Author: Cheryl Wilson-Stewart

Do you want to play?

Do you want to play?

I’m knocking on your door. “Do you want to play?  Don’t think about it. Just come with me”.

“Think back to when you were 6. Remember what it was like to play? Really play.  Your whole self was completely immersed in whatever you were doing – imagining, making, building, creating. You explored, experimented got paint all over your face.  Not for a minute did you question if you were playing the ‘right’ way or if others would approve of how you were doing it. This was pure freedom. You were lost in the joy and the fun of it all.”

Yes…it’s coming back…you remember.  A smile starts to crack the seriousness of your grown-up face with the warm, wonderful memories.

 “THIS is how to approach your Oh, My Word daily page.”

“Huh?” You say.

I see the disconnect. The slightly furrowed brow and mildly perplexed look as you struggle to converge these two distinctly different times in life.

The Play Gap

Something happens when we become adults. With our adult sized responsibilities comes a seriousness that often leaves child-like playfulness in the dust. We gamely take on adulthood setting goals, hoping to move forward professionally and personally and achieve. We do everything to establish and maintain the forward momentum that we’re told is the key to a successful life. We dig in harder and get even more serious.  It’s easy to see how we can leave the child-like awe, wonder, curiosity and unabashed joy of play behind.

Channeling the Inner 6-year-old

But things are about to come full circle.  Oh, My Word journaling is most effective when the inner 6-year-old is brought out to play. With them leading the way pages are imbued with emotion, feeling and all kinds of surprises show up on the page. Those unexpected things translate to the chosen intentional words being imprinted in deeper more transformative ways.

But at this point the inner 6-year-old is pretty timid having been unceremoniously dismissed years and years ago for more mature pursuits.

How to gently coax this innately creative sprite to come out.

Arrange a Play Date

With your inner 6 year old that is. There are many ways to do this. Here’s one.

Take a trip to the local dollar store and buy journaling supplies from the Kids and Arts + Crafts sections.

Gotta love the dollar store!
You can’t imagine how much fun these are! But use brushes from the craft section:)
The Kids section is full of soooo many goodies!

Did you always love glitter? Buy some. Do wax crayons bring back warm fuzzy memories? Get some. How about brush markers? They’re fun. My personal favorite is water colour paints from the kids’ section and brushes from the craft section. The thing I love most about trips to the dollar store is that you can get a big bag of fun stuff for the cost of a large latte.

What next?

Bring your stuff home and start playing. Not in your journal just yet but in a sketch book (that’s at the dollar store too) or scraps of paper.  See what these goodies are like to work with. Explore. Experiment. What do they do? How do they work?

Try the paints with just a pinch of water and with different brushes. Mix paint colours. Try two brushes at once held like chopsticks.

Draw a few pictures paint and glitter them. Don’t know what to draw? Draw circles big, small, medium sized then turn them all into flowers or animals.  Paint and glitter these within an inch of their lives.

Turn your circles into flowers or animals or…?

I bet you can start to feel the 6-year-old coming out. To me it feels like a tickle on the inside. My whole body is abuzz with a new energy that wants … out!

“A little nonsense now and then is cherished by the wisest men.”  Roald Dahl

The thing about play is that it is soooooo liberating. It moves us out of our heads and into our hearts.  It opens parts of us that have been shut off for years. Anxiety and stress are eased and suddenly joy is amplified. When we play, we often have unexpected insights into areas of our lives or solutions to  nagging problems will suddenly appear or we simply become more creative coming up with ideas we never have before.

“Deep meaning lies often in childish play.”  Johann Friedrich von Schiller

Most importantly it takes the Oh, My Word practice to the next level. Just watch the changes in your life start to accelerate.

Oh Boy…:)) I can feel it. Can you?

 

“I want to giggle myself to sleep each night and jump on the fluffy, comforting pillows of faith.”

Terri Guillemets

Don’t have an Oh, My Word journal yet?  You can get yours here.

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

Amazon.ca

Chapter/Indigo

Book Depository UK

Paperback is now available at all online bookstores.

 

 

Tapping Your Superpowers

Tapping Your Superpowers

I’ve always believed in the superpowers we all have inside. Once tapped we can uncork our unbounded selves, live with joy and build a better world for everyone.

While we each have superpowers unique to us, we do share some common ones.

The Power of Choice + Intention

One of the greatest universal superpowers is choice. We all have the ability to choose who we will be in a given moment. We can choose to be intentional or reactive. An intention is a clear signal, and it represents the result we want. When we merge our superpower of choice with intention, we power the thoughts we think and the actions we take; they shape our lives.

“Every intention is a trigger for transformation.”  Deepak Chopra

When I first developed OH MY WORD journaling as a tool to help manage my anxiety, I was amazed that not only did I feel good, but that I could choose a one-word intention, draw and colour it on the page and then continue to ‘see’ and ‘feel’ it as the day unfolded. I was constantly reminded of what I’d chosen and how it felt to ‘be’ that.  I would even see evidence of my daily intention reflected in the experiences of the day. My life began to change.

Drawing and colouring my one word intention reminded me what it felt like to play, it opened my heart.

“Intentions compressed into words enfold magical power.” Deepak Chopra

Some kind of magic was happening here. How could a word on a page translate into my reality day after day and time after time? It was exciting if not a bit baffling. I diligently carried on, never missing a day, thinking if I did I might jinx it or my run of good ‘luck’ would be broken.

