definition, relationships are defined as such:

 

“the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.”

 

In other words, while we often save the word *relationship for our intimate and romantic ones, we are related and connected to everything and everyone we come into contact with, making relationships a very, very large and undeniable part of our experience. If I go to the grocery store to pick up food, I’m in a relationship of some sort with every person and item there. Now, the intensity of that relationship may vary, I may hardly notice some people while choosing to speak to others, but nonetheless, the relationship exists. From a purely objective standpoint, with this many relationships making their way into our daily experience, wouldn’t it make sense to ensure they are mostly positive?

 

But we don’t do that. We tend to think of relationships as passive. As though the people and encounters in our lives are exerted upon us and our only job is to consume them. To receive them and react to them.  If we are “lucky and blessed” we’re surrounded by people who make our lives better, and if we are “unlucky and cursed” we will be surrounded by those we consider idiots or people who make our lives miserable.

 

And this is wherein the problem lies...

 

What most people fail to understand is that the quality of our relationships exists in direct proportion to who we ARE in our own lives. In other words, your relationships are a direct reflection of YOU.

 

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With that in mind, do you like what you see looking back?

 

Upon learning this harsh, eye-opening truth, I remember balking a bit. I was more of the mindset that people were more hassle than they were worth. For the most part, I found that people were self-serving, annoying, dumb, lazy, mean, and uninteresting. I had time for a few select (read: “important”) people in my life, and even they were often the source of much of my pain. Particularly when it came to my romantic relationships. No matter how hard they may have been trying, I was consistently disappointed with their lack of attention, love and adoration, expecting an inordinate amount of devotion and connection that I myself was unwilling and unable to give in return.

 

So, you can imagine my surprise, and disbelief, when I found out that all of those relationships – the ones that caused me so much headache and the ones for which I longed to be more meaningful and deep – were a product my doing.

 

I’m not suggesting that we can manipulate our relationships to fit our ideals, but what I am saying is that if we want meaningful, loving, interesting, expanding, open, communicative relationships, we must first show up as those qualities in our own lives. Borrowing from religion, we call this a faith of sorts. The premise that I must first become that which I want to be and look for what I want to cultivate within myself without having seen proof of it in others. Because the universal forces which bring us together are interesting that way. If my frequency is more irritable than compassionate, more angry than loving, more negative than positive, by definition it will be difficult, if not impossible, to match up with anyone embodying those qualities.

 

Sometimes this is hard, especially when it means looking at old patterns and ways of showing up and choosing new ones. I remember specifically wanting more authentic, open and vulnerable relationships, until I realized what they would require of me. More authenticity and vulnerability. Unfortunately (or not), relationships are never one-sided, meaning that you will most likely have to become uncomfortable for a period of time while you learn to navigate new ways of being, communicating and interacting. Which is why most of us fail to make changes and then blame others for not being what we needed them to be.

 

When I was on the road to those more meaningful relationships, I had to dive deep into what I considered hot water and it was, at times, terrifying. It didn’t stop me, but sometimes my heart would race so fast I thought I would die and I had multiple vulnerability hangovers, as shame researcher Brene Brown affectionately calls them. I was wobbly and shaky and unsure of myself most of the time, but little by little I saw people opening up around me in ways I couldn’t have imagined before. Not only strangers, but friends and family I’d known my entire life. People I thought couldn’t possibly share my love for this work or whom I thought were content to stay where they were started joining me on my journey. We talked and laughed and cried – sometimes we pushed back on each other, but ultimately the more responsibility I took for massaging and nurturing my relationships, the more they blossomed before my eyes into something that felt real. That felt like mine.

While that’s simply one example of the way it could unfold, the overarching theme is this:

 

Get clear on what you’d like from your relationships and then work to become that person.

 

Your relationships will rise or fall to the level of your expectation and creation. They are not dead, but vitally alive and pulsing with possibility. Not outside of yourself, but in. And arguably, existing in a world where you feel enlivened, supported, loved, seen and connected is one that’s fantastic for your health. Next time you find yourself frustrated, disappointed or disillusioned with the people in your life, ask yourself how you can show up differently to the scene and see how it changes the landscape.

 

Until next time,

Sy

 

 

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The Art of Reclaiming Your Life


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Over the years, in my own life and in talking with others, I’ve come to the realization that many people are walking around right now lamenting lives not lived. They’re stuck feeling like their life isn’t their own, yet are unsure how to fulfill that deeper desire. As if somehow, in some other dimension, they’re living a life they feel passionately connected to and thrilled about, but here and now, are mostly just tired, burned out and waiting for the weekend to arrive.

 

I remember those feelings too. In fact, it wasn’t until I was nearing 30 that the call to more blared so loudly in my ears I couldn’t ignore it any longer. Yet, I also remember not knowing how or where to start because it felt as though every time I tried to “find my inspiration,” or discover my passion, I came up short handed and more frustrated than before. There were many nights of resignation, wondering if these dreams I had in my head for contentment, happiness and joy were simply not meant for me, meant for someone else with more drive, more courage and more *go-get-em-ness. It wasn’t just that I hated all the jobs I tried out, had a long-term relationship that was falling a part or that I woke up every morning with a sense of unease and discontent, but more more the overwhelming feeling that there was something out there for me and I was just missing what it was – that I was disconnected from my purpose, my reason for being, and it felt awful.

 

"Like a loyal dog, the nagging, persistent desire for more continued to stick with me..." 

 

So what did I do? What any normal, self-respecting adult would do – I numbed. Without a way to figure out what exactly was wrong, I was left with a general malaise about life that I couldn’t take any longer. I watched too much television, I drank too much wine, I went to the gym every single day, I filled my time and space with other people and their wins and losses and I counted the hours between waking and sleep when so I could give my mind respite from my thoughts. But no matter how over-stimulated or “busy” I managed to stay, it never left my side. Like a loyal dog, this nagging, persistent desire for more continued to stick with me.

 

Funny enough, I find that we are often led to what we most desire through secondary routes. For me, I was finally forced to slow down when I came face to face with my worst enemy at the time: my anxiety. With no other options, I enlisted the help of a therapist who I will always hold dear to my heart for this reason: He introduced to me meditation.

 

Now, in no way, shape or form was I sitting myself down to meditate everyday because I thought it would lead me to some spiritual awakening or "back to myself", I simply wanted the anxiety to leave. But as I familiarized myself with the practice, something miraculous happened. A shift in consciousness, if you will, that radically changed my life – forever.

 

"Stillness and silence speak... but only if you let them..."

 

You see, stillness and silence speak … but only if you let them. Many of us fear that if we stop running, stop working, stop obsessing, stop trying, that what we are running from will catch up with us. But that is the point. It’s as if there is a benevolent messenger running after you, with all the answers to your burning questions, but you are running away, convinced that if he catches you, you will surely die. 

