In these turbulent times, many people are feeling sad, angry, despondent and frankly traumatized. This is affecting our mental and physical health as well as our work, as we find it difficult to concentrate. These reactions are completely normal but leaving many people wondering what they can do to regain a sense of balance and peace.
The simple fact is that we feel threatened, upset and suffer when we have to face the harsh realities of life. We are tempted to run away, to hide, to suppress our feelings. We may also want to rage, to let these feelings out, to strike out (also very normal feelings). The adaptive fight or flight mechanism wired into us will not be ignored. When we are stressed and do not find an outlet we suffer further. But there is something you can do that requires you to neither bury your head in the sand or to lose your mind, that is adaptive for you and your community and world. It can bring you peace, and isn’t that what we all ultimately want?
WHAT CAN I DO TO FIND PEACE? I favor simple elegant solutions always. The video below teaches you two simple cognitive exercises that can bring you to a state of balance and peace.
Serenity Prayer Exercise: You may want to address your prayer to a Higher Power e.g. Goddess, God, The Universe etc.
1) Write down or name what it is that you cannot change and therefore must accept (if you want peace) For example “Goddess grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change such as: the existence of the coronavirus, other people (by name), the death of a loved one, having a chronic or fatal illness.”
2) Write down or say what it is you can change while asking for the courage to do so. For example “The courage to change the things that I can such as, my attitude and actions i.e. voting, helping another person, contributing money to a cause related to my disturbance, volunteering, take my medication, exercise, etc.”
3) Finally continue to pray to know the difference between what I can and can’t do and do the things that I can.
The 3 and 5 List Exercise
1) Do 3 good things everyday A. One for yourself i.e. self-care activity B.One aimed at changing the thing that is causing you stress or anxiety e.g. sign a petition C.One thing to support your Vision of Success or life mission/purpose e.g. going to work.
2) Write/think about 5 things for which you are grateful!
After you give these exercises a try please drop me a line and let me know how it went. If you have any comments or suggestions on what has worked to help you find peace in turbulent times feel free to leave those at the same link. If you found this helpful sign up to receive emails with additional free tools and subscribe to my YouTube channel: TheSuccessDoc
Know that your anger and grief can be used to good purpose. If they are left to fester and if suppressed will only lead to greater suffering.
I Don’t know about you, but at week 4 or 5 (I’ve lost track) of quarantine, my stress levels are rising. Don’t worry my self-care has also increased accordingly. Whether you live alone, in a couple, or a household with children (young and old,) this lockdown is affecting everyone’s lives and mental health. The uncertainty of a deadly pandemic, lack of control, drastic changes to our daily work and home lives are prompting more people to reach out to me and other psychologists and coaches for help. (See vid above and Coping with Corona from WUSA Channel 9 for additional tips)
However, I understand these are trying financial times for many people and some may think this is not the time to invest in therapy or coaching sessions. Nothing could be further from the truth and this is why I’m offering my therapy and coaching services on a sliding scale starting at 10% OFF. (CLICK TO INQUIRE ABOUT FEES)
What are the Challenges?
1) Parents are on triple duty between working, parenting and teaching kids and this is a lot!
2) Couples without kids are also
challenged by too much togetherness!
3) Single folks without kids are also challenged by boredom and lack of contact, feeling isolated perhaps lonely.
What is the Solution?
While one of the biggest stressors right now is that most things are out of our control, there are things you can do! This nine-item Quarantine Survival Kit can keep you from each other’s throats and/or wanting to cut your own! Victor Frankl, the creator of Logotherapy said, “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.” The below Quarantine Survival Kit will enable you to better choose your responses to this trying situation.
The Quarantine Survival Kit (contents):
Patience: Not knowing when this will all end is trying to many. Waiting is not something anyone enjoys but cultivating patience will lower your stress and anxiety. Breathe and try to let go when you feel your impatience rising, focus on something positive and engage is something productive. Remember no time is wasted when you are in the moment. This patience should extend to yourself and others as we try to do our best under difficult circumstances. Pro Tips: Lowering your expectations will boost your ability to wait and sit with the unknown. A regular meditation prayer and practice does wonders for patience.
Flexibility: So much has changed and continues to change (sometimes weekly) during this novel situation. Human beings are wired to experience stress when under threat and unfortunately when things are uncertain (a feeling produced by change) we often experience this as a threat. The best way to lessen your angst and other forms of suffering in the face of change is to remain flexible. Rather than tightening up or holding on to expectations, expect that change will come. It’s often said that the only certainty in life is change. In his book, The Five Things We Cannot Change and the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them, David Richo says, “Perhaps things end so that we can reach the high spiritual peak that comes with letting go.” Lean into the changes having confidence that you can adjust. Pro Tip: Taking slow deep breaths increases flexibility. Rather than tightening around change, take a slow deep breath to activate your parasympathetic nervous system a.k.a. the rest and digest response. Breathe into tight areas and as you exhale give into the change.
