July Newsletter

Welcome to my July newsletter and Happy Summertime!

Hopefully, most of us are enjoying warm weather, barbeques, and outdoor fun. Many of my conversations lately have been about leveling up and optimizing the life we have been given. I don’t know if the energy of summer is responsible, but the vibe I’m feeling is wanting to take a juicy bite out of what life has to offer, step fully into our greatest selves, and thrive!

I’ve written an article titled, “FEAR IS POWER”, found in this issue. You’ll discover how to not only utilize fear to your advantage, but to also go out and find fear, look him in the eyes, and run toward him at full speed. Read (or listen) on to find out more. In this issue, you’ll also learn about Dr. Victoria Beckner, a psychologist who expertly teaches why we become afraid, what to do to conquer our fears, and how to become a master of them.

 


Featured Article:

Fear is Power

On a daily basis, I work with my clients on the concept of not just tolerating, but truly and fully embracing fear. For many, radical welcoming and leaning into the emotion of fear is the key needed to unlock the door to freedom. Still, I hear many objections:

Why would I want to feel more fear? It’s awful!”

“Um, can’t I just find a workaround? I mean, why would I want to dive face-first into fear if I can find an easier route?”


Featured Professional:

Victoria Beckner

Victoria Beckner, Ph.D., is a San Francisco-based psychologist who wrote the book on treating post traumatic stress, literally.  Dr. Beckner is an expert in conquering anxiety and all kinds of fear-based challenges and disorders. Even if you do not suffer from PTSD, I recommend this book.. Dr. Beckner explains fear and trauma (which we all experience at some point, in one form or another) in a user-friendly way, including many real-life examples, and provides a positive, encouraging outlook. Dr. Beckner explains how we get through trauma and experience growth, meaning, and empowerment.

 


WANT MORE?

My articles are always available for you to read and listen to at your convenience. My written articles can be found on my website, and the audio versions can be found on my YouTube page

 


PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE…

My guided meditations and practices are available in audio form – all for free! If you would like to enhance your mindfulness practice, experience this month’s or any recent offerings, click here!


Fear is Power

 

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

 

On a daily basis, I work with my clients on the concept of not just tolerating, but truly and fully embracing fear. For many, radical welcoming and leaning into the emotion of fear is the key needed to unlock the door to freedom. Still, I hear many objections:

“Why would I want to feel more fear? It’s awful!”

“Um, can’t I just find a workaround? I mean, why would I want to dive face-first into fear if I can find an easier route?”

Great questions! Even after these questions are answered, and my clients and I have strategized ways they can welcome more fear into their lives to meet their goals, they often report doing better when they are feeling LESS fear! They tell me, with no sense of irony, that doing better means feeling less fear, not more.

What the what?!

By the way, my clients are AWESOME. These are brave people who work with me to face difficulties and get more of what they want in life. They are individuals who want to make the most out of the time they’ve got, and are courageous enough to invite me into their lives to help. They sign up for walking through emotional pain to get to the other side.

So, this idea that “decreased fear = success” is not them being resistant or obstinate. It is an indicator that this concept is tough to learn.

As humans, we are programmed to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Well folks, fear = pain. Fear can feel literally mind-numbing (our frontal lobes shut down and stop firing when emotion is high). Fear can make us sweat, cry, scream, and want to jump out of our skin. In short, feeling fear is no joke.

It doesn’t help that the urge associated with the emotion of fear is to avoid. This means that when you are afraid, your brain gets busy finding other ways to occupy itself – all so you do not have to face what you fear. You are biologically and evolutionarily wired to avoid feeling fear. The chips are stacked against you.

That’s okay because FEAR is POWER, and power does not come to us by doing easy stuff. We’ve got this.

Our strategy for gaining more confidence, mastery, a sense of competence, and empowerment?

FEEL MORE FEAR!

The reasoning for this can be thought of in three parts:

1 – We need new experiences to teach us that what we are afraid of will not always harm us.

If you have been bitten by a dog, and you run away every time you see one, you will never have the experience of being in close proximity to a dog and not being bitten. You won’t learn that most experiences with dogs are non-threatening. If you’ve had your heart shattered in a relationship, and then avoid intimacy and closeness, you will never have the opportunity to experience true, deep, soul-feeding love with another.

We learn through experience. When we experience trauma, it gets encoded in our memory in a particular way (define “trauma” however you like: a bad breakup, a car accident, abuse, moving far away – whatever happened that causes you prolonged pain and suffering).

We remember the possibility of threat, and fear gets activated anytime we are in a situation that reminds us of some aspect of past trauma – even if there is no current danger present. It is the brain’s way of trying to protect us, gone awry.

If we halt having new experiences after a trauma, we will never learn anything new about that type of experience. Have you ever heard that it is important to get behind the wheel of a car as soon as possible after having been in a car accident? This is because you need as many new driving experiences as possible – without encountering a life-threatening event for your nervous system – to learn that driving is not a threat. You must create many new memories to help override the emotionally traumatic memory of the accident.

 

2 – Running away from what we fear serves to reinforce the emotion and makes it worse.

Let’s go back to the dog example. If you were just bitten by a dog, you will likely experience fear the next time you encounter a dog. Now, let’s say fear gets in the driver’s seat of your mind, and you allow it to steer you away, running as fast as you can to escape that dog. In that moment, fear decreases. Let’s recap: you see dog > fear happens > you get away from dog > fear goes away.

What have you learned in that moment? You have learned that dogs are to be feared.

How does this happen? Despite your best intentions, your brain pairs fear with dogs and relief with no dogs. Each time you run away and experience relief, your brain learns that the dog (or relationship, or driving a car, or whatever it is you ran away from) is to be legitimately feared.

The brain stores this new experience, and slowly, over time, the fear you have of that particular stimulus grows. Now, the next time you see a dog, you are likely to be a little bit more afraid than you were the last time, and this fear continues to grow until eventually, you panic at the thought of a dog being anywhere nearby, until you feel “safe” again.

 

3 – There is immeasurable power and quality of life in repeatedly learning we can do hard things.

