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Toxic Relationships

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I'm sitting across from one of my favorite clients: she's intelligent, funny, self aware, and has such positive energy. We're having another talk about her girlfriend coming home with hickeys on her neck...that aren't from her. Last week we talked about her girlfriend kicking her out of the car far from home and how far she had to walk before her girlfriend turned around. The week before that, it was the verbal abuse rants and people she's had to cut out of her life to avoid her girlfriend's jealous rages. The week before that....well, you get the point.

And she's still there, loving her, hoping she'll change. And I don't judge her; not only because it's my job not to judge, but even on a personal level: I understand her. I understand how toxic relationships don't always start out that way, and how you can get so hooked on who that person was in the beginning that you begin to believe maybe if you stick it out, maybe if you don't make them mad, maybe things will get better. I mean they're under so much pressure right now, right? Or you know about their childhood and you know they don't MEAN it, they just don't know any better. Or, they've told you it's your fault you make them act this way so many times, you actually start to believe it.

So I get it. I get how unhealthy dynamics can become the norm, and when you're in it sometimes it's so hard to see it for yourself. But you know what else I get? How scary it is that you can lose yourself in someone else, and they can drain your vitality. A toxic relationship will have you thinking these dynamics are normal, and that everyone has to "put up with something", and "love conquers all".

Yes, love is powerful. But love shouldn't hurt you physically or emotionally, love isn't control or ownership, love isn't someone projecting their hurt onto you because they haven't healed themselves yet. That isn't love, that is dysfunctional toxic attachment. And who we attach to, who we spend most of our time with, who we choose to love, changes us. It influences our thought patterns, our mood, our energy field, even our physical day to day habits; so we have to be careful about what kind of changes are happening as a result of relationship dynamics. If you are questioning whether or not your relationship is toxic, chances are there's definitely something to take a closer look at.

 

 

Listen to your gut and set your boundaries

A warning sign that a relationship is heading for or is in toxic waters is if your partner makes you feel responsible for their behavior, and/or doesn't respect your personal boundaries. Yes, we all have things to work on and should consider our partner's emotions. But if their actions are setting off warning bells, that "gut feeling" that something isn't right, listen to that. You can trust yourself.

Also, pay attention to if it's always something. If it isn't one thing you're doing to get an explosive reaction from your partner, it's another. Now you're walking on eggshells, always trying to anticipate what your partner's reaction might be. That hypervigilance of feeling emotionally unsafe around your partner for fear/anxiety about their reaction? That isn't healthy for you on an energetic, emotional, or even physical level. Your nervous system is rigged, and your body is pumping stress hormones constantly, which can even lead to eventual health issues!

 You are absolutely allowed to express how these reactions make you feel and set boundaries around what healthy communication is for you (and follow this boundary yourself too; don't tell your partner not to do something as you freely do this behavior yourself). Example: for you, maybe it isn't okay for your partner to call you a crazy b*tch just because they are angry. Your partner is still responsible for their words when they are angry. And if they continue to talk to you this way, even knowing how it makes you feel? They don't respect your boundaries, your emotions, or you. Toxicity alert.

 

Don't save them

I know you're loving, you're caring, and you know what they've been through. You know the saying "hurt people, hurt people". We all have a story for why we are the way we are, but you still don't deserve to be treated like shit, and your job is not to raise another adult. Not only is it not your job, but it doesn't work! We are all responsible for working on ourselves to become better and healthier; you can't do the work for your partner. Many of us get stuck in the trap of trying to fix others, but not only does that leave you in a relationship where you are doing nothing but giving all of your energy and could end up being drained, let me say it again for the people in the back, it doesn't work. That person has to want the change themselves and do the work for them. You can be a support, but you are not responsible for "fixing" them or changing their unhealthy dynamics.

 

 Love yourself

If you're in an unhealthy/toxic relationship, it's not clearcut or easy to decide how to move forward. Maybe you don't pick up and leave. But take a closer look at it. Consider you, separate from the relationship. Consider what this dynamic is doing to your emotional and spiritual health. Sometimes there is even a belief that "I deserve to be treated this way". In the case of my favorite client, being neglected emotionally was a familiar feeling; her parents had done it throughout her whole childhood. But familiar and deserved are NOT the same thing. No matter your past or how others have treated you, you are deserving and worthy of whole, full, reciprocal, healthy love.

 

if this hits home, I'll say to you what I said to my client (and would say to a younger me): You are not being sensitive, you can trust your instincts. You are allowed to speak up and set boundaries for how you want to be treated. You are also allowed to walk away if a relationship is draining you; that's not you giving up on that person, it's saying that you matter and your emotional wellbeing matters. 

 

If you are in a toxic and/or abusive relationship, you are not alone and there are resources for you. Unity House in Troy, NY has a 24/7 DV hotline where you can talk to a counselor at anytime: (518) 272-2370. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has advocates you can talk to at anytime as well: 1-800-799-7233.

 

Light and love,

Chelle

 

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Show up as your whole self: Vulnerability pt. 2

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It's been 2 and a half years since I completed my yoga teacher training. Weekend after weekend I joined my yogi peers as we learned about the practice of yoga. There was something so intimate about meeting with this group of people and moving our bodies to the rhythm of our breath weekend after weekend. After a while, it started to register that this yoga practice is about the bigger journey of life and how to be fully present for ALL OF IT, highs and lows. Those weekends taught me how to love myself fully, even the parts that weren't pretty or put together!

