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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Dare to Dream the Impossible Dream: Surviving Difficult Times

'Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.'  Howard Thurman

A Dream of Hope   

Do you ever have dreams that profoundly affect you? I do. 

One night I dreamt I allowed myself to be killed over and over again to show others how I came alive again. Although I died again and again in the dream, it was in fact a dream of hope--not a morbid one—and that's why it had such a profound effect on me.

At the time I had been contemplating how I might help people who were laid-off and unemployed maintain hope for their future.

'What was the secret to turning around feelings of hopelessness so people beat down by life could reemerge victorious and fully involved in life?'

What I realized was my dream showed me the answer to how I maintain my own ability to thrive despite discouraging times--

'When I am 'deadened by life experiences' I refocus my attention away from the deadening experiences and put it back on things that make me come alive. By choosing to be among 'the living' again, I reemerge triumphantly and show others I have come alive again.'

Within You is the Desire to Serve the World FULLALIVE

Sure, your life difficulties and this slowly recovering economy can still make you feel like a quivering bowl of Jell-O--stuck in indecisiveness and failing to act because you don't know what the right step is that will work out for you.

But here's the thing--within you is a desire to serve the world--
FULLALIVE--using your unique skills and talents. But what are they and how do you access them when you feel deadened by your current circumstances?

What makes you feel FULLY ALIVE?

When you're in the midst of dealing with major life issues--like caring for aging parents, dealing with divorce, being laid off, or graduating from college into a poor job market--it creates an emotional cloud around your thinking. Trying to make logical, rational or heart-felt decisions about your purpose or life calling can feel like you're asking the black 8-ball a question and getting 'reply hazy, try again'. It can feel like an impossible task.

This is when you must choose to actively take steps to rediscover your passion.

Everything is (SECRETLY) okay

Have Faith in Your Inner Wisdom--and Take a Step

Act as If: When your senses are numbed have faith in your inner wisdom to shines a light on the path that makes you come alive--then act as if--and take a step. 

Trust, but Verify: This is a variation on 'trust, but verify' others. In this instance you trust your inner self to know your path--but you test the truth of that wisdom by taking action. You'll know soon enough if you want to continue down this path or choose another direction.

Life is an Experiment

All of life is an experiment. You start with a hypothesis--or idea of the truth about what makes you come alive--and you actively test your theory through taking practical steps to see if you indeed come alive by taking that path.

Are You Ready to Come Alive and Dream the Impossible Dream?  
  • Make an active choice to be back among the living.
  • Refocus your attention.
  • Act as if.
  • Trust, but verify.
  • Choose actions that show others you've come alive again.
  • Choose actions that show you care about life.

Dare to Dream the Impossible Dream During Difficult Times

Don't let your life experience keep you down. Dare to dream the impossible dream during difficult times. Choose to triumph over the obstacles that get in the way of you coming alive. You always have another step to take.

What Makes You Come Alive? 
  • What puts a twinkle in your eye?
  • What gets your blood boiling?
  • What makes your heart race?
  • What's something you'd really like to sink your teeth into?
  • What captures your mind's eye?

 'Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.'   H.L. Mencken

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For more than 30 years, Susan Meyerott has been helping people lighten up and step over invisible barriers to change one step at a time. She speaks to your heart, puts you at ease, and makes changing easier than ever before.

If you're interested in learning more about closing the gap between where you are now and where you want to be, join the Lightarted Living mailing list. Sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Heart Attack: Stress won't kill you, but not taking care of it might

Mindfulness Linked to Good Cardiovascular Health

Do you consider yourself a person who is aware and attentive to what you're thinking and feeling? Turns out a study from Brown University discovered a link between better cardiovascular health and people who are mindful of what they think and feel. 
That's great news for me--and I hope for you. I pride myself on being highly aware of what I'm thinking and feeling most of the time. And apparently most of the time is good enough...most of the time. 
According to the researchers, a high mindfulness score associated with better cardiovascular health is more about having good mind-body awareness most of the time than about our regularly practicing mindfulness exercises, like meditation. 

But why should this higher awareness of our thoughts and feelings produce better cardiovascular health?  In all probability it is related to our ability to better manage stress.

Some health professionals, me included, do not believe heart attacks are caused by clogged arteries, but are due instead to an imbalance between our sympathetic--or fight or flight nervous system--and our parasympathetic--or calming nervous system--due to chronic stress. 

