The Benefits of Being a Highly Sensitive Person

All my life I’ve felt out of place, even if only a little. In my family, I was the abnormally picky child with an unusually heightened level of physical and emotional sensibilities, comparatively.

Even in my group of friends and associates, I’ve always felt way more aware of the energy in a room or the look on someones face when they were offended (which only multiplied the discomfort when I was the inadvertent offender). Thankfully, these observations came in handy in making a pretty decent mediator during conflict.

On my own, I couldn’t help but notice that movies and songs made me more emotional than the average girl. I related to the content so personally regardless of lack of actual experience. Even music without words had a way of affecting my moods, for better or worse.

It wasn’t until a couple of months ago, at age 29, that I learned about the term Highly Sensitive Persons and what it meant to be one. Much to my relief, there was a name for it and I was not the only one!

You see, the unfortunate thing about being an HSP is that, even though it’s not new, it isn’t exactly a well-known or a widely accepted psychological concept. Not to mention, as an 80s baby and member of the stigmatized millennial generation, heightened sensitivity is still considered a major flaw to many; one that needs correction if there is any hope to surviving our dog-eat-dog world.

Well, it turns out that being an HSP is an innate trait in which the nervous system is genetically hardwired to pick up on subtle changes and stimuli. This means we are born this way and it is not something we need to “fix” or be ashamed of! Much like any other category of personalities, High Sensitive Persons have their own set of tendencies that, while it may make for some aspects of living more challenging, also has it benefits. Here are 7 of them:

1. They can smell danger!

Due to the unique wiring of their nervous system, Highly Sensitive People have heightened senses, including smell. If ever to walk into a space with subtle notes of gas or something burning in the air, an HSP is likely the first to notice and therefore the first to know if it’s time to flee or stop immediately.

2. They are likely more organized.

Clutter can be annoying to the average fellow but disorder can be particularly disturbing to Highly Sensitive Persons. A poorly organized and dysfunctional environment can cause an overwhelming amount of stress so they tend to keep their homes and work spaces neat and conducive to functionality.

3. They have the necessary insight for being a good mediator.

As I mentioned before, HSP are blessed with having intuitive insight. Although tense situations can cause anxiety for an HSP, their ability to understand and empathize with people can make them more aware of the nuances in a conflict and, therefore, more compassionate as well as better equipped for helping reach an agreeable resolve.

4. They understand deep concepts more easily.

HSPs are more reflective and introspective which allows them to see the depth of people, concepts and situations. This is valuable for personal development. However, they must be mindful not to become too obsessive about these thoughts as it will create more anxiety.

5. They are more aware of when their bodies are in need.

HSP are more likely to notice changes in their inner environment just as much if not more than their outer. Due to this, HSPs experience intensified discomfort when they are hungry, thirsty or have other cravings. Although, this can have a negative impact on their mood, they are not as likely to neglect themselves when sustenance is necessary.

6. They experience art and beauty more deeply.

Films, music, good food, art work and pleasant aromas have a more profound affect on HSPs, sometimes even to the point of a physical reaction such as happy crying or other outbursts of excitement. This may be perceived as strange to many, but when in the company of other HSPs, it can be quite the euphoric experience. This is why we tend to see artists (a group usually considered to be more emotional) gravitate towards other artists.

7. They are in their element when being creative.

Speaking of artists, HSPs are very in tune with their inner world which makes being creative very important for them. It’s necessary to have an outlet as HSPs can be withdrawn to avoid over-stimulation. Activities such as drawing, singing, painting, dancing and even formulating strategies can be good outlets for HSPs as hobbies if not careers.

In spite of all the “symptomatic” characteristics that come with being a Highly Sensitive Person, we perceive the world on what, sometimes, seems to be on another dimension from what others do. Although it may sometimes feel lonely, it can also be pretty wonderful; alone or not.

