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How to thrive during family holidays.



In case your family gatherings aren’t always a scene from a Hallmark Holiday Movie, I’ve got a few tips to survive, and maybe even thrive this holiday season.
It helps to remember that you can’t control the weather, the crowds, lost luggage, or delays. And you certainly can’t control “them”. Accept that most things will be out of your control and focus on what you can control.

Here are 6 ways to thrive this holiday season.

1. Have a Plan.
What are the things you do each day that set you up to feel good – time alone, a long walk, working out? So often, we drop all our good habits when we’re on holiday and then wonder why we aren’t our best selves. Plan times to do the things that make you feel good about yourself. 

If you remember that certain things or people trigger you, have a plan for what you’ll do if that happens – call a friend, go to the bathroom and do breathing exercises, get outside. Make your well-being a priority.

2. Make a daily commitment to yourself.
The simpler you make your commitments, the more likely you are to keep them. What is the one thing you can commit to doing every. single. day.  Some simple practice that doesn’t take too long, but helps you feel good. Commit to doing that every single day. Prioritize it. Congratulate yourself each night for doing it. 

3. Remember how you want to be, and set an intention every day to be that way.
Each morning take 60 seconds to state how you want to be today. Picture going through your day in this state. Set the intention to be that way. And remember – you won’t be that way consistently, like meditation – you don’t stay focused, you keep returning to focus. So you won’t stay in that ideal state every minute, you’ll keep returning to it.

4. Journal this each night:

  • How you fulfilled your intention, or what you’ll do differently tomorrow. Look for one time you fulfilled your intention today. Your mind will automatically look for all the ways you failed. That is not helpful. Search for the time or times you did fulfill it. Write about it. Notice how that feels to relive it.  And only after doing that, make note of any lessons from today that will help you be even more successful tomorrow.
  • Three good things that happened today. Write each one down and after writing, take a moment to remember it, feel it again. Then write the next one. It can be the smallest things – a tasty cup of coffee, a laugh, or even a good poop 🙂  Your mind will naturally replay anything that went wrong, and that can put you into a funk that makes it harder to remember all the things that went right.  Don’t make a long list. Keep it to just three. But as you write each one, be sure to feel it again. 

5. Consider everything others are doing to be either “Love or a Cry for Love”.
A friend of mine taught me this practice years ago, and it’s so helpful in challenging situations. Any time someone is not at their best, consider their behavior to be a cry for love. It doesn’t mean you have to rush in and provide the love. Just seeing their actions that way, can make the whole experience easier for you.

And if you find yourself “behaving badly”, give yourself that same compassion – your words or actions were a cry for love, and maybe they just come out wrong.

6. Find ways to feel safe. 
This is most important and often overlooked. When I say there’s little you can control, I’m including your own behavior. Your neural circuits are always sensing whether your environment or the people in it are safe or dangerous. This is called Neuroception and the problem is – you’re not aware this is happening. It could be a distant sound, a color, someone’s tone of voice, facial expression, or just their presence – all this and more can be picked by your nervous system as dangerous. When that happens, your system readies you to act. You’re no longer in a creative, compassionate, or engaging state. Little things can suddenly set you off and you erupt or shut down. 

When your environment feels safe, your nervous system relaxes and you can engage and enjoy. Find the places, sounds and people that make you feel safe. And access them often. (See #1 – Have a plan)

Helping you live a life you love,
Debra

Please share this with people you know and love, so we can all bring out the best in ourselves and each other.

More joy and less stress for the holidays

We’re officially in “The Holiday Season”.

Whether you celebrate something, everything, or nothing at all, the holiday season is almost impossible to ignore.

Most people find themselves getting busy with big parties, travel, and small get-togethers. Even if it’s all good and fun and you love doing it, being busy can be a source of stress.

Others feel left out and lonely at this time, and that can be a real downer.

So rather than thinking of everything you want or have to do this season and trying to minimize the stress, or imagining all that you might miss out on and managing your disappointment, I have an idea for you.

