If there was ever a time to be the change that can change the world it’s now. Right now. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought awareness to an undeniable truth: we are all connected.
This unique situation is pushing all of us to learn how to thrive in the face of adversity to ensure we survive this virus with minimal consequences. As world-renowned Functional Medicine Doctor, Dr. Mark Hyman said in his recent webinar, it is time for us to “surthrive”. The goal of ‘surthrival’ is to become unwelcome hosts to this virus, and the only way to do that is to build our immunity.This is how we can protect ourselves, our families and our community.
Helping each of us become our best selves in order to make this world better for all, has always been the mission of The Design Your Life Centre; this situation has just highlighted that it is indeed needed now more than ever before. Because learning how to stop living a fear-based life and actually designing a life that is aligned with one’s true self, not only helps us feel better, it allows us to show up as our better versions for everyone else too.
We cannot emphasize enough how important your mental health is for maximizing immune functioning. You can take all of the vitamin C you can swallow, but if you are feeling stressed when you are doing it, you will not absorb and integrate the benefit that supplement is designed to deliver.
In order to help, we continue to provide one-on-one psychological services through secure video conferencing and will do so in this way for as long as physical distancing is advised. Click here or use the BOOK NOW button on the website to find the time that best suits you.
We are also working hard to create free and low-cost resources in order to support as many people as possible through this challenging time. Here is one of them: The Growing Forward Journal is a guided journal I created to help people grow consciously through anything. It has evolved into The Growing Forward Soul School, an online community where we learn evidence-based tools, practice them together, and inspire each other with the wisdom that comes through. It will be free for as long as it needs to be during the COVID-19 pandemic. Download the journal here. Use it. Share it. And Follow us on instagram @growingforwardsoulschool for daily support, inspiration, and community.
We have other ideas for quick and easy tools as well as groups we can facilitate online but we’d like to hear from you about what it is you need. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with what would be most helpful to you now and we will build it for you.
We will get through this and we can come out the other side even better than before.
Take Care. Be Well.
We look forward to seeing you soon and continuing to help you Design Your Life.
Dr. Stacy & The Design Your Life Team
Finding Balance in response to Covid-19
It appears that the word “pandemic” has struck fear into the hearts of many. As mental health practitioners, the possibility that millions of people around the world are in the grips of fear is more concerning to us than the mysterious disease that is at the source of the panic.
If there is any silver lining to be found in this situation, it’s the attention it places on the importance of practices we should continue to practice to promote and maintain wellness. Washing your hands, not touching your face, and keeping your distance from others when you are sick are some practices that we agree are a good thing to do all the time.
Supporting your mental health is an aspect of staying healthy that unfortunately gets far less attention and yet is one of the most effective ways of boosting your immune system. Here are some strategies you might consider incorporating and maintaining to counter any anxiety you might be experiencing in support of your wellness
- Practice deep breathing/relaxation techniques. These practices boost the part of your nervous system that cares for all of the restorative functions of the body, including your immunity. One of our therapists, Gabrielle Iwaskow has recorded an exercise called Progressive Muscle Relaxation. You can access it here.
- Unplug. The constant pings and notifications that take us out of the present reality too many times to count is a form of stress. Now that more of us will be working from home, the risk of staying connected for longer periods of time is greater than ever. Consider turning your notifications off and checking in at times that you determine and are best suited to you (vs the other way around)
- Be mindful of the information you consume. The 24/7 news cycle is full of alarms and little direction regarding what to do with the information. Consider replacing sensationalized media with evidence-based information. Here is a great article from the Globe and Mail from a medical journalist that strikes a good balance. You can read it here.
- Stay connected with each other. Community is one of the most important resources we have for all aspects of health. One of the risks we are concerned about is people becoming even more isolated. For those fortunate to live with loved ones, take the opportunity to do things you enjoy and that allows you to experience presence, together. Cook beautiful food, enjoy meals, have great conversation, make music, tell stories, play games..whatever will keep you feeling engaged and connected. And if being together physically is not possible for whatever reason, consider using the technology available to have these experiences together through the internet.
- Practice Mindful Presence. Set the intention to focus on one thing for a period of time. It might be your breath. It might be a cup of tea. It might be petting your dog. It doesn’t matter what it is. Just set the intention to focus on it. When your mind wanders somewhere else (and know that this will happen), just gently come back to the intended focus. Notice how you feel. Repeat.
