6 steps for coping with fear

Fearful

 

Last week I wrote about how to find the positive when you're not feeling well, something I've been struggling a lot with recently. After having had two minor surgeries over the past week (one of which was very unexpected!), I'm actually feeling better than I have in quite some time. However, though my physical pain has subsided somewhat, my emotional distress has increased immensely over the past week due to the more serious, under-anesthesia surgery I'm scheduled to have this week. Having never had "real" surgery before — and also being very iatrophobic — I've been struggling a lot with staying positive and present in the face of fear. 

I've never encountered a fear like this before. I've faced my share of fears, but they've always been more abstract and emotional — fear of not succeeding or having my heart broken or taking a big career risk — and much easier to overcome. This fear is incredibly tangible and forceful. It's physical and has a deadline with a very specific date and time. It's doing its best to trample my attempts at staying positively present.

But, scared as I am, I'm determined not to let it take over. I'm trying as best I can to make the most of the time I have between now and my surgery date without letting fear rule my life. I know I won't be able to completely eradicate the fear, but I can learn to cope with it. Here are some of the steps I've been taking to cope with my fear. (Note: Though these are highlighted by my specific upcoming-surgery experience, these six steps apply to coping any kind of fear!)

 

Step 1: Recognize that you're afraid

The first — and maybe most important — step when it comes to fear is realizing you're afraid. Fear can manifest itself in all sorts of forms that may make it seem like something it's not. Personally, I've found that a lot of the time when I seem angry or annoyed, I'm actually afraid. It's not always easy to identify the source of fear, but if you spend time thinking about it (much you as might not want to!), usually the root cause of the fear will be made clear. Also, fear is something we usually want to avoid so sometimes we ignore it or downplay it in order to convince ourselves (or others) that we're brave. Remind yourself that being afraid isn't a weakness, and the sooner you recognize the fear, the sooner you can discover ways to cope with it (and hopefully move past it).  

 

Step 2: Get to the heart of the fear

After you've identified what you're afraid of — for example, for me, I'm afraid of having surgery — it's time to dig a little deeper and define why you're afraid. For me, the fear of surgery is actually due to fears of (1) not being in control, (2) not knowing exactly how I'll feel when I wake up, and (3) not having experienced anything like this before (aka, fear of the unknown). When trying to get to the root cause of fear, it's helpful to ask these questions:

  • Have I ever been afraid of this before?
  • What are you really afraid of?
  • What makes you feel more afraid of it? Less afraid? 
  • How do you feel when you're afraid? (Physically and mentally)
  • When are you most likely to feel afraid? 
  • Does your fear have a purpose? 

Recognizing what causes the fear, when you experience it most, and what's at the heart of it will help with the coping process. Also, sometimes simply understanding why you're experiencing something can make it a bit easier to manage, making the coping process a bit easier. 

 

Step 3: See fear as an opportunity

Fear is no fun to experience, but it's often presented to you as an opportunity to take on a challenge, overcome a difficult situation, or grow stronger and braver. (Cliche, I know, but I swear it's true!) In the midst of fear, it can be difficult to find the opportunities there, but it's worth considering what they might be, especially because this is an excellent exercise in striving to find the good in a bad situation. For example, in my situation, I've spent my entire life being iatrophobic, terrified of doctors, needles, any sort of medical procedure. Though I'm currently still quite scared, I'm hoping this experience will make me braver and make it easier to cope with any medical situation I encounter in the future. I also know for a fact that this situation has made me so grateful for my health and once this is all over with I'll have grown more appreciative of what it means to be healthy. 

 

Step 4: Focus on your body

The way your body reacts to situations and thoughts can give you a lot of clues about how you're feeling, especially when it comes to fear. For example, you might tense up when hearing unpleasant news before you've even actually processed what it means. Or your heart might start racing when you think about an upcoming presentation. Our bodies give us so much information about our emotions, and we can use that information to our advantage. For example, if your palms start sweating and your mind starts racing when you start thinking of something you're afraid of, it might be a good time to try the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Or if you find your heart beating really fast, you might want to try progressive muscle relaxation. Paying attention to the body's reaction to fear is useful because you can then counteract those reactions with more positive ones (deep breaths, relaxing muscles, etc.). 

 

Step 5: Distract yourself from the fear

Last week, I wrote a little bit about distraction in my post about finding sunshine when you're under the weather, but I'm bringing it up again now because it's been a lifesaver for me lately. Seriously, if I didn't have a ton of great distractions, I'd probably be curled up in a ball shaking in fear for the next few days! Fear and anxiety can spiral out of control very quickly if they're allowed free reign in the mind,  and one of the best ways to keep it under control is to focus on something other than the fear. Over the past week, I've become a master at distraction, doing anything I can to focus on anything other than my upcoming surgery. Here are some of my favorite distractions: reading, writing, watching movies (especially old favorites), grown-up coloring books, jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, and being around other people. When I'm distracted, fear doesn't completely dissipate, but coping with it is much easier. 

 

Step 6: Visualize the best case scenario

One of the most scary things about my upcoming surgery is that I don't know exactly what kind of surgery I'm having until the surgeon begins the procedure. There are a variety of situations that could happen, ranging from not-too-bad to ugh-whyyyyy. My mind has, unfortunately, been wandering toward the negative side of things, imagining what will happen if I have to have the more complex surgery (that often involves additional surgery), but thinking this way is doing me no good. What I need to be doing is focusing on the best case scenario and visualizing that as my outcome. I read this quote recently and it's so true: "Worrying is like praying for what you don't want." Instead of focusing on what's the worst that could happen, it's much better to take a look at your fear and ask yourself this, "What would it be like if everything goes perfectly?"

