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Finding Light in Dark Times

Well, it has been a minute, hasn't it? (Nice to see you all again!) Before I get into why there was such a delay on this issue, I want to first thank each and every one of you. I am excited to report that I have over 1000 subscribers to this newsletter! Welcome friends!

Life is a funny thing, ain't it? Right when I got myself situated with this newsletter, life kinda kicked me in the face. Relate? Of course you do. At some point we have all had the experience of things just not working out. So today's topic is on exactly that:

What to do when you are faced with unexpected struggles?

If you follow me on social media, you may know that my dog, Doozer (lovingly pictured above) was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Doozer is hands down my best friend and my soul mate, so you can imagine the devastation and heartbreak at this news. To be honest, for a bit, I was quite the hot mess. I am happy to report that as I write this today,

I am doing much better. So, as both a person who has experienced struggles, and as a Licensed Therapist, I want to share some tools on how to manage hard times:

1) Know that all feelings move. Buddhists call it the Rule of Impermanence- the concept that all things will eventually change. Heartbreak eventually heals. Grief becomes acceptance. Problems get solved. Emotions ebb and flow. Where we were once sad, we find happiness. If we accept that no feeling will last forever, riding the wave of uncomfortable feelings and experiences becomes more manageable.

2) Manage expectations. When we are facing hardships, we may not have the resources to accomplish what we otherwise would. For me, I had to cancel major travel plans, client sessions, and important meetings. I had to abandon this newsletter. Give yourself permission to reduce workload, say no, rest and lower expectations.

3) Find your Locus of Control: I’m going to admit something to you: I like control. I strongly believe anyone who has experienced anxiety likes control too. While much of life lies beyond the scope of our control (or "locus"), we are never without any control. If nothing else, we are always in control of how to respond to an event. A mantra you might be familiar with always seems to help me:

Give me the strength to change the things I can, accept the things I can’t, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I can't control that Doozer's body developed a tumor. But I can control getting him care. I read scientific journals, researched holistic remedies, started making homemade food, found him an oncologist and he has already finished radiation and started chemo.

I can also control how I relate to this news. I can choose whether I empower myself to find strength or be immobilized by pain. (I choose strength.)

(4) Focus on the present: There is famous Brene Brown quote "You can't dress rehearse tragedy". The day Doozer crosses the rainbow bridge will be devastating for me. But that day isn't today. I can focus my attention on him, here, right now, and make sure he has extra belly rubs, treats and walks. (Truth be told: he's getting kinda sick of me.) Focus on what is in front of you rather than worry about what has not happened yet.

(5) Stay Mindful: Mindfulness does not mean being happy all of the time. It means being in touch with feelings without judgement. It means both Dooz and I are going to be up against really good days and painfully awful ones. It means making space for both the kind of days that involve basking in the sunlight in the park, enjoying each other's company, and the days that will be spent primarily ugly crying.

(6) Find Support: Lastly, when was feeling lost in scientific journals and information overload, a friend sent me a hopeful Instagram page of a dog who beat cancer four times. Just knowing I wasn’t alone suddenly shifted how I was relating to this entire event.

Finding community, sharing stories, holding each other up, normalizing feelings goes an incredibly long way in giving heavy times levity.

(And... on that note, if you are looking for community, I hope you find a slice of it here.)

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