Part of learning that experiences won’t harm you is knowing you can cope if something painful happens. Now, this learning is not for the faint of heart. In order to learn that you can handle the experience of fear and do what scares you anyway, you must not only accept the experience of fear, you must ask for it!

It is a bit paradoxical because to get a handle on fear, you must convince yourself to want more of it: more fear, more anxiety, more sweaty palms and heart racing – until you are looking fear in the eye and yelling, “Bring it on!”

This is the kind of fierce attitude required to turn an experience of fear into POWER.

Think of it this way: fear means growth and opportunity. Nobody ever got scared sitting at home staring at the television because that action is not challenging. No growth is happening, and there is no opportunity there.

When you experience fear, it is like your environment giving you the gift of growth. If you run away, well, the result is no growth and probably more fear. If, however, you choose to stand your ground and radically invite fear to wash over you, putting one foot in front of the other and moving closer and closer to the fear… Asking for more of it… Telling fear to, “Bring it on!” and “I’ve got this!” now that is hard stuff.

We don’t build a sense of confidence and competency by doing easy stuff. We develop our sense of mastery by doing what is hard – through our blood, sweat, and tears. You learn that you are a force to be reckoned with, and when this happens, a side effect is that fear often regulates. Fear may not necessarily go away, but you start to have a different experience. Instead of, “Oh no, please don’t let me feel afraid,” you begin to think, “Fear? Oh yeah, you’re here? Whatever. I’ve got this. Come on in and hang out.”

That is powerful.

If you want to transform fear into POWER, start looking whatever makes you afraid in the eye. Move towards it shaking and crying – it doesn’t matter. Let the fearful sensations wash over you and run into the fear. Watch yourself become free!

 

Listen to this article here.

 

 

 


Saying Goodbye to Gramps

 

My grandfather was a great man. He was kind, patient, dependable, and no matter what, funny. Even in the emergency room at age 89, days before his death, he had me in stitches.

Frail, confused, scared, and physically uncomfortable, he waited over 9 hours in the cold, chaotic ER to be admitted and finally settle into a quiet and warm room. My mother took the first half of the shift waiting with him, and I was lucky enough to take the latter half, lasting until 1:00am. We were so excited when the nurse told us his room was finally ready, we both looked like we won the lottery and I took a selfie to send to my family.

That was my Gramps. He was always game for smiles and laughs, even in a hospital gown, even afraid and knowing this is where he may soon die.

My grandfather was from a generation almost long gone. He belonged to a cohort valuing honesty, politeness, hard work, and service. He tolerated the uncomfortable, usually with a smile, and humbly tried his best, taking pride in any task he took on. When things did not go his way, he took it upon himself to strategize and fix it, not expecting others to accommodate his suffering.

 

Through example, my Gramps taught me several life lessons:

LAUGH OFTEN – No matter the situation, Gramps had a joke. Sometimes they were eye-roll and groan-worthy, and sometimes his irreverence would surprise and delight us with a good, hard belly laugh. Even when taking care of my grandmother in her last days and through his despair, Gramps never stopped trying to tickle her funny bone.

TAKE PRIDE IN YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES – I cannot think of a single time Gramps did not follow through or keep his word. He was dependable and if he said he would show up, he would. Not only was he a man of his word, he also took pride in doing well.

When he moved into a home, now matter how nice, he made improvements. When I was a child, he told me the importance of always leaving a place you lived in better condition than when you moved in. Gramps also left the people who knew him better for having known him. His influence and the time I spent with him beautified my life.

BE CONSIDERATE – Gramps was old-school and midwestern, which means that he followed the rule: Be polite. No matter what, Gramps was polite. Even in his assisted living facility, or when the nurses in the hospital shuffled his body around causing him more pain, Gramps thanked them and tried to “not be too much trouble.”

 

Gramps was patient and determined to believe that everyone was doing their best. He gave others the benefit of the doubt and always smiled and remembered his “pleases” and “thank you’s.”

When I think of times spent with Gramps, I smile. I think of him taking off his glasses and shouting, “Tah-dah!” when I was little and afraid of men wearing glasses. I think of him belting out, “Amanda Grace” (my first and middle name) to the tune of Amazing Grace just to be silly and make me smile. I think of him jingling the Tic Tacs in his suit jacket pocket on the way to church and pacing around the house while waiting for my grandmother to get ready to go.

I think about him taking me on nature walks and being able to identify every type of tree and bird, even though I was too young to pay attention and appreciate his knowledge. I remember him making a fuss about Gram’s amazing cooking at every single dinner.

He seemed to have so much gratitude. I remember him making me laugh when visiting him at his home and in the hospital, and the way he said “Thank you” and smiled whenever I kissed him on the cheek.

I know that Gramps influenced my life in a meaningful way and I am better for having been a part of his family. I love you, Gramps.

 

Listen to the audio version here.


June Newsletter

Mid-year has me reflecting on how the seasons change: Spring into Summer, then Fall and Winter…Young to middle-aged, to old and all the stages in between…Life and death. All are part of the cycle we participate in. Losing people we love is, painfully, another natural part of that cycle. We all (hopefully) grow old, and eventually die. Gratefully, the lessons we pass on – and are passed on to us – stay alive.

In honor of Father’s Day this month, I would like to pay homage to some of the men in my life who I have loved and lost. My father passed away on Father’s Day and my grandfather would have turned 90 the day before Father’s Day this year, had he not passed in January. The best way I know to honor those who have touched my life is to take inspiration from them and pay it forward, continuing the cycles as they were handed down to me.

In this edition of my newsletter, you will find a memorial I wrote, highlighting just a few of the many lessons I learned from my grandfather. Lesson #1 is to Laugh Often, so I have also included some funny, family-related comedy clips for your amusement.

 

I will leave you with two take-home messages (take action if they speak to you):

1 – How have the men in your life influenced you to be and do better? Take a moment and appreciate their influence. Is there anything you would like to do or say to express your gratitude for their inspiration and influence?
2 – Laugh often! How can you increase the laughter in your life today? Laughing is good for the whole body and soul. Go for it!

