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When You Feel Ready to Snap...


WHEN YOU FEEL READY TO SNAP  

Do you ever have those days (or perhaps weeks at a time) when you just can’t pull it together? The days when you’re not even sure what’s going on because nothing is particularly wrong, yet you find yourself irritated with every little thing that’s done or said around you, and after a while, it begins to look like a pattern?  Those times when no matter who is doing the talking, you just wish they’d shut up and leave you be?

 

Even on the days where you wake up and promise yourself you’ll be better today – more patient, more understanding and less bitchy – you still find yourself exasperated for no reason and wish you could just crawl under a rock, cover your ears and drown everyone out. Those are the days/weeks/months I’m talking about. And yes, if you’ve been having “a month,” it’s ok. That’s what we’re here to uncover and unpack today. No, you’re not broken, you’re not a terrible person and you’re not certainly not doomed. And no matter what your spouse, best friend or boss says when they are frustrated with you, you are not always like this. You are, however, in a need of a little compassion and that’s what we’re here to give you. Before we get started, however, I want to share a beautiful quote from the Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching that will give you a look into the journey we’re headed into today. Read it slowly, and twice if you have to, but let its profoundness sink in. Swirl it around on your tongue like ice cream and taste its sweetness. These words might just be your saving grace…

 

“A man is born gentle and weak.

At his death he is hard and stiff.

 

Trees are tender and filled with sap in life.

At their death, they are withered and dry.

 

Therefore, the stiff and unbending are the disciples of death.

The gentle and yielding, disciples of life.

 

Thus, a man without flexibility never wins a battle.

A tree that is unbending is easily broken in the wind.

 

The hard and strong will fall.

The soft and weak will overcome.”

 

When you feel ready to snap, ready to explode, ready to fall apart, its never for the reason you think…

Your life may not be falling a part, in fact, I’m willing to bet you work very hard to make sure it stays pulled together...

Your life may not be falling a part, in fact, I’m willing to bet you work very hard to make sure it stays pulled together - completely in tact, not a hair out of place. Your surface probably looks shiny and bright to the untrained eye, and even those who know you best may not understand why on earth you react the way you do sometimes. But when you least expect it, its there. A bubbling anger that threatens to spew out like vomit when the kids suddenly break a dish or the dog jumps in the car with muddy feet. YOU might not even understand why the smallest, and most trivial of problems can spin you into complete melt down.  One minute you’re happily milling along, checking things off your to-do list, and the next, someone cuts you off in traffic, you spill coffee on your new blouse and your entire day is ruined.

 

The tighter you hold on, the stiffer you become. The stiffer you become, the more likely you are to crack.

When we hold tightly onto sand, it will pour out every crevice and crack in our fingers until there’s nothing left but a few grains. But, if we open our palm, and let it sit there, we could hold it indefinitely. And such is life.

The more you squeeze, and perfect, and wish, and grip, and control and manipulate and mold your life and everyone in it, the more they start to slip away. The more things start to stiffen up, with no room for error. No space for breath. No wonder you feel like snapping. You’re stiff. You’re holding on so tight trying your damnedest not to get bucked off the bull, how could you possibly make room for love, fun, lightness and laughter?

 

But here’s the thing. Your soul is speaking to you. Your highest self is calling out, telling you something is amiss. This is what we refer to as “the snap.”

You’re not losing it on the customer service rep because they lost your package. You’re losing it because you’re tight.  

You’re not yelling at your husband because he got home from work late and forgot to call. You’re screaming because you’re contracted.

You’re not crying on the floor because you’re stressed about work, three days late on your period and looking at a stack of bills. You’re sobbing because you’re losing the control you grip so tightly to.

These experiences of breakdown are your soul’s ways of calling attention to the areas that need some healing and compassion. Every time we contract, we’re afraid. Yet, we don’t know how to handle this fear, so we snap. We project. We push it off of ourselves and onto any and every person we come in contact with just so we don’t have to feel it burning a hole in our skin. Perhaps if we knew what we were afraid of, we could fix it, but we don’t even know what we’re running from. We’ve never turned around to look at it, we just know it’s big and scary.

But what if there’s a better way? What if you didn’t have to run around stiffer than the tin man in his body armor warding off any potential mistakes, mess ups or tricky spots? What if, instead of living from the view point that the world is about perfection and achievement, you started toying with ideas of curiosity, kindness and compassion? Do you think that vice grip might loosen around your chest a bit? And the rubber band around your head might relax? And if happened, do you think that last straw would feel so definitive? I’m here to tell you that it wouldn’t.

