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  • Remembering How to Fight and Win

    I was struck by the speech Queen Elizabeth made a few days ago to her country about this time we are living through: The COVID-19 war.

    She said, “I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge…and those who come after us will say that the Britons of this generation were as strong as any. That the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humored resolve and of fellow-feeling still characterize this country.”

    Toward the end of her speech she spoke about the world coming together and doing what can be done to defeat this common enemy, knowing that we succeeded in accomplishing this because we all joined in a global effort.

    She also said, ““We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return…We will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.”

    You can access the video of her full speech and a New York Times article by clicking here.

    Much has been said in our country about bravery, about fear, about people moving past fear to do their jobs. Our heroic hospital and healthcare workers showing us what a sense of duty to something greater than ourselves actually means today.

    Stoicism and solidarity.

    Unless or until we are in the thick of it, solidarity can seem quite quiet and even private. It is only when people are clapping or cheering for the helpers at a certain time every day that it becomes a shared experience of hope.

    This is important because while news reports give us important information, headlines also trigger anxiety and it helps to remember you are not standing alone: neighbor in support of neighbor, family member in support of family member, communities in support of businesses and businesses in support of community.

    Right now, we are in fact, finding togetherness even when alone.

    I love the Queen’s speech because it recalled an earlier time when people were expected to use their self-discipline to reach a collective goal or to overcome a hardship. Back then we recognized the importance of our interdependence. Our survival depended on it.

    My mother-in-law was a Londoner who came of age during WWII. There was no ego in doing what had to be done but there was pride in the doing.

    She, as did many people of her generation, found herself in the thick of the unspeakable. Doing what she could to assist or survive.

    For them, it was bombs or persecution. The enemy was quite loud and visible. For us, it is more silent and at times illusive, but we do know what it is.

    We need to be sure that we use our wits, think of each other as well as ourselves, find the light at the end of the tunnel and, like the people of an earlier generation, never give up hope.

    In short, we must build the muscles we need to thrive in an ever-changing world. This means not becoming our own enemy. Not submitting to apocalyptic thinking.

    It is we who will decide what our world will look like going forward. It is we who will decide what kind of family, community, country we want to participate in.

    While for a time we will be physically alone, we have the ability like never before to maintain connection and to make these decisions together.

    It’s not that these ideas or ideals related to our collective power are new. But what is being highlighted now is that we must use those muscles–our collective strength–wholeheartedly and differently.

    It can be as simple as having a good attitude rather than one of complaint. Taking our fears and turning them into courage to face another minute, hour, day, in uncertain and, at times, life threatening circumstances.

    Now is the time to draw on the strength that has always been there, ready and waiting to be called into action.

    Our creativity–our ability to think outside the box–will keep us focused on doing the best we can to make sure our businesses, jobs and relationships thrive. And choosing heart-opening ways to solve differences will help us succeed.

    It will all make us more productive and stronger when this crisis is over.

    We are seeing now that we have a readiness to do things differently and the capacity required for creating new solutions. There is always an answer when we believe in ourselves and in our collaborators.

    In fact, belief in self and in our family members, friends, fellow workers and communities has always been the exact ingredients needed for accomplishing our most treasured dreams.

    The Queen was correct: this virus and the weaknesses it has created or exposed, such as leadership, the economy, the environment and more, will be fixed globally. But only if we understand the lesson we’re being presented with; only if we come to truly understand and embrace working together.

    This was only the fifth time in her 68-year reign that the Queen addressed her nation other than at Christmas. She reminded us that we are made of stronger stuff.

    Let’s take heed. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and we can get to it–but only together.


    Source and to purchase:  Coronavirus Collective: Messages of Love, Light and Hope
    by Jeffrey Holst, JIllian Sidoti, et al. | May 2, 2020

    Please check out the other authors and topics on Amazon.

    100% of the proceeds will be donated to a selection of charitable organizations that together are helping to feed the hungry, provide fresh water to the impoverished, protect the innocent from the devastating effects of human trafficking, and spread their message of hope and light to the world.

    Braver Than I Knew

    “I am one.” “I am one!” I am one with the wind!” My heart shouted. Suddenly a hand on my elbow. 

    “I have a gun,” he said in a low tone. “Keep walking.”

    I was headed home from an after-school program and feeling so alive. It was 6:30 pm. November. I was 12. 

    I was in a good, well lit, neighborhood near Central Park. 

    I calculated: just one avenue to cross and three-fourths of a block and I’ll be at my building. In my head: A gun, a gun, a gun, okay keep walking. I can pull away at the right moment.

    It didn’t work. We passed a doorman and I mouthed the word, “Help!” 

     “Have a good time kids,” was all he said.

    I was shocked. That doorman saw me playing outside just the other day. Was he out of his mind? I was 12 and looked it; the gunman looked about 17.

