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Winter, (No Spring), Now SUMMER! Time to Practice the Fine Art of Reframing

So, here I am on our boat celebrating the end of Winter, a missing Spring, and now…. Summer! But wait – today we’re all hiding out indoors escaping the scorching 94 degree temps outside! This is a classic case of “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch!” or “Be flexible! Regroup!”

When weather dishes out doozies like it has been here in New England, sometimes the best you can do is “reframe”:

On another rainy day in June: Great opportunity to do book work and seasonal clothing hauls.

– On another 50 degree day in June: Great time to do the mulching and other backbreaking yard work you’d never do in the heat. Also great time to do all the cooking and baking which calls to you.

– On a 94 degree Monday when you’re “off” work: Great time to write blog posts, post radio shows and catch up on emails, not to mention play your guitar and read a book before midnight. Who’d want to be indoors doing that when it’s glorious outside?

So, as the old adage goes, “When nature gives you lemons, make LOADS of lemonade!”

 

The Winter Blues: Make Peace with the Season or Be Miserable!

IMG_8362.JPG Susan at Lincoln Woods, NH 1:15:17 with friends

This past weekend it was a balmy 24 degrees for the high on most of Saturday and Sunday here in the Northeast. Many of you might grimace at this information, especially if you live in Maine or New Hampshire and routinely experience a six month winter. You’re even more likely to look at this photo of me on the Lincoln Woods trail, deep in the heart of the mountains, and think I’m crazy, right? What you may not realize is that, along with some good friends and my husband I was practicing the art of making peace with the cold, given the fact that we can’t change it and would certainly get very depressed hanging around inside all winter. (What you can’t see in this particular photo is the fact that all four of us had just driven two hours North to see the Ice Castles, basically, an ambitious bunch of ice towers near Loon Mountain – all freezing stuff)!

But, there’s method to the madness: Get out in nature after you’ve sufficiently bundled up, experience it’s beauty, yield to it, and you’ll be taking a natural anti-depressant! So, whatever feels most comfortable to you – downhill skiing, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, ice skating, or just plain trail walking with your dog, if you have one – any of these activities will help you not only get through the very long New England winter, but will give you exercise, social contact, a happy dog and communion with nature. All very good things….

Another Birthday!

Yesterday was my birthday, and once again I was astonished at how fast this past year went. Zip! It flew by! Again I’ve had the dreaded thought that my remaining birthdays may be limited, as I’m now officially tripping off the top of the”middle age” peak. Ugh! Not a good way to think about the passage of time. So, I’m on a mission to reframe aging, so I don’t spend the rest of my days playing “Beat the Clock.” (If you are gloriously young, you probably have no clue about that reference, as you wouldn’t have been born when that show was on TV. Well, hooray for you).

So far, I’ve decided that one clear antidote to aging with dread is to stop focusing on the outside of things and more on the inside – to not be seduced by appearances, but more cognizant of substance. That way, wrinkles and gravity’s effect on bodies, including my own, will be less central, (and horrifying!). So, who cares if your butt is two inches lower now than when you were 25? It’s the quality of your mind and heart that protrudes with significance!

One other antidote seems to be less focus on the endlessly undone things in life – the “bucket list” of amazing, challenging, creative, fun or obligatory things remaining untapped or unfinished, and more focus on one’s achievements. What accomplishments do you feel proud of? What will you be remembered for? What relationships and experiences have you had that you cherish right now? It’s a “glass half full” frame, much less melancholy, more grateful!

While I’m working on my list of antidotes to aging with dread, I did see one affirmation on a birthday card which says it all perfectly: “At this moment in time you are the youngest you will ever be for the rest of your life.”  Ah, youth……

Are You a Time Optimist?

My husband and I still have a ridiculously predictable ritual: We agree to do some errands together on a weekend, often involving returning or searching for an item in a Marshalls or T.J.Maxx store. I tell him I’ll be ten minutes, he says “ok,” and half an hour later I’m still in the dressing room frantically trying on deals of a lifetime while he’s outside, aggravated, saying he should have brought a book! As someone who is generally considerate of other people’s feelings, I apologize and we agree not to shop together in the future, because I lose all sense of time, and he hates to wait. He forgives me, and all is well, until…..the next time.

Here’s another similar scenario: I have a family member (whom I won’t mention by name), who is joyful, highly creative and full of intense energy. He does everything with tremendous passion. Unfortunately, that usually means fixing or building something, or solving some complex problem “in no time” while he makes his wife wait for him to go somewhere or do something else. He’s a loving, thoughtful husband who somehow lives in the doghouse much of the time in his marriage. Luckily, he too has a forgiving spouse who adores him.