I didn’t need to worry because over time I came to understand the ‘magic’ was the marriage of 2 universal superpowers choice + intention. What they produced could be explained by science.

The Magic Explained

Every morning as I chose my intention and then made it tangible by drawing and colouring it, physiological changes were taking place.

My intention was chosen in my mind. Once I put it on the page, it moved from my intellect into my emotions. In this place everything changed, and the ‘magic’ happened. My body chemistry altered, I started to produce dopamine and serotonin, the magnetic field around me changed and most importantly I signaled my subconscious that I already had my intention, so my conscious mind went to work looking for opportunities, choices and actions to make it concrete. That’s why my intentions became my reality.

It Was So Simple

It was such a simple exercise considering all the activities and practices I’d tried over the years trying to manage my ever-present anxiety and become the person I was struggling to be.  I remembered the hundreds of affirmations I’d repeated or left for myself on bathroom mirrors, the workbooks I’d completed, the goals I had carefully and thoughtfully mapped out, the journals I’d filled with a flow of the conscious jumbled thoughts that were running my life. It all came down to tapping my superpowers of choice + intention and then spending few minutes putting the chosen intention on the page moving the thought from my head to my heart.

Developing Superpowers

This practice allowed me to cultivate and develop the superpowers that represented the person I wanted to be. The Powers of forgiveness, love, perseverance, resiliency, trust, empathy, compassion, creativity. I’m still developing superpowers, I do it every morning when I ask myself, Who do you want to be?

“The secret to changing your life is your intentions.  Wishing, hoping and goal setting cannot accomplish change without intention. What is needed is a shift from the inert energy of ‘wanting’ to the active energy of doing and intention.” Wayne Dyer

It’s really that simple.

If you don’t have an OH MY WORD journal you can get one here:

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

Amazon.ca

Chapter/Indigo

Book Depository UK

Paperback is now available at all online bookstores.

The Winter of Joy and Renewal

The Winter of Joy and Renewal

“People in Alaska run to the windows and cheer when it snows!”

I could see the joy on my daughter’s face as she related what she’d seen.  She was a 3rd year medical student spending 4 weeks at a regional hospital in Anchorage. The people with their noses pressed to the glass were hospital staff and patients.

“Why is everyone so happy?” she asked.

“Because when it snows it means we can get outside and play!”

She laughed.

“In Vancouver, BC where I grew up people groan when they see snow, they think about having to shovel their walks, unbury their cars and the hazardous condition of the roads. Unless they’re heading to the ski hills, a big snowfall is viewed as a nuisance.”

But here in Anchorage, Alaska it was cause for celebration; it set everything aglitter and life opened up.

A different set of ‘lenses’ saw the snow in a completely different way.

New Lenses

Her story reminded me of this past year. In 2020 were all given a new set of lenses with which to view the world. While these lenses saw heartbreak, they also brought many wonderful things into sharp focus.

Joy in Small Things

Almost everyone I talk to (myself included) was surprised by the joy they found in small things. Things that hadn’t been noticed before or dismissed as nothing special. Suddenly viewed from these lenses they were magic.

Hygge

Have you heard of the Danish word hygge? It’s not a word so much as a concept or way of being. Not translatable into English, it is essentially a coziness that evokes a feeling of contentment and joy. Hygge is a big, overstuffed chair, a weighted blanket and a good book. It’s drinking cocoa by a crackling fire and cuddling a pet or loved one, it’s the sun sparkling through the trees, new bursts of growth, a smiling face, having coffee with a friend socially distanced on a blanket in a park, watching a lazy turtle on a pond, a surprise phone call from a friend, the smell of baking wafting through the kitchen, the crunch of  the sourdough crust as the first cut is made, the dance of a candle flame. The joy button is pushed, and feelings of contentment warm the body and spirit.

Wintering provides access to Joy

I’m not going to endure the winter like I do year after year, I’m going to use it to rest rejuvenate and reflect. This winter I’m going to give myself full access to joy.

As we celebrate the new year and enter the winter season let’s look at it as British author Katherine May does. She released a book last year called – Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, and it’s a wonderful read. Wintering, according to May is not just a time of year. Everyone has their own personal winters, or seasons of difficulty in which we must nurture ourselves and our souls to come out better than we were upon entering them. Sometimes winters are in the summer. Other times, like last year, they begin in March and last for an unforeseeable length of time. Winters like those May speaks of are a time to welcome our hardships (they’re coming for us regardless, but embracing the cold makes them hurt a little bit less) and give ourselves the time and space we need to get to the other side.

In Wintering, May talks about the magical transformation trees in northern climates undergo: “the changes that take place in winter are a kind of alchemy, an enchantment performed by ordinary creatures to survive.”

Is it magic? No. It’s nature, it’s joy and it’s in you and it’s in me.

I received a holiday card in December, “kindness is like snow” it read, “it beautifies everything it covers.” This quote by Kahlil Gibran – accompanied by a man in a crown holding a robin while a goose and a fox have tea in the foreground-is the kind of specific beauty you can only find this time of year.

I intend to bask in it and let the cold, now and the darkness magnify the beauty all around me.

