Moving from Fear to Fierce

“The fear of facing your fears is harder to overcome than the fear itself.” 

Recently, I have been pondering the origination of fear, in general and specifically to me. Have you ever examined your life and wondered how you survived some of the most traumatic challenging events?  I try not to look back too often and keep a forward-focus mindset.  However, when trials reappear in my life, I will take a look back on conquered obstacles, painful transitions and successful victories.  I believe in the ability of human resiliency and the power of evolution through life’s fiery trials.  But there’s no doubting the deep rooted feeling of “fear” when moving through the storms of life.  Where does fear originate and how can we leverage it so we are positioned to be fierce in the face of opposition?

Did you know there is actual science behind the feeling of fear?  Yes, scientist uncovered a gene that is linked to fear, the stathmin gene. More research is being conducted on this gene as it relates to trauma, memory and the ability to recover. For this blog purpose, I want to focus on the fear we learn.

According to scientists, people are born with innate fears and others are learned from childhood.  I can remember the many fears I have picked up along my journey of life; including the fear of abandonment, fear of loss, and the fear of not having enough to survive.  These emerged due to direct exposure to an event.  But somewhere down the road, they were diminished by an approach to life that created an internal drive to be a fierce conquerer. Below are just three of the approaches I have taken, but I encourage you to assess your own strategies in facing your fears.

A.  Change your thoughts: We operate in life by many “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”.  Have you unpacked these?  Where did you learn them, who taught you them and can they be changed? Are they contingent upon roles that have been assigned to you based on gender, age, race, ethnicity or class?  Question them, think critically and then enroll those thoughts into a transformation bootcamp.

I have challenged these roles my entire life that were placed on me by my parents, friends, church affiliations, different racial groups and different classes.  Honestly, by challenging these societal roles, I have become more free, liberated and fierce.

B.  Do the opposite of how you feel: Are you intimated by something or someone?  First, ask yourself why and then do the exact opposite to how fear would dictate.  Are you interested in a person, for friendship or otherwise, but feel the fear of rejection, or future failure?  Then make an attempt to establish the relationship anyway.  Talk to them, get to know them, be proactive.  People are brought into our lives for a reason and allowing fear to dictate the outcome of that reason is detrimental to our evolution and purpose.  Are you invested in a new career, a new skill or trade or want to go back to school?  Fill out that job application, write that school entry essay, take those GRE’s.  Enact the exact opposing step to fear.  What is the worse that “could” happen.

C.  Don’t let set-backs keep you back: I have done the above two steps often in life and I have not always come out on top.  I have lost friendships, jobs have ended, relationships have soured, money has been lost and I have had to do major resets.  But guess what?  I kept going, continued to challenge my “shoulds”, and refused to succumb to the set-backs.  I looked at every challenge as a stepping stone, not a failure or reason to sit down on my life.  No one is promised a problem-free life, filled with just blessings and miracles.  We all have varying levels of barriers.  It is a choice as to whether you are going to knock them down, let them define you or block your opportunities in life.  If you take a step back, take 4 steps forward and you will find that you are operating in ferouciosuness instead of fear.

Finally, think about the fear in your life and the level of control it has on your present and future endeavors.  Choosing to address it, conquer it and change what you have learned will be the pivot point in reaching your destiny.  Operate boldly, move forward in confidence and go after that which you desire.

Fear

 

Road-Map Slam-Dunk

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up some place else.” – Y. Berra

Many times in life I have been derailed from my goals or dreams due to unexpected events, family emergencies, failed relationships, and so on.  However,  what has never left me is the drive, the motivation and the perseverance to obtain a vision that resides within me.

I currently work three jobs in addition to caring for my mother with Alzheimers.  As I get older, I am becoming more intentional in my decision making and planning.  I know what I want and have become more diligent with the level of effort I am putting forth to enhance my lifestyle, manage life’s stressors and press towards my goals and dreams.  It does not matter how much you have going on in life, there are choices and you do have control over what comes in and out of your life.

Below are a couple strategies I have introduced into my life in order to chart out my Road Map to Success:

A.  Develop an Interactive Online Vision Board.  I use Dream it Alive.  This site will assist you in navigating short term goals in every area of your life, from career, leisure, relationships, spirituality, physical health, etc.  You can order a tangible copy of your vision board once completed.  I place mine on my bedroom mirror to keep me focused on my future.  Revisit your vision board every couple months and when your goals are complete, develop new ones. Keep it going, keep it alive!

B. Plan It! I have three separate calendars I complete each month that charts out my work schedule, my workout/health coaching schedule and my mom’s ongoing medical and caregiver schedule.  I manage those three separate calendars, making sure I keep balance and ensure I am prioritizing my personal health and wellness.  I revisit the calendars at the beginning of each week and make small adjustments as needed, without sacrificing my own needs.  (note: do not feel guilty in saying no or enacting boundaries)

C. Look for Opportunities of Growth! We will never know it all in life.  We always should seek to develop, enhance or strengthen a skill in order to achieve all our goals.  I am continuously looking for trainings, certifications, or skill-building events that align with my vision.  We are evolving creatures who need to expand our abilities in order to strengthen humanity.  Existing in your current state will not only make you unhappy and unfulfilled, but also will not benefit society as a whole.