 

However, you begin to make room for stillness in your life, you allow answers to come through you. You allow your subconscious mind to voice what it has known all along. You allow all that you are to show up fully, presently and with confidence. You become clearer, sharper, more in focus. The endless loops playing in your mind calm down, the edge is taken off so to speak. From there, you can actually tap into the wisdom and knowing that lies within you rather than looking for answers outside where they can never be found.

 

The health problem you just can’t get to the root of? The career decision you're up in arms about? The relationships you can’t decide to leave or stay? The diet strategy that will work for your particular body needs? The friend you  need to have a talk with but aren’t sure how? The money you need to come up with but have no clue where it will come from?

 

All these answers, and more, exist in this space.

 

But, getting there can be somewhat uncomfortable, and that’s where most people give up. When they shut off the TV, stop the needless conversation, turn off the notifications and retire to their quiet space alone, they begin to panic. Even a quiet house can send chills of anxiety running through someone who fears his own mind. His own heart.

 

So what do we do in the face of something that feels so large? We start small. If you are used to endless amounts of stimulation, absolute silence is going to feel empty and you’re going to want to run. That's the simple truth. The best antidote for this then is to take baby steps into that big, wide pond. Start by giving yourself 10 minutes of time to unplug a day. Turn off your cell phone or flip it upside down while you read a book, watch a movie or do dishes. Perhaps, roll your window down in the car and turn down the music. Maybe you take a walk without your phone or decide to do some reading instead of watching TV. Perhaps you just sit in silence with your friends or partner for a minute or two, not needing to fill the space with your words.

 

Start small. That is the key. Then, when you’re feeling more comfortable, ease your way into more purposeful practices like meditation, lying still or breath work. Or even just try spending a few hours completely to yourself. No distractions, no cell phones, no external noises, no podcasts, no radios… Just you, and you.

These rich, deeply personal experiences can only be felt for what they are when we are willing to receive and hear the gift wrapped up inside them. But if we’re not quite ready, they can propel us into further numbness and further shame because we’ve now failed at the “thing” that was supposed to change our life. This is why I suggest starting small and easing your way into such a practice.

 

Stillness and silence speak. But not in a language we are used to hearing. Learning to understanding this unique communicative style takes time, awareness and willingness. If all you start with is a small desire to hear that voice, that is enough. Eventually, you will figure it out, but give yourself the time and space to let it unfold naturally. Every question has an answer, our job is merely to allow the receiving of it. 

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Using food as a form of self-love

Let’s face it – you have a body and it needs nourishment, but you also have a body you feel needs to fit certain standards of beauty within a cultural context. Sadly, these two needs don’t fit into the same box for most women and, more often than not, we find ourselves sacrificing health for beauty or, conversely, believing that we have to sacrifice beauty for health. I don’t know about you, but the conversation I’m interested in having is one in which sacrifice is not invited to the party and we can literally have our cake and eat it too – honestly, why would you want cake you can’t eat anyway?

 

Most women, including myself at various times throughout my life, I know tend to view food in a very dogmatic, data-driven, numbers sort of way.

 

How many calories does it have?

Will it fit my carbs for the day?

Is it a bad food or a good food?

How many miles will I have to run to get rid of that dessert?

 

We act like food is merely an annoyance to deal with, something we’d really prefer not to engage with if we could just figure out how to bypass our biology…

 

“If only I wasn’t so hungry all the time!!! I’d totally look like a bikini model. Damn appetite. Damn body”

 

Comical yes, but sad and true nonetheless.

 

But what if there was a different way? A way to love and appreciate food. To court our food like a romantic, Italian lover and to fall in love with the very essence of it? To tap into the sensual, inspired side of food and to revel in its colors, tastes and smells? To find gratitude for its nutrients and excitement in its stunning beauty? And, further, what if the path to this glorious relationship with food was through our relationship to ourselves?

 

You see, whether you like it or not, you were given a body. And that body of yours is a precious gift. We, as in our consciousness, are not our bodies, but rather souls that reside in a body until we decide to leave. In that sense, your body really is on loan from forces that extend further than your ability to see them.

 

Imagine this: Let’s say that when you are born you are given a car. This car is meant to last you your whole life and get you everywhere you need to go. Now, knowing how fickle cars can be, I’m betting you’d treat your car with the utmost respect, love and appreciation. You’d feed it quality gas and take it for regular tune ups. You’d keep it clean and fueled up with all the right fluids and treat it with loving kindness. You wouldn’t push it to do more than its capable of because you’d understand that you don’t get another one if it were to die out, and you have places to go, people to meet, things to do! Ultimately, this car would be your most prized possession because without it your life would be incredibly difficult to maintain.

 

As clunky and mismatched as this analogy may be, your body IS your car and you do only get one in this lifetime. Your body was given to you for a very special purpose, and truthfully, I believe you picked it out with utter excitement knowing all that you could do together. You said, “that’s the one I want! Just look at it!”

 

In return, your body wants nothing more than to please you, to help you get around, to house an intelligent brain and take you on grand adventures – but you, in your human nature, are over here berating it, punishing it, scolding it and hating it. You curse your body and say mean things to its face. You talk about it behind its back and criticize it every time you see it. You expect it to perform like a work horse on a peasant’s diet and then get angry when it holds on to its last shred of comfort in your thick thighs, beautiful, soft belly and full cheeks.

 

Can you really blame it? I don’t know anyone or anything that can thrive under those conditions.

 

So let’s change the narrative. Let’s become renegades in the world of food and nutrition and diet, and say “No more” to the ceaseless marketing meant to make us feel bad about our bodies!

 

Let’s fall in love with food and get excited about what our “car” needs to keep living up to its fullest potential. Next time you’re in the grocery store, imagine what your car might need in this moment… What sounds delicious, fresh and vital? What makes your heart dance a happy dance when you think about it?

 

Can you imagine the perfect crunch of a salad leaf?
Can you taste the sweetness of a fresh peach?

Can you imagine a bite of nourishing, creamy butter on a warm piece of toast?

Is a delicious bite of decadent dark chocolate calling your name?

Does a bittersweet glass of red wine on the patio make your toes tingle with anticipation?

 

Intuitive eating and eating out of love are about so much more than always choosing the “healthiest” foods or foods that we deem good. Sometimes, in a moment of pure joy and self-love, a piece of dark chocolate with some smooth, creamy cashew butter just lights me up. Other times, I really want to snuggle on my couch, watch a good movie, drink some wine and indulge in a gluten-free pizza. The key being that both scenarios involve love, not angst, worry or guilt.

 

Choosing to fuel your body isn’t always about drinking green smoothies and eating salads, although those are great choices in moderation. Using self-love to heal your relationship with food means caring about the way you feel (emotionally) and eating with love on your mind and in your heart. It means getting excited about your meals, trusting your body to absorb the nutrients and tuning into what your body is asking for in that moment. It’s living moment to moment and understanding that you are a dynamic, changing being, and therefore, your food choices will be too!

