You’re Not the Only One

Do you sometimes think that you are the only one on the planet who feels uncomfortable around others? Do you worry about looking awkward on the outside because you feel so awkward on the inside? Do you have performance anxiety during certain activities that are supposed to be fun and enjoyable?

Well, go ahead and take a big sigh of relief, because you are not alone. You are not the only person who feels this way, not by a longshot! According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America,

“Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric illnesses affecting children and adults. An estimated 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety disorders.”

So, you’re absolutely not the only person who feels awkward and out of sorts. In fact, you are not even the only species who feels this way! That’s right — anxiety is not just your condition, not just a human condition…it is a condition that stretches far and wide across boundaries and labels of all kinds.

Exhibit A — this article from BoredPanda —

Cheetahs Are So Shy That Zoos Give Them Their Own Emotional ‘Support Dogs.’

Get Out! What?!?!?!?!

That’s right! These impressive animals, widely recognized as the fastest beings on land, are actually Nervous Nellys! They are naturally socially awkward, shy and nervous. It’s hard to believe, right? When I look at a cheetah, the first thoughts that come to my mind are – FAST!                    CARNIVORE.    Don’t get too close to one!                        Impressive. Spots.           And… Don’t get too close to one!

According to the article, “they get so anxious, they don’t know how to socialize with each other and get too stressed to have sex.”

This is one reason why their numbers are dwindling. Smart zookeepers have found a way to help with this – by pairing cheetahs in captivity with emotional support dogs.

In the article, Janet Rose-Hinostroza, animal training supervisor at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park explains that “the cheetah looks to the dog for cues and learns to model their behavior. It’s about getting them to read that calm, happy-go-lucky vibe from the dog – and that helps them be more confident.”

This is great news! Right?

Nelly: er….how is a nervous cheetah great news? What in the world does that have to do with me?

Well, Here’s how. Tah Dah!!!! Presenting……the amazing take-aways we get from knowing that cheetahs are Nervous Nellys:

  • You’re not the only one! Although we’re not really supposed to compare ourselves to others and all that, sometimes its just comforting to know that, hey, there are others out there, dealing with the same difficulties that I am.

 

  • Cheetahs are highly respected and highly impressive beings…that also happen to be nervous. When you think of a cheetah, is anxiety the first thing that comes to your mind? Hell no! You probably think something like, fast, or dangerous, or beautiful. Anxiety is just one part of who they are – same with you! So stop worrying that anxiety is the first and only thing people see when they interact with you…You have a million other wonderful qualities that come shining through without you even trying.

 

  • It’s not the Cheetah’s fault. Animals act purely on instinct. They didn’t intentionally or unintentionally develop a nervous habit. These animals were born nervous. It’s a part of who they are. Your nervous tendencies may be inherited or learned, but either way, they are not ‘your fault’ and are nothing to be ashamed of. Be proud of all of your spots!

 

  • Help is out there! If a cheetah can be paired up with a Laborador buddy to ease his anxiety, (how strange, yet cool is that?) don’t you think that you can find some support out there? To help you through the tougher times? I say yes!!!! And that support is closer than you may think – AKA ME!!! Yes, I, Normal Nelly am always here for you, my Cheetah 😉

So, my friends…take comfort in knowing that you are not alone in this world. And please do not focus on your anxiety as the only thing that defines you.

Instead, be FAST. Be Fierce. Be Beautiful. And go ahead and be Nervous.

Be a Cheetah. Rawr.

| Filed under Main Themes | Tags: , ,

Fire Walker

Tony Robbins was just in town doing his Unleash the Power Within (UPW) Event. So, of course I have to reminisce about the time I went…

It was a year and a half ago and I was hemming & hawing about starting Normal Nelly. I had purchased the domain name but hadn’t really started publishing. I had all these AMAZING ideas but I was afraid of putting them out there where they would be SEEN and ANALYZED by other people (gasp!).

So, my husband, being the amazing man that he is, surprised me with a UPW ticket for my birthday. Really, my hubby is amazing. Because you see, he was the Tony Robbins fan. He had read Tony’s books, watched Tony’s videos and dreamed of attending UPW. But instead of splurging on himself, he got me a ticket to see Tony Robbins live because he thought I needed it more.

I just love him.

The whole 4 day loooooooooooong event, of course, is killer. Bomb. Amaze. But let’s focus on the Fire Walk. Leading up to it, I was stoked. I was all in. I was going to WALK ON FIRE for crying out loud! I was going to rip the anxieties out of my brain and throw them away forever. I would be a card carrying BADASS and I couldn’t wait.

