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How to Break Through Blocks and Succeed

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The Benefits of Human Hibernation

Why Not Leverage Hibernation?

While the human animal was not made for true hibernation, science suggests that there may be certain metabolic changes that take place in our bodies during Winter that affect our mood, energy level, motivation, appetite and sleep cycle. These metabolic changes include insulin resistance, helping our system be more fuel-efficient and go for long periods of time with a smaller amount of food; and a decrease in dopamine which affects our mood.

While many people report feeling depressed in the Winter, there is evidence that Winter Depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)  differs from clinical depression. According to this article in The Daily Mail, “Clinically depressed people usually lose interest in food, finding it tasteless or even unpleasant. They often shed weight and have great trouble sleeping. Sufferers of seasonal depression are just the opposite, eating and sleeping with gusto. While SAD affects just a few per cent of the population, many researchers believe that most of us are susceptible to seasonal overeating, oversleeping and a general bodily go-slow.”

So, instead of fighting against the body’s need to slow down and rest why don’t we go with it? Having Spring/Summer energy expectations of yourself in Winter will just lead to you feeling frustrated and possibly more down. Winter is a natural time to go inside, both indoors and into yourself. Why not leverage this natural tendency? Go ahead and get some rest and perhaps use this time for reflection. Look back over the year that’s ending and start to contemplate your plan for next year. Just don’t expect yourself to execute on this plan immediately!

This could be the perfect time to make the first draft of a Personal Strategic Plan, which is what members of the Vision Quest Retreats Tribe will be doing at the Powerful Women Networking Event: Create Your Personal Strategic Plan taking place January 12th in Potomac, MD. In keeping with nature’s cycle start to look to become active and ready to really getting going on your plan in the Spring when the rivers start to thaw. I don’t know about you but I’m looking forward to a Spring Breakthrough when I will see the seeds that I’ve been planting come to fruition! If you want to join us for this stay tuned on the Vision Quest with Dr. Nicole Cutts facebook page!

Winter months can bring on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and for some this may be exacerbated by holiday blues. Symptoms of winter SAD usually begin in October or November and subside in March or April. Some folks begin to slump as early as August, while others remain well until January. Depressions are usually mild to moderate, but they can also be severe. Even if you don’t suffer from SAD, gloomy winter months may bring you down and for many people the holiday season can be a tough time. Below are my top 10 tips for beating the winter/holiday blues.

#1: Exercise. Exercise is crucial in combating depression, staving off Alzheimer’s and keeping off unwanted pounds. Do some kind of physical activity you enjoy at least three times a week for 30 mins each time. Exercise can release endorphins and reduce stress. Vary your routine and have fun with it. I keep it simple with walks in the woods and my yoga practice.

#2: Get Light. Get outside when you can in the sunshine even if it’s cold the sun’s rays can lift your mood. Being in nature lifts the spirits of many.  I’m lucky enough to get out during the days but some people get relief from phototherapy using light boxes and now they even just have single bulbs ranging from about $4-$10. The light boxes range from about $30-$150. Not all light boxes are effective for treating SAD. Before buying one you may want to read this article from About Health.

#3: Laugh and Have Fun. Do me a favor. Smile. Just smile right now for no reason and see if you don’t feel better. When we laugh and smile this action sends a message to our brains that we are happy. Laughing can release endorphins. Watch funny movies, listen to comedy (I have many comedians plugged into my Pandora station) get together with friends, play games. Just do stuff you enjoy with people who make you laugh. When down you may feel like isolating…DON’T!

#4: Be of Service. Nothing lifts the spirit like getting outside of yourself and doing something for someone else. There are so many ways to bring joy to others. Think of things you can do and do them. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or just do some favors for friends and family. The opportunities are endless. If you can’t come up with anything check out Simple Ways to Give Back…

#5: Lower Your Expectations. Holidays are often stressful because so many people are striving for a Norman Rockwell type of holiday. Stop it! Don Miguel Ruiz has the right idea with his fourth of his Four Agreements; Always do Your Best. But this isn’t an invitation to perfectionism. It means do your best then leave the rest. Stop trying to control, to be perfect. There is no such thing as the perfect family, party or anything. Don’t compare your experience to anyone else’s. High expectations lead to stress, disappointment, and often resentment. Lower your expectations and watch your serenity and happiness rise.

