5 Effective Ways to Shut the Mind Off!

5 Effective Ways to Shut the Mind Off!

woman with arms out

When I can’t shut the mind off I sometimes experience ‘anxiety anaphylaxis’; sounds worse than it is, I just get super moody. Why does this happen to me? I can sum it up in one word: BUSY. When it comes to being a mom, ‘busy’ is born right along with your little one. Don’t get me wrong I LOVE being a mom and I don’t mind being busy every once in a while, but it’s when BUSY takes over that I can’t think straight, my ‘to-do’ list turns into ‘to-do’ book, and the calendar looks like someone threw-up on it. Been there?

Busy Badge – not so

If ‘busy’ was a noun it would be a ball-and-chain latched to my ankle. I don’t see ‘busy’ as a badge of accomplishment; I see it as a stock or pillory. Here’s why: ‘Busy’ is yearning to do things you want to do without having the time to do them. That’s my version of the definition. Merriam-Webster Dictionary says ‘busy’ is: engaged in action, occupied. Here’s the difference between the two definitions, when I’m ‘engaged in action’ with an activity I want to do, I’m not ‘busy’, I’m free. You might need to read that again to let it sink in.

definition of busy

How do we do it?

How do we shut the mind off to have the freedom to work on the things that bring purpose into our lives? Personal development? Or on the flip-side, how to not think about anything?

Men are pretty good at being able to turn their minds off. My husband and I will be having coffee, talking right along than five minutes of silence go by so I ask what my husband is thinking; and he says, “Nothing”. Seriously? Mark Gungor, author, and motivational speaker has an excellent and hilarious way of describing the differences between men and women’s minds. For instance, men have this thing called the ‘Nothing Box’. I mean, what the heck is that? You can watch it here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWiBRL-bxiA so funny.

5 Effective Ways for us ladies

But how do we ladies go about finding how to shut the mind off?

1. Change environments. Escape from the environment that is causing you to constantly think of your to-do list, or the problem you’re facing. For instance; for me, I need to step away from the house. Because I’m a stay-at-home-mom I live in my work. So when I’m at my house it’s natural for me to always have a project going. For short term results, I’ll go to my favorite store and wonder. I didn’t say buy stuff, just window shop. For long term effects, we get out of town; and for my family that means camping. If you’re stuck inside get some amazing wall art and lose yourself in the picture.

desk with notebook and computer

2. Write things out. Putting it down on paper makes things more do-able. We, humans, tend to let our mind get away from us. We play-up our tasks way harder than they really are. Yet, when we get it down on paper it helps calm our neurons. I personally enjoy taking a clean sheet of copy paper, grabbing a pencil, and drawing a circle. From the circle, I create branches of all the things I’m thinking about…primarily my to-do list or ideas…then I break those branches into smaller do-able bites. Or go the traditional route and invest in a journal.

3. Converse with God. Talking with God helps me release the chains and give them to Him. Did you catch what I said? “Talking with God, not at Him or to Him, but with, like a friend talks with a friend. He wants a relationship with you, he wants to hear your side of the story, and he wants to help you. All you need to do is talk with Him. For instance, I escape to my favorite walking place and pray while I’m walking. For me, hearing my voice speak rather than trying to sort it all out in my mind helps me focus on the conversation. Then I stop talking and just listen; this gives me a breather and a chance for God to breathe into me.  I enjoy Jesus Calling as a nice devotional to help hear His voice.  

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4. Watch a good show. There is no better feeling than turning on a movie at my fingertips. The comfy clothes come on and my ‘please don’t ask me anything’ time starts. When we are entertained it gives us time to relax and just be. Our brains need it, especially to sleep. It’s a chance we get to wander out of our reality and into a story. Here’s a tip, be picky of what you put in your brain. If you’re looking to just feel good and float on a cloud, don’t choose The Silence of the Lambs; maybe try La La Land, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, or Steel Magnolias. If you don’t have a Smart TV a Fire TV Stick is the way to go. It’s super easy to get Netflix, Hulu, and Prime video to name a few…and cheaper! Ask yourself what you want to get out of a show before you start channel flipping. And yes, it’s true, what you put in your mind affects how you think, and how you think affects how you act.

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hands wood working

5. Create. Creativity gets your mind off the stress and into a different state of being. Entrepreneur.com has a great article on the benefits of putting our creativity to use. There are scientific studies on how it can reduce stress. Psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, says that when you “lose yourself” in the composition of a song (creating)…, you are essentially entering a healthy flow state. No wonder I feel so great after I create something. Experiment in the kitchen, rearrange your furniture, color, create a playlist…we all have creative abilities. I really love this adult coloring book: Psalms in Color.

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I challenge you to tap into at least two of the above suggestions this week to shut the mind off. Ask yourself what do I need to let go to give myself the time I need? Want more about ‘busy’, check-out this post.

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By CT Copyright © 2019 More Than Existence, All Rights Reserved.

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Finding Grace in the Cards We’re Dealt

Finding Grace in the Cards We’re Dealt

Challenges build character, right? I try to remind myself of that every time a ‘crisis’ rises. But why are we so hard on ourselves when trials surface? Part of the reason is perfectionism. Impatience comes to play. Then anger seeps into the equation. With all these feelings spinning, we lose sight of how to get through it. God put us on this planet to teach us, to love us, and to get us ready for eternity. One of the ways He demonstrates His confidence in us is through grace.

