Breathing in the Present Moment in Your Thirties

Whenever anyone talks about being centered and in the present moment, they talk about noticing your breath. I find this disconcerting sometimes, and I recently realized that my inner 12 year old is sabotaging my efforts.

I was around 12 when my family and I were on a trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania. Now, Hershey isn’t super far from New York City, but a lot of Pennsylvania is the opposite of NYC, filled with farmland and fields. While driving to Hershey, I remember noticing how spaced out the houses were from one another and how many cornfields there were instead of houses. So. Much. Nature.

When we arrived, I remember how the air quality was different than in New York City- how it was cleaner, something we city dwellers aren’t used to. We all remarked on this “different air.” All of a sudden, after mulling this air quality thought over for a few minutes, I found it hard to breathe. When I focused on my breath, my awareness shifted to the laboriousness of breathing in and out. “It’s so much harder to breathe when you think about it than when you don’t,” I pondered. I secretly worried I was going to have an asthma attack (I don’t have asthma), or a heart attack (hopefully clean air wouldn’t give me a heart attack.) I didn’t know what to do.

Now, if you know me, you may know that I’m extremely sensitive to talk about medical conditions. I could never be a healthcare professional because hearing about what ails people makes me ill. It kind of sounds funny, but I wish I was joking. Nausea races through my body and the potential of fainting is near when I’m told about the details of someone’s insulin pump or what’s really happening when bruising starts. Conversations about surgeries or bones peeking through skin from open wounds will hasten the likelihood of me sinking into unconsciousness.

So I guess it’s no surprise that thoughts about not being able to breathe correctly, even at 12, sent panic attacks (not real ones, thankfully) through my mind and lack of breath filled up my senses.

I ended up calming myself down by shifting my thoughts AWAY from my breath. I made a conscious effort from then on to NOT to think about breathing. So when I trace back a strange dislike of concentrating on my breath, I come back to very early moments.

Luckily, consciously thinking about my breath no longer makes me feel ill or panicky. I’m just aware of how strange and new it is to WANT to concentrate on breathing. I’m able to be aware of my breath now, with my blockage from childhood fading away every day, because I’m aware that this was a choice I made once that doesn’t work for me now.

Imagine how many strange dislikes we have now that come from very early choices. Question where your ideas and preferences come from. Some choices may have been important at the time, but do they actually serve you anymore? Or do they hold you back?

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Inbox Zero: Life Goal or Time Waster?

I’m subscribed to a lot of newsletters. I really don’t read blogs unless they go to my main inbox, and I really like to read other blogs, so every single day my inbox overflows. And then sometimes bloggers link to other bloggers they like, and I subscribe to those blogs too, so the mail pile continues expanding exponentially.

Yesterday I decided enough was enough. I began going through my inbox, archiving and deleting. I thought I could simply check ‘Get to Inbox Zero’ off my to do list, but I remembered why I had allowed the ol’ mailbox to get as unwieldy as it has- I know it takes a longgggg time to clear the mail out. Yesterday, I worked on the task for an embarrassing number of hours, and got down to a little over 600 emails from over 2000. But I still have a ways to go. And the emails that are left to sort are the longest and best.

Part of my issue is that the sheer length of some of the blog posts/newsletters takes up the bulk of my sorting time. I’m never just sorting- I’m reading.

As I read, I believe it will be even nicer to reach the ultimate goal of Inbox Zero. Hooray! But as my mailbox begins to fill up again, I wonder: Is this a worthy goal? Or an Absolute Complete Waste of My Time? Maybe my time would be better spent eliminating subscriptions from my inbox- but that might be even harder to do. Or maybe I just need to delete the old stuff without even reading it and start anew. Or maybe I should just ignore it all entirely and let it build to epic proportions.

Often times I’m working a medical convention and notice a doctor’s inbox has somewhere along the lines of 10,000-40,000 unread emails inside of it. At first I’m shocked and judgemental- I can’t believe the doctor has allowed this to happen. But then I think, well, perhaps these doctors actually have better things to do than sort through their emails. Like, I don’t know, save lives and stuff. Hmmm…

What are your opinions on getting to and staying at the fabled Inbox Zero?

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Fear of Loss in Relationships

When it comes to sustaining peaceful romantic relationships, I’m not the best. I try really hard, but I have bad anxiety, and that makes me fear the worst. My brain can get caught in a negative thought loop pretty quickly — “Will this last?” “Does he love me enough?” “What if he learns more about me and doesn’t want to be with me anymore?” Or worst, I place too much emphasis on the micro-moments of the relationship (like, what does it mean that he normally texts me around this time, but today he didn’t?) that I forget about to be present.  GAH! It’s enough to drive anyone insane.

So, basically, I’m terrified of losing, to the point where I may self-sabotage myself to subconsciously have the relationship end. Stupid, right?

I’m not sure how to get rid of this nagging feeling, other than the normal things, like going to therapy and obsessively googling self-help websites for fixes. I’ve read a lot of Buddhist teachings about how you need to recognize that you can’t be attached to anything forever. And by truly accepting that, you won’t suffer. But still, it’s hard to not feel deep attachment to someone you love.