    We crossed the street. The Central Park side of 5th Ave. I told him how ugly I was, how my father was a cop, how my parents would come looking for me. It was clear he didn’t want money. I had just learned what rape was that year when my cousin and I had snuck away from a family gathering to read True Confessions magazines.

    Sometimes even terrifying information comes at exactly the right time. I knew that if we walked into the park entrance I was done for. I had to find a way to talk him out of whatever he wanted.

    It was kind of like being in a car wreck. Everything slows down but moves super-fast at the same time. I kept talking to him about how he could do better than me, that I had a friend who would really like him, that I had my period, that my parents would find me in a matter of minutes.

    Steps away from the park entrance he inexplicably turned us around. We began walking back to the crosswalk near my building. It had begun to rain. He pushed me up against a car. Whoever invented dresses that zipped up the front unfortunately never thought of this situation. He began to feel around. I had long before left my body. I was totally in my head. How do I escape?

    Then he kissed me on the lips, and I came back to myself and screamed. 

    “I have a knife,” he said. 

    And then I knew he had nothing, and I knew I would get away. I must have kept screaming because he zipped my dress up all the way to my throat and ran like crazy. Suddenly I noticed that I was still holding my schoolbooks in one hand.

    Someone had been sitting in a car nearby the whole time. When he saw the guy run, he got out of his car and asked if he could help saying, “Get in.” 

    ARE YOU CRAZY?!?, I thought and took off across the street almost getting hit by a bunch of cars. I got home and called my parents who were at their Tuesday night get-together with friends and said, “I really think you should come home.” Well that sounded ridiculous until I said, “I wasn’t raped but…”

    So, I was brave. I didn’t crumble. I got away by using my wits and finally my screaming voice. What if I had screamed at the beginning? I never thought about those “what ifs” until I started writing this. It doesn’t matter. I managed to escape.

    The terror that continued within me was relentless for quite a long time. More powerful in some ways than the moments I spent trying to get away. I refused to go anywhere on my own for a year. Eventually, I found a different kind of bravery: Taking baby steps.

    Each time I did something on my own was a test. Would I be safe in the world?

    When people are afraid it really helps to look at actual facts. Not what we think could happen, but what did. Then slowly take one step at a time toward health. It also helps to talk. 

    At the time though counseling was taboo and my parents, as well-educated and loving as they were, didn’t understand how counseling would help in this situation. No one talked about this kind of thing back then.

    Most importantly, know you have inner strength. That even in the aftermath of the most traumatic experiences, you have strength you don’t even know you have. 

    Anxiety Hacks During COVID-19

    Anxiety Hacks

    Anxiety Hacks During COVID-19

    Change can be overwhelming enough. Throw in a virus that has an unusually high potential for creating disaster and anxiety shoots through the roof.

    During a time like this routine is comforting. It helps navigate the unexpected.

    And, of course, all we have right now is the unexpected; our routines have gone by the wayside.

    Sadly, no coffee at your favorite coffee shop, no leaving home in the morning to go to work or school, no carpooling or collegial chats with co-workers, no listening to that book on Audible™ during your morning commute.

    So, in order to protect ourselves and others, we must change everything.

    Even though our routines are being thrown off, systems are being recreated, the world is simultaneously on stand-by and everything is moving forward at a fast clip.

    There are worries about health and supplies, as well as confusion thanks to unclear messages about what to do and what not to do. How sequestered does one really need to be to get that “curve” down? Will other people listen and follow instructions?

    Fortunately, the antidote to worry is taking action.

    Why? Because doing something positive and focused helps us stay in the present moment.

    The question is:

    What can we do in the present moment to keep us feeling productive and positive?

    Take a deep breath. When our regular routine has flown the coop, it’s time to create a new one that fits life as it is today.

    First, take a minute. Yes! Pull out that mindfulness video and follow along. Don’t have one? You can click here to get a free guided meditation from me, or use an app like Calm or Headspace.

    Second, remaining in place– whether alone or with co-workers, friends or family – can feel restrictive. Don’t forget the importance of connecting with others via the guidelines required or requested by your local jurisdiction.

    In the old days, before the internet, phone calls had to suffice for staying connected when not in the same physical space. But today we don’t have to feel so isolated. Facetime and other on-line chats let us actually see the other person. YAY!

    Third, make sure to get some quiet time too! Sometimes we have the best ideas when we are resting or daydreaming.

    Here are a few more tips I’ve been sharing with my clients:

    #1 Organizing your day is a great way to feel calmer. If you are working at home, set your hours. Remember routine is stabilizing.

    #2 If work feels like it has doubled because it’s being done differently, recognize that although there may be additional work, the stress of revamping the system may also be creating fatigue. Take a breath, take a rest, be kind to yourself and remember that you know what you’re doing.

