I don’t remember the exact moment when I decided to stop justifying, explaining, rationalizing, or defending my decisions. But I do remember the myriad situations before when I’d “feel bad” for saying “no” to a request, when I’d take on more than I really wanted to, and when I said, “Well, okay” when I really wanted to say, “HELL NO!”
I remember the murkiness of holding way too much in those decisions: what other people needed, what other people wanted from me, what I was feeling, what they were feeling, what would possibly result if I disappointed them, what they’d think of me, how I’d be perceived, etc.
I see this all the time in the women I work with in coaching and psychotherapy, too. We have this intuition that picks up what others are feeling. AND we have been socialized to take care of everyone, to even PLEASE others. And after decades of doing that, what often happens is women in midlife get really angry and start saying, “ENOUGH! I need to thrive!”
But we still feel stuck.
I hear things like,
“How do I say no?”
“How do I not disappoint them?”
“Is that selfish?”
“What if they don’t like me?”
There’s a conflict within us: our SOUL is waking up and saying, “Enough!” but we often still have old habits and beliefs lurking that prevent us from taking the action we know we need to take in order to be more fully alive…and actually…an even more influential presence in our families, work, and world.
We women will neglect ourselves to the point that we get sick or have a mental breakdown. Women will take care of everyone else first and make sure everyone else is “happy” to the point where we wake up one day and finally admit to ourselves, “Holy crap, I am not happy.” The “happy” I am talking about here is the kind that goes way beyond the fleeting moments of excitement. That’s too dramatic for us now in midlife. We aren’t looking for drama. We are looking for inner peace and joy that rise from a woman claiming her life.
We are looking to base our lives on what is most sacred to us — not the “shoulds” and “ought to’s” of our culture.
Most of us are walking around with a high state of anxiety — we are stuck on “on.” We feel immobilized, stuck, unable to make headway. As a Somatic Experiencing Psychotherapist, we call this trauma. Trauma isn’t the EVENT but rather the state of our nervous system. A really simple definition of trauma is this: “Something that overwhelms us, that makes us feel helpless, that makes us feel paralyzed.” – Peter Levine, on Sounds True Podcast
When we are walking around feeling overwhelmed most of the time, we have little capacity for handling the stress of everyday life AND also we have little capacity for enjoying our lives — savoring or “taking in” the good, as as Dr. Rick Hanson often speaks about.
Luckily, building our capacity to handle stressful events and enjoy pleasant events is a skill we can develop over time.
“I have come to the conclusion that human beings are born with an innate capacity to triumph over trauma. I believe not only that trauma is curable, but that the healing process can be a catalyst for profound awakening—a portal opening to emotional and genuine spiritual transformation. I have little doubt that as individuals, families, communities, and even nations, we have the capacity to learn how to heal and prevent much of the damage done by trauma. In so doing, we will significantly increase our ability to achieve both our individual and collective dreams.” – Peter Levine
Where do you start when you are feeling stuck but desperately feel the desire for change and to embrace your joy and let your light shine?
Here are 18 Soul-Nourishing Practices to Claim Your Life as Your Own and Live Your Joy:
Advice: Pick ONE. ONE – not five. Pick ONE that resonates deeply with you and practice it and live it! It’s little doses of these practices that build our capacity to live our joy and manage stress. I am alongside you! I see that when I pick just one thing to really leap into and embody, I am more likely to make it a new nourishing habit for life and I can witness my capacity deepening.
Set boundaries. Start here with these (and there’s an option at the bottom of the post to get a copy of the post that you can print out to keep near you and you’ll get more feminine empowerment boundaries).
Create (sink into, imagine) a vision for you thriving. Sometimes we are so drained by decision-fatigue that we don’t even know where to begin. We are tired of being tired. Surprisingly, when people tell me what they need or come to personal life coaching, they rarely say “space to discern.” But SPACE is EXACTLY what we need. We need BREATHING SPACE, QUIET SPACE, SUPPORTIVE SPACE to get through the layers of emotions, thoughts, old stories held in our bodies to even begin to imagine, “What’s my vision for thriving?”
Acknowledge the fire rising within you. Acknowledge the dissatisfaction. Acknowledge the frustration and irritation, and even the rage. Acknowledge the desire for change. Acknowledge it all. Three simple words are the portal to deep soul-nourishing, feminine embodiment acknowledgement.
Honor your creativity. You have to give space for your creativity to be expressed. It’s beating against your ribs to come into form. Whether that’s writing, doing art…whatever it is, honor it in everyday life.
Take back your precious morning time. Those first few moments right after you wake up are precious. Don’t give them away to social media or emails with other people’s demands on you. Set aside just a few moments each morning to come into presence. Your own embodied presence. Bless yourself. Bless your day. Bless how you’ll go through the day.
Don’t go at it alone. I hear it again and again in people who come to me for psychotherapy and life coaching: a story of trying to go at it alone, with some unhealthy patriarchal, puritanical belief that we have to “pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps” and “get through it” alone. Alone hurts. Alone isolates. Alone becomes deep depression and overwhelming anxiety. Whether you agree with the “me too” initiative or not, it started to encourage women to “come out of the closet” about the violations that we as women have endured — silently and alone. We NEED each other. We are relational beings. SEE the therapist. SEE the life coach. Have coffee with a friend. Show up as you are and share what is really going on with you. Most likely your friend, therapist or coach have experienced it, too.