I just know that I can’t act from that place of fear – from the fear of the relationship ending at any point. I have to remind myself that acting out of fear is destined to cause problems in any relationship I may have, because I’m not present.

One mind trick that helps me when I’m feeling anxious about my relationship is to think about the absolute worst case scenario. And when I think about how it’s not life or death, I know I will be okay.

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Can the 5 Love Languages Help Me Live Happily Ever After In My Thirties?

Have you heard of the 5 love languages? If not, you might be wondering why you’re having trouble connecting to certain people. Dr Gary Chapman, author of the book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Laststalks about 5 languages that people ‘speak’ when it comes to feeling loved and expressing love.

These languages are:

  1. Words of affirmation
  2. Quality time
  3. Gifts
  4. Acts of service
  5. Physical touch

Dr Chapman, a marriage counselor for over 30 years, says that the love language that you speak to experience love is usually the same language you speak to offer love. So if your love language is ‘acts of service,’ you might feel especially loved when your partner does the dishes for you when you’re tired or when he or she cooks you dinner. And since your love language is ‘acts of service’ you might express love to your partner by driving him to work in the morning, or helping her carry some heavy boxes, or fixing his phone.

But issues can arise if and when your partner doesn’t speak the same language as you. So if your language is acts of service, like above, and you’re showing your partner how much you love him or her by doing tasks like the ones above, your partner might not feel the love if his or her love language is ‘words of affirmation.’ A partner whose love language is words of affirmation would want to hear you say nice things out of the blue- such as ‘I love you’ – and would want you to tell him or her all the happy things you’re feeling regarding the relationship.

This is where wires can cross and you or your partner can start to feel unsatisfied. If you feel love physically, obviously sex is important, but so are other acts of touch like hand holding and hugging. But again, if you’re with someone who feels love through quality time spent together, they might spend time with you and concentrate on you, but not give you massages or put their arms around you or kiss you enough for you to feel loved.

And quality time is an interesting one, because Dr Chapman differentiates between time spent together and QUALITY time spent together. Someone whose love language is ‘quality time’ likely saddens if their partner is constantly looking at a cellphone during times together, or isn’t making eye contact or actively listening during a conversation.

I definitely feel that love languages are real, but that there are love language combos, and that most people have more than one love language, though one might be stronger than the others. Here’s a test to take to find out what your love language is: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/

My main love language according to my results is ‘quality time,’ followed closely by ‘words of affirmation’ and ‘physical touch.’ I was surprised that Words of Affirmation or Touch weren’t the highest ranking ones, but I think all three are up there. The love languages don’t have all the answers to relationship communication issues, but there’s definitely some wisdom here.

What’s your love language? Do you agree with the love languages? Do you think the love languages help you with your relationships?

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What Are Some of the Smallest Baby Step Lifestyle Changes You’ve Made in Your Thirties?

It’s amazing how habits take shape and slowly, incrementally change the structure of our lives. I feel like it’s usually not the big, sweeping ‘grand decisions’ made in bold statements that change our lives (ie most New Years Resolutions, most “I’ll never drink again!” statements, most “no more sugar for life” proclamations, etc), but actually the small changes made in private moments and repeated again and again that actually make a major long term impact.

In the past year, I’ve made a few changes- most of them arbitrarily or unpremeditated. But these particular changes have slowly but surely changed my everyday patterns of thinking and feeling. Here’s a list of the ones the made the biggest impact.

1. Deleting the Facebook app from my phone- I did this in a moment of pain and anguish on election night back in November. I mean, you get it. But I never put the app back, and that in turn has me going on Facebook a whole lot less. Which in turn frees up a lot of my time. Which also in turn really tones down a bad habit I have of comparing myself to others. I still go onto Facebook and read stuff and post things, but the amount of time I spend on the site has decreased immeasurably. Results of deleting Facebook app on my phone: I feel happier and have more time. And I still have Facebook so I don’t even feel any weird “I deleted my profile feel sorry for me” stress or Fear Of Missing Out.

2. Starting to make green smoothies full of vegetables – I’ve made green smoothies on and off for a few years now, but it’s only recently that I followed nutritionist Kimberly Snyder’s basic recipe for her diet staple: the Glowing Green Smoothie. This smoothie is made up of all vegetables with the inclusion of an apple, almond milk or water, and some stevia. She includes a bit more fruit but I’d rather eat that fruit separately. This smoothie is the equivalent of having something like three or four salads before lunch, without all that annoying chewing. The ingredients of my smoothie, if you want to try it, are a head of romaine, either a bunch of celery or a large cucumber, a handful or two of spinach leaves, a handful of cilantro, an apple, half a lemon, stevia to taste, ice, and a bunch of almond milk or water. Results: I put a TON of nutrients in my body before I have time to think about anything or eat a bunch of nonsense food. Therefore my mind feels clearer and my body feels happy.

