Monthly Archives: June 2015

Are you tired of hearing your inner critic yet?

I don’t know about you, but my inner critic – that voice in my head that scolds and chastises me – has standards higher than I can meet. Those standards were out of reach long before I got sick. So you’d think he’d be kind enough to lower the standards when my ability to meet them got significantly reduced. Seems reasonable, doesn’t it?

And remember this voice gains power when we're tired...
And remember this voice gains power when we’re tired…

But reason is not one of the critic’s values. Well it is, but it’s version of reason is wholly unreasonable. In fact, you might call it perfectionistic reason. It thinks it’s the keeper of the truth. But it ain’t!

So why do we have this inner voice? One explanation (from Hal and Sidra Stone) is that it comes online in our psyche to protect us from outer That’s right: it was born to protect you! (it’s okay if you have to think on that one for a bit. I know I had to). What that means (to me) is that when mine starts yakking, there must be some part of myself feeling vulnerable – some part of me that already knows I’ve fallen short of my standards in some way.

If that’s so, then the last thing needed is to be scolded or shamed. What the vulnerable part of yourself needs most is compassion and understanding – from YOU – exactly what you want from others, yes?

If your critic makes more appearances now that you’re enmeshed with your ongoing health issues, this is an opportunity to practice protecting your vulnerable (or depleted, or tired, or pained, or whatever) self in a new and different way. With kindness. With empathy. With love? With understanding…

Practice giving yourself (and your critic) a break. Now practice again. When my critic forgets about my limitations, I remind him gently that I’m doing my best at any given moment, and that’s enough.   ~Z

Are you “needy” if you need help?

It’s not up to you to decide if you’re “needy” in someone else’s eyes. They get to make the judgment whether you like it or not.

The truth is though, you probably will thrive and progress more if you ask for help. Regularly. The paradox is that asking for help reveals some vulnerability. That might feel like weakness. But it’s a potential source of power and strength depending on how you ask.

People like to help more than the like feeling coerced into a rescue…
People like to help more than the like feeling coerced into a rescue…

If you ask from a place of being a victim – from a “poor poor me – if it wasn’t for this stupid illness” place, then you’re probably going to get the “needy” reputation.

If you ask from the powerful perspective of utilizing resources so you can keep creating your life and your future that honors your highest values, it’s a different thing. First, people can feel (more) free to say “no” cleanly and directly, because you’re not attached to them saying “yes”. Second, you’re more likely to keep getting help in the long run from people not feeling put off or manipulated.

So consider asking for help more than you do now. Try it with a smile instead of a pout. Ask with the confidence that you’re respecting yourself by asking.  Be prepared for any outcome before asking, and your relationships will thank you.      ~Z

Is the obstacle the goal or just an obstacle?

“That which hinders your task, is your task”   Sanford Meisner

I refer to this quote regularly as a sort of personal mantra for living with what is rather than what “should” be. When it comes to being continually ill or somehow physically or mentally compromised, there can be great value in dealing with the reality of one’s health rather than trying to look around it or to push past it.

That’s because illness usually messes up what we might call our lifestyle. All the little things that happen in a day or week or month –no longer happen in the way they used to. Maybe just a little different or on some days, or maybe a lot different everyday. Either way, our “old normal” is gone…

One step at a time. Stopping is risky...
One step at a time. Stopping is risky…

By accepting the illness, it’s symptoms, the treatments, our reactions to the it all etc., we become empowered to reset our goals and start making progress towards them.

There can come a time when you’re so focused on the “obstacle” of your illness that the goal is lost. I wonder if it’s about believing? I wonder if when that happens, do you believe more in the obstacle than the goal?

So if you’ve hit a lull, take time to notice the strength of your belief (or faith) in your future and your level of belief in yourself to prevail over the “obstacles” of illness. Reflect on whether your illness has come to occupy the majority your thoughts and beliefs. What are the stories you’re telling yourself?

So don’t let either foot sink too far into the mud of belief – by believing only in the reality of the illness but not the goal. Or by believing only in your goals but denying your new limitations. Stand on one foot too long and you’ll likely lose a boot anyway…;-)

Your beliefs dictate your reality – and more importantly, your response to it. Take some responsibility for them. Maybe, just maybe you’ll even find a dry patch now and again…     ~Z



How do you “treat” yourself? Part II

I realized that the title question of these last 2 entries is a bit of a set up kind of question. I know it’s part of the culture to say “I’m going to treat myself”. And of course it’s okay to allow (and forgive yourself for) the occasional slip-ups in our disciplines and routines of self-care.

The deeper question methinks, is really about honoring our “self”. How do you honor yourself? Asking myself that question is like ringing a bell that just keeps ringing and ringing. Partly because there are two questions here. What is “self” and what is “honoring”?

Who am I really, and what matters most?
Who am I really, and what matters most?

What is my “self”? The answer that works for me is my whole self: mind, body and spirit. Underneath that answer is another question of values though – what are the most important things that nourish and support YOUR mind, my body, your spirit? And that doesn’t even address the possibilities of looking at our “self” in the various roles in our life: partner, parent, sibling, employee, colleague, boss… or artist, gardener, traveler, cook etc. Or your purpose…

So the real work is knowing what matters to your “self” – what you care about most about your life. Or rather, the degree to which you assign value and meaning to the many things that make up (or could make up) your life.

But I bet that even without doing your brainstorm lists or filling up your journals or spreadsheets, your gut knows when your choices are honoring your ideal self versus dishonoring.

That’s the real art isn’t it? Listening to that small voice within that knows the truth?

