How To Endure a Rough Winter

Are you feeling the winter blues?  Lack energy or motivation? Relax because you’re not alone. Winter is a tough time for many. The days are darker. The weather bitter cold and the extra stress and demands of dealing with snow and ice can put the grouch into anybody. But there are some things we can do to make the best of a rough season.

1. Make time to nurture yourself and turn inward. Winter is a great time for reflection. Slow down enough to think about what you want to change this year, rethink your diet, and get the rest the body needs during harsh winters.

2. Declutter and organize your home. There is something about getting rid of junk and seeing a clean place that lifts one’s spirit and helps us focus on what we really want in our homes and in our lives.

3. Organize your finances. Tax season is upon us and it is a perfect time to rethink how we spend our time and our money. Get a good filing system set up. Track your expenses.

4. Don’t use the weather as an excuse to not exercise. Exercise is a must. It keeps the heart pumping, the muscles strong, and the body flexible. Winter is a great time to take a yoga or pilates class. If the weather is bad, pop in an exercise video and get moving.

5.  Try out a new or favorite hobby. A friend of mine recently took up archery and he is so excited about it. Personally, I like to try new recipes and I can’t wait to use my new Panini grill pan.

How we see winter and rough seasons of life, has a lot to do with our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being during tough times. Like I say in my book, “The Power of Faith”, there will always be positives and negatives in life. It is up to us which we will choose to focus on.

I hope these tips and suggestions will help you see the bright side of a dark winter. What will you do this winter to make it more enjoyable? Love to hear from you. In  the meantime, stay warm and keep looking up!

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7 Steps on How to Let Go and Let God

We’ve all heard the expression “Let go and let God”, right? I assumed everyone understood what this means until I posted this photo on Facebook and a friend came back with the question “How do you do that?” She made me think. Maybe this concept isn’t clear to everyone. After all not everyone has gone through a 12-step program which is where the phrase originated. I talk about letting go in my book, “The Power of Faith”, so this might be a good time to delve into the concept for my online friends.  It wouldn’t hurt for me to revisit this phrase either so here’s my best shot at explaining what “Let go and let God” means and how to put it into action in your life.

1. First step is to realize that letting go is a process. We learn to let go. It doesn’t come naturally. We develop the ability to let go gradually as we experience loss, grief, and pain in our lives. We gain experience in this skill when a loved one dies or leaves home, a beloved pet dies, or when we endure a divorce or breakup to list a few examples.

2.  Another term related for letting go is “detachment” which means separating ourselves from someone or something. In recovery terms, detachment means emotionally disconnecting from the abusive, destructive or unhealthy behaviors of another person for our own well-being. It does not mean not loving the other person, it means no longer allowing their hurtful behaviors to steal my peace and my joy. Some extreme examples would be living with an alcoholic, drug addict, gambler, or someone with Alzheimer’s or some other debilitating disease. When we detach in love, we are loving ourselves by separating our emotional well-being from the emotional well-being of the other person. Whenever we are in relationship with another, detachment is key to maintaining our peace of mind and well-being. Otherwise, we risk smothering the other person and losing the relationship. Another way to put this is “Give the other person their space” if that helps.

3. Letting go has to do with responsibility. Sometimes we take on responsibility for issues that are not our own. For example, a parent taking financial responsibility for an adult child. A mother not allowing her children to suffer the consequences of their actions. A spouse covering for an addictive trait of the other such as overspending, drinking, gambling, etc.

4. Letting go is the opposite of controlling. People who are overly responsible i.e fearful, usually have some major control issues. My experience is most people have some control issues to varying degrees, but people who are fearful really have control issues. If you have a problem with control, you may want to ask yourself this question: “What am I afraid of here?”

People do not want to be controlled. I know I don’t. We each are responsible for managing our own lives, but not the lives of those around us. When we let go of control, we let God take the driver’s seat in our lives and we allow the other person to make their own choices.

5. Another application for this concept is in the realm of material possessions. Many people hold on to stuff for years and years for emotional reasons. They have a hard time “letting go” of stuff. You’ve seen the TV show “Hoarders”, haven’t you? If you have a hard time parting with material things, your house is cluttered, and your garage is overflowing, you may want to examine your reasons for holding on to all of it. Does it make you feel loved? Secure? Are you holding on to the past? You may be getting a lesson in letting go.

