Posted by: Suzan | November 17, 2020

Calm Your Inner-Critic So You Can Create

Do you long to start something new (a creative project; a sport; hobby; or work opportunity)? Do you hear that familiar voice, “What are you doing? You know you can’t do that. Who do you think you are?” It can stop us dead in our tracks and suck the joy right out of us.

The good news is you’re not alone. Having these internal voices aka: the inner-critic or gremlin, is a universal thing. We all experience it. What I’ve learned through research, offering playshops on the topic, and coaching clients for about 20 years is the inner-critic is terrified of change. He/she is so afraid of the unknown, of failure, of being disappointed or criticized, even of experiencing success. The inner-critic loves the status quo so beginning anything “new” is a sure trigger for him/her. The truth is our gremlins mean us no harm. They believe they are doing us a favor by saving us from rejection, failure, and disappointment.

There is a large cost to allowing the inner-critic to have its way. Our happiness. The following are some steps you can take to calm your inner-critic and honor your pursuit of happiness:

  1. First we need to accept that having an inner-critic is universal. You are not alone. The inner-critic lives with each one of us. We cannot banish him/her or any of their “distant cousins.” There are many versions (e.g. “comparison” gremlins or “not good enough” gremlins, etc.) so it may feel like a large family nagging away at us (albeit quietly–no one else can hear). Can you relate?
  2. Although we share our lives with gremlins, we can have a reprieve. We are always at choice in this matter! This is important to remember when we are starting something NEW. One helpful way I share with clients is to visualize your gremlin with a backpack on and send it off on a long hike (without a map). With practice you can later pack his/her bags and call the Uber for a send-off to the airport. Send him/her away on a long flight and a 2-week vacation in spite of Covid 19. Yes, the gremlin may return earlier than expected, yet how nice to have a break. Again, you are always in charge with how you respond to your negative internal chatter!
  3. Practice Presence as the Inner-Critic lives either in the past (focusing on what you “did”) or in the future (worried about what you “might do.”) He/she cannot survive in the present moment! The more you can remain present with mindful activities like meditation, receiving bodywork, and deep breathing exercises–you become more relaxed and can then effectively calm your inner-critic so you can create!
  4. Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear suggests having a conversation with the inner-critic. He/she longs to feel heard by us. It might resemble something like, “Ms. Gremlin I hear you’re worried I’ll be embarrassed if I do this presentation and draw a blank during the middle of it.  I also know I’m well-practiced and will do fine. Thank you and I’m doing this presentation anyway.” Finally, she uses an analogy of a car. Knowing that the inner-critic is a permanent resident, it will likely be with us in the car too. We are at choice as to where we allow it to sit. Will it be the back seat or do we allow it in the driver’s seat?
  5. Here’s some suggested homework if you’d like to explore this concept more: Buy a small notebook to carry with you. Jot down anytime you hear yourself saying something negative about yourself for a few days or even a week. See if there’s a pattern (as in repetition). Later go back and rewrite the negative into positive. Practice noticing the inner-critic (awareness is fundamental), then speak back to it with kindness and firm resolve. Finally, reframe what it’s saying from the negative to the positive.

Remember the inner-critic chatters (that’s what it does), it is often not loving toward us, and it never tells the truth. You can choose what you want to believe and how you will react.

Posted by: Suzan | August 27, 2020

Sleep Well – It Can Make Your Day

What makes your day? If you’re anything like me, sleeping well the night before does. It shapes the energy I bring to all my activities, affects my mood, and even defines my level of productivity.

With the disturbing state of our world and the underlying anxiety you may be experiencing, either falling and/or returning to sleep could be more challenging. More than ever we need our precious sleep as a way to enhance our immune system.

According to The National Sleep Foundation, adults require 7-9 hours of sleep per night for optimal health and effectiveness. Operating on less than six hours of sleep a night on a consistent basis is like being drunk. It can affect one’s judgment, reaction time, mental alertness, and coordination.

Rob Stein of the Washington Post wrote that living in a 24-7 society deprives us of our sleep and ultimately, our health. Citing studies done by Harvard University, irregular sleep is being associated with obesity, and an increased risk for colon cancer, breast cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. “Lack of sleep disrupts every physiologic function in the body,” said Eve Van Cauter of the University of Chicago. “We have nothing in our biology that allows us to adapt to this behavior.”

