By Erika Fehrenbach Prell
DreamChaser, I have a challenge for you. Not just any challenge. I’m talking about a life-altering, happiness-boosting, ignite-the-path-to-your-best-life kind of challenge…and I know you are up to the task.
We talk about the importance of self-love alot, that we need to take care of ourselves daily, not sometimes or if there is time, but daily. That in order to do all the things we want to or need to do, it is crucial to fill our own cups first, minus any guilt for doing so. For many of you, this will require intentional action, focus, and practice to instill a new habit.
When you start thinking about self-love, the place we start is actions we can do for ourselves that we enjoy, that refuel our batteries, and bring us inner calm. Things like exercise, reading, meditating, or journaling. That is awesome and having a list of go-to’s for self-love is important. But, I want to challenge you to take your self-love to a deeper level! Here’s my challenge…I want you to love yourself enough to give up these 3 life-sucking things.
Are you ready?!? Here we go…
1. Ditch the Negative Self-Talk
The path to that dream life starts with what is going on between your ears. We all have an inner monologue; that little voice that is constantly talking in our ears. Have you ever stopped to really listen to what that voice - what YOU - are saying to yourself? Is it positive and possible or negative and demoralizing?
This little voice is often called the Inner Critic, and for good reason as it is not usually a very nice voice. At SoulShine, in fact, we have deemed this jerk the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee, and it’s time to give them the boot.
Beware, the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee can have a strong hold; it will take time and practice to recognize and thwart this foe. I guarantee that it will be worth the effort!
2. Let Go of the Things You Can’t Control
A big source of stress and negativity in our lives is trying to control things we really have no control over. There are really only 3 things that are in your control: your thoughts, your beliefs, and your actions. You can’t control outside influences happening to you but you can control what you think, believe, and your actions in response to them.
Everything else? Let that crap go. This, DreamChaser, is one of the most freeing things you can do for yourself and is self-love at it’s finest.
3. Keep Stress in Check
Stress is one of the most negative forces on our wellness. Stress is a contributing factor in not only our mental well-being and health but also our physical. Stress is an inevitable part of life; spoiler alert, you will never have a completely stress-free life. The key is developing a way to keep stress in check so it doesn’t overrun your life, your Calm the Chaos plan. Don’t over complicate it, DreamChaser, start with making a list of actions you can take when you feel stressed to bring inner calm like going for a walk, deep breathing exercises, or practicing gratitude. Then, when you feel the stress level climbing, simply recognize you are feeling stressed and try an action, or two, from your list to bring on the calm. Of note, stress typically comes from an outside influence; by intentionally choosing your response to stress by calming the chaos, you bring it into your area of control! Bam!
That’s the challenge, DreamChaser…take self-love to the next level by giving up negative self-talk, control issues, and excess stress. Your future self is thanking you already!
The Brain is Smart, But the Heart is Smarter. Follow Your Heart, It Knows the Way.
By Jackie White
Did you ever think about just how many sayings we use to refer to the heart? Follow your heart, from the bottom of my heart, a heart of gold, my heart goes out to you, have your best interests at heart, pour out your heart, from the kindness of your heart…The list goes on and on. So, what’s the big deal about the heart? It’s an important organ, of course, but so is the liver. Why don’t we say I love you from the bottom of my liver? Well, that would be weird, right?
It turns out that the heart not only functions as the workhorse pulmonary center, it is also our second brain. Say what?!
A Science Moment
For more than 25 years scientists have been studying the connection between the heart and the brain asking questions like why do people feel emotions of love in the heart? Or how does heartache seem to be felt in the heart? The research further expanded to ask questions about how stressful emotions affect the heart. It showed that heart rate variability and heart rates turned out to be the best predictors of a person’s emotional state. But wait a minute, I thought emotions came from the brain?
The heart works in conjunction with the brain but here is the kicker in all of this research, the heart can influence the way we perceive and respond in our daily interactions. In fact, the heart can affect mental clarity, creativity, emotional balance, intuition, and personal effectiveness! What?! This is frickin’ amazing!