 

At first, it can seem scary to let go of the rules and restrictions, especially if we’ve had them in place for a while. And for a tiny bit, you may go off the deep end eating everything you can think of in that moment. That’s ok. If there is one thing I can promise, it’s that if you approach it with a feeling of curiosity and love, you will come back to center and your body will balance itself out. After one too many pints of ice cream, you WILL crave some veggies, and in that powerful moment, you are on your way to intuitive eating. That is what it means to use cravings to your advantage and to listen to the messages.

 

Intuitive eating, born out of self-love, is not a dietary strategy. It is the relationship you were always meant to have with your body. The one where you wake up in the morning grateful for its existence and say, “what do you need today, how can I serve you? What would make you happy?”

 

The rewards from tuning in and listening to those messages are countless, but the greatest one I believe it the sense of complete confidence you begin to embody as you recognize the effort you’re willing to make for this priceless friend of yours. Knowing you are doing all you can for yourself in order for you to thrive brings about a deep sense of appreciation and gratitude for yourself, and that, my friends, is true self-love.

 

 

Happy eating!

 

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Inspired Action Vs. Action: What's the Difference and How Can You Tell?

So, have you ever felt the pressure to get something done, or to check something off your list, but felt totally uninspired to do it and let procrastination suck the life out of you? Yeah, me too. In fact, I started going down that familiar path today, but was luckily interrupted by a phone call from a friend that lasted well over an hour and took my mind out of forcing myself to write this blog and into talking and laughing and connecting. Afterward, not only did I feel inspired with tons of new thoughts and energies buzzing through my brain, but I felt excited to sit down and jam out this post because the lesson is applicable to so many of us. When we force our way through life, we get tired and burned out, but when we tap into the source of never-ending energy within us, life flows effortlessly and easily. And this applies to everything from our closest relationships to writing weekly blog posts. The rules never change. Hold on too tightly, and the sand falls out. Open your hand and let it sit, and it can remain indefinitely.

 

But, the key is recognizing this, because as we all probably know, it’s easier said than done when we’re up against a deadline or when our partner is drifting further and further away or when we don’t know whether we should quit the job or stay. I get it. I LOVE making lists and checking items off. I love certainty and am terrified by change. I find it so satisfying in the part of my brain that likes things orderly and organized – the part that feels safer when things are under control. But when our lists and expectations and goals become more harmful than helpful, it’s worth stepping back and taking a look at how our forcefulness is actually the cause of our discomfort, NOT the thing we think needs changes or fixing or completing.

 

Recently, I had a wonderful experience I’d like the share that demonstrates this beautifully. I’ve often heard from spiritual teachers that when we align with the universe and our intuition, projects, experiences and relationships all flow effortlessly, almost like divine inspiration flowing THROUGH them. And while I’ve certainly experienced many moments of peace and clarity, I’d never really had that deep knowing about something that made it feel like I was floating on clouds. I’ve always been the push-through-it type where it takes me 3 days to painfully hack out a blog post filled with more edits, typos and rewritten sentences than not and by the end of it I feel mentally and emotionally drained. It was the same for programs I’d put out, coaching follow ups or big ideas that flowed through my brain. I loved them, but I equally hated them because they felt hard and overwhelming and stressful. But recently, I’ve been leaning into the idea of divine inspiration and letting the work flow through me instead of wrangling it out, and I finally came to a personal understanding of this with a small e-recipe book I co-authored.

 

One of my favorite teachers talks about how meditation allows the brain to slow down and turn off long enough that we are no longer blocking our internal guidance. Up until the past few months, I’d always used meditation in a very physically-focused way as a tool for calming down my nervous system and squelching stress. But, lately, I started focusing my attention on it’s more spiritual attributes. Namely, as a way to connect to my inner guidance system and source.  So, one day, after a nice, but not out of the normal, meditation, I got an Instagram notification from a friend whose recipe I’d cooked and photographed that said, “You always make them look so pretty.” Not thinking anything of it, I laughingly wrote back, “you cook em, I’ll make em look pretty!” and then, right then and there it was as if I was handed an idea that felt so natural and logical, it was hardly a big deal, but I knew deep in my soul that it was inspired. I shot her a text and said, “Hey, what if we actually do that and create a book together. You cook, I shoot?” To which she replied, “Let’s do it.” And the Simple Summer E-Recipe Book you’ve been hearing me talk about for weeks now was born. But not only was the idea born, the entire project flowed so seamlessly it felt as if I knew all along how to put together and craft an e-book. Then the emails began flowing in and the each and every picture turned out perfectly with one or two shots. The recipes were delicious and easily perfected in less than a week and every phone and brainstorming session was smooth like butter! THIS is what we mean when we talk of divine guidance and inspiration. THIS is what it feels like when the energy of the universe is flowing through you and into your creations, experiences and relationships. THIS is what alignment feels like and what it means to let go and let god – or the universe – or Buddha – or source, or whatever you call it.

 

When we take time to meditate, to slow down, to enjoy our life, to connect and live calmly, we are then open and receptive to these energies. Had I not taken the time to meditate and slow down my restless mind, and instead, pushed through my day without stopping until my head hit the pillow, I would never have seen that path unfolding right before my eyes, nor had the good sense to take it! In fact, I probably would have written it off as a silly passion and convinced myself I didn’t have time for it. And how much I would have missed! From that idea sprang forth four others, including an actual cookbook and new podcast. This is what it means to sync up with the universe, let go of the control and let divine guidance have its way with you.

 

Sure we can push and grind and manipulate our world so that we reach our goals and make ourselves heard, but we can also relax into them and get the same, if not better, results. Having done it both ways, I can tell you that this is one the best things I’ve ever created because of how it felt while I was doing it. There was no stress, no angst, no overwhelm – only joy, excitement and fun along the way and when it was done, I looked at it and smiled grateful for the adventure it took me on during those weeks.

 

If you’re the kind of person who is used to #nodaysoff and #hustling and #workgrind, I urge you in this moment to consider whether or not that mentality is actually serving you? Are you feeling burned out, uninspired and busy? If so, take some time to replenish and sit your ass down for a meditation. If you can’t possibly bare the idea of that (we’ll have to chat about that another time), then do something, anything, to unplug.

 

Go on a walk outside, chat with a dear friend, get a massage, go on a long drive, watch a sunset, even have a glass of wine. Keep unplugging for as long as you need until you feel so inspired to do something you couldn’t possibly ignore it and when that happens, notice the ease with which you get it done. This is how we find our joy and inspiration my friends. It’s not through hard effort, it’s not through control and it’s certainly not through grinding it out. Sure you can get things done that way, but they will probably be half of your genius at best and leave you feeling exhausted and in need of a vacation. Whereas divine inspiration actually bolsters our energy and fills us with delight.