Creativity: All change is accompanied by some loss. In this case, we have lost many of our habitual ways of doing almost everything from how we work and play to how we procure food and how we take exercise. We are being challenged to find new ways to get our needs met. These challenges call for creativity and we see it all around us. I have one client who set up a scavenger hunt in her house for her young adult children who had grown tired of playing video games! Creativity and flexibility are close cousins, so try staying open to receive new ideas and inspiration. Follow your instincts and expect to be inspired.
Gratitude: Gratitude is a magical elixir that changes everything! In fact, it actually changes our brain chemistry! “When we express gratitude and receive the same, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions, and they make us feel ‘good’. They enhance our mood immediately, making us feel happy from the inside. By consciously practicing gratitude every day, we can help these neural pathways to strengthen themselves and ultimately create a permanent grateful and positive nature within ourselves.” (May 12, 2020, PositivePsychology.com)
The current situation is undoubtedly a downer so we need to counteract sadness and possible depression with as much feeling good as we can! Pro Tip: I recommend (to all my clients) writing a daily list of three good things they did for themselves and five things for which they are grateful.
Humor: Don’t be afraid to find humor in almost any situation. It can be a life-saver. Indeed, Mark Twain, one of our greatest humorists said, “Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.” Try not to take anything (especially yourself) too seriously. Take time to have fun, to play, be silly and laugh. These are important elements of self-care. Like gratitude, smiling and laughing literally changes your brain chemistry, releasing endorphins and possibly relieving pain (Sept. 11, 2011, Scientific American). Pro Tip: If you want or need an extra shot of laughter watch or listen to comedy. I’m a huge fan of stand-up comedy so that’s my go-to medicine.
Optimism: Optimism is having a generally positive outlook on life. It is a key element in building individual psychological resilience (Aug. 24, 2018, Cutts). Staying positive and keeping fear and worry at bay helps people to maintain a hopeful outlook on life. This ability helps us reframe potentially negative events in a more positive or useful context. Pro Tip: If you are interested in re-wiring your brain to experience increased happiness check out the work of Dr. Rick Hanson author of Buddha’s Brain.
Faith: I have come to relate to faith as the antidote to fear. As Nelson Mandela said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” Whenever I am afraid I can see it is because I do not have faith in my Higher Power. Fear signals me to strengthen my spiritual connection to this Higher Power. As a human I have many limitations, wants and desires but when my faith is strong I know that everything is as it should be and I have no need for fear. When I say “faith” this also includes hope. Having hope is what keeps us from despair. We can not despair because then all is lost. At the extreme end of the loss of hope lies psychogenic death which can lead to physical death in a very short time (Sept. 29, 2018). It’s a choice to cultivate faith (whatever that means to you) but I believe it’s an invaluable tool to keep in your tool kit.
Service: It’s also a scientifically proven fact that being of service to others produces good feelings in those doing the service or helping (May 30, 2018, Psychology Today). Being generous and supporting others is called “pro-social” behavior and it makes us feel good in at least three crucial ways: 1) It gives us a feeling of “relatedness” to others which is a basic psychological need; 2) altruistic behavior boosts well being and lowers depression by providing meaning and purpose to our lives and activating positive neural changes! In fact, fMRI studies suggest a link between generosity and happiness in the brain. “For example, donating money to charitable organizations activates the same (mesolimbic) regions of the brain that respond to monetary rewards or sex (May 30, 2018);” 3) A study (2017) suggests, “helping others regulate their emotions helps us regulate our own emotions, decreases symptoms of depression and ultimately, improves our emotional well-being.” Therefore, if you are feeling down or bored during this time of quarantine think of others, what you can do for them then DO IT!
Self-care: While I’ve always been a strong proponent of self-care and its inextricable relationship to self-love, self-care is perhaps even more important now than ever and by self-care, I’m referring to your health and well-being as it relates to your mind, body and spirit. Studies show that there are many comorbidities or underlying conditions that lead to increased severity of symptoms and higher death rates in those exposed to COVID-19 (CDC Website). So, now it’s doubly important to eradicate and manage underlying health conditions. Conditions such as obesity, diabetes and even kidney and liver disease sometimes have a relationship with behavior such as diet and exercise. Even if you don’t have any underlying health conditions being stressed, tired and rundown are all conditions that lower our body’s resistance or ability to fight off diseases. This is why during this time it is important that you maintain a healthy regimen of diet, exercise, and rest. Don’t neglect your mental/spiritual health either. Be mindful and do whatever that means to take care of your mental and physical health e.g. do not neglect your regular health appointments. Many doctors and therapists (myself included) do offer telemedicine and teletherapy.