The Cards

A few years ago I was talking with my husband about my physical ailments. You see as a kid, my deep desire was to achieve optimal health. I exercised, I ate well, and I wanted to run a marathon. Then disease kicked in. As a kid I got sick numerous times a year, as a young adult I fracture my hip which has left me ‘run-less’, and later in life, my immune system attacked my digestive health; among other unforeseen troubles, my dream was turning into dust or was it? As I was going through my list of hurts, my husband said something I’ve heard many times but for some reason, it struck a chord in me that day. He said, “You gotta play the cards you’re dealt.” It was a way of reminding me that I’m not in control, yet to trust the One who is; and that I have a choice to fold my cards or to keep on playing them.

Right now in this post, I’m probably supposed to tell you to not “fold your hand”; but it’s in the folding of our hands where we learn how to play. When we ask God for help in our hardships, He helps us find the right path to run down…if we’re willing to step in that direction. So yes, fold when you have to, not to get out of the game, but to study the game and learn a better strategy.

Grace wants to play

There are times when we need to be our own advocate when it comes to our health. I made it my mission to get healthy. With this quest, I tried a lot of things and failed. I’m not where I want to be right now, but I’m not giving up. This is where grace gets dealt into the game. When we’re in a swirl of emotions, it’s critical to get some space to find grace. And it’s there in which all becomes clearer and we get wiser with our decisions.

What ‘grace’ am I talking about? The grace of civility towards ourselves; when we’re going through a rough season, remember to love-on yourself, not to punish or blame you. Be good to yourself, respect your well-being, and understand where you are and where you want to go; because it’s in those moments of grace, where the untangling begins, and where we see what cards to play next.

The mindset

camper with dog

One late August I rediscovered how to wrap myself with a little grace. To transition from a busy summer to starting the school year, my family and I went camping. We hooked up the RV (don’t judge me, we got our tent badge years ago) and settled in a wooded campsite. Faint smells of last night’s campfires drifted under my nose, the quaking leaves and distance boat motors rested on my shoulders. And the canopy of trees comforted my busy head. That weekend I made it a point to go for a walk at least twice a day, not for exercise, but for rest.

As I walked through the sun beamed shadows my mind went back to my roots. As a child I played in the woods for hours on end. My imagination soared between the branches. And my energy and creativity glowed with every step I took. It was there where I felt like I could accomplish anything, where I felt strong and confident, where I felt healthy. And here I was once again in the mindset I needed to continue to take on.

The power of your refuge

My childhood goal for optimum health gave me a run for my money. My body has failed me over and over; funny how that works. If God wants me to have good health, He’s not going to give it to me on a silver platter; He knows I’m smart. He knows that if I want it bad enough, I’m going to use the gifts He gave me to figure it out. When I face a new challenge with my health, I head to the woods and fold my hands. I can’t stress enough of how many times I’ve heard Him speak and direct my path of who I need to talk to next, or what to try, or with even getting a last-minute appointment. It’s been in my special sanctuary where I get instruction on what cards to play next.

God puts our special place of refuge in each of our hearts; mine is walking down a lined path of trees. Yours may be the beach, the mountains, the lake, the prairie, the park, the farm, or the river. Think of where you feel your best in nature, then go there for a dose of grace. You just may find your card strategy in reaching your goals and get a rekindle under feet.

By CT Copyright © 2019 More Than Existence All Rights Reserved.

“Whoa Back”: Slowdown Showdown. 4 Significant Questions to Ask.

“Whoa Back”: Slowdown Showdown. 4 Significant Questions to Ask.

Slowdown Showdown is an event we racehorses ignore. However, to have endurance and finish strong, a ‘whoa back’ is in dire order. Today I have four questions to help you figure out how to slow down before its made for you without your consent.

“She’ll be coming around the mountain when she comes.”

mountain altitude

While writing this post a lyric from the old childhood song, She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain” got stuck in my head. ‘Whoa back’, she’ll be driving six white horses when she comes ‘whoa back’. Busyness can take many forms: a badge of accomplishment, a strained ball-n-chain, or simply a lifestyle without margin. When we get in busy-mode we have blinders in our peripheral vision, our backs are heavily weighed, and we kick ourselves to go faster. The term ‘whoa back’ isn’t in our vocabulary, so slowing down would be a crime.

However, at some point, we will get bucked off and hit the ground. After we dust ourselves off we most likely will ask what the heck was that? Or where did that come from? Staying on the horse is about knowing when to say “not right now”. It’s about knowing where we need to slow down. And it’s about knowing how to do it.

1. What caused that?

I recently got bucked off of not knowing what caused my unstoppable manner. My schedule had no margin. If I wasn’t working on DMTE, I was working my second job, and if I wasn’t doing that, I was busy with some other project, and then finally…I would fill in the cracks with my family. My priorities were out-of-whack. The harmony of the many roles I played each day was out of tune. And the problem was that I knew I had too much in my schedule. Does anyone hear me? I knew it but ignored it.

Was I addicted to busy? Running from something? Trying to impress someone? I’m not 100% sure, but I know when I fall prey to comparison my schedule builds. If she can do it, I can do it. The word “no” doesn’t exist. The word “stop” is blasphemy.

How this happens.

busy horses running wild

During these comparison seasons chatting with colleagues and hearing stories of massively insane schedules makes me wonder how they get it all done. Am I doing something wrong? Am I not doing enough? Are they really getting it done? This thinking catalyzes my expectations of myself, which can be good and bad, but differentiating between the two is a challenge.

Why am I so tired?

This is mentality exhausting and frankly, it’s stupid thinking. No one is perfect. Who has it all figured out? No one is ever skipping down the Yellow Brick Road with all her ducks in a row. Everyone has different strengths. Yet, the problem with comparisons, whether it be on social media or in grocery store conversations, is that we don’t know the whole story. We don’t always see the condition of others’ hearts and how it weighs on their wellness. We just see the ‘yes man’ and subconsciously start to compete.