#6: Practice Gratitude. Holidays are also a great time for people to compare their lives to others and feel lacking. Single people may feel lonely because they don’t have anyone to kiss under the misletoe. Divorced parents may stress about splitting holidays. Kids with divorced parents may be unsure of who to spend time with. Holiday time may also remind you of loved ones who have passed away. All of these situations can lead us to feel a sense of lack. The antidote for this is GRATITUDE. Focus on what you do have and give thanks for it. Accept and bless YOUR circumstances. When I feel down I write a gratitude  list of at least 10 things for which I’m grateful. A roof over your head? A job? Food? Friends?These things are pretty awesome!

#7: Get in the Holiday Spirit. Instead of being a Grinch or old Ebeneezer and trying to xmas treehide from the season, get into it. Much of our suffering comes from resistance and peace comes with acceptance so do something that’s connected to the season. Decorate the house, go see decorations, have a holiday gathering. I personally like to go visit my favorite Christmas tree every year. I skip the national xmas tree in favor of the one set up in front of the US Capitol. It’s gorgeous and one of my holiday traditions to visit it.

#8: Exercise Your Spiritual Muscle. Many people draw strength and happiness from a spiritual or religious life. If you have a spiritual or religious practice increase it at this time. Consider increasing attendance at spiritual and religious meetings. If you pray and or meditate up it. If you are a member of a 12-step program be sure to up your meeting attendance and stay in touch with others in your program. The holiday season is NOT the time to slack off or isolate.

A special note to food and substance addicts: Holidays can be tougher because of the increased use of food and alcohol by those around you. Surround yourself with people who don’t overdo it and better yet with others in your program who practice sobriety and abstinence. If you think you have a problem with alcohol and want to check out a 12-step program visit Alcoholics Anonymous and if food is an issue check out Overeaters Anonymous.

#9: Self Care is Key. This may seem like common sense, but it’s important to take care of yourself to combat depression and the blues. Don’t overdo it, get rest and eat properly. People tend to crave carbs in the winter and when down because eating carbs can boost your serotonin levels. This can lead to winter weight gain. It’s okay to indulge in a bit of comfort food, like pasta and noodle soup but just don’t over do it and remember to exercise too. If you take medication for depression stick to your regimen and be sure to consult your psychiatrist or general practitioner before making any changes.

#10: Be Creative. This tip is kind of a free for all. If you have a creative outlet like painting or cooking or making jewelry (like I do) then get into it. Doing things you enjoy will lift your spirits. If your creative talent means you make things then share these things as gifts. This tip also means come up with your own creative ways to spend the holidays. If you don’t like traditional holiday happenings then do something you enjoy. This may mean getting out of town. Do whatever makes you feel good as long as it’s healthy.

I hope you found something you can use here. Maybe you have your own tips. Share them here or feel free to leave a comment. Wishing you a joyful and peaceful season.

Nicole

You may also enjoy my post  F.U.N. The 5-Point Plan.

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How to Create Your Most Powerful Alter Ego

What is an Alter Ego and Why do You Need to get One (or more)?

In Latin, alter ego literally means “second I” which is believed to be distinct from a person’s normal or everyday personality.

In a literary analysis of fiction and other narrative forms, the term alter ego is used to describe a key character in a story who is perceived to be the work’s author (or creator) intentional representative of, by virtue of oblique similarities. Princess Isabelle, the main character of my fictional series The Adventures of Isabelle is an example of this sort of alter ego.

While many famous alter egos such as Diana Prince’s “Wonder Woman,” Beyoncé Knowles “Sasha Fierce” and Tony Stark’s “Iron Man” represent a heroic second self this is not always the case. In Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll is a good-hearted, honorable man; but after taking a potion, his alter ego, the loathsome and diabolical Mr. Hyde, takes over his personality!

The type of alter ego we will be discussing in this article can be defined as, “a second-self created by an individual to live out a better, more heroic version of the self.”

So, why do you need to create an alter ego? There are several benefits!

Some of the benefits of having an alter ego:

  • It’s empowering, helping you step out of your comfort zone or Ordinary World*.
  • It provides you with a character through whose eyes to see your life as a heroine’s quest or journey. [You may want to check out my FREE course, “Write Your Own Heroine’s Quest”]
  • You have a persona through which you can channel your genius.
  • It can give you distance or objectivity from yourself.
  • You have a template to use in difficult situations, a sort of WWJD shortcut but instead, it would be WW (fill in name of your alter ego) D.

What are Female Archetypes?

An archetype is “A very typical example of a certain person or thing,  An original which has been imitated; a prototype or a recurrent symbol or motif in literature, art, or mythology” (Oxford Dictionaries).

*The mundane world in which the heroine lives prior to heeding the Call to Adventure (Vogler, 2007).