 

Have you ever had an experience with divine guidance? Do you live in flow with the universe? If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Until next time,

Sy 


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Why I'm Changing the Direction of My Business, and Why I'd Love for You To Come Along!


Blog Post – Why I’m Changing the Direction of my practice, and why I’d love for you to follow along

 

 

I have a confession. I’ve been struggling for a while now, and truthfully the only people I’ve expressed it to are my closest confidants. I don’t mean to imply that anything is wrong, because its not, but I haven’t felt aligned with my practice for a couple of months now and the frustration has been swirling and building and gestating. Recently, this somewhat irritating energy finally decided to express itself, and I experienced a pretty major meltdown. However, once I finally dried my tears and got myself out of the shame/blame game, I realized the clarity that had been born from the moment. You see, I started out in the health and wellness community very passionate and excited about nutrition and its role in the vitality of the human body. I thrived on learning how to heal from chronic conditions that the conventional medical community dismissed such as anxiety, autoimmunity, depression and hormonal imbalance and ate up every piece of information I could. From there I got interested in other physically-focused aspects of health like sleep, exercise and the stress response, but then as I continued my research, work with clients and personal journey into the space of living well, I realized there was a big, fat hole no one was talking about. Well, not no one, but at least not the majority of practitioners I knew and listened to. The disconnect was: How other pieces of our lives such as work, relationships, self-acceptance, mindset and our ability to lean into feelings like love, vulnerability and joy fit into the puzzle of wellness AND can stop us from really ever getting out from under the story we feel is ours to bear. You see, many of my clients (including myself at one point) hit a wall and stalled out when we focused solely on nutrition. Sure they’d get results and feel or look physically better, but they would either fall back into old habits OR still walk away feeling like there was something missing. They’d get stuck in “healing mode” for months or even years at a time always looking for the next protocol, lab or aha-diagnoses to finally cure their issues, not realizing it all had to do with alignment.

 

The deeper I got into my own path with these internal subjects, the more I started sharing with my clients and the more results they started getting as well. They were becoming happier, calmer, more joyful and less anxious. They were aligning more with their soul paths and learning all about self-love and compassion and taking time, maybe for the first time, to implement self-care, which led them to show up better for everyone around them as well. WE began talking about relationships, and shame around money and their unwillingness to forgive themselves for not being perfect and as I watched these transformations unfold, I realized that I no longer aligned with just a nutrition-centered practice, but still wasn’t sure how to bridge the gap between where I was with my business and where I really wanted to be.

 

Then this last week, in the middle of another frustrating battle, and subsequent breakdown, with my copy, messaging and marketing (all things I dread by the way), I realized something – It wasn’t flowing because it wasn’t my truth. Well, not my whole truth anyway. You see, I’m not interested in taking my clients half way and focusing in on what I consider to be only one aspect of healing and transformation. I’m interested in co-creating and rendezvousing with those who are ready to chew on the whole enchilada. Those who are looking to wake up a year from now and say, “I don’t even recognize the person I used to be.” Those who are willing, able and committed to finding purpose and passion every day and who are ready to fight the good fight to bring forth their authenticity and divine truth.

 

Does nutrition line up with this? Absolutely. You must have a well-oiled machine if you want to win the race, but is it the whole picture? Not from what I’ve found. In fact, over the last couple years, I’ve found that there are really 6 key areas of the human experience that impact whether or not we will ever reach our fullest potential and live a life of freedom and happiness, of health and wellness. They are: Diet, Sleep, Exercise, beliefs/mindset, relationships and finances. And yes, I’m aware that the last one is a loaded topic, but it’s true. I’ve met people who were eating the best diets and sleeping 8 hours a night, but were riddled with dis-ease because they were constantly worried sick about money or, on the flip side, who felt terrible living large because what they really wanted was to live off the grid in a more sustainable way. Like it or not, money plays a role in all of our lives and our alignment with what feels good to us matters – whatever that may be!

 

In my mind, each one of these aspects compliments the others like a beautiful tapestry with multi-colored threads woven throughout. The picture simply wouldn’t be complete without each individual colored strand, and that is the way I have found healing to occur. I believe with my whole heart that when we are not in alignment with the higher purpose we come here to this earth for, that our bodies will find a way of telling us this. Maybe it starts out small like feeling a little tired and burned out, but as we continue to ignore the messages, our body and inner beings turn into screaming toddlers, throwing tantrums and trying every trick they know to get our attention.

 

The more we ignore the message, the louder the fits get until finally, and usually in a grand-gesture of frustration, we end up with something more serious like autoimmunity, heart disease, cancer, depression, anxiety, thyroid issues or some psychosomatic condition conventional medicine has no answer for (um, hello me). Then, and only then, with our backs pinned against the wall, do we usually listen up and THIS is the pivotal moment where we have a choice. A choice to choose a new path, the one that’s always been waiting for us, being held in trust by our higher consciousness, or to turn away in fear and continue to live a life with our hearts and souls closed off to all that we are wasting away what precious time we have left in this mortal body.

 

For those who choose option A, the path will not always be clear or easy – that is to be expected, and where I come in as a coach. I decided to go at this journey alone, but not because I wanted to. At the time, I simply didn’t realize there were coaches out there who were acting as mentors and guides and facilitators for those like myself who were walking the path of awakening and transformation, or I would have absolutely enlisted the help someone wiser. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t’ have teachers. I read books, I listened to books, I listened to podcasts, I read blogs, I Googled an inordinate amount of questions, I went to retreats, I spoke with friends and family, I saw therapists, I went to yoga classes, I meditated, I saw energy healers, I followed inspiring Instagram accounts and so much more. I submerged myself into the space of transformation because it was what I wanted more deeply than anything I’d ever wanted, and you can too. I went through much trial and error in my own journey, and while I certainly don’t preach one way of living (there are a million different ways to align), I do feel like all those experiences put me in a much better position to guide others down the path of awakening and reformation.

 

I believe that there are more of us than ever hearing the call. The call that says, “There’s more. I am more.” It is when we hear this call that we must listen or our resistance to it will build and gain so much momentum that our lives will begin to disintegrate before our eyes as the universe drags us along down the path to our dreams. We can go kicking and screaming, getting beat up along the way by the dusty road of stagnation and fear, or we can let go, surrender and trust that where we are heading is grander than anything we could have imagined for ourselves. It is our choice.