 

Though I'm admittedly still battling a lot of fear about my upcoming surgery, these six steps have really helped me to better cope with my fear. If you're facing any kind of fear or change in your life, I hope these steps will help you too!

I'm not sure exactly how long I'll be in recovery so if you don't see posts from me in the next couple of weeks, don't worry — I'll be back as soon as I can sit up and write again! In the meantime, I'll probably still be posting over on Instagram (@positivelypresent) so follow along over there for some daily bits of positivity. :)

 
  

 

Finding-Self-Cover

Facing fears can offer up a great opportunity to reconnect with yourself. Start some soul-searching with the Finding Yourself workbook. Discover more about yourself, and uncover what you want most by downloading a copy of the e-book Finding Yourself: A Soul-Searching Workbook for Surprising Self Discovery. Filled with inspiration, questions, and activities to get you thinking about what it means to be you, Finding Yourself is a must for learning more about who you are and about what matters most to you. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your own soul-searching copy here.


positively present picks: july 3, 2015

Freedom

 

Quote-of-the-week

"I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives.
I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him."

Abraham Lincoln

 

Links-I-Love

The Magic of Emotional Clearing : get rid of all that emotional clutter

23 Emotions People Feel But Can't Explain : loved learning these words

When You're Feeling Low : this 7-year-old's song is uplifting and good

Anxiety / Self-Care Temporary Tattoos : I absolutely love these

Love the Necessary Hard Work : I love the gratitude behind this

10 Ways to Lift Yourself Up : whenever you feel you've fallen...

You Are a Grown Up : that means you can do what you want!

The Native Society : check out my interview with The Native Society

Say "I'm Proud of You" : you'll absolutely make someone's day

Inspiring Desktop Backgrounds : love these freebies via That Noise Gal

10 Affirmations to Recover from Disappointment : lift yourself up

PURPOSE Jewelry : this jewelry line gives back big time. love that!

When You Feel Like Giving Up : 15 reminders to get you back on track

Grown-Up Coloring Books : so good for reducing stress!

 

Listening

Listen to this playlist on YouTube.
 

"American Girl" — Tom Petty
"Warm Blood" — FLOR
"American Girls" — Counting Crows
"Rearview" — Andra Day
"Irrational" — Fjord
"American Oxygen" — Rihanna
"Wildfire" — Scavenger Hunt
"Firework" (Cover) — Jenny Lane
"July Flame" (Remix) — Laura Veirs
"Free" —Ryn Weaver

 

Reading

Check out my reading list on GoodReads.
 

You Can Think Differently
Caterina Rando

The Picture of Dorian Gray
Oscar Wilde

I wrote a book too! Check it out...

The Positively Present Guide to Life
Dani DiPirro

 


how to find sunshine when you're under the weather

Be-Ok

 

 

For the past month, I've been struggling with a not-so-fun health issue. I've never in my life had any issues with my health (other than the average cold) so it's been an eye-opening experience to wake up day after day not feeling like myself and dealing with constant pain. And, to be completely honest, it's been very difficult to stay positive. Not feeling good sucks, and when it starts impacting your whole life — where you can go, what you can do, how much work you can accomplish in a day — it goes from unpleasant to frustrating to depressing real fast. 

The best way to handle this unpleasantness would be to do my best to stay positive and present. The more I focus on how lucky I am (the issue I have, in the grand scheme of life, is relatively minor), the easier it becomes to cope with the situation. And the more I strive to stay in the moment (rather than dwelling on how long I've felt this way or wondering how much longer until I'm well again), the easier it becomes to avoid the downward spiral of self-pity. 

Of course this is much easier said than done.

For the first couple of weeks, I was optimistic. "I can get through this!" I thought. "This really isn't that bad," I told myself. But as the days multiplied, it grew more and more difficult to be cheerful. Every day I woke with hope and every day I still wasn't better. I was frustrated, upset, and physically in pain. Online I read about others who recovered quickly and I envied them. "Why wasn't I better?" I wondered. "Why was it taking so long for me to feel well again?"

I got my answer last week when, at the doctor's office, it was discovered that my issue was actually something more serious. Minor surgery would be needed as soon as possible with a real surgery needed soon after. I scheduled the first surgery for the following morning. On one hand, I was relived that my pain had been validated. I wasn't being a complainer or a baby — this pain was legit. But, on the other hand, I was terrified. Even though the procedure was routine and, in the eyes of the medical world, probably nothing to even blink an eye at, I'd never before had any sort of medical procedure. 

As I left the doctor's office blinking back tears and telling myself to be brave, I reminded myself that this was the perfect opportunity to practice what I preach. Here I was, coping with a difficult situation and faced with an upcoming procedure that made me feel downright terrified. If there were a time to be positively present, it was right now. 

And so I sat down at my computer and asked myself, "What would I tell someone else in this situation? What advice would I offer to someone who has been struggling for awhile and now has to confront a scary situation? How would I suggest finding the sunshine when you're under the weather?" What I came up with was this...