You might be saying, so what? Who cares? Well, you should care because this has significant ramifications for how we act and behave our way to success in life. Emotions are how we feel about the world and what is happening to us. You might feel giddy when you are around someone you have a crush on. You can’t help but smile when your dog greets you at the door. You might totally dig playing the guitar and when you do, you are filled with joy. All of these things trigger emotions in you. And through those emotions, you can begin to gauge what is really important to you. Ta-dah! This is why this is so cool. Your heart is feeding you information on what is truly significant to you.
Listen to Your Heart…It Knows You
The moral of this story is you must listen to your heart because it truly knows who you are deep down. Pay attention to the feelings, the pangs, the ache it is sending to you.
Your heart sings when you go to an art museum…you should be creative!
Your heartstrings are pulled when you see dogs in need…you should find a way to help them!
Your heart longs for the blue ridge mountains of your childhood…you need to go visit!
Your heartaches for children who need a role model…you should be one!
You are happy as a clam when you work in your garden…then do more of that!
Choose to be mindful of what your heart is telling you. Those things your heart is pointing you towards are super important. Likely something that has to do with your purpose. Ah-Ha! The elusive purpose has been feeding you signals all along! (I told you the heart was smart!) So, do yourself a favor and pay attention to those signals because that brain in your heart is one smart cookie.
By Erika Fehrenbach Prell
What comes to mind when you think of February? I’m guessing for most people the answer would be Valentine’s Day. But, I’m not most people…lol. When I think of February, I think of heart disease because it’s American Heart Month. (Remember, self-proclaimed science nerd here, Dream Chasers.)
This will sound weird but I love heart disease! More specifically, I love helping people understand their risks for heart disease so they can potentially course correct and avoid heart disease. Here’s the truth, heart disease is consistently the number one killer of Americans, men and women alike, every year. Here’s another one, heart disease is largely preventable! This means unlike many cancers or immune diseases, your actions combined with inherent risk factors will determine if, when, and how heart disease presents itself. Like many things, the choice, Dream Chaser, is yours.
Let me tell you a Tale of Two Hearts starring two brothers. These brothers are close in age, less than 2 years apart. They grow up in a comfortable and supportive, middle class family. They take over the family business and go to work together, living in similar small towns. Neither of them are smokers but the older brother did develop healthier eating and exercising habits from an early age. And, both of these brothers have a strong family history of heart disease - 3 of their mother’s brothers had either heart bypass surgery, stents, or both at young ages. Other than the diet and exercise, these brothers have similar risk for developing heart disease…so, how much does that diet and exercise really matter?!?
Turns out, alot…and it might have been the difference maker! You see, this Tale of Two Hearts is about two brothers that I know quite well - the younger brother is my dad and the older brother is my uncle. Here’s the next chapter...
At the age of 47, my dad recognized and was diagnosed with severe coronary artery disease; this was following the unexpected death of his best friend from a massive heart attack 3 months prior. My dad underwent life-saving, emergency 4 vessel bypass surgery; after my many years serving as a nurse practitioner in the field of cardiac surgery, this is not an exaggeration…he was very close to his own life-ending heart attack. Fortunately, my dad has done very well since that time. Now, back to my uncle, with nearly identical risk factors as my dad. He eventually developed single vessel heart disease, requiring a less invasive cardiac stent, over twenty years later.
Twenty years later…and, way less significant disease! The biggest difference between them was diet and exercise, managing two important risk factors that contribute to developing heart disease. This clearly demonstrates the power of taking preventative action! Here’s the thing about heart disease, Dream Chasers, it is something that happens over time. It does not happen overnight. It is your everyday decisions that compound over time to push you towards or away from heart disease. This might sound familiar, right? It’s a concept we like to focus on at SoulShine…lol. It holds true here just as it does for going after your goals and dreams; small wins and steps in the right direction pay off over time.
So, where do you start? Here are 3 Steps To Take Back Your Heart Health:
1. Know Your Risks - It’s hard to intervene if you don’t know your risks! Here is a link to Mayo Clinic’s Health System’s Heart Risk Calculator…this is a great place to start to identify your personal risk factors.
2. Check Up Time - When was the last time you had a routine physical? With fasting labs, specifically cholesterol? If it has been more than 1 or 2 years, or if your labs were borderline, it’s time to make that appointment. Your labs tell the whole, undeniable truth about your risk.