Give up “multi-presencing.” Multi-presencing is a term I made up that describes how we try to be present to way too many people and situations in a moment. Yes, that’s right — on your phone trying to respond to an important email, while cooking a healthy and nourishing meal, while trying to be present with your kiddo showing you their latest gymnastic flip, and even while driving. We are present to too many damn things in one moment. And all while, negating ourselves. Decide what you are doing in any one moment, and be present to JUST THAT. Your brain and nervous system will thank you.
Show your daughter how to treat her body as a temple and to regard herself. We are modeling to our younger girls how a woman treats herself. Let’s commit to our own self-care and self-regard so that we show our daughters that her pleasure matters, her vision and dreams matter, and her self-regard matters. Write her a letter. She will encounter bullies. She will deal with her own inner bully, too. I developed this 21-day course, Regard Our Girls, you can take ANYtime to really equip you with feminine embodiment practices for YOU and YOUR DAUGHTER. Do NOT take it if you are looking for quick fixes or parenting solutions that involve trying to change your daughter. These practices go deep. And they take time.
Let go of figuring out WHY. We spend soooo much time up in our heads. I have coaching clients tell me all the time how their minds are so full, so busy. While there is a place for mindfully discovering WHY, we most often get caught up in the vortex of “why, why, why” that we never actually heal. We THINK figuring out WHY will bring us healing. But it doesn’t. While information can inform, it does NOT heal. Eventually, you’ll have to do the hard work of “going within” and checking in with your body. I know this can be scary for many of us. Most of us have unhealthy relationships with our bodies. Well, it’s time in midlife to address that — slowly, sweetly, wisely. This is why I believe all of us need the sacred space of support in some capacity with a wise healer, therapist, or coach. This is why I see the healers I need to see, too.
Believe that following your dream is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. What I see in my clients is that we will turn inward on ourselves with depression or turn outward with rage if we do not create the space for us to discern our dream and then take the “next right steps” to following that dream. It’s necessary for your own soul AND for this world. You have a light to share that only YOU can share.
Reclaim your aliveness. Too often, the innate, organic aliveness within us has been dulled by the wear and tear, the hustle and bustle, of our everyday lives. Look for what brings you into contact with that aliveness again.
Forgive. Okay, let’s talk about forgiveness. Whether it’s something we’ve done or something someone else has done to us, we hold onto so very much. And holding on to it does NOT keep us safe. It’s a heavy backpack that turns into a bolder that we are carrying. Forgiveness is NOT a “once and done” kind of deal. It takes time. And in our fast-paced, quick-fix culture, we don’t like hearing that. But these old wounds, regrets, and shame take time and attention to heal. You can find my forgiveness meditation here. Download it on your laptop. Do it again and again. Yes, it’s 30 minutes long — because no matter how many times I recorded it and tried to shorten it, forgiveness needed 30 minutes!
Create the sacred space you need. We need space – physical space that’s ours, space to be with other women, and space for our souls to breathe. GIVE YOURSELF breathing space.
Orient toward pleasure. Your pleasure matters. Pleasure has been warped into many things in our culture. Reclaim the sacred essence of pleasure by orienting your attention toward what is nourishing and pleasing to you. We have a negative bias — that means we are going to focus our attention on the negative. Train your brain to enjoy your life by mindfully orienting your attention toward pleasure…and savor it.
Go gently. The harsh way we go about our day does not serve our bodies, souls, or brains. It does not nourish and deepen our relationships. Instead, heal the harshness within you and between you by practicing gentleness. You do this when you consider your tone of voice. You do this when you decided to slow down and bring a 30-second sacred pause in your day.
Practice lovingkindness. Bringing lovingkindness into your day, you feel a sense of sweetness and connection. You recalibrate! You recenter. You remember what matters. I have two lovingkindness meditations: Self-Compassion and Lovingkindness (the full 30-minute meditation that goes through various categories of people we send LK to).
Treat yourself as a beloved. Yes – a beloved. Someone you adore, cherish, and regard.
Each year as I age, I am getting bolder, more courageous, and willing to risk disappointing others or following someone else’s idea of what I “should” be doing in order to live my life so aligned with what is most sacred to me. More and more, deeper and deeper, what matters most to me is aligning my life with the divine call within me. THAT is my guiding force. And all the practices, programs, meditations, and offerings I share with you are things that I live in my own life…and they are my way of supporting you in basing your life on what is most sacred to you…so you claim your life as your own.
*I honestly believe that each of us needs a professional outside of our family who is all about holding space for our growth and our thriving. When you have decided it’s time for you to thrive, I would be honored to accompany you. I see coaching clients all over the world via Skype (psychotherapy – only in-person). What makes me different than your average “life coach?” As a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, I know trauma, stress, and resiliency – and I know what it takes to build our capacity to take in the good and effectively navigate what’s stressful so you contact the innate aliveness within you and live from this place. Grab a free consult (button on the right side of this page) and let’s talk!
*You may also enjoy this article of mine published on Upworthy, 7 Simple Tips for Women Seeking Authentic Happiness in their 40s.
*The best thing about speaking to groups and organizations is meeting people. Often, I’m too slow in signing books because I love talking to each person and communicating, “I see you.” If you have a group that you’d like to be nourished and inspired as well as come away with new compassion and mindfulness skills, please check out my speaking page. I’ll be doing a limited number of events this year so I can still be present to my family AND inspire the corner of the world I visit!