 

 


 

FEATURED ARTICLE:

Saying Goodbye to Gramps

My grandfather was a great man. He was kind, patient, dependable, and no matter what, funny. Even in the emergency room at age 89, days before his death, he had me in stitches.

Frail, confused, scared, and physically uncomfortable, he waited over 9 hours in the cold, chaotic ER to be admitted and finally settle into a quiet and warm room. My mother took the first half of the shift waiting with him, and I was lucky enough to take the latter half, lasting until 1:00am. We were so excited when the nurse told us his room was finally ready, we both looked like we won the lottery and I took a selfie to send to my family.

 

Continue reading here.

 


 

LAUGH OFTEN!

Please enjoy these family and age-related clips from stand up comics. Whether Father’s Day brings up joy and love, or other more difficult or conflicting emotions, laughter can be the best medicine. Now go tickle that funny bone!

 

Nick Swardson – Old People:

 

 

 

Sebastian Maniscalco – Meemaw:

 

 

Lachlan Patterson – The new old people are going to suck:

 

 

Hilarious Grandma Stand Up Comedienne:

 

 


 

WANT MORE?

My articles are always available for you to read and listen to at your convenience. My written articles can be found on my website, and the audio versions can be found on my YouTube page

 

 

 

 


 

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE…

My guided meditations and practices are available in audio form – all for free! If you would like to enhance your mindfulness practice, experience this month’s or any recent offerings, click here!


May Newsletter

The key to change is PRACTICE, PRACTICE, and then, go ahead and PRACTICE some more. My former Zen teacher reminded me often that we cannot force ourselves or anyone else to change. All we can do is show up every day and practice, until one day, what we have practiced becomes who we are. I love this way of thinking about change! This means we can throw away the overwhelming notion of having to jump from Point A to Point B. Rather, just show up and practice. We can do that! This month’s newsletter focuses on the spirit of practice and being a force to be reckoned with. Check out my Skills Roundup for coping with illness and meet the inspiring Tim Ferriss, pantomath extraordinaire who has personally fought Lyme Disease and is the king of life hacks. His book, “Tools of Titans” is my favorite coffee table book, providing motivation and expert tips. Please enjoy reading (or listening) to this month’s installment. Happy PRACTICING!

 

 

FEATURED ARTICLE:

Coping with Chronic Illness: Skills Roundup
(Quick Reference Guide)
In this article, we will review and recap some of the tactics and practices that we discussed in the 3 previous Chronic Illness articles.
Hopefully, these ideas will prompt you to explore more of your own solutions, experiment with what works best for you, and above all, stay mindful of how your physical condition is affecting your mental and emotional health. At the bottom of each skill, you will find a “TAKE HOME MESSAGE” to help guide your practice. The skills are in no particular order of importance, so discover what speaks to you and start there.
Continue reading here, or you have the option to listen to it here.

FEATURED BLOG/PROFESSIONAL:

Tim Ferriss

Speaking of living and coping with chronic illness, Tim Ferriss is a force of nature. He is the bestselling author of 4-Hour Workweek, the 4-Hour Body and my favorite for inspiration: Tools of Titans.
Through his own diligent research and experimentation, Ferriss has been able to fight back against the symptoms of his own Lyme Disease, all but stopping it in its tracks, and prompting new research across the medical community.
His podcast, the Tim Ferriss Show, explores the processes and philosophies of the world’s top performers across a wide variety of disciplines, and Tim has used these nuggets of wisdom in his own life, becoming an advocate for healthy, highly effective approaches to fitness, work, diet, and life in general.
(You can find Tim’s books, more backstory, and episodes of his fascinating podcast at https://tim.blog/)
If you’re not sure where to start, I recommend looking into his book Tools of Titans.

WANT MORE?

My articles are always available for you to read and listen to at your convenience. My written articles can be found on my website, and the audio versions can be found on my YouTube. page


PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE…

My guided meditations and practices are available in audio form – all for free! If you would like to enhance your mindfulness practice, experience this month’s or any recent offerings, click here!


LIFE’S TOO SHORT TO JUST SURVIVE.
THAT’S WHY I HELP PEOPLE THRIVE!

I hope you enjoyed this article! If you would like to become a subscriber to my monthly newsletter, you can do so by clicking the SUBSCRIBE button at the top of the page.
Amanda Gale-Bando, Ph.D.


Coping with Chronic Illness – Skills Roundup (Quick Reference Guide)

Chronic illness and pain can take a toll on emotional and mental wellbeing. I have learned that illness is a journey, often with a long and winding path, and not just a speed bump in the road. When we take this bird’s eye view, and accept the enduring nature some illnesses have (often with no clear end in sight), we take back some power. Even if you cannot immediately defeat symptoms that are wearing you down, you absolutely can, no matter the illness, take steps to fight back against the emotional effects of unpredictable, ongoing pain and discomfort.

 

For an in-depth look at each of the following topics, please read (or listen to) my 3-Part Series on Chronic Illness and Mental Health. This piece will serve as a quick reference guide. You can think of this as your go-to refresher course to help you remember (and apply) needed strategies.

 

Here, we will review some of the tactics and practices that will help you deal with chronic illness. Hopefully, these ideas will prompt you to explore more of your own solutions, experiment with what works best for you, and above all, stay mindful of how your physical condition is affecting your mental and emotional health. At the bottom of each skill, you will find a “TAKE HOME MESSAGE” to help guide your practice. The skills are in no particular order of importance, so discover what speaks to you and start there.

 

Let’s dive right in!

 

1. Self-Compassion

 

Lacking self-compassion during a period of illness is like kicking yourself when you are down. Yes, compassion is a need that every human shares, and it is especially heightened when we are going through a rough time.

Not having compassion for yourself is like responding to a loved one in pain by coldly telling them to “buck up!” and “stop being such a baby!” As you can imagine, they may feel worse, cry harder, develop feelings of shame and judgment, and have a more difficult time getting through their distress. The same happens when this harshness is turned inward.

 

For this reason, developing a sense of compassion for yourself is on the top of this coping list. If you are constantly beating yourself up for not feeling well, even in subtle ways, the vicious cycle will wear down your emotional stability until you feel worse – regardless of your physical symptoms!