Harvard’s Nurse’s Study, involving more than 82,000 nurses, found a relationship to increased risk of death among those who slept less than 6 hours per night during a week. To thrive, collapsing into a deep sleep for at least 7-9 hours on a regular basis is paramount.

If you’re having difficulty sleeping over a long-term basis and/or wake up feeling like you haven’t slept much at all, you might want to consider doing a sleep study. These are often done in a lab yet there is also portable equipment you can use at home to monitor this. You can check out Web M.D.’s information here: http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-studies

Here are some tips from The National Sleep Foundation http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-tools-tips/healthy-sleep-tips to help induce better sleep habits:

  • Establish consistent sleep and wake schedules, even on weekends
  • Create a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath or listening to a soothing meditation or to music.  Begin an hour or more before the time you expect to fall asleep.
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool. Ideally your bedroom temperature should be between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex (keep “sleep stealers” out of the bedroom – avoid watching TV, using a computer or reading in bed). I admit I sometimes read in bed and it helps me to doze off….
  • Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime.
  • Exercise regularly during the day or at least a few hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol products close to bedtime and give up smoking.

Finally, having dealt with bouts of insomnia, I’ve personally experienced many ways to improve my sleep. Be sure to research this for yourself and make the best choices for your own body because everyone is different. Here are some ways to fall asleep (and stay asleep) which work best for me:

  • Since I’m extremely light sensitive I have black-out curtains. I also wear an eye mask. Also I’m sound sensitive so I wear earplugs to help block my husband’s snores or our neighbor playing his guitar.
  • Drink herbal tea a couple/few hours before bed. I prefer Chamomile.
  • Massage your feet with sesame oil.
  • Eat some nuts before bed (e.g. almond, Brazil nuts). Sometimes waking up in the middle of the night can be due to a blood sugar issue (which can involve the adrenal system and is more common with women in menopause).
  • Journal furiously. Unload your mind of anything which may be clogging it and keeping you awake. Do this late in the afternoon/early evening, not before bed. If I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep I do this then.
  • Sit in a massage chair if you have one for 15 – 30 minutes. Release all of your tension here. Alternatively you can put two tennis balls into an old sock or use a lacrosse ball as a roller to relieve stress in your shoulders, back, or anywhere else. You can do this on the floor or against a wall.
  • Count backwards from 100 slowly while focusing on your breath.
  • Practice yoga style breathing techniques. Breathe in for 4 counts; hold for 4 counts; and then exhale for 6 counts. Consider having a 1 word mantra to say over and over. Mine is So hum.(So is the sound of inhalation and Hum is exhalation – you could also say breathing in/breathing out and focus only on your breathe. So hum also means I am That in Hindi (e.g. I am one with the Universe and all of Creation). The use of a mantra can help divert the tangled thoughts competing for your attention.
  • My back/shoulder muscles are often taut. I lie on a heating pad before bedtime (for 15 minutes only) and it relaxes me.
  • Consider discussing adrenal support with your doctor. My naturopath creates a remedy for me to take twice daily. I also take Gemmo Ribes Nigrum by Unda. You may also want to look into your magnesium intake. Magnesium is calming and sometimes the reason people wake up in the middle of the night is due to a deficiency in magnesium. I take CALM (magnesium) daily.

When I cannot fall asleep which is rare nowadays, I take the following combination and within one hour am fast asleep:

  • Melatonin SR by Pure Encapsulations (2) and Life Seasons Rest ZZZ – Sleep Support (2). Please discuss this with your doctor first to see if it would be right for you.

Sleep well – It Can Make Your Day!

By: Suzan Tusson-McNeil, Expressive Arts Facilitator and Coach

Posted by: Suzan | April 18, 2020

Ode for the Sunflower from the Sun

 

93890207_10220126684891111_2606982150091702272_oAh yet another rain shower,

Prime time for flower power.

Time to shine and

Be kissed by the Divine.

Instead you whine.

Thoughts stuck on rewind.

Listening far too much to your mind

Whose nickname is ego.

You can’t seem to let go.

Stretching deeper into the soil

Creates toil.

Anchoring in the stronghold of a root,

Tuning out truth

For fear of (the sun).

Feeling no protection

You wilt, scorched.

Your leaves – torched.

You shrink away

Not wanting to stay.

Feeling so alone,

Forgotten, unknown.

Not realizing how you’ve grown.

As I (the sun) whisper…SHINE.

Like me you’re a mirror of the Divine.

Share your light.

You’re a beautiful sight.

You matter as much as me.

or a star, a sturdy mountain, a branch, or a tree.