6.  When we learn to let go in our lives, we are basically saying “Thy will be done” to the universe and God. We no longer insist on our agendas, our plans, and our timeframes. We are more flexible and resilient when the unexpected happens. Control really is an illusion anyway, didn’t you know? God is the only one who is in control. We humans just think we are. Let me repeat that – control is an illusion.

7. The final example I will share is in regards to our priorities. There are only 24 hours in every day and we only have so many days to live. How will I choose to live them and with whom? I personally reexamine my priorities several times a year. I make a conscious choice on where, how, and with whom I want to spend my time. I have learned that in order to add something or someone new to my life, which I love doing, I must let go of something or someone else. When I let go of unhealthy relationships I am free to move on to healthier ones. When I let go of anxiety and worry, I make room for joy and love. When I let go of activity, I make room for relaxation and self-care. Make sense?

Learning to let go is one of the major life lessons if we want to achieve peace in our spirits. When we surrender to what is we have less stress. I have a post it note that has a quote from Oprah which says “All stress comes from resisting what is”. I think that is powerful, don’t you?

What have you let go of that made a difference in your life? What do you need to let go of today? Letting go is an ongoing process because we are constantly in a state of change. If you enjoyed this post, please post a comment or click the +1 Google icon. Until next week, keep looking up!

The Illusion of Overwhelm & What To Do About It

“I’ve just got too much to do and I’m exhausted.” Have you heard yourself say this lately? Do you feel like you are never caught up? Always on the go and never have time to relax, exercise, or do something nice for yourself? If so, then this post is for you and you are not alone. We all struggle with overwhelm at times, so I am writing this post to remind us all that overwhelm is really an illusion

The feeling of being overwhelmed is a problem many struggle with, especially women who are usually taking care of the family, the house, the meals, the spouse or boyfriend, all the while holding down a full-time career AND trying to stay thin, fit, and beautiful. Just thinking about all this is exhausting.

I know because I’ve been in this position myself. As a single mom raising two sons, working at a demanding high-pressure job and going to night school, it was quite a juggling act to keep everything together. But I survived, and you will too and today I am sharing some tips on how to deal with overwhelm and not turn into the wicked witch of the west.

1. Take time to breath. When we start feeling anxious, rushed, or stressed, that means it’s time to take a break, sit down, and take a few deep calming breaths. Repeat a phrase that will calm you down such as “I can do this”, “I am calm”, or any prayer or meditation that you choose.

2. Prioritize. Reevaluate what is really important in your life. Most women have a hard time relaxing. We need to remind ourselves to just “Chill out” and make that higher up on the priority list. Most men do not seem to have this problem, I have observed. We could learn from them.

3. Use the word “NO’ more often. I used to carry a yellow laminated card in my purse with the word ‘NO’ written in big red letters. I would whip it out when someone asked me to do something I was really not crazy about doing. Picture the referee at a soccer game giving a yellow card to one of the players. You get the idea.

4. Stay in the present moment. Focus on the task at hand. Don’t spend precious energy thinking about what all you have to do that day. Take one thing at a time. Then rest. Then do the next thing. When we spend time complaining or ruminating about everything we have to do, we waste time and energy.

5. Be thankful. Look for the positive side of whatever situation. Instead of complaining about cleaning the house, say “I am thankful I have the energy and the health to clean my house.”  Rather than bemoan your job, your boss, your coworkers, say “I am thankful I have a job and an income.”

These are a few tips to help us all stay calm, cool, and collected despite the many demands and responsibilities of life. There will always be stuff to do. We cannot change that. But we can change our attitude on how we think about the stuff we have to do.

Until next time, remember to take time to rest and as always, keep looking up!
Ariel

Life, Lent, and Distraction

Life can get so busy, can’t it? There are many distractions and unexpected challenges that show up such as inclement weather, car problems, relationship issues, sickness, to name a few.  How does one move forward and stay focused during these busy times? Could it be that the church, imperfect as it is, has provided us with a natural season to recalibrate?

Lent falls during the dark, cold, days of winter and is a perfect time to slow down, refocus, and reprioritize on what really matters in life. Many of us set goals the first of the year, but then get off track way too quickly. Why is that? Because of distractions, that’s why! Let’s take a look at a few biblical examples to understand the real intent of the season.

First we have Moses. Now Moses, you will recall, was raised in the royalty of the Egyptian palace. After realizing his true identity as an Israelite, he decided to leave the luxuries of Egypt and go live in the desert. Ever feel like you’re in a dry, barren time in life? I have. It’s not much fun. But back to Moses.