Because these are challenging financial times for many I’m offering virtual therapy/coaching services on a sliding scale starting at 10% OFF. Please Note: If you are a health care worker directly affected by the coronavirus my services are being offered to you for FREE. Click this link if interested in scheduling a FREE 30-Min Consultation to discuss.
I hope you found the above helpful. If so I invite you to leave a comment and share it.
Wishing you much-continued success and well-being!
Do you need help breaking through blocks such as fear? Do you need help creating and sticking to a success plan? Have you started and stalled several times? Maybe you need a success coach to help you break through these blocks, create a viable plan and to help hold you accountable to this plan so you can achieve ultimate success and joy in your life.
Contact me TODAY to get started! firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.669.5777
A word on overcoming societal challenges…
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Praying that this article finds you and your families well,
Let me get right to the point. I know it’s hard not to succumb to fear during these times. The growing effects of COVID-19 are affecting everyone’s lives. But, there are some things we can control. This letter isn’t about physical safety precautions, although there are links below for that. I’m writing to share tips I recently sharedon CBS affiliate WUSA-9 (pictured above), AND 5 mental health coping tips that I hope you find helpful. My sanity, perhaps like yours, is being challenged but here is what I have found that works!
5 Sanity Saving/Coping Tips:
1) The Serenity Prayer: ‘God/Goddess, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.’ Think of what you can’t change i.e. the existence of this virus and what you do have control over i.e. your attitude and actions. In other words, take the actions you can then let the rest go!
3) Practice Self-Care: Exercise, get rest, eat properly, drink lots of water and stick to spiritual practices that don’t put you at risk. My practices of choice are long walks in the woods, yoga, prayer & meditation. Pro tip: If you are in need of exercise or meditation instruction, YouTube has tons of stuff!
4) Keep things in perspective: Stay in the present. Don’t project into the future. It’s ok to consider the future to plan sensibly but do not catastrophize or stress about things that are NOT happening right now. I recommend literally “be where your feet are” to help you stay in the moment. Yep, look down, find your feet, that’s where you are!
5) Get and Keep Your Joy Quotient Up: Think positively and do fun stuff! I am a huge fan of stand-up comedy so I watch and listen to that to keep me laughing. I also love to dance (can be done at home). If you are on lockdown with others play some games, be creative. Do some things you enjoy but haven’t had time to do like cook, watch movies, prep space for a garden (you get the picture). Pro tip: A big joy boost can be had from Practicing Gratitude by counting your blessings.
I hope you found something helpful in the above! If you did, feel free to share and if you have some good tips please share them with me. I will be sharing more well-being and success tips on my Vision Quest Retreats Facebook page so check us out there!
According to psychotherapist,
David Richo, PhD. one way to improve your relationship with your significant
other is to set an intention to consistently give each other “The Five A’s of
Love: Attention, Acceptance, Appreciation, Affection, and Allowing.” But
what about the relationship with yourself? Whether in a couple or not, we still
need to give ourselves these things.
These five aspects of love represent qualities that are
essential for a child to receive from a parent or caregiver in order to feel
secure and to develop a healthy sense of self. An absence of these five
qualities of love and nurturing could be considered a form of childhood emotional neglect and
relationship trauma. If we don’t receive a consistent, sufficient amount of the
five A’s as children, we can experience anxiety,
depression and shame, or go through life feeling not good enough.
Guess what? Very few people received
the 5 A’s consistently or in sufficient amounts! I’ve never had a coaching or therapy
client who did not need to engage in some level of self re-parenting. People
always like to say, “parenting is hard.” I want to say, “Have you tried re-parenting?!”
We never outgrow the need to
receive attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and allowing.
Giving and receiving the Five A’s of love in your romantic relationships is
groovy! This can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and help fill the void
created by childhood relationship trauma. But, receiving this from someone else
can never heal you or fill a void if you don’t truly love yourself.
Here’s the good news; You don’t
have to sit around waiting to receive the 5 A’s from someone else! You can and
should start giving them to yourself today! Because it is the child who needed
and needs these things, it may be more impactful to think of your ‘self’ as
your inner child and your ‘Self’ as the adult or parent. If you are already
doing this then congratulations! If your relationship with yourself could use a
little help, read on. Start with setting an intention to give these dimensions
of love to yourself/inner child and see how you feel.