Turmeric: The Golden Herb

Years ago I decided to make some changes to my health which included the use of various herbs in my diet. The earth providing such a wide variety of options for nutrients, I knew I would need to do some research. Book after book and article after article, I noticed that turmeric was almost always on the list, so I went for it. I experimented with it in food, homemade beverages and suggested it to anyone looking to start on their natural wellness journey. Before I knew it, I was having turmeric nearly daily for months when I noticed a few things:

  1. I do not get sick nearly as much as I used to. Every now and then I may experience a bit of “crud” but it is usually pretty slight and lasts for a short period of time, even during the flu seasons.
  2. Wounds heal faster. Between the paper-handling at work and playing with my puppy at home, I would inevitably end up with scratches, cuts and bruises. The scarring time has been significantly reduced and my skin, in general, is clearer and healthier.
  3. Weight management is easier. Drinking turmeric as a tea daily helps curve my appetite and support my digestive health.

So let’s talk about what makes this golden root so special …

Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties.

Although inflammation is necessary to protect the body from infection, scientists are now concerned that low-level chronic inflammation may be a huge factor in the majority of Western illnesses, including atherosclerosis, obesity, and even cancer. Turmeric contains compounds that actively blocks inflammation-causing molecules, preventing the onset or worsening of numerous chronic diseases.

Turmeric is an antioxidant.

Much of the fear of growing old is the seemingly inevitable deterioration our bodies face, from wrinkles to poor bone health. We can thank free radicals and their oxidative damage for these effects. However, turmeric is a powerful antioxidant and antioxidant enzyme promoter that neutralizes free radicals in the body.

Turmeric supports gut health.

Some of the aforementioned inflammatory diseases start with nutritional habits that cause stress on the digestive tract. The bioactive compounds in turmeric promote an overall healthy digestive system by not only reducing cholesterol but also relaxing the muscle walls of the intestine so it can it properly push food down. It can boost the secretion of stomach mucous to prevent acidic damage and helps prevents gas and bloating during digestion.

These are just some of the fantastic benefits of turmeric. No wonder it is one of the more popular medicinal herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine. It is easy to use and has little to no side effects as long as not consumed excessively, much like anything else. However, it is recommended one always consult a doctor or nutritionist before changing diets, especially if there are any concerns about the side effects or possible allergies.

For those who have used turmeric, what is your favorite way to prepare it? What health benefits have you personally experienced? Please share in the comments.

4 Tips I Learned for Supporting Another Depressive

Approximately 14.8 million Americans suffer from Major Depressive Disorder. That’s nearly 7 percent of the U.S. population and it only takes into account those who have been officially diagnosed. This does not account for the seemingly functional adults who deal with depression regularly but manage it on their own nor the many unknowns who have no idea they should be seeking help. With these considerations, the likelihood is that if we do not experience clinical depression ourselves, we know someone who does. The most significant person in my life, my husband, is one of those people.

So am I.

As you can imagine, this set up has high potential for emotional explosions and implosions. Believe me, we have been through our share. Fortunately, we have been able to not just survive but thrive as a couple in many way because of our approach to each other struggle. We are not always successful in our execution but we have picked on some valuable tools along the way with one another one.

Here are are some tips to help each other deal with depression:

Give each other space to be depressed.

My husband and I have both learned this the hard way. I recall a time I would put too much pressure on myself to be the one who could keep my guy happy; if he were down, I felt it my job to cheer him up as quickly as possible. When I failed, my own sadness was triggered, putting pressure on him to support me. This, of course, made him feel like he had to mask his depression for my safety which only made his situation worse. On the flip side, my husband is sometimes a tough love kind of guy which didn’t always give me the space to be in my sadness. Needless to say, this didn’t work for us long-term.

When our loved ones are hurting, it is natural for us to want to run to their rescue. We want them to feel supported and let them know there is no reason to be upset on your watch. However, the reality is often that people need a chance to feel what they are feeling, even if it’s irrational, and even when they know they are supported by you.

Communication is key.