In fact, researchers discovered a single intense incidence of anger results in an 8.5 times increased risk of having a heart attack in the two hours following the outburst.

Regardless of whether you believe stress is the cause of heart attacks or not, you cannot disregard the critical role chronic stress plays in setting you up for poor cardiovascular health. Stress causes inflammation in the body--a condition associated with increased risk for cardiovascular events. 

Without an awareness of how you're responding to daily stressful events, your body will continue to release adrenaline--the stress hormone--that keeps you in constant readiness for fight or flight while suppressing your calming hormones.

While stress won't kill you, failing to balance your fight or flight 'stress' system with your calming nervous system very well could.

Pride Comes Before the Fall--or is that Rise?

Unfortunately it never pays to be too smug or overconfident about how smart or aware you are--especially about things that concern your health! 

I know this first-hand as I am quite smug about how consciously I live my life and manage my stress. I pride myself on being a person who remains calm in the midst of stressful situations--always believing in my ability to handle whatever comes my way.

But you know the saying 'pride comes before the fall'? Well in my case I would say pride came before the rise. 

I recently experienced a concerning rise in my blood pressure that despite my best efforts to bring it back down, kept rising. As I had been sick for a month I thought perhaps that was the cause so I sought medical help and accepted a prescription for an additional blood pressure lowering medicine.

But as I often do, I observed what I revealed or failed to reveal in my medical appointment. I watched as I calmly and objectively reported all appropriate vital signs measured over the course of two weeks, clearly showing a sudden and sustained increase in blood pressure and heart rate. I heard myself describe the duration and symptoms of the illness and what I had done to get back to health. And I explored all factors I thought could contribute to a sudden rise in blood pressure--except the obvious one.

What I failed to report was the stress I was experiencing at work that was forcing me to consider quitting. In my defense, it wasn't until I was talking with the nurse practitioner that I even allowed myself to see an inkling of truth about the stress-factor. I was in denial--simply ignoring what I didn't want to see. 

When 'Most of the Time' isn't Good Enough
While being mindful most of the time is good enough most of the time--sometimes the belief we are better than others at recognizing and handling stress can blind us to an immediate situation causing our body to negatively react.

It is especially challenging to stay mindful of how you're reacting when you're in the middle of a stressful situation. 

And if like me you view yourself as someone who always handles your stress well, you too can ignore the mounting physical distress, and dismiss the effects the stress is creating in your body. That's when you need to call on your friends, family and body to help you see the obvious so you can take healthful actions.

Listen to Your Body and Seek Advice from Trusted Friends

Although I failed to acknowledge a link between my work stress to the sudden and sustained increase in blood pressure to my medical provider, just the act of making the appointment and exploring my options with her opened my eyes to the truth I didn't want to speak.

I felt an almost immediate release after I left the medical appointment--not because I had a prescription, but because I gave myself a glimpse of the truth. I suspected my blood pressure was going to go down all by itself now that I came to terms with what my body was telling me--and it has.

When your body tells you something is wrong, as mine did, that is the time to reach out to others who can help you see and state the truth. 

I made an appointment to deal with the blood pressure rise because my sister insisted I go--and after my appointment I confessed the obvious truth to her. And her response to my revelation the rising blood pressure was due to work issues? "Duh."
It is our bodies and our loved ones that can gently guide us past our denial so we can get back on a self aware path--if we're willing to listen.
Sometimes when we're in denial, we just need a nudge from our bodies and from others to point us in the right direction that we already knew we needed to go. 

3 Tips: Self Awareness For Cardiovascular Health 

Staying aware and attentive to your thoughts and feelings is an essential part of managing your stress and therefore your cardiovascular health. Sometimes that means knowing when to seek help from others, tracking your health markers, and taking actions to alleviate stress.

  • Seek friends and family advice
  • Visit your medical professional
  • Pay attention: track your blood pressure, blood sugar, sleep patterns.

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For more than 30 years, Susan Meyerott has been helping people lighten up and step over invisible barriers to change one step at a time. She speaks to your heart, puts you at ease, and makes changing easier than ever before.

If you're interested in learning more about closing the gap between where you are now and where you want to be, join the Lightarted Living mailing list. Sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.