Notice, listen, focus and really engage with your inner child and other aspects
of yourself (more on this later). Notice and hear words, feelings, experiences.
Think about how your words (self-talk) and actions affect your inner child. When
we give the inner child this type of attention, she feels respected, understood
and that she really matters to you.
Demonstrate in your words and actions that you approve of who the inner child
is as a person; her unique personality traits, her values, her choices, her
lifestyle. Acceptance means appreciating differences without judgment. (Acceptance
creates deeper intimacy because it demonstrates that each person can be
themselves and share their thoughts, feelings and wishes without fear of
rejection, ridicule or abandonment. Acceptance leads to self-confidence and a
sense of security in the world.)
Express gratitude daily for who you are. Say thank you for the individual
qualities that you cherish and admire. (If you have not already done so, create
a list of at least 10 assets you possess.)
For example: positive attitude, a
calm demeanor, taking an interest in friends and family, your talents. Notice
and make a list daily of three good things you do for yourself i.e. making a
healthy breakfast, getting exercise, getting a massage, spending time with
supportive friends and family, tending to your spirit and any manner of
Affection refers not just to physical closeness but also feeling close to someone through conversation, gestures, and presence. This means really listen to and engage with your inner child. Maybe she wants to play, maybe she needs a nap, maybe she needs a treat. Any form of healthy self-care should be viewed as expressions of love for self. Affection can also be expressed via kind words, i.e. positive self-talk, affirmations. Stop being so hard on yourself! Listen to your self-talk. If it’s negative imagine saying that to an infant! Would you do that? I hope not, because that’s abuse. Think of how you have and should speak to babies, then do that!
On Sunday (which is my day of
rest), I like to take a hot bath in candlelight then really take some time moisturizing.
I even give myself a foot massage. Does this sound weird? Well, I love it and
so does Little Nicky.
Allowing means letting someone be themselves. It means giving them the freedom
to do things in their own way. It means we don’t try to control or manipulate
the person to make them into someone they are not naturally meant to be (sound
familiar). How can you be allowing to yourself and your inner child? 1) Stop
judging yourself, 2) stop comparing yourself to others, 3) stop pretending to
be someone you think the world wants you to be, 4) start paying attention to
your feelings and wants 5) honor those feelings, 6) be authentic!
If you struggle with giving or
receiving the Five A’s, to your inner child/self your past parenting is most
likely interfering. Many people did not receive “good enough” parenting. We
tend to continue the job our parents started by parenting ourselves the way
they parented us. Some of it was good, keep doing that. Some of it was not
good, stop doing that and start employing the Five A’s today!
Stop waiting to receive this type
of love from others. You can’t change the past, but you can determine what you
will do today and be the beautifully powerful woman you were born to be. It
takes work, but it’s so worth it!
*Parts of above adapted from Kalpana Murthy (2012) in an
article geared toward coupling. This author has adapted Richo’s 5 A’s as important
aspects of self-love.
While the holiday season can be fun, for many it is a hectic, pressure-filled time. Between gift buying, holiday guests, family, cooking and traveling, we often don’t truly get to enjoy the season. However, there is something you can do to reclaim the joy and serenity often lost during this time of year: PAWS! PAWS is an acronym to help you remember to indulge in Patience, Appreciation, Wonderment and Silence.
Patience: Long lines at the stores, traffic, travel. All of these things can conspire to steal your serenity and joy. Try an extra dose of patience. Give yourself extra time to get around and lower your expectations. Everyone seems to be in such a hurry! Rushing around not only makes you crazy but often means you are missing out on what is around you. Try to breathe and be in the moment. Instead of seeing sitting in traffic or standing in line as a waste of time, reframe your thinking. No time is wasted time when you are mindful and present. Try being where your feet are. I recommend literally looking down at your feet and becoming aware of being grounded. Patience also means being patient with yourself and others. Instead of staring daggers at the back of the person ahead of you at Starbucks with the coffee order longer than a CVS receipt, try giving a smile to someone. A little kindness can brighten the day of someone else and leave you feeling better too!