Self-criticism is a damaging habit, and when you are not feeling your best, have to cancel plans, move slowly, take more breaks than others around you, it is all too easy to start calling yourself names, label yourself a failure, and so on… Would you ever say these things to someone else?

Would you label a loved one as a loser or call your best friend stupid because their body wasn’t functioning how they wanted? Of course not! Yet, we all too readily use these names in conversations with ourselves.

An antidote to this detrimental self-criticism is two-fold:

  1. Pay close attention to your self talk. (Click here for an exercise in heightening your awareness of the impact this language has on you.).
  2. Start a DAILY self-compassion practice. This means showing up and engaging in the practice, whether or not you feel like it. Here are some resources for practicing:

 

TAKE HOME MESSAGE Self-compassion is a skill that must be practiced regularly. Use some of the suggestions above or design your own method for practicing and commit. Hint: keep it simple. Sometimes, a nice gentle touch accompanied by three deep breaths is all you need to teach yourself to respond in a sweet, loving way. By keeping your practice brief, you will be more likely to follow through. The key to this practice is consistency (not duration).

 

2. Clear, Unapologetic Communication

 

People tend to hide what they perceive as “weakness.” In an effort to appease others, they will often push themselves too hard, make excuses for why they can’t participate in a given activity, or close themselves off from others – instead of communicating clearly about what is actually going on.

All of this secrecy and defensiveness can take a toll on emotional wellbeing, and worse, prevent the people who care about you from being able to help (or even understand what you might be dealing with).

To keep these problems at bay, try practicing open, unapologetic communication, especially with the people closest to you. You can be honest about not feeling well, not having energy, about foods you cannot eat or places you don’t want to go.

If you are transparent and firm about what you need, you will achieve two important objectives.

First, you will let others in, and allow them to have a better understanding of how your illness affects your daily life.

Second, and perhaps more important, you will teach yourself how to ask for what you need and articulate your limits without concession.

 

If you notice that judgments about yourself or others are getting in the way of communicating clearly:

  1. Review this passage I wrote about Nonjudgment.
  2. Listen to my guided practice in Nonjudgment.

 

Practicing Nonjudgment can help clear the cobwebs and pave a clear path to knowing – and being able to describe – your experience and needs.

 

TAKE HOME MESSAGE – Step 1: practice dropping the judgments and describing, in a matter-of-fact way, what is going on with you or what you need. Practice writing this out or saying it to yourself. Step 2: communicate! Extend this clear communication to loved ones. Remember, you are brave! Even if you feel embarrassed or uncomfortable, remind yourself how important this skill of direct, clear, and unapologetic communication is to your health – and go for it. You can do this!

 

3. Face Your Illness

 

I CANNOT EMPHASIZE THIS SKILL ENOUGH. A stage most people with a chronic illness pass through is complete and utter denial. This can manifest in forgetting that you have a diagnosis, minimizing the impact your symptoms have on your life (e.g., continue to expect yourself to work just as hard and participate in all of the activities you did pre-illness), and making plans for an arbitrary date when you will feel better (with no evidence that the illness will be cured by this date).

 

No one wants to be sick, and often, your first instinct is to fight it. This can look like completely refuting the reality of the illness:

  • “I’m not that sick,” I’ve heard someone with Fibromyalgia who was hunched over in pain at work say.
  • “Next year, when I feel so much better, we are planning a trip overseas,” a patient with Multiple Sclerosis and no indication of symptom improvement in the near future stated.
  • “I think I’ll return to work next week,” was matter-of-factly uttered by a migraine sufferer who was unable to keep his eyes open most hours of the day.

 

While this is a completely normal and understandable reaction to an illness, not facing the full reality of how sick you are (and the impact it has on your life) may cause you to:

  • Push yourself past your limits, causing even more pain and flare-ups
  • Create unrealistic expectations that set you up to feel disappointed when they don’t happen
  • Help you avoid dealing with your new reality and the limits that must be set to support your long-term health and wellbeing

 

Often times, seeking help in the form of therapy can be a necessary part of coping with chronic illness. If you are having trouble accepting that you are sick, and this lack of acceptance is causing problems, please consider reaching out for professional help. Chronic illness is overwhelming to cope with, and hiring a competent therapist to help support and coach you can be time and money very well spent.

 

TAKE HOME MESSAGE: You cannot adequately cope with what you do not face. If you are sick, you must accept this reality (and all of its consequences) so that you may effectively plan for your future. If you notice yourself continuing to deny the illness and its effects, reach out for professional help. Ask a friend or family member to help you find a therapist who specializes in treating people with chronic illness.

 

 

4. Prioritize Self-Care and Feel All The Feels

 

Self-care takes center stage when you are coping with an illness. That may mean extra sleep, planned downtime, certain foods… And it may very well mean saying “no” to things you want to do if saying “yes” may produce a pain flare-up or otherwise compromise your overall wellbeing.

 

Remember, coping is not the same as “powering through.” Denying that you need to take extra care of yourself will likely prolong recovery, make symptoms worse, or take a toll on your emotional wellbeing, leaving you depleted.

The tough part of self-care can be admitting that you need to modify your expectations for yourself and your lifestyle. (See #3: Face Your Illness – for help.) Part of chronic illness involves emotional pain. Facing the truth of your current limitations can feel devastating, so you may want to fight against them and push yourself harder than is helpful. Feeling devastation, despair, grief, and guilt are all part of living with an illness. Read more about grief, illness, and metabolizing your emotions here, and take part in the Welcoming Emotions Practice to help you through.

 

TAKE HOME MESSAGE: Prioritize your needs, not what you think you “should” need or wish you needed, but your actual needs, given everything as it is right now. If you find yourself resisting, it may be time to “feel all the feels” and process those emotions getting in the way. If you need some encouragement, check out some of my guided practices to help process your emotions, and read my post on the most useful poem on emotions ever written to help change your perspective on those pesky and painful feelings.

 

 

5. Validate, Validate, Validate!

 

Usually, a chronic illness begins with confusion. You and others (doctors, loved ones) try to figure out what is going on, and often, there is a long process before arriving at an accurate diagnosis – let alone treatment.