But just like in real life, all the motivational hoo-ha isn’t worth a dime unless you can take action — aka walk on mah fuckin fire. And by fire, I mean, actual (insert cute emojii flames here). I don’t know how familiar you are with Tony’s whole fire walk thang, but let me just tell you —  it’s real. Imagine a bed of burning coals — there’s some black…some gray…and ORANGE! Glowing, throbbing radiating ORANGE. AKA hot. AKA pain. AKA OMFG.

Tony had been talking about the Fire Walk all day, stoking us up mentally as his team was stoking up the coals outside. Early in the afternoon, I started losing steam. My stomach felt funny and my head was pounding. Uh-oh.

Was I getting sick? Was that taco plate I had for lunch just the wrong choice? I tried to ignore the icky feelings in my tum and focus on Tony. But that nagging, nauseous draining feeling would not let up. Then my head began to pound and it was hard to be present with Tony’s words. Hours and hours went by. Trying to find some comfort, I left my seat in the audience and found a spot on the outskirts of the hall, where I could sit on the cool concrete floor by myself and breathe.  At this point, the walk was imminent. The room was dark and Tony was leading us through some meditation/visualization prep.

I thought, “how crap would it be if I got this far and my hubs spent all this $ on me, and I didn’t do the walk?”

But I felt genuinely ill. It’s not my fault. I’m not doing it on purpose. I’m sick! Then it hit me — I was FOSing (Freak Out Session) about walking on fire! I was making myself physically sick as a way to get out of doing it! Holy crap!

I know this about myself because it has happened many times. Before, during or immediately after an anxiety-provoking event, I can become very very sick. Think migraine with a large side of vomit. This is how my mind tries to protect me.  Mmm hmmm.  Thanks.

Becoming sick will make me get away from whatever is making me scared…a party, a work presentation, an interview, WALKING ON ACTUAL SMOKING FIRE.

Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, Wait – I came here, actually my hubby sent me here, to learn some tools for pushing through my anxiety. And now, right before the Fire Walk I’m gonna go home? Because my mind is telling my body to be sick because my mind is scurred?

NOPE!!!

Nope.

Unacceptable.

UN-FUCKING-ACCEPTABLE.

These two realities were just going to have to deal with each other:

1. I am sick

2. I am going to walk on fire

Nelly, of course, jumps in like, “WTF? You’re staying?!?!? Getting sick ALWAYS works! We always run away and go home when we get sick. What is going on here?!?!?!”

Nelly was understandably shocked by this coupe, and might I add, a bit vengeful with that last trip to the bathroom. Ugh.

Of course, by this time, Tony had already asked everyone to find a Fire Walking Buddy. Crap. There were like 9,999 people in the audience and 9,998 of them were all paired up, ready to go. And then me. Sigh. This was just not going to be easy on any level.

Dang it! I was socializing with my seatmates the whole day —  until I got sick and went to go sit by myself — and now, I’m sure they were all paired up. Then Tony said, “If you STILL don’t have a Fire Walking Buddy, go stand next to one of the volunteers in the aisle holding the ‘Loser’ signs and they will get you paired up.”  (Actually the signs  said ‘Buddy’ but Nelly likes to embellish).

I made my way over to the closest sign-wielding volunteer and was relieved to discover that I was not the only one w/o a partner. A very nice guy, maybe 10 yrs younger than me,  took me under his wing and declared me his Fire Walking Buddy.  Thank the Lord he had enough verve for the both of us.

We had to turn to our buddy and tell them why we were doing the walk. Why we were here. I told him that I was doing this to push through my anxiety. I also told him that I was currently barfy and migraine-ey. He was ok with that.

And so it began. We took off our shoes and socks, and left them under the closest chair. We followed the masses out of the conference hall, into the dark night and lined up behind 30 rows of hot burning coals. I held onto my partner’s arm most of the way. He was doing all the talking since I could not. I was well beyond my comfort zone and it took all I had just to be there, putting one cold, bare foot in front of the other.

After all, during a typical Nelly-induced migraine I would have escaped by now. I’d be lying in bed, feeling less and less sick, but more and more guilty for running away.

Instead I was in line, inching toward the fire.

It’s always the anticipation that gets me. Talking about it, thinking about it, standing in front of it, Looking at it. Thinking about it some more. It’s the worst.

FINALLY we got to the front. My partner went across first and then it was just me. Standing in front of a long, hot smoking track of pure TERROR. The volunteer in charge of that line looked me in the eyes and said “Go!”

I didn’t think, I just went. Step 1…Step 2…Step 3…I didn’t feel a thing until…Step 4 my thoughts started spinning again…and BURN! As in…flesh! Ahhhh!!! I hustled up through each scalding step to the end.

I DID IT!!!!!

I thought, as I squished my feet up and down on the soggy grass pads on the other side of the fire walk.

I did it.

Anxiety and all. Fear and all. Nelly and I. We all walked across fire. Together.