The most powerful moment for me was an exercise we did where we went around in a circle and shared the one thing most people don't know about us. People shared stories of being abused, of their infidelity, of having abortions, of desires they aren't proud of. We bared the parts of ourselves that we have been taught not to accept. I remember when it came closer to being my turn, it felt like my heart was beating out of my chest. I walked to the center of the circle, shared the part of myself I felt was the most "shameful", and actually couldn't finish talking; I burst into tears. One of the other yogis came up and hugged me, telling me to "just breathe", and eventually I got the words out with her holding me the entire time. When I sat back down I was met with unconditional acceptance; hugs, words of encouragement, and a feeling of being fully seen. 

That weekend changed my life. Not only by speaking my whole truth and being met with acceptance, but by seeing others who I assumed had it all together and seeing that not one of us did, and they were even more beautiful because they owned it that day. I learned that we all have "darkness" within us, and it can't be ostracized to the basement in our brains. We can pretend that those parts don't exist, but they actually are a part of who we are.

Ironic, isn't it? That we keep parts of ourselves hidden to be acceptable/loved by ourselves and others. Come to find out, true love and connection relies on us showing up wholly, and sharing parts of ourselves that we may not feel comfortable with. Because essentially, acknowledging all parts of our story is owning that we are enough just as we are. We can present a cool, perfectly filtered instagram highlight reel to others, but if we walk through life with that mask on we are missing out on our opportunity to be fully present and connected in our relatively short time here.

And maybe there is a "shadowy" part of your story that you don't want to own, but those shadows have contributed to your light as well, whether you see it right now or not. You can/will fully appreciate the light because you know how bad things can get, or maybe your shadows and struggles have built an inner strength, an ability to see challenges through to the other side of them. For me, my pain, my shadows, show me that when I'm having days where I feel GOOD, I mean really good, I am so grateful because I know nothing is constant and I have to appreciate that moment; I know that there have been bad days too.

So I challenge you to begin being vulnerable in whatever way you can, even if it's just by being vulnerable with yourself. Put pen to paper and write your truth, WITHOUT JUDGMENT. Journaling is a helluva way to get to know you and practice self care, and it can help you to practice being authentic and honest about you.

Also practice being vulnerable and authentic with others in your life by really opening up and sharing the "imperfect" parts of yourself. Sometimes this is just acknowledging that we sometimes need other people, because we do! I don't know when it became cool to pretend we don't want to be connected to others, but we are wired for connection, and the "I don't need anyone, I have it all together" social shield may protect you from pain and disappointment, but in the end it cheats you of a whole realm of love, connection, and joy (which you do deserve).

Sure, by opening up there is a potential to be hurt; but life includes some pain sometimes. Be fully here for all of it. You have to remove the social shield to let people in and to truly accept yourself as you are. If it's comforting at all, remember we are all here trying to figure it out. No one has it all figured out. Take risks in your relationship with yourself and others, and bring along the messy parts that make up YOU. They are good enough too, I promise.

 

 

Journalling prompts:

What does vulnerability mean to me? What does authenticity mean to me?

What parts of myself do I hide from others, and what is the fear about that holds me back from sharing?

What parts of myself do I wish I could share easily with others?

How can I start to be more vulnerable/open with myself and others?

 

 

Light and love,

 

Chelle

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The power of intention

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This morning I met with a group of motivated positive people (shout out to the Power Breakfast) and was asked the question "what is your goal for this week?". Here I am, someone who plans everything out, I feel I'm pretty clear on what my long term goals are, and I actually didn't know the answer to that question.

It got me thinking about how easy it is for things to get so busy that we forget each moment is an opportunity to be purposeful in what it is that we're doing and why we're doing it. There's the daily grind, and while you're in it, it can be hard to slow down and zoom out to where you want to go. So for me, I have this "big picture" idea of where I'm going, but in reality all the "big picture" is are all these little moments, day to day, week to week. So if your little moments are filled with you monotonously following a cruise control routine with no purpose or intention driving your actions, how do you expect to end up where you want to go?

This is where setting intentions comes in. And it just so happens that tonight is a New Moon, which is the beginning of a lunar cycle for this upcoming month. The New Moon can be looked at as a "blank slate", a great time to set goals and intentions for the coming month. If we get really intentional about what we're doing here, we grow as time goes on, just as the moon becomes more and more visible in the sky throughout it's cycle.

Take the energy of tonight and be clear about what you want to manifest for this week, and this month. Write it down, but write it down as if it has happened already. For example, you don't wish you could have $2,000 in your savings, you have it already. You don't hope that one day you will get that job you really want, you write down that you have it, and you put down as many details about you being successful in this new job as possible. Language is very important; the words we think, the words we say, and the words we write. Where attention goes energy flows so stay away from the negatives. Focus on what you want to attract into your life rather than what you don't want (Example: instead of writing "I don't want to be broke anymore", you could say "I am living in financial abundance and money is not a worry"). 

This exercise of getting specific, writing it down, and visualizing your intention puts your mind and energy in a state that you are ready to receive what it is that you say you want in your life. Because sometimes we just talk shit, right? Like sometimes we say we really want this thing to happen, but we are afraid of success or failure and therefore don't attract it into our lives. So by doing this practice of imagining that you are there already, you're claiming your goal in spite of the fear (fear will be there if you're growing and changing, but it doesn't have to limit you). You're stating with confidence that this path you want is yours already and not only do you deserve it, but you are so capable of having it.

 

Happy New Moon Intention setting, wishing you lots of abundance and good vibes!

 

Love and light,

Chelle

 

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Letting go

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A fear of being hurt. Fear of rejection. Believing in overnight success (avoidance of hard work). The imposter syndrome (fear of being "found out" to be a fraud, or not really competent at what you do). Indecisiveness; fear of making a decision. The unknown, what can't be controlled. "What if's"; the fear that a wrong decision was made.