D. Give Back! Did you know that when you decide to give back to someone, to a community or organization, you actually grow?  Try it, if you don’t believe me.  When you share your gifts with another, you actually are strengthening  your own abilities and enhance your existing skills.  Those whom you serve will have “asks”  of you that cause you to rise-up and show-up.  When you show-up, you validate who you are and what you stand for.

E. Enlarge your Community! Where would we be if we only knew one group of people?  One of the most rewarding and beneficial things I have done in my life is to travel the world.  I have taken the 4-hour climb up Mt. Sanai, Egypt at 3am in the morning.  I have back-backed the desolate roads in Sighisoara, Romania and volunteered in the largest slums and refugee camps in Kenya, Africa.  I’ve visited over 20 countries and have been to almost all 50 US States and 13 US territories. Through the experience and emersion of different cultures, I have learned more about myself, the world and humanity.  My vision has become larger and my purpose is more directional.  Travel in or out of your country, or even just your current community.  Learn from others and expand your knowledge of other cultures.

When all else seems not to be available to you, have faith, dream it, write it, plan, and watch what you thought was impossible become possible. You have only one chance at this life. Live it on purpose!

 

IMG_4116-1

Pain Recycled, A Wellness Approach

Recycling is the process of collecting and processing materials the would otherwise be thrown away as trash and turning them into new products.  When we think of the term or the action of recycling, we usually are thinking of plastic bottles, metal objects, cardboard materials and so on.  However, in light of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, I would like to focus this blog post on how we recycle our personal experiences and heart-felt pain.

Our health and wellness journey cannot exclude our mental health.  Our mental health impacts our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being and vice versa. It is tightly interwoven into all aspects of our life.  Mental health is one of our greatest assets and supports our ability to overcome challenges and obstacles.  It impacts our relationships, our abilities to function in the workplace, individual life goals, finances, and much more.  If we do not address our mental health as part of well-being, our desire for healing and being whole will never come to fruition.

Everyone single human being walking this earth has experienced stress.  The stress can differ among us and will sit on a sliding scale of intensity in different points in your life. That stress can lead to avenues of great pain and mental anguish.  If we do not address that pain in our lives, over time, we end up recycling it into our future experiences.  Those recycled feelings and experiences if not processed in a healthy, productive way, will strengthen the vicious cycle of unresolved pain.

Therefore, the question is, what are the proper materials needed to recycle our pain so that it can be used for a new purpose in life and not just left-over trash that can clutter our potential?  Lets look at some material needed to translate the experience in a productive way.

1. Identify It! Become self-aware. Notice your reactions, emotions and mental thoughts that occur in a situation.  Where are they coming from and are they congruent with the experience?  Alot of our responses to a situation, a person or event are exacerbated by previous experiences.  It is a build-up of old trash that never was taken out, let alone recycled.

2. Slow Your Roll!  Before making a final decision or display an extreme reaction; feel that pain, sit with it, and give yourself time.  Be gentle on yourself and others.  We are wrapped in emotions and thoughts that can be projected onto others, intensifying the current experience.  Spend time with yourself, sort out those emotions, clean up your thoughts and place it into its proper context.

3.  Practice a Wellness Approach! Whatever relieves stress in your life that is not harmful to you, do it!  Go for a bike ride, practice yoga, meditate, confide in a friend, or try something new.  Remember, an “approach” is different than a one time “occurrence”.  An approach is something you can regularly incorporate into your life that can assist you in recycling that painful expereince.

4. Turn Your Pain into Purpose! One of the biggest influence on my healing in life has been giving back to our world.  What I realized early on was that my experience is not exclusive to me.  I am not alone and am walking this earth with many hurt human beings.  When I began to take my message to the streets, I realized that there were others who could benefit from what I was learning.  If you want to recycle your pain into a product that has a new, fresh and fruitful use, help someone else.  You will quickly find that your pain becomes the catalyst for your purpose.  

Lets make a deliberate effort to address our mental health in our wellness plan for our lives.  Make your pain, your emotions and your thoughts a priority, so that all other areas of your life can evolve.  Remember, there is truth in your pain. Do not be ashamed of it, but instead, recycle it for a new use in order to support the growth in yourself and others.  Our world, your community and you are depending on that process.

“One small crack does not mean that you are broken, it means you were put to the test and you didn’t fall apart.”  -L. Poindexter

 

May-is-MHA

Caregiver, Sweat That Stress Out

“Both tears and sweat are salty, but they render a different result. Tears will get you sympathy; sweat will get you change.” -Jesse Jackson

There is no question about the impact of stress on a person’s physical, emotional and mental well-being.  Stress in our society looks differently by gender, race, socioeconomic status and age.  However, the stress burden has increased over time across all demographics.  It is toxic, intense and can actually turn your genes on or off.   Stress can cause brain damage, impact memory,  shut down your immune system and increase inflammation in your body.