Millions of people are walking around right now feeling that they aren’t enough and this makes us tense. This makes us feel like we have to protect ourselves and be ready to fight for our place in this world at any moment.

THE REAL REASON YOU SNAP

Millions of people are walking around right now feeling that they aren’t enough and this makes us tense. This makes us feel like we have to protect ourselves and be ready to fight for our place in this world at any moment. Our lives aren’t enough, our homes aren’t enough, our families aren’t enough, friends, clothes, intelligence, kindness, charity, cars, you name it. Not enough. And not in an ungrateful kind of way, but in a fearful, scarcity-based kind of way. If WE aren’t enough, nothing else can be either. It won’t matter if every day is a perfect day where nothing goes wrong and everyone around you shows you unconditional love. That’s not the issue.

The issue is that you’re hiding an unspeakable, shame-based fear that no matter what you do, say, think or are, it won’t be enough, and this fear then colors every interaction you have with the world and those around you. This makes you tight and ready to snap. THAT is why you yell at your sister on the phone after you tanked your work presentation earlier that day. THAT is why you can’t stand your mother-in-laws criticism when your kids are acting up and lash back in anger. THAT is why you break down crying when your spouse teases you about your shortcomings in a loving way you can’t see.

 

You’re not snapping because whatever or whoever pissed you off. You’re snapping because those things remind you of the fact that, no matter how hard you try to hold it all together, at the end of the day you’re not enough.

 

But this is where we get it wrong. You see, you are more than enough. No matter what you’ve done, not done, said or not said, been or not been, it doesn’t change the fact that you are everything you’re supposed to be and more. Can you imagine living from this space? Can you imagine what the entire world would be like if we all just took a deep breath and knew internally that We. Are. Enough.? How many arguments, fights and even wars could be avoided if we weren’t so scared that there was never enough? How many “snaps” we’d pass by if we weren’t wound like a guitar string waiting to pop on the first person who suggests we didn’t get it right?

 

AWAKEN TO YOUR COMPASSION

With this in mind, I have a challenge for you. As one of my favorite writers coined, I challenge you this week to “live loved.” Live as if everyone and everything around you loved you. Live as if you KNOW how much the universe and God conspire FOR you, not against you.

 

If you’re living loved, what would you do differently? Would you take better care of yourself? Would you laugh more? Rest easy knowing everything would be ok? Smile at that stranger instead of wondering why they were starring? Laugh at your lover’s jokes instead of find them offensive? Collaborate with your boss instead of assuming she has it out for you?

 

Find ways to Live Loved and see how it transforms your life. As always, feel free to share your experiences. I love hearing from you.

 

Much love,

Sy 

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Cultivating Calm - A Look at Mindfulness Meditation


 

So, let’s face it, most people cringe when they hear the word meditation and they immediately think of a new-age, hippie fest where everyone talks about color auras and crystal healings. And hey, I’m personally all about those healing modalities, but I’m also in tune enough to know that they don’t resonate with a lot of people - and that’s just fine. However, I do truly believe that it would be a shame to miss out on all the amazing benefits and life-changing lessons that mediation has to offer just because we’re a little unsure of it’s tangible-ness. Yes, I make up words from time to time.

 

Meditation is a practice that dates back thousands of years which obviously gives it a significant place in history. Even more interesting is that there are multiple types of meditation, each bringing a unique experience to the meditator. In our discussion today, we’ll be covering one of my favorite practices called Mindfulness Meditation, or formally MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) which calls the practitioner to a state of present awareness.

 

One of the main concerns people have when beginning a practice is that they can’t shut off their brains or sit still without wanting to move. They assume that because they have these feelings they aren’t a “good” meditator. What I want to bust through today is the idea that there are good and bad meditators. Meditation is not, in fact, about turning off your thoughts but rather about coming face to face with them and sitting with them – in some ways, nailing ourselves to the present moment so that we are forced to stop running and just BE with whatever is present for us in that moment. It is from this platform, based in reality, that we actually gain the power to shift and change our circumstances.

 

In our society, we are afraid of stillness. We work like madmen, we run the kids around to a million different activities, we do chores and schoolwork late into the night, we exercise like we hate ourselves, we grab a diet coke and chocolate to get us through the afternoon and we text, call and scroll all day long. Then, as nightfall drifts in, when we’re physically and mentally exhausted, we turn on the TV or Netflix to drown out the last bits of piercing, uncomfortable silence we’ve been running from all day before we fall into a restless, unsatisfying sleep. If we sit in stillness, it’s as if all of a sudden we can’t stop the influx of thoughts. It’s as if meditation actually makes us think MORE, so we decide that all these crazy yoga people must not have stressful lives because how else could they possible turn off the relentless jibberish going on in the mind? Sound famililar?