 

So, with that being said, this is the gentle, but exciting shift I will be making with my clients and in my platform. I’m not entirely sure how it will all unfold, and that part is exciting to me now. But I do know that this new, more expansive direction feels right and feels good. I can’t wait to be a part of the many journeys of total life transformation that are to come. Nothing gives me more joy than seeing my clients lives improve as they learn to lean into their intuitive nature and step into their power and vitality. But none of that is possible without addressing more than just our diets. More than just what’s in front of us in a way that we can see, touch and hear. We must go deeper if we are to truly change, and that is what I hope to bring to the table in this new direction. I hope you’ll stick along for the ride. I have a feeling it’s only going to get bigger and better from here. Until next time...

 

Much love, 

Sy 

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Are ANTS Stressing You Out?

ANTS. If you’ve ever had an an ant infestation, you’ll know just how pesky and downright yucky those little guys can be. While today’s conversation centers less around the bug-version of the pests, emotional and mental ANTS are just as annoying, persistent and damaging if left to their own devices. If you’re not not familiar with the the acronym, it stands for Automatic Negative Thoughts, and today I want to chat with you guys about why these patterns are so detrimental to our health and how they skyrocket stress levels.

 

First, let’s do a little unpacking of what an ANT is. Like I mentioned before, the name is pretty self-explanatory, but often times we aren’t even aware we’re engaging in ANT activity until we take a purposeful look inside our minds. I remember there being a time when I thought my thoughts were both uncontrollable and coming from somewhere outside of myself. I had negative, sad and pessimistic thoughts all day long, but thought that’s just the way my brain was made and that I was powerless to change it. Then I remember picking up a book called Change Your Brain, Change Your Life (mostly because I was desperate to get rid of my all-consuming anxiety and depression) and in an unexpected turn of events, learned about ANTS. ANTS are just negative thoughts we’ve been thinking so long and so frequently that they are hardly perceptible anymore.

 

For example: If you’re someone who struggles with body image issues, you may think something along the lines of “Ew, look at my love-handles” every time you pass a mirror without thinking twice about it. Your FIRST and most present (read: automatic) thought is to look for what’s wrong on your body, and I’m betting you’d be hard pressed at that point if I asked you to find something positive to note.

 

As another example, perhaps you’re someone who tends to be a worrier. In this instance, you’re probably looking for all that could go wrong in any given situation, event or circumstance rather than what could go right, and you most likely chalk it up to “being safe instead of sorry,” or even pragmatic thinking.

 

But here’s the thing, every time we think a negative thought, our body responds, and it’s not necessarily a good thing. From an evolutionary perspective, negative thoughts turn on the fight-or-flight mechanisms in our body because, essentially, they are signaling that something is wrong and that we should be ready for danger. This sends out stress signals to the brain which then compensate by releasing more signals and stress hormones to deal with the problem. Your body, as brilliant as it is in many ways, doesn’t really know the difference between a real and perceived threat, so whether you are truly in danger, or merely thinking negative thoughts that make you feel threatened, the response is the same.

 

This is why ANTS, which many of us think every day, sometimes all day, are so harmful both physically and emotionally. We are literally our own worst enemy when it comes to the thoughts we think because our thoughts create emotions and emotions create responses, and chronic, long-term exposure to these types of responses has a wearing down effect on the body’s systems. Over time, this exposure leads to stress-related pathologies such as digestive issues, headaches, tension in the jaw and neck, raised blood pressure and heart rate, wonky menstrual cycles, drained energies and much, much more. The human body does an excellent job when acute stress is present (think emergencies), but really isn’t designed to handle the pressure of long-term, low-grade chronic stress day in and day out. When we start to feel these effects, it usually shows up as “just feeling off.”

 

Many, in fact most, of my clients come to me because, while they can’t quite put a finger on what’s wrong, they recognize that they don’t feel alive, vibrant, healthy, and in many cases, happy. That’s when our work begins as we start to uncover and unpack all the ways that stress, in all its many forms, plays a role in our physiology.

 

 

So, now that we know how thoughts impact the body, the question you probably have is, “What should I do about it?

 

I like to tell people, in order to make real, transformative changes, you must first be aware of what it is you’re trying to change. Now, I realize that may seem a bit blatant, but often times we are looking to our immediate problems or issues, rather than the stuff bubbling underneath them. Heading back to our analogy about body image, it would be easy to think that if we could just change our body, we’d be happy. But underneath that desire is really just a wish for more safety and confidence, and those are emotional feelings, not physical ones. By taking a look at the thoughts we’re thinking that are causing us the pain (ie. I hate my body, I’m so ugly, why can’t I look like so-and-so) we can then, and only then, decide to choose again with thoughts that embody those feelings of safety and confidence.

 

 

But first, awareness. In order to become aware, you must bring the idea of ANTS into your immediate presence. I suggest doing this by putting reminders up in the house or on your phone. You can also take a written inventory of your particular ANTS and put that up for you to see somewhere. Get clear on the thoughts you think all day long that are no longer serving you, and then with this awareness, choose new thoughts in their place that feel better every single time they pop up. By doing this, you are re-training your brain to think positively and in a way that actually calms the stress response in your body rather than igniting it. You are your own best soother. You know exactly how to make yourself feel better in a way that no one else can once you tap into that intuition.

 

It’s not always easy to see these – after all, they are small and sneaky and sometimes, we don’t know they are there until we get bit – that’s ok. As with everything, noticing ANTS takes practice and commitment, but if you are truly interested in changing the way you perceive your life, body, job, relationships, health etc… this is a fantastic place to start.

 

 

The human brain is powerful beyond measure, and it’s an area of health that continues to expand as we learn more about the mind-body connection. Learning to tap in and tune in to the underlying current we build our lives upon is one of the most empowering steps we can take when it comes to creating a healthy body and a happy life. I’ve seen countless people get stuck in a space of healing and therapy and darkness, despite eating all the right foods and doing all the right programs, because they are too afraid to do the internal work it requires to be free. And that’s ok. It can be scary, and it can put us out of balance to look inside and get pointed and real about the ways in which we’ve been creating our own unhappiness. That’s quite the responsibility. But I believe we are all not only up for the task, but masters at it. You did NOT come into this world to worry about your body, fret over your job, fight with your family or beat yourself up every single day for not being perfect. You came into this world to thrive, love and experience all that life has to offer in the most delicious way!

 

If ANTS are something that have been infesting the deepest regions of your mind for years now, make today the day that changes. Make today the day you shine some light on those dusty old beliefs and shake out the proverbial rug. Your life is calling. Are you ready to answer it?

 

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Underestimating the Power of Silence

 

In a world on constant stimulation, it’s no wonder we are falling a part at the seams. We easily recognize when a child is overwhelmed, overstimulated and ready to crash, yet somehow we subscribe to the idea that as adults the need for downtime and decompression disappears. Well, fortunately (or not if you’re used to burning the midnight oil), I’m here to bust that myth.

 

The human body very much needs periods of rest, relaxation and decompression in order to function optimally. In fact, we need it so much that we have two very distinct branches of the nervous system designed to handle both times of stress and activity and rest and replenishment. They are termed the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, and most of us living in modern societies get stuck in our sympathetic (fight or flight) system, leading to burnout, exhaustion and dis-ease.