These are some of the responses I got on a post I put out asking what you all wanted and/or needed to let go of, and I don't know about you, but I see a theme: fear. Evolution gave us this great protective system in our brains that looks for danger around every corner, because back in the day (like really back in the day, when we had to hunt and gather), we needed that system to survive. Nowadays, not so much, but this "alarm system" is alive and well and it is always scanning our environment for danger. It will even go as far as to project hypothetical situations and tell us to be alarmed about some possible future situation that hasn't even happened yet!

Pair that with our tendency to cling to the familiar, and to use past experiences as the blueprint for every moment ahead of us, and we are destined to repeat old patterns even if they are toxic just for the sake of them being known to us; I can't even count how many times someone has told me they are staying in a shitty situation because they truly believe there is nothing better out there for them.

So what do I need to let go of to grow to be my highest self? For me it's the need to be "perfect" (quotations, because, that doesn't even exist). I hold back and second guess myself often, for fear of being wrong or not living up to some ridiculous imaginary standard that I created for myself. I condition my day to day with long lists of "should's", and that sometimes sets me up for some major disappointments, because life doesn't always go by my terms (who knew?!).

I can acknowledge this need to be perfect on a surface level and chalk it up to being a Virgo, but I know there is a deeper reason for that need. The fear underneath the need is that I'm not enough; that I always have to prove my worth and if I don't measure up to my standards I have set for myself well, then I have failed. Which is craziness because I remember when I was much younger I never even doubted that I was enough. But over time, my brain has taken all the negative experiences I've had and amplified them. It's turned them into negative thought patterns that ring off false alarms and prevent me from being able to just "be", and my thoughts tell me there is a way I'm "supposed to be" to be worthy. Dear brain, that is bullshit.

For me letting go of this need for perfection has been a process of embracing my vulnerability. It's showing up just as I am and chancing rejection. It's reminding myself how worthy I am, and how I am enough simply by being me. It's approaching life and myself through a lens of love and compassion rather than one of fear and avoidance. It's noticing when that inner self critic shows up, and telling it to take a seat while I actually enjoy my life.

I challenge you to look behind that habit or thought pattern you need to let go of, and ask yourself where it's coming from. What are you really afraid of? Maybe that fear was something you needed to survive or even thrive at some point in your life, but I have a feeling if it came up as something to let go of it isn't serving you anymore.

Letting go isn't an easy process; but you know when something is limiting your growth. And I think a lot of us don't like the idea of having a void after you let go because it's uncomfortable AF: it's unknown. But I promise you, as you shed things that no longer serve your growth, lean into that discomfort. You're making room for what is going to bring you to the next step of your evolution and your future self will thank you.

Bonus challenge: write down purposefully what you are releasing in your life, like you are writing down a vow to your future self. Commit to a new way of thinking about what you're letting go of that is not based on fear. For example, letting go of your imposter syndrome? Whenever it comes up choose what thoughts to embrace instead: "I am here serving my purpose". Releasing your fear of being hurt? "I will have/am worthy of a loving and healthy relationship". Find your mantra, the one that cuts through fear and resonates with your truth, and write it down. Say it as much as you need to so it becomes your new normal.

Light and Love,

Chelle

 

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Finding your inner bae

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It's a sunny, quiet Saturday morning and I roll over to see my cat's butt in my face and the time on my phone, clear as day, because my phone is dry AF.

This comes as a relief for once, rather than some negative message about myself . That dopamine loop from last blog? I figured out the cheat code to mine. I built new habits centered around how to feel more connected to myself and to keep my own energy vibrating higher. I wanted to share these habits with you guys, in case there is anyone else who has struggled with being content on their own. And don't get me wrong, a healthy partnership can be a beautiful vehicle to self growth in ways that you can't do on your own; but even within a relationship I think it's important to not lose sight of yourself. To remain grounded, and to not rely on someone else to "save you" from the parts of you or life that are hard to deal with. That's a very different kind of connection than one driven by fear or lack, which can sound like the mindset of "I NEED you to feel complete/worthy/validated".

I am learning to transmute my fear of being disappointed in relationships to an attitude of abundance: if I pour love and acceptance into myself, there will always be enough to go around, and it will spill over and touch whoever is close to me in my life. If a romantic partner comes along that connects to that and we can share positive, loving energy together, then great! But until then there is this state of contentment knowing that I have within me all the love that I need.

Now all this sounds good, but I had to get really intentional about how to do this for myself. I had to find my inner bae, appreciate my inner bae, and date the shit out of her because she deserves it.

 

Step 1. Spend time alone! Sacrifice distractions.

This is pretty self explanatory. I knew I needed to work on me to get to the place I wanted to be emotionally and spiritually, so I took a break from spending time with romantic interests. It's amazing how much extra time and energy I had to focus on developing myself, my family and friend relationships, and my purpose in my work.

 

Step 2. Self examination.

Journalled every damn day. Meditated every morning. I needed this to get clear on where I have been and where I want to go; if we are not aware of these things we are vulnerable to repeating old patterns and behaviors that don't serve us and don't match up with what we say we want in our lives!

 

Step 3. Access your love/light.

For me, it's teaching yoga and feeling the energy of the students in the room. It's laughing with a friend until tears run down my face. It's visiting my parents and really taking in how much they mean to me. Seeing the magic in feeling gratitude for all these connections that I have that I sometimes take for granted because they are so much a part of my daily routine. Find what makes you light up and get lost in the moment and do it as often as possible! 

 

Step 4. Treat yoself.