 

Here’s the thing. Meditation and stillness do not actually bring up more thoughts. They simply allow space for what is already there to make itself known. If you’re mind and thoughts feel jumbled, hectic and chaotic when you sit down and notice them, I assure you they are that way all throughout your day. You’ve just gotten very adept and skilled at pushing them out of the way in favor of staying busy. And by busy, I don’t just mean that you are an a-type, go-getter who burns the midnight oil. I’m also talking about that nagging feeling to pull out your phone as your wait for a friend at a restaurant or while you’re in line to get a coffee. I’m talking about the need to fill the silence of an uncomfortable conversation with more talking. I’m referring to our inability to sit in pain and instead escaping our reality through a drink, drugs, sex, work, social media or any other mind-numbing activity. I’m talking about the habits we all fall into so easily that we don’t even consider them problematic.

 

So, you might be wondering what’s so wrong with this picture? Well, as you’ve heard me talk about hundreds of times, stress is harmful to the body. And the stress of unresolved, unnoticed or undealt with emotions can congest the body in physical ways. When we spend all our time running from our emotions and uncomfortable feelings, we never get to process them and let them go. They stay congested and buried deep in our souls just waiting to come out – and come out they will. The mind-body connection is a powerful tool for healing, but it is also a powerful promoter of imbalance and dis-ease if not tended to. We talk a lot about the healing power of food and all the tangible ways to attend to our health, like sleep and exercise. Less talked about, however, are the metaphysical, emotional and energetic modalities which I have found play an equal, if not more important, role in health and wellness. We spend so much time trying to think ourselves happy, calm and relaxed, but what if, instead, we just eased into the knowing space of meditation and let the rising and falling tides of our emotions do just that – rise and fall. Can you imagine the freedom that comes when you just let go? Your body certainly can as studies have shown that mindfulness meditation actually shrinks the part of the brain associated with fear, anxiety and stress by switching the nervous system over to a parasympathetic state – the state of Rest and Digest.

 

Anxiety, stress and worry are future based. Without thoughts of the future, these feelings don’t exist. What mindfulness mediation does is brings us into the present moment, effectively extinguishing these emotions. As we become better and better at bringing ourselves present in our meditations, new pathways in our brain bring this awareness into other areas of our life as well. We find ourselves slowing down, processing deeper, thinking clearer, speaking kinder. The tonic to busyness is not relaxation. The tonic to busyness is stillness. It is the yin to our modern day yang.

 

So, how does it work? Mindfulness meditation asks the practitioner to sit in awareness by focusing the mind on a ‘home base’ of sorts, which is usually the breath. See, and here you were worried about turning off your brain! No, actually, we are giving your brain something to focus on, something to hold on to as you watch all the thoughts pass by rooting you in what is happening here and now. When you first begin a meditation practice, it can feel pointless and chaotic. Know this is normal and fine. Stick with it and get past the first few clumsy attempts -This is when the real magic begins. Below I’ve outlined the steps to begin a mindfulness practice. However, I highly suggest working with a coach of some type who can walk you through all the potential questions or roadblocks you might come up on. There are also wonderful apps you can use that offer guided meditations. I personally love and use Headspace, but I’ve heard great things about Calm as well. If you’re more interested in going it alone, I also use an app called Insight Timer which simply times my meditation with the starting and finishing gong chimes.

 

Mindfulness Meditation

 

1.     Begin by sitting either cross-legged on a pillow or mat or sitting in a chair with both feet on the ground. If either of these are too uncomfortable for your posture, you may lie down.

2.     Close your eyes and take a few deep breathes. Notice how your body feels sitting on the floor or in the chair. Listen to the sounds around you.

3.     Begin to check in with your breath by noticing the breaths in, the pauses between and the breaths out. You don’t need to change your breathing, simply notice it’s normal pattern and the way it feels going in and out of your body.

4.     As you sit noticing your breath, thoughts will pop up and you may even get carried away by them. If you catch yourself being carried off by thinking, simply notice it, say the word “thinking” and gently come back to noticing your breath. Let the thought pass on by without giving it any more attention.

5.     Do this for 5-10 minutes a day to start with and be kind with yourself as you learn this new skill.

 

Remember, there are no good or bad meditations, only distracted and undistracted. The more time you spend in meditation, the more periods of un-distraction you will experience.