Do this simple practice right now and set yourself up for less stress and more joy this holiday.

1. Make yourself comfortable.
2. Close your eyes.
3. Remember a time you felt really great. It doesn’t matter when it was, or what you were doing. 
4. Sense how that feels in your body.
5. Say a few words to describe how that feels.
6. Notice how you feel about yourself.
7. Imagine every cell in your body filling up with the vibration of these thoughts and feelings. 
8. Open your eyes.
9. Write down how you felt physically and how you felt about yourself.
10. From now until the end of the year, start each day remembering how it felt to be this version of you. Let yourself feel it again.

Say Yes more often to the things that help you feel this way. 
Say No more often to the things that make it harder to feel this way.


Fill yourself with the best of you this season, and let that guide your way.

Changing the way you do things is hard. I recommend you share this with a friend who wants more joy this season and support each other to make choices that fulfill you.

Here’s a radical way to increase your dopamine.


Do you know what Friday, November 25th is?  It’s the 30th Anniversary of:

BUY NOTHING DAY

Oh ya, it also happens to be black Friday, more on that in just a second. 

Buy Nothing Day wasn’t created as an anti-Black Friday or Anti-Christmas event. In fact, when artist Ted Dave of Vancouver, Canada launched the first Buy Nothing Day it was held in September. It wasn’t meant as a gimmick to change your habits for one day. Instead, it was meant to give pause – a chance to reflect on unconscious habits of consumption.

Now you might be asking what the heck does this have to do with my dopamine??? Glad you asked.

Right now, and for the next several weeks, you’re being absolutely hammered with ads to buy stuff. The anticipation of shopping creates a dopamine surge inside you. We think of dopamine as the “pleasure” drug. While it does feel GOOD – it’s the hormone connected with pursuit, motivation, novelty, and expectation of reward. It makes you feel like you’re on a worthwhile adventure and should keep going.

So these non-stop ads can get you pretty jacked up to shop. And that feels pretty good. The surge may be high, but the experience will be short-lived. And post-shopping there’s a potential for a BIG drop.

Your body is always working to keep you in a state of balance, so after a big surge of dopamine, it doesn’t just return to normal. It drops below your normal level. When that happens you feel flat, unmotivated, and you might want another hit of something to pump you up. That’s when you’ll be tempted to shop again.

Buy Nothing Day could become a great day to explore other dopaminergic activities:

  • Spend time in nature. 
  • Move your body in fun ways.
  • Listen to music (which may lead to moving your body in fun ways 🙂
  • Meditate – sitting, walking, yoga or any form you like.
  • Have Sex.
  • Get good sleep. 
  • Read a book you love.
  • Play games and sports
  • Have caffeine 2 hours after you wake.
  • Eat a healthy diet that supports your dopamine, or seek advice from a nutrition expert.

By the way, I’m not condemning shopping. I just know that the more conscious awareness you bring to anything you do, the more fulfilling your life will be.  That’s what I want for you – more fulfillment. And sometimes it’s by limiting experiences, that you actually experience more.

Love Debra

Please share this with someone in your life who’s totally dope. Make a plan to do something together, and notice how you feel after doing it.

*I’m not a nutritionist, so this is just information, not a recommendation: Tyrosine is a natural amino acid that’s a precursor to dopamine. L-Theanine is another. Vitamins D, B5 & B6 are all needed to produce dopamine. Magnesium and Omega 3 Essential fatty acids also support it. 

More of one and Less of the other (Part 2)

In an earlier post I recommended that you spend less time “thinking globally” and more time “acting locally”.  I shared the potential negative effects of too much attention on global issues that you can’t control. (I didn’t include this earlier, but you may want to block notifications from your local social media site – you know the one. It can be a bullhorn for complainers and fear-mongers. That will just keep you focused on all that’s wrong in your hood, instead of all that’s good.)

What are some benefits of “acting locally”?