It’s a vicious cycle and a damaging one. We agree to things we don’t want to do, we fill our schedules to please others, and we constantly aim for perfection. But what happens to us in the process? What happens to our well-being? What happens when we’re running here and there and everywhere with no time to spare? Mistakes. Mistakes happen.

2. When do we know when we need to slow down?

My red flags came from a variety of sources. One was my family voicing their opinion. Other flags blocked me from enjoying the outdoors like I used to. Another came from messages I heard in church or songs in my playlist. And the biggest one came from my body, the one vessel that makes it all happen. If there is one thing that will slow us down, it’s our bodies. My mistake was not listening to these messages. I kicked my butt a little too hard to try to go faster…literally, I got horrible piriformis syndrome which forced me to slow down, way down. Before the injury, I knew I was exhausted mentally, spiritually, and physically, but I pressed on. And it got me nowhere.   

woman laying on log slow down time

The Bible talks a lot about slowing down, to take a Sabbath (Exodus 20:9-10), to just be (Psalm 46:10), and to come to Him who are weary and need rest (Matthew 11:28). These are just a few references in the Bible. But the Lord has a reason for teaching us how to slow down. He put it in the Bible so it must important, right? I believe one of those reasons is to give our bodies and minds rest so we don’t make big mistakes.

3. Where do we need to slow down?

This question is simply answered by paying attention. Where are you most stressed? What is occupying the majority of your time? How is your schedule affecting others? Are they agitated? Needy? Lonely? Perfecting balance in every area of your life is not a destination. It’s a moment. We can’t be everywhere at once, hence this blog post. There will be days when the schedule weighs heavier in one area than another, but the key is to recognize it. Quieting the mind and sitting in silence helps see where there is congestion. Slowing down a racehorse isn’t easy, so start with giving yourself five minutes of silence. This awareness helps you try harder the next day to find that harmony. Consciously be aware of how you’re using your time, you’ll see where it needs to slow down.

4. How do we slow down before it’s forced upon us?

This is a great question. I’m still practicing on figuring it out. One thing is for sure, we need to set boundaries. Setting boundaries gives us permission to say ‘not right now’ or ‘no, but thank you for thinking of me’. Boundaries give us our space to recuperate so when we do say ‘yes’ we can be our best. You can say ‘no’ to others, but it’s imperative to also say ‘no’ to yourself and the expectations you’ve created.

Racing with other horses is a game; it’s not a way to live. When you’re coming around the mountain, see if you need to ‘whoa back’ before moving any further.  

By CT Copyright © 2019 More Than Existence, All Rights Reserved. 

5 Habits to Breakfree from Pressure

5 Habits to Breakfree from Pressure

Pressure, stress, and worry got the best of me; until I unexpectedly stumbled into a promising antidote. A couple of years ago I accidentally deleted my entire website. Yeah, ‘File Not Found’ stared at me in the eyes. My stress level went from a three to a hundred in a matter of milliseconds, to say the least. As a result, about 5 seconds later Worry settled in, and in a matter of 60 seconds, Pressure found it’s the trigger point.

Fix it, please

Furthermore, because I did my own website work, I couldn’t just call a web person and say, “Fix it please”. All this hard work…GONE. The “undo” button or back arrow was pointless in this case. I tried it. Do you ever have times like these? When you ask yourself, “Why did I just do that? Did that really happen?” Wishing there was an “undo” button?

It’s funny when these stressful mistakes occur and we believe for a split second, maybe it will go away and fix itself, or everything will go back to normal if I just close my eyes. Tell me I’m not the only one who thinks this.

woman stressed out at computer

Above all, what really put the icing on the cake was that this website disaster occurred right before bed. Like sleep was going to happen! My brain was fried. Knuckles locked. Fingertips deaden. The courage to push the keys on my keyboard was in deep jeopardy. As a result, when I did find the strength to push buttons, I immediately checked my backup. Well, guess what, it wasn’t working! My ears got hot and gut started to cramp. I needed help.

Just gotta vent

My husband was sleeping already…not that he knows anything about websites…but I needed someone by my side, to listen to my predicament. Through the years I’ve found healing when I talk to someone about an issue. When we “vent” it’s like we release the problem from our minds and put it out in the world for the world to figure out. Maybe the listener can relate to how to deal with the subject. I see “venting” as a pressure cooker. When there is too much pressure, we need to open the cap to let some steam out. Anyway…I needed to vent.

Believe me, many lessons learned here. But my biggest lesson I learned was the gift pressure gave me. Uh? With no one available, I folded my hands and closed my eyes tight, “God, I’m freaking out. I made a mistake and I’m not sure how to fix it. Please help me dig deep and figure this out.” And then I prayed again.

The size of my problem.

All I wanted to do was escape, to get out of the room, away from the keyboard. In the black of the night, I slide on my slippers, grabbed a towel and walked outside. The dark sky peppered with a twinkle. It was a welcoming reminder of how small my problem was and how big the world stands. “Was anyone else in their backyard stressing-out like me?

As I folded my towel into a neat square, I anticipated sitting on it to just be. The shadowy trees surrounded me, but not in an intimidating way. No bugs, no noises, just stillness. I watched my breath let go. The quietness blanketed my shoulders. The earthy air filled my nose. And I felt a peace embrace my soul. There at the moment was the gift.

man standing looking at night sky

Selective Perspective

The value of this stressful night revealed to me perspective. If I didn’t get stressed out, then I wouldn’t have prayed, I wouldn’t have felt the nudge to go outside, I wouldn’t have encounter nature in its nightly glory, and I wouldn’t have experienced the healing powers of my backyard.