This road is frequently paved with invalidation. Medical professionals not knowing how to help, family members not understanding what’s wrong, friends and loved ones offering well-meaning, simple solutions to your complicated problems, and even your own uncertainty and sense of betrayal by your body. All this may leave you feeling invalidated, criticized, and misunderstood.

 

Validation = making sense of.

 

Validation is a basic human need. Do not underestimate its value!

“Validation” sounds like a simple term, yet we all need to know that at our core, we make sense. There is nothing inherently different and bad about us, there is a cause-and-effect to our experiences, and ultimately, we make sense. For the reasons above, this sense of self-validation can be hard to find amid an illness. This is why deliberately practicing this skill is essential.

 

Even if you aren’t sure what’s causing your symptoms, or how to describe how you are feeling from moment-to-moment, you still need to be validated. Use this practice to help you master the art of validation. To learn more about validation and chronic illness, read the full articles here.

 

TAKE HOME MESSAGE: You cannot overestimate the value of validation. Listen to my guided instructions [12] and start validating how emotions make sense. You can practice this on yourself and others. The critical point is that you PRACTICE!

 

6. Make Meaning

 

The point of all of these skills is for you to have a life that you know is worth living, even when in the depths of your illness.

 

I hope that by practicing all of the skills above, you get to a point where you ask yourself, “What now?”

 

That is, given everything in your life as it is at this moment, what will you make of it? What are your options? How can you, given the cards you have been dealt, design a life that is fulfilling and meaningful, where the world is better off for you having been here, and you feel your worth?

 

TAKE HOME MESSAGE: After practicing the skills above, including letting yourself feel the depths of despair and anger for the unfairness of your circumstances, you will get to a point where you are ready to ask yourself some questions about the meaning of your life. Get curious, get inquisitive, ask and answer. No matter what is happening, you have a place and a purpose here. What will you do with it?

 

If you are wondering where to start and what to do now, go back and pick one of the five steps that calls out to you – or feels important to develop. Follow the “Take Home Message” and start gently practicing this skill. For a more in-depth look at chronic illness and mental health, please read my 3-part series here.

My wish for you is that you not only know your worth, you experience it regardless of illness or any other obstacle sent your way. There is only one you on this planet, and you have a unique contribution. Be well in body, mind, and spirit.


April Newsletter

April Newsletter Dr. Bando

April is the quarter-mile mark. We officially have 25% of 2019 in our rearview. This is a good time of year to ask yourself how it’s going – though I suppose the answer depends on what measurement tool you use.

The “compare-yourself-to-someone-else” ruler is usually inaccurate, either underestimating or overemphasizing challenges and accomplishments alike. Rather, how are you doing compared to last year, last month, last week, or even yesterday?

If you notice an improvement, capitalize on your progress by taking time to note what is working, and be intentional about continuing on this path. If you identify being in a worse, less desirable place in life than you were, what got you here?

With curiosity and nonjudgment, can you describe what is not working? Can you articulate what you need to move toward positive change? What steps are necessary to turn you toward your ideal path?

My article and practice this month are about tuning in to your experiences and needs, and focusing yourself on personal responsibility as a way to build more of the life you desire. Both my article and featured professional are geared to help you understand how taking that step towards personal responsibility can make all the difference in the world.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu

 

FEATURED ARTICLE:

Personal Responsibility Article
The Importance of Personal Responsibility

How often have you been driving and thought: “If that car in front of me would just move out of the way, I could get where I’m going faster?”  

These kinds of thoughts cross my mind often. If that car would move, or if that person would stop using that tone with me, or if so-and-so wouldn’t put me in an awkward position or “make me feel” a certain way, life would be grand!

All of these statements, however, communicate to your brain that your wellbeing is dependent upon someone else.

Let’s break this down . . .    continue reading or listen here.

FEATURED BLOG/PROFESSIONAL:

Featured Professional Jordan Peterson

Jordan B. Peterson

When focusing on personal responsibility, there is no better colleague to feature than Dr. Jordan B. Peterson. Dr. Peterson was a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto until his straightforward, common sense, and psychologically smart teaching points landed him under attack in the media. Dr. Peterson has been lied about, falsely accused, and physically threatened, all for asserting his firm philosophical belief that freedom of language is essential to ideas and intellectual discourse.

Now a public speaker and author of a multi-million-copy bestseller. Dr. Peterson is a prime example of living your truth despite whatever comes your way, and accepting personal responsibility for your life and choices. I find Dr. Peterson a bright light with qualities to aspire to, and I hope you do as well.

For an example of what Dr. Peterson has to say, check out this video: https://youtu.be/o73pqQ9Gzt4

Visit Dr. Peterson’s website: https://jordanbpeterson.com


WANT MORE?

My articles are always available for you to read and listen to at your convenience. My written articles can be found on my website, and the audio versions can be found on my YouTube page.


PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE…

My guided meditations and practices are available in audio form – all for free! If you would like to enhance your mindfulness practice, experience this month’s or any recent offerings, click here!


LIFE’S TOO SHORT TO JUST SURVIVE.
THAT’S WHY I HELP PEOPLE THRIVE!

I hope you enjoyed this article! If you would like to become a subscriber to my monthly newsletter, you can do so by clicking the SUBSCRIBE button at the top of the page.
Amanda Gale-Bando, Ph.D.


Personal Responsibility

The Importance of Personal ResponsibilityPersonal Responsibility Article

How often have you been driving and thought: “If that car in front of me would just move out of the way, I could get where I’m going faster?”

These kinds of thoughts cross my mind often. If that car would move, or if that person would stop using that tone with me, or if so-and-so wouldn’t put me in an awkward position or “make me feel” a certain way, life would be grand!

All of these statements, however, communicate to your brain that your wellbeing is dependent upon someone else.

Let’s break this down… When I say that I want someone else to change their behavior, I am really saying that I don’t like how I feel – and I don’t know what to do about it. I want someone else to change so I can feel better.