  • You can affect change at a local level far easier.
  • When you focus on what you can control and act on it, you calm your busy mind and regulate your nervous system through movement. 
  • You make connections in the real work which stimulates your vagus nerve (huge for combating anxiety)
  • Other people’s nervous systems are affected by yours, so you bring more peace to the world by calming yourself.
  • You become more resilient – able to handle challenges and enjoy life.

What are some ways to “think locally”?

  • Look for the good in your hood. There’s tons of it, I promise you. When you see the good, you feel good. It creates a sense of possibilities inside you.
  • Look for ways to make things better and get involved in the easiest way possible.
  • Learn the name of as many neighbors on your street as you can – and say hello.
  • Buy from locally owned shops and keep money flowing in your community.
  • Thank shop staff for showing up. Workers are in short supply, and the ones who are there are feeling the stress.
  • Join a CSA to support local farmers when they need the money most. Then benefit from the freshest local food possible.
  • Shop at a farmer’s market and privately owned grocery stores if you’re lucky enough to have them. They’ll only exist if you use them.
  • Call or email your city council members just to thank them for their work – it’s a pretty thankless job and you may be amazed at how much it’s appreciated.
  • Stay informed about good things happening in your neighborhood and support them how you can – with your time, a donation, spreading the word, or just thanking them.

Here are two concerns that come up pretty regularly when I share this idea with my clients who want to reduce stress and be more productive:

  1. Don’t I need to be informed to be a good citizen?

Yes, but don’t confuse informed with inundated. As I mentioned in the earlier post, being inundated with information makes you less capable of dealing with it wisely.

Information will reach you even if stop looking for it. When you find a topic you care about and want to be informed, look for non-sensationalistic reports. Get the information, then act.

Knowledge itself is not power. What you do with knowledge is power.
I don’t stay up to date on everything happening in the world. I know my brain and body can’t handle it. But when I hear about something I care about, I find a way to act. Before elections I study candidates and how they voted on issues, and I make informed decisions based on that information. I stay away from most of the stories when I can’t do anything about them.

  1. Won’t I look stupid at parties if I don’t know what’s going on?

Yep, that might happen. Fear of looking stupid and not fitting in is a real thing. But if you’re spending your time doing things you love, creating, contributing, and enjoying your life, you’ll have more to talk about than current events that don’t concern you. Being interested in your own life makes you interesting – not to everyone – but to the people with whom you want to belong.  And we all need to belong. 
 
You can also spend less time talking. Take the pressure off yourself. Spend more time asking questions, listening, and learning. Most people will find you quite interesting if you ask about them 🙂

There is so much good you can do and feel if you’re not distracted by everything else.
I hope that helps. 

If you want to focus more on what you can control, check out my Free Masterclass that will give you clarity on where to focus now.

Saying No to Love, helped me be more loving.

If all had gone as planned, this would be the final day of The 30 Day Love Explosion.  This a free program I offer every couple of years because I absolutely LOVE it.

I Love the impact it makes in people’s lives. I Love that people from 10 countries have done it. I Love hearing stories of friends and families transforming their relationships. I Love that the program is simple, intuitive, and based in science. 

Let’s face it – I love LOVE!

That’s why this year I decided to do it bigger and better. I hired someone to create a new site. We updated the workbook. We were all set to go.

I was excited and my team was ready.

Then I noticed something didn’t feel right. Nothing was wrong with the project. It was sparkling and fresh and better than ever – ready to spread more love around the globe.

Something was off in me. I was stressed. I noticed constriction and heaviness in my body, when I’m used to feeling light and expansive. I was feeling overwhelmed at times. 

I wasn’t able to be fully present in my life because my mind was bouncing with all the things I had to do.

  • My coaching practice is full.
  • I’m in the final phase of testing my new online course.
  • I’m settling into a new town and hosting friends and family I haven’t seen in years. 


I realized as I scanned by body, my mind, my schedule, and my priorities, that offering The 30 Day Love Explosion this October was one thing too many.