Start everyday with joy in your heart

Take a moment every morning to activate your joy center. Ask yourself – how I want to feel?  Take a deep breath and wait for the word to come into your consciousness. Once it does draw, write, print or doodle it on the the page in your OH MY WORD journal. Channel your inner 6-year old, colour it and make it beautiful.  You’ll feel the joy starting to bubble from within.

You have selected the lenses you will wear today. All your experiences and thoughts will be seen through these.

Have a joyful day.

Cheryl x

Don’t have an OH MY WORD journal yet? You can get one here.

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

Amazon.ca

Chapters/Indigo

Please share with anyone you know who needs more Joy.

 

Holiday Magic In A Pandemic

Holiday Magic In A Pandemic

The holidays are tender times.

Even though many of us will not be able to share the holiday with friends and family this year, we can still take time to appreciate what we have and reach out to friends and loved ones to let them know the joy they bring into our lives.

GIFTS FROM THE HEART

The magic of the holidays is all about the moments we create. Gift giving is more than the physical objects it’s about showing love and appreciation to the people in our lives. The gift itself is secondary compared to how it makes our family and friends feel.

Consider curating holiday packages to send to family, friends, neighbors or nearby homeless shelters. Not only will it give you something to focus your energy on, but research shows giving back and showing kindness can actually boost your mood and help you live longer.

Surprises give an instant lift and are long remembered. Write a letter or call a friend and tell them how much they inspire you. Package up dog treats for furry friends. Drop off a favorite coffee order to a friend. Leave a note and festive homemade gifts like chocolates, cookies, vinegars, jams, jellies, soaps, candles in mailboxes for recipients to find.

GRATITUDE IS A HEARTWARMER

Practicing gratitude is a common holiday ritual for many. Instead of missing out on the tradition, organize a family video chat. Keep it simple and ask everyone to share something or someone they’re grateful for. If you want to go deeper, engage in a gratitude meditation with the family. Gratitude can shift your energy as well as your perspective. Let this beloved ritual bring you closer and remind you of all that you hold dear.

MAKE SMALL BEAUTIFUL MOMENTS

Perform random acts of kindness like buying coffee for the person behind you in line. When you’re kind to another person, your brain’s pleasure and reward centers become activated, almost as if you were on the receiving end of a good deed. Psychologist call this the ‘helpers high’ and it’s certainly one reason why generosity seems to spark more generosity.

SEND OUT THE LOVE

Remember that our mental health and that of those around us is particularly vulnerable right now. While the holidays are times to connect, maybe this year you’ll be connecting in a series of zoom celebrations or one massive one. Maybe you or people you now will be alone. Find new ways to send some extra love and kindness to people in need in your community. Donate food, money and goods where you can and send out love wherever you go! Serving others serves you. When we volunteer our time or reach out, we feel energized, optimistic and joyful.

TURN YOUR HOME INTO A HOLIDAY HAVEN

A welcoming, soothing environment at home warms the spirit. Bring the outside in with fresh boughs and garlands. Gather beautiful candles and keep the energy in your space uplifted. Play holiday music. Fill the air with aromatherapy holiday scents. Unplug and tuck in with a good book. Snuggle in pajamas all day and watch movies and set intentions for the New Year ahead.

Let us be kind to ourselves and uphold one another so we can all rise in celebration of a holiday season and a year of transformation and expansion.

T’is the season friends.

Maintain The Cheerful Vibe This Winter

Maintain The Cheerful Vibe This Winter

BRING ON THE CHEER!

Knowing the months ahead will be a challenge to everyone’s mental health I’m proactively creating a plan to stay cheerful! I want to manage anxiety, stay cheerful and radiate vibrant health.

Here’s the list I’ve compiled. If you’re like me you’ll need a few strategies, that work together to make this a winter filled with peace and joy.