I learned a very important lesson that day – you can’t wait until you get rid of your fear or anxiety to act. You will always have some measure of apprehension. That is just how the brain is wired. Fight or flight baby. The trick is to take the action regardless. If Nelly pops up, well then, she’s coming along for the ride. Saddle up.

And here’s the part I’m not sure I should tell you — I was pregnant!!!!!!

I know, right?!?!

You see, being pregnant made it impossible for me to bitch out. I had to grab Nelly by the hand and drag her across that fire because I wanted to be a courageous example for my daughter. I was teaching myself to move forward, however uncomfortable I felt… and I was taking my daughter with me.

This is precisely why my hubs sent me to UPW. I was supposed to walk across fire, carrying my daughter, while feeling physically ill and mentally FREAKED.

That was a life-changing moment for me. I am so thankful for the opportunity to, as Tony says:

“Set a New Standard! Defy the Odds! Step Up! Step Up! Step Up!”

And now, my 10 month old daughter is everything you would expect of a Fire Walker —  a total BOSS.

 

Flavia de Luce Novels by Alan Bradley

It’s been a while since I wrote up my thoughts on Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection, so it’s high time for another Nelly Book Review.

Nowadays I am drawn to various types of non-fiction, mostly how-to type books…they are instructional and straightforward. Really, the physical manifestation of a college lecture in your hands. Many people file these types of book under ‘boring.’

You will find me reading a book on how to improve my writing, strategies for overcoming anxiety or how to parent.   I am drawn to these guidebooks for life as I crave better and more information about how to do more things better (Dude, I know…it makes me exhausted just reading that too).

But we can only take so much instruction, am I right? Even the most serious and dedicated among us must step out of our own mind once in a while. I know I need a break from my mind. I NEED lots of breaks…I take a couple.

Which brings me to Flavia.

Flavia de Luce is the protagonist of a delightful series of mystery novels by Alan Bradley. I came upon the first book, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, completely by chance. I was going through a highly (HIGHLY) anxious period a few years ago and I had quite a bit of insomnia. I was looking for audio books to lull me to dreamland and the title The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie intrigued me.

Well, it did not disappoint. This book soothed and relaxed me, offering a pleasant escape from my worries and fears. I have listened to The Sweetness countless times…sometimes it would indeed comfort me to sleep. Other times, it would keep me company while I was the only one in the world still awake. Either way, this book did a lot for me — and still does.

I ventured on from the first book and read Book #4 I am Half-Sick of Shadows, this time in hardcop….

Nelly, interrupting: “Wait…What? You read the 1st book, and then you read…the 4th book? WHY?!?!! For the love of God, why?!?!?!   How could you not read the 2nd book next? Weren’t you confused? Did you even know what was going on in book #4? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?!?!”

I know. {cringing} I’m sorry. Sometimes these things just happen. Aren’t you proud of me, though, for breaking the mold and throwing my OCD to the wind? Yah…Alan Bradley is that good!

I will explain. Nelly must explain. Actually, I didn’t even know it was a series until I discovered my mom’s copy of Book #4, Half-Sick of Shadows. I couldn’t wait so I cracked it open immediately. But, rest assured — now that I have read book #2 The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, I am back on the straight and narrow and I will re-read Book #4 after I read Book #3 – A Red Herring Without Mustard.

As Gus from My Big Fat Greek Wedding would say in his heavy accent, “There you go.”

So…back to Flavia. I don’t want to give away too much of the series or the characters because it is really such a delight to discover them for yourself..but I will give you a small taste.

Flavia is not your typical mystery narrator/protagonist. She’s not a detective or a lawyer…She’s an eleven-year-old girl. Flavia has a deep love and respect for chemistry…particularly in distilling poisons!

Cool, right? She’s ahead of the trend of chicks in S.T.E.M.

Flavia also has a less than ideal home situation. Her two sisters are downright mean to her and her father largely keeps to himself. And her mom…well, you have to read it!

A big part of the reason why I love Flavia is because she is true to herself – pursuing her passions and interests no matter what the obstacles and no matter the naysayers. This is really remarkable for such a young girl.

She is smart and funny with an indomitable spirit. She takes risks and makes mistakes, learning as she goes. She also reveals her vulnerability from time to time, especially when her sister says something awful to her. I mean really, really awful.

In addition to Flavia, I quite enjoy Bradley’s storytelling. He is so engaging and subtly funny. He transports me, anxious mind and all, into another world where I can forget my worries and maybe learn some things.

Ok, I’m not going to tell you anything else!!

I highly recommend any and all of the Flavia de Luce novels. I believe there are currently 7. I know I am anxious (haha) to read the rest.

I am thinking of doing my first “Giveaway” of a Flavia de Luce novel – What do you think? If you’d be interested, let me know in the comments. I’d also like to hear the “just for fun” books that you love…just to take your mind off your mind!