Even though I’d spent lots of time and money to make it better…Even though people had already signed up to participate…I knew I couldn’t show up fully in that program or other parts of my life if I spread myself too thin.

So at the last minute, I canceled it. By doing that, I followed the same advice I’ve given clients in the past.

It was a hard decision. Then it was a huge relief.  I was only able to make that decision because I was clear on what matters most to me. So even though I’m not immersed in The 30 Day Love Explosion this month, I’ve been able to show up with more Love by saying no to it… for now.  I promise you, there is more love to come 🙂

If you want help getting clear so you can live as your best self with less stress and overwhelm, check out my new Free Masterclass.

Do you need more of one and less of the other?

Remember the term “Think Global. Act Local.” It was coined by Scottish social activist and town planner, and revived by environmental groups decades later. It definitely got my generation thinking about the impact of our actions on the world around us. Which is a very good thing. But too much of a good thing can be bad.

I want to introduce a slight change to that phrase and encourage you to “Think Local. Act Local.” 

Here’s why:

And even though life is evolving and changing quickly – your nervous system isn’t. You’ve got the same complex, beautifully designed wiring as your ancestors. But your world is totally different.

“A single Sunday edition of the New York Times today contains more information than typical 19th-century citizens faced in their entire lifetime.” state the authors of a 2014 study in the journal Computer in Human Behavior.

Even if you never read the paper, you are being bombarded by news from all around the world constantly – wars, floods, drought, fires, shootings, uprisings, oppression, and extinctions.  It fills your social media feed, radio, tv and more.

And frankly my dear, your nervous system isn’t designed to handle it all. You are exquisitely designed to connect with people, overcome challenges, sense danger and respond appropriately. But when you’re exposed to thousands, and even millions, of other people’s lives, and situations beyond your influence or control, your system becomes overwhelmed.

You see tragedies whirring by – you click, maybe you donate, and you scroll on. You feel bad for a moment, then perhaps a bit of relief by replying, donating, or sharing a post.

You may look fine from the outside, but inside it’s a different story. Your nervous system gets activated, ready to fight or flee, but can’t physically act in the way it’s designed to do. You go about your day, but the effects linger inside you. Whether you’re aware of them or not.

When this happens you can experience all sorts of unpleasant symptoms…irritability, trouble sleeping, fatigue, headaches, anxiety, trouble focusing, indecisiveness, impulsivity, reduce work efficiency. It will also lead to reduced ability to properly weigh and interpret information. And if you want make sense of the world, that ability is vitally important these days.

So when it comes to being bombarded by news, being a little less informed may actually help you make better decisions. You’ll be less stressed, better rested, more efficient, better able to connect with others, and able to understand and interpret information. I’m not saying you shouldn’t make informed decisions! It’s just that you’re probably getting too much.

Some stories are so compelling you can’t stop watching, you need to stay up to date, but unless the information is enabling you to act right now to save yourself or others, you’re better off turning it off and doing something nourishing, restful, productive, life affirming in some way. You’ll be more resilient and able to handle challenges in your own life when they happen – and they will.

A study out of UC Irvine reported that people who watched 6 hours of coverage daily of the Boston Marathon for the week after the event, were more likely to have higher levels of acute stress than those who were at the event or near it. Hopefully that’s enough proof to get you to stop watching, scrolling, and getting sucked in.

You may think you’d never watch 6 hours of coverage a day of a tragedy, but it doesn’t have to be that much time to still have an impact. And it doesn’t’ have to just be one event. If you’re seeing multiple tragedies and sad stories daily, you’re creating excess stress you really don’t need.

So what do you instead of spending so much time “thinking globally”?

I want to hear your ideas, and I’ll share some of my own in my next installment.

Stop doing this if you want to be truly great.

Think of someone great. Someone who inspires you, really impresses the pants off you. It may be someone quiet and unassuming, or someone who makes a big splash in the world. It can be in any field.