The emphasis on communication may sound cliche but that doesn’t make it less true. No matter how well you know your loved ones,  you cannot read their minds. Sure, we sometimes develop a knack for recognizing the predictability of their personality but so often do deep thoughts and feelings go unsaid and even completely hidden away. When suppressed long enough, seemingly explainable behavior patterns may develop as a result which can have negative consequences of their own. This requires not only for the us to listen better and be more attentive when our depressed beloved does speak or show signs but also for our us who are suffering to find the time and courage to speak with the opportunity presents itself.

Be patient. Give growth time.

Even when we have the tools to cope and comfort we will run into moments in which those tools seem useless. Some days, a good yoga session, healthy meal or comedy show may do the trick. Other days, it’s a good cry or a chance wallow in the sadness. You may even fell like depression is completely behind you in one moment, only to be faced with an abrupt emotional decline the next. It’s important to know that not everything works every time.

Use the tools in your joint wellness arsenal when you can but don’t feel all is lost if a method is not producing the same positive response. Tenacity and patience will help with bounce-back when motivation falls short; the more you practice the easier it gets later. Remember there is not reason to rush as life is a marathon, not a race. As long as you are moving, if even a little, you can and will be okay if you keep it up.

Lastly …

Do not create expectation out of comparison.

I’m totally guilty of having the thought, “If we could just do [insert activity] like [insert another person’s success story], we would be so much better off.”

Seeking hope from other stories of overcoming can be an inspiration and uplifting. All the same, it can be very damaging. We see it all the time in other scenarios, from weight loss to career building – especially on social media. So badly do we want the fairy tale ending of someone else’s story without having all the facts when the truth is there is no such thing as an ending. As long as someone is alive, they are going to experience hard times, what works for them may not work for you, and your story may not look like the illusion of their story. Comparing the process and progress of another to our own or someone we know and love creates further heaviness around the ebbs and flows of the other journey to be had.

Stay in your lane.

Namaste.

 

Using the Virgo New Moon Vibes for Wellness

It is likely you have already been experiencing effects of the onsetting new moon in Virgo this month. The zodiacal Virgo is typically represented by the image of a female virgin sometimes wearing or handling plant life. As one of the three earth signs, Virgo energy encourages us to embrace nature and to get in touch with our nurturing side. Virgo is ruled by the planet Mercury which is associated with how we communicate and relate to others. When harnessed successfully, Virgo energy also helps us become more mindful of how we take care of our mental and physical bodies.

Since new moons are an opportunity to make changes in our lives, it would serve us well to start building new habits to establish the life that each of us desires. Here are a few ways we can use utilize the new moon in Virgo energy for creating a healthy lifestyle:

1. BEGIN A FAST

As the Virgo zodiac corresponds with gut health and the digestive system, this would be a great time to begin a cleanse. Fasting has been scientifically proven to improve physical stamina and mental clarity. Spiritual leaders over history embarked on long meditative journies in which they limited their substance intake to strictly water, or even nothing at all. Of course, these are extreme. However, there are other cleansing diet options that are also beneficial to overall health; it’s all about what works best for you!

I have recently begun a fast myself in which I primarily consume fruits and vegetables in smoothie form. The intake of natural foods is in proper alignment with the current energy as Virgo corresponds with the earth element. I allow myself one solid meal a day along with one cup of tea or coffee and a light snack (usually a handful of almonds or celery with hummus). Just after one week, I have experienced a number of changes including more energy throughout my day, deeper meditation, and even some weight loss.

2. DE-CLUTTER

The virgin represents purity and simplicity. It is likely that all that may have accumulated with summer fun crossing over with “back-to-school” vibes, there could be some disorder and/or a sense of anxiety. This new moon may be urging you to clear out the things you no longer need in order to create space for the things you could use. Give away that 10-year-old blouse in the back of your closet that you never wear, scrapbook those photos using most of the space in your camera phone, file those receipts that you’ll need for tax session.

My husband and I purchased several pieces of art over the last few years that have been sitting around unframed until recently. I finally decided to put my foot down and find a place for them. Now that they are up, my home feels tidier and, virtually, more complete which brings me peace as I am a firm believer that my home space is a reflection of me.