Please share in the comments so we can all get more ideas 🙂

| Filed under Reviews | Tags: , , ,

Shenpa Part Deux

I’m sticking with the topic of “One Little Word” for the rest of January because I want to solidify my word, shenpa, for the rest of the year. I really believe in this strategy and I encourage all ya’ll to give it a go.

As I introduced in the last post, “May I Catch My Shenpa Today, ” 2017 is the third year that I am following Ali Edward’s “One Little Word” strategy. She talks about choosing one word to meditate and focus on throughout the year, as opposed to a long list of complicated resolutions.

My first word in 2015 was “breathe.” Talk about starting at the beginning! Haha! “Breathe” was a fantastic word for me, a meditation newbie, because it is the cornerstone of meditation and mindfulness. Focusing on the breath is the definition of being HERE, not there.

My word for 2016 was “execute.” This was a nod to my perfectionist tendency of WAITING to do things until I am ready or until I have 1000% of what I need etc. etc. etc. I was sick and tired of postponing everything because “I can’t do it perfectly right now.” So I chose “execute” to focus on getting things done, whether or not they were perfect or complete. And it worked! Little things, big things… I was a lot more productive.

As I explained last week, my word for this year is “shenpa.” Pema Chodron describes shenpa as an itch and an urge to scratch. It is a trigger that starts you down a path of habituated action…negative action. You might be thinking, why so negative? Most “one little words” are positive, like calm, happy, yes, gratitude etc. Well, the goal of focusing on shenpa is to catch it. Identify the trigger as close to the starting point as possible, so that I don’t travel as far down the path of anxiety before turning it around. Coming back to baseline.

Now, if you are anything like me, you’re already thinking “That’s a great idea! I’m definitely gonna do that…next year…it’s the end of January! It’s WAYY too late to start now! I’ll wait until January 1, 2018 so that I can pick a word for a FULL YEAR.”

Haha! Such a Nelly!

OK… You can start FOR REAL next year on January 1. Just consider the rest of this year a practice run. No pressure. Take your time choosing a word that speaks to you. What is something that you’d like to make a priority in your life? What is something you want to do more? Feel more? Pick one that jumps out at you and hold it in the front of your mind for the rest (it’s alright) of 2017. That’s it. You can do as much or as little with it as you want, but I promise you, just selecting that word will make you better at it.   If you want to take it a bit further, you can repeat the word to yourself as you meditate, list all the ways you can take action using your word, brainstorm all of the synonyms and related topics to your word, or make a vision board.

My go-to strategy so far has been to post my word in a place where I will see it every day. That’s it! I have all three words posted on a mirror that I walk by every day, and that is enough to keep it front of mind. I would like to/may eventually do more work with my word, but for now, posting it where I can see it everyday is enough.

So, let me hear from you! If you’re going to give it a whirl, what’s your word? If you might do it/are thinking about it – what word jumps out at you?

Do you have several words you’re deciding between? Let’s hear them!!!!

Ready….Go!!!!

| Filed under Strategies | Tags: , , ,

May I Catch My Shenpa Today

2017 is the third year that I am choosing “One Little Word” as my guide and focus for the year. This is a brilliant idea that my friend Marina at Mindful Memory Keeping introduced to me. Ali Edwards came up with the concept of choosing one word to meditate and focus on each year, instead of a long list of resolutions.

My word for this year is “shenpa.”

Er, whah? Yes, I know…

Shenpa is a Tibetan word meaning ‘trigger’; it’s a catalyst that starts you moving down a habituated path. I learned about shenpa from Pema Chodron, who credits her teacher, Ziger Contril, for teaching it to her.

Here’s a fabu article by Pema that explains shenpa:

http://www.lionsroar.com/how-we-get-hooked-shenpa-and-how-we-get-unhooked/

Pema describes shenpa as an itch. A terrible itch and an urge to scratch. But, of course, scratching is bad for us. It doesn’t lead to relief but rather more scratching, and pain.

Shenpa sends me down the path of anxiety – usually in the form of racing thoughts. Before I know it, my thoughts and hypotheses and fantasies and worst case scenarios have snowballed into such a state that I don’t even realize I’m worked up until my anxiety snowball is monstrous. And it has gained so much momentum that it takes a lot of time and effort to decompress and calm myself back down. (yes, I did start that sentence with the word “and.” AND I liked it.)

For me, this feels like suddenly waking up eight miles into a 10 mile race that I don’t remember starting. I become conscious of my exhaustion, shortness of breathe, clammy skin, sweating, steaming and overheating. I am running for my life and I can’t stop…I am wondering – why am I running? How and when did I start running? How do I stop?

Pema teaches the idea of shenpa along with the habit of distraction – the repeated practice of taking yourself away from the present because its emotions are too scary. AKA ‘flight.’ We think about or do other things in order to move away from the present; escape reality. Some people distract themselves with alcohol or drugs. Some people use work to escape.