THE PLAN TO STAY CHEERFUL

  1. Revisit your best TEACHERS. Dig out books, quotes, figures or songs that you treasure most. Take the time to immerse yourself in the ideas that re-orient you to your joy center.
  2. Plant bulbs indoors. Watching new growth poke through the ground ignites cheer. Paper whites planted now will be full height during the holiday season. Crocuses, hyacinths will come next and then daffodils and tulips.
  3. Permission to REST. The rested version of ourselves is more able to stay cheerful than the version that’s sluggish or in survival mode. Give yourself permission to snuggle in, get toasty warm and take a break during the day, read a few pages of a book or have a little cat nap.
  4. Make a JOY list. Big small, logical or not, make a list of experiences that bring you joy. Include as many small things as you can and include a few of them in your plans for the day or week. Joy can have a real effect on our brain chemistry, fueling and strengthening us more than we know.
  5. Choose your WORDS. Regardless of where you are but especially in the throes of any big life struggle, take a pause and ask yourself – What qualities do I need most right now? Write them down. Address them one at a time. Each morning engage in the OH MY WORD daily ritual by drawing and colouring the chosen word on your daily page. The word will return to you throughout the day and be reflected in your experiences. Repeat the same word day after day until you feel it is a part of you before moving onto the next.
  6. Try ADAPTOGENS. These are a class of herbs and foods that help us achieve equilibrium in body and mind. A few common ones are rishi, maca, ashwagandha, and rhodiola. Do your research and start slowly.
  7. Gaze into a LIGHT THERAPY lamp. This may sound a little woo woo but it works! Turn the lamp on for 15 minutes in the morning and feel your mood lighten. You can actually feel yourself getting cheerier. It’s particularly good for people who suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder).
  8. Take a STEAMING BATH. I love this I fill the tub with hot water and lavender Epsom salts and a squeeze of bubble bath. I do it right before bed and then curl up like a happy, little kitten.
  9. Get a stack of FUNNY BOOKS and MOVIES. Keep the laugh muscle exercised.
  10. Light CANDLES. There’s something about candles that makes me… exhale….”aaaahhhh”. Have them flickering in the kitchen, bedroom, living room, dinner table.
  11. Engage in HOBBIES. Hobbies make us happy. They boost creativity and confidence. Having a hobby is a radical form of selflove and care because you are taking the time to engage in something you love. So, what interests you? Genealogy, pet fostering, crafting, puzzling, writing? Need ideas? Check out hobbies on Wikipedia there are over 600 to choose from!
  12. HOST a virtual group. Common interests bring us together, create a bond and give us a place to belong. Keep the group small and manageable so everyone will have a chance to contribute and get to know each other.
  13. JOIN virtual groups. Why not be a part of several groups that represent your interests? You stay connected and benefit from a sharing of thoughts and ideas with a diverse group of people.
  14. Make DATES. The single biggest predictor of human resilience is support from other people. Set up dates (phone, virtual or in person) with loved ones and friends. Establish your own covid19 safe pod or bubble so you can spend in person time with loving, supportive people.
  15. WALK…walk…walk. Walking has been a mental health lifeline for so many people during the pandemic. Keep it up all year. If you can brave the weather suit up, bundle up and connect your feet with the earth.
  16. Keep an OPEN MIND. Instead of looking ahead into the cold winter months with a sense of foreboding expect that winter will be a beautiful season. We attract into our lives what we think about.
  17. Remind yourself it’s NORMAL. If you have a not-so-good day remind yourself it’s perfectly normal. This acknowledgement will lessen any anxiety and allow the cheerful’s in. When I have an ‘ugh’ day I take deep breaths to reset and then open my OH MY WORD journal regardless of the time of day and draw and colour – LET GO. This goes a long way in releasing any negative energy.
  18. LIMIT news time. Too much news these days is just not good. Remember our thoughts create our reality so if we allow ourselves to be constantly consumed by news those news stories and the associated feelings will solely create the world in which we live. Find a balance of staying formed and being engaged in things you LOVE.
  19. Yoga, mindful mediation, deep breathing, journaling practices. All help maintain psychological equilibrium and restore cheer.
  20. Proactive CHEERFULNESS. Focus on what is going right in your life right now. Research has found that having a ratio of 3 positive things to every negative emotion helps people flourish. Grab on to the positives and hold onto them throughout day.
  21. Find JOY in what you have vs what you don’t. The tough stuff is meant to challenge us. It encourages us to develop new qualities and find new solutions and silver linings. We can seek to be cheerful in the face of adversity or we can succumb to the negativity around us. The choice is always…ours. This point was brought home in spades last summer when I was in India. I saw small communities of people (parents, children, adolescents, elders) living on the medians dividing traffic. They were always happy, the (beautiful) women crouched, engaged with each other; the kids laughing, playing; the elders working with their hands. The community buzzed with life. They weren’t thinking about what they didn’t have but what they did.

I hope you find some strategies on this list that resonate with you. Taking care of our mental health has never been more important than now.

Take care friends. Be healthy. Be well. Wishing you warm cheer and positive vibes.

 

 

Choose JOY

Choose JOY

“We cannot cure the world of sorrows. But we can choose to live in joy.”

Joseph Campbell

There is a lot of frustration and unease in the world right now. Fear and uncertainty are at an all time high. Many of us have lost the capacity to find joy and see the magic in being alive. After all a lot of us are just trying to make it through the day. We’re stuck in a struggle because we don’t have clarity and we can’t move forward because we don’t know what the future looks like.

CHOOSING JOY

These are exactly the times when we can’t forget about joy it steers us in the direction of understanding and connects us to who we truly are. I don’t know about you but I’m not waiting for joy to find me I’m taking the bull by the horns and choosing it. I’m on a mission to capture it and bring it into my life.

“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”

Henri J. M. Nouwen

Choosing JOY

JOY JOLTS

I’m creating JOY JOLTS for myself. These are sudden abrupt moments I give to myself that immediately spark joy, soothe my spirit and take me out of my head and into my heart.

Here’s some of the JOY JOLTS I’ve given to myself so far:
• Reread saved messages, cards and notes from loved ones and friends. Makes the heart swell instantly.
• Found pictures of myself as a kid full of excitement, wonder and awe and posted them. Enliven my spirit.
• Deleted all social media that doesn’t uplift.
• Replaced the regular news with good newscasts like these… www.goodnewsnetwork.org www.happynews.com  www.gimundo.com

JOY JOLTS create instant joy.