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, spending even just five minutes around trees or in green spaces, like your backyard, helps lower blood pressure, reduces stress, improves mood, instills focus, accelerates healing, increases energy, and improves sleep.* And you wonder why I craved to get outside…

The article goes on to say, “Numerous studies show that… simply sitting looking at the trees reduces stress-related hormones.”

Focus on the calm

Consequently, I know this is hard, but when you encounter pressure or a stressful situation, I challenge you to focus on calming down immediately. In doing so; you will gain a better perspective of the issue and will respond in a wiser manner. After a good 15 minutes, I wasn’t worried anymore. Whether I had to start from scratch or come up with a different solution, it was going to be alright. I stood up, shook my towel out, and walked back inside. My feet slid out of my slippers and I went to bed.

My Take-Away: 5 Habits to Breakfree from Stress

  1. There are gems hidden in stress if you look for them outside the situation.
  2. Back-up everything that is important to you.
  3. Pray without ceasing.
  4. Go outside and take a breather.
  5. Rest to be your best.

The next morning, after a good night’s sleep, I got up extremely early to mend my mishap. With a well-rested body and mind, I was diligent to figure this out. Hence, venturing into the back-end of my website was scary but I succeeded and found an older back-up. Thank the Lord! Later that day I took a long walk amongst the trees while being grateful for my state of being.

By CT Copyright © 2019 More Than Existence, All Rights Reserved

Top 13 reasons why you need a hobby NOW!

Top 13 reasons why you need a hobby NOW!

A hobby is more than just a hobby. Have you ever gotten overwhelmed, in a funk, or frustrated about the pace of life? Who hasn’t? It’s going to happen and repercussions may bellow; however, a hobby can help quiet the roar and make you feel human again. But wait! I don’t have time for a hobby! I used to think that way, but after a little experimenting, I found my hobby to be a superhero.

What exactly is a hobby?

It’s an activity that someone does for pleasure when they are not working. The hard part is knowing when to stop working! With a hobby, time is not ticking in your ear. You’re not looking at the clock to see when your shift is over. It’s your gift to self, so you can be yourself. When you’re under heavy stress our bodies produce more cortisol which can be harmful to your health. But when we’re engaged in, let’s say, a hobby, you’re producing the ‘feel-good’ hormones…more on this

A hobby is a type of recreation that rejuvenates your spirit. It’s an activity that challenges you in a way in which you want to be challenged. You see, your hobby is YOUR hobby. No one can tell you how to do it unless you welcome the suggestions.

paints

Top 13 reasons to get a hobby:

1. Helps enhance meaning in your life.

2. Gets the creative juices flowing.

3. Increases personal satisfaction.

4. Builds self-confidence and self-esteem.

5. Relieves stress.

6. Gives you something to talk about other than work.

7. Helps you meet new people.

8. Contributes to society or the community.

9. Boosts brain power and cognitive function.

10. It has the potential to create extra income.

11. Gateway to happiness.

12. This is a big one: helps prevent boredom when boredom can be harmful to you. Let me expand on this one: overeating, depression, drug use, looking at things you shouldn’t, or alcohol use usually come into play when we’re bored. Boredom and its adverse effects are going to get the best of us at times, but when we have a hobby we have an easy way out and can focus on that.

13. The icing on the cake about a hobby is that it actually helps you do a better job at work. CNBC posted an article about how a hobby can improve your work performance. For one, it helps prevent burn-out. As said earlier, it helps inspire creativity and problem solve. And here’s that word again, stress. A hobby helps reduce stress. 

Back to hormones.

silhouette standing in start

Hormones are a love/hate relationship. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. As said earlier, the most damaging hormone is cortisol which is produced in our bodies when we’re under stress. The good news is that happy hormones do exist, but to get them we must do a few things. There are four major blissful boostersendorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. Each hormone serves a different purpose, in a nutshell, this is what they do:

  • Endorphins are essentially the body’s pain killers. Vigorous exercise or even eating spicy food releases endorphins.
  • Serotonin is the mood mediator. Get outside. Being in the sun helps our bodies produce vitamin D, which helps produce serotonin. Or even low-intensity exercise helps.
  • Dopamine is a gratifying hormone, in terms of goal achievement. It’s all about goals and achieving them to bring on the dopamine. We set an achievable goal and go after it, when we reach it, dopamine is experienced.
  • Oxytocin. This is the love hormone. I think my husband has an abundance of this one! LOL. Physical contact, hugs, massage, and sex release this hormone.

When it comes to your hobby, aim to achieve one of these hormones. Now if you want to experience all the bliss boosters at once, you might want to look into “R5HHPJ” as your hobby: Run 5 miles while holding hands with your honey, drinking hot pepper juice from your water bottle…now that’s a hobby! Sorry had to throw it in there.LOL!

What are some great hobby ideas?

This is a loaded question because you can make a hobby of your own; the trick to finding one you love is to try some on. Here are some ideas of hobbies:

knitting

Knitting, exercising, reading, couponing, writing, music, woodworking, organizing, auto work, boating, horseback riding, hobby farming, candle making, photography, dance, winemaking, cooking, traveling, wilderness survival, Bible memory, drawing, painting, decorating, gardening, hunting, fishing, camping, running, kayaking, cycling, walking, surfing, sewing, essentially any sport, home brewing, collections, puzzles, and pretty much anything other than work.

FYI – watching endless episodes on Netflix or being glued to social media is not considered a hobby, nor is it something that can harm you. Remember a hobby is something that gives YOU personal enjoyment yet still a little challenge to enhance your well-being. This could very well be the peacekeeper you’ve been looking for to help balance life. What’s stopping you?