What was he doing out there those 40 long years? Or rather what was God doing in him during this time? God never wastes anything in our lives. Perhaps he was learning to trust, listen, & depend on God. I bet he did an awful lot of thinking during those forty years. Maybe he even thought his life was over. His executive position at the palace, surrounded by servants and riches, was a distant memory and now he was a nomad surrounded by mostly sheep. But wait, God had big plans for him, didn’t he? Remember the burning bush? God sure has a way of getting our attention suddenly. God’s plan was to use Moses in a BIG way, which leads us to the next example, which shows us what not to do in the desert.

The suffering, beaten, down-trodden people of Israel. These were the chosen ones and look how much they suffered all those years in Egyptian captivity. Have you ever suffered many long years? I have. Enter Moses, stage right, to lead them out of bondage. How many miracles did they see? Hint: watch the movie “The Ten Commandments” or better yet, read the book of Exodus. The promise of a better life was before them, but what did they do? Complain, complain, complain; they complained about the food, the water, even the leadership. Sound familiar?  FYI, God doesn’t like complaining.

So they spent the next 40 years wandering the desert while God patiently waited for them to learn to trust him and accept their circumstances happily. But they didn’t, and God said “Trip cancelled”. The entire generation died off. But we do have a much better example of how to respond to times in the desert. Let’s take a look at Jesus.

He, too, spent time alone in the desert. Forty days to be exact, which may be why Lent is 40 days. What did Jesus do during his desert time? Fast and pray, that’s what. Commune with God. The disciplines of solitude, fasting, and praying, draw our attention away from food, drink, and the distractions of the world. They open the channel to hear from the Lord. In his weakest moments, the devil tried to tempt Jesus with the promises of worldly pleasure, power, and significance. His tactics have not changed one bit since then, have they? Many seek fame and fortune, power and luxury. But will that really give us the peace and joy we so desperately crave? I think we know the answer.

God has a plan and a purpose for your life, too. As we look at these examples, we see that removing ourselves from the distractions and luxuries of this world can lead us into the plan God has for our lives. During times of fasting, prayer, and quiet reflection we can hear that still small voice more clearly. We, too, can conquer the temptations that beset us and learn to trust God more fully. That, dear friends, is what Lent is all about.

Do you want to be more focused? Feel a clear sense of purpose? It starts by learning to hear the voice of God more clearly and that happens by spending time in quietness, meditation, & reflection. Will you make time for spiritual disciplines this year or will it just be business as usual?

If you enjoyed the thoughts in this post, I’d appreciate if you would leave a comment or share it with your friends. Until next time, keep looking up!

Ariel

The #1 Problem in Relationships and How to Solve It

As Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, I thought it would be timely to share a post on relationships this week. Enjoy! 

Relationships can be heavenly, hellish, or somewhere in between. Ask anyone who’s been happily married for years or who has been through a bitter divorce. The problem extends not only to married relationships but to all relationships as well.

The question researchers have pondered for years is: what is the difference between a happily married couple who enjoys intimacy, warmth, and loving kindness versus an unhappy, unfulfilled relationship where each partner feels alone and unloved. The findings from an intensive study at Stanford University might give us a clue.

According to a study of 1500 people by associate professor, Dr. David Burns, the primary disparity between happily married partners and unhappy, dissatisfied couples boils down to this: whether  or not and to what degree partners take responsibility for their actions or play the “blame and shame” game with each other.

Some people have difficulty taking responsibility for themselves and the difficult situations they find themselves in. When faced with difficult situations due to their own poor choices, rather than turn the mirror inward, these people, who often have a narcissistic tendency to begin with,  blame their situations on another person, typically the one closest to them. They have incorrectly associated taking responsibility with being “wrong”.

To these folks, admitting their part is akin to admitting guilt or defeat. It stems from an unrealistic self-image. As children, at some level, these people have learned that admitting responsibility equates to admitting guilt, shame, and self-reproach. They cannot assume responsibility without also assuming they are fundamentally bad people. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Jesus said this: “There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:1). We are all human and we all make mistakes. It is both unhealthy and unwise to be so hard on ourselves that we think of ourselves as bad to the core. We must unlearn this faulty thinking. Accept the fact that none of us is perfect and that we will make mistakes. Forgive ourselves but also accept responsibility for our choices, attitudes, and behaviors. Only then can we enjoy healthy, happy, relationships with one another and stop the “blame and shame” game. 