Essentially, I have taken all of my “power chips” and handed them over for someone else to manage my life. Let’s look at an example:

I was recently at an airport, and the people in front of me in the security line were taking for-ev-er. One person took a shoe off and gently placed it on the conveyer belt – so slowly that I wondered if she ever intended on having the other shoe join its mate. The gentleman behind her agreed with this pace…

With all of us in line waiting, he leisurely drank his water before proceeding with the security routine. Man, did I have judgments! My head (and facial expressions) were screaming, “Have you never been in a security line?! We are all waiting! How rude! Hustle, hustle, hustle! Knees to chest, people! Get moving!”

I was so invested in their obvious-to-me socially unacceptable behavior that by the time I got through the line, I was huffing and puffing, wondering what could ever possess people to be so inconsiderate. Because of them, I had a stressful experience, and had to rush to my gate despite arriving at the airport in what I thought left plenty of time. I was irritated, and I placed all of the blame on the other people in the security line.

In short, what I believed at that moment was:

If they changed their behavior, I could feel better.

Wow, that is a loaded statement! By going down this train of thought (with my emotions quickly following), I just invested in the belief that someone else is responsible for how I feel.

Ugh, no wonder I was frustrated and felt powerless. In this experience, I believed I had fallen victim to someone else’s ignorance. Notice those words? Powerless. Victim.

Now, you might think that this was such a minor incident, how could this really affect how I feel about myself or my place in the world? You also might agree with the judgments I made about the slow-movers at the airport and share my frustration…

Well, the beliefs that we invest our time, thinking, and behavior into are important. They inform the blueprint of how we see ourselves in the world, and how we show up for life… And here’s the rub:

When you expect others to take care of you:

  • You cheat the relationship, and you cheat yourself
  • Your confidence dwindles
  • You begin to believe you cannot do hard things

When you expect others to regulate themselves so you feel better, you burden the other person with the expectation that it is their responsibility to make you feel differently than you do Deep down, nobody wants this responsibility. It is an unwelcome gift. Even if the recipient saddles up and takes responsibility for how you feel, resentment is likely to build. The other person has just received a weight that is too heavy for them to bear.

They have also received the inferred message that you are unable to meet your needs and regulate yourself – so you subtly lose some of their respect.

When you hand over your feel-good expectations to someone else, you cheat yourself by giving yourself the message that you can’t handle the responsibility. Someone else needs to ride in on a white horse and rescue you, all because you are not whole enough to handle things on your own.

When you use phrases such as, “so-and-so made me feel [fill in the blank with a favorite icky-feeling emotion],” it is like a slowly dripping faucet of self-disrespect. You may not feel the impact of the first drop, but eventually, the sink fills up, and you’ve got a big, sloshy pool of belief that others hold the power to “make you feel” – and you become a victim to their behavior.

Talk about a confidence buster!

When you repeatedly tell yourself that others are making you feel a certain way, or thinking that if others would behave differently, that would solve your distressing emotions, you are also telling yourself that you cannot do hard things.

This is one of the most dangerous messages for you to believe! Resilience is built upon knowing that you can do hard things, that you can roll with whatever life throws your way, and that you know as long as you are in your own corner, you’ve got this life thing!

When you start to lose sight of this fact by hoping others will change their behaviors to “make you feel” better, you are in serious trouble.

On the other hand:

When you look for (and accept) your responsibility and volition in all situations, you gain:

  • A sense of empowerment
  • More mutually rewarding relationships
  • Self-confidence and self-respect

If, in the airport, I had noticed my thoughts, “Damn these people for making me anxious and uncomfortable!” here’s how I could have responded:

“Uh-oh, did I just say someone else is ‘making me feel?’ Okay, it’s time for me to get to work here.”

STEP 1: NOTICE AND LABEL when you have just handed over the responsibility for how you feel to someone else.

STEP 2: FOCUS INWARD and QUESTION. Questions I might ask myself include:

  • “What am I feeling in my body?”
  • “What emotion is this I’m feeling right now?”
  • “What about this situation is making me uncomfortable, instead of the many other situations I’ve been through today that I haven’t focused on this intently?”
  • “What interpretation am I having of others’ behaviors in this situation?”
  • “Are there other possible perspectives here?”

This inward focus immediately grows your sense of self-respect and responsibility for your own experience. First of all, you receive the message (from yourself) that you are worth paying attention to – and that your experience is significant enough for you to focus all of your attention in this moment.

Second, by observing yourself in this way, you unglue from your interpretations and reactions and start getting reflective, leading you to other possible experiences. Third, this step is hard – and when you practice turning toward yourself in this way, you learn that you can do it. You gain confidence in your ability to tackle your unchecked reactions.

While you are building all this empowerment, self-confidence, and self-respect, you are also improving your relationship with the other people in the situation!

If I had put this into practice in the security line, I wouldn’t have glared, sighed, rolled my eyes, and in general, treated others with contempt. Perhaps I could have let others have their experiences and I mine, and focused on what I needed in that situation, which brings us to…

STEP 3: IDENTIFY YOUR NEEDS and RESPOND. If I had asked myself what I needed in that moment, regardless of others’ behavior, I probably could have used some deep, slow breaths, stopped fidgeting (which was fueling my frustration), and maybe talked to someone or texted a friend for a brief distraction.

Maybe all I needed was to acknowledge that I felt frustrated, that my interpretation was that I was being disrespected, and I would have been able to let it go. Perhaps I would have decided to ask for the people in front of me to move more quickly, or request they let me go in front of them. The point is that I did not ask myself what I needed, so I did not receive the message that I cared about what I needed… And I certainly was not able to provide it for myself.

Even so, I still have…

STEP 4: REFLECT. Although I am not proud of my behavior in the airport, and it is not a representation of how I wish to walk through the world, I can still face it and move forward.

Notice your ineffective behaviors in retrospect, and walk yourself through what went wrong. Thinking about how it could go differently the next time, as I just did, facilitates change. After this exercise, I can tell you with 99% certainty that the next time I am frustrated in a security line, I will think of this example. When you wake up to the moment, you have a chance to make a choice and do things differently.