 

While we tend to think of noise as something we simply hear, noise actually has more to do with our brain and endocrine system than anything. Each sound we hear gets processed through the brain as we try to make sense of what it is and how it fits into our world. The sound of traffic on the freeway doesn’t mean a whole lot to us, but a crying child that sounds like our baby does. This constant filtering out of important vs. unimportant happens without our immediate knowledge, but when we are in a state of stress, or hyperarousal, we are more keen to tap into every single sound we come into contact with leading to sensory exhaustion.

 

This is why when we are feeling more mentally and physically fatigued, sounds can appear to be more irritating or intense than usual. Ever feel your heart start to race when a motorcycle zooms past? Or get instantly angry when you drop the shampoo bottle in the shower? When stress and anxiety are present, the body is already in a state of fight-or-flight and sudden, loud sounds exacerbate the stress response. Not only is this an issue for us physically, but it doesn’t allow us to tap in to the intuitive healing nature of our bodies and minds. If hypersensitivity to sound is something you notice, it could be a huge clue into the levels of underground stress your body and brain may be experiencing. We are often numb to the effects of stress in ourselves because we’ve been pushing so hard for so long that it feels natural.

 

Many of us are quite afraid of silence. We’ve trained ourselves to need noise and stimulation like a toddler needs a binky. You see, in silence we are able to hear ourselves think, and for most humans that’s a scary concept, particularly if we aren’t living aligned with our truth and purpose. It’s easy to get caught up in the “shoulds” and forget about our happiness and wellbeing when we are zipping from task to task and fall into bed at the end of day with the tv blaring to drown out our thoughts. BUT, when we get still and silent, we are no longer able to run from the ideas, thoughts and beliefs that aren’t serving us and to some, that is unbearable. When our lives are in need of change, it is the moments of silence that make this apparent – but if we’re unwilling to hear those messages, silence becomes the enemy.

 

However, with some love and attention, I believe that everyone can come to not only not fear the silence, but come to adore and crave it. Ten out of ten times, the thoughts we are afraid to think or face are just merely shadows on the wall. We believe there are monsters under our bed, but when we turn on the proverbial lights, we find that they are really just shoe boxes and dust mites. Learning to love silence comes first from understanding that thoughts are simply thoughts, and they have no power over you unless you choose for them to. Just because you think a thought, does not mean you must take action on it or that you must continue to think it. But, without ever stopping to assess what they are, it will be impossible to let them go or to choose new ones. This is where silence comes in handy. Not only is it incredibly soothing and nourishing to your body’s physiology, but it allows the mind to eventually slow down, catch its breath and reroute to greener pastures.

 

So, how exactly do we practice something like silence? I personally find that it’s easier for me factor it into my day in small ways that in larger chunks of time. When you think of all the places that noise shows up in your life, it becomes easier to find ways to let it go. Take an inventory of the sounds in your life: traffic, cell phones, notifications, emails, conversations, spouses and kids, televisions, radios, music, air conditioners, work environment and so forth. Now, once you’ve done that, look for periods of time when you could purposefully choose silence instead. Often, I will choose to turn off the radio, roll up the windows and find silence on my drives. I meditate for at least 10 minutes a day as well and find silence in my sitting. You could put your phone on silent at night or choose to read instead of watching TV. Take a walk in nature by yourself or close the door and take a five-minute power nap. However you can, try to fit in this replenishing practice to see a drastic reduction in stress, worry and anxiety. As your physical body relaxes, so to will your mind, and once that happens positive momentum makes the practice easier and easier.

 

Until next time...

Much love, 

Sy 

  

 

 

 

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Self-Loathing to Self-Love: My Not-So-Pretty Journey from Fear to Happiness

 

 

My journey to self-love was not a beautiful, gentle, existential unfolding that one day manifested magically into happily-ever-after (although some days it feels that way now). No, true to character, I found the steepest, hardest, rockiest and most ragged mountain to self-love I could climb and set forth without the slightest clue where I was going or any rational amount of gear for the trek. Luckily, I lived to tell about it and let me tell you, the view from the top made every stumble, fall and bruise worth it.  

 

You see, I fought my story and I fought it hard.  I struggled against it. I punched it and kicked it and screamed at it until my face turned blue. I cursed it relentlessly… but, like all stoic parents, it stood there calmly until I was done and welcomed me back with open arms as I finally relinquished my fears and found solace in its Being. In fact, before I climbed up on the woo-woo train I live on now, I considered the term self-love to be incredibly annoying – a catchy headline crafted for lame magazine articles or for people in life (myself included) who just had to find a way to feel better about the fact that they didn't measure up and never would. Self-love was bullshit and I didn’t need it. I’d be fine on my own, just like I always had been. Except not really.

 

When I was 5 years old, my parents got in divorced and my father disappeared from our lives for the next 25 years. No phone calls, no visits - not a peep. While I realize that divorced parents certainly aren’t the worst thing a child can go through, it was incredibly difficult for my 5-year old brain to wrap my head around the fact that it wasn’t my fault. I took it hard and developed a story-line that would follow me throughout the rest of my life. It went like this:

 

“He left because you weren’t enough and you’re not lovable. If you were, he would have stayed. Therefore, figure out how to be lovable and perfect and no one will ever leave you again. Oh, and by the way, you NEED others to love you because, without their love, you are nothing and no one.”

 

Ouch.

 

I put those gray, gloomy glasses on, and I never once took them off until my life fell a part so hard that I didn’t have any other choice but to question everything I’d ever known or believed.

 

While it was fairly harmless as a child, as I continued grow, this story line evolved into something bigger. It needed an outlet, somewhere to go other than inside my brain with all it’s swirling, racing thoughts, and so it took on a life of it’s own. At age 12, I had my first panic attack, and my anxiety disorder was born. Fearful and obsessive thoughts became my norm, as did feelings of unworthiness and self-loathing because clearly, I wasn’t normal. When you spend your days working to be perfect, the realization that you are not, in fact, perfect, and even worse, kind of weird, delivers a striking blow to your self-concept. Everything was scary. I developed phobias and fears, obsessive thinking patterns and constant physical manifestations of my stress. I wouldn’t eat in fear of getting sick, I wouldn’t make friends in fear that they’d see how weird I was, I wouldn’t try new hobbies for fear that I’d fail, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t… I remember hiding as much as possible from the world around me in hopes that staying small and unseen would keep me safe. After all, the world was scary and people were even scarier, and if it was me against them, it had to be me. 

 

For better or worse, my family learned to work around my irrational (and exhausting) list of fears, but it never occurred to me that others wouldn’t as well. As I entered into high school, I quickly realized that I’d better learn another way of staying safe because I was getting a lot of attention, and I couldn’t hide anymore. So, being the smart little cookie that I am, I adapted and figured the next best way to hide: I conformed.