Appreciation: Another thief of joy that rears its ugly head during this time of year is comparing: looking at what others have that you don’t. Social Media doesn’t really help. People are posting images of their beautiful families, vacations, decorated homes and holiday tables. We often make the mistake of comparing our insides to the outsides of others without really knowing the full story. The other mistake we make when comparing is that we don’t do so fairly. We tend to look only at others who we see as having more. This too should be reframed. I recommend NOT comparing at all but if you are going to do so, do so fairly. You also have to include people who have far less than you. Rather than comparing, try just looking at all you have and appreciating that. Focus on all the gifts in your life and spend time appreciating them. A great tool for this is a Gratitude List. Every day think of (and perhaps write down) at least 5 things for which you are grateful. Again, slow down and look around you. You will see much to appreciate. If you want an added dose of appreciation, remember those people I mentioned above who have less than you do? Another great tool to increase your appreciation is to be of service to others. There are myriad opportunities to volunteer/be of service during the holiday season. Toy drives, coat drives and feeding folks are a few popular ones this time of year, but there are no doubt, people, right in your family or community who could use some extra help or care.
Wonderment: For many of us, when we were children, the holidays were a magical time. The colorful lights, the music, the TV shows and the presents! Do you remember when you believed in Santa Claus (if he was a part of your tradition)? We used to put cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer on the hearth in the basement and in the morning, they were always gone! He had left fat pillow-cases of toys for my sister, brother and me! Maybe for you, church or temple was a special time. I remember magical Christmas Eve Mass, the candles, beautiful songs sung in Latin and the smell of frankincense in the air. As we get older, most people lose this sense of wonderment, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Think of what you can do to connect to the magic of the season. Maybe it’s as simple as really seeing what you are doing when decorating your home or taking a drive to enjoy the decorations in your neighborhood. Maybe you can start or resurrect a tradition. My sister and I meet for brunch and last-minute shopping every Christmas Eve. I also love visiting my favorite Christmas tree every year (see pic at right)! It stands in front of the Capitol Building here in DC and it’s beautiful (better than the National Christmas tree and no crowds). Think of something you would actually enjoy and do that thing!
Silence: Rumi said, “Live outside the tangle of fear-thinking. Live in silence.” He also said, “Listen to the silence. It has so much to say.” In many parts of the world, this time of year is Wintertime with shorter days, weaker sunlight and cold temperatures. This is also a time when animals hibernate, trees lose their leaves, fields lay dormant and there is a general slow down in nature. The forests become quiet, ponds, lakes and creeks freeze and people spend more time indoors. With all of this comes silence. And, stillness follows. The holiday season, with all its business, can still be a time to indulge in the gold that is silence. As a matter of fact, going into the silence and being still is a perfect antidote for the madness of the season. Even short periods of silence can be therapeutic. Pause, be still, breathe, listen. I find Winter the perfect time for meditation and contemplation; a good time to look inward and find the stillness. A good time to rest. Rather than rushing around, what if you were to go with the slowed-down flow of winter? Start by lowering your expectations of perfectionism. Look for or make quiet time. If even for just a moment. Try it today. Carve out a little niche for yourself in which to be still and listen to the silence. Revel in it. Tip: turn off all your noise-making devices for just five minutes a day and sit in quiet meditation. Come back and tell me what you noticed.
After a rather intense period of activity on my heroine’s quest to achieve my Vision of Success a.k.a. working, my inner voice told me I needed a sabbatical. I was feeling fatigued and run down (both early signs of burn-out)! I was also mentally and spiritually tired because in the quest for my Vision I had been doing too much striving, which leads to dissatisfaction and unhappiness. This dynamic can become very unhealthy and dare I say, even a bit insane. Luckily when this happens I know where to turn.
The second step of Alcoholic’s Anonymous‘s twelve steps states, “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” I needed to strengthen my spiritual connection. One way I know to strengthen my connection with my Higher Power (my Goddess) is to completely unplug from the world and get back to my Self. Given this, I decided to take a mini-sabbatical, a month-long solo retreat on Ambergris Caye, Belize! Trying not to be too ambitious (less striving return), I’ve set only one rule and four intentions for this adventure: 1) painting (because it’s something I enjoy but haven’t done any new landscapes since these), 2) contemplating Book III of my Adventures of Isabelle series, 3) getting my Advanced Open Water SCUBA certification and of course in between all of this 4) doing some serious chillin’ which means beach time, eating, napping etc. The rule? NO WORK ALLOWED!
Thanks for joining me on this phase of my journey! I hope you enjoy it and come back for more! This post like many of my travelogues will combine my musings, written descriptions and video compilations of the gorgeous sites and sounds as my adventure unfolds so check back every couple of days for updates and in the meantime please enjoy my first vid: “Getting Here!”