Reach out with your brilliance.

Take that chance.

Life is a continual balance.

It’s a swirling dance.

Sometimes it’s too much and at others not enough.

In spite of life’s foibles which can sometimes be rough,

Know that you’re made from magical stuff.

You are so needed here.

Shine little sunflower for the strength of the Source is near.

You’re safe now – you can release your fear.

Suzan Tusson-McNeil Copyright 2020

Posted by: Suzan | March 28, 2020

How to Ride the Waves of the Coronavirus Tsunami

photography of man surfingThe Coronavirus – it’s like a Tsunami hit us overnight – we’re awash with change.

It all feels so bitter and strange.

My world feels upside down and

My happiness feels like a painted on clown.

Where do we go next? What do we do?

When everything is different – the ways are all new.

It’s like hiking paths unknown.

What we need to do is trust we will be shown.

frozen wave against sunlight

Lean in to the voice of Spirit.

The closer we are – we can hear it.

It’s time to have Faith as we’ve never known before.

These are turbulent times for sure.

Requiring our inner and outer strength to get through it

In order to  not lose our moor.

We must rely on our grit and our wit.

Come together even if it’s online.

Together we can heal this planet and shine

When we trust more in the power of the Divine.

Suzan Tusson-McNeil ©2020

 

Posted by: Suzan | March 17, 2020

The Only Way Out is IN

silhouette of a man on a rock

The Only Way Out is IN

The Only Way Out is IN,

Is this our newest universal lesson?

Our panting Earth needs to slow down to begin AGAIN.

To release our hardened views and open up to true Compassion.

Perhaps we were all far too busy,

Feeling life needs to satisfy “me.”

woman sitting while showing heart sign hands

Love is all there is

The Earth breathed a heavy sigh

as she wondered why

We can’t seem to get along

Pointing our fingers making everyone else wrong.

Then Mother Earth sobbed with her need for care.

Asking why respect for her precious beauty has become rare.

We only have one world.

Now it’s where the Covid 19 pandemic has unfurled.

We must distance from one another.

Feels like a baby taken from its mother.

Most businesses are closed.

Life as we’ve known it has too.

Yet in its place – what if our soul knows

we CAN meet this challenge anew.

When feeling trapped with nowhere to escape,

we can dig deeper in our hearts for our Super Person cape.

Move our outer focus more within.

Can we finally realize the only way out is in?

Suzan Tusson-McNeil ©2020

 

Posted by: Suzan | March 3, 2020

A Stranger is a Friend I have not Met

After filling my cart at the Dollar Store with items for the homeless, I could not find the end of the check-out line. It had wrapped past the cashiers, across the store, and then wound its way down an aisle. It could have been people buying up goods in anticipation of the Coronavirus. All I knew is I had a choice to leave or stay and be patient realizing at $1.00 per item, for me it is worth the wait. One person in line grumbled, yelled something at the clerk, and then abandoned her full cart in the line. We are all at choice.

I pulled up behind a 60ish year old Latina woman who immediately struck up a conversation.

“Why do you think the line is so long today?” she asked.

“I really don’t know but I need to get to the homeless club soon for my presentation.” I said.

“What are you doing for the homeless?” she asked.

I told her how I work for NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and share a message that recovery is possible with my personal story. NAMI runs a clubhouse for homeless with mental health conditions and I sometimes bring my inspirational message to them although not without a raffle bag. I’ve found this entices them to join me and then also to stay throughout the presentation. Each participant must be present at the end to receive the raffle bag (stock-filled with useful items like socks, water, food and more).

The lady I spoke with shared her name was Isabel. I learned she too has an affinity for the homeless and often prepares home cooked meals which she brings to different homeless groups.

Isabel leaned in and asked, “Do you get reimbursed for buying these items?”

“No. I do it because I care and it works.” I said.

“Allow me to buy them for you,” she said.

hands heart love

I felt my heart soften and open as tears glistened along my eyelids. So this is her paying it forward I thought. My love and respect for humanity had deepened with this unexpected loving gesture.

“Yes thank you so much. I’m so touched.” I shared.

As we approached the cashier, Isabel reached over and threw some more bags of food into my cart. “You don’t have enough for them, “she said with a big smile.

She walked in front of my cart and said to the cashier, “I’m paying for the items in this cart.” She handed the sales associate the cash.”

Then Isabel said, “I own some orchards and often have cases of fruit I need to share before they spoil. I now know I can bring them over to the homeless at NAMI’s clubhouse.”