Are we folks who chronically underestimate the time it takes to do things really just inconsiderate of others? Do we all have ADHD? Are we disorganized or are we just “time optimists”? I like to think that it’s the latter category – chronically underestimating the time it takes to do things. When our son was about eight years old he remarked one day that I seemed to always be “missing ten minutes!” How astute! – yet it took me another nine years to realize that I could leave for work ten minutes earlier and not be crunched for time – that inevitably, en route to work I’d get caught behind a school bus or an old lady driving fifteen miles an hour, no matter how well intentioned I was about not being late for clients.

These days, I still try to add at least ten minutes onto the estimate for the time needed for just about everything in life. I’ve relinquished myself to the “higher power” of Geologic Time – that no matter how fast I can do things, the world still moves very, very slowly. I can tell you that this practice lowers your stress level, makes everyone around you feel much less irritated, helps you enjoy the scenery behind old ladies and school buses, and can even improve your marriage! The only thing that I can’t vouch for is what happens when you hit a sale in your favorite store….

Retail Meditation

I’ve often teased my husband about how he goes into his “happy place” when he’s fishing, especially from his kayak. He slips into a total trance, paddling softly, examining the shallow water for fish and lures other people have left behind. I could be drowning in the next kayak, or there could be a nuclear holocaust and he’d be completely immersed in a Zen meditative state. (I think he’s in good company with half the planet in this way.)

Well, I’ve noticed something similar about myself and what I think may be true for millions of women: when I’m on a shopping mission searching for a specific item, I’m either in a store or online, totally immersed in the experience, focused and calm, in much the same way as when I play my guitar, maneuver my kayak, ski or garden. I used to think of the shopping as being too material, but I now realize that it’s a form of meditation – retail meditation! Whenever I’m in a store I observe something similar seeming to happen for mostly other women – they sail around with their carts, looking for this or that, with contented smiles on their faces, calm and centered, in what looks like a perfect state of “flow.” I don’t know if they’re on drugs or engaged in compulsive shopping, but they sure seem to be present in the moment!

So, if you engage in the same behavior, and you’re not overspending or avoiding some other responsibility, try not to let your inner critic define the experience as shallow. You may instead be honoring a biologically wired “gathering” instinct and doing a moving meditation. If it centers and calms you, it may be just what you need at that time!

Susan Lager

PS. If you need more help with silencing your judgmental inner critic, feel free to call me for an appointment: 603-431-7131

Self Criticism: Silence It With the Ultimate Nuclear Weapon

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Many of us become our own worst enemies by putting ourselves down and focusing on our weaknesses or negative qualities. If you are prone to this, it’s important to know that a bit of self critical thinking can become motivation for positive change and growth, but when you go overboard with it, feeling worthless, incapable of effective action, etc., it prevents you from taking healthy risks because it robs you of confidence in your own capabilities. It raises anxiety and stress, and can lead to depression.

Most of us already know about the importance of learning to accept our mistakes as part of learning, and being kinder and softer to ourselves in general. We’ve also heard a lot about looking for solutions to problems instead of berating ourselves about them. But here is the ultimate nuclear weapon to blast away self criticism: The Howitzer Mantras.

Because self critical talking and behavior is driven by habit and reflex, its important to find words or phrases that are designed to hit the critic like a cannon blast. When you hear your internal critic saying nasty, derogatory things about yourself use a mantra that helps you feel angry and outraged, like “Screw you!,” “Stop this crap!” “Shut up!” “Get off my back!” Use the anger and indignation as a productive way to drown out the critic. Yell out loud if you can, but most importantly, mentally shout the mantras at the critic.

If using the mantras alone is insufficient, take a stronger measure by putting a rubber band around your wrist and snap it while subvocalizing your mantra. By doing this you’re emphasizing your stop commands and making thought interruption more likely. The sharp, stinging sensation breaks the chain of negative thoughts and acts as a punisher so that the critic is less likely to attack in the near future.

Try this method as a routine way to silence your damning critic and you’ll be amazed at the results!

Come to the Northeast Where We’re All Going Crazy! Join the Party!

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Here in southern Maine we just got hit with another four inches of snow, with possibly another nine more by tomorrow. Not to mention the next massive snow and ice storm coming this weekend, so total accumulations are approaching a cozy eight feet! Today was a balmy 25 degrees after daily averages well below zero. The new fun pastimes up here are shoveling, snow-blowing, roof raking, clearing our vents, blowing our noses, watching our pipes freeze, cleaning off our ice-crusted cars, fighting for parking “spaces,” and watching our pets go psychotic indoors. It’s a g*ddam party! Come to the Northeast, see the sights and join the fun!