Nelson Mandela, Jane Goodall, Steph Curry, Margaret Atwood, Greta Thunberg, Jerry Seinfeld, Lizzo…

Whoever it is, you know what this person does not do?

They don’t try to be someone they’re not. They don’t copy what others are doing. They are uniquely themselves, doing what they do in their own way. And that’s what you admire most.

Many of us see people doing great things, making a difference in the world and think “I want to do that too”. It’s wonderful to be inspired by others. Just know that you’ll never be truly great by imitating others.

Your greatness is a gift that is wrapped in your uniqueness. All your strengths and quirks. The things that make you different, and sometimes make you feel like you don’t fit in. Accept them. Embrace them. Express them. When you are authentically yourself you can be truly successful.

The world needs more great people. Be great at being you.

To your greatness, Debra

Please share this with someone you think is great!

PS. My new course launching in 2023, helps entrepreneurs, executives, artists and activists tap into their own unique greatness to achieve more success with less stress. You can get on the waitlist to find out more here.

Is this morning habit fueling or depleting you?

Want to up your energy, motivation, belief in your abilities, and general sense of well-being?
 

I thought you might.
 

One of the key indicators of how motivated, energized and happy you are, is your dopamine level. Dopamine is a neuromodulator that affects all of that and more.

A depletion of dopamine can be devastating. You can lack energy, motivation and sex drive. You might be moody and anxious, maybe even depressed. You have trouble sleeping and concentrating.

People with higher levels of dopamine are more energized, ambitious, and feel better about themselves. 

Dopamine is produced in your adrenal glands and released from your brain. Once it’s released it has to go somewhere.  It goes to your dopamine receptors where it can be used to light your fire, lift your mood and make you feel better.

There are many ways to optimize your dopamine that I share with my clients who are feeling sluggish and having trouble getting unstuck, and also with those who are over-driven and pushing themselves into burnout.

A morning coffee is one of those ways.

Coffee increases your dopamine receptors and makes them work more effectively, so they’ll pick up the dopamine swirling around inside you and make it more potent. VROOM VROOM!!

Here are 4 simple tips to get the most out of your morning coffee and fuel for your super powers.

1.  Use it as a ritual to awaken all your senses.

Hold the cup and feel the warmth seep into your hands. (I use a hand-made mug for extra sensory pleasure)

Bring the mug to your face and inhale the aroma. Much of your taste comes from smell so you’ll sharpen your taste by smelling it first.

Take your first sip and before you swallow just notice the textures and temperature in your mouth.

Before you take another sip, just notice how your body feels after touching, smelling and tasting.

Your morning coffee can be a meditation that gets you present early and sets the tone for a more mindful day.

2. Avoid that mid afternoon energy crash by delaying your first cup for 1.5 – 2 hours after you wake up.  Cortisol, the stress hormone that increases your energy and regulates your sleep/wake cycles, (as well as many other groovy things) is naturally higher in the morning. This means you’re naturally more energized and able to focus in the early hours.  If all things are working well in your body, it will peak within 2 hours of waking, drop and continue tapering off throughout the day.

If you drink caffeine as soon as you wake you’ll disrupt your cortisol’s natural flow, causing it to peak earlier and drop earlier. Your energy will decline and it will be harder to focus.  This can create dependency on caffeine to do what your body could be doing naturally.

If you avoid coffee for the first 1.5 – 2 hours you let cortisol, which controls many life affirming systems in your body, operate optimally.

Also when you wake, your adenosine, the neurotransmitter that promotes sleepiness, is at its lowest. It rises throughout the day.  Caffeine blocks adenosine from reaching its receptors, so even though adenosine is building in your brain throughout the day, you won’t feel it while caffeine is doing its thing.  If you started drinking too early and rely on caffeine too much you’ll feel the effects of adenosine in a more profound way later and you’ll feel sleepy, making you crave more caffeine.

Delaying your morning brew gets your body back into its natural incredibly elegant rhythm of energy ebbs and flows.

