How to Process Sadness and Grief

How to Process Sadness and Grief

You may be feeling heavy-hearted and overwhelmed by all the conflict in the world, challenges you have faced during the pandemic; and to add insult to injury, the recent invasion of Ukraine. You may be feeling exhausted. Feeling like you want to return to bed a few hours after awakening. You may want to shake off all this sadness and heaviness and return to a lighter and more optimistic way of being.

I feel you. Recently I returned from a road trip to visit a dying friend. It was so sad to see how weak and frail she was having lost 50 pounds in the past 4 months. She texted and asked me to give her 15 to 20 minutes before arriving as it took that long for her to recover from unlocking her front door and returning to her living room couch.

It’s been 10 days since my return, and it took over a week until I started to feel more like myself. What have I found helpful to lift the heaviness from my heart and body, and support the return of my energy?

What did I do to help process the grief and sadness?

  • I listened to my body. When I felt tired, I laid down for a short while.
  • I created more space in my days. Rather than have my agenda “packed full” I removed and didn’t attend events that did not light me up.
  • I went for a walk in nature every day. When we walk in nature it clears our energy, reduces our heart rate and blood pressure, and strengthens our immune system.
  • I faithfully did yoga three times a week.
  • Rather that push the sadness away I tried to feel it and let it flood through my body. I’ve learned that resisting sadness and grief takes a lot of energy and in the long run it still lingers in my body.
  • I went for a massage with a woman who is also an energy worker. I felt much lighter the next morning after the massage.
  • I openly shared my sadness with people close to me instead of acting strong and soldiering on (a typical behavior I have used in the past).
  • I find writing, journaling, and doing something creative therapeutic; it takes my mind off the injustices in the world.
  • I put on my favorite music and dance around the kitchen.

What strategies have you found helpful to process your grief and sadness? I welcome your comments below.

How to Balance Your Masculine and Feminine?

How to Balance Your Masculine and Feminine?

In a recent post I spoke about “Why Balancing Your Masculine and Feminine is Important” – https://pamela-thompson.com/why-is-balancing-your-masculine-and-feminine-important/. This post dives deeper and shares some tips and tools for balancing your masculine and feminine energy.

When you’re spinning out of control, feeling stuck on the hamster wheel and unable to get off, you often intuitively know that you need to create some more balance in your life. You may also be unsure about how to do that.

The cultures of China and India have recognized the importance of a balanced life for more than 2,000 years. Their theories of health and illness are based on the presence (or not) of balance. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) also believes that disease is caused by energy blockage in the body. In order to stay healthy, it is important to keep energy moving throughout our bodies; for example, by regularly practicing qigong or tai chi, or having therapeutic massages by an experienced practitioner or energy healer.

I particularly like the metaphor Austin Vickers shares in his book Stepping Up To a Life of Vision, Passion and Authentic Power (2005). He likens balance to a three-legged stool. Vickers refers to the three stool legs as “body, mind, and spirit” and notes “all three of these legs of life are necessary to make us stable and balanced.” He cautions that if you are missing one leg of your stool “all of your energy is spent trying to maintain balance and not fall over. You cannot relax. But upon a balanced stool, one can relax, read, work or use it as a tool to do other things.”

When you are living life like a spinning top or caught on the hamster wheel, you are exhibiting many of the characteristics of masculine energy. It is important to be aware of the characteristics of the two energies, as being out of balance has negative impacts on our bodies, minds, relationships, and success at home and work. For example, if we are constantly in our masculine energy, driving and striving, over time it leads to illness (e.g. burnout), unhappiness, lack of fulfillment, and restlessness. Conversely, if we are dominated by our feminine energy, constantly giving to others, we may become resentful, ill, needy, and insecure.

How can you find and create your own unique balance between your masculine and feminine energies? Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Sit down. Close your eyes. Take several deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Get centered and grounded.
  2. Reflect on your day. Become an outside observer. Which characteristics of the two energies did you display today, and in which situations?
  3. Ask yourself if you are living your life more in the masculine than the feminine side or vice versa, and if this is out of balance.
  4. Ask yourself if you are willing to experiment, to make some changes in your behaviors and notice the impact they have on your body, mind, relationships, and creativity at home and at work.
  5. If the answer is yes, make a conscious decision to change one thing and try it out for a week. It could be the way you relate to your team. Think about this each morning before you get out of bed and make the commitment to yourself. For example, you might say, “I choose today to demonstrate empathy and be receptive to others’ ideas; to really listen instead of being in control, assertive, and competitive.”
  6. During the day, start to notice when you become “adrenalized”; when you become extremely “geared up” and have trouble sitting still. Take several deep breaths, go inside, and ask yourself what is it that is making you feel so anxious. Listen to what comes up for you.
  7. You may find it useful at the end of the day to reflect and journal about what came up for you and the impact(s) on your body, mind, relationships, creativity, and productivity when you initiated even a small change.