3. Take Action - There’s no time like the present to start working on your heart health. By focusing on making your heart healthier, you will make your overall health better. Nutrition, exercise, and stress reduction are the best areas to focus on to make the biggest shift in your heart health. Small changes in the right direction, Dream Chaser, like a 10 minute walk daily or decreasing sugary drinks like soda or energy drinks.
You’ve got this, Dream Chaser. Your future self, and heart, thank you already!
By Jackie White
We all have done it. Picking the petals off a daisy and wondering if he loves or loves me not. A game of chance that ironically gives us some sort of hope if the last petal we pick says “he loves me”. It seems so silly, yet we play this game symbolically with ourselves most days. Maybe there isn’t a daisy involved, but instead it’s a really good hair day that we say “I love me! I look good today”. Another day equal to the last, might result in “nothing looks good on me” when you try on half your wardrobe and you feel you are not super model status that day. On those kind of days, the petal reveals that perhaps it’s a “I love me not” day. So, what’s the big deal?
The big deal is that when you don’t love yourself unconditionally, then you are leaving yourself to the wolves. Seriously, who knows you better than you? You are in control and need to stand up for the care of yourself. When you don’t, you can find yourself in a real shit-storm of emotions. Oh, and by the way, that is a technical term.
The wavering of love for yourself can come in many forms, not just in your appearance as we spoke of earlier. It could be something you said or didn’t say. It could be someone else’s compliment or comment that has made your day or set you off. Then there is that inner voice, which can show some love, but for many it’s a string of negative tapes playing over and over. Thoughts like you were never good at math, don’t try now or who do you think you are, you don’t deserve that. These types of thoughts can keep playing even while you are not conscious of them, which is the ultimate sneak attack on your mental health.
The Chains of Love or Non-Love
With all these thoughts comes emotion. Emotions are the result of your thoughts. An emotion that can be joyous when the thought is a positive one or it can make you feel depressed or filled with anxiety when the thought is less than complimentary. Somedays you might feel like you are on a roller coaster of emotions. Here is the kicker, those fickle emotions dictate your behavior. Doh! That is the chain of love (or non-love): thoughts, emotion and ultimately behavior are inextricably linked.
Wouldn’t it just be nice to feel calm and steady? What if you stood tall all the days? The ones where you look like you can walk the runway and the next look like you are the runway? What if you could go about your day and feel confident and find yourself strong against any negativity? That thought might feel like some sort of super power, right? Well, that super power, my friend, is actually living inside you and only requires you to give yourself unwavering love. Oh, did that make you wince a bit? Yep, women get used to putting themselves last, putting themselves down and putting themselves so far off the list of priorities that you can’t even spit that far. Guess what? It’s time for change…starting right now.
The Essential Guide on How to Love Yourself
Decide that loving yourself is important. This is no flimsy decision. Loving yourself is as important as living or dying. When you live your life soaked in self-love, life is very different than living life rotting in negativity. Rotting is not living. Loving is living, remember that.
Show yourself some love daily. Yep, daily because practice makes close-to perfect! Each day stop in front of the mirror and smile. Each day find something nice to say to yourself. These compliments can come in the form of affirmations if that is helpful.
Fire the Inner Critic. That lousy yapping voice of discontent and foul comments that ruminates in your mind needs to be let go. Fire that Itty Bitty Shitty Committee! That voice will try to creep back in and when it does, give it the boot and replace negative comments with positive ones.
Celebrate you. I don’t care how you do this, but you deserve to celebrate the person you are and are becoming. Get your nails done, take a walk, do a dance or whatever allows you to best recognize the gift of your life.
Share that gift. Share who you are with others. You see, the love you have for yourself can grow exponentially when you decide to share love with others. Help someone each week by giving a compliment, volunteering, opening a door or sending a letter. Have giving back be part of giving to yourself. When you do, you might even surprise yourself as to how lovable you actually are.
No more leaving loving yourself up to chance, ok? Don’t waste anymore time on wondering if today is the day you will love yourself. Choose that for yourself and give yourself not only love, but peace and calm.
Jackie White has been writing about life and its ups and downs for many years. With a degree in Industrial Psychology and a life-long student of personal development she is intrigued by how each individual chooses to live their life. Jackie feels strongly that truly living your best life is imperative to attaining peace and fulfillment. SoulShine was borne of her desire to inspire and teach others to live their best life. This is her mission and her dream.