 

Here is a practice for what to do when you believe someone is making you feel a particular way:

A PRACTICE IN PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY

(Listen to this practice on YouTube)

First, let’s take a moment to settle into this present moment. Let’s put our attention on a few things that are right here, right now, starting from the outside in. First, take a look around you, noticing the shapes, colors, light, and dark. Take a moment to notice where you are, using a beginner’s mind, and take in the environment around you.

Now, turn your attention toward sounds. Place your attention on your ears and notice any sounds or silence that floats through your attention.

Now, can you notice your body? Perhaps you can notice the bottom of your feet on the floor, the parts of your body touching another object, like a chair or your clothes. Begin to notice parts of your body in contact with other objects.

And finally, bring your attention to your breath. You do not need to alter or change your breath. Simply notice that you are breathing, in and out. Notice the quality and length of your breath, knowing there is no way your breath is supposed to be in this moment, and just allow your breath to flow, however it is occurring right now.

Now, shift your attention to a recent time you believed someone “made you feel” a particular way. It could be that you were annoyed waiting in a line or sitting in traffic, or perhaps you had an argument with a loved one. Whatever the situation, bring it as vividly as you can into your mind’s eye.

Now, pay careful attention. Focus on the point when you had the experience that this person was “making you feel” a certain way, or thought that if this person changed their behavior, you would feel differently. Say to yourself, “Ah, I just handed over responsibility for how I feel to someone else.” That’s STEP 1. You just practiced the skill, NOTICE AND LABEL. Instead of being a slave to your reaction, you’ve gained some wiggle room for a different experience to emerge!

Let’s practice STEP 2: FOCUS INWARD and QUESTION. First, put on your curious, nonjudgmental cap and start investigating. This is the part where you act like a scientist and explore what was going on for you, in your body, in the moment that you gave responsibility for yourself away. If you’d like to pause here and give yourself some time to reflect or write, please do so!

Some questions you can ask are:

  • “What am I feeling in my body as I am recalling this moment?”
  • “What emotion am I feeling?”
  • “What about this situation made me uncomfortable?”
  • “What interpretation am I having of others’ behavior in this situation?”
  • “Are there other possible perspectives here?”

Another helpful practice during STEP 2 is to write out just the facts on one side of a paper, and your interpretations, opinions, and evaluations of the facts on the other side of the paper. This is an exercise in separating the facts from your personal experience.

You may decide to pause and spend some more time on STEP 2. It is important to understand your experience with some clarity before you are able to move on to STEP 3: IDENTIFY YOUR NEEDS and RESPOND. Given your new, more complete understanding of the experience by completing STEP 2, you can now ask yourself what you needed in that moment.

A helpful way of asking can be, “Given everything as it was in that moment, and given that I cannot change others’ behaviors, what did I need?”

You can ask yourself, “How may I have responded to myself if I were able to attend to my needs and take care of myself in that moment?” Now, your job is to listen. Give yourself the space to hear about your needs.

By engaging in this practice, you have already completed STEP 4: REFLECT. By taking the time to reflect on this situation, you have set the stage to do it differently next time. By engaging in this exercise, you have given yourself the message that you matter and are worth the time.

You have also taken a stand. You will engage with yourself and others with integrity. Don’t expect it to be perfect… That’s life! It’s an eventful journey of learning. You can keep practicing, and you will start to notice your relationships, both with yourself and others, shift for the better.

Come back to this any time you need it – and please, keep practicing!


March Newsletter


In just a couple of short days, Spring will officially be upon us. This change in season, with its blooming flowers, and new foliage on trees, tends to revitalize many people. It is a time to shed winter clothes, shake off the cob webs, and take care of those projects that have been put off for the last few months.

For some, it is difficult to shake that winter bleh. I have even known someone who has seasonal depression in reverse. When others are brightening up in the Spring weather, he withers, feeling more pressure to feel sunny, and becomes down in the dumps as a result.

If you feel the pressure of being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for Spring, read on! Even if you do feel revitalized, I have included a practice in this month’s edition that is invaluable for year round well-being.

In this newsletter, I continue my series on Chronic Illness and Mental Health. With an estimated 45% of Americans suffering with some sort of chronic illness, chances are that either you or someone you know are struggling. In part 3 of this series, I discuss Diagnostic Problems and Invalidation. This month’s guided practice focuses on SELF-VALIDATION, one of the most effective tools for quality of life, chronic illness or not. Also, meet the inspirational Elana Amsterdam, a NY Times Best Selling Cookbook Author who also suffers from Celiac Disease and Multiple Sclerosis.

Whether Spring makes you sing or your tune fizzles out, please know we are in this together! We are all doing our very best as we navigate our way through this messy, challenging, wonderful life. I truly believe life is way too short just to survive, that’s why I help people thrive! Happy Spring!


FEATURED ARTICLE

Chronic Illness and Mental Health Part 3: Diagnostic Problems/Invalidation


Autoimmune and other disorders that may present with vague or a diffuse cluster of symptoms, or are difficult to diagnose, seem to be at an all-time high. The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association estimates that approximately 50 million Americans live with an autoimmune disorder. On the other hand, the National Institutes of Health, also a reliable source of information, claims that only 23.5 million Americans suffer from an autoimmune disorder. The NIH recognizes less than half of what is reported by the AARDA. Why the discrepancy? NIH funded studies include only 24 diseases/disorders, while recent studies by the AARDA now include upwards of 80 to 100 diseases/disorders. Research is ever-evolving and it is hard to keep up!

You can see why chronic illness may be a confusing subject for so many people when two reputable organizations who lead our understanding of what diseases exist, supply different numbers based on what they consider to be different facts. Currently, conventional Western medicine does not seem to know how to detect or diagnose many of these diseases accurately.

Continue reading


FEATURED PROFESSIONAL

Meet the beautiful and inspiring, Elana Amsterdam; health blogger and author of three cookbooks geared towards the support of health and healing.

Often, when clients of mine have been diagnosed with a chronic illness, they struggle with the question of what their life will look like going forward. It is because of people like Elana that I can continue to offer them hope and encouragement. Rather than shirking into the darkness of chronic illness symptoms, Elana states, “My goal was simple. To be of service.”

In addition to her books and the many free and autoimmune-friendly recipes she makes available on her website, Elana shares her struggles and successes of living with MS with her readers and also promotes and volunteers for non-profit organizations she believes in.