The first step in making any change is self-awareness. By becoming aware of what situations or people “adrenalize” you, you may then make a conscious choice to “dig deeper” and try on some new beliefs and behaviors.

I welcome your comments and thoughts below on strategies you have found helpful to balance your masculine and feminine energies.

Why is Balancing Your Masculine and Feminine Important?

Why is Balancing Your Masculine and Feminine Important?

“We all have masculine and feminine within us, and when it’s all balanced it’s like accessing a super power.” (Alicia Keys)

What do we mean by “masculine” and “feminine” and why is balancing them important?

Much has been written about the sacred feminine (yin) and the sacred masculine (yang). Although each person possesses both masculine and feminine energies, usually one type is more developed or dominant. This dominant energy affects how you perceive yourself, others, your environments and how you interact with the world.

The qualities of each type of energy are outlined in the table below. *

Feminine Energy (Yin) BEING & GIVINGMasculine Energy (Yang) DOING & RECEIVING
  Creative  Linear & Logical
IntuitiveAnalytical
CollaborativeCompetitive
ReceptiveAssertive
EmotionalRational
PassionateDetermined
EmpatheticObjective
Allow for “flow”Goal-directed
  
  • Excerpted from “Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women” (2015) by Pamela Thompson, p. 84

When you live life feeling like you are on a hamster wheel and can’t get off, you are exhibiting many of the characteristics of masculine energy. It’s important to be aware of the qualities of each type of energy because being out of balance negatively impacts our bodies, our minds, our relationships and our work. For example, if we are constantly in our masculine energy, over time it leads to illness, lack of fulfillment, unhappiness, and restlessness. Whereas if we are dominated by our feminine energy, we become ill, resentful, needy and insecure.

It’s important to note that balancing yin and yang energies does not mean 50% yin and 50% yang. It means “learning to optimize your own unique mix so your happiness is maximized and your success enhanced.” (http://themichaelteaching.com/michael/applied-michael/masculine-feminine-duality/)

How can you find and create your own unique balance between your feminine and masculine energies? A good place to start is with an assessment.

Here’s an illuminating exercise:

At the end of the day, take some time to pause and reflect on your day. Create 2 lists. Put at the top of one list “Doing” and the other list “Being”. Without thinking too much, do a brain dump of all the things you’ve done in that day. This could include: planning with your team, chairing a meeting, doing a performance review … . Then write down all the things you would categorize as “being” such as: walking mindfully in nature, meditating, spending time focusing attentively on someone or something.

If it’s been an unusual day, take the time to also reflect on the previous day. 

Then create 2 other lists. Think about all your “Giving” behaviors that day. Examples include: making a meal for a sick friend, volunteering your time to assist others, listening to a friend’s tale of woe. .

Now think about all your “Receiving” behaviors for that day. Receiving behaviors include: treating yourself to a yoga class and being present during it, meditating for at least 10 minutes, reaching out for support when you needed it; such as “Sweetie, do you mind driving the kids to school today? I’ve got a lot on my plate.”, treating yourself to a bubble bath or massage.

Now look at your lists. What do you notice? Are you giving more than receiving and doing more than being?

Then take a few moments to go into your body and notice how you are feeling. Are you low in energy? Are you feeling resentful? Are you finding you have a “short fuse” and that you are reacting rather than taking some thoughtful time to respond to people at home and/or at work?

I invite you to do this exercise for a few days and notice what you notice. I welcome your reflections and insights below.

Stay tuned for the next installment to discover some tips and tools for balancing your masculine and feminine energy.

Celebrating Endings & New Beginnings: A Useful Process

Celebrating Endings & New Beginnings: A Useful Process

December is a great month to reflect on your achievements from the current year and to set intentions for the coming year.

A process that I’ve found to be extremely useful for myself and my clients is to answer the following questions and journal about them at the end of one year and before starting a new one.

Reflections:

What are the accomplishments I am most proud of in 2020? 

What am I most grateful for this year?

What lessons have I learned regarding relationships, work experience, my business, my own blind spots … over the past year?

Intentions:

What are my intentions for 2021 (in five areas)?