I made a bucket list of things I wanted to do for myself, by myself. I bought myself fresh flowers once a week. I looked at myself in the mirror, in the eyes, and hit on myself (lol, for real though, I told myself how beautiful I am and that I love myself). I made a self care playlist, got out some bath salts, and made a self care evening for myself. I ate healthy food and kept going to the gym as a way to treat my body well. I ordered hot wings and cannollis when my soul craved them. I learned how well I can take care of myself when I'm not waiting for someone else to do it for me.

 

Step 5. Let go of what doesn't serve you.

By taking more time for myself I allowed myself to gain closure about things in the past (which continues to be a work in progress). It's interesting once you start really taking care of yourself emotionally and physically, you can feel when situations or people don't serve your growth. Learning to say no, learning to set limits, learning to love from a distance, are all parts of loving yourself.

 

Step 6. Surrender.

I structured this time to myself, but also learned in the process that I can't plan it all. I can't plan how this journey is going to look. I can do these things I've learned work for me to love myself, but ultimately part of this whole thing is letting go and trusting that if I am putting out good energy than whatever is meant for me will come my way.

 

Growth is never linear, alot of times we take a couple steps foward and life throws us something that seemingly makes us go backwards. I don't have control over what life throws at me (part of surrendering, right?), but I'm figuring out how to make sure inner bae is feeling loved so that the steps are a little easier for her.

What is holding you back from dating your inner bae? And what can you do to take better care of you?

 

 

 Love and light,

Chelle

 

 

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The Dopamine Loop and Self Love

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As I publish this blog, I'll probably keep checking to see who likes it, who shares it, who comments, etc. etc.. and who am I kidding, it's not probably, it's a definite. I will check. Just like I check my instagram, my Facebook, and my snapchat. The same way I check to see who texted me in the morning while I was sleeping. I'm not even expecting anything specific or looking forward to anything, I've simply gotten into the habit of checking for the sake of checking.

Checking, checking, checking, seeking, seeking, seeking. So much attention that is externally focused, it makes it hard to imagine how we ever get to really truly focus on ourselves! I thought more and more about this external seeking especially after listening to the Friend Zone podcast Dopamine Loop episode (I highly recommend, they talk about real issues and are so relatable and informative). It was fascinating to me; I always thought dopamine was only associated with pleasure, a chemical released in your brain if you have an enjoyable experience. Turns out it's a little different than that: dopamine is a chemical released in our brains when we are SEEKING or WAITING for something. So the rush a gambler feels after they've made their bet, BEFORE they see if they won or not; an addict that is on their way to get their fix; a compulsive shopper's high when they're in the store looking at all the clothes; this positive feeling that comes just from the act of looking for the desired experience, without even getting it yet!

 We all have this Dopamine system, and the nature of our relationship with our social media makes us particularly more vulnerable to getting caught in a "dopamine loop"; where the act of seeking itself becomes addictive and we actually become addicted to the act of "checking", as we wait for "likes".

Dopamine is actually a GOOD thing. It gives us motivation to go out there and get stuff done in hopes of results. The not so great thing is when the dopamine loop continues to get activated without any real substantial results (because when's the last time you could pay your bills with "likes" and "comments"), and it gets stuck in this repetitive loop where we are always seeking, and not gaining anything tangible towards our own growth and happiness.

The dopamine response can be even stronger if the results are inconsistent; like not knowing when that "like" or "comment" will arrive. This extends to relationships with others as well: that inconsistent guy/girl that was sometimes so attentive, and other times would be dismissive. Sometimes seeking attention from someone that inconsistently provides it to us can actually be an addictive process because it releases dopamine in our brains.

I'm the type of person that really likes the idea of being content with myself. And I say "like the idea of", because I'm not there yet. I'm working on unhacking my dopamine loop. Delaying the urge to "check". And for me social media isn't so much of an issue; it's more so how dopamine gets activated in my love life.

Dating is hacking my dopamine loop: spending energy and time focused on how and when another person meets my needs/expectations. The rush of anticipating this person's response and affection. So much energy and attention focused outwards, but not with any real substantive results towards something meaningful for my personal growth and happiness.

I'm not saying that it's bad to look externally for comfort and pleasure, because we are creatures of connection and connection is a beautiful thing. I just know for me, personally, the idea of being dependent on or craving external responses in order to feel okay is NOT okay for me. So I am de-railing this dopamine loop. When I crave external validation, or that "I miss you"/"good morning beautiful"/"happy Thursday"/"insert random statement here" text, or whatever, I'm writing my own self a love letter. When I find myself wanting to seek comfort externally, I'm asking myself what I need each moment, and seeing if I can provide it for ME. For so long I have been in the habit of looking to another person to meet that need for me I hadn't stopped to learn more about myself and figure out how to truly take care of me. I've been working on this for a little while now, and it's actually surprising to me how much more time and energy I have to put into the things that make me a better overall human. My dopamine has been getting activated by seeking knowledge to better the work I do with my clients, improving my friendships, and finding new ways to improve my overall fitness and wellness. Call me a cat lady if you want, because I absolutely am that, but it's starting to feel pretty damn good.

Learning about the dopamine loop gave me some insight into how much I need to embody my own definition of self love by feeling content on my own, so that another person in my life is a complement; not needed, but wanted and enjoyed. And because the seeking, the checking, is reactive and habitual. I want to act and connect from a purposeful place of listening to my intuition and doing what feels right, rather than what feels comfortable/familiar and going back to old habits that no longer serve me.

Let me know what your thoughts are on this; is there anything hacking your dopamine loop that you want to detox out of your system? If so, what is it and how do you plan on doing it?

 

***SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT****

If you can relate with the need to be content with yourself and really practice self love, we'll be talking about that, practicing some yoga and meditation, and sharing some good vibes during my next workshop on February 10th. Hope to see your lovely face there.

