Happy Mental Health Day. Pun intended.

I was working with my therapist on finding ways to manage failure.
She set the new goal and the system automatically set it to 0% accomplished.
I saw that and this default setting made me feel disappointed… so I clicked edit and I set it to 20%..
Phew. Now that feels like less of a failure.

***

#worldmentalhealthday 10.10.2020

Many people tell me that I am a positive person.
I’m usually smiling, sure.
I have a lot of joy and light in me.. double sure.
I sometimes look like I “have it together”…whatever that means.
Folks, let’s keep it real. please.
I also have a lot of shadow and challenges to work through. We all do.
I also struggle. a lot. I often feel my crazy mind and untamed emotions, just like most of us do.
I also have close family members who have suffered from depression and other, even more debilitating, mental illnesses.

This past year I have been in an intense grieving process after the death of my dad. I thought it would get easier after the first year. In many ways it’s getting more difficult and it’s calling upon reserves of patience and gentleness with myself that I’m not sure I have…

Mental health appears silent and unseen. Yet our attitude and state of mind determine our capacity to be alone, to be in relationship, to work effectively, to sleep well, to enjoy intimacy. How can anything get done if peace is not present?

Mental health is like the air we breathe.

Seemingly invisible, untouchable and yet when the air gets thin or unclean.. we are left gasping for breath, on our knees..

The things I feel that actually work to help balance my mental states?

1. spending time with people that I trust and talking it through. I grab the phone if those peeps aren’t close by.

2. morning practices – there are so many – but the point is to start off the day feeling like I’m caring for myself and my wellness – it can include yoga, meditation, breathing exercises (loving the Wim Hof exercises on YouTube!), morning pages journaling, dancing, singing… and more).

3. gratitude – and shifting perception to what I do have versus what I don’t have.

4. staying away from social media (yes, I know it’s ironic that I’m posting this to social media, but trust me, I set my app limits to no more than 10 minutes a day and I focus on spending my alive time in the here and now as much as possible!)

5. staying away from social media especially when I’m alone (versus with other people) – for some reason that seems to be key for me.

6. watching comedy. humour. laughter. –> long live our wonderful comedians. they change vibrations and gives us lighter air to breathe!

7. being mindful of what I consume in terms of music, entertainment, images and books. our minds and especially our subconscious remembers all of it. ALL. It kind of makes sense right, that I have nightmares after I watch gory or violent movies at night.. come on. I can do better than that. I can nourish my mind with more wholesome vibes.

You take time every single day to shower, brush your teeth. You do your best to eat wholesome food. You make sure you get quality sleep.
Good for you –> that is called physical hygiene.

But what about your mental and emotional hygiene?

  • Who can you forgive today? (what can you forgive yourself for?)
  • What can you let go of?
  • What can you meditate on to get to the root of the issue (usually fear and grief are there lying underneath it all)Where do you need to give yourself and others recognition?
  • Where can you put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see the situation from their perspective?

THAT is just the beginning of –> emotional and mental hygiene.

It’s the daily practices that do it. It’s the check-ins with yourself and others. It’s the love, courageous fear-facing, giving ourselves time to fall apart and to put ourselves together again.
It doesn’t need to take a long time. Brushing your teeth only takes a few minutes twice a day.
I for one rather brush my teeth daily than rely solely on my once a year dentist’s visit. I know that once yearly wont cut it.
Just like a once yearly yoga retreat to “find myself” is not really what it’s all about (not to poo-poo on retreats, but stick with me on the dentistry metaphor…)

It’s about the every day feeling, being, appreciating, understanding and gently moving with the mystery..

Happy World Mental Health Day.
Pun intended.

To all of us heart warriors – I am with you.
We see you. We are as magnificent as we are fragile.

In fact, the truth is:
the more darkness and suffering you can endure (dare I say, embrace…) the greater your capacity to receive joy and pleasure.
Your capacity to love and feel the light deeply is equally proportionate to your ability to stay present with the shadow.

Wishing all of us balance, understanding to self and others and plenty of groundedness.

(featured photo – morning hike – flashback to Haiti 2014)

In Praise of Mini-Retirements & How YOU can go on one too

I first read about this idea of mini-retirements in Tim Ferris’ book called the 4-hour work week. The idea stuck and I’ve been taking breaks between work contracts to travel and volunteer ever since. I for one do not want to wait until I’m 65 to enjoy discovering different activities and parts of the world that I wouldn’t normally have the chance to do and see!

The result has been amusing and educational. And, incidentally, I also get to spend a lot of time with older people (because they are actually retired). Positive because:
1. I can question them on their life decisions and what they feel they did well, or not so well – aka, garner new wisdom
and
2. they are chill older people, much like me, so no pressure to drink/party etc. I like my dancing but I’m not much of a night-clubber.

There are numerous ways to plan a mini-retirement for yourself. You can plan it around one of your hobbies/passions (aka. you’ve just discovered salsa dancing and you’re heading to Colombia to immerse yourself in this for the next 3 months) or around a great, new place you’ve been meaning to discover.

How?
Check out websites such as WWOOFing networks (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) where in exchange for room and board you help out farmers with their various organic farming activities (this has led to rather random and funny situations in my own life, such as my temporary hiring of Bolivian soldiers who weeded the garden story) and Work Away (workaway.info) as well which works much like WWOOFing but involves a whole myriad of work and volunteer activities that go far beyond farming. I really enjoyed my first workaway trip where I got to teach yoga in Morocco back in 2018.

Side note: for anyone reading this who has children – YES many WWOOF and WorkAway hosts will welcome in families to stay and volunteer with them too.

Then we always have couchsurfing, AirBnB and WarmShowers network (for you cyclists out there)…

and you ALSO have friends who can take you along on a fun cruise or trip (or you can invite yourself to them).. then by all means bike along the Danube or check out an Ashram in India and go on an Ayurvedic cleanse. Thank you friends !!

Of course there are all of the allures of being a global nomad and finding freelance work, such as using the platform upwork.com – you can also take some time off between major work contracts and have a bit of a side hustle on the side – either to keep yourself and your mind busy and engaged, or to make some extra cash, or both.

Either way, for the sake of leading interesting, diverse and balanced lives, why on Earth (if we can allow ourselves this luxury) would we immediately jump from work contract to work contract? I advocate for taking some downtime, but ultimately what I see in myself and in others is that down-time does not necessarily mean doing nothing and lying belly-up on the beach (sometimes needed, but not always), but rather it means changing drastically what you’re doing and where you are.  Mentally, it feels like more of a holiday. Taking some distance from your normal life and activities can give you a breather, change your perspective and rest the parts of your mind which are preoccupied with those activities. I don’t think we necessarily need to stop being active BUT we do sometimes need a change of scene and change what we are doing.

FYI – there are other benefits to this also.
Being cross-disciplinary and poking your nose into other worlds that you previously knew nothing about (ex. organic farming, goat-cheese making, natural horsemanship, woodworking, etc.) can be very beneficial to your core work and to your brain:

  • builds creativity and fires up your imagination
  • is literally healthy for your brain (Thank you medium.com, and I quote “your brain needs novelty to grow”)
  • can bring in great new inspiration and ideas (in fact, according to Harvard Business Review, some of the best ideas come from outside of our own industries)
  • not to mention travelling to a part of the world where you can brush up on the foreign language you’re learning

Three cheers for the diverse life and the life-long learners!!!

(and after you’re done cheering, please feel free to leave your thoughts and feedback below) <– especially if you’re a practitioner of mini-retirements too!