JOY JOLTS that take a little more time

Heart opener

Oh…oh ….oh…I love these they feel so good. I include them in my yoga practice daily. If you aren’t into yoga you can still give yourself a heart opener. Place your hands on your heart and take a few deep breaths. Connect to your physical body and tune in to the thoughts and energy of your mind. Notice what’s going on up there. As you continue to breathe with your hands on your heart, allow your whole body to fill up with a sense of openness to your upcoming day. See yourself joyfully connected to your day. Even if there are things that feel overwhelming or intense, invite the energy of joy into those moments and see how it makes your body feel instead. Before you close out this ritual and begin the day, ask yourself “What is one self-loving act I will do for myself today?” or “What is one self-loving choice I will commit to for myself today?”

Noting what makes you joyful

Take out a pen and paper and write out the things that make you feel joyful. Anything and everything that you can come up with — write it down. When you feel complete, close your eyes and begin to slowly allow each of those ideas to enter into your body, almost like a visualization of the moment being present inside of you. Feel into the vibration you connect with when you recall these things. After a few moments, notice how you feel. Begin to breathe through those feeling of joy without any restrictions. Visualize yourself with joy inside of your whole body for the rest of your day or week. Ask to be shown what joy ‘looks like’ for you for the rest of the day. See yourself embodied in this place and let it settle into each cell of your body, mind and heart. Take this visualized feeling into the day with you and open up to that feeling with a deep breath at any moment to come back to your joy state.

Remembering joyful moments
What brings you joy?
The joy of children is contagious

Giving JOY

Perform one act of kindness during the day to give joy to someone else. Anything from a text message to someone you love letting them know that you appreciate them to holding the door open for someone qualifies here. Make an email introduction to two people who may be able to support one another’s work. Plant a small herb or give someone a plant. Make the simple effort to recycle or pick up a piece of trash on the street. All of these micro-moments can create a macro-impact on those around you and You!

Giving joy to friends

Make a JOY JAR

A Joy Jar is about noting, collecting and celebrating the joy in your life from the small moments to the big ones. Capturing and transferring them into a tangible form that can be seen and reviewed at any time. From a neurochemical standpoint celebrating ‘joys’ over and over provides a dopamine rush that makes us feel good all over again.

Celebrating unabashed JOY

Create JOY

Another way to joy is to ‘create’…when we aren’t creating a part of us feels stuck and frustrated. Creating is expressing ourselves from our hearts instead of our heads and makes us feel good. How do you create? Do you build, cook, sew, knit, weave, write, doodle? There are thousands of ways to create. Do a little bit every day.

Tapping into Creativity every morning

Every morning I tap into my creativity. I start by asking myself, who I want to be or how I want to feel or how I want to express myself today. I sit quietly. I wait for the one-word response. You’d be surprised how quickly one little word can cut through a lot of baggage and bring you back to center. I draw and colour my word in my OH MY WORD journal. This 5-minute process triggers my creativity and instantly brings back the joy of my 6 year old self. This feeling plus the ‘thought interruption’ I’ve created in my brain sets the tone for the entire day.

A page from my OH MY WORD journal. Today I choose to .. feel JOY

YOU DESERVE JOY

You deserve to be awed by life. You deserve joy that lights up your life. Our lives today are filled with new challenges making it essential to give ourselves the JOY JOLTS that fill the heart, soothe the soul and give us the joy, peace, and fulfillment we crave.

OH MY WORD is a helpful tool to create more JOY in your life.

OH MY WORD Journal can be a helpful tool in creating more Joy in your life.

OH MY WORD is a science backed, 5 minute daily journal that will help you zap the anxiety and amplify the Joy in your life .

  • Replaces negative thoughts with positive joyful ones you choose
  • Positive thoughts flood the body with dopamine and serotonin
  • Helps relieve stress and anxiety

OH MY WORD Journal can be purchased here:

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

Amazon.ca

Chapters/Indigo

Please share with anyone you know who needs more Joy.

Is it anxiety, worry or stress?

Is it anxiety, worry or stress?

Is it anxiety, worry or stress?

They all tend to fall into a shared basket of maladies in the 21st century. Do you suffer from a triumvirate of all three or does one create major havoc in your life?

If that’s the case …. which one?

Is it anxiety, worry or stress?

The New York Times recently had a great article by Emma Pattee that explains the difference between anxiety, worry and stress. Since one or all affects most of us, I thought it would be great to offer a summary. You can read Pattee’s article here.

What’s WORRY?

Worry is characterized by being obsessive and repetitive. It’s when our minds ruminate and dwell on negative thoughts, uncertainties or things that could possibly go wrong. Melanie Greenberg, a clinical psychologist in Mill Valley, Calif and author of The Stress Proof Brain explains it this way, “worry is the cognitive component of anxiety. That means worry happens only in the mind and not in the body. When we worry it calms the brain down, it’s likely to cause us to problem solve or take action. Worry is a way for the brain to handle problems in order to keep us safe. Its only when we get stuck thinking about a problem that worry stops being functional and start becoming negative.”  

If you’ve been in the clutches of worry you know how tightly it can hang on and consume our thoughts.

Dr. Luana Marques an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and President of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America suggests taking these steps to manage worry:

  1. Give yourself a worry budget and only allow yourself to worry for a specified amount of time (i.e. 20 minutes) when the time is up. Redirect your thoughts.
  2. When you’re worried push yourself to take action to move the thought out of your mind.
  3. Write your worries down. Studies show that 8-10 minutes of writing can calm repetitive thoughts.