And then honoring yourself by being as respectful to YOU as you’d like the rest of the world to be. And that may or may not look like doing less. Or “treating” yourself… :-0       ~Z

How do you “treat” yourself? Part I

Even before you got sick, you likely were engaged in the push-pull of choices about self-care or self nurturing. Food is the easiest example: Is eating that bowl of ice cream being “kind” to myself or harmful?

Obviously there’s no absolute answer to those kinds of questions. But one way to look at such choices is simply from the perspective of the impacts or consequences of them – both short and long-term.

Just like dominoes, once choice leads to another...
Just like dominoes, once choice leads to another…

So skipping my morning workout (on a whim) probably will feel nice because it’s easier than pushing myself for an hour. But I’ll also experience some guilt. My trust and self-confidence will take a small hit too. Which can chip away at my mood. Which can affect other important choices for the rest of the day. While there’s no real long-term impact of skipping one workout, there could be if I do it regularly (i.e. less energy, less self-confidence, more fatigue, weight gain etc.).

So this little “treat” to myself is only a treat to the part of myself that doesn’t have my long-term best interests at heart. You might say I’m “treating” a younger or less mature part of myself. A part that wants to be babied and nurtured – and frankly that doesn’t want to have to be responsible for myself because it’s a lot of fricking work!

I’m certainly not saying it’s “wrong” or “bad” to indulge that part of ourselves. I’m suggesting that we not pretend it’s “good” for us. I suggest that you tell yourself the truth about what part of you is getting the “treat”. And then do it with confidence.

THAT reduces the collateral mental and emotional damage. THAT is about being human AND accountable to yourself. ~Z

Part II

How do you recover?

In the world of athletics and building strength, it is simply understood that recovery is critical to performance. Push hard and then recover smart – in order to keep performing at a high level.

While you may not be trying to “push hard”. But for most of us, it takes more effort to do less than what we did before getting ill. We “perform” if you will, in order to live our lives purposefully.Therefore we need to recover. It’s like gravity… it’s the law!

What was once a luxury may now be a necessity!
What was once a luxury may now be a necessity!

So how do YOU recover? What helps you recover? How often to you intentionally do something to recover or rejuvenate yourself? Do you have a range of things that you do from small to large? Are there certain things that help you recover sometimes, but not other times?

I know for example, that when I’m starting to feel mentally cloudy and fatigued,  20 – 30 minutes with my feet up can re-energize me. Closing my eyes for 30 seconds during a demanding activity can help me refresh. Sleeping at least 8 hours a day is a must!

Playing music sometimes helps me snap out of the doldrums of fatigue, and other times it’s just the wrong mental activity at the wrong time – and I can’t tell in advance… yet anyway.

Listening to the right music, certain smells or sounds – can also be a way of “resetting” myself energetically or emotionally – to ramp myself up or to stop a bad emotional anxiety or shame spiral.

Daydreaming, singing, gardening, walking, reading, cooking, sewing, massages… What works for you now? Try something new!

Are you possibly hurting yourself more by denying the fundamental need to recover?    ~Z

Do you say YES when you mean NO?

yes NO maybeWhether implicitly or explicitly, people in our lives are often asking us for something. Then, following some internal social protocol (that perhaps we’ve come to believe is a rule), we respond “appropriately”. Maybe your version of appropriate is not to offend the other person, or keep them happy, or to make them like you. One habitual way we do that (in the short term at least) is by saying “yes” when we mean “no”. Too often, none of those justifications of appropriateness serve your best interests. Either you’ve committed to something you know you’re not likely to do (and damaged trust in the relationship), or you’ve committed to something that is NOT consistent with your priorities and values in your current reality.

For those of us learning to live with a chronic illness or disability, saying “yes” when meaning “no” is likely a “before we got sick” habit we can no longer afford. But now, we just don’t have as much headroom for casually doing “extra” things.

So when you say “yes” and mean “no”, are you saving face at the expense of something you KNOW is important? Like your wellbeing, or your higher priorities of recovering and prevailing over your new limitations? Like reinventing a new normal with hope and faith for your new future?

I’ve let a lot of people down by saying “yes” when I meant “no” or “maybe”. I’ve made myself sick countless times by doing something that I knew was not in my best interests but pretending like the side-effects weren’t going to get me “this time”. When you do that, that is YOU getting in your own way.

Try this: Say YES ONLY when you mean yes, NO when you mean no and MAYBE when you mean maybe. It’s a practice. And it will get easier. And you’ll thank yourself for it…     ~Z

Goals suck! Or do they?

Who wants to set new goals when you’re feeling like crap? Or when you never know when you’re going to have another spell of feeling poorly?

Who wants to try to set realistic goals when you don’t have a good idea of what your capacity is going to be on any given day?


Except here’s the deal: If you don’t create new goals, you create a vacuum. Vacuums get filled with something, but the chances of it magically overflowing with the things that matter to you, or bring you wellness or peace of mind… Well you know the saying about snowballs and chances…

What gets attracted when you're indecisive?
What gets attracted when you’re indecisive?

That seemingly cautious void of goal-less-ness will more likely attract doubts, fears, helplessness and ultimately confusion and being stuck – maybe even despair and depression.

Not setting goals is waiting. Waiting is the same as doing nothing. Doing nothing is the same as being a victim and giving up your power to live. If you’re going to prevail over this illness thing, that’s not gonna work!

So if you’ve got no goals, your old goals have been commandeered by illness, or it’s just time for an update, set a new goal for yourself right now. Start simple and easy. Set a small goal for today.

The author of Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results speaks of making goals “stupid simple”. Like doing 1 pushup or 1 minute of housecleaning. Lots of little goals can add up to bigger goals – about living in alignment with YOUR most important things.

Goals can help you accept your life as it is, versus how you wish it were. Goals will help remove illness from its’ dictator role.

Start so small you can’t fail… ~Z