If you can relate with the need to be content with yourself and really practice self love, we'll be talking about that, practicing some yoga and meditation, and sharing some good vibes during my next workshop on February 10th. Hope to see your lovely face there.


 

Light and Love,

Chelle

 

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2016: The year I learned to trust myself

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Just a few days left of 2016, and I have to be honest I don't believe in the "new year, new me" rhetoric; that you can shift your whole life and perspective from 11:59pm in 2016 to 12:05am in 2017. What I do believe is that a new year, like a birthday, can be a marker for growth (or staying stagnant). It's such an opportune time to look back and take stock of what has shifted in your life, what has been working, and maybe a lack of movement in your life or what hasn't been serving you.

 

For me, looking back at 2016, I have had SO MANY CHANGES. Some were heart wrenching, gut punching, and scary as shit. I left my first career level job that I had been with for 4 years; the benefits were dope, financial stability was there (as much as it can be in NYC as a social worker), but I was crazy stressed and unhappy. I moved out of my first ever itty bitty solo apartment in the Bronx where my neighbors had a Dominican BBQ every sunday night at like 12am to a Troy apartment with SPACE where my neighbors tell me to turn the music down after 11pm. I ended a really serious and meaningful romantic relationship and am JUST NOW after years of being attached romantically figuring out what it means to really focus on me. I shed all these layers that had defined who I was for the early part of my 20's, and I got to see what was left when it was all stripped away and I had to start new.

 

What inspired me to make all these changes is the work I've done on myself. I've worked so hard to clear out the noise and to build up my intuition's voice so I can hear it clearly. I feel like I've strengthened a magnet; so that if something isn't right and isn't matching my frequency or goals in life I can feel an urge to repel it, and if something matches my frequency and matches where I want to be in life I am attracted to it. Although I've been listening to this voice, I've definitely doubted myself along the way and have been super scared to make these changes; I've been figuring out that fear is a natural part of the process  but I should do it anyway; if I avoid change I avoid growth.

 

Change has been something that shows me my core; the essence of who I am. And I'm really starting to love that part of me; the part that's not attached to circumstance and is always just there. I don't look at these changes as losses; I've gained so much from my previous job, my previous relationship, and learning to survive in NYC. This past year and all these transitions have taught me that I can trust myself; I don't have to be afraid that I'm going to fuck "it" up. No job, partner, friend, or anyone else holds the key to my happiness and what's best for me; I don't need to look outside to validate what my journey should look like. So 2016 was definitely tough. There were moments of feeling sorry for myself, of freaking out, not knowing if I've made the right decisions, but I am learning that as long as I listen to what is right for me I can trust that the rest will work itself out.

 

This was the theme of my year and what I've taken away from it, but everyone is different! What have you learned about yourself within this past year? And what lessons are you taking with you in the new year to build on and improve yourself?

 

***SHAMELESS PLUG***

If you like this topic and is something you want to dive in further, I juuuust so happen to be having a workshop on releasing barriers and manifesting intentions for the new year and new moon cycle, TOMORROW, Friday 12/30 from 7-9 at Yoga Bliss on the Blvd. in Schenectady. 20$ for 2 hours of yoga, meditation, discussion, and journaling around making ourselves better in a purposeful way. Hope to see your lovely selves there :) 

 

Love and Light,

Chelle

 

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Protect your energy

Today I had a session with a woman whose main role has been to be a mother to her son who is addicted to drugs. Over the past few months I've seen her mental health deteriorate as a result of his addiction, and today we talked about if she will ever be able to take care of herself while she is still being there as his safety net every single time he comes to her door; we pretty much agreed that she can't do both.

Earlier this week I also had a long conversation with a close friend about this desire to be close to a family member who often projects their own emotional baggage onto him, and how this urge to maintain this relationship and fulfill this role as "nurturer" for the family member was dragging down his energy, and making it hard for him to feel good about himself while being treated this way.

These recent talks have brought to the forefront the importance of boundaries: HEALTHY ones. And how difficult that is for alot of people! In both of the above situations, and with other friends and clients, I hear a similar theme. There is this expectation to be a good ________ (friend, mother, girlfriend, daughter, brother, etc.), you have to behave a certain way; you have to meet expectations. These expectations are often a result of this role that you have either built through habitual interactions, or a role that you were given just based on your family norms. When the person doesn't feel they are fulfilling that role of being "good", "available", "helping in anyway they can", the guilt comes in; either from the outside (other people guilt tripping them), or internally (not giving yourself permission to say no, because then you must be a "bad" friend/son/girlfriend/etc).

For the people who can't relate and have been taught healthy boundaries from an early age, lucky you! I don't know if that's the norm, but I know there are a hell of alot of people that struggle with this. So for those that have a hard time with it, I want to remind you that you are HUMAN! You have limits, and you have the absolute right to respect your own limits.

Sometimes, our focus is so external (on taking care of/pleasing others), we don't listen to ourselves. First step is, begin to notice what your limits are. When you say yes to something, how do you feel about it? Do you resent it or feel uncomfortable? Do you feel overextended? This may be such a familiar feeling that you believe you "just have to do it", but you don't actually have to! Begin to tune into what patterns you allow to repeat in your relationships, and how these patterns make you feel.

When you begin to push back against the norms of a relationship if those norms aren't serving you, you'll probably meet some resistance. If you don't keep doing what you "usually do" for that other person, they may not like it too much. And that's when assertiveness comes in. Noone else gets to dictate what is healthy for you, or what you deserve. You absolutely have a right to assertively set limits with those you love, and it doesn't mean you don't love them! It actually just means you love yourself.