All of this because I chose to stay in the line, not complain nor get lost staring at my phone. We never know where our conversations with strangers may lead. In my case to learn that there are no strangers. Only friends I have not met yet.

 

Posted by: Suzan | February 28, 2020

The Desert Speaks

86809683_10219495207584573_1947312045720338432_o

a poem inspired by my recent camping trip to Little Blair Valley, Borrego Springs, CA

 

The Desert Speaks

The vast desert cries out, “There’s plenty of space.”

The ant says, “You’ve got this – no need to race.”

The jack rabbit says, “Pause before you hop.”

The wind says, “Keep going – after you stop.”

The sun says, “You can count on me.”

The white butterfly says, “Lighten up to be free.”

The hillsides covered in boulders say, “You too can be still and solid.”

The sandy earth says, “Walk light upon me – be more like a kid.”

The buzzing bee says, “There’s plenty to go around.”

The cactus says, “Hold your ground!”

The desert wildflower says, “Push through – it’s what you need to do.”

The shrubbery says, “You will not only survive – you will thrive.”

The coyotes yelp, “Abundance is near.”

The tarantulas cry, “Life is for the most part harmless. Have no fear.”

Together the desert landscape

provides a magical escape.

Even though the Cholla cactus can pierce the skin,

I’ll return to the desert again!

Posted by: Suzan | October 6, 2019

Aging Well

photography of woman surrounded by sunflowers

Do you dread walking up to someone you know at the gym, a social event, or maybe even at work? You can’t recall his/her name so you look for the closest place to hide. Ever found yourself wondering why you entered a room? You know there was a distinct purpose, now it’s not clear why you’re in there. What about when you’re in the thick of a conversation with someone and your “train derails.” You cannot recall what you just said. Maybe you find yourself playing charades in conversations–searching for common words that now escape you. Any of these scenarios sound familiar?

These periods of forgetfulness can be disturbing. The good news is they are not indicative of memory loss conditions such as Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, according to the National Institute on Aging. “More serious issues would involve: asking the same question over and over, getting lost in a familiar area like one’s neighborhood, not being able to follow instructions, and getting confused about time, people, and places. Also, memory loss is not the only symptom when someone has dementia. This individual would also show difficulty with language skills, visual perception, or paying attention. Dementia clearly interferes with one’s daily life and activities.”

The below chart is from The National Institute on Aging’s site to help people better distinguish between what is normal and what is not:graph agingHaving had a concussion earlier this year after a fall down a flight of stairs, brain health has become foremost in my life. Recently I discovered an important resource which you may find helpful. Their research recommends that anyone 50 and over get a brain health assessment annually. Dementia can show up 20 years beforehand and if people find out earlier, there are health and wellness practices and drug treatments which may delay the onset. There is a non-profit, Cogniciti, whose mission is to offer a brain health assessment to as many people over 50 as they can for a base-line assessment. Then they encourage each person to repeat it every 6 months to 1 year and will send out reminder emails with the link. These assessments are free. The test is also offered in-person at places like your local YMCA and they provide the computers.

If you’re interested you can go directly to their website: http://www.cogniciti.com and take the brain health assessment or look online to see when their in-person events are scheduled. They also have numerous resources on how to care for the aging brain.

It is never too early or too late to do what we can to reverse cognitive decline. Our brains need exercise as much as the rest of our bodies. Our brains need our love and attention as much as our hearts. Our brains help us to navigate our way through the world so they deserve our utmost attention.

 

quote choprah on memory and brain health

 

 

Posted by: Suzan | September 24, 2019

Healthy Ways to Express Anger and Feel More at Peace

anger quote 2 9-24-19

I gaze out of the large picture window in my living room to witness a bunny and community of quail nibbling on the grass and cacti. Circling above Mission Trails Park is a Red-Tailed Hawk, now swooping down for its prey.  Life seems good, that is, until I later get into my car, turn on NPR, and listen to the news.

Commentaries range from potential threats of nuclear war to discrimination against immigrants, blatant racism, senseless murders, a divisive political system, and more. Underneath this raging torrent of negativity I believe lies deep, unresolved anger within those responsible for the atrocities and wrongdoings. Perhaps people not feeling seen or heard by others lash out. It’s so complicated. I find myself pulled in by my need to “know” and repelled by a stronger need to feel at peace.