True love feels safe to explore and admit one’s weaknesses. We have the freedom to admit our faults without fear of being judged or criticized. When we are loved and accepted for who we are, we have the courage to face ourselves squarely in the mirror and make the necessary adjustments. There is little talk of who is right or wrong. It is a step forward in the process of self-awareness and personal growth.

In what situations today do you feel blamed or shamed? Or are you the one doing the blaming and refusing to accept responsibility for your actions? The answer is to understand no one on earth can love us perfectly. It is only when we accept the unconditional love of God and understand how much he loves each of us uniquely can we feel truly affirmed, accepted, and loved.

If this post resonated with you, please leave a comment and until next time, keep looking up!

Ariel

Finding the Abundant Life

There’s a lot of talk these days about living the abundant life. What does that really mean though – “the abundant life”? Does it mean having a million dollars? Finding the perfect mate? Living a life of ease and pleasure? A single friend who is going through a rough time, said to me the other day “I just want the abundant life.”  Having recently been through some very challenging circumstances myself, I have pondered the concept of the abundant life and so I thought I’d share the answer that came to me. It might surprise you as it did me.

Yes, life can be rough at times and the seasons can seem like an eternity. Singles have it particularly tough as there is no one there beside them to help carry the load and bear the burden. Many singles have a tendency to try to go it alone, but, as I encouraged my friend, we all need someone there for support. But what about the people we see who are in a less fortunate position?

 
We all know people living in dire circumstances, working at a menial job,  who still have a smile on their face and a spring in their step. There are paraplegics in wheelchairs who are great contributors to society, travel the world, and speak to thousands. Look at Nick Vujicic as an example. He has no limbs. Take a look at this video see what this man has endured and what he has become. http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=nick+vujicic+life+without+limbs+video&FORM=VIRE5#view=detail&mid=DFD399391E38C99F29E1DFD399391E38C99F29E1

If it is possible for people in these circumstances to be joyful, content, and productive, could it be that the abundant life has more to do with our perspective rather than our circumstances?

 
Jesus said “I have come so that you may have life and have it more abundantly,” (John 10:10). I believe that to mean he came so we can live a life of healing, wholeness, and harmony. When we have been healed emotionally, physically, and spiritually, we are set free to follow our dreams and discover our destiny and purpose, and more often than not, there are some times of adversity we must go through before we get there.

When the flames of adversity seem to engulf us on every side, we have a choice to make. We can either become angry, bitter, and resentful or we can ask ourselves this question: “What am I supposed to be learning here?”  Yes, I know the tendency is to want to point the finger at other people: what they are doing wrong, how insensitive they are, why they don’t make more time for us, ya da ya da. But when we expend all our energy focusing on other people’s issues, we don’t have any left to focus on ours. I don’t know about you, but I want to learn the lesson so I don’t have to repeat the grade.

When we ask the question “What am I supposed to be learning here?” be prepared to take a look in the mirror. The reflection may not be so pretty. The key to breaking the cycle is 1) to surrender to what is and 2) to learn whatever lessons are before us. I always learn something new about myself, others, and God. God allows trials for a reason and that is to purify us, to grow us up and to remove the imperfections in our minds and souls. After all, that is what life is all about right? The growth and development of our souls.

Yet it is possible to live the abundant life, no matter what our circumstances are and while we are on the potter’s wheel. When we learn to view trials as stepping stones to a better tomorrow, they will be less difficult to endure. When we understand that there is a purpose to the pain, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

To summarize, here are a few techniques I’ve learned over the years that have helped me to live an abundant life and I know they will help you too:
  1. Learn to be thankful, for our blessings and also for the trials and difficulties we encounter.
  2. Live to give. Find some way to give back, sow a seed, help someone else.
  3. Expect victory. Know that God is on our side and He is faithful to bring us through every situation  better and clearer than we were before.
  4.  Keep our joy. When we lose our joy, we lose our strength to persevere. God is the source of our  joy and when we keep our focus on him, we can be joyful during the trials of life.
  5. Look for the good. I believe there is always a positive outcome from negative circumstances.
When we change our perspective and put on our spiritual glasses, we will see it.

If this post has helped you in some way, please leave a comment below. It means a lot to me to hear from you. And if you know someone who needs a lift, do send them the link to this page.

Until next time, keep looking up!

Ariel