These people that can sometimes drain you aren't "bad" people. And you probably care about them, alot. But we have a short time here on earth and do you want to live your life pleasing others? Or begin to learn what makes you happy, what lights you up, what raises your energy level? Sometimes to take those steps we have to set limits within our relationships so we don't become drained.

So, to my client, to my close friend, you loving, nurturing, big hearted humans, you will always be worthy, even when you say no to people you care about. You are allowed to say no, you are allowed to take time to yourself, to create some distance in your relationships for self care. Begin to do what you need to do to be your healthiest self, and that may mean shedding old habits, old relationships, and letting go of attempts to fulfill some "role" you were given when you were younger. Allow yourself to evolve into your best you, because you're the only one that can really give yourself permission to do that.

 

Light and love,

Chelle

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The stories we tell ourselves...about ourselves.

We all have a narrative we've developed over time about ourselves. Over time we chisel out a picture of who we believe ourselves to be by assimilating all this information from our environment (experiences, what authority figures tell us about us, how people react to us and how we relate to others). We take that story and continue to tell that to ourselves and other people, which reinforces who we are. Unfortunately, when we're learning and growing, sometimes this narrative is impacted by negative and FALSE beliefs:

The person who is always being asked to take care of things for other people, but is never asked "are you okay?"; this can translate to a narrative that your needs aren't important and that if you can't be of service to someone else there isn't any value to, well, just being YOU.

Or the girl who has had some unhealthy relationships, maybe been cheated on or abused in some way, that begins to believe she is just the type of person that deserves this type of treatment. Her narrative may become that she isn't worthy of being truly loved and cared for because she hasn't actually had that experience before in her life.

The guy who has been told repeatedly that you are only as good as what you can provide materially; this can translate to a narrative that if you aren't yet in a place in your life where you feel you can provide to a certain expectation, you are not inherently worthy of love and acceptance.

 

These are just a few examples, but all of them are dangerous, and sometimes so automatic that we don't even realize we're doing it. Oh, and absolutely false. And really, if we shape our present thoughts about ourselves based on our past or things that have happened TO us, how does that give us any power over what narrative we want for ourselves for the future? Everytime we fall into that old storyline that maybe we inherited from family members, past relationships, or previous "mistakes", we give away our power to define who we want to be and give up on ourselves before we even try.

Habits are hard to break, and working on yourself is a terrifying thing to do because you have to face whatever baggage has been put away neatly in that spare room in your brain that you try so hard not to open. But the reality is, that baggage can really cause us to self sabatoge (without us even realizing it!) if we don't open that room and do some spring cleaning. The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are POWERFUL, either in a detrimental way or an uplifting way.

Begin questioning your narrative rather than believing it up front; are you REALLY this person that "can't do a certain thing" or "is a bad daughter/son/partner/etc." or "can't trust anyone"? Is that who you want to be, or is that just what other people/past experiences have told you about you?

Narratives can come in disguises. They can come in the form of pushing people away because we are "strong and don't have time for XYZ", or because we "just don't care anymore". Sometimes that has more to do with fear because of a personal narrative developed from a history of hurt, rather than the lack of care or numbness that is used as a defense.

As always, I write these posts because they are something I'm working on in my life right now. I have always had this narrative that I "don't do relationships well". Past experiences, divorced parents, bla bla bla baggage (lol), and without even noticing I would self sabotage or detach myself before I really began to rely on another person being in my life. Because I truly believed this limiting story about myself. My brain would create all these signals that it wasn't safe to be vulnerable with partners because "I knew how it would end up". FALSE. The beauty of experiences and being self aware is that you can notice your own patterns, and I am now in a place where I have the ability to actively work on them instead of just accepting every nonsense thing my brain tells me. I am choosing to release that limiting belief, and trust that with self love and trust I can create my narrative in a way that feels good to me, not in a way that limits who I really am and what I really deserve.

 

So start the conversation with yourself (maybe through journaling), with a trusted person in your life, or even a therapist. History doesn't dictate your future; it impacts you, yes, but it doesn't define you. What you do now, what you say about yourself, what you believe about yourself will shape you and your future. Pick 1 limiting belief that continues to show up in your life and I want you to question where it came from? Every time it shows up, affirm the opposite of that to yourself. It changes the approach towards life and towards ourselves from one of reactionary fear to one of self love and trust.  Grabbing the reigns and defining YOUR story for yourself is the ultimate act of self love.

Light and love,

Chelle

 

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Self care bootcamp aka PMS/post breakup/in a funk survival guide

One week before my menstrual cycle I become a hormonal, hungry, angry, tired, teary eyed mess. I literally just want to lay in a bed filled with hot wings and blue cheese while I curse people out and cry for one entire week. And no this isn't TMI because most women have their menstrual cycle so get over it, it's okay to talk about it. Anyway, this isn't about my cycle as much as it is about my decision this month to change my patterns during this time so I don't feel so shitty. I've also applied many of these things to getting through break ups, big life changes, or just when I'm overall "in a funk". The overall premise of this is that it is easy to do the things that are good and healthy for us when we're in a good space in our lives, but when we need it the most, when we are feeling overwhelmed or not like ourselves, is when most of these things go to the wayside.

This is somewhat of an extension from my earlier blogs  about self care (http://www.lotusholistichealth.org/blog/2016/9/2/self-care-saves-lives), but I'm getting a little more specific to set a challenge for you (and for me). One of the biggest things I've learned about myself when it comes to reaching goals or using self care techniques is that without structure, as soon as I don't feel like it, I won't do it. But if I write it down, if I set a schedule, if I do it at the same time every day, I'm helping myself overcome that barrier. Also if I tell someone I'm doing it, (or a few someones by writing a blog) I hold myself accountable. So join me as I try my best to not curse people out or drown in blue cheese this week. Let me know if you try anything from this "survival guide", and if so, how it worked for you!