- Practice Gratitude. Gratitude is indeed the antidote to fear. It keeps us grounded in what we actually have and cues the brain to notice positive experiences and lean into them even more. Noticing moments of joy and the things you do well on a daily basis are some additional practices that are proven to foster resiliency. This is why I included them in the Growing Forward Journal, the guided journal I created to help people grow consciously through whatever life brings. You can download a free copy here to use and follow.
- Be present with what is…even if that includes thoughts you’d rather not have. It’s better to allow the thoughts than to resist them. As long as we regard them as just that …thoughts. You have a gazillion thoughts and not all of them are useful. In fact, many of them are nonsense. If that sounds insulting, take that as a sign that you might be too attached to your thoughts, and might even identify with them as being a part of you. They aren’t you. The fact that you can notice them is an indication that there is a “you” that is separate from your thoughts. So just notice them. The practices outlined in the points above will help. Journaling can help too. We are a big fan of journaling because it gives the thoughts a place to go so you can notice them and then decide what you want to do with them. Giving them a physical place also helps to contain them, reducing their chance of making havoc from behind the scenes. If you make this a practice, they are less likely to pop up at times when you’d rather be focusing on something else. And there are some physical benefits for this too. Journaling for 15 minutes a day about anything that is emotionally relevant shows benefits for every indicator of physical health (blood pressure, sugar levels, hormones, you name it). Emotions are energy. When it gets used and processed it frees up more energy that will mobilize you vs weigh you down.
- Practice a Growth Mindset. I developed the Growing Forward Journal precisely for times like these. I consider this game time. It doesn’t matter if you have never practiced. You can start today and learn how to leverage this time of chaos to become even better.
Download the journal here and consider using it in this way…
Start the day with free writing in the space provided and end the day with the 3 resiliency practices of moving moments of competence, gratitude and joy.
After 7 days, you will be prompted to look back and reflect on whatever you notice in your past entries, which is information you can use to inspire how you might choose to grow forward.
Again you can download the journal here.
As this is an evolving situation, know that we remain committed to continuing to be that place of balance and support.
We welcome any questions or suggestions you might have for how we can continue to be of best service to you in the days and weeks ahead.
Be well. Our hearts and minds are with you.
Dr. Stacy and the Design Your Life Team
The Essential Stepmom Podcast
There is no time like the fall for getting cozy inside with a good book, or as is increasingly popular, a good podcast.
LISTEN to Episode 12 of the Essential Stepmom Podcast hosted by Tracy Poizner where I talk about the challenges of infertility, particularly in the context of being a stepmother, and the mindset that can help us grow through this incredibly difficult journey.
Discover & Leverage your Authentic Voice – MAMAS&CO
There are several reasons for making expressive writing (aka journaling) an essential part of your lifestyle. But in a nutshell, the main reason is this: you have the answer. Yes, just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, you have always had the power to go home. Now, I fully appreciate Glinda the Good Witch’s methods in allowing Dorothy the opportunity to discover this for herself. The experience of facing your fears in service of love and watching the monster disintegrate before your eyes is a far more powerful way of driving home the message than telling her straight out that she always had it in her to overcome her worst fears. But, this is a blog post and we only have so much time and space, so I am taking it upon myself to cut to the chase.
YOU HAVE THE ANSWER. After 20 plus years of practice and training as a psychologist, I have earned the authority to tell you this. I have spoken to 1000’s of people in my professional role, which has afforded me the great privilege and opportunity to listen to the authentic expression of thousands of truths in service of helping those in need find their way to a better place. And I am telling you that all of them had the answer to what they needed to do. They might not have understood the how, but they all knew the what.
The fact is we all have the capacity to heal ourselves. All that is needed are the right conditions. Among the many benefits of this practice, expressive writing is the practice of the conditions that our science has proven is the source of all healing, both emotional AND physical.
That’s right. When you set aside time and space to express yourself honestly, without fear of judgment, you are essentially giving yourself the opportunity to experience the conditions that every healer is trained to create to facilitate inner healing: unconditional acceptance and the ability to listen.
Every time you sit down to allow the truth to come out, you are practicing making space for yourself to just… be. At its core, it is a practice of telling yourself over and over again that you are loved and accepted… No. Matter. What. And over time, that inner judge, who has held you captive under the weight of shame and guilt, that compares you to others (and never in a good way), makes you fearful of making mistakes, or even worse, takes away from your achievements by convincing you that nothing you do will ever be good enough, this once powerful force becomes progressively less relevant until, like the bad witch, she simply starts to melt away.