Days Zero, I and II: Recon, Grocery Shopping and Ak’Bol
I arrived Belize City late morning on Wednesday cleared customs and got on an earlier Tropic Air flight than I had scheduled headed for San Pedro. The 15-20 min flight in their little island hopper is a thrilling ride with a gorgeous view of the multi-hued Western Caribbean ocean below. I was met at the San Pedro airstrip by the driver for the house I’m staying in while on the island. Unfortunately, the first thing I noticed in his un-airconditioned mini-van taxi cab was how bloody hot and humid it is. The last time I was here was in the winter season and I immediately began to question my intelligence in choosing to come to Belize in mid-August! At first, I asked to stop to get groceries to take to the house but after a stop at a grocery store that only had Folgers and Kirland’s brand coffee, I decided to just get to the house and worry about groceries later.
Soon I found myself on a sandy “dirt road” apparently approaching the house (for privacy reasons I will insert house name and link after my sojourn). We entered the house from the beachside and after a cursory introduction to the house, the driver was gone. I stood looking around the living room kitchen area where he had unceremoniously dropped me and my luggage. It’s a lovely little 2-bedroom house. I quickly found the bedroom because I knew this was the only room with AC which was blessedly on and went and sat on the bed to collect myself. Eventually, I dragged my bags into this sanctuary from the heat and opened the bags intending to unpack. After not sleeping the previous night and a 6:00 flight this morning out of Dulles it didn’t take me long to abandon “settling in.” I conked out till the next morning!
Thursday was about recon and getting settled but the first stop was coffee. Luckily for me there is a neat little coffee shop called Marbucks attached to the Daydreamin B & B across the sandy lane from my place. I also ordered what was to be my first of many breakfast sandwiches (egg, cheese, spinach and avocado in a plain bagel) and ate and drank taking in the lovely little place with its central pool which is more like a fountain in which you can swim.
After breakfast, I was off in my little golf cart, rented for the month. I headed about 5 mins north first to check out (Ak’bol Yoga Resort) a place where the owner of Marbucks had told me I could swim off the pier, then south to town. After crossing the tiny Boco del Rio bridge I was officially in town. I drove down Middle Street taking in all the sites and sounds of San Pedro before turning around somewhere near the airport and heading north along Front Street which took me past the open town square where two years ago I’d danced in the New Year with my then-boyfriend. I saw the town pier and recalled sitting on it, my feet dangling above the water eating chicken and rice from a takeaway container while a spotted eagle ray glided through the water just below us. It had been relatively cool then compared to the sweltering heat in which I now found myself.
Next stop, the little grocery store on the circle in which a statue of St. Peter stands surrounded by all sorts of marine life. Provisioned up with coffee and breakfast fixings I hightailed it home to finish unpacking, shower off and lay in my air-conditioned room to cool off. I ended the day returning to Ak’Bol Yoga Resort for a very satisfying dinner taken on the sand in front of the bar while looking out at the sapphire blue Caribbean sea.
Day XIII: Having Too Much Fun to be Blogging Daily!
August 27: I’ve been on Ambergris Caye 13 days now and a few days back I realized it simply isn’t realistic for me to do a daily blog. I can’t do everything I want and relax and blog daily so instead I will write little periodic updates with the things I most want to remember and take away from this amazing trip. (I made recordings of my memories and they are transcribed below with the dates on which they were made.)
August 17: Laying outside on my deck moon bathing. I’m struck by the fact that I will probably miss the wind most of all. Moon bathing, being buffeted by the wind, watching the black palm tree dancing wildly, animated by the wind, the moonlight glistening off its fronds as they slap in the breeze imitating the sound of rain.
A Pictorial Gratitude List
August 24: Driving into my little sandy yard with my Breadfruit and Almond trees I’m struck by how much I am going to miss this little wooden house on Ambergris Caye and that there are certain things I want to remember. I want to remember today: painting all morning then going for a late lunch at Ak’Bol, the sweet taste of the stewed chicken, the first taste of coconut milk in the rice and beans hitting my taste buds, the sweet ripe fried plantain, that feeling of bliss. I want to remember laying on my back in the yoga palapa out on the water while the wind gently caressed my legs. Swimming my laps in the warm Caribbean waters then just snorkeling, playing with the large crab with one claw valiantly ready to do battle with me, painting his one good claw at me and even jumping up making a stabbing motion at me, a mammal about 100 times his size and how this made me laugh! Chasing a yellow stingray who glided among the sea-grass. Ending my swim holding onto the wooden algae-covered ladder looking at the little tiny baby stripped sergeant major who I could not believe could be so small and all of the little beautiful hermit crabs with every variety and shape of shell with their colorful spider-like legs.