 

1. PUT YOUR HEALTH FIRST. 

When you're not used to worrying about your health, it can be difficult to make it a priority. For the weeks I was sick, I had to spend a lot of time taking care of myself and it was tough. I felt like my whole day revolved around doing all the things the doctor advised me to do, and that left little time for working — let alone socializing! But as the days passed, I quickly learned how important it is to put your health first. Whatever the doctor says, do it. And listening to your body is key, too. When I first started feeling bad, I tried to ignore it, pushing my body passed its limits. I don't know if this made things worse or not, but I do know that I felt a lot better on the days I put my health first. Yes, it was hard to cancel appointments and postpone deadlines (two things I try never to do at work), but I kept reminding myself, "This is the only body you have. You have to take care of it. It has to come first." 

2. GIVE YOURSELF A LITTLE TREAT. 

When you're feeling crappy (emotionally or physically or both), a little treat can go a long way. On the days I was feeling particularly bad, I tried to indulge a little in things that made me happy. Some of the things I treated myself to: I picked up my favorite dessert at the market. I spent a few hours watching a beloved Disney film. I happily obliged when my mom offered to treat me to some new books. I slept in on a weekday. I ordered in pizza instead of making it. I bought a fun new photo editing app to play with. Each of these acts was small, but they gave my mood a little boost when I was feeling low. Of course a lasting sense of happiness has to come from within, but when you're struggling to feel well, a little external mood-booster never hurts. 

3. FIND A GOOD DISTRACTION. 

When it comes to dealing with difficulty, I'm not a fan of sweeping things under the rug, but when you're having a tough time physically and you've done all you can to try to make yourself feel well but you still feel terrible, it can be helpful to find a good distraction. It could be anything — a new book, a favorite funny film, a friend stopping by — so long as it takes you away from your pain for a little bit and gives you a positive feeling. One of the best distractions I had when I wasn't feeling well was a friend coming over and listening to podcasts with me. It sounds like such a simple thing, but it made me forget about being in pain for awhile and inspired me to think and talk about things other than how bad I was feeling. 

4. KEEP THINKING OPTIMISTICALLY. 

Our thoughts are so powerful. As tempting as it was for me to think, "I'm never going to get better," every time I had a thought like this, I reminded myself just how powerful my thoughts were. Instead I told myself, "I will get better. Maybe not today, but soon I will be back to my old self." I'm not going to lie — at times it was frustrating to repeat this mantra and continually wake up feeling bad, but I do think there's something to be said about optimistic thinking when it comes to health. In fact, studies have shown that positive thinking can improve recovery times post-surgery, and some people even claim that thinking positively helped cure serious illnesses. Whether or not positive thinking actually does make you well or not, it certainly doesn't hurt and, at the very least, it improves your mental state!

5. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS. 

Yes, I felt terrible at times and my mental state was far from ideal, but when I started thinking about all of the other health conditions in the world (and all of the other places in the world where good medical treatment isn't available), I started to feel incredibly lucky. Here was, suffering from something relatively minor and with the means to have it taken care of by an award-winning doctor in one of the best surgery centers in the world. All things considered, I was pretty darn lucky. Focusing on this made it much easier to cope when I was feeling extra bad. Every time I was in pain or feeling frustrated by my situation, I reminded myself how lucky I was and my mood instantly brightened. 

6. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN DO. 

My condition made what I could do very limited, which was frustrating. I love being productive and laying on the couch all day (fun as that sounds!) gets really old, no matter how much you love reading or the Internet. I found myself wanting to cry sometimes in frustration because I didn't feel as if I could do much of anything for weeks and weeks and weeks. But at some point I realized I had to snap out of that mindset. Yes, I was limited in what I could do, but there were still things I could manage and it was time to take advantage of them. I could do lots of reading. I could still think of ideas and do some writing. I could research things on my phone while I was laying down. I could watch films I'd been wanting to catch up on. I couldn't do all the things I wanted to do, but focusing on what I could do make it easier to feel as if I was making progress (even while resting!). 

7. SPEND TIME WITH OTHER PEOPLE. 

When you're not feeling well, it's tempting to hole yourself up at home and stay there until you feel better. When you have a common cold, this works well (also, it's kind of necessary so you don't spread germs to others!), but when you're unwell for weeks at a time, this plan doesn't work so well. It only makes you feel more frustrated, lonely, and unhappy with your current state. If possible, get out of the house. (I forced myself to do this even when it was physically tough to do so.) If that's not an option, invite people over or chat with friends on the phone. As an introvert, social interaction isn't my go-to cure, but it really does help to spend time with others. It gets you out of your own head and provides a welcome distraction from focusing on physical pain.

 

After this experience, I've learned just how important health is, and I've also begun to feel a much deeper sense of compassion for people in general. Now that I've been out and about in the world while feeling miserable, I've become more aware of the fact that you just never know what someone else is going through. Now when I encounter people who are rude or in a rush, I have to wonder if they're in some sort of pain. You can't always see the pain others are experiencing and, now knowing what it's like to have to carry on day after day while not feeling well, my eyes are opened to the possibility that others might be struggling too. 


positively present picks : june 26, 2015

Positive vibes

Positive vibes print via A Beautiful Mess
 

 

Quote-of-the-week

"To handle yourself, use your head.
To handle others, use your heart."

Eleanor Roosevelt

 

Links-I-Love

Tumblr Lovin' : been spending a lot of time over on Tumblr lately

Summertime Desktop + Phone Backgrounds : love these Free People freebies

You'll Do It When You're Ready : love this (via Danielle LaPorte)

50 Ways to Be Happy Right Now : honored to be featured in this! 

Enjoy the Process : I'm loving this temporary tattoo by Tattly

Three Words You Should Stop Saying Right Now : they really serve no point

5 Things that Happen When You Embrace Being Alone : love that solo time!

Strategies for Dealing with Toxic People : 'cause you can't always avoid 'em

How to Stop Being a Slave to Your Emotions : don't let them control you

20 Small Ways to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone : go on, try something new

Steve Jobs on Focus + Saying No : wow. these are powerful words. 