    #3 If you have school-age children at home with you, plan activities that you can do together as a family. Here’s a helpful blog a colleague has written that shares great tips for children and families.

    #4 Feeling overwhelmed? Take a walk in the fresh air. Sing, paint, cook, de-clutter. These are all life-enhancing ways to refocus attention.

    #5 Find the silver lining.
    Where are there new opportunities for your family or your work?
    What’s your vision for your community and how we all can support each other during this uncertain time? Someone on my neighborhood list serve needed milk because the shelves were bare at her grocery store and someone else provided another source within minutes. Awesome!

    #6 Overwhelm or fear can cause stress and at times sharp tongues. Family members and friends are feeling it too. A “we are in this together” attitude goes a long way toward decreasing feelings of overwhelm, fear and stress. EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique is an interesting and effective tool that uses tapping on meridian points to help those who use it de-stress. Here’s a link to a good website if you’d like to try it.

    #7 Remember to focus on what you know, not what you are afraid of. Often, that will help you focus on a problem you can solve, and maybe even see the bright side. If you know shelves in the grocery store are bare by 4pm, worrying that there won’t be food to buy won’t help, but going to the store at 8am just might.

    #8 College-age folks or High Schoolers at home? It’s sometimes hard to imagine that COVID-19 is actually more serious than the flu. Enlist them in helping make sure older people in the community are safe from exposure by limiting their own gatherings. Here’s a great interactive map that shows how people going out and about has spread the virus in other countries.

    Remember, this too shall pass. We will be stronger for it, more connected and grateful for our thoughtful community. A shout out to the businesses that are being mindful and supporting us and their employees during this time.

    Be well and stay in touch,

    Liz

     


    Join me on my Facebook page!

    I’ll be conducting regular Facebook Live sessions to provide you support, tips and hacks to mitigate your well-being during this time.

    A Different Take on Conflict for the New Decade

    Liz Lerner works with couples to help them build strong relationshipsIt’s 2020 – the beginning of a new decade. But it’s clearly not the end of all the conflict we’ve seen over the past few years. Turn on the local or global news and you’ll see it everywhere. In fact, our environment is so politically charged right now that people are taking sides, sometimes at the expense of their relationships.

    The good news? There’s never been a better time to work on reducing conflict with those around us. Especially those we love.

    World events aside, we all experience interpersonal interactions that cause stress, whether they occur at home or work, or are related to concerns about our children, aging parents, our own health or just about anything else. Life is full of situations that can lead to stressful conversations.

    When things get heated conversations go awry because of the way we express ourselves. We become flooded with emotion and our frontal lobe (our thinking brain) goes offline. We start talking straight from our limbic system and amygdala (where our survival instincts come from). So, instead of remaining calm and having a productive conversation, we fight.

    I know. Even though I’m a clinician and coach, I’ve been in situations where I’ve acted more from emotion than thought. My experience of being a caregiver for my very independent parents and going through a divorce helped me hone everything I teach and test it on myself. The benefit: being in potentially high-conflict, high stress-situations and remain in control over my words and actions. What a life saver that was for my family, because when one person makes a change, it effects the whole and everyone benefits. We all want to find a way to have less conflict and experience connection rather than suffering.

    If you’d like to reduce conflict and stress in your relationships, start with these three tips:

    #1: When you’re upset, write down your thoughts and feelings. This practice uncovers the real issue (which is often not what we think it is) and will help you figure out what you really want. Stick to writing about the present issue because dredging up the past will only make the current situation seem bigger than it is.

    #2: When you’re ready to begin the conversation, use “I” rather than “you” statements (e.g. “I feel X when Y happens.”). This avoids conflict from the start by ensuring the other person doesn’t feel blamed – and the calm that results allows both parties to feel heard.

    #3: Listen actively by repeating back what the other person has said. This not only helps you be certain you’ve heard correctly, but also shows the other person they’ve been understood. Active listening also slows down the conversation enough to prevent knee-jerk reactions.

    Practice these three tips alone and you’ll be well on your way to a different, more productive approach to conflict in the new decade.

    Create Aliveness in the Holiday Season

    The most transformative moments in our lives are those moments when all of a sudden something important is illuminated.

    When we have those big Aha’s!

    The trigger could be a simple or profound insight, or a life changing event – like a birth or a death, a marriage or a divorce – or the trigger could even be an experience like the one we might have standing on top of a mountain for the first time.

    What we are feeling is ALIVENESS!

    And it is in these trigger moments, good or bad, that we actually are the most alive. We feel a certain type of energy in the air. We feel the skin on our body and the beating of our heart. We feel totally connected.  We are present in the moment. It’s electric – it’s what some call a peak experience. Because in those moments and during those life events we know we are really HERE! It’s visceral!