In part, I use anxiety to keep myself away (safe) from things that scare me. I hide in a swirling tornado of never-ending thoughts that prevent me from dealing with the issue/situation/people at hand. Anxiety and obsessive worrying prevent me from making decisions, taking action and interacting with others.

Pema explains this in one of her recorded teachings:

“Unfortunately, we get a lot of comfort from leaving – lost in thought, fantasies, plans. It gives us a lot of security and ground. So we’re very habituated to it. Pretty much we like it, and it gets stronger.”

Shenpa, or, the trigger, hooks us into a habit and we get stuck performing an action that we know is harmful. We’d like to change it but we don’t know how.

The reason that so many techniques for correcting our behavior fail is that they walk us through a multi-step process, starting at number one.

This makes perfect sense on paper but it doesn’t work in real life because we don’t consciously start at number one. In real life, we become aware of the negative habit somewhere after step number 3 in a 10 step process. Often we don’t remember when or how it all started.

At some point, a gun went off; a starting pistol that sent us, automatically, flying down the track. This response is built into our muscle memory. Our nervous system.

  1. Gunshot
  2. Adrenaline surging
  3. heart racing
  4. thoughts swirling
  5. overheating
  6. shortness of breath
  7. AWARENESS OF RUNNING
  8. winding down
  9. winding down
  10. start to come back to baseline

You don’t even realize you are running until you are about halfway around the track and by this time the gunshot is forgotten and you have no idea why you are running.

The key to changing a pattern is to hear the starting pistol.

If you can identify what catapults your behavior, then you can begin to change that behavior. Choose a different reaction.

The bang of the starting pistol is my brilliant (heehe) analogy for shenpa.

So…for the duration of 2017, I am going to focus on “catching my shenpa.”

I will practice hearing the starting pistol that sends me running into anxiety. I will work on identifying the triggers that send me fighting and flying and freezing.

For me this is a process of working backwards. In a 1-10 step fight or flight race where 1 is the starting pistol, or shenpa and 10 is the finish line where I finally start to relax and decompress, I may realize I am running at about step 7. Then I have to retrace my steps/thoughts to try and discover what the trigger was. The sooner I can “catch my shenpa” the better. When I start identifying the trigger at step 3 instead of step 7, for example, that is awesome and I work through the whole process and get back to baseline a lot sooner!

In 2017…I’m going to catch my shenpa.

Thank you Pema. You Rock.

| Filed under Main Themes, Strategies | Tags: , , ,

Cut the Crap! Bridge the Gap (Strategy)

pexels bridge

Have you ever been a part of a group, but never feel like you’re part of the group?

Like you feel just as awkward and uncomfortable around these same people that you’ve known for years as you did the very first time you met them?

How can you know someone for years, maybe even see them on a daily/weekly basis, and yet still feel distant and separate from them?

This happens. Am I right? What gives? I mean, you should become BFFs with anyone, given enough time hanging out!

As for me, I know my anxiety causes me to self-sabotage. I subconsciously hold myself back from making inroads with others because I am worried about what they will think of me. I maintain a certain distance from them emotionally/psychologically in the name of self-defense. This is annoying because I am naturally very social and I like to be connected with those around me. But my anxiety throws up a roadblock.

So, how do I get over this? Knowing I have a need that is not being met due to an anxiety roadblock? Well, I have to implement a strategy –Bridge the Gap.

OK, But HOW? How do you bridge that gap between acquaintance and friend when anxiety gets in the way?

I forget where I first heard this idea, but as soon as I heard it, I thought, yes! That’s it! It makes so much sense.

 close friendship emerges the sooner individuals are able to be vulnerable with each other.

If you can let down your guard and be vulnerable, you could potentially be best friends with someone you’ve known for only three days, while you barely remember the name of your co-worker of 12 years whom you just exchange pleasantries with. (and yes, I did just end that sentence with a preposition. And I liked it)

I never realized that I get stuck in this space. I did not realize what I was doing and how that was preventing me from making real, meaningful connections.

I often hide in the shallow waters of chitchat and polite conversation because I am afraid of revealing too much about myself or offending the other person. Doing this makes me win at not ever embarrassing myself or making others angry, but not at making connections.

In order to bond, two people need to meet in a space of vulnerability.

Realizing that you share something important with someone else is very powerful and often creates a spark without you putting out much effort.

We all know someone who has a way with people – a real social butterfly. They float effortlessly through a party, talking to person after person and creating a fan base. How the heck do they do this? Well, they engage individuals on a deeper level. They go beyond chitchat and search for something real that they have in common. This takes courage because it requires letting your guard down enough to share intimate parts of yourself with folks you don’t know very well. But the only way to know them better and strengthen connections is to share these parts.