10 Ways to Stay Positive in the Face of Negativity : #1 is so important

How to Overcome Low Self-Esteem : now's the time to love who you are!

31 Ways to Appreciate the Present Moment : so many mindful ideas here

Love Brigade : a wonderful and inspiring subscription box

4 Types of Productivity Styles : figure out yours to get more done

 

Listening

Listen to this playlist on YouTube.
 

"Bad Blood / Never Getting Back Together" — Taylor Swift
"Earned It" (Cover) — Madilyn Bailey
"Distance" — The Violet feat. Van Ward
"Tom's Diner" — Giorgio Moroder feat. Britney Spears
"Midas" — Malibu State feat. Holly Walker
"We're Gonna Be Alright" — The Runaway Club
"Hollow Home Road" — Brolly
"I Want to Feel Alive" — Lighthouse + the Whaler
"Master Pretender" — First Aid Kit
"Goodbye, Goodbye" — Tegan and Sara

 

Reading

Check out my reading list on GoodReads.
 

All the Bright Places
Jennifer Niven

Radical Self Love: A Guide to Loving Yourself and Living Your Dream
Gala Darling

I wrote a book too! Check it out...

The Positively Present Guide to Life
Dani DiPirro

 


on summer + 6 ways to celebrate its arrival

SummerQuote

 

As of yesterday, summer has officially arrived where I live! Summer's grand entrance in the suburbs of Washington, DC means: too-hot days trapped inside rooms made too-cold by overcompensating air-conditioning, humidity so thick you can practically grab hold of it when you walk outside, an invasion of insects in search of human-flavored meals, and a pretty good chance of getting drenched in an afternoon thunderstorm. 

Rereading that sentence, I realize just how negative I sound. (This is a perfect example of when someone I know in real life would look at me and say, "Are you being Positively Present...?) I used to like summer -- I really did -- but the older I get, the more I start to understand why I liked summer. As a kid, I loved the warmth and the freedom and the fireflies. (My greedy, present-loving self also loved knowing my birthday was arriving at the end of August.) As a teenager, I loved the long break from school and the lazy days spent flirting with boys by the pool. In my youth, summer always symbolized freedom.

But now -- as a thirty-something adult (how did that happen?!) -- summer doesn't spell out freedom the way it once did. There is certainly something freeing in the lengthy days (so many more hours of daylight!), and it does often seem that work slows a bit in the warmest months (not so this year, when my planner is jam-packed with tasks!). And, of course, there are the pleasures of sun-kissed skin and melting popsicles and fireflies winking in the grass at dusk, the brightly-colored flowers and the green, green, green of everything. Summer has some nice traits, it does, but it doesn't symbolize what it once did.

Instead, I now see summer as a stepping stone to autumn, the time of year when I feel most in love with the world outside my window. But as the founder of this little positive and mindful corner of the internet, it's my duty to (try to!) appreciate all seasons, to embrace the goodness in every day (regardless of the humidity or the heat index!). After all, that's really what Positively Present is all about -- finding the a way to embrace every situation, especially the ones that aren't our favorites.

[Though, I must note, a little thing like not loving summer is, in no way, a difficult situation that must be overcome. I might be whining a bit here -- perhaps as a reminder to myself that I'm human and not some positivity-promoting machine who is unaffected by life's little annoyances -- but I know with absolute certainty how shockingly lucky I am to experience summer in the way I do, to live in a place where I generally feel content and safe, to be free to do as please (for the most part!), and to continue existing season after season after season.]

Though I know it's silly, I find myself growing less and less attracted to summer with each passing year. Like an old love that keeps coming back, with each return I find myself more and more irritated with summer's presence. But, despite my disgruntled state, I certainly don't want the coming months to be filled with me griping about the weather or shutting myself indoors to avoid the sticky sweat and bug bites. (As you can clearly see, I've found myself heading down this path!) Like it or not, summer is here to stay for awhile, and I plan to do what I can make the best of it. Here's how I plan to embrace the season I once loved (but can only kind of now tolerate).... 

 

  1. GET OUTSIDE IN THE FRESH AIR. 

    It's hard for me to tear myself away from my computer, my TV, my indoor comforts, and go outside. In general, I'm an indoor kind of girl. But summer is a great time to go outside and take part in outdoor activities (even if by "activity" I mean laying by the pool and reading...). While it's tempting to rationalize (as I did last weekend) that it was perfectly fine to spend a beautiful Saturdays indoors because I had "things to do," this is not a good way to embrace summer. 

  2. PAY ATTENTION TO NATURE.

    Already I've seen a few yellowed leaves fall from trees and they reminded me that summer will be over before I know it. Though it's not my favorite time of year, it's worth taking note of all the beauty it has to offer. I need to take note of the bright blue summer sky. I need to take note of the brilliant sun (that I'll surely be missing in winter!). I need to take note of the flowers still in bloom and the trees bursting with greenness. Summer has some great things to offer, nature-wise, and a great way to celebrate the season is to pay attention to it.