 

As always, I’d love to hear about your personal experiences with meditation and mindfulness. Comment below or find me over on social media and let’s chat!

 

Much love,

Sy

 

 

 

 

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What IS Adrenal Fatigue Anyway?



So, there’s a term that’s been floating around for a couple years in the health and wellness sphere, but it’s still not one you’re likely to see plastered on the pages of magazines or even books for that matter. The term is Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome and if you’re a woman who feels tired, overwhelmed and generally “off” there’s a good chance you’ve got it goin on. Before you panic, though, keep in mind that Adrenal Fatigue is NOT a disease nor is it something sufferers are plagued with for life. Rather, it’s a syndrome, which essentially means it’s a name for a bundle of symptoms that no one can quite put a finger on.

The name Adrenal Fatigue is actually a misnomer, as it implies that your adrenal glands (which sit on top of your kidneys/renals) are tired, which in fact they are not. However, I personally think it does a wonderful job of explaining just how adrenal dysfunction feels, because at the end of the day there is an intense fatigue of both the body and mind. A better, more correct, title is actually HPA-Axis dysregulation which stands for Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis and describes the chaos that occurs when those three main organs responsible for your stress response are out-of-balance, overworked and unable to cope with the demands placed upon them.

So, while I’ve talked a lot about adrenal fatigue in posts, I realized that it may not be exactly clear what I’m referring to and wanted to throw together a description to avoid confusion. Before we move on, I’m going to list out the common symptoms of Adrenal dysregulation, but please be aware that stress in the body can take on hundreds of different faces, and this list is by no means exhaustive. If you have several of these symptoms mixed with some others not on this list, I would highly suggest speaking with a practitioner about the possibility of adrenal dysfunction, hormonal imbalance or digestive problems.

 

Symptoms:

 

Feeling burned out, overly stressed or unable to unwind

Bloating after meals

A burning or gnawing feeling after meals

Excessive hunger or no appetite at all

Any and all digestive issues including heartburn, indigestion, diarrhea or constipation

Moodiness and irritability

Lightheadedness, particularly when going from sitting to standing

Harsh PMS or menopause

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar swings)

Frequent nausea

Feeling unmotivated or “lazy”

Intense fatigue

Brain fog or feeling spacy with an inability to concentrate

Joint pain, muscle aches or sensitive skin

TMJ or jaw clenching

Anxiety and depression

Cravings for sugar or salt

Feeling tired but can’t sleep – Tired and wired

Frequent colds or flus that lasts for weeks

A feeling of shaking or vibrating on the inside

Feeling abnormally cold or hot

Flushing easily, particularly during winter

Dizziness or feeling disconnected from conversations and activities

Intolerance to caffeine or alcohol

Weight loss resistance or “spare tire” despite lots of exercise

Low sex drive or inability to orgasm

 

So, what causes adrenal fatigue? Well, in a word: Stress. But I’m not just talking about emotional, or perceived, stress. I’m also referring to physical stress which is just as harmful to the body as mental stressors. Essentially, your adrenals are the organs in your body responsible for managing the stress response in your body, whether it comes from external or internal sources. Some of the main external sources of stress I see are food intolerances, over-exercising, environmental toxins, and eating a diet high in sugar. Some internal sources include negative emotional experiences, worrying or apprehension, perception of fear or anxiety and internal inflammation. When your brain registers stress of any kind, it sends a message down to the adrenals to release stress hormones, mainly cortisol and epinephrine. For purposes of this post, we’ll mostly be focusing on cortisol, but it should be noted that the effects of epinephrine take several days to exit the body and is highly stimulating. Not a state we want to be walking around in consistently.

Cortisol gets a bad rap, but it’s really very vital to our survival. Cortisol has several functions, but three of the most notable are to raise blood sugar, raise blood pressure and to work as an anti-inflammatory substance. The first two are key players when we are under stress becausestress is known as expensive. What does this mean? It means that when we are stressed (again physically OR emotionally), our body requires more nutrients than normal to function. This means that we are using up blood sugar faster, which is full of nutrients we get from our food. So, cortisol signals to the body to produce more blood sugar out of stored energy found in our muscle and liver. This is how we continue to produce energy during activities like exercise. Cool, right?