The thing is – someone has to go first, so you do it. Come on! Be the first one to disclose a handicap, a struggle, a weakness or an embarrassing moment. The potential rewards of connection and friendship you receive from making yourself vulnerable are well worth it.

And here’s the secret bonus of actively bridging the gap – If you have made the effort several times and you are STILL not jiving with this person/group, then you can have the piece of mind that it’s not you, it’s them. Because, sometimes it really is them. Or it’s not anyone. But most importantly, it’s not you. This is crucial for me to realize because I usually put the blame on myself if I am not connecting with a person/group. But if I consciously make an effort (or several) then I can be assured the lack of connection is not for lack of effort on my part. I have peace of mind that I tried, and then I just accept and move on. I’m not gonna be BFFrs with everyone, and that’s aw-ight 😉

So, go ahead and try it. What do you have to loose? Cut the Crap! Bridge the Gap and see what happens!

| Filed under Strategies

In Defense of Self Help Books

pexels-self help

I read self help books. That’s right. I read self help books and trust me, I have heard all the comments and noticed all the judgy looks.

I can’t tell you the number of times someone has noticed me reading as they walk by, then stop and say, “hey, what are you…oh. It’s a self help book,” and quickly continue walking.

But really, what’s the big deal? Pregnant women read What to Expect When You’re Expecting and nobody gives them grief for it. Undergrads study GRE prep guides and no one looks down on them. Techies immerse themselves in coding books and onlookers think they are uber smart.

So, why is there such a huge stigma about reading text from the self -help genre? Let’s think about this logically. Self-help books explain how to improve various aspects of ourselves. Things like:

How to be confident.

How to be more productive with your time.

How to make money.

How to make friends.

How to find a meaningful relationship.

How to maintain said meaningful relationship.

How are these ideas lame? Does anyone on the planet think that confidence is lame? No. everyone pretty much agrees confidence is awesome. Does anyone you know want less money? Nobody I know. Does anybody you’ve ever met despise love and avoid connecting with others? Ok, you probably know a few people like this, but come on, we all know they are just fronting…they really do want to connect.

So what’s the dealio? Why should I be embarrassed to run into someone I know in the self -help section of the bookstore? Why don’t I read my copy of Tony Robbins’ Awaken the Giant Within at Starbucks, for all the world to see?

Well, the answer is very simple. Because reading a book about gaining confidence conveys the message that I don’t already have it. Reading a book about finding love leads others to the conclusion that I am a sad, lonely spinster.

Reading self help books is an admission that I am lacking in certain traits and possessions that make people attractive: happiness, money, friends. Reading these types of books proves that I am not perfect in at least one area, namely, whatever the topic of the book I am reading. I might as well post, “I am a loser with no friends” on my Facebook page. Why don’t I just tweet, “I’m broke and have way too much credit card debt.” How Embarrassing!

I get it, people want to put their best foot forward. They want to showcase their strengths and make themselves look as good as possible, especially in a group setting or in front of people they don’t know. Why? Because we all assume that our strengths will make others like us and want to know us better. But here’s the rub: we never gain more knowledge without first admitting that we don’t have it.

I’m sure you’ve heard the advice “the best way to make friends is to act like you don’t need any.”  Well, I think THAT’S pretty lame. Ya! How ‘bout them apples!?!?! I think it should be ok to say, “hi! My name is Nelly and I’d like to meet some new people.”

It’s ok to be imperfect. We’re all imperfect, after all, and everyone knows it. But it’s also ok to admit to the fact that we’re imperfect. To be open and upfront about the areas that we’d like to improve.

So, let me be the first to start –

Hi, my name is Nelly and I read self-help books. I would like to be more confident, manage my time better and improve my anxiety coping skills. I find that self help books, especially those written by subject matter experts, have some great ideas about how to accomplish these things.

Ya! Take that, Self-Help Haters!

Moded, corroded, your booty exploded!

So, hey, check out all the Self-Help books I am into on my NormalNelly GoodReads.com profile. And comment on this post about what self-help books you love or want to check out.

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| Filed under Main Themes | Tags: ,

RAIN Strategy

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Here is an important follow-up to my two posts from May 2016. My theme for the Springy month of May was “Feelings,” which is so appropriate because feelings got us springin’ all over the place!

I know this is true for me. Feelings of various types and magnitudes can send me soaring up, crashing down, floating on clouds, or just hovering in a paralyzed stupor.

The first post on this theme, How I Feel… was a collection of challenging feelings that I encounter very often and would like to feel less, such as anxiety, doubt, fear and stress. As noted at the end of this post, my go-to tactics of either ignoring these feelings or putting my head down and barreling through them do not work AT ALL! In fact, they make the whole experience a whole LOT worse for a lot loooooonger.