Approaching a yellow light close to turning red at a large intersection, I stop. The car behind me swerves around screeching. The car stops and the driver stares at me while wagging his middle finger shouting “F— You.”

I point at the red light and yell “F— You. Red light!” We both are in need of centering yet I’m left with, “What has happened to our world when the norm now seems to run the yellow/red lights?” Where is our civility?” This driver also became a mirror reflecting the deep anguish I already feel.

In a world gone awry, how do we express our anger in a more positive way? It’s critical for our health to get our anger outside of us rather than allow it to fester inside. Otherwise it’s like a volcanic inferno which may one day explode. In the book, Childhood Disrupted, How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal, it mentions when someone does not express anger and instead turns it inward – depression and/or other physical illnesses can result. The book recommends writing about stressful experiences for healing. Research studies showed when people did this they went to the doctor less and showed positive changes in immune function. Writing, or journaling, is a way to release pent up emotional pain, which when repressed can create ill health–and perhaps also lead to acting out in ways which can harm others.

Here are 7 healthy ways to express anger adapted from Psychology Today:

  • Play sports like soccer, pickle ball, volleyball or whatever your preference. You can also buy a punching bag to hang in your home or lift some weights.
  • Write out your anger (again as mentioned before – get it out and onto the paper for more relief)!
  • Sing your anger. Select some songs which reflect best how you’re feeling and sing along. You can also write your own lyrics.
  • Dance out your anger. Choose music which helps you get more in touch with how you’re feeling and then move your body in whatever way it would like to move. Be mindful of any physical limitations you may have so you don’t get injured.
  • Draw or paint your anger. Use colors, colored pencils, or paints (finger paints work really well for this), use a sketch pad, butcher paper or whatever you like to express yourself. This is not about creating fine art – it’s about allowing whatever shows up.
  • Verbalize your anger with a gestalt technique. You can pound some pillows on your bed or a sofa imagining them to be the person or situation you’re frustrated with. You can also put a chair across from you. Talk to the chair about what you’re angry about. Talk to it and scream at it.
  • Calmly talk with the person you’re angry with. Once you have used one of the above techniques and feel more grounded, you can then talk with the person you’re angry with. Make sure you can speak with a calm demeanor before you initiate this. Let the person know why you’re angry and explore ways to resolve the situation and to not allow it to happen again.

Finally, remember this famous quote by Buddha:

Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

 

 

Memory-RetentionDo your conversations sometimes resemble Charade games with friends tossing out words to help fill in your blanks? Have you ever walked into a room only to question why you are there? Do you hide from someone because you’ve forgotten his/her name?

Not to worry. It is most likely not early dementia. Living in a society which thrives on cell phones, I pads, computers, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites, along with endless television channels, it is a wonder we can remember our own names. The Department of Labor mentioned that we are now getting more information in one week of the New York Times than people received in the entire 100 years of the 18th Century. This bombardment of information seems to be taking over our memories and holding them hostage.

So what can you do to release your memory from this stronghold of too much information? One thing I do is carry a small notebook with me to write anything down which I must remember (things to research and/or take action on and promises I’ve made to others). I also place sticky notes near the door with items listed that I need to take with me. Occasionally I do a “mind dump.” I write out everything I can think of which I want to do now or later (3 months – many years later). Then I look through the items and decide what matters most. By getting all of this onto paper, I allow my recall a rest.

The Mayo Clinic suggests the following to sharpen your memory:

  • Exercise your mind like you would your body. Do crossword puzzles, or read something challenging (even if a couple of pages). Take a new class, volunteer, or put your watch on the other wrist. Mental stimulation can jump start your memory.
  • Be Social. Active engagement with others helps stave off depression and alleviates stress which can contribute to memory loss.
  • Organize your surroundings so it is easier to find things. Hire a professional organizer if this would help inspire you to do so.
  • Focus your attention. Contrary to popular opinion multi-tasking is not helpful for your mind’s retention. Try doing one task at a time.
  • Nourish yourself with a healthy diet. If you don’t drink enough water or you imbibe in too much alcohol, this can affect your recollection. Eat brain food to sharpen your recall, e.g. fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat protein sources.
  • Exercise regularly as physical movement increases blood flow to your entire body, including your brain. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends about 20-30 minutes of brisk activity per day, or about 150 minutes throughout the week.
  • Follow the health treatment plan your doctor and/or holistic professional recommends. Discuss your supplements and medications as some can impact memory. Do whatever you can to sleep well. Self-care is paramount to memory retention.

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