By CT Copyright © 2019 More Than Existence All Rights Reserved

3 Tricks to Transform a Lion into a Lamb.

3 Tricks to Transform a Lion into a Lamb.

This past January started with an unexpected visit from a lion who set-up camp. This wasn’t one of those sleepy lions, this cat was roaring. A New Year, a fresh start, and WHAM, I’m faced with my first of many challenging days. I get it, these things happen, but they kept happening. So how can we transform a lion into a lamb? I have a few tricks that work!

What’s up with Diet Coke?

Let me give you a taste of how January went along. Below-freezing temperatures hit our area, we had no school for eight days in one month! On one of those days my son and I were chatting on the couch when suddenly we heard an explosion from the garage, “What was that?”. My mind quickly questioned ‘was someone breaking in, where was the gas can, did a tire pop?’ As we peered, ever so slowly, into the garage we were welcomed with a light brownish slush on our screen door. The garage smelled a little sweet. Hmm. As I turned the light on my eyes widened at the car, garage ceiling, recycle bins, and even our boots. This brownish familiar smell stuff has exploded everywhere. Yep, I guess that’s what happens to a 2-liter of Diet Coke when it freezes.

It was in that moment I decided to practice my reaction to this roar, “All you can do is clean-up the mess. Just do it and move on. Getting mad is not going to fix it.” I shut the door and stood there for a second. “At least it’s frozen”, I said to my son. I grabbed my stocking hat, tightened my scarf, and went to work.

Later that afternoon I was craving a Diet Coke slushie. After I went through the car-wash I went to the store and got one. The funny thing was as I backed out of my parking spot, someone else backed up too…we met in the middle…crunch; hmm. My soul took a deep breath in and out, and my inner voice said, “Okay Christy. No one was hurt. There is no car damage. These things happen. Learn from this, and then move on.” This is just one example of one day I had this past month.

Salt & Pepper

Even though January was a bit rough, in hindsight, I’m actually glad it all happened. It’s usually through the bad stuff where we grow the most, no? The salty season reminded me that I have values and morals. I have goals. And I have a family who loves me after a bad day…month…LOL. But that’s not all this lion-of-a-month taught me. He taught me how to transform him into a lamb. Every week was peppered with dire events: work difficulties, health issues, relationship misunderstandings, car problems, communication predicaments, extreme weather conditions, and big decisions to name the least. I regularly thought about the superstition that bad things happen in threes, but there were more than three! “What’s going on?” It kind-of felt like I was in a boxing ring dodging punches; then I’d get an uppercut to the gut and a hook to the nose. My opponent would then roar like a lion and stand over my body. Okay, maybe not that intense, but I needed to fight back!

1 – Name it

name tag

The first trick to fighting the lion is to notice it. Identify it. Give the lion a name: Doubt, Insecurity, Frustration, Unfairness, Confusion, or whatever it is. No one likes to call these out, but it helps to pinpoint the issue. I paid attention to what was going on around me, not to sulk in my despair, but to put a stop to it! What exactly is happening in my surroundings? Why was I letting it affect me so much? Can I name it? On the obvious note, it had been cloudy for weeks, sickness everywhere, bills coming in, and goals were strapped for time. On the not-so-obvious note, my hormones were haywire, my values were compromised, and people-pleasing got the best of me. But when I named it, I could then fight back with the right punches.

2 – Focus

we see what we want

The second trick is the pace. The frequency of these downers was happening one right after the other. My thinking immediately shifted from rolling it off my back to what’s coming next? This can be looked at as a good thing and a bad. The good helps with being alert, ready to act and prepared for the not-so-fun. The bad taints perspective. It’s like we’re looking for the grim so we see the grim. Here’s the trick with the good and the bad: what you focus on is what you’ll see the most of, pace yourself.

3 – Skill

Train the lion. It’s how we handled the situations. This is a skill and a skill I need to continuously work on. My awareness of how I managed these troubles became clear to me. Some I did well with, others…um…I could have done better. I don’t like to admit I blew some things out of proportion, but gosh, it happens to all of us. So what do we do in this situation?

Here are 7 techniques:

  1. Understand the triggers. Have a plan of how you’d like to react. Play it over in your head and practice.
  2. Use this opportunity to better yourself, not to hurt others, but to strengthen your character.
  3. Flip the switch and focus on the good things. Seriously write down or discuss at the dinner table what good things happen that day.
    boxing gloves
  4. Turn to God. He might be trying to get your attention or even protecting you from something worse. Yes, spiritual warfare happens. Fight off the Enemy with God’s armor, Ephesians 6:13-17. It also helps to call the enemy out on it, “STOP! Away from me!” Jesus did, why wouldn’t it work for us? Ask Jesus to help you.
  5. If you don’t have someone you can trust to vent to, write in a journal. Get it out.
  6. Give your mind a break and your body a good sweat. Exercise helps your brain be more creative and it kicks in your problem-solving skills.
  7. Distract your thoughts. Again, get your mind on something else that keeps you busy for a while. It gives you time to regroup.

Practicing these training techniques over and over again will help us see lions as lambs. Peace and comfort in moving forward will be prevalent. Give’r a try.

Seriously?

Ironically, during the latter half of the month, my husband heard on the radio that the third Monday in January is called “Blue Monday”. Apparently, a university professor used a formula to calculate the most depressing day of the year. WHAT?! The date was calculated by these factors: poor weather, debt level, post-Christmas blaa, time since failing our new year’s resolutions, and low motivation levels. You can see the formula here. After my husband told me that news I felt SO MUCH BETTER! Light bulb moment here: I wasn’t alone. And maybe that’s all we need to know when going through a lion season…we’re not alone.

For inquiring minds, the happiest day of the year falls sometime in the last part of June. Did you enjoy the post? I would greatly appreciate a ‘share’ or ‘like’ on Facebook. Thank you! And don’t forget to subscribe and check out the store! 