What’s STRESS?

Stress is a physiological response to an external event like a deadline, doctor’s appointment or exam that exceeds the individual’s resources.

Stress used to be a natural response to a threat like a lion lurking nearby. Today we’re not faced with lions but traffic, work and relationship expectations and financial issues that fire up the limbic system and release adrenaline and cortisol which help activate the brain and body to deal with the threat. Symptoms of stress are a rapid heartbeat, clammy palms and shallow breathing. While it might feel good  at first as adrenaline floods the body and gives you a boost to reach a deadline or get to an appointment, it becomes chronic stress if your body stays in this fight-or-flight mode continuously. Chronic stress can lead to many health concerns like digestive issues, increased risk of heart disease and a weakening of the immune system. Try these to manage stress.

  1. Exercise is a way for your body to recover from the increased production of adrenaline and cortisol.
  2. Know what you can control and let go of what you can’t.

What’s ANXIETY?

Anxiety is the culmination of both worry and stress. It is both cognitive and physiological. This means we experience anxiety in both mind and body. It takes worry and stress to the next level. Dr. Marques explains it this way, “anxiety in some ways is a response to a false alarm. An example would be you show up at work and someone gives you a look. You start to experience all the physiology of a stress response because you’re telling yourself that the boss is upset with you or that your job might be at risk. The blood is flowing, the adrenaline pumping and your body is in fight-or-flight but there is no predator nearby. The threat is in your mind.”

Dr Marques reminds us that there is a difference between feeling anxiety which can be a normal part of life and having an anxiety disorder. An anxiety disorder is a medical condition that may include stress and/or worry. Suggestions to manage simple anxiety.

  1. Limit Sugar, caffeine and alcohol
  2. Wiggle your toes – this kind of refocusing can calm you and break the anxiety loop.
  3. Distract yourself – go for a run, listen to music, cuddle a pet, or rub a piece of Velcro or velvet.

In SUMMARY

Worry happens in the mind.

Stress happens in the body.

Anxiety happens in both mind and body.

In small doses worry, stress and/or anxiety can be positive forces in our lives.  It is when it escalates and stops us from acting in healthy, positive ways that it becomes an issue that needs addressing.

OH MY WORD can be a helpful management tool for worry, stress anxiety.

OH MY WORD Journal can be helpful in managing anxiety, worry and stress.

OH MY WORD is a science backed, 5 minute daily journal that will help you transform negative thoughts, ease anxiety and worry and cultivate joy in your life.

  • Replaces negative thoughts with positive ones you choose thus redirecting the worry.
  • Positive thoughts flood the body with dopamine and serotonin diluting and effects of adrenaline and cortisol.
  • Creates a creative, mindful distraction from anxiety.

OH MY WORD Journal can be purchased here:

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

Amazon.ca

Chapters/Indigo

 

Breathwork takes OH MY WORD practice deeper

Breathwork takes OH MY WORD practice deeper

I took my life back from the grip of anxiety with two strategies: journaling (in a novel way) and breathwork.

As someone who suffered from anxiety for most of my adult life, I was always on the lookout for strategies that would help me.

I felt like my life had been saved 6 years ago when I started doing ‘heart doodles’ which I would later become OH MY WORD – the insanely simple daily journal to intentionally become who you want to be.  With my daily intentional word, I was able to replace my disabling negative thoughts with positive ones I chose. I was in the driver’s seat of my life and my anxiety relegated to the locked trunk.  I was free to become the person I wanted to be living with ease and joy.

But that’s not where the story ends.

In the last 2 years I’ve added another strategy or rather I’ve learned a new skill which has taken my daily practice to an even deeper level.

 I learned to breathe.

I’d tried meditation it was a no-go

Years ago, doctors and therapists has encouraged me to try meditation as a way to disable anxiety. I tried it but when I’d sit down to meditate my thoughts would ramp up making endless lists, working to solve problems that hadn’t yet happened, chewing on the past and beating myself up over what I could have done better or even trying to figure out what to make for dinner.  The chatter was endless.

For someone with anxiety like myself meditation was a no-go.

My old breathing patterns

Like a lot of anxiety sufferers, I was a shallow, chest breather and a breath holder.  A double whammy! The way I was breathing was sending my sympathetic nervous system into overdrive activating the fight-or-flight response and filling my body with the stress hormone cortisol. My anxiety driven breathing patterns had put me in a continuous state of fight-or-flight, filled with cortisol and always on the run from tigers, bears and my own negative thoughts.

OK so a little bit of fear is good it can keep us safe but having too much of it is unhealthy for every part of body, mind, heart and spirit.

The new breathing

I didn’t fully understand how powerful breath was until I started doing yoga and learned about the ujjayi breath. It’s also called the ocean sounding breath and when I did it, I was always left with a sense of calm and ease.

How it works

When we engage in deep rhythmic, coherent breathing we activate the vagus nerve, turn on our parasympathetic nervous system and pump the brakes on anxiety and stress. As our physiology returns to its natural inherent state, our minds calm and our hearts open. We’re able to move the breath down from our chest and into our belly, breathing in an intention or a thought we want and breathing out thoughts, beliefs, memories or actions that we don’t want. After breathing this way, we feel good, more equipped to handle stress and anxiety melts away.

