The future used to terrify me

There has been an overarching theme weaving through my life lately. Either myself or someone close to me has experienced (or is currently experiencing) loss. Businesses. Sports matches. Jobs. Partners. Close friends. Family members. Pets. Elections.

No matter the source or severity, the instinctual response seems to the same: grief, pain, worry. A deep, heart-wrenching ache that makes it hard to breathe and impossible to swallow. When tears and moans pour freely from the soul and the mind gets lost wondering if it will ever be okay again.

When I was young I had a paralyzing fear that something bad would happen to one of my five family members. I’d get stomach-turning nausea the instant a horrifying thought entered my mind and took the reigns. Car accident, house fire, missing person scenario…creativity was my worst enemy whenever expectation didn’t meet reality (Ie. when Mama was 5 mins late to pick me up from soccer practice).

I didn’t talk to anyone about it, instead I tried everything on my own to make it go away. I’d hide the glowing digits of the alarm clock because knowing how late it was perpetuated the anxiety and insomnia. I’d visualize every step of their journey home or try to distract myself with books. I’d pray. Nothing worked and I was beside myself at the thought of eventually raising my own children. How could I bear the daunting task of managing anxiety then, if it was this bad already?

I felt doomed to be a worrier forever.

It lasted a good decade, and took another several years before it dawned on me that I’d been living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder – undiagnosed and unmedicated. As I learned about psychological assessments among my future naturopathic colleagues, I finally “got” that not everyone was living in near constant terror like I was.

I’m telling you this because I’ve spent the 8 years since engrossed in understanding mental illness and determined to get to the root of how the mind relates to every other aspect of health, especially the physical.

It was critical that I wrap my head around solving my own issues so that I could be of use to my patients, students, friends, family members and peers who suffered as well.

Just when I thought I was getting a handle on it, my life started falling apart. A few years ago I made a string of decisions that resulted in losing close friends, quitting all my jobs, moving from Vancouver to my small hometown on the East Coast, enduring heartbreak after heartbreak and going broke. Then to cap it off, my worst fears materialized as I witnessed my beloved dog’s back legs slowly lose function until I had no choice but to regretfully say goodbye last Fall.

Despite how awful it sounds, I know I’m not the only one who has struggled with fear and loss. Like others before me, I came close to falling into the trap of attracting pity and competing for the award of “who’s life sucks the most.” Luckily, I had the wherewithal, knowledge and support to dive deep, explore the pain and determine what I could pull from these difficult times to become more aligned with myself and what I value most.

The truth is, my losses set off a cascade of transformations that have been a long time coming and I’m happy to report that I’ve arrived on the other side stronger, happier and healthier – with a newfound energy to share the lessons I’ve embodied.

Throughout this challenging process I repeatedly came across an underlying phenomenon that separates those who thrive after suffering disappointment from the ones who take years to recover (or never do). It’s called resilience and it affects all four dimensions of self – mind, body, heart & soul. It resonated so well with my being that I named my business after it.

There is promising research developing all over the world, across multiple industries which highlights the characteristics and skills needed to strengthen resilience – individually and globally. It sounds complicated, but relative to all the garbage people lose days of their life devouring on the internet, the concepts are surprisingly simple.

To showcase these ideas, I’d like to introduce you to 3 handsome men who were major contributors to waking me up to the fact that, actually, The Obstacle Is The Way. Enter:

Jason Silva – Marie Forleo interviewed him a couple years ago…they talked about Idea Sex and I fell head over heels for his mind and charming delivery. Get lost in his Shots of Awe YouTube series and you will see what I’m talking about. Those who know me won’t be surprised that my favourite channel is the one on Sex, Love & Relationships.

jason

Dan Savage – I’m forever grateful to Dr. Marisa Marciano (also known as the Naturopathic Herbalist), my good friend and former classmate, for telling me about Dan’s podcast, The Savage Lovecast, back in naturopathic college. He’s gotten me through some life-changing break-ups and taught me a helluva lot about sex and healthy relationships.

In this photo taken on May 22, 2013, author Dan Savage is in his home in Seattle. Savage's latest book, "American Savage," was released on Tuesday, May 28. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Wim Hof – This amazing man, his compelling story and unique, empowering philosophy will make you wonder and (possibly) change your life. I’ve been recommending his simple breathing technique to almost all of my patients because it quickly demonstrates that we have more control over our mind and body than we tell ourselves.

wim

These are just a tiny sample of the communities forming to stand up for a more humane world, including a safer place for us to live amongst all the plants and animals.

Does any of this sound encouraging to you? If so, that’s intuition grabbing your attention. Now is the time to start honing your internal compass and make decisions that vibe with who you are so you can gain a new perspective on fear and loss.

Here are a few ways to do just that:

  1. Consume mindfully. Your relationship to food, nature and money is reflected in your dietary choices. By choosing to eat local, organic, sustainable, whole foods you can show yourself (and the planet) what you value and appreciate. Revisit your in/out balance: forget about calories, focus on what you eat and what goes in the trash can. Let your gut guide you and your plate become a beacon of self-love, not self-loathing. So much of what drives our cravings is rooted in feelings. Address those and eating can be fun again.
  2. Slow down so you can hear yourself think. Be who you want by listening to your thoughts and emotions. What lies are you telling yourself? Belief is a habit of thought – train your mind to focus on the positive. Take note of what you’re doing when you feel good…do more of that. Have what you want by watching your words (replace “hope” and “should” with “can” and “will”). Quit complaining! Tell the story of the way you want it to be, not the way you wish it wasn’t. You, yes even you, are worthy of everything you desire.
  3. Speaking of which, what exactly DO you want? It’s easy to let marketing gurus steal your attention and convince you that you must have whatever they’re selling. These cues distract us from our true power which comes from our passions and curiosities. By getting in tune with how we hope to feel on any given day, we take the blinders off and are able to see the grander vision of what our life purpose is. When we know this, frustrations and disappointments take a back seat, stress is released and smooth functioning returns.

Pondering the imminent loss of my most loyal companion for over a year forced me to take a long hard look at what love is all about and what the point is. I think, in the end, the last (and most important) lesson that my dog Monte taught me was that pain is a measure of how deeply you can love. When you go all in, you risk losing everything, including yourself for awhile. Amidst that vulnerability is an opportunity to be reminded of what you already know…

In trauma, we all have a choice: respond with fear, or with love; be the victim or step into your role as a hero for someone else. The future will always seem scary because life is crazy and we never know what’s around the corner. If we can summon the courage to keep our hearts open though, love will fill us back up and build unshakeable trust that we can make it through anything. Not only that, but in time, we’ll learn that it is these setbacks that create the character and resolve necessary to become stronger, healthier, happier versions of ourself.

Being a worrier for all those years played a key role in showing me what I really care about. It led to me pursuing what I can honestly say is my dream life and career. You have this power too – are you willing to do the work to unleash it? Don’t hesitate to contact me if you want support.