By CT Copyright © 2019 More Than Existence, All Rights Reserved

The ONLY Place to Mend Your Heart.

The ONLY Place to Mend Your Heart.

rose garden

My heart was a month, so I went to my garden. November is not the perfect month to be blogging about a garden…at least where I live. But it is the perfect month to blog about what my garden DID for me. Not too long ago I found myself walking to my garden, but I didn’t go there to do my normal tending of it. I went there to sit in the dirt.

I had a troubled heart and felt like dirt, so why not sit in it too? If you don’t have a garden, don’t think this post isn’t for you. Each and every one of us has and needs a ‘garden’, maybe for the sole purpose of why I needed it on this particular day. Let me explain:

My heart was disturbed

I was completely dumbfounded by how I got myself in this state. Remember, as a kid, when you got in trouble from your parents…the flush of prickly heat bursting from your heart like a firework going off? Yeah. It’s that feeling when you know you really messed up.

Believe me, this wasn’t an easy post to write; in fact, I wasn’t going to write it. But it dawned on me that when my human-self learns something hard and valuable, I should probably tell someone…maybe it will help them in some way.

So here it goes. I unintentionally hurt a dear friend of mine…I messed up. Part of me wanted to crawl into a cave, but the other half wanted to go to a place that knew me. So I went to my garden. As I looked over the rows of flowers and herbs I wrestled with scenarios. I tried to foresee the future. I played back my actions. Why did this happen? How did this happen? This came out of nowhere! My identity jolted.

In my garden that day, my gut was a trembling mess. My heart was anxious. I paced the walking paths and hid my face from my neighbors. As I dug for a tissue I knelt down and stared at the dirt. “Dear God, forgive me. Help me see the root of this action.” I blew my nose, took a deep breath, and got my hands busy. As I plucked little weeds and churned up the soil, layers of thoughts peeled off and exposed the truth. Wow, I didn’t see that coming. How juvenile. We all have our adolescent times, this was one of mine.

The answer

red rose garden

His presence in the garden that day was strong; there is no doubt. I felt His comfort yet discipline. “What must I do to mend this mishap?” I asked Him. As I walked to the other side of the garden, face a dripping mess, Jesus’ words “the truth will set you free” squeeze my heart. But I don’t want to tell the truth, I’m embarrassed, I said.  “If its freedom you seek, the truth will set you free”. After I wrestled with it for about 20 minutes, I dusted myself off and wound-up the courage to do just that…tell the truth. What do I have to lose that I already have lost? As soon as I expressed the truth-of-the-matter to my dear friend; my stomach stopped tossing, my mind stopped spinning, and I felt the imprisoned shackles unlock. I exhaled and knew I made the right choice. Thank you.

Why you need a ‘garden’

A ‘garden’ is a place where we get our hands busy. It’s a place where we can be alone. It is a moment in time where our soul is unguarded, where we can let it free and know it’s safe. A place where we cradled the unique ability our Creator gave us. So what’s your ‘garden’? What place knows you? A woodshop, craft table, mixing bowl, knitting basket, sketch pad, garage, what is it?

me in my garden

When we’re feeling troubled where do you want to go?

Our ‘garden’ opens her arms. She knows that when we get on our knees, we need her touch. She knows we need to get busy, so little projects present themselves. It’s quiet. We’re focused. As we work, the surface looks brighter. It feels good. But as we move throughout the ‘garden’ and dig a little deeper we find a few deep-rooted invasives. These weeds have been there awhile. Seeds from their fruit are ready to plant themselves. Is that what we want?

The thistles on the stalk pierce our touch. We may step back for a bit, but find that if we gently grab the very thing that hurt us, we’ll then have the power to wrench and wrestle it free.

Our garden understands the pain that comes with breaking free. So she prays. And because our soul is defenseless to her love, we feel the hope she prayed for. It’s in our garden where tears nourish her beauty. Where truth is told. And where strength and might persist. It’s a place to rejoice when we pull the weeds out and plant new life in its space.

Our next step

Our ‘gardens’ do more than entertain and strengthen our talents. They listen, they heal, they comfort. I’ve got some questions for you: What is keeping you captive? When are you going to do something about it? Who do you need to talk to?

I encourage you to visit your special place this week. When you’re there, whisper loud enough for you to hear, and talk about what imprisons your heart. All you’re doing that day is getting the frustrations out. Then revisit your place again later in the week. Get your hands busy. And ask God for help. You may not hear anything right away, but as you live your life over the next couple of weeks be aware of your surroundings, open your senses. He’ll talk to you and give you the answer.

By CT Copyright © 2018 More Than Existence, All Rights Reserved.

5 Stress Fighters that Most People Forget About.

5 Stress Fighters that Most People Forget About.

spinning sky with mountain stress

Stress got you? Two years ago I accidentally deleted my entire website. The uninvited hot, prickly stress-wave crashed on my face when I saw ‘File Not Found’. It’s in these stressful moments when we start talking out loud to ourselves, “WHAT THE? NO!!” Stress can make us do funny things with our actions, words, and even our bodies. But I’ve found some stress fighters that are packed with a punch. They’re so simple ANYONE can do it TODAY.

Building my own website and blog was my choice. I wanted the challenge. Doing something like this requires time, learning, and creativity. It had been a journey of gratifying moments and ‘oh crap’ sessions. That night was one of those sessions…OOPS. One accidental click, GONE!

Stress is like a leech that won’t detach.

It saps the life out of us. So how do we manage this life-sucking Jabba the Hutt from our bodies? First of all, I hate leeches. Years ago I went on a fishing trip in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. It was an amazing trip, but guess what we used as bait? Leeches! I screamed every time I TRIED to bait my hook…the leech latched-on to my finger! Do you think vigorous shaking of my hand and screaming got the leech off? Apparently leeches don’t have ears. My husband had to pull it off for me.