Overthinking It

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It’s been about a month since I’ve posted, and I’m happy to say, I’m back! With the holiday busyness, a surprising surge of clients, a nasty virus and some minor surgery, it feels like my life got hijacked.

But, there was also another culprit responsible for my absence: overthinking! I’m somewhat of a perfectionist to begin with, so my mind tends to over-review details in an effort to get things right, or just so. What prompted this post however, were two situations in particular: learning Quickbooks to enter details about my business expenses for my accountant, and a return to skiing for the first time this season.

Quickbooks is a ripe medium for overthinking: tons of little details with specific ways to enter information appropriately. I thought I’d learn to do it myself rather than spend the time and money outsourcing it to a bookkeeper. What I found is that it’s an arena with loads of uncertainties if you’re a beginner, especially not a financial professional. So it’s been about a month of torture, with countless hours of entries, checking and rechecking, all on weekends when “normal” people are having some fun! Here’s what Psychology Today says about overthinking:

“The human mind hates uncertainty. Uncertainty implies volatility, randomness, and danger. When we notice information is missing, our brain raises a metaphorical red flag and says, “Pay attention. This could be important…” When data is missing, we overestimate its value. Our mind assumes that since we are expending resources locating information, it must be useful.”

(So there I was)…..

Then I went skiing again for the first time this season on my new “shaped” skis, and found myself reviewing all the instructions about proper form and perfectly executed turns I’d learned from lessons in the past. It took me about five runs before it occurred to me to just have some fun and let muscle memory set in. The ensuing runs were exuberant, and nobody got killed!

So here are a few of my antidotes for overthinking things:

1. Just do it! Take action, be willing to make “mistakes,” and be in the moment of the experience, so you get out of your head. If you’re overthinking your motivation, then make your motivation the “caboose,” not the “locomotive.” You can think about your motivation on the tail end after you’ve taken action – i.e., as with exercise.

2. Distract an overactive mind by directing your attention elsewhere – focus on the desired end result you imagine, like with skiing, do some mental rehearsal, envisioning yourself flying down the mountain with joy, rather than obsessing on the details of each turn.

3. Practice regular meditation, daily exercise, and when all else fails, get some medication to calm down your obsessional thinking.

So, for all of us over thinkers the task is also to accept that life is filled with uncertainty, to trust that uncertainties usually won’t kill us, and to relinquish our illusions of control. It’s an Eastern thing….

Cheers,

Susan

When Things Fall Apart: BlogTalk Radio Episode 9/17/14 8:30 PM EST

Don’t miss my next BlogTalk Radio episode tonight about the subject of dealing with life when things fall apart. We’ve all had the experience at times of dealing with crises which create a sense of chaos and uncertainty – maybe the loss of a loved one, or a debilitating health issue, or the loss of a job or business. It always feels horrible and destabilizing, and often creates a story of victimhood or bitterness for us. But the fact is that misery is just another part of life – it inevitably comes with the joy, relief, and triumph that are also part of our story.

Tune into this half hour episode tonight and join the discussion or just listen in, and hear about some attitudes and behavioral tools which may help you to accept some of these hardships as part of being human, and move through these experiences with more wisdom and perspective. Call toll-free 877-497-9046, or if the lines are busy call 760-542-4114. I hope you can join me! If you can’t make the live show, listen to it online at your convenience by going to the web player on my website, www.SusanLager.com or at www.BlogTalkRadio/SusanLager.com

“Move On Without An Apology – A Couplespeak™ Tool To Heal Your Heart” 2/5/14 BlogTalk Radio Episode 8 PM EST

If you’ve ever been emotionally hurt by someone who didn’t do anything significant to earn your forgiveness, then this show is for you. When there has been no expressed remorse or apology you don’t have to be enslaved by bitterness. Nor do you need to bestow “cheap forgiveness” upon that person, letting them off the hook, and dishonoring yourself!

Tune into this half hour episode to learn about how to move on and heal without the benefit of a genuine apology. I’ll talk about a proven tool you can use for a healing journey.

Call toll-free 877-497-9046 to listen in, or to join me live on the air with questions or comments. I’d love for you to be there and have a conversation. Wednesday, February 5th 8 PM EST.

If you can’t make the live show, go to The Couplespeak Relationship Forum to catch the recording whenever it’s convenient for you.

Cheers,
Susan Lager

Blog Talk Radio Host

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Susan Lager

I am a licensed, board certified pyschotherapist and relationship coach in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Through my psychotherapy or coaching services, I can provide you with skills and tools to transform your life.

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