In Carl Jung’s psychoanalytic theory archetypes are highly developed universal elements: archaic patterns and images, that derive from the collective unconscious* and are the psychic counterpart of instinct. Jung believed there were four primary archetypes contained in the collective unconscious: the Self, the Persona, the Shadow and the Anima/Animus or the Soul.

According to Jungian psychology…click to download the full article: How to Create Your Most Powerful Alter Ego

For our purposes, I will be focusing on four types or clusters of female archetypes that are not necessarily elucidated by Jung: The four archetype clusters we will focus on are; 1. Witch/Sorceress, 2. Love Goddess, 3. Warrior Princess/Huntress and 4. Priestess/Shaman.

I will also only be focusing on the positive aspects of these archetypes because it is from this vein that you can mine the best they have to offer to incorporate into your chosen powerful alter ego.

Characteristics of the Four Archetype Clusters:

1. Witch/Sorceress (Medicine Woman, Cook, Midwife, Healer, Doctor, Artist, Seamstress): These archetypes are very powerful, able to cast spells, control natural forces, heal illness and create something out of nothing or very little. They may live outside the bounds of traditional society but not necessarily. They also possess strong powers of influence often being charismatic, magnetic or seductive but overt or covert sexuality is not crucial to fit this category but merely one possible expression of her immense personal power. The Witch/Sorceress can also be nurturing and sought out by others for help, healing and succor.

Click image to view video from 10.31.18

This grouping also includes the Crone or elderly wise woman. The Crone is often associated with… click to download the full article: How to Create Your Most Powerful Alter Ego

2. Love Goddess (Seductress, Vixen, Wife): There are two sides to this very powerful archetype. One is concerned with love and marriage and the other more associated with sex and lust. The side associated with marriage is represented as the Wife or a believer/protector of the institute of marriage and views sex as a means to express love and to procreate within the context of marriage. The power of this side of the goddess of love is in her ability to provide a safe nurturing place for her mate and children. She may also use her sexual powers in this context to bond her man to her in love and to ensure the security and sanctity of her home. The expectation of monogamy from her mate is an important aspect of this archetype that she takes very seriously and if not respected can bring great punishment on her erring mate!

Click image to view video

The other side of the Love Goddess archetype is more concerned with lust: hot, romantic love affairs and…click to download the full article: How to Create Your Most Powerful Alter Ego

3. Warrior Woman (Warrior Goddess, Warrior Princess, Warrior Queen and Huntress):

The Warrior Woman is an ancient archetype. Some of the permutations of this archetype include the Warrior Goddess, Huntress and my favorite: the Warrior Princess! Mythology is replete with warrior goddesses like the Roman Bellona, who fought with her brother Mars; and the Norse goddess Alfhild, who fought dressed as a man. There are legends of female warriors like the Amazons. The Celts had warrior queens trained in the arts of warfare. There are also historical female warriors like the Roman gladiatrix (female gladiators), Dahomey female warriors, the Celtic Queen Boudicca, the Anglo-Saxon Aethelflaed, and the Chinese Fu Hao.

Click image to view video

The primary characteristics of this archetype are; courage, fierceness, physical emotional and spiritual strength and protectiveness. The true strength of this archetype is grounded in the divine feminine. While many may wish to ascribe masculinity to warrior traits, this is a mistake. She is divinely feminine because…click to download the full article: How to Create Your Most Powerful Alter Ego

4. Priestess (Shaman, Professor, Teacher, Librarian, Wise Woman, Nun):

The Priestess archetype embodies the Mysteries: the hidden laws of nature and the universe. Her domain is intuitive awareness, the subconscious, insight and secret or “occult” knowledge of the unknown, spirit realm. Her presence embodies depth.

Click Image to View Video

The Priestess/Shaman/Nun is a connector or facilitator between the material and the spiritual worlds. She mediates the powerful spiritual, psychological and emotional energies that makeup who we are. Priestesses know how and seek to teach others how to detach from inner and outer storms and how to connect deep inner truths and resources with their concrete experience of life.

Priestesses reveal the unknown regions of our minds and spirits to us via…click to download the full article: How to Create Your Most Powerful Alter Ego

Six Steps to Create Your Most Powerful Alter Ego:

According to Marelisa Fabrega there are six steps you can follow in order to create an alter ego. You by no means need to stick to these six steps but if you want help getting started they may be quite useful.

