Relating to Ourselves…The Need for Renewal

sleep-and-rest

by Andrea Chilcote

This post is the second of a three-part series entitled Relating to Ourselves. This segment deals with honoring our needs for rest and renewal.

Recently, I led a workshop with a team of people who are driven, dedicated — and stretched thin. I began our work with two questions: “How do you feel right now?” and “What do you need?”

Almost everyone replied with some version of the following: “I feel very tired, and I need rest and rejuvenation.” As they spoke, I secretly related. It had been a long and exhausting week for me as well, and I was looking forward to a weekend of play with friends who were visiting us, a rare three-day respite from the demands of life.

Even as I pushed forward that day, I realized that I was fatigued, and in need of a good night’s sleep. But there was more. I felt a longing for connection with people who enjoy and value the things I do. I wanted to be outdoors, enjoying the wonderland that is my desert in March. And I longed to be with my loving and goofy dogs, a pack that now includes a foster Husky. For me, rest can be active. It’s a time when I can turn off the noise of my mind and focus on the experience at hand — an enjoyable one.

How do you feel right now? What do you need? Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and feel the answers to the questions. Do you feel stress or fatigue? Do you have a longing for some enjoyable experience that has been missing from your life?

If you have no shortage of things to do, it may seem as if there’s no time for “me” time, rest time or play time. It is, of course, a matter of prioritization. If you’re telling yourself a story about how you can’t possibly do the thing you long to do, consider the cost of depriving yourself. Recreation is defined as “refreshment of health or spirits by relaxation and enjoyment.”

Rest and recreation does not have to take a long time or cost a lot of money. Many years ago, I regularly dreamed about fun activities with friends during particularly stressful times. While I couldn’t call upon those dreams at will, they conveyed a valuable message that I was working too much and playing too little. Life coach Martha Beck offers practical advice for adding more laughter, play and connection to your life in her book The Joy Diet. Intentional Resting’s Dan Howard promotes active resting and teaches simple tools for calling upon a restful state in the midst of everyday activities.

This past weekend, I played hard and laughed heartily. We took long hikes, enjoyed fine food and wine, and howled with the Husky dogs. I’m rejuvenated and ready to meet the challenges life has in store this week. And, the people around me will benefit from my more relaxed state of being.

What do you need to rest and recharge in a positive way? Whether you have three days, three hours or three minutes – take action – and enjoy the rewards.

Part One: Relating to OurSelves – Putting Self First – read

Relating to OurSelves – Putting Self First

Putting Self Firstby Andrea Chilcote

This post is the first of a three-part series entitled “Relating to OurSelves.” This segment deals with honoring yourself first in order to build capacity for helping others.

Lately it seems I have less time and more demands on that precious time. Sound familiar? When I recently shared this lament with a trusted confidant, she asked me to do something that on the surface sounded simple. Her request? “State the following, then tell me how it feels to you: ‘I am the most important person in my life right now.’”

Well, it felt incongruent. Even though I believe that unless I care for myself first I cannot possibly care for important others in my life, I sure did not feel it in the midst of my all-too-busy day.

Many women tend to be healers – we’re the gender more often charged with care-giving. (This is not intended as a criticism of the many care-giving men out there who are natural nurturers – it’s simply a fact that women usually assume the role more explicitly).

So my friend’s question sparked thoughts about the great equilibrium of giving and receiving. It can be out of balance literally, or in our heads. Rejuvenating activities, gratitude or compliments from those we love, as well as simple acts of kindness shown to us, all produce healing energy. Are we allowing enough of that in our lives?

Consider the literal examples. We can starve ourselves by constantly doing for others, never taking the time to replenish in whatever way creates true enjoyment. We can surround ourselves with people who take only (energy vampires, as Dr. Judith Orloff describes them), rather than spend time with people who know the beautiful dance of give and take. If you are one of these givers, you probably recognize the toll it takes on you, and, most likely, the things that you seek – acceptance, purpose, love – are elusive.

More insidious is the type that is made up in our minds. In this scenario we do a lot and are offered a lot, but – we don’t notice what’s coming back to us because our metal drive is so focused on the next task. I get caught in this mind trap often. I am blessed with a loving husband as well as friends, clients and animal companions who give me as much or more than I give out. But often I miss these precious gifts because the to-do lists in my brain trick me into believing I have no time for them.

The affirmation offered by my friend – “I am the most important person in my life right now” – was profound. Once I made that statement, I was forced to re-focus on the present moment. What I was doing did not change, but the way I did it changed significantly. I came back alive, appreciating the small and beautiful give and take in the interactions of life.

As I moved through the next several days, I did, as usual, a great deal for others. What I provide the people and animals I love brings me great joy. And I en-joy that work when I come from a place of integrity in myself and my capacity.

So, take the challenge given to me. Can you love yourself enough to care for those you love?

Putting self first is a continuing theme for me this new year of 2014. I invite you to read my latest blog about Self-Care on The Spirited Woman – where I am a weekly blogger.

Thought Provoking Interview

Cyrus Webb is a genius at making evident the essence of a book and the authors’ passion through the questions he asks. Erik’s Hope is about awakening to feel, and the catalyst for that was loving and losing Erik — the emphasis is on “losing,” because I did not know what I had until the days were numbered. But the real gift of profound grief is opening the emotional and spiritual channel that allows the love to re-enter.

Listen in to gain some insight into the lessons explored in the book.

conversations live

You can order the book for your Kindle, Nook or in hardback online. Or ask for Erik’s Hope The Leash That Led Me to Freedom at your local bookstore.

The Personal Plus of Positive Intent

by Andrea Chilcote

As an observer of human behavior – sometimes student and sometimes teacher – I marvel at the fact that there are so many simple and reliable tools for making relationships of all kinds easier. Even when aware of these tools, we so often fail to employ them in the very circumstances that count.

One example is a simple mental model called “positive intent.” I’ve been working to assume positive intent quite a bit these days, as a way to ease the stresses and frustrations of a busy life. It’s so easy to become irritated by others’ supposed shortcomings or to take personally the minor transgressions seemingly committed on purpose to make life difficult. The principle of positive intent requires us to ask one simple question prior to judging, assuming motive for, or reacting to another person’s behavior.

“What possible, positive reason does he or she have for doing or saying that?”

It doesn’t matter what the answer is. The very moment you have an answer, no matter how preposterous it seems, something shifts. Something very big.

There’s a well known illustration of the principle in Stephen Covey’s blockbuster title, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In short, as a passenger in a crowded subway, Covey becomes irritated at a father who is not disciplining his unruly children. When he gathers the courage to ask the man to intervene, the father tells him they are all returning from the hospital where their mother (his wife), has just died. Covey experiences an instantaneous paradigm shift. Suddenly his irritation pales in comparison to the man’s grief.

The truth of positive intent is one of the toughest things for our egos to swallow. Yet once we assume there might be a reason for another’s behavior that, while perhaps misguided, to them makes some kind of sense, we are then free. Free of being violated, persecuted or even mildly disrespected, suddenly, our thoughts and feelings are independent of the influence of others’ actions. What a break this gives us, in a world in which we are bombarded by input, some welcome and some not.

We can all assume positive intent in daily interactions with everyone from strangers to casual acquaintances. The benefit is a bit less stress, a tad more peace in our hearts. Can you assume positive intent in the most challenging of your relationships? There lies an opportunity that just might transform those relationships. When we think differently, we act differently. When we act differently, others re-act in new ways. Pat your ego gently on the shoulder and try something new – you might reap a surprising reward.