  3. ENJOY THE SUMMERTIME FARE.

    Summer offers some delicious options (and a great opportunity to stay present with some of the five senses!) in the food department, and there are certain things I eat in summer that I rarely have any other time of the year -- watermelon, corn on the cob, popsicles,  ice cream cones, to name a few. To celebrate the season, I plan to indulge in some of these summertime favorites on a regular basis, while they're still in season.  It could be another year before I'm likely to eat them again so now's the time to take advantage of them and enjoy them in all of their summertime glory!

  4. WELCOME THE WARM (LIGHTER!) NIGHTS. 

    Now that the nights are warm and it gets dark so much later, I'm out late, wearing flip-flops and shorts to walk the dog. Already I've grown accustom to summer's warmth and it's easy for me to forget about all the nights in winter where I had to bundle up in a big puffy jacket and boots just to take a quick, freezing stroll around the block. The joy of summer is that all I need to do is slip on my flip-flops, grab the leash (and dog!), and go. Celebrating the summer means remembering how freeing it is to leave the house without a jacket, to know I won't have to brace myself in preparation for a cold blast of air when I open the door. While they're here, I'm going to do what I can to appreciate the warm summer nights. 

  5. TAKE A LITTLE STAYCATION.

    I work for myself so it might seem like I could easily take a day off to enjoy a beautiful day, but it's much harder to vacate from my "office" when time off isn't paid. (No vacation days for a writer and creator!) Even so, life's too short not to take some time off to enjoy the season of summer. This year, I'm looking to the Regina Brett's quote for inspiration: "Summer is the annual permission slip to be lazy. To do nothing and have it count for something. To lie in the grass and count the stars. To sit on a branch and study the clouds." I might not be able to take a true vacation, but that doesn't mean I can't embrace a bit of summertime laziness!

  6. MAKE USE OF THE LONG DAYS. 

    Often when I finish work in the winter, it's dark. And darkness, to me, signals time to sleep, making it really hard to get motivated for post-work activities. But in the summer things are different! It's light so late and one of the best ways to celebrate summer is to make use of all those wonderful extra hours of daylight. This year I'm determined to make good use of the long afternoons, planning some outdoor activities, dining al fresco (in daylight!), and taking my pup on nice long walks in the evening. The long days are one of the best ways aspects of summer and they're certainly worth celebrating!  


If you made it all the way down to the end of this post (and through my ugh-it's-summer rant!), hopefully you'll have a better understanding of my default-negative-but-striving-to-be-positive brain works. It would be much easier for me to just complain about summer, stay indoors as much as possible, and pine away for autumn, but I'm trying my best to focus on making the most of summer, celebrating it and seeking the positive as much as I possibly can! 


positively present picks: june 19, 2015

Routine 
 

 

Quote-of-the-week

"My father gave me the greatest gift
anyone could give another person:
he believed in me."

Jim Valvano

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there!

 

Links-I-Love

Radical Self-Love Bible School : just signed up + I'm pumped!

Find Power in Silence : quiet is a magical thing

20 Things We Should Say to Ourselves More Often : yes, #8!

Beating the Odds : such an inspiring survivor story

Crumple + Toss : loving this adorable online shop

Gala Darling Interview : on inspiration + entrepreneurship

100 Days of Vulnerability : what a wonderful concept

Your Predisposition Is Not Your Future : wow. so true. 

Stop Saying "I Could Never..." : also, never say never!

Color Yourself Happy : I'm doing this (using this)

This Quote : it's so, so true. read it + believe it. 

 

Listening

Listen to this playlist on YouTube.
 

"Ask Me How I Am" — Snow Patrol
"Lights On" — XY & O
"Fed All My Days" — Mani Orrason
"Swim" — Cape Cub
"California" — Sons of the East
"The Fool" — Ryn Weaver
"How Hard I Try" — Filous
"The Original High" — Adam Lambert
"Body Talk" — Foxes
"Dreams" — Beck

 

Reading

Check out my reading list on GoodReads.
 

The Folded Clock: A Diary
Heidi Julavits

Radical Self Love: A Guide to Loving Yourself and Living Your Dream
Gala Darling

The Gratitude Power Workbook
Nina Lesowitz

I wrote a book too! Check it out...

The Positively Present Guide to Life
Dani DiPirro

 


10 ways to handle your heartbreak

Love-Miss
 

 

A couple weeks ago, I received an email from Catherine,* a young woman suffering from the heart-wrenching pain of losing her first love. In the email, she told me how her boyfriend had recently broken up with her. Even though the relationship was not a positive one (he broke her trust, flirted with others, gave less than he took, etc.), she was crushed by the relationship's end. She knew she was better off without the him, but that knowledge didn't make the loss easier to bear. She wrote,* "Being with him was like a high. It wasn't a healthy situation and ultimately he didn't make me happier, but I am still sick after losing him." 

Immediately upon reading her email, I was transported back to a time in my life when I was young and desperately in love for the first time. That first love is a wild thing, so consuming and intoxicating, and the end of it was like the worst kind of withdraw — a physical and emotional ache that felt endless. Heartbreak is always hard, but the first time is the worst because you haven't yet survived it, and it feels like you'll never get past the pain. 

Reading Catherine's email, I could remember just how it felt to be in her shoes. Even though I'd been the one to end the relationship back then, the pain had been raw and real and it had felt as if nothing would ever ease the ache. Straightaway I wrote her back, hoping I could used what I learned from my first heartbreak (and many subsequent heartbreaks!) to help her cope with the loss. The most important thing to remember, I wrote to her, is this: one day you will feel better. It might take a long time (it's different for every situation), but it will happen. You will also find love again. It might not feel like it's possible in the midst of losing that first love, but it will happen.