And with her gone, well now, not only are you really starting to heal, but something else quite beautiful is allowed room to emerge; your creativity. Without boundaries or restrictions, we give ourselves the freedom to play. We get back to just creating for the sake of it, allowing a process to simply unfold. And sometimes, what emerges is pure magic.
So what does this have to do with building your business? Well, sweetheart, you are your brand. Your truth is the source of attraction. There are a gazillion people who do what you do, but there is only one you. And if you can access your truth and share it genuinely, there are people out there who will be drawn to you. Because you have a piece of the puzzle that no one else on the planet has. Your entire mission on this planet is to fully show up not just for yourself, but so that all of us have the opportunity to benefit from what you are here to contribute.
There is no better way to experience the truth of what I am saying than to do expressive writing in a group. Yes, with other people. I have regularly used expressive writing as a tool to facilitate my own growth and creativity for several years. But it was two years ago that the idea occurred to me to bring people together to share in the power of their individual wisdom as a collective. And from what I have witnessed so far, it turns the volume up on the “ah ha’s” to 11!
On October 20th, we are going to do this thing together. At MamaCon 2018, we will get grounded, write, and share our truths. I have no doubt that each of you will leave feeling inspired and empowered as you experience the power of your authentic voice.
And if you are eager to dive into expressive writing before then, I invite you to check out The Growing Forward Journal, a guided journal I created to help people learn to access the power of their authentic voice and grow consciously through whatever life might bring. It is available here as a free download and includes instructions on everything you need to know to start your own expressive writing practice, as well as some additional evidence-based practices to help guide yourself through the process of Growing Forward. Download it, use it, share it. Everyone who downloads the journal will be the first to know when the full online program to accompany the journal launches next year. And for all of you who come to MamaCon, your participation in my expressive writing workshop will earn you automatic entry into The Growing Forward Community where we are leveraging that collective wisdom together online, with tips and a ton of motivation to keep going and growing with your expressive writing practice.
Mamas, we are all connected, and we are in this together. I so look forward to joining with you to help you access your courage to Grow Forward in your lives and your business. See you on October 20th!
With Love and Deep Respect,
Letting Go of Perfectionism, One Challenge at a Time
I, like most people, would rather do just about anything before speaking in front of an audience. And yet, in order to fulfill my goals of promoting mental health, public speaking has become increasingly necessary for me.
My typical way of preparing for any kind of public talk is to literally script it in advance, jokes and all, and rehearse the heck out of it so that it comes across as natural. And I pull it off every time. I get the applause, and the positive comments. I succeed at projecting an image of complete confidence in spite of my anxiety.
That’s the thing about perfectionism – it’s usually rewarded. But it’s a lot of work. And quite honestly, as a busy working mother building a business and trying to get on top of this social media thing, I frankly no longer have the time for this level of obsessiveness.
It also occurred to me that my perfectionistic approach essentially made me a hypocrite and had the potential to undermine one of the core messages I am trying to promote: the power of authenticity. How could I speak about the power and importance of sharing one’s authentic voice while hiding behind a script? How could I present a completely rehearsed talk when my goal is to make a genuine connection with the audience?
So when I was asked to be one of 6 presenters at an event called My Epoch, I knew that I needed to take a different approach. The spirit of the event was to make genuine connections with people you might not normally meet with the aim of cross pollinating knowledge and inspiring new ideas. Clearly, there was no better opportunity to challenge myself to truly ‘walk the walk.’ It was time to let go of fear.
You see, I realized that the true motivator behind my pursuit of perfection was not conscientiousness, but fear. Fear that I suddenly would be unable to articulate my thoughts, when in fact I receive positive feedback about the way I convey ideas every day be it with clients or in media interviews. Fear that I would somehow present as not knowing what I was talking about when in fact I am an expert in my field. Fear that I would make a fool of myself…well, that actually happens on a daily basis. But it’s ok. I recover and move on. If that should happen, if I should reveal a flaw, reveal that I am indeed a human being, it would only serve to solidify my connection with the audience.
With this new perspective in mind, I chose to lead from the heart and to connect with the audience by sharing a genuine part of myself, even if that meant that I might stumble along the way.
In the days leading up to the event, I did find myself wrestling with the temptation to draft my talk as I had done in the past. I mean, the people attending paid to come and I wanted them to get something out of it. I did not want to insult them by looking ill prepared. I wavered and thought that I should just forget this little experiment and write out and rehearse my talk.
But rather than give in, I stayed true to my intention and let the anxious thoughts wash over me. I chose instead to just observe my own process. And in fact my internal battle was actually a little amusing.