3. Stop drinking coffee 8 – 10 hours before you go to bed. Caffeine has a pretty long life in your body, but the length of time varies for all of us.  If you aren’t sure how long it takes for you to process caffeine, stop drinking coffee in the afternoon and see if you notice changes a few weeks or months from now.  Caffeine in your system will really mess with your sleep, even if you’re not aware that it’s happening. You may fall asleep quickly and feel like you sleep through the night but the quality of your sleep will suffer if caffeine is operating at a half-life, or even quarter-life inside you. That means you’ll wake tired and want caffeine right away, which can lead to the mid afternoon crash, more coffee, and on it goes.

4. Choose coffee that’s good for everyone. Coffee is big business. The way the crops are grown and produced can be devastating to people, animals, and the planet. When you buy coffee that is certified Fair Trade, Organic, Shade Grown or Bird Friendly, you’re supporting small-scale farmers, communities and sustainable practices that support different species. It’s another way you can do good for others while your coffee is doing good for you.
 

Cheers,
Debra

If you want to experiment with delaying coffee, it’s important to remember that you don’t break a habit, you change a habit. I’d love to hear what you do, or plan to do, during that time when you’d normally be drinking your first cup.

As I write this, I’m raising my cup of morning coffee to your health.

Cheers, Debra

PS. Please share this post with someone who could use some ongoing energy and motivation.

It might be time to start again.

Years ago, my husband and I sat in silence with a group of strangers in Joshua Tree for 10 days. As part of this Vipassana retreat, we meditated for about 10 hours every day. Each session of sitting would begin with a recording of the teacher, S.N.Goenke saying, “Start Again”. 

To this day my husband and I laugh and say, “Start again” when we’re attempting something hard, something awkward, anything really that needs to be started again. 

This past week I had a chance to start again. We’ve moved to a small town off the beaten track to anywhere – a far cry from Santa Monica, CA where friends always found a reason to be “passing through”. 

Some women friends, from my life in Vancouver decades ago, were going to be passing through my new town on their way to a backpacking adventure. I invited them to come stay with us. Actually, I kinda begged. We’d only just arrived and had no furniture, but they had camping gear, so it seemed quite doable.

They arrived. We ate, we drank, we walked and talked and talked some more. In pairs, in threes and as a whole group. We talked about beautiful, scary, and painful things.  

We laughed, we cried, and we hugged goodbye. My husband christened them, The Mama Wolfpack.

I’ve stayed close to one of these women and I’m in touch with her regularly. I was close to one, but we’d drifted apart. The third, I’d admired from a far in my earlier life, but never really gotten to know her. In this new setting and new stage of life I got to start again, and I can feel the roots of something deep growing.

I’m reminded that it’s almost never too late to start again, whether you’ve:

  • Skipped so many workouts that you’re feeling funky.
  • Had a fight with your kids, parents, partner or boss.
  • Fallen off the wagon so you’re drinking, over-eating, or smoking again.
  • Gotten off track from who you wanted to become.
  • Stop investing in your well-being or your finances.
  • Let a long time pass since you called that friend.

Stop saying these three words and just Start Again. Life is actually full of second chances. And third and fourth and more…

The Self Care practice you’re probably not doing.

I just learned that July 24th is International Self-Care Day.

I first thought, “Is that really a thing?”

Then I wondered if you might beat yourself up about it, thinking “Oh God, now I have to add self-care to my already massive list of things to do”.

I thought about some of my busy clients, with schedules so full there’s no white space. I remembered how that used to feel. Ugh

Rather than offer you any ideas about what you could or should be doing for self-care, the question I have for you is this:

What is one thing you could stop doing that would be an act of self-care?

Really, one thing. I’d love to hear!

My favorite quote right now is from the author of The Little Prince:

“Perfection is not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”

~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

May that inspire you as you create a life that is perfect for you. You may even elevate your life to a work of art.

Sometimes less really is more.

Feel free to share this with someone who could use a little less in their life.