Of course, most of us have heard these things before. I know how meaningless these words can sound when your heart is breaking, so I offered up some practical advice to help her manage the heartache: 

 

  1. TAKE A SOCIAL MEDIA TIME-OUT. 

    First and foremost, social media is a gateway to checking up on your ex — something that's never healthy or productive. If at all possible, delete him or her from your accounts so you aren't tempted to look at (or accidentally come across) updates. It might sound extreme or petty, but if it helps you get through it, who cares what your ex thinks? Also, avoiding social media in general for a little while can be helpful; it's really hard not to compare where you are to where others are. Seeing pictures of happy, smiling couples will only reinforce any loneliness you're feeling. 

  2. FIND A NEW SOCIAL OUTLET. 

    When you're newly single, you have a lot of extra time on your hands. All the time you used to spend with or talking to your ex is now free time. This can trigger loneliness and sadness, which is why it's important to find new ways to spend all of that down time. Some ideas: make more plans with friends; join a local group or club; check out meet-ups in your area; join a recreational sport team; sign up for classes at your local college; take creative classes (art, dance, etc.). Whatever you do, it's important to find positive ways to spend your time. This can be tough if you're more introverted, but at least give one or two things a try. 

  3. SPEND TIME WITH HAPPY PEOPLE. 

    It might sound counterintuitive to surround yourself with joy when you're feeling sad, but the more time you spend with happy, positive people, the more their happiness will rub off on you. It's been proven that happiness is contagious and, from personal experience, I know this to be true. When you're hurting, it's very tempting to spend time alone or maybe even with other people who are in a negative state of mind (it might feel like they "get" you), but you'll benefit the most from surrounding yourself with uplifting people. 

  4. DON'T FORCE FRIENDSHIP (RIGHT AWAY). 

    One of the questions Catherine posed in her email was whether or not she would be able to be friends with her ex. When you're losing someone who has become a big part of your life, it's hard to envision not having them (even in some form) as part of your social circle. However, unless the break-up is 100% mutual, it's not the best idea to focus on creating a friendship right away. In the future, a friendship might come to be, but post-break-up, this shouldn't be something you worry about. This is the time to focus on you, not your ex. 

  5. AVOID "NEVER AGAIN" THOUGHTS. 

    After a break-up, it's hard not to have thoughts like "I'll never see him again" or "I'll never kiss him again," but these are not help for two reasons: (1) you never know what will happen — I've reconnected with many an ex, which is generally not a good idea, but it does happen — and (2) those kind of thoughts only stir up more despair. These thoughts make up "all-or-nothing" thinking, and they make you feel as if there is no other option other than "never again." Try to avoid these thoughts at all costs; they will only bring you down. 

  6. WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU WANT.

    After a particularly tough break-up, I once wrote down everything I wanted in the next guy I was going to date. And guess what? The next guy I met had almost every single trait! It sounds a bit unbelievable, but it worked for me and I know it's worked for others too. Instead of focusing on what you've lost, you're redirecting your attention to what you want — which makes it much more likely you'll get it. Plus, if you're struggling with staying present (as one does during heartbreak), focusing on the (positive!) future is much better than dwelling on the past. 

  7. DO NOT CONTACT HIM / HER.

    This can be incredibly difficult (especially if you were in a relationship in which you were in constant contact with one another), but don't do it. Delete the number; remove the email from your contacts; block social media accounts if necessary. Have a break-up buddy — a friend you can call/text when you want to reach out to your ex and use that buddy often. Also, don't give in to any excuses. You don't need to tell your ex about a funny article you saw or a video of his favorite celebrity. You don't need to ask her, "Hey, what was the name of that place where we...?" or wish him a happy random-holiday-that-no-one-cares about. No contact. No excuses. 

  8. START DATING AGAIN.

    Even if you don't feel ready, it feels nice meet new people and go on dates and it gives you something to do other than sit around at home and wallow in your new single status. Dating isn't always fun and it's a lot of work sometimes, but getting out there will be good for you — and you never know, you might just meet the love of your life! Important reminder: when on dates, do not talk about your ex. First of all, this is just rude. And, secondly, this new guy or girl doesn't (yet) care about your pain. Save your sob story for your friends and try your best to have a positive attitude with new people. 

  9. COMBAT YOUR ANXIETY.

    You might be feeling more anxious than usual, post break-up. Your life has been turned upside down in some ways and this can be hard to cope with. When you're feeling anxious, try focusing on your five senses. When your anxiety is bad and you feel panicky, it helps to pay attention to things happening right this moment (what you can see, smell, taste, feel, and hear). It won't completely take away the pain, but it'll bring you out of that endless cycle of panic that can come with the heartache. Try your hardest not to focus on the past (it's over) or the future (it hasn't happened yet), and you'll feel a lot less anxious. 

  10. HAVE A HOPEFUL HEART.

    Remind yourself (over and over again) that it will get better and you will find love again. It's hard to believe this in the midst of heartache and pain, but it's true and telling yourself this (even if you don't 100% believe it) will help you have hope. And when you have a hopeful heart, any pain is a lot easier to deal with. Hope can also help you take it one day at a time. Use a hopeful attitude to remind yourself, "I can get through today," or, when it really sucks, "I can get through the next hour. Or ten minutes. Or one second." Hope is really powerful!
 