 

I studied out exactly what was cool - what was acceptable - how to manipulate and control my appearance, personality and experiences so that they seemed like I was not only normal, but worth liking. But, underneath it all, I was a mess. I was terrified that at any moment I would be exposed and that everyone around me would find out my deep, dark secret. That truly, I was nothing.

 

As I look back on my life, I recognize how many of my choices weren’t my own. Not because other people were making them for me, but because I was basing them off of what I thought others wanted me to do and it was exhausting. This manifested in as many ways you can think of, from pretending to like certain music to giving my body over to boys I never should have. Never once, however, did it occur to me that anything was wrong with this scenario. All I was concerned with was being better than everyone around me so that I didn’t have to face my own fears. Essentially, I wasn’t a very nice girl to be around and this behavior only got worse the older I got. I went from innocently gossiping about other girls in high school to hating every other woman that dared enter into my vortex. I was jealous, insecure and vicious, and it affected not only me but all of my relationships as well. Every one seemed to give me weird vibes, but of course, it was them not me, right?

 

In my early twenties, my anxiety had gotten so bad that I was having a hard time leaving the house. I was ruining simple things like dinners out with my family and would worry about bigger events like vacations months in advance for fear that I’d have a panic attack - which, I invariably then would. They would last for hours and hours, and I’d suck everyone around me into the experience. As much as I hated the anxiety, I hated myself even more for having it. I felt broken and exposed and out of control. And in this lack of control, I began controlling everything and everyone around me in an attempt to make sense of my life. Nothing was left to chance. I became suspicious and fearful of everyone. No motive was left unchecked and no situation was left to chance. There was no room for error or spontaneity in my world. It was too risky.

 

Then, one night, in the middle of an attack, a friend of mine offered me a little blue pill that made all my problems disappear. I had found my new best friend – Xanax. This simple little pill gave me the kind of relief I’d looked for my entire life. For the first time, maybe ever, I sat on the couch without a care in the world and laughed. It felt good, and I was hooked. All I had to do when things got shaky or my nerves acted up was throw back a little pill and I would melt into oblivion.

 

For the next 8 years, anytime life felt hard, or the elephant on my chest got heavy, I had a trusty back up. There was no stopping me now. I could party as hard as I wanted to and mask the effects with my little friend. I could get in an argument and five minutes later not give two shits about it. I could fly across the country and knock myself out for 24 hours if I wanted. Anxiety attacks? What were those? I hadn’t had one in years. I controlled my anxiety. I was finally normal. I had found a band-aide so large that it seemed as if no pain couldn't be conquered.

But, here’s the interesting thing about numbing. It's not a selective beast. When I learned to numb the bad, I unknowingly numbed the good as well.

 

Connection? Out of the question.

Happiness? Seems impossible.

Fulfillment? Not meant for me.

Clarity and peace of mind? A pipedream.

Purpose and passion? Only for special people.

True love? Terrifying.

 

Despite the fact that I was no longer physically having attacks, the fear never left. I covered it, but I didn’t fix it. I was still broken and damaged, and now also a slave. You see, without my side-kick, I was vulnerable, weak and open to attack. Which meant that I had to make sure my protection followed me everywhere. It was an addiction, but if you’d asked me then, I was fine. I had come to believe that I NEEDED those pills to survive. That without them, I wasn’t strong enough, smart enough, normal enough, good enough, courageous enough to be ok. Nothing had changed. I still wasn’t enough – I was just an expert at covering it up.

 

The relationship I called into my life during those years did nothing to prove me wrong either. I know now that we call into our life experiences which will uncover and trigger all our deepest wounds in an attempt to heal them, but at the time, I thought my problems stemmed from the fact that I was defective. My boyfriend at the time had a habit of breaking up with me when things got rough, triggering my deepest, darkest fears of abandonment. But, instead of recognizing these situations for what they were (a call to heal my misperceptions), I took them to mean something else entirely: I had to be even MORE perfect. Each and every time he left (which I don’t blame him for given the circumstances), I beat myself into the ground for not being what he wanted and worked to pretend I was fabulous and happier than ever. Sadly, it worked, and I continued to draw him back into my experience, only to unravel once again into self-hatred, control, jealousy, fear and self-sabotage – which would again, send him running for the hills. It was a vicious cycle that lasted for 7 years and only worked to confirm and deepen my fears rather than heal them.

 

Then something occurred to me that changed me world and uprooted my beliefs in a way that nothing before every had. I don’t know why, what or who led me to my decision, but something inside of me thought, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” I didn’t want to be dependent on something outside of myself anymore for happiness (or what I thought was happiness at the time.) I didn’t want to carry around a bottle of prescription ‘calm’ with me everywhere I went or rely on those pills to get through a day. Something inside of me was desperate to be free, and while I didn’t know it at the time, I was willing to risk everything to get it.

Looking back, I could have done it a much easier way. But, like I said, I chose the hard path, and I refuse now to beat myself up over it. I did the best I could with what I knew to be true in those times. I wish I could say that it was sunshine and roses from that moment on, but in all truth, things got a lot worse before they got better. I quit a powerful drug cold-turkey and had no clue what consequences lay in waiting for me. My mind dissolved almost instantly into complete terror and what had seemed like panic attacks before now looked meek and mild in comparison to the episodes I was having now.

 

I was losing my mind, and I didn’t know what to do about it. Some stubborn ounce of reserve kept me from going back to my drugs, but I was out on an open ledge with no protection and no idea how to talk myself down.

 

I pushed everyone away. I couldn’t hold a job, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t make love, I could barely go to the grocery store… Once again, I couldn’t, and I was pissed.

 

So I did what every sane, average person would do –  I began a healing journey so intense that it would unravel every single thread of my life in order to put it back together in a more authentic way that matched who I really was underneath it all.

 Doesn’t everybody Eat, Pray, Love their way through life like that?

 

Sounds nice, yeah? It was – and it wasn’t – and it was – and it wasn’t – and it was.  It would take me about three years to get to where I am now - happy and free and loving my life. Three years filled with more pain that I thought I could physically bear and more happiness than I ever knew was humanly possible. The journey has not been a linear path of rolling hills and grassy fields, but rather an arduous, sometimes life-threatening adventure filled with peaks and valleys of all depths. There were in fact, many moments in time where I considered ending my life and pictured how sweet of release it would have been. And I don’t say that lightly. But somewhere, in the back of my stubborn mind, there was always a dim light of hope that there WAS something more – something better – something good – even when I couldn't see it.