Breathwork is an active form of meditation

I did learn to meditate after all. Breathwork is like an active form of meditation. It  allowed me to consciously work my breath, bypassing the chattering (monkey) mind to enter a different state of awareness. What most people seek in meditation I was able to get by simply breathing. It allowed me to disconnect from the mind and reconnect with the body, energy and enter a different state of consciousness. This altered state enhanced my healing, clarity, peace and wholeness.

Here are some different breathing techniques to try:

The one I use

The one that I use every day is very simple. I take a long slow inhale in through my nose and exhale through my mouth out making sure the exhale is longer than the inhale. This sends the body into a more parasympathetic state, lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels and it can relieve feelings of depression. I sometimes count in 1-2-3-4- and out 1-2-3-4-5-6. I see a naturopath regularly and I was always telling her how my breathing practice was developing. She would conduct her own examination. She would stop me after one of our super animated conversations and say, “I’m going to take your blood pressure in one minute.” I would start breathing and she would test my blood pressure. She was always amazed at how low it was after just a minute of breathing.

The Ujjayi Breath

The ujjayi breath I mentioned earlier is where you breath in through your nose to a count of 4 –  hold at the top for a second – exhale through the nose (from the back of the throat producing an ocean sounding breath) to a count of  4 – hold at the base. Repeat. I often do this lying down with one hand on my belly so I can feel the rise and fall and one hand on my heart.

Box Breathing

Start by releasing all the air from your chest and hold your breath for 4 seconds, then breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds, the hold your breath for 4 seconds, then exhale out through the nose for 4 seconds. Repeat for 5 minutes to feel the effects.

 Relaxing breath from Dr Andrew Weil

Relaxing breath also known as 4-7-8 breath slows the heart rate and brings consciousness to the present moment. It also teaches the body how to take in less, release more and create space between inhales and exhales. By creating space between stimulus and response, this breath has a practical application in the stressful moments  we encounter on a daily basis.

How to do:

Start by releasing all the air from your chest and inhale through the nose for 4 seconds, then hold your breath for 7 seconds, then exhale out of the mouth for 8 seconds. Repeat the cycle up to 4 times.

Coherent breathing from Stephen Elliot

While our natural tendency is to breath at a rate of 2 or 3 seconds per breath, this controlled and conscious breathing which is common practice within yogic traditions) slows our inhales and exhales down to 4 seconds, then 5 seconds and beyond. The intention of this breath is to increase heart rate variability which calms the body and can affect heart rate, digestion, concentration, vitality, sleep and stress response.

How to do:

To start, focus on the natural rhythm of your breath to obtain a baseline length of each inhale and exhale. Then for 1 minute breath in for 4 seconds an exhale for 4 seconds. Then repeat for 5 seconds, then for 6 second and if you are able gradually expand to 10 seconds. Whatever elongated breath you work up to maintain it for 5 minutes to start and work your way up over time to 20 minutes.

Breathwork is available to everyone

Breathwork is available to everyone and can be very healing and restorative for people who dealing with stress, anxiety, fear, grief, sadness, anger or insomnia. But it’s also nourishing  for anyone who is looking to go deeper in their search of love, peace, gratitude, clarity, connection and insight in their life.

AAAAHHHHH…. hearty rate slows, blood pressure and cortisol levels drop. You feel a sense of peace.

AAAAAhhhhhhh……..

OH MY WORD tip:

Use breathwork to deepen your OH MY WORD practice. When you’re sitting at your desk, stuck in traffic, in line at the grocery store or at the bank. Breathe in your intentional word and breathe out your word. This moves your intention that much deeper into your mind and body.

Breathe into your intentional word.

Does anxiety and negative thought stop You from being the person you want to be and following your dreams? OH MY WORD is a science based, 5 minute, one-word daily journal that allows you to take charge of your life, become the person you want to be and live with joy and fulfillment.

ONE WORD CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

Buy OH MY WORD here:

Amazon.com

Amazon.ca

Indigo/Chapters

Barnes & Noble

 

The daily practice that wires happiness

The daily practice that wires happiness

When we ask ourselves, what makes us happy we generally think of the people in our lives, circumstances and possessions.

But in reality, happiness is mostly a chemical experience.

There are 4 main neurochemicals, hormones and neurotransmitters generated in the brain that are fundamentally responsible for creating the sensations and emotions we associate with happiness – endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin.

The good news is that with a little bit of knowledge we can trigger happiness whenever we want.

So, the next time anxiety threatens to extinguish your joy or life feels out of control or not exactly the way you’d like it to be there are simple things you can do to take charge, increase your happy chemicals and dramatically change how you feel.

Happiness is on the Way

Endorphins

Endorphins are produced by the central nervous system and help us deal with physical pain. They also make us feel lightheaded and giddy. They produce what we know as the ‘runner’s high’ and also the good feeling after just 30 minutes of walking. If this is the boost you need, get walking outside in nature versus a treadmill and amplify the good feelings.

Serotonin

Serotonin is the best know happiness chemical neurotransmitter. It is naturally triggered by several things we each do every day. Getting out in the sunshine and happy thoughts (like the ones you experience from journaling in your OH MY WORD journal) stimulate the production of serotonin. If you‘re an OH MY WORD journaler this is awesome news because as you know the happy thoughts and good feelings experienced during the morning ritual repeat throughout the day thus generating a steady flow of serotonin.