If you're coping with a broken heart (or a loss of any kind), I hope these tips will help you. It can be hard to follow through on all of them (believe me, I know — I struggle to take my own advice a lot!), but don't give up. Keep trying to get through it and one day you will be on the other side of the pain, looking back on it and probably feeling thankful that you didn't end up with that person.
 
Also, never forget: you are enough. It might feel like you couldn't make a relationship work or the other person didn't want you, but know that some people aren't meant to be together (no matter how much you might want it) and the end of one thing can be the beginning of something else. It'll be scary to love again and risk being hurt, but don't let a broken heart deter you from loving again in the future because loving people is the very best thing you can do.  
 
For more inspiration on surviving loss and a broken heart, check out: 
 
 
30 Lessons I Learned from Love (for hope that you will find love again!)
 
 
 
 
*The name and details of the email have been changed or paraphrased to protect her privacy. Should you ever want to email me with a situation in which you're struggling to stay positive, you're more than welcome to reach out to me. However, it's important to keep in mind that I'm not a mental health professional or a therapist so any advice I give is based purely on my own experiences or research. 
 
  

 

Finding-Self-Cover

A break-up can be a fresh start and a great opportunity to reconnect with yourself. Start some soul-searching with the Finding Yourself workbook. Discover more about yourself, and uncover what you want most by downloading a copy of the e-book Finding Yourself: A Soul-Searching Workbook for Surprising Self Discovery. Filled with inspiration, questions, and activities to get you thinking about what it means to be you, Finding Yourself is a must for learning more about who you are and about what matters most to you. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your own soul-searching copy here.


positively present picks: june 12, 2015

Summer
 

 

Quote-of-the-week

"Instead of wondering when our next vacation is,
we should set up a life we don't need to escape from." 

Seth Godin

 

Links-I-Love

Book Signing! : meet me here in Arlington,VA (Sunday 6/14 2pm)

The Power of No : missed my Whole Food Love talk? listen here (till 6/15!)

5 Tricks to Overcome Anxiety and Fears : some very good ideas here

The Power of I Am : I absolutely love this article. read it ASAP. 

Small Ways to Make This the Least Stressful Summer of Your Life

7 Ways of Thinking that Make Us More Anxious : don't do these

It's Okay to Have a Small, Happy Life : great NY Times article

5 Lessons from a Dog on Overcoming Life's Challenges : dogs are smart

Strategies for Dealing with Toxic People : excellent Zen Habits tips here

6 Superhero Secrets to Boost Productivity at Work :  I love secret #1

You Can Make Friends as an Adult : listen close to this great advice

Narwhal Stickers : these made me so, so happy. wish-listed!

28 Modern Ways to Be More Spiritual : no om-ing required

Radical Self Love : this arrived in the mail this week + I'm obsessed!

6 Ways Gratitude Is Useful : check out my Vickerey article 

 

 

Listening

Listen to this playlist on YouTube.
 

"Different Colors" — Walk the Moon
"Wash" — Bon Iver
"Count Your Blessings" — George Ogilvie
"Kill for Love" — Chromatics
"Hard to Live in the City" — Albert Hammond Jr.
"Painted" — MS MR
"Back of the Car" — RAC (ft. Nate Henricks)
"Fire Under My Feet" — Leona Lewis
"Clean" (Cover) — Kina Grannis
"Not Dont Loving You" — Lewis Fieldhouse

 

Reading

Check out my reading list on GoodReads.
 

Off the Page
Jodi Picoult

Too Nice for Your Own Good
Duke Robinson

The Gratitude Power Workbook
Nina Lesowitz

I wrote a book too! Check it out...

The Positively Present Guide to Life
Dani DiPirro

 


living happy at work : an interview

Work-Happy

 

No matter how much you love what you do, staying happy and motivated at work can be a challenge. (And if you don't love what you do it can be a huge challenge!) It's something we all struggle with and, though I've written about it in my book, The Positively Present Guide to Life, I'm always looking for new resources and insights for how to keep the workplace positive.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interview Deborah Heisz, COO and co-founder of Live Happy magazine, about her advice for making the most of work. Keep reading for inspiration for making the most of your workday! (And if you don't work, don't worry — there are still tons great insights in the interview that you can apply to life at home or at school.)

 

  1. Staying positive at work can be difficult. What advice do you have for someone who struggles to stay positive at work? 

    Even though you may love what you do, in any job there will be moments when the printer breaks, your call is not returned or a key partnership falls apart. If you are handling a stressful situation or have been solving problem after problem all day, it’s helpful to just stop and take a breath. Sharon Salzberg, meditation expert and author of Real Happiness at Work: Meditation for Accomplishment, Achievement and Peace, suggests using mindfulness, compassion and other forms of meditation to improve work life. She says that beginning a daily meditation practice that is as short as five minutes can be life changing. Sharon and other experts share tips in our latest issue of Live Happy to help everyone on the path to a more positive workplace.

    Another important point is to focus on what aspects of your job are the most meaningful to you. If you interact with the public or clients, what can you do to feel you are making a difference in their lives or helping to make their day just a little bit better? Bringing a smile to someone else’s face can have a positive effect on your outlook as well. 

  1. How you start the day can have a big impact on the rest of the day. What things can someone do to start his or her day off on a positive note? 

    Find a reason to be happy and positive when you wake up to start the day off on the right note. I like to think of something funny my children did or said the day before that makes me laugh. Exercise, even just 10 minutes’ worth, will get the blood flowing and set you on a course of making healthy decisions all day. Setting your priorities for each day the night before can also allow you to be present so your first couple hours of the day aren’t lost in chaos.