August 28: Yesterday I took a drive out to Secret Beach (see my video review below). What I don’t want to forget is the excitement I felt driving through the mangrove swampland; so wild and untamed and how on the way back I just had to stop because I was so overwhelmed with the beauty of God’s world. Of course the thrill of seeing an alligator gliding along in the water next to the road once back in some semblance of civilization (was on paved road by that point). I had not swum at Secret Beach instead drove straight to Ak’Bol on my return to go for a refreshing swim and to get the road dust off of me. When I plunged into the water off of the ladder I was stunned to see a very large Loggerhead sea turtle right in front of me! He/she was about 2.5 x 3 ft and covered in algae and had several remora of all different varieties and colors hanging on to it. In my excitement, I made the mistake of immediately trying to swim down to it which send him flying off to quickly vanish in the blue murkiness of deeper water! Why did I do that?!
After my lovely swim, I lay in a lounge chair looking out to sea as the Sun began to make her exit for the day. Two brown pelicans came in to view and my eye was caught by the fact that they were flying in tandem! Following each other’s every movement; soaring banking against the wind, circling, going higher, gliding then finally both plunging toward the sea, beaks pointed down, wings drawn in. They made very little splash as they entered the water. The larger of the two came up with a fish but his partner had to duck his/her head under again to come up with a fish. Since pelicans do not have sexual dimorphism and because they only mate for a season and even then only nest together, I had no idea if what I was witnessing was a male-female couple, just two friends or something else entirely but I enjoyed imagining a romance where they enjoyed the ariel ballet of a tandem flight followed by a tasty seafood dinner!
My Review of “Secret Beach” (not so secret)
August 30: The smell of burning trash, which will forever transport me to my childhood visits to Jamaica, roused me from my sleep this morning in time to greet the dawn. Because I had not smelled this pungent smell before from inside my house I got up to investigate. Stepping out on my front porch I was met with the sight of a water-color landscape, the sea like glass reflecting the most gentle hues of blue and rose pink! It seemed all about me was stillness until I became aware of the rustling and scurrying in the bushes of the animals waking up. Birds were singing and twittering to one another and gliding past heading south as if they had to be in town early to open shops. As I took the stairs onto the beach and out to the sea wall crabs scurried away and a large grey iguana ducked back into his hole. I stepped along the concrete wall to sit on one of the pale yellow wooden lounge chairs and as I did I saw two slow-moving hermit crabs in beautiful shells clinging to the edge of the wall that ran perpendicular to the shoreline. I tried the chair closest to me with my hand and found it dewy so I squatted on it to regard the lightening dawn. For some reason, early mornings in the Caribbean always make me think, this must be what the first mornings on earth were like. In too short a time the mosquitos found me easily on this windless morning and ruined my peace (as they always do!) so I quit the shore and hurried back to the safety of my elevated dry porch. From here I watched what I assume was a mating dance between two small birds. One would advance a bit and the other back up then they circled and repeated the process each time getting only incrementally closer to one another. The dance seemed interminable and as the tension (for me grew) I suggested audibly that they “get it over with” but I don’t think they heard me because when I finally went back inside they were still hopping and popping around.
September 7: I will not soon forget the amazing times I had SCUBA diving, both my training and pleasure dives. I’ve compiled some highlights in the below video. If you wish to see more vids check them out on my YouTube Channel @TheSuccessDoc
First presented by: Nicole Cutts, Ph.D. June 12, 2019 at the American University Key Leadership Conference in Washington, DC.
session draws on somatic coaching techniques: utilizing theory and practice
from Ashtanga Yoga, neuroleadership, cognitive psychology, and leadership best
practices to help participants learn how to fully embody their leadership
presence and catalyze their followership.
a more powerful leadership presence that is able to stay open, present,
flexible and connected under difficult conditions such as stress, complexity,
deep self-awareness and increase emotional intelligence by accessing the
intelligence of the mind/body system
somatic practices you can use for your continued leadership development and the
development of others.
benefits of participating in this session include learning methodology and
Reduce stress and increase resilience
Increase your influencing skills and ability to
motivate and engage others
Focus your talents into purposeful action,
creating the capacity to produce even more valuable results
Increase your self-confidence in new ways, e.g.
greater balance, endurance, strength, agility, and flexibility
is Embodied Leadership?
be an embodied leader means your ability to lead comes from deep inside you. It
also means literally staying fully connected to your body and centered on your
core values and truest self even during times of pressure.
to Pete Hamill, author of Embodied Leadership (2013), “The concept of embodied leadership, derived from somatic coaching,
brings the body forward as an advocate in creating a place for change and
transformation.” And, “Embodied learning is a level of learning where you can
learn to do something differently, consistently and when under pressure.”
leadership is the optimal leadership presence. It combines power and strength
with flexibility and ambition with humility. It increases your ability to be
influential, flexible (adaptable) and resilient.