MEDITATE:

5 minutes to 10 minutes a day preferably in the morning can make such a difference. I downloaded this app called Calm which I love (and it's for the free), because I can play the sounds of the ocean waves and set it to a timer for my desired meditation time. I sit in the sauna, listen to the waves, and pretend I'm at the beach every morning. So far I'm on day 4 and I can actually notice a change in my mood; I'm better able to choose how I think about situations later in the day. We shower, brush our teeth, and clean our clothes to keep up our physical hygiene, but what about your energetic/spiritual hygiene? Meditation is like cleansing your energetic/spiritual body, distancing you from reactive thoughts and patterns. Clean that shit up before you go out in the world because there's alot going on out here!

TREAT YOSELF:

This is a tricky one because you don't want to turn stress into a reason to splurge unneccessarily. But when I say treat yourself I mean within your budget and in a way that is out of the norm for you so that it feels like you are being pampered in some way. For example, earlier this week I took myself out to lunch...by myself. For some people this is not a big deal (I envy those people that can confidently go on dates alone), however for me, it felt pretty awkward at first. After about 5 minutes I got over myself though, and realized that noone is even paying attention to me, and I was able to really enjoy my meal and take my time all by myself while enjoying my own company. Take one evening off this week to do something that's all about feeling good, and do it on your own!

DETOX: PHYSICALLY

Choose one thing you are going to detox out of your system for this week. Maybe you know that the lack of sleep is impacting your mood and you should be going to bed a little earlier. Or those henny shots when you go out every night are probably impacting your body and mind a little the next day. Choose one unhealthy physical habit that you are going to work on letting go of for this week, and stick to it.

DETOX: MENTALLY

Choose one harmful thought pattern you have that you are going to let go of this week. Start to pay attention to what thought patterns are constricting you; are you doubting yourself, complaining about everything, or comparing yourself to others? Try to figure out what thoughts really limit your ability to be happy with you right now, and take this week to practice letting go of those thoughts. It doesn't mean they won't pop up because brain neurons fire out of habit, but the more that you work on redirecting and recreating these thought patterns, the easier it'll be to create new healthier thought patterns. Even better is if you can think of a replacement thought to tell yourself. For example if you find yourself often critiquing others or yourself, think of a loving or accepting thought pattern to recite to yourself anytime you notice the criticism coming up.

GRATITUDE:

Start a gratitude journal. Write down at least 1 thing a day that you are grateful for. So many times we are thinking about what we don't have yet, what we wish we had, and the things that are stressing us, that we overlook all the good things in our lives that some people have never gotten to experience. Maybe it's the heat in your home on a really cold day, or the fact that when you're hungry you have the privilege of feeding yourself; really tuning in to that feeling of being able to satisfy your physical needs and knowing that not everyone has that ability. It can be as simple as thanking your legs for getting you out of bed in the morning as you feel your feet on the ground. As you start to take notice of all these "small" things that there are to be grateful for, your brain will get trained to recognize the positive and what you are grateful for will grow! Practicing gratitude literally raises the energetic vibrations of your thoughts, and I really believe it attracts more positive things into your life. There is something to writing them down as well, not only do you reinforce them by putting them on paper, but when you're having a really rough day you can go through your previous journal entries to remind yourself of what there is to be grateful for.

 

 

We aren't always going to be our best selves and we definitely don't have control over some of our circumstances. Use what you do have control over, yourself, to show up in the best way possible for yourself and those around you. If you need some accountability you can contact me, or let a friend know that you are challenging yourself to a week or maybe even month long self care challenge, and maybe keep track of how many days you complete your self care list. Healing is active and intentional.

 

 

Love and light,

Chelle

 

 

 

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How my mother's mental illness helped me find my purpose

My mother is witty, a great conversationalist, very intelligent, creative, and an amazing listener. She has also been incredibly depressed for as long as I can remember. Growing up with a mother struggling with mental illness is alot like growing up with any other struggles during your childhood; you think they're normal because that is your life, until you get old enough to really analyze the experiences that were your norm.

As I got older, I began to notice that she wasn't okay. How impossible it was for her to be there in the way that I wanted (and sometimes needed) her to be. I remember many times playing on my own, wanting a reaction from her so badly. I recently watched an old family home video and saw my younger self, trying so hard to make her smile, and seeing the pain in her face that she wasn't able to fully express happiness. I remember many other times when she was just so sad, emotionally unavailable, and at that time I couldn't understand why.

I'm writing this because my mother's mental illness has shaped my life, and because mental illness is SO prevalant I know for a fact that I am not alone in this experience. And because it should be openly talked about without stigma or shame; like your mom has diabetes, so she has to take insulin? Well mine struggles with a chemical imbalance in her brain and has been on medications for it for a very long time. I can honestly say I have finally gotten to a place where I fully understand, appreciate, and love her, and I strive to release judgments. I ran from her illness during my teenage years; her feelings were so BIG, it didn't feel like there was room for mine. And I was a teenager so naturally I was also somewhat of an asshole.

As I went away to school and learned about Psychology, and eventually became a therapist, I began to see her with new eyes. I realized how real depression is, and how different it can look depending on the person it is impacting. I began to see her as a woman trying her best to work through what can be a debilitating illness, and I realized how the "small" gestures she made throughout my life were HUGE.