I am learning that these feelings need some love and attention before they will move along, away from me (thank you very much) and I want to talk about one FANTASTIC strategy I have been practicing to help them on their merry way.

The strategy is RAIN, which stands for:

  • Recognize
  • Allow
  • Investigate
  • Non-Identify

This brilliant strategy for properly attending to and really engaging with any feeling that surfaces is attributed to Michele McDonald, a longtime meditation teacher and cofounder of Vipassana Hawai’i, a meditation teaching institution.

Let’s go through the four steps:

  1. Recognize –In this crucial first step, you take a moment to stop and recognize, or “see” the feeling. You identify the feeling(s) by name…taking the time to double-check and verify that the feeling identification feels accurate to you.

I am feeling…scared. Am I scared? Or worried? Is that it? Scared. Scared. Yes. I am feeling scared. Very scared.

  1. Allow – Next, you allow that feeling to be there with you. This means you don’t try to evade it by thinking of something else, making yourself busy with a task or trying immediately to make yourself feel better. You simply accept the feeling as is and give it some needed attention. Acknowledging the presence of this emotion starts to ease the tension you feel and opens up the possibility of releasing it.

I am feeling scared. I have fear inside of me. I don’t want to feel this way, but it is here, so I am going to let it be here so that I can understand it. Fear is with me, and that is o.k.

  1. Investigate – This is where you dive a little deeper into the feeling. After labeling the feeling and acknowledging and honoring it’s presence, you contemplate why it has arisen in your mind. After all, feelings don’t come about arbitrarily like rolling a dice…there is always a reason or catalyst for their presence. Sometimes, the reason is obvious. Sometimes you have to be patient and search for the reason.

Why am I scared? Is there a person or situation that seems threatening to me? Threatening to my physical person? My ego? My job? Am I missing something that I need? What events have happened recently that may have triggered this fear?

  1. Non-Identify – With this last step, you begin to create distance between yourself and the challenging feeling. You do this by reasoning that you are not fear and fear does not define you. Rather, fear is a fluid emotion that can move out of your consciousness just as easily as it moved in. “Scared” is something that you are currently experiencing, not something that makes up who you are.

Fear is with me right now because my boss rejected my idea. I am scared that she doesn’t value my contributions and thus doesn’t value me as an employee. If she doesn’t value me as an employee, she might want to replace me. But this is a made up scenario based on an assumption. She has liked a lot of my past ideas. Not liking one idea doesn’t mean she doesn’t value me in my entirety. The fear I feel because of this is not who I am. Scared is not a permanent part of me. It is simply a temporary, uncomfortable feeling that is with me right now. Scared will pass through and away from me in time.

Now, a subtle, yet important distinction is that non-identify is not the same as disassociate. When I first started using this strategy, I thought of non-identify in terms of disassociating – running away from, almost shunning and cutting off the feeling, which is counter to the first two steps of recognizing and allowing. Non-identifying is more about understanding that the feeling is not a permanent component of who you are as a person; it is not a pillar of your character or being. It is something that your mind is currently interacting with.

Like all new things, implementing the RAIN strategy is not easy and it takes some getting used to. The hardest part for me is just remembering to stop and recognize challenging feelings as they come up. In order to give myself a helping hand when I first started using this strategy, I wrote it out on a small card that I kept in my wallet. I didn’t necessarily pull it out when challenging feelings came up, but every time I went into my wallet and came across it, I was reminded that it was available for me to use, and eventually, I started remembering to use it 🙂

While I primarily use this strategy for working through difficult feelings so that they will leave sooner, this is also a great strategy for remaining in the moment with positive feelings. Going through these steps with feelings I want to feel, like the feelings I wrote about in This is How I Want to Feel... makes them seem to last longer. I can appreciate the positive feelings more when I use RAIN because I experience them more deeply.

Isn’t that amazing?!?! The same strategy helps you to pass through the difficult emotions faster, but hold onto the desirable feelings longer. YES!!!

You try it – Go ahead. It’s pretty cool.

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Panic Attack 7/24/16

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I was home watching my three littles and my husband had just left to go pick up a small plastic kiddie pool. You know, through one of those local buy/sell/trade groups on Facebook. We had been hemming and hawing the decision to buy the pool the day before, and finally decided to go for it, since this was an especially hot summer and we thought the kids would love it.

As soon as my hubby left to pick it up, the questions started whizzing through my mind — Was it really worth the trouble? What if we don’t even end up using it? We don’t have any room to store it. We don’t even have a place to use it since we live in an apartment complex. We can use it at my parents’ house, but what if they get mad at me for bringing it over? It’s a lot of extra work for the hubby. This is going to make his already bad knee hurt. He’s going to be pissed. My parents will be mad at me.