3. Tracking my spending- I wrote about this in the post How Tracking Money is Like Weighing Yourself and then again in The Anti-Budget Budget In Your Thirties. I began using the app Goodbudget to track each and every dollar I’ve spent. I started this back in June, and it was very painful. I didn’t want to track every dollar because I felt like I knew where every dollar went already, and the whole thing felt tedious and filled me with guilt whenever I spent a penny. However, after about a month and a half it all got a lot smoother and easier. I realized exactly where my money was going each month and that small purchases really add up to way more than I thought. I swear I’ve saved a ton of money simply by writing down my expenditures- because I think about where my money’s going every time I spend it. And I feel more accountable for a purchase if I know I have to write it down and it goes into my monthly total.

All of these small activities have added up to big change in my life. Are there any small changes you’d like to start or have recently begun? Don’t worry about those big, scary changes- concentrate on a little tiny change every day, or even every other day. Don’t underestimate what seem like small tweaks- they add up.

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Rebooting Old Friendships

As an only child, I’ve been fascinated by friendship since pre-school, when I had the opportunity to make my very first real friend.  Whose name I don’t remember…oops!

On my birthday two weeks ago, an old college friend who I haven’t spoken to in maybe 5 years reached out to me. There was never a falling-out between us. Rather, she mysteriously disappeared. She stopping returned emails, texts, calls and just vanished. A group of her friends from med school and I tried to figure out what was going on, but we couldn’t track her down. Because we knew she had disappeared on other people at an earlier stage in her life, and that there had been recent drama in her life, we didn’t think she was kidnapped or anything crazy like that. We knew she must have chosen to leave of her own volition. Also, one friend heard from her and passed along the information that she was safe but not looking to be contacted.

Back to my birthday. I got an email from this old friend who disappeared. It was a very simple message – she wished me a happy birthday and apologized for missing so much of my live/events in my life, etc. and asked if I’d be willing to open up a friendship again. She didn’t mention why she disappeared or what happened.

While some people might have been hurt to have been left by a friend, I was excited to hear from her. She was someone who I didn’t depend on completely for emotional support, and I something I loved about her was her independence and free spirited nature. While we never had that much in common, I always enjoyed spending time with her and loved her intellect and passion for life. She inspired me because she gave 100% to everything she did – becoming a neurosurgeon, going to residency, and then deciding to quit it all to write. She’s now got a book published. It’s pretty amazing. She’s already accomplished so many big deal things in her life.

We’ve been emailing back and forth a few times, but we haven’t gotten to meaty subjects yet, though I’m sure that is coming in time.

I read an article this week about how to deal with re-building these sorts of friendships – ones that disappear and then re-emerge: A Psychologist Explains How to Revive a Dead Friendship.

The most important take-away from the article for me was this: when re-building an old friendship, you need to be willing to see that person with a completely fresh set of eyes. Easier said than done, but I think it’s the only way to have an authentically honest new friendship.

It’s like if an artist were to paint another painting on top of an already used canvas. Like, when art historians discover than underneath a Picasso was an older Picasso painting he painted years prior.

I’m not sure what will happen with my new/old friend, especially because we don’t live in the same city, but I’m curious to find out.

Have We Become the Slash Generation to Compensate for an Economy that’s Failing Us?

Jane wrote an article about the Slash Generation over a year ago- Are We the Slash Generation?– and it’s one of our most read articles. Why? Well, beside’s Jane’s captivating writing skills, I’m convinced this interest in the slash generation prevails because the slash generation is ubiquitous and is already bleeding into future generations.

What is the slash generation? It’s a generation of 20 and 30 somethings that have multiple jobs and even multiple full time careers. For example: Actor/Yoga Teacher/Nutritionist/Graphic Designer, or DJ/Cafe Owner/Artist/programmer. We all have hobbies, such as occasional running or painting, but the slash generation has multiple JOBS. I’m a prime example of slash generation- my job title is presenter/product specialist/ demonstrator/ marketer/ writer/ actor/ director/ producer. I’m probably forgetting something.

Why is the slash generation on the rise? Well, the economic landscape is changing for millennials in their twenties and thirties- and the changes are affecting younger and older generations as well. Jobs that include pensions are now few and far between and companies don’t necessarily encourage employees to stick around. Changing jobs has become as frequent as changing your socks.

And there are good reasons to change jobs: minimum wage salaries don’t nearly keep up with inflation, most employers don’t reward you for sticking around, benefits are few and far between. So instead of sticking with one company, millennials are going wide and both starting their own companies and working with multiple employers on both a freelance and employee basis. Honestly, we sometimes need to do all these things to pay our bills.

The slash generation is a double edged sword: it can be very helpful to have multiple jobs and skills and to ‘go wide’ so that you have security if certain jobs don’t work out. But the slash generation is also sign of unfair economic times in America- where you can work very hard within companies and still not see anywhere near the kind of money you deserve. This is an era where companies can have spectacular financial success with their employees barely seeing a dime of that growth.

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In America, there has been a 72.2% rise in productivity since 1973 and only an 8.7% rise in pay rate

 

 

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