However, I did not ignore the anxiety gremlin entirely. I did have to do something to prepare. And so I struck a compromise: I would draft a brief outline with the main points I wanted to communicate. Nothing more.
I decided to dedicate my 6 minutes at the mic describing why I am so passionate about my work as a psychologist. I wanted them to understand how privileged I feel to be able to witness and support the human spirit in each client I see, regardless of whether they are suffering or aspiring for something more. I wanted each person to walk away with the understanding that seeing a counselor or a psychologist is not about weakness, it is about assuming control to Design Your Life.
The day of the event was like any other Saturday filled with making meals, working out, cleaning up and taking advantage of some time to take a blessed nap. I arrived at the event early and while I spoke with my fellow presenters and then the guests as they arrived, I found that I was not nervous.
The only time a felt a bit anxious was while listening to the presenter just before I was to go on. This was largely because I was trying to review the main points of what I wanted to say in my head but could not do it effectively while also trying to listen. Recognizing the futility of this form of last minute preparation, I gave up on trying and focused on listening to Dennis and his honest and heart felt talk on the benefits of connecting with people outside of one’s typical social circles. Dennis finished to resounding applause; a hard act to follow. It was now my turn.
To quote one of the participants I “..nailed it”. As I spoke about the privileged role I have of witnessing and empowering the human spirit, I could see… or rather I could feel that the audience was with me. I was able to make eye contact and take in their smiles of encouragement as I scanned the room. It was actually really great.
The comments that various audience members provided me with all the validation I needed for my new approach. All of them expressed feeling moved. I had succeeded.
Not only had I made a connection, but I proved to myself that fear was not necessary for me to perform well. I could listen to my anxiety as a sign for the need to prepare without letting fear take over and push me into obsessiveness. I could keep focused on my own goals, show up, and let the process unfold.
I tried it and now I am sold. There is no going back.
How about you? Is there any way that these ideas could fit for your life?
I welcome your thoughts and comments.
Design Your Life: The Passion and the Process
I love being a psychologist. I am passionate about it and know in every fibre of my being that I am fulfilling my life’s purpose.
Every day that I go to work, I have the unique privilege of making genuine connections with people who, in the safety provided by confidentiality, are free to be their authentic selves. And I have to tell you that it is truly inspiring.
You see, when people feel safe enough to be their true selves, something absolutely amazing happens…the human spirit is able to shine. And I am telling you that it is abundantly creative, and resilient and wise.
In fact, I have yet to meet a client that does not have a sense of what it is they need to do to become the best version of themselves.
So what is going on here? If all my clients essentially know what they need to do and have the ability to DESIGN their LIVES why are they coming to speak to someone like me. Well, the reality is they are stuck.
Stuck because what they know they need to do is in conflict with another important need, and they are not sure how to move forward.
They know that they deserve to be treated better by others, but fear that articulating their needs will threaten their relationships.
They know that harsh criticism is generally not the way to bring out the best in anyone, and yet, they have difficulty letting go of their inner critic for fear of losing their edge.
They know they need to take better care of themselves, but ignore their body’s messages because they perceive that there is no room for self-care in their lives. That is, until they have their first panic attack or their child asks them why they yell so much… or worse.
Or sometimes they just know that that life could be better and they are not sure how to make it happen. Some know that the rule book that they inherited from their families is inherently flawed but don’t know how to effectively challenge it and take control of their own story.
Whatever the situation, the individual knows that they have to make a change. They also know that they need to create space for reflection and that they cannot do it entirely alone.
Let’s be clear here – not being able to figure this stuff out on your own is NOT a sign of weakness. It is a sign of intelligence.
Because being able to hear one’s own voice requires someone to speak to. It is in the mirroring back of that voice from someone who is really good at listening that we learn to understand ourselves accurately. In the process, that inner voice that is there to guide each and every one of us gets amplified.
And as we experience someone else giving it the space to be heard, and the respect it deserves we learn to do the same thing for ourselves. We learn how to listen to that voice, and respect it by acting on its message.
Yes, there are often new skills to learn, new behaviours to try, and assumptions to test. But the essential understanding of the type of change necessary is almost always there. It is through the experience of being heard and supported by an empathic listener that the change process is able to unfold.
And you know what is truly amazing, once people start to get good at listening to and respecting that inner guide, things just start to get easier. It is almost as if they wake up to a new world.
For me, being there with someone in that moment when that awakening occurs…well, there is nothing more rewarding.
And so my question for you is this: What are you waiting for?
You know it’s time.
Design Your Life.