I tried to stop the now whirling cyclone of negativity in my mind and calm myself down. Deep Breath. It’s too late now anyway, I thought. He’s already left to pick it up. It’ll be fine. Deep Breath. Then he text me:

This thing is massive! It won’t fit.
Bringing the slide home. Hav to take
seats out of van, then go back for pool.

A tingly sensation rushed down both arms. My heart was knocking against my rib cage. Painful twinges shot through my left shoulder and pectoral area. Was I having a heart attack? Could it be just a muscle spasm? Was it my heart? I’m by myself with the kids! How can I get to the hospital? Oh my God! I should never have shown him the pool. He is upset and it’s all my fault.

The tingly feeling that had started in my arms spread over my chest and back. Oh my God. Deep Breath. Deep Breath. Deep Brea– but I couldn’t focus on my breathing. Electricity buzzed through my entire upper body. I got up off the couch where I had been watching cartoons with the kids and began pacing. They of course, started to follow me around.

“What are you doing, mama? Where are you going? What are you getting? Mama! Mama!”

Attention. Pressure. Eyes. Questions. Anger. Blame. Beating down on me. Can’t take it. Have to escape. Have to hide.

I walked to the bedroom but the panic came with me. I kept going into the bathroom, but the swirling thoughts, the fear, and my two kids aged 3.5 and 22 months came with me.

Then my two-month-old baby started crying. She needed to eat. In fact, it was now almost noon and my older two needed to eat as well. I rummaged through the pantry, grabbing the first thing I could and handed it to my toddler — a bag of dried apricots…I was going to regret that later!

I needed help. Get help. I called my mom while I made a bottle for the baby. A couple sentences into our convo, she could tell this was no run of the mill freak out. “Come over,”  she said.

When my hubs made it home (for the second time) and jammed that freaking pool and slide into our tiny garage, AND put the seats back into the van (OMG!) we loaded up the kids and booked it to my parents’ house. Thank God my husband understands me. I went straight to my mom, who gave me a much needed tough love session. Here is what she said:

“The reason that you get overwhelmed is that you don’t know how to prioritize. You have to be able to count to three. You have three priorities. Number one is you. You must take care of yourself first because everyone else depends on you. Number two is your kids. And number three is whatever you want – whatever you need at the time. But that’s it. One two three. Forget about everything else. If you have number one taken care of, then you can drop that off and add another one to the bottom — Kids, number three and number four. But as soon as you feel yourself starting to falter — WHOOOOSH! — you move back up and take care of number one. You take care of you. You have to.”

She just reached into my brain and pulled out a crippling habit that I was not even conscious of — giving every single thing on my list level one priority. I try to get it all done. Perfectly. Efficiently. On Time. Every. teensy. tiny. thing. The result is I either don’t get the important stuff done because I am focusing on the small stuff, or I am just so overwhelmed by the volume of IMPORTANT items that I just implode and don’t get anything done.

You see, I have a preschooler, a toddler and a newborn. That right there is more than enough to fill out 16 To Do lists. Add to that the reality that the older two had been sick with a cold for the past two weeks before passing it on, along with a fever, to my newborn a couple days before.

Small kids. Sick newborn. Maybe this was not the time to buy a second-hand kiddie pool.

It took many hours to decompress. For the jittering, the pounding, the shallow breathing, the looming, dooming, BOOMING thoughts to stop. Then I was just exhausted. Emotionally, mentally and physically spent.

But I learned a crucial life lesson. (Thank You, Mom!)

Count to three. And number One is always Me.

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This is How I Want to Feel…

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Relaxed     breezy     calm   carefree   casual     composed

E a s y   flexible   laid-back   unconcerned   nonchalant   serene

tranquil   collected     even-tempered   free and easy

loose   happy-go-lucky!    mild   n a t u r a l     unconstrained

light     cool as a cucumber   cool-headed        unruffled

imperturbable   laid back      level-headed     unemotional     still

serene      pleased   satisfied   placid    adequate     content

soothed   happy   CLEARheaded         sure of myself

self-assured   serene     harmonious   in order     reposed

complacent     BOLD      assertive        satisfied     certain

hopeful     positive     secure     undaunted   VALIANT

organic     unapologetic  confident

 

I am shocked at how distant and unfamiliar these words seem to me. I want to feel these words more. A lot more, but I am somehow scared and intimidated by them. If I let them in and stay for too long, its like I am letting my guard down. I wouldn’t be prepared if something were to go wrong. How can I be “ready” for scary eventualities if I am lost in a cloud of fuzzy, feel-good feelings?

What I am trying to understand is that “ready” and “content” can co-exist. And beyond that – I don’t have to be “ready” all the time. I just need to trust that, when something scary arises, I can handle it. I can be comfortable and prepared at the same time.

What are some feelings that you want? Feelings that seem illusive but that you would love to become regular, constants in your life?

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