What if we could see stress attached to our bodies? We’d probably do a better job at managing it. Stress is the cause of many ailments. It’s because cortisol, the stress hormone, has a hay-day in our bodies. Chronic high levels of cortisol contribute to IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), heart disease, anxiety, high blood pressure, hormonal imbalances, autoimmune disorders, sleep disturbances, the list goes on.

The way to detach stress is to naturally fight back with things that decrease those levels, right? Easier said than done. So get this…some people will use things to manage their stress that actually causes MORE stress! I’m talking about eating a pint of ice-cream, sugar-filled gluten-rich desserts, a bag of salty snacks, alcohol, smokes, or pills. Sure, in the short run those things might help; but in the long term the leech is feasting off those inflammatory substances.  All those foods inflame your innards. Without awareness or portion control, that inflammation can lead to physical issues = STRESS! It’s a vicious cycle. Believe me, I know!

I wanted to fix my website immediately.  But all I could do in that moment was intertwine my fingers and pray. I needed someone to pull the leech off. So why not ask God. As calmly as I could I prayed, “Dear Gracious God…wait a second, OH GOD. AH! I DELETED MY WEBSITE!! HELP ME FIGURE THIS OUT. PLEASE! AMEN.”

My Awakening

beauty and the beast hand

It felt as if my fingertips went numb. Whoa, what is happening to me?  God is that you? An angelic song filled my house as divine power struck my body. Light beams shot out of my fingertips. I started levitating. Wait. Wait. See how stress can make you think of funny things. As much as I wanted the Beauty and the Beast resurrection, I knew it wasn’t in the plan.  In fact, God did answer my prayer. But in a way I didn’t expect.  He nudged me to move. Christy, manage the stress, before managing the problem.  I closed my eyes. Inhaled a deep breath and exhaled slowly. I was afraid to touch the keyboard, so I took that as a sign to step away. My desire to go outside to sit next to my favorite tree was unstoppable. Strange? Eh. Kind of. But with good reason…

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, spending even just five minutes around trees or in green spaces, helps lower blood pressure, reduces stress, improves mood, instills focus, accelerates healing, increases energy, and improves sleep. And you wonder why I craved to get outside…

The article goes on to say, “Numerous studies show that… simply sitting looking at the trees reduces…stress-related hormones… Looking at pictures of trees has a similar, but less dramatic, effect.”

I trusted that instinct and sat next to my blue spruce. Its soft yet firm pine needles combed my sweaty palms. The sky was black and peppered with stars. My body relaxed. Heart quieted. I was reminded of how big our world was and how I was making this little mistake bigger than the world! Within a matter of minutes, a calm came over me. “Hi God, it’s me again… thanks for getting me outside. I needed that.”Have you figured out that one thing that everyone can do to fights stress today?

Here are 5 stress fighters most people forget about:

  1. Admit it. Say, “I’m stressed out. ___ is causing my stress.”
  2. Say a prayer… Your Creator may need to remind you of something.
  3. Find your happy OUTDOOR place and go there… the beach, woods, prairie, park, yard…Go barefoot a.k.a “Earthing” and SMILE.
  4. Create an environment at work that promotes peace. Pictures of the beach, mountains, trees, sunrise, a garden…whatever nature scene speaks to you. Put a picture or two in your office, cubical, or wallet. Have it handy.
  5. Start incorporating an outdoor recess at work or home, whether it’s exercising, reading the paper, walking the dog, playing with the kids, a lunch break, just get outside. J

This may sound too simple, but you’ll find it’ll make a BIG impact. The next morning I mended my website mishap. It so happened, I found a back-up on the server. But I wouldn’t have been able to figure that out without a clear head, a good night’s sleep, and a little time outside with my trees. Do your existence a favor, get outside. What is one thing you can do this month to make that happen?

Here is another post about stress you might enjoy: 4 Simple Strategies for You & Your Kids

By CT Copyright © 2018 More Than Existence All Rights Reserved.

4 Rock-solid Reasons to Enjoy the Silence

4 Rock-solid Reasons to Enjoy the Silence

Silent Night, Holy Night, All is calm, all is bright.

Silent Night, the Christmas song, was composed in 1818. This now-traditional Holiday tune debuted all because of an organ…that broke. Without the help of an ill organ who knows if this song would have surfaced; oddly, silence accelerated its success.

How does silence help your success?

Recently I saw a commercial, not sure what it was selling, but it did leave me wondering what ‘peace’ really was. In the commercial, we see a couple who leaves the big city to go camping in the woods. Due to their over joyous accomplishment of setting up camp, they were obviously seeking serenity. However, when night fell and all was calm, they were restless and frustrated. Then one of them downloaded a ‘noise app’ on their phone. It played cars honking, emergency sirens blaring, and dogs barking…all was ‘calm’ and they instantly fell asleep. What is ‘your silence’? City sounds? Nature? Ocean waves? White noise?

Our ‘silent night’ is not only where our souls settle down, but it’s where peace waits and where ideas birth. Outside of bedtime, do you intentionally turn off the NOISE?

silent night snow covered mountain town with lights

4 Solid Reasons

  • Hearing from God. The most likely time God is going to talk to us is when we’re relaxed…quiet…still…and alone. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, did this all the time! Why wouldn’t we? But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:16 If you haven’t gotten a daily devotional yet for this year, it’s never too late. One of my favorites is Jesus Calling.

  • Creativity. Inc. Magazine says…awesome creative work can be achieved by shutting out the outside world, whilst you insanely focus on your craft. You say you’re not creative? That’s not true! My go-to to taking my mind off things is to put my colored pencils to work. Here is a fun and soothing adult coloring book: The Psalms in Color.