    And that’s just it, we feel these peak experiences so intensely because, during them, we are smack dab in the middle of the power of life.

    What’s happening the rest of the time?

    We’re still alive, of course, doing our thing, going through the motions, perhaps even fairly consciously.

    But what if every moment in our lives or at least lots more of them felt just as electric as a peak experience? What if we were fully tuned in far more of the time? What if we could have that heightened “electricity-in-the-air experience” all the time?

    I remember when my son was born. We were given a book titled “On the Day You Were Born”. It showed every aspect of nature, on our own planet earth, and our own planet in motion with everything else –  the entire universe. And all of it was welcoming our baby into life … into the world, into the motion of everything … into the flow.

    It was such an exciting feeling to see these connections so clearly in that pivotal moment.  We are all part of the flow. We ARE the flow.

    Everything is connected, and everyone affects all things at all times.

    Those momentous peak experiences simply remind us of this fact. But in reality, we are always in the flow. And even more, we are directing it all the time.

    We just don’t know it or notice it.

    But here’s the thing:

    We DO have the ability to be present to that connection daily. And WOW! What an opportunity that is.

    To wake up, grab our life force and really show up in our lives. No matter what we are doing. To take off the filters that cloud our connection and, with the intention of being fully present, step into the aliveness of the moment.

    And intention is all it takes to begin to learn how to feel that aliveness every day and to learn how to keep that feeling going.

    Here are some simple ways to practice …

    Right now, as you’re listening to me, notice if your brain has taken you to the next item on your to-do list, taken you away from being where you actually are in this very moment. Are you here? Or are you thinking about what’s next? Or what happened earlier today?

    In order to be present in this moment, I’d like you to do a quick experiment. First, find your feet. And put all of your attention/concentration in your feet. Feel them. I’m doing it too. Second, Feel your feet connected to the floor or ground. And now BREATHE … breathe all the way into your feet … and, as you do, feel your breath move through the rest of your body.

    Perfect! Thank you for doing that with me. You are now in your body. And once you are in your body you are on the road to being present.

    The more you breathe into your feet and feel that you are actually connected to the earth, the more the rest of your body will start to show up too. Because what you are doing is taking your energy and attention out of your head and bringing it home into your physicality – into your physical being … into the present moment. And it only takes a minute.

    Once we are in our bodies we can really see where we are. Our focus is fully on what is around us, our vision is zeroed in on the now.

    Our culture makes multi-tasking seem attractive, but when we are doing one thing and thinking about another, or doing multiple things at once, it’s pretty hard to breathe and be in your body … and, therefore, it’s difficult to truly feel alive or to simply enjoy the present experience of being fully engaged in a task.

    To build on the exercise we just did and help you become even more present, walk around the room you are in or, if you are outside, even better.

    First connect to your feet, take a breath and walk slowly forward. As you do, feel your footsteps … the bottoms of your feet connecting to and releasing their connection with the floor or earth. Then, as you walk, begin to name aloud or silently to yourself every object or being you see, taking each in fully.

    Really notice what is around, you …

    The lamp with the burlap shade, the wooden table, the striped cat, the woman with the red coat, the mirror with the gilded frame, the crazy patterned pillow, the tree fallen in the path.

    With every object or being you name as you walk, you will become more and more present to the moment, more and more grounded … feeling more and more alive.

    For those of you who feel anxious from time to time – this exercise alone is a great anxiety reducer. Again, just a few minutes spent doing this exercise will make a world of difference.

    We’ve all heard the phrase, “stop and smell the roses.” And most of us take that saying as a caution to slow down, to take the time to enjoy life, to stop doing too much. It might be just the ticket.

    It’s good advice at times… and it may sound a lot like what I’m talking about – but it’s not.

    And perhaps it’s not the most helpful advice for today’s fast-paced world or in times of real stress.

    We need to realize that at whatever speed we’re moving, no matter what is happening – good or bad – and regardless of how much we have on our plates, we can and need to be fully present and we want to feel fully alive.

    Aliveness has nothing to do with stopping. It has nothing to do with how much we have going on. If we stop to smell the roses, we might not actually be smelling them if we’re thinking about what we have to do next.

    And in fact, sometimes the most alive we feel is when we’re moving at lightning speed …

    As long as we stay in the present.

    So, don’t stop and smell roses … instead learn how to get into the present regardless of how fast you’re moving or what is happening (and yes you may need to slow down to do that at first), but after you practice and learn it …

    Move fast, move slow, do a lot, do a little, take breaks, get back to it … and through it all … BE PRESENT … LIVE YOUR WHOLE LIFE IN THAT ZONE – fully connected, fully in the flow, fully alive.