 

The first two years, I healed many parts of myself, but most of them were physical. Through the use of a real-food diet and meditative tools, my anxiety dissipated into a distant memory. My body changed from frail and sickly to thriving and healthy. I learned new ways of thinking, new patterns of thoughts and new beliefs and ways of interacting with others. But still, one lingering issue remained: I didn’t actually love myself, and I still didn’t believe anyone else could either.

 

It didn’t make sense. Based on how far I’d come and how well my life was going, I should have been happier than I’d ever been, yet I was battling an internal war no one knew about. I was empty, and still numb, and in a last ditch attempt to find out if I was lovable, I self-sabotaged in the most hurtful way I possibly could have. And while I still cringe a bit in sharing this part of myself, it would leave out the most important part of my story so far: My ultimate catalyst to self-acceptance, love and compassion. 

 

In my desperate search for validation and acceptance, I led myself into the arms of someone who was not my boyfriend. It was as if I was 16 years old again, looking for anything and anyone to fill the void – the emptiness and loneliness – the lack of love from the one person who mattered most – myself.

 

While I stubbornly believed that I just needed my boyfriend to love me more... not leave me so much... not dislike my annoying habits so much... in order for me to happy, I failed to realize that it was never about him. It never mattered if he stayed or went. It never mattered if he loved me or not. None of my actions were, or were not, about him. But you bet your ass that’s what I went with. We always search outside ourselves for answers until we no longer have a choice and that is exactly what happened.

After trying to work it out one last time, he left, and he didn’t come back. I was 5 years old once again, and every fear I’d ever had about being unlovable, unworthy and no good to anyone roared through my psyche and threatened to consume me. This was it. I was backed against the wall, living with a shame so deep it left me breathless and unable to cope with the consequences of my actions. You think others have the power to threaten your self-love? Try loving yourself when you've done something very, very hurtful and wrong. To say I was my own worst critic would have been a gross understatement. There was no where to run, no one to blame, no where to hide…There was no choice but the one right in front of me. It was time to heal once and for all.

 

And that is what I did. With no power whatsoever to change my outside circumstances, I had no choice but to turn inward. For me, this looked a lot like reclusiveness. I read, I walked, I wrote in my journal, I cried, I cooked, I listened to books, podcasts and talks, I cried some more, I did yoga, I did energy work, I meditated, I took long, warm baths, I prayed, I cried again, I exercised too much, I exercised too little, I ate too much, I ate too little, I yelled and screamed and cried again until I there were no tears left, but all along I searched. Little by little, I began to learn more about myself and felt the weight lift. I saw glimpses of the woman I was becoming, full of pain but also resolve and integrity, and it felt nice. I began to feel kinder, more loving and more accepting of others. As I started to slowly let myself off the hook, I was able to let others off as well. As I allowed myself to be where I was, it was ok for others to be in their own space too. My relationships began to heal, and I realized that we all feel pain, and that no one feels in control. I learned that change is what keeps life exciting and that I was resilient even in the face of uncertainty. I learned that there is a source much greater than me ALWAYS working for me and my highest good, and that I am safe no matter what. I learned that when I stay committed to tuning in, I don't do or say hurtful things. It's when I veer from my truth that I get scared and lash out. I learned that the world is anything but scary and that it's ok to laugh, and then cry because I'm laughing. I learned that it's ok to feel scared by the depth of my own happiness, and that I can try again tomorrow when I unravel back into old patterns. I learned that I'm not weird for feeling such deep emotions and that my passion is exactly what makes me so beautiful. I learned that the emotions I feared would never sweep me away like I imagined, so I might as well quit running from them. But, then, in the most unexpected and beautiful unfolding of all, I learned the one thing that mattered most…

 

While traveling across the state to visit a friend, I had some good music on in the car and miles of beautiful scenery before me. I was feeling good. I was feeling happy and light and carefree. Feelings that were becoming more and more regular the deeper into my healing I went. Sunshine was warming my skin and my mind felt calm, peaceful and clear. In that moment, as if from somewhere outside of myself I was delivered a thought so clear and beautiful it’s hard to describe in words. I realized for the first time who it was that had gotten me there to that delicious moment of joy. It was as if I was seeing two girls, both myself, but one of which who always known this moment in time would come. She was the one who pulled me off the bathroom floor so many times in the middle of a melt down. She was the one who whispered “there’s a better way” when I was blind to it. She was the one who led me to the books and teachers, who then led me to healing, which led me to happiness. She was the one who, when I felt like I couldn’t possibly go on, grabbed me and threw me on her back to carry me the rest of the way.

 

In that moment, upon realizing that there were no mountains she would not climb for me, nothing she would not do to ensure my happiness and peace, and that this girl was ME, I fell in love. Giddy, star-struck, mouth-open-in-amazement love. And yes, I cried. A lot. I’m a crier, and that’s ok.

 

In that moment, I realized what it meant to become whole. I appreciate and love that girl inside so much, that even if someone came up to me tomorrow spewing hateful comments about her, I wouldn’t believe them. I’ve seen what she’s done for me, and no one can convince me otherwise. I love her unconditionally. I may make mistakes, but she never does. I may choose fear over love, but she never will. I may forget who I am, but she will always know. And her and I are inseparable. She is my new sidekick, and I kinda like her….

 

To me, self-love is about so much more than looking in the mirror and liking what you see looking back. It’s more than enjoying your personality or writing down a list of positive qualities. It’s bigger than all of that. Self-love is the absolute alignment with who you are – It is an energy and love so great that it creates worlds – it’s recognizing that no person, no experience, no place and no thing has the power to separate you from that which you are, which IS LOVE.

 

It would be silly to say that I’ll never experience negative or fearful emotions again. I do all the time. I’m human after all, and that’s ok. It’s more than ok, it’s perfect. We all get triggered and we all want to be loved and accepted. Even the darkest, ugliest parts of ourselves are just searching for love.

 

But, I will never again doubt that there is someone who loves me unconditionally and irrationally, and now I will always know that that person is me.

 

My story may not look like yours, and that’s fine. That’s not really the point. I share this with you today not to relate, but rather to say that no matter what your story is, it’s waiting for you with open arms, ready to love you unconditionally. There is nothing wrong with you or any of us. We are not broken, we do not need fixing and we are certainly not damaged. We may need some polishing from time to time and a little TLC, but hear me when I say this, YOU ARE NOT BROKEN and neither am I. Today I feel happy, beautiful and free. Today I feel empowered beyond belief and able to tackle anything that comes my way with patience, grace and humility. Life is not as simple as one, measly blog post about self-love, but it is as simple as this:

"Decide you want to love yourself and don’t stop until you get there."

 

When we make the decision to heal, we WILL be led to circumstances and experiences that will call it forth. It might not always look pretty, but it will get you there if you trust the process. You don’t have to understand self-love today or tomorrow or even the next day. Just trust that you will someday and look for evidence to support that belief every day until you have your own moment in the car.

 

Signing off with love,

Sy

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