Well, yes and no. If we only triggered this response every once in a while, things would be great. Cortisol would do its job and then a negative feedback loop would turn production off body allowing us to come back to center. Unfortunately, we are being bombarded by stressors these days, particularly environmental and food stressors, and are triggering this response almost all day long. From traffic accidents to sugar donuts for breakfast and fights with our boss or spouse we are under constant attack. Chronic elevated cortisol leads to raised blood sugar and raised blood pressure – for a while. And here is where adrenal fatigue sets in…

 

Eventually, in the presence of all this sugar in the blood from cortisol doing its job, the cells become resistant because they’re packed to the brim and don’t need anymore. Basically, they push the plate away and tell us they’re full. At this point, we may have plenty of circulating cortisol, but it’s messages are not being received and we actually see blood sugar begin to decline and blood pressure as well. It’s like someone put a cement wall up between cortisol and the cells and no communication can take place. This is in the later stages of adrenal dysfunction and what contributes to symptoms of fatigue, lightheadedness, feelings of insatiable hunger or weakness and hypoglycemic episodes. Now, we have a cycle where we are stressed to the max and still pumping out cortisol but not feeling it’s effects because the cells won’t let it in. So, we continue to pump out more and more essentially “exhausting” or fatiguing the adrenal organs and the entire stress response.

 

As with any syndrome, disease or condition, these details are more nuanced then we can describe in one measly blog post. But hopefully it gives you an idea of how Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome is essentially a stress syndrome of the 21st century. Never before in history have we been bombarded by so many external and environmental stressors or been able to explore our emotions beyond survival. While this has afforded us many opportunities and growth, it’s also opened up a whole new can of worms when it comes to our tolerance levels for stress. So, what are some of the biggest ways we can make a dent in our stress cup?

 

Here are the ones I see most in practice that are really putting a burden on people’s bodies:

 

1.     Food intolerances and poor digestion. Eating something your body can’t process every single day is stressful. Period. It will be nearly impossible to clear up imbalanced cortisol without also addressing digestive function and food choices because every cell in your body is dependent upon those nutrients, so I highly suggest taking on some sort of elimination protocol or hooking up with a practitioner who can guide you through the process.

 

2.     Over-exercising and training. You remember how we mentioned that cortisol raises blood sugar and pressure? Well, it’s main job is to do this during intense activity, which also includes exercise. Assuming you have no other stressors, this would be fine. But pile it on top of everything else going on in your life and it’s a recipe for disaster. Try cutting down on intensity, duration or frequency to give your adrenals the rest they’re craving or add in some gentle exercise in place of your regular routine.

 

3.     Lack of sleep. The body repairs and detoxifies while sleeping. If we aren’t giving it the rest it needs to do these jobs, it will become congested and backed up which leads to things like recycled chemicals and hormones. This is stressful for the body as your toxic load builds up. Sleeping does more than just make us feel good and it’s important to respect the processes of repair just as much as the others. Hacking your sleep will be on the best decisions you can make for your health.

 

4.     A negative emotional outlook or self-loathing and perfectionism. Ok, so this one is really much larger than one sentence can sum up, but taking a serious approach to shifting your mindset is the most important key to clearing up adrenal fatigue. Sadly, this piece is missing in most protocols because we get so caught up in the nitty-gritty physical aspects of healing and miss out on all the juiciness that comes with the spiritual, energetic growth. Many people say that they were never able to shift out the adrenal fatigue cycle until they finally began some sort of emotional stress reducing practices.

 

5.     Not making any time for connection and fun. Bluntly put, I know this can be hard when you feel like shit. You may not feel like connected with friends and family or you may not have a whole lot of interest in activities that used to bring you joy. That’s ok. Do them anyway or find some new ones that agree with your symptoms more. Eventually, when you are feeling better, you will be amazed at the growth and strength of your relationships for having weathered the storm together. Writing in a gratitude journal can very soothing to the body as it releases feel good hormones and allows us to step outside of our mind’s chatter for a moment. Even if you only find a moment’s worth of peace, cultivating authentic, vulnerable relationships will go a long way in making the healing process easier and more enjoyable. And if you’re worried, try having a conversation and letting those around you know that you may not be fully yourself right now and could just use a little support. Most people are very willing, loving and accommodating if you give them the chance to be. Remember, they love you too.

 

 

So there you have it. A generalized look at what this thing called Adrenal Fatigue actually is and some ways to help mitigate the nasty symptoms that come with it. Again, if you are reading this blog and feel like you might be experiencing this condition, never hesitate to reach out to a practitioner or do some research. There are so many valuable resources online and some great practitioners who are aware of stress’ harmful effects on the body. It is very real and very important so don’t let anyone tell you it’s all in your head or that you just need to “try harder” to feel good. Until next time.

 

Much love,

 

Sy

 

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