The Connection Between Emotional
Intelligence, Brain & Body
A simple and familiar framework from which we can understand the importance of being an embodied leader is the concept of emotional intelligence. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the ability to understand one’s own state of mind and one’s capabilities, to manage oneself to respond constructively to situations and to engage successfully with other people. Emotional Intelligence is not necessarily about what to do, but HOW to do it.
Would you believe that over the past 9+ years I have had hundreds of successful coaching relationships with people I have never laid eyes on? To be honest, I don’t know what 95% of them look like! Incidentally, I have also been coached successfully by a woman living in Australia that I also never saw!
Now before you go thinking I do some sort of work in the spiritual world let me explain. The clients and coach I mention are quite real. We just never met face to face.
While I have worked effectively with many people in my various roles ofexecutive/leadership coach, success coach and clinical psychologist over the telephone and in more recent years via some form of video chat, i.e. Zoom, Skype, Facetime, many potential clients balk at the idea of not conducting coaching and therapy sessions in a face-to-face environment.
While I understand the assumptions behind people’s bias toward in-person sessions, research does not support this thinking. I worry that some people may be missing out on the many benefits of coaching and or therapy by limiting their options to face-to-face relationships. I’m writing this article for those folks.
Please consider the following top five advantages of virtual coaching and therapy and the supporting data before engaging an executive coach, success coach or therapist.
According to Kimsey-House et al. in the book Co-Active Coaching, “An effective coaching environment is safe enough for clients to take the risks they need to take and two, it is a courageous place where clients are able to approach their lives and the choices they make with motivation, curiosity and creativity.” Data suggests that this environment can be achieved with ease via telephone and video chat.
Top 5 Advantages of Virtual Coaching and Therapy
I. Cost: Without travel and office overhead, many practitioners (myself included) are able to charge lower fees for virtual coaching and therapy. Clients also save money by not having to travel.
II. No Time and Distance Barriers: When choosing coaches and therapists most people look for someone in their area but when engaging in virtual practices clients have a wider range of practitioners from which to choose. It is also convenient for those who travel because appointments can be kept no matter where the client is. The hours for appointments are also usually more flexible. For example, I will see a client after regular working hours virtually but not in person. Additionally, it may be easier for clients to meet virtually during their lunch hours, whereas that would be impossible if meeting face to face.
III. Comfort: Clients appreciate having sessions in the comfort of their own homes or offices. Without the burden of appearances, they usually choose to sit somewhere quiet and comfortable and to dress comfortably (something they usually can’t do in an office setting).
IV. Modeling: For leaders and others who work in an increasingly virtual world, virtual coaching and therapy provide an additional benefit of modeling great virtual conversations.
V. Diverse Group Sessions: Clients who participate in group coaching sessions may be energized by working with people from diverse locations, backgrounds and cultures. Virtual coaching allows coaches to bring together people who might not normally work together, and who have the potential to create unique and impactful experiences through their distinct ideas and perspectives.
research literature has acknowledged telephone coaching as a way of enabling coaching
on-demand, providing access to expertise, serving geographically dispersed
individuals, reducing cost (Frazee, 2008) and promoting follow through and
accountability (Charbonneau, 2002). In addition to recognizing these benefits,
clients’ and coaches’ personal experiences with telephone coaching have been
to the International Coach Federation (2019), a study found “no difference in
the reported level of problem resolution for face-to-face and distance
clients.” The strength of the working alliance was found to be
significant for problem resolution in distance coaching, and “coaches
self-reported strong levels of working alliance in both conditions
(face-to-face and distance).”
Another study (Day
& Schneider, 2002) compared selected process and outcome variables across three
modes of psychotherapy: face-to-face, real-time video conference, and 2-way
audio (analogous to telephone). This study found very little difference in
outcome and in some cases advantages to distance modalities. In fact, the major
difference they found could be construed as favorable to the distance modes: “Statistics
indicate that Client Participation scores were higher when clients were not facing
to face with their therapists.” (Day & Schneider, 2002)
Please don’t get me wrong. I still very much enjoy in-person
coaching and the hybrid of coaching/therapy that I offer and when a client is
not comfortable with virtual coaching and I want to work with them I meet with
them face to face, but I don’t want people to miss out on the value of coaching
and therapy by not availing themselves of virtual modes.
What is your experience? Have you had virtual or
in-person coaching or therapy? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Also, if you
have any questions about the coaching or therapy services I offer, feel free to
drop me a line,
visit Cutts Consulting, LLC or
visit Vision Quest Retreats
Are you a woman interested in Group Coaching? Click MASTERMIND