  • Personal life – i.e. What my personal life looks and feels like. Note that it is important to write your intentions in the present tense as if you have already accomplished them. For example; “I am strongly connected to myself, my gifts, my fears, my strengths. I courageously uncover any and all fears, doubts and limiting beliefs that are holding me back from standing in my true power and fulfilling my larger vision and mission … .”
  • Related to my Health i.e. What my health looks and feels like. “I feel great! My body is toned, strong and flexible. I radiate health and vitality – physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually. I do yoga 3 to 4 times/week, meditate daily and spend regular time in nature hiking, kayaking, swimming, cycling …
  • Financial – i,e. What my financial life looks and feels like. “ I average $_______ thousand a month in terms of income generation through Creative Life Coaching & Consulting. I feel financially free and serene. I pay off my credit cards every month and my line of credit is paid off. …
  • Spiritual – i.e. What my spiritual life looks and feels like. “I continue to meditate daily and deepen my ability to go within and connect with the Universal wisdom. I continue to strengthen and listen to my body’s wisdom. … “
  • Intellectual – i.e. What my intellectual life looks and feels like. “I am flexible, flowing and open to new ideas. I connect with my creativity easily and effortlessly. … I blog regularly and creative ideas come to me easily. I design and facilitate workshops and retreats that many women connect with and learn from.”

I encourage you to experiment with the process above. Feel free to change the titles of the 5 areas suggested to ones that resonate for you. Reviewing your intentions quarterly and noting how you’re doing in relation to them, helps keep them top of mind and provides encouragement to move forward. Using your intentions as a “touch stone” at the end of each year to review your achievements is helpful.

Celebrating your accomplishments feels so good and is important to provide you with the energy and commitment to move forward and fulfill your intentions. Here’s a short video that explains why it is important to celebrate.

Best of luck reflecting on 2020 and setting bold intentions for 2021. To your health, happiness, fulfillment and inner peace!

I invite you to try out the process and welcome your comments below. Feel free to share this post with others.

Stories Matter: Which One Would You Like to Share?

Stories Matter: Which One Would You Like to Share?

Why do Stories Matter?

For centuries, people from different cultures around the world have shared their lessons and knowledge through the oral tradition of storytelling. With the introduction of the printing press, the possibility of writing stories down and sharing them far and wide become a reality. Now with the internet and social media, we can share our stories, blogs, insights and ideas with people from around the globe from a variety of backgrounds and cultures.

So why is storytelling so important?

Stories connect us

When we read Bridget Jones’s Diary or Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella, we realize we are not alone and are not the only ones who have certain personality quirks and are dealing with life challenges.  

Stories promote understanding

When we read someone’s biography such as “Becoming” by Michelle Obama, we gain insight into what it was like to grow up as a black woman in the US during her time, in a family without a lot of financial resources and also what it’s like to move into the White House and become the First Lady after living a relatively private existence. When we read “Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree” it helps us understand what it could be like to be kidnapped as a young woman and enslaved by members of the Boko Haram, a radical Muslim group in Nigeria.

Stories help us heal

Many of us have stories of our past that we have locked away and not shared with anyone. An example is stories of childhood sexual abuse which need to be acknowledged and shared in order for us to heal and move on in our lives.

Stories give us hope

When we think of Martin Luther’s historic speech “I had a dream”, that dream and story laid the foundation for a different America.

Stories inspire us

When we read about someone who has faced tremendous odds and rose above them to be an amazing leader and changemaker, we are inspired by how resilient we can be as humans. Women or men who have come from poverty and risen above it to make the world a better place serve as role models for others in similar situations. They help us believe that anything is possible.

What story are you longing to tell?

A few months ago, I was given the opportunity to share a story as part of Female Wave of Change’s storytelling project. We were invited to submit a story that we thought would be helpful for others; one of 1000 words or less.

I’m excited to share that the “Stories Matter” E-book was launched at Female Wave of Change’s (FWoC) Global Conference on September 26th.  This is a collection of stories contributed by women and men from all over the world: “stories of hope, of resilience, of courage, vulnerability and wisdom.”  

I invite you to read this inspiring and insightful collection as a complimentary gift at: http://bit.ly/FWoCStoryBookhttps://drive.google.com/file/d/1_mom2HTs2RR6Ytrsn2zrI9CZx8u2PC5o/view

My contribution begins on page 50.

I invite you to share in the comments below one of your favorite stories in the FWoC e-book or a book or story that you have previously read, and why it matters to you.

The Importance of Play and Laughter for Leaders & Changemakers: How to Connect with Your Inner Child

The Importance of Play and Laughter for Leaders & Changemakers: How to Connect with Your Inner Child

Due to the uncertain and stressful times we are currently living in, and also because of research I’ve recently read on the importance of a “playful frame of mind” as we evolve as authentic leaders[1], I decided to resurrect and share an article I wrote three years ago[2]. …

Many of us learn that after a certain age, it is not appropriate to play. We get messages that we need to become serious and act like an adult. More and more research has shown how important play and laughter are for health and wellness throughout our lives.