3. PAY IT FORWARD

If you have considered participating in community service, now is a good time to roll up your sleeves! Get into that mindset of selflessness. This contribution can be something as huge as building a home in for those victimized by a natural disaster and feeding the homeless, or as small as treating your co-worker to lunch or giving your spouse a foot rub at the end of a long day. Like the virgin, give the best parts of yourself without expecting anything in return. Whether or not you believe in karma, you may notice it pay off for you in one way or another, be it someone returning the favor or simply a boost in how you feel about yourself. Helping others does well for your mental health!

Have you noticed some changes in your thoughts and feelings with this new moon energy? What are some ways you are using it to better yourself? Share in the comments below! Namaste.

 

Peace vs. Depression

I have battled depression and anxiety for quite some time and for the most part each day gets better and better. There are those moments that creep upon one who have experienced mental and emotional struggles before; sometimes we can stop it in its tracks and other times it hits us before we know it. Depression, in particular, is a tricky sensation. Unlike anxiety which characterized by obvious feelings of heightened overwhelm, depression mimics natural physiological occurrences such as fatigue, hunger, and/or boredom. Everyone experiences it differently and there are various triggers from poor nutrition and hormonal shifts to traumatic or transitional life events. Then, there’s the sensation of peace which is just as complex to the untrained mind which probably speaks to most of us in the Western world.

Having experienced both, the onset can be quite similar. Like depression, peace may look different from person to person and may even be misunderstood by people around us. Recently, I was facing an emotion I thought was negative somehow, although I knew it was not sadness nor anger. It was not joy as I could also describe myself as feeling detached; oddly careless of what my responsibilities were in that moment but without animosity. It took a mentor of mine – who happens to be Buddhist – to explain it to me best as I grasped for answers from anyone who could help me. He told me it was peace and when I told him I assumed peace to be more joyous, he said:

“Peace is peace. As such it is neutral. Still. Quiet. Otherwise it is joy. It is a myth that we need to be having euphoria to be at peace. Joy is not emptiness. It is biased. We like it better because it feels better, but it should never be considered sunyata. Notice how having no emotion can leave us with the sense that something is wrong. This is mental bias as well – that the only valuable state of mind is euphoric or happy. All states of mind are equally valuable including pain, maybe, especially pain. We have a tendency to be mentally lazy and only want to eat ice cream in our minds every day, but that is not inherently healthy. The ability to be with what is with no responsive emotion and yet full awareness is the highest state of mind.”

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I admit, it was a difficult concept to accept when just before someone suggested it was depression. I agreed to that notion as it was the closest I perceived to being right at the time but the truth is, it didn’t fully sit with me either. Then, I thought about my mentor’s comment for a couple of more days and finally it started to resonate. Indeed it was peace! Worldly things had little value to me in that moment of the present. All I cared about was being and not even my husband could fully have my attention. That may sound wrong, but from a spiritual and even natural standpoint, there are some happenings inside of us that are simply impossible to share. We must have them on our own just as our loved ones will have theirs without us.

Now, I still emphasize the importance of monitoring our well-being. However, I realize that I should not always assume a fault in my psychology when I lack joy. Not every moments requires feelings that we perceive as positive, nor is it realistic. Going forward, I will keep in mind that the foundation to having consistent well-being is to just be from time to time. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Namaste.

 

 

Meditation for Broken Daughters

There is something special about the relationship between a mother and daughter. When all is well, there is a unique friendship that can be had; a closeness unmatched. The dark days are more bearable and our burdens not so heavy.

On the flip side, a damaged mother-daughter relationship can cause for a rocky foundation, not just between mother and child but within the daughter herself. Daughters learn from their mothers (or female caretakers) first what it means to be a woman –  how to nurture, how to take care of Self, and walk securely in her feminine being. However, our mothers cannot give us what they do not have.

When a daughter feels failed by her mother on any level, it is very easy for her to point a finger and say, “She should have taught me …” or “Why can’t she just …?”. It is difficult to take in that our mothers could be as lost as we are or worse. As children, it can be almost impossible to understand and harder, still, to let go once we become women. Instead, we learn to adapt using defense mechanisms and other survival tactics before we even realize that is what we are doing.