  • Problem-solving. Turning off the noise slows our thoughts. We can then think through our issue without distraction. “Sleep on it” makes a lot of sense now. I absolutely LOVE my white noise machine. Our family has 4 of these. Seriously, this is amazing and has improved all of our sleep.

  • Restoration in health. Huffington Post reports, Researchers found that two hours of silence daily led to the development of new cells in the hippocampus, a key brain region associated with learning, memory, and emotion. If you can’t get complete silence, the white noise machine I mentioned above is a great alternative. It helps drown out the distracting with little noises. Again, I LOVE this thing! Click on the picture for more details.

The Power in Silent Night

In the dancing noises of our world many of us, unfortunately, will miss these life-enhancing riches. We’ll wander in the racket and wonder why our prayer hasn’t been answered, why this particular problem still lingers, why we feel like we just exist, and why our bodies hurt all the time.

Josef Mohr, author of Silent Night, pondered on what to do about his broken organ. Christmas Eve was the next day, people are expecting music! So he hiked up a hill.

It was there where he looked down at the snow-covered village where he could be in ‘his silence’. It was there where he gained the courage to create his poem into a legendary song.

The next day, Christmas Eve, he approached his organist, Franz Xaver Gruber, and within 3 hours Franz composed the melody via guitar. Silent Night has been sung ever since. Are you making an effort to be in silence every day, ‘hiking up a hill’ to get a glimpse of the big picture?

“The trees, the flowers, the plants grow in silence; the stars, the sun, the moon move in silence. Silence gives us a new perspective.”

Mother Teresa

“Silence” grows, moves, and it gives. How much is ‘your silence’ worth? Recharge by spending some time in silence. You might be surprised at what you hear.

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By CT Copyright © 2017 More Than Existence All Rights Reserved.

3 Surprising Ways Depression Makes You Stronger

3 Surprising Ways Depression Makes You Stronger

Depression is a downer. It is not a fun thing to talk about; but we all, at one point in our lives, will feel it’s slippery slope. Imagine climbing out of your crevasse of depression; slipping back but catching yourself every so often. It’s an exhausting cycle and at times we just can’t see the top. But how do we climb out once and for all?

For five years+ I suffered from depression due to events in my life. To make matters worse I became frustrated during those years because depression was messing with my identity. I felt like I just existed, in fact, I think I was just existing.

Depression is a common illness that negatively affects how we feel, the way we think and how we act. It can last a couple of days, a few months, a handful of years, or a lifetime. It is a perplexing state of not knowing how to shut it off.

People don’t like to talk about depression. But people don’t talk about it enough. These days depression is swallowing up our children, yes children who are already on depression meds. It’s heartbreaking on many fronts.

How does depression happen?

There are a number of factors…too many to list, but usually, it’s when one event piles up after another. Recently we’ve heard social media being a player (or layer) in depression. Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, says, “It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental health crisis in decades…it’s largely because of Smartphones.” Social media is a false measure of our identities.

This isn’t just for iGen, it’s happening to other generations. Why? We want to be accepted yet be ourselves and for people to ‘like’ us no matter what. When this happens our values collide. Could this desire alone be the root of all depression?

But here’s something I bet you didn’t know: Depression can make you stronger.

This post isn’t about how to get through depression or manage Smartphone apps; it’s about what to do with depression when you’re climbing out of it.

“Sometimes when you’re in a dark place you think you’ve been buried,   but you’ve actually been planted.” – Christine Caine

Our dark days can bring strength or weakness; it’s how we see it. Do you know how I said I just existed? I’m going to feel that way. But as I look back, I noticed this period of life wasn’t to hurt me, it was to strengthen me.

Experience brings understanding. Hurt develops empathy. Renewal cultivates compassion.

When we’ve ‘been there’, we start to see the eyes of people differently. Let me reiterate, depression can make us stronger or weaker by how we use that experience in our life.

Using our troubles to help rather than hide-in produces strength. Our strength in moving forward, in doing more than existing, is having the courage to help people who are going through the same trials we’ve been through. This heals.

3 ways how depression made me stronger

Romans 12:2

1- I sought God, my Creator, the Truth

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. It is then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, his good, pleasing, and perfect will” -Romans 12:2.

God gave me light. This verse gave and gives me permission to step away from the world, its expectations, and false gods; and to seek the truth, to strengthen myself, and to use my experiences to test God’s will for my life. Reading a short daily devotional can help. I recommend Jesus Calling.

2- I sought someone out

This isn’t easy. People don’t talk about this stuff. So I had to be the one who pursued people who went through what I did and to talk with them about it. Talking with someone who ‘gets-it’ brings comfort. I’m here for you. Sign-up for a Jam Session and let’s chat.

I also sought out a professional who brought clarity on my issue.***

3- I sought my identity

I looked at my baby picture then I looked in the mirror. God didn’t create me to be sad. He created me to have joy.

In John 15:11 Jesus says, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” He’s saying come to me, know me, and I’ll sustain you when adversity hits.

My personal values came into play. And when I defined them and put them to use, I began to see glimmers of sunshine in my days. I have a freebie on personal values here.

I dug into the Word, I helped others, I took better care of my body and managed stress with simple techniques like going for a walk or taking a hot bath with Epson salts. I explored my heart to help me see the big picture.

When Depression Visits

We will all occasionally be visited by Depression. But at least we know how to climb out a little faster and stronger than we did before. The hardest part is reaching for that next hold.

Disclaimer

*** I’d be happy to recommend a certified counselor or therapist who I trust and respect. Contact me.

By CT Copyright © 2017 More Than Existence All Rights Reserved.

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