These steps [modified from Fabrega] are the following:

  1. Determine Why You Want an Alter Ego
  2. Figure Out Your Alter Ego’s Personality
  3. Create a Distinct Image
  4. Choose a Name
  5. Adopt a Mantra or an Invocation
  6. Inhabit the Personality of Your Alter Ego (as needed)

The Six Steps in Detail…click to download the full article: How to Create Your Most Powerful Alter Ego

 

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Dr. Cutts on Channel 9 News (WUSA9 #OffScripton9 with Bruce Johnson)

I’m honored to be asked by veteran news anchor, Bruce Johnson of WUSA Channel 9 News in Washington, DC to offer my expertise and opinions on matters related to psychology, diversity, gender and politics. Click the images or titles below to view segments.

How to talk to your kids about violence and hate crimes

What can you say to them after Pittsburgh (10.29.18) (click image to view vid)

Dating and relationships in a political world

When it comes to online dating, you probably look at the picture, the interests, maybe job and education, but what about politics? A new study says millennials care about political views when it comes to swiping left or right. (10.18.18)(click image to view vid)

Bill Cosby sentenced to 3 to 10 years in prison for sex assault

Psychologist Dr. Nicole Cutts and Attorney and Former Prosecutor A. Scott Bolden joined Bruce Johnson on Off Script to discuss Bill Cosby’s sentencing. (9.25.18) (click image to view vid)

Kavanaugh’s Allegations Related to Anita Hill: The allegations come in the #MeToo era. 

Kavanaugh’s Allegations Related to Anita Hill (9.18.18) (Click image to view vid)

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The Adventures of Isabelle: Cast & Crew

Below (for download) is a glossary, of sorts, of the names of characters in Journey to Orphalese. Think of it as a sort of anthropological or archeological map or a list of clues to aid you on your own exploration. In the column marked “Name Origin” I have given you a stub of information. This is by no means exhaustive but meant, instead to encourage you to do your own exploration and research; finding and excavating what is most important to you. Feel free to share what you find or are inspired to add either here as a comment or on the Adventures of Isabelle FB page!

A note from the Preface of Journey to Orphalese:

“It’s important for women and girls to see true reflections of themselves in literature and popular culture, but in order for them to find themselves, they must search amid a diversity of archetypes and real-life heroines. I wrote The Adventures of Isabelle to add to this diversity. As such, all female characters in this book represent archetypes that have appeared across many cultures and ages and many of their names are drawn from heroines, both historic and mythical. Some are goddesses and some are mere mortals. I uncovered them through research for this book and for a series of paintings I did entitled, Reclaiming the G*ddess. And, I encourage you to go on your own exploration to find archetypes and heroines, both divine and mortal, that resonate with you. To aid you in your search I’ve created a glossary of names and places in the book that provide anthropological clues.” (p.IX)

Cast and Crew Major Characters

Cast and Crew Minor Characters

 

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Princess Isabelle in the News!

LISTEN/WATCH Princess Isabelle’s and my Interview on WHUR 96.3 FM with the always funny and insightful host of the Daily Drum Harold T. Fisher! We talked about How Seeing Your Life as a Heroine’s Quest and Yourself as a Heroine can help you turn lemons into lemonade, the #metoo movement and how to avoid the state of victimhood by being ASSERTIVE!

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What do you do to maintain your mental health?

CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST NICOLE CUTTS ON WARNING SIGNS OF DEPRESSION AND SUICIDE  (Click to View Video. My segment starts at 15:10)

As we know and have seen recently with the suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade being wealthy and successful does NOT inoculate you against depression & anxiety. Just as we care for our bodies we must care for our minds and mental health. Whether you have ever been diagnosed with depression, anxiety or any other mental health disorder your self-care regimen should include taking care of your mental health.

FB Live: A Candid Conversation About Suicide & Depression (click image to view vid)

I was honored to appear on #OffScript on WUSA Channel 9 the other day with Anchor, Debra Alfarone, and her other guests to include Dr. Caitlin Thompson of the Cohen Veterans Network and Roxanne Roberts of the Washington Post to discuss the warning signs of depression and suicidality.

Know the Warning Signs of Depression:
Clinical depression is characterized by the presence of 5 or more of these depressive symptoms:

  1. Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feeling sad, blue, “down in the dumps,” or empty) or observations made by others (e.g., appears tearful or about to cry). (In children and adolescents, this may present as an irritable or cranky, rather than sad, mood.)
  2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities every day, such as no interest in hobbies, sports, or other things the person used to enjoy doing
  3. Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (e.g., a change of more than 5 percent of body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day
  4. Insomnia (inability to get to sleep or difficulty staying asleep) or hypersomnia (sleeping too much) nearly every day
  5. More days than not, problems with sitting still, including constant restlessness, pacing, or picking at one’s clothes (called psychomotor agitation by professionals); or the opposite, a slowing of one’s movements, talking very quietly with slowed speech (called psychomotor retardation by professionals)
  6. Fatigue, tiredness, or loss of energy nearly every day — even the smallest tasks, like dressing or washing, seem difficult to do and take longer than usual
  7. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day (e.g., ruminating over minor past failings)
  8. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day (e.g., appears easily distracted, complains of memory difficulties)
  9. Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideas without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

*If you are concerned that you are clinically depressed or even suffering from depressed mood you should seek help from a professional i.e licensed therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist! Here is a list to National HOTLINES.