    I enjoyed Amy Robach’s comment about this in our story on Good Morning America. She says that giving and receiving cheery greetings with co-workers each morning — even though the entire staff and crew starts their days very early — is exactly what she needs to feel positive from the minute she arrives at work. “The place is humming and alive,” she says, “and you just can’t help but be glad to be here.” 

  1. You recently interviewed the Good Morning America team. What did you learn from them about making the most of a work day?

    GMA is one of the most joyful and supportive workplaces I have ever seen. It’s clear that the staff loves what they do and that this contributes to a positive environment, as well as to their great sense of teamwork. Spending time with the GMA anchors made me realize that it is not just the light-hearted moments that convey positivity, but also the respect for every contribution made that builds trust and camaraderie.

  1. Not everyone loves what they do for a living. How would you recommend making the most of a not-so-great workplace? 

    It’s hard to believe that only 30 percent of all Americans are truly engaged and like their jobs. But for the other 70 percent, there’s a lot they can do to feel more satisfied and fulfilled at work and to create a better work environment. One of the easiest ways is to recognize that you can be a catalyst for change. Negative talk and gossip can impact your day to day experience, instead avoid those conversations and thank people, say good morning, share positive news.

    Happiness, like negativity, can be contagious.  You can be the person who brings everyone else in the office up instead of down. Shane Lopez, Ph.D., and Gallup senior scientist, says engagement at work is about more than happiness. It’s about being content with the work you’re doing and who you’re doing it with. He urges us to “take some control where you have it” and organize your day to make the most of it. Change your shift to work with people you enjoy and be curious about what other co-workers are doing who have a more positive outlook.

    Ask a colleague about what he or she is working on that they are excited about. Thank someone for going above and beyond on an assignment or acknowledge a job well done to set a more positive workplace tone for everyone. And if you decide that you do really need a change, just starting to explore new options or signing up for a class to learn cutting-edge skills can help you feel less trapped and capable of moving beyond your current challenging situation.

  1. Sometimes coworkers can be tough to cope with. What advice do you have for staying positive around negative colleagues? 

    Practice mindfulness. Walk away from the negative unproductive gripe session.  Shake off outbursts or tense exchanges by stepping away for a moment for perspective. Focus on your breath or take a walk away from pinging email and desk clutter. 

    Kerry Hannon, author of Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness, offers some great common sense tips we describe in-depth in our latest issue of Live Happy. One of the easiest and most useful tips from Kerry is to write down one thing you did well or that went right every day in a work journal. It’s easy to focus on that brusque comment or dismissal of your idea during a meeting or the printer that broke on deadline, but if you start focusing on the good, you’ll begin to notice that it’s been there all along.

 

Keeping a positive attitude isn't always the easiest thing to do during your work day, but if you take Deborah's insights on how to make each work day a bit happier and put them into practice, you'll find it easier to keep a smile on your face at the office. For more great insights on staying happy at work, check out LiveHappy.com/Work

 

 

Finding-Self-Cover

Absolutely hate your job and can't imagine finding happiness there? Do some soul-searching with the Finding Yourself workbook and discover more about yourself and what would make you happier (in life and in your career!). Download a copy of the e-book Finding Yourself: A Soul-Searching Workbook for Surprising Self Discovery to find inspiration, questions, and activities to get you thinking about what it means to be you. Finding Yourself is a must for learning more about who you are and about what you value most. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your own soul-searching copy here.


positively present picks: june 5, 2015

Summer-quote-images
 

 

Quote-of-the-week

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” 

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

 

Links-I-Love

The Best Ways to Silence Your Inner Critic : say no to that little voice

5 Tactics for Coping to Cranky People : my first Live Happy article!

The Power of No : listen to my interview on Sunday right here

25 Songs that Have Empowered Women : you go, girls!

Feminist Lisa Frank : or check out Saved By the Bell Hooks

12 Mind-Blowing Tips for Increasing Positivity : #4 is vital

How to Handle Anxiety : #1 sounds like a very fun way to cope

The Ultimate Dream-Chasing Playlist : love this round-up of tunes

40 Positive Thinking Mantras : these are guaranteed to inspire

Self-Love Can't Come from Punishment : create habits, not restrictions

How to Get Wildly Inspired : not believing in yourself is poison

June Desktop Wallpapers : love these pretty floral freebies

The Most Beautiful Sentences in YA Literature : such lovely words

6 Benefits of Self-Control : I could use more of this in my life

Don't Be Afraid to Fail : a round-up of famous failures

Strengths Cards : such an amazing idea for helping you be your best!

14 Ways to Practice Gratitude : seriously, gratitude is everything

Surviving Mercury Retrograde : still struggling big time + this helps 

SoulPancake : absolutely love these inspiring, thought-provoking videos

 

Listening

Listen to this playlist on YouTube.
 

"Between Me and You" — Brandon Flowers
"Summer Begs" — Sarah Jaffe
"Hunger" — Of Monsters and Men
"It's Alright" — Rubber Duc Music
"The Least You Could Do" — Sarah Kervin
"Never Say Never" — Tristan Prettyman
"Best Light" — Elliot Moss
"Forget You in LA" — Poema
"Hold Me Down" — Halsey
"More Than You" — Class Actress

 

Reading

Check out my reading list on GoodReads.
 

Between the Lines
Jodi Picoult

The Gratitude Power Workbook
Nina Lesowitz

(Get your copy my book, out now!)

The Positively Present Guide to Life
Dani DiPirro