Dopamine

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter often referred to as the chemical of ‘reward’. After you accomplish a task like completing your 5-minute OH MY WORD daily ritual you receive a pleasurable hit of dopamine in your brain that tells you – way to go…good job! Thoughts of loving kindness can bring on a dopamine high too so spread the love with a loving intention and keep the dopamine hits continuing all day.

Oxytocin

Oxytocin is primarily associated with loving touch and close relationships. It’s the warm fuzzies that make us tingle all over. To get an instant hit of oxytocin give someone you love a cuddle even a furry friend will do the trick.

There you have it! The 4 feel good hormones and neurotransmitters and how they work.  Now you can trigger them whenever you want.

OH MY WORD Journal

Start OH MY WORD journaling and get a big hit of both serotonin and dopamine first thing every morning.

Now that’s the way to get The Happy Factor at work in your life.

Zap Anxiety and Amplify Joy + Happiness

Does anxiety and negative thought stop You from being the person you want to be and following your dreams? OH MY WORD is a science based, 5 minute, one-word daily journal that allows you to take charge of your life, become the person you want to be and live with joy and fulfillment.

ONE WORD CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

 

Get your OH MY WORD Journal here:

Chapter/Indigo

Amazon.ca

Amazon.com

 

Relief From Anxiety

Relief From Anxiety

ANXIETY. It makes your head feel like it’s sandwiched in a vice grip. You mind overwhelmed with thoughts of fear, doubt and worry.

Did you know that from the time a girl reaches puberty until the age of 50 she is twice as likely to suffer from anxiety than a man?

WHY WOMEN ARE MORE AFFECTED THAN MEN

Differences in brain chemistry may account for part of these differences. The brain system involved in the fight-or-flight response is activated more readily in women and stays activated longer than men, partly as a result of the action of estrogen and progesterone.

The neurotransmitter serotonin may also play a role in the responsiveness to stress and anxiety. Some evidence suggests that the female brain does not process serotonin as quickly as the male brain. Unfair as it may be, it’s a simple fact, women suffer from anxiety much more often than men.

I KNOW THE PAIN I’VE BEEN THERE

I suffered from anxiety for most of my life. Mine would manifest as a loop that went around and around and keep me trapped until I could break it. I was basically held hostage by my own negative thoughts. My family and close friends described me as an intense, tightly wound, obsessive person who sometimes disappeared down a rabbit hole. Not who I wanted to be. Other people didn’t know the struggle I was engaged in because I had cultivated a glossy, upbeat façade that fooled everyone. Maintaining that was a struggle in itself.

Always looking…

I was always looking for relief and ways to break the loop. I tried so many things, exercise (helped) mediation (couldn’t concentrate), affirmations (no effect), chanting (not for me), journaling (too much writing), vitamin and herbal therapy (didn’t work).

One of the things I started to do was to write down quotes that I found meaningful on an index card and tack them on my bulletin board. One day instead of writing the quote I wrote the word from the quote that had the most meaning for me … the word was joy. I wrote JOY and drew a big heart around it and then I dug out pencil crayons, glitter and sparkles and I started to play. I felt like I was channeling my inner 6-year old.  I remember tacking my it up on my bulletin board and smiling. The interesting thing was as the day went on, I kept flashing on my card. I would be reminded of the word JOY and I’d be filled with those good feelings all over again.

A few days later I did it again and tried another word. I had the same experience I was reminded of my word as I went through the day and I felt the feelings.

 I started doing more of these.

I choose words that represented who I wanted to be or what I thought I needed that day. I always had the same experience.  The word which was my intention for the day became top of mind and the loudest voice in my head as I went through the day. Whether I was in line at the grocery store, driving or at the bank I would be reminded of my intention. I would see word. I would feel the word.  The word was reflected in my experiences. I felt good.

 I called these heart doodles.

I became a disciplined heart doodler choosing an intentional word and drawing and coloring it every morning. I refined it further and started titling each page Today I CHOOSE to…TODAY made it immediate and kept me present not focused on what happened yesterday or what might be coming up tomorrow.  CHOOSE reminded me that I choosing to be in charge of my life and how I felt.

What I started to notice was that the loop of anxiety that had been my permanent side kick wasn’t there and in its place were my intentional words and feelings that I was choosing every morning.

After all the things I’d tried this ‘heart doodle’ strategy worked.

That was 6 years ago.

Heart doodles become OH MY WORD as I shared it in the workshops for women I facilitated through my Red Shoe Zone blog.

Benefits of OH MY WORD:

  • Lowers stress and eases anxiety
  • Sets the tone for the day when done first thing in the morning
  • Retrains your brain to think in new ways
  • Makes your positive intentional thoughts the loudest voices in your head
  • Allows you to choose who you will be, how you will express yourself and how you will live- you are in control
  • Allows you to interrupt negative habitual thoughts and replace them with positive ones

Other ways to reduce anxiety that helped me:

  • Cut down on caffeine
  • Get regular exercise
  • Take deep belly breaths
  • Eat well balanced healthy meals

Purchase OH MY WORD on Amazon.com

Purchase OH MY WORD on Amazon.ca

Purchase OH MY WORD at Chapters/Indigo

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