What I love about Elana:

  • Her candor. She does not sugar coat the experience of living with chronic illness. She shares her struggles in a relatable way that preserves the truth without getting caught in the bell jar.
  • She LIVES with chronic illness, not suffers.
  • Her RECIPES!!! OMG, does this lady know how to cook. She has certainly spiced up my gluten/processed-free kitchen and brought bread back to my life whenever I want it. (Did I mention she has tons of Paleo and Keto recipes? AND you can search for recipes on her site by special diet requirements.)
  • She gives back. Before I ever spent one dime on purchasing her cookbooks, I benefitted from her tasty recipes and bright Instagram posts. Her life purpose of being of service shines through – anyone who is interested can benefit from Elana. She is a contributor.

You can read a piece of her story here.


WANT MORE?
My articles are always available for you to read and listen to at your convenience. My written articles can be found on my website, and the audio versions can be found on either my YouTube or Soundcloud pages.


LIFE’S TOO SHORT TO JUST SURVIVE.
THAT’S WHY I HELP PEOPLE THRIVE!

I hope you enjoyed this article! If you would like to become a subscriber to my monthly newsletter, you can do so by clicking the SUBSCRIBE button at the top of the page.
Amanda Gale-Bando, Ph.D.


When Others’ Opinions Get You Down (and What to Do When You Feel Fat)

judging ridicule others' opinions feeling fat
We’ve all been self-conscious about our appearance, and have at one point or another worried about what other people think of us. Whether it’s how we dress, speak, act, or even weigh, that concern can at times be overwhelming. While it’s important to take in others’ opinions (this gives us a reflection of ourselves and how we are perceived), over-valuing what others think or may think, while under-valuing our own ideas can damage our self-respect. If you’d like to spend less time concerned about others’ opinions and more time embodying your own values, I’ve put together a few strategies that will help you in this area.

Tuning In

Tuning in requires focusing on your internal voice and turning up the volume so that it is louder than the opinions around you. When you find yourself in a situation where you feel over-worried about what someone else may think of you, ask yourself, “What, in my deepest values, do I believe about this situation?” You may also ask yourself how you would respond to a friend who was in your shoes. Would you shame and browbeat her or tell her that you understand where she is coming from and she did not do anything to be embarrassed? The strategies of asking how you feel, what you believe and to what standard you would hold someone you care about, gives you valuable feedback about whether you want to correct your behavior or if the problem is not your behavior but worry thoughts and shame entering your mind and body.

Your Values, Thoughts, and Emotions

When you have discovered that you have behaved, dressed, spoken, etc., in line with your values but are still plagued by embarrassment and worries about what others think of you, the first step is DON’T CHANGE YOUR BEHAVIOR. If you change your behavior when your behavior is not the problem, you are sending yourself a confusing message and shame is likely to build.

For example, Marla (pseudonym) found herself concerned that she was not “thin enough” and felt embarrassed about her appearance in certain social situations. As a result of this embarrassment, Marla would tug on her clothes, check herself often in the mirror, avoid being in pictures, and plan her outfit days in advance in response to excruciating worry thoughts. When Marla asked herself about her values, she realized that she would never ever treat a friend the way she was treating herself. She would never judge a friend based on her weight or fit of her clothes and would not want to associate herself with anyone who would judge in this way. Yet, she had been behaving as though she should be ashamed.

Marla’s strategy became clear: Treat her body as perfectly fine and refuse to apologize for how she looks. This means that Marla resisted urges to tug on her clothes, plan the perfect outfit in advance, and even volunteered to be front-and-center in photos. Initially, her self-critical and worry-thoughts increased, and she felt embarrassment wash over her when seeing a full-body picture posted on Facebook. Marla was determined, though, and she persisted.

Over time, her mind and body understood the consistent message that Marla was sending. The message was, “I will not apologize for how my body looks because there is no reason to apologize.” Her self-hating thoughts and worries about what others thought of her began to quiet and feelings of embarrassment lessened over time. Now, when Marla feels a surge of her old urge to apologize for her appearance rear its ugly head, she knows what to do and prioritizes her mental health and self-respect.

As my wise Zen teacher says, “You cannot force yourself to be different. All you can do is practice every day until one day, you become what you have practiced.”

Your Breath and Sensations

If you find it difficult to tune into your values and priorities, start with your breath. Any of my past or present patients will tell you that at least once per therapy session, I will ask them to stop and notice three inhalations and exhalations. This offers an opportunity to notice what the breath is doing in the body. Stop and try it now – place your awareness on your breath for three inhales and exhales. Notice: Where in your physical body does your attention go as you are placing your awareness on your breathing? Your breath is a readily available sensation that can help you start to tune into your body and then your wisdom.

After noticing how your breath feels in your physical body, you can also start to pay attention to sensations. Start to ask yourself questions, such as, “How does my body feel when I am having fun, trusting myself, following what feels right?” Are you relaxed in some areas, tense in others? Do you notice changes in your posture? How about temperature or a feeling of moving energy in various parts of your body? The more you tune into how your body feels, you will begin to get clear messages from your wisdom and be able to sharply access your values and priorities in different situations.

Now What?

The more you practice paying attention to your breath, listening to your body and feelings, identifying your values and behaving as though they matter, the easier it will become. With any new behavior practice, practice and then more practice is needed to help the new habit stick. As my wise Zen teacher says, “You cannot force yourself to be different. All you can do is practice every day until one day, you become what you have practiced.”

Identify a step from this article that you can put into practice today and practice doing this every day until it becomes easy for you. Then, identify and take a next step. If you are a person who has loud self-critical thoughts, it will take a while for them to calm down and for value-driven thoughts to take up your mind space. Give yourself the time you need and devote yourself to one small practice every day.

If you want additional help learning how to truly experience and enjoy your life, contact Dr. Bando today for an online consultation and start shifting from surviving to thriving!


© 2017 Amanda Gale Bando Phd · Designed and Developed by D-Kode Technology

Dr. Amanda Gale-Bando

Dr. Amanda Gale-Bando