Whether you have signs of depression or anxiety there are things you can do to improve your mood and maintain your mental health.

10 Simple Things You Can do to Improve Your Mood:

  1. Exercise (even a 15 min walk can help)
  2. Spend time with supportive friends and family.
  3. Laugh (be around funny people, watch/listen to comedy)
  4. Get plenty of sleep
  5. Prayer and Meditation (even a few mins every day)
  6. Don’t overwork
  7. Have fun! (take time to play, hang out with friends do something you enjoy)
  8. Avoid negative thinking and focus on positive thoughts and emotions
  9. Practice Gratitude
  10. Celebrate even your smallest successes!

I hope you found this helpful. If you want more information feel free to visit my Psychology Today Profile or my Therapy Services page on my Vision Quest Retreats website.

Much continued success and well being,
Nicole
Nicole Cutts, CEO
Cutts Consulting, LLC & Founder Vision Quest Retreatswww.visionquestretreats.com
www.cuttsconsulting.com

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Understanding “Journey to Orphalese” & the The Adventures of Isabelle Series

To better understand what’s behind The Adventures of Isabelle series, check out these videos from interviews conducted by Sifu Wayne Rodney, martial artist, illustrator and creator of the new Global Fusion Tarot Deck and Guide Book!


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Princess Isabelle Reclaims Paris!

Paris (May, 2018)

Princess Isabelle and I (as her royal biographer) reclaimed the city of Paris in the name of the Kingdom of Xamayca this May! We had last visited in May of 2008 where our adventurous princess was waylaid by the dreaded pirate, Capt. Flint. Both trips were taken in honour of the Princesse’s birthday but they were very different trips. These videos tell the story of this most recent and victorious trip through pictures.

In 2008 we went to Paris to paint and be inspired by the beauty and art of this legendary city that provided an artistic home to many notable figures of the Harlem Renaissance. This time the trip was more about taking in the beauty, writing and reveling in our liberation. Below are two of the exhibitions we were able to take in: an immersive exhibition of Gustav Klimt and an exhibition dedicated to Picasso’s seminal work of art, Guernica!

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Doors & Doorways of Montmartre, Paris


I’ve always loved old European doors and doorways. More than merely pretty, there is something sacred and magical about them. I think I love them also because they represent possibility. They are portals standing on the thresholds of unknown places, locked gifts to lives we may never know.

Doors also offer protection: we can open and close, unlock and lock those to which we hold the key. The magic of them is that we can knock on them but only the owner of the door can decide to keep it closed or open it and let us in. We don’t always know the secret knock or password to gain admittance but when we discover it we embark on new journeys! Sometimes, however, we find there are doors within doors (as you see in my video above). We may cross the first perimeter through this temporary portal but never penetrate the inner sanctum.

Doors also offer blank canvases on which we can project our dreams and imaginings. We can leave the doors closed and continue to imagine what we want, we can risk opening them and being disappointed or we can risk opening them and embarking on a heroic and fulfilling quest.

You may find it of interest that in the first act (Departure), of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth or hero’s journey which begins with “The Call to Adventure,” “Crossing the First Threshold” is the fourth stage. In this stage the person [who would become hero or heroine] actually crosses into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of his or her world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where the rules and limits are unknown.

Campbell: “With the personifications of his destiny to guide and aid him, the hero goes forward in his adventure until he comes to the ‘threshold guardian’ at the entrance to the zone of magnified power. Such custodians bound the world in four directions — also up and down — standing for the limits of the hero’s present sphere, or life horizon. Beyond them is darkness, the unknown and danger; just as beyond the parental watch is danger to the infant and beyond the protection of his society danger to the members of the tribe. The usual person is more than content, he is even proud, to remain within the indicated bounds, and popular belief gives him every reason to fear so much as the first step into the unexplored. The adventure is always and everywhere a passage beyond the veil of the known into the unknown; the powers that watch at the boundary are dangerous; to deal with them is risky; yet for anyone with competence and courage the danger fades.”

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