I still struggle with this; seeing her through these eyes that don't judge, but understand. Because there's a part of having a parent with mental health issues that isn't all unicorns and butterflies and love. There's the part where I had to honor my raw emotions about what I never got that I wish I always had; a "normal" parent that was able to do certain things (normal is in quotations because, really, is that even a thing). I had to really process my anger, my sadness, and my hurt that were clouding my ability to see how much she has taught me through her struggle. This took time. This took talking with friends (and a therapist!), crying, journaling, yoga, and the process continues and most likely always will. I had to learn about my own limits; because mental illness is heavy and can be draining (for the person afflicted by it, and those that are close to that person). I had to learn when I can talk and love and be there and when I can't. There were times I had/have to separate myself so that I can take care of me, because my emotional needs are important also; and how can you be there and give to another person if you are depleted yourself?

But on the other side of the pain, is this sense of appreciation; this understanding that my need to understand why she was the way she is led me to finding my purpose. I'm a therapist because I grew up watching her in pain and not knowing how to help, and I want to be there to help others in that way now. I can't imagine my life without this incredibly rewarding work I do, and she has everything to do with why I started on this path. Don't get me wrong, it's not like I got this epiphany and now I'm this perfect daughter that always exudes love and acceptance. It takes constant work for me, being able to see the resilience in her and in me that has grown as a result of pain; but it is a part of my process and has made me a better human.

 Everyone's process looks very different, but just know that if you are struggling with loving someone who has a mental illness, it is imperative that you take care of yourself and honor your process and your emotions. The hope is that you can maintain some kind of genuine connection with that person (which may require letting go of what it's "supposed to look like"), but the bigger reason is that you deserve to be emotionally healthy and free.

 

Light and love,

Chelle

 

Bonus challenge: If there is someone important in your life that you are having difficulty loving, or maybe you resent them for some negative impact they have had on your life, take some time to consider what you have learned from them. Are you better able to comfort and nurture others because of what you've had to go through? When shit hits the fan, do you know in your gut that you will get through it because you have been through so much worse before? Don't take these lessons for granted, not everyone has your resilience. Sometimes our most valuable lessons come from pain.

 

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, know that there is help available and you are not alone. Here are some resources:

  https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression-in-women-tr-16-4779/index.shtml

www.nami.org

If you are in the U.S. and need help, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255

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I don't want to talk about the weather

When I read the articles about the recent murders of people of color by police (and recent doesn't even mean this week; sadly, it has been pretty consistent for quite a while so "recent" can go back as far as you'd like it to), I feel a visceral tightness and pain in my stomach. These stories aren't just "news". They are signalling a sense of danger and fear to my brain all the time because it could be me, it could be my father, it could be my cousin (which it actually was, exactly one year ago,when he was shot without cause by the police).

Every morning this week I've had to dust off my socially acceptable mask, put it on, and wear it to work; talking to co-workers about our health insurance or the weather or what our plans are this weekend, with an impending sense of doom and a growing rage tucked away neatly for most of the day.

I'm not sharing this to say this is every person of color's experience, I can only speak for myself. I can feel my senses heightened, a sense of tension growing, hypervigilance, a gut emotional reaction to any person who dismisses the seriousness of what's happening ("#alllivesmatter", "what about black on black crime", "well maybe if he didn't walk away from the police, we don't have the whole story"), and at times I feel helpless about everything that is happening.

As a therapist, these are the same things I sometimes see in people who have been through trauma; this sense of wanting to freeze and/or fight, of feeling disconnected, isolated, helpless. And I'm not using the word "trauma" lightly; it is scary AF to be black in America right now. 

So this week, I read articles and watch the videos when I feel like I can tolerate them; that's for me because I want to be in touch with how I feel about what's happening, I want to feel these feelings and I don't want to disconnect. But then sometimes, I do have to disconnect; I have to come up and get air so I don't suffocate. I watched an Empire episode for the first time all the way through and talked shit to myself about how terrible it was. I went to a yoga class for the first time in months for a sense of connection (I've been doing a home practice lately). I've found a way to move and sweat and feel good about what I'm doing every day this week.

To cope with that sense of helplessness and isolation and to mobilize my anger in a productive way, I'm going to a #Blacklivesmatter community forum this upcoming week (at the Levels Banquet Hall in Albany, Wednesday from 6-9pm); I'm talking to a close friend about starting weekly promotion of black owned businesses in the community, and I'm trying to avoid explaining why these issues matter to people who are so barricaded in their bubble of privilege that they can't allow any REAL information to penetrate that bubble, for fear that their world will completely collapse. There are so many more productive things I want to do with my energy, so I am trying not to "teach" people why racism is wrong (this one has been a struggle!). I am acknowledging my privileges that I experience as a result of our biased systems. As a person of mixed race with lighter skin, who has a platform to reach others through my career, I'm trying to use these privileges in the best ways I can think of to talk about the injustices that are happening and bring more attention to them.

 I journaled, I meditated, I cried, I vented, and have put that on repeat this whole week. I've been making more of an effort to put good food into my body because I know what I eat directly impacts my emotions. I've been hitting snooze on my alarm more often to get some extra sleep because I am paying extra attention to my body, to my needs, moment to moment.

I say all that to say, there's no clearcut answer for me on how to cope with the trauma happening around and to us. I just know I can't go around it and I have to go through it, and I feel an obligation to show up as my healthiest best self so that I can be a part of the solution and not the problem. I don't know what that solution is, but I know it has to do with connectedness, community, and wellness, so that's what I'm going for. I also know that the end result isn't me feeling "okay". In fact, I don't want to feel okay with what's happening, I need my outrage and pain to remind me of what's important. I just know that when I say Black Lives Matter, I also have an obligation to take care of me too, so I can take care of others, so we can take care of each other.

 

Love and light,

Chelle

 

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