These methods serve us for a time but eventually its effectiveness will dwindle and in some cases, even become harmful. It starts to become apparent with the difficulty in our friendships, work, and romantic connections. It will also affect how we see and treat ourselves. There comes a very obvious time when we must try something new in order to really thrive and not just deal to survive.

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In the words of  Haruki Murakami, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” The hurt of being failed by a parent is natural and should not be considered a weakness; it also does not have to define us. The shift must happen in the mind! No matter the situation, we can change how it affects and whether it affects us at all. Meditation is a great way to initiate and maintain that shift. Here are a few lines one can meditate on to shift her view about her mother-daughter bond:

Clingy/Controlling Mother: “I accept and appreciate my mother’s love wholeheartedly but will draw necessary boundaries where I see fit without compromise. May we both find peace.”

Hostile/Judgmental Mother: “My mother could not give me what she did not have nor demonstrate what she is not. Therefore, I thank her for being an example of what not to do so that I may be better for my Self and my house. May we both find peace.”

Absent/Unreliable Mother: “I welcome any and all positive energy to fill the space that my mother left open and cherish what [time, gifts, life, etc.] she has given me.” May we both find peace.”

Each saying ends with “May we both find peace,” to encourage the release of anger and bitterness. We sometimes claim to have let things go but will recall memories with harsh words and negative feelings. In this case, we cannot be liberated from the baggage and it will continue to show up in our lives and disrupt our growth. Whenever those negative thoughts and feelings resurface, recall one of these lines or make up your own. You cannot change who your mother is but you can change how you receive her. That change can make all the difference.

Namaste.

Creating a Yoga Flow: Recap Thru Week Nine

I am approaching week nine of my personal yoga flow journey. It turns out keeping up with posting is just as much of a challenge as keeping up with a daily flow practice. I also accidentally skipped an important transitional pose in Part Three of this series. So let’s recap.

Part One

I began with downward dog, child’s pose, and frog pose. These asanas get the blood flowing and awaken joints. It’s preparatory for more complicated asanas.

Part Two

From frog pose, I roll back onto my feet and sink into garland pose or malasana. This a grounding pose and that not only opens the hips but, with hand clasped at the chest, opens the heart for the practice.

Part Three

Next, I place my hands on the floor and push myself onto my feet for a forward fold. Sometimes my feet are close together or hip distance. These details are always important as your practice should reflect what feels right for you. The should have been the focus of my week three post.

Part Four

Once on my feet, I bend my knees into my armpits – or as close as possible – tighten my abs and firmly plant my hands into the mat/floor with spread fingers before me and lift my curled body into crow pose or bakasana. This pose is a test of balance, concentration and upper body strength.

Part Five

Next, I lower one leg to the ground and flexing the other hip and extending the leg straight back. Whichever side my foot is landed, I plant my fingers into the floor and twist my body and extended leg the opposite direction while the other fingertips reaches toward the ceiling . This is half moon or ardha chandrasana. Like most balance asanas, it tests focus. It also increases hip strength.

Part Six

I then lower the extend leg and arm to the floor, extend the planted leg back into the air behind me and push myself back into three-legged downward dog or eka pada adho mukha svanasana.

Part Seven

The foot of the extended leg then falls to the floor behind the body and takes on the support as the other leg straights and the arm on the side of the supporting leg raises overhead. This pose is called wild thing or camatkarana. This also engages the side body and helps with upper body flexibility. It is also helpful in reminding the Self how to let go and open up.

Part Eight

Continue to let the body fall back and plant both hands and feet onto the flow in wheel pose. This pose requires some back flexibility and upper body strength. It also requires trust in yourself for without it, strength is beside the point. Remember to breath!

Eight Nine

Lift on leg straight into the air as far as you can. Do not force this movement. Go slow. With repetition, the thigh and low ab muscles will strengthen as will your confidence.

Remember that your practice is your own and this will more than likely not play out the exact same way each time. Go with your gut and find your flow.

Happy flowing! Namaste.