You may have heard that laughter is the best medicine. When we laugh, we release endorphins and encourage energy to move throughout our body. In the words of Candace Pert, a neuroscientist and pharmacologist who has spent much of her scientific life studying the mind-body link:

Play and laughter are vital to feeling good. Recreation isn’t merely a frivolous addition to life or a hard-earned reward for work…I believe that in a society driven by a strong work ethic, with so many individuals burdened with workaholism, people aren’t getting enough endorphinergic surges through the bodymind on a regular basis. For you to not be laughing and playing during some part of every day is unnatural and goes against your fundamental biochemistry.

Everything You Need to Feel Go(o)d), 2006

Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, has conducted research that shows play is not only energizing and fun, but also important for human physical, emotional and cognitive development, and intelligence. Addictions, depression, stress-related illnesses and interpersonal violence have been linked to the prolonged deprivation of play –http://www.nifplay.org . Brown’s TED talk outlines different types of play and provides evidence of the importance of play throughout our lives –http://www.ted.com/talks/stuart_brown_says_play_is_more_than_fun_it_s_vital.html

Based on research by Brown, Pert and others, it is recommended for the health of our minds and bodies that we engage in play and laughter every day.

Types of Play

Research on animals and humans has identified a number of different types of play including:

  • Body Play – when we move our bodies in different ways; for example, jumping, running, skipping or moving our bodies to real or imagined music.
  • Object Play – when we make an object (e.g. a snowball) and play with it, or play with an object such as a soccer ball.
  • Imaginative Play – creating an imaginary friend you interact with (you may have had an imaginary friend when you were a child); creating and sharing a fantasy story with a child; playing “dress up”.
  • Social Play  – playing tag or playing house with others
  • Transformative Play – through digital and other types of “structured” play we learn creative problem-solving.

 Strategies for Incorporating more play and laughter

  1. Travel back in time and identify and write down types of play activities you enjoyed and engaged in as a child.
  2. Reflect on how many of these activities you currently engage in as an adult and how often you engage in them.
  3. Rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how energized each of the above activities makes you feel – 1 being “not at all” and 10 being “full of energy”.
  4. Identify several play activities you would like to begin integrating into your life. Experiment and notice how they make you feel.
  5. Commit to engaging in some form of play and/or laughter on a daily basis. Ask friends and family for support (perhaps make it a family project to laugh and play at least once a day), and encourage play and laughter in their lives as well.

Your Inner Child

Another way to incorporate more play and laughter into your life is to connect with your inner child. According to Wikipedia “our inner child is our childlike aspect. It includes all that we learned and experienced as children, before puberty.” Others say that your inner child is your “true self” … the small child within you that never grew up. Your inner child is naturally fun, playful, and creative. It is also fragile and vulnerable.

Many of us have buried or rejected our inner child, and it takes some time to reconnect with and nurture it. The process may be challenging and scary for some, especially if you’ve experienced trauma. Connecting with our inner child helps us love, accept and nurture ourselves.

Strategies for Connecting with Your Inner Child[3] [4]

  1. Write a letter to your inner child saying that you want to reconnect. It can be a letter of apology or one expressing that you want to strengthen the relationship with her.
  1. Notice and acknowledge the feelings that come up when you connect with your inner child. Rather than “pushing them down” or rejecting them, allow any fears, sadness or insecurities to surface. Notice what you notice.
  1. Express those feelings by writing them down in a personal journal or through painting, finger painting or drawing.
  1. Picture yourself as a 3, 4 or 5 year old and reassure your younger self that they are safe, secure and loved.
  1. Reorganize your living space. Make it more fun. Bring out joyful childhood pictures, stuffed animals and trinkets and put them on your mantle. Paint one or several of your rooms with guidance from your inner child.
  1. Buy a coloring book and color several times a week.
  1. Spend time with children playing children’s games. These could be “hide and seek”, or imaginary games, and creating and telling your own stories.
  1. On awakening everyday ask your inner child what fun activity they would like to engage in today.

Parting Thoughts

Research shows that bringing our inner child out to play and incorporating laughter and play into our days is essential to be healthy and happy throughout our lives. I encourage you to try some of the strategies and to notice what you notice.

I’d love to hear how you connect with your inner child and what you’ve noticed from that experience. Please share your experiences below so we can all learn and grow from each other.


[1] https://hbr.org/2015/01/the-authenticity-paradox

[2] Originally published in the February 2017 issue of Eydis Authentic Living Magazine

[3] http://www.wikihow.com/Embrace-Your-Inner-Child

[4] http://www.creativecounseling101.com/find-your-inner-child.html