As it relates to caregivers, the  increased stress burden, is referred to as Caregiver syndrome or caregiver stress.  This syndrome is described as a condition that strongly manifests exhaustion, anger, rage, or guilt resulting from unrelieved caring for a chronically ill patient or loved one.  Although it is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the term is often used by many healthcare professionals, in the terms of expereinced trauma, grief and compassion fatigue.  With all the known science, knowledge and research behind the caregiver stress, what is the proposed solution?

May 30, 2019 will mark my fourth year of becoming a full-time caregiver for my mother with Alzheimers.  I can testify to the stress like no other, as I still maintain my full-time job, take on a second part-time job as a spin instructor and Health Coach, in addition for  caring for every aspect of my mothers life.  Daily I  fight systems of care, advocate for proper diagnosis, testing and treatment of her illnesses,  manage all her finances, and experience her dementia behaviors in my home.  If you want to truly know what a war on healthcare looks in this country, take on caring for a chronically-ill loved one with limited resources and finances.  My world has been completely altered for both the bad and the good, yes, the good.  I am working on a better me, on a better world, all in the name of love for my mother.  Her diagnosis has changed my life’s direction, permanently.

What I have learned through this caregiving journey has extended my quality of life, through a personal investment in my own health.  However, not every caregiver has this epiphany and is usually buried miles deep in stress due to loss of every kind, including employment, health insurance, retirement benefits, social outlets and finances,  in order to be the rock for their sick loved one.  As the the numbers of caregivers in this country increases, so does the level of burden on the systems of care and the economy.  We are encountering a Public Health crisis with this underserved population being ignored by all professions.

What is the solution?  I have many thoughts on how societal polices and laws could impact an individuals world through local community supports and financial relief.  However, there is not one simple easy answer to address the multifaceted world of a caregiver.  I have always said, if an answer does not exist, seek it, search diligently or become it.  Yes, become  your own answer.  Do not sit in apathy, but instead, stand up and fight for the justice you so much deserve.  Be the voice, the reason and the solution not just for yourself, but an entire population in need.  Research, study, ask questions, do not accept the lack of, the minimalist solutions or closed doors.

I may have read every research article on Alzheimers, wrote world-renowned physicians, sought holistic preventative measures and studied the body composition and  its reactions to environmental influences.  I increased my knowledge of the brain-body connection, inflammation, the importance of proper nutrition, exercise and stress reduction activities.  In a recent blog post, I described the connection between cycling and brain health.  We have ignored brain health for so long and the current dementia epidemic demands that we elevate the science, research and knowledge as a national priority.  In turn, I have taken my love for cycle and translated it into a  disease-prevention approach in my life and messaging platform for others.

Recently, a good friend of mine asked me to attend a heated cycle class, at the Sweat Shoppe in Atlanta, GA.  Yes, that is what I wrote, “heated cycle.”   I sat and processed that request for a minute, and then of course I agreed to go. I mean, how bad could it be?  I had taken heated yoga and was game for anything new, especially fitness-wise.  Well, my first encounter with this “heated cycle” was hellacious, to say the least.  The extreme heat, the intense spin moves, and a packed class full of enthusiastic sweat- loving cyclists had me visualizing a “polar-bear” plunge. (You know, that activity in the middle of winter, where you strip down into your bathing suit and leap into ice-cold ocean water.)

After the 50 minute ride, I emerged from the room, soaking in sweat like I had just taken a shower in my clothes.  Every part of my physical being was drenched and I really was questioning my sanity at this point.  As I left the “heated room” and drove home I could not help but think about the physiological benefits of what I just experienced.  I was feeling great, refreshed and full of energy.   According to the benefits listed on the Sweat Shoppe website, the heat and the sweat have major impacts on your immune system, removes impurities from the body, releases endorphins and much much more.  So let us connect all of this; cycling, sweat, heat, physical activity, brain-body connection and caregiver stress.  This sounds like a health correlation and possible protective factor to me.  If stress is the major risk factor in a caregivers world, let’s increase the protective factors around them at the community level, so there is a positive individual outcome to negate that stress.  In a one hour sweaty cycle workout, I increased my mental, physical and emotional well-being, reducing my physiological response to the caregiver stress burden.

Caregiver, I encourage you to think outside the norm, the societal box, and seek the alternative solutions to address the stress you face everyday.  It will not be eliminated quickly and has life-altering implications on your present and future well-being.  Look for your own solutions, or be open to new ways of managing your stress. Your life depends on it and make the decision that you will not be the next one diagnosed with a chronic or terminal disease.  Defy the data and love yourself enough to SWEAT OUT the small and big stuff.

“We learn more by looking for the answer and not finding it, then we do from learning the answer itself.” -Lloyd Alexander