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It’s Hard To Be An Introvert – Tips on How To Embrace Your Quiet Self

In books I am drawn to the classics, the human plight and the journey for peace and self-acceptance. I love words and gravitate to John Steinbeck and connect somewhat with Saul Bellow’s, protagonist, Henderson, a middle-aged man trying to figure out what he wants. “I want, I want, I want,” he exclaims and sets out on a journey of discovery. I usually need a dictionary to look up all the words I haven’t ever heard before. I’m weird like that because I like not knowing a word and then knowing.

I generally don’t enjoy quick reads, romance novels or murder mysteries. My choices in books and reading materials speak to my need for quiet and solitude. None of my books can be read amidst the noise of a coffee house—I often see people reading and doing work in Starbucks and it’s unimaginable to me.

No, this isn’t a post about my reading preferences or really a recommendation about a particular book. What’s peaked my interest as of late is the attention being paid to introversion. Susan Cain’s book “Quiet”  has been featured everywhere from The New York Times to Oprah magazine. It was my son who turned me on to her fascinating book and alongside my Myers-Briggs Personality Assessment has brought me clarity and some relief. I often suspected I was an introvert hanging out in an extroverts body. Turns out I was right.

It’s incredibly difficult to live authentically as an introvert—it’s traditionally not rewarded. Lately, I’ve tried explaining when I turn down social engagements that I need a lot of quiet time. Few people know that group gatherings are dicey for me. Long days in bustling cities exhaust me. A weekend where I don’t have a day completely free ties my stomach in knots. For a while I was convinced I was lazy, anti-social or just had something terribly wrong with me.

Now that my secret is out (to me) I’m trying to be sensitively honest with others. It’s not going very well— which is a test of how people really feel about people like me. Introversion is misunderstood and somewhat offensive to a lot of people. People have turned their heads in askance, smiled albeit disapprovingly, shook their heads and tried to move on from the conversation. No matter who I share my true nature with, or how hard I try to describe how my systems go into over-drive very quickly and then my gut is just a blender full of stress chemicals.  Most people don’t get it.

So, in an effort to help fellow introverts here are some of my tips:

    • *Continuously remind yourself that you aren’t lazy OR crazy
    • *Nurture your need for quiet
    • *Make an effort to get out and be social but be selective
    • *Do what you love as often as you can
    • *If your need for a lot of solitude hurts someone—this isn’t someone who really wants to know you
    • *We all have to be extroverted at times and it’s a positive thing to stretch those social skills
    • *Set a time limit on social engagements that are challenging and leave ample time afterwards for recovery time
    • *Don’t apologize for being yourself

 

Most of all, love all your sweet, quiet introverted qualities. Introverts do just fine in the world and get quite a bit done thinking, creating and being incredibly strong and savvy leaders.

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Why Create A Vision?

Just the other day I was sitting with a fellow therapist who wanted me to explain in detail what I do. My colleague is no stranger to my bursts of enthusiasm and thoroughly admires my passion for change and reinvention. But he wanted a more in depth understanding of how the visual rendering of ideas and passions can help a person change in a way that’s different from just talking about it.

I showed him a picture of my dream art studio in the form of a vision board. Rather than just keep this dream in my mind I explained, my vision board helped me form ideas into a real, concrete space. At this very moment my new space is being painted. And while my new space isn’t going to look exactly like my visionboard, it helped me zero in on quite a few elements.

The visual side of me always needs a visual reference to chart my course. I don’t think I’m alone in this. Even those daily to-do lists that many of us write down are visual references. When we write “milk” or “apple” we are also seeing the thing along with the word and together they help us remember.

Let’s look at programs like PowerPoint, Keynote and even back in the day when people used Kodak slide projectors (I know I am talking about the dark ages here but some of us do remember them). Visuals help the presenter as well as the viewer. They create an opportunity to harvest and hone ideas on just about everything.

My workshops are not art classes.

They are not about making things pretty although this happens very often. Vision boards and Visual journals are a way of getting thoughts and ideas from your mind and your head onto a piece of paper. They don’t have to be neat. They don’t have to be artistic masterpieces. You grab a hold of those creative ideas that are swimming around and give them an opportunity to come up for air. You breathe new energy into something that’s been percolating for a while. You may find yourself on a completely different path. Once you let your mind wander you never know where you will end up.

Saying you need a change in work, life or a relationship is only 1/2 a step. My creative space is a case in point. It needed a major makeover but I wasn’t clear how I wanted to use the space. By sitting down and imagining the space and then finding pictures, I was able to see what appealed to me. The space evolved from there.

The first workshop in my new space will be happening in late October. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

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Nothing Prepares You For Being A Mom

After plowing through Organic Chemistry (I know this has something to do with the structure of molecules because I looked it up on Wikipedia) and the likes of other pre-med sciences, my son recently took the MCAT (Medical College Aptitude Test). I watched the clock on my iPhone the entire time he was taking the exam. I feel no shame.

At 6 a.m. I hoped he was up and eating a good breakfast. At 7 a.m. I imagined him getting into his car. I prayed that his car started and that traffic to the testing center was light. At 7:30 I knew he was at the computer (hard to believe you take one of the most important tests of your life without a number two pencil). And then I tried to channel calm straight to his exam chair in Virginia. You know, I’m a mom; I have that kind of power. At 11:30 I received the text “Annnnnd done!” I needed a nap.

Thirty applications later, he won’t know anything until the middle of 2014 what his future holds. I will try to protect him from the anxiety I sometimes feel during this, his journey to medical school. I’m a mom. I will lie awake at night, feeling a bit nauseated and in occasional possession of a large unwieldy pit in my stomach. I know this won’t ever go away—not completely. There will always be something our children want and they won’t always get it and as mothers we have to acknowledge this. We have to prepare ourselves for the moment when we know for sure that we would give up everything just to see our children’s dreams come true. But we can’t and it wouldn’t help anyway.

I have committed to being the kind of parent who tries to stay attached to my children without placing a choke collar around their necks. I cry at airports and even when they close the doors of their cars and back down the driveway. I save the wailing for when I am alone—I am clear that the tears are not always about them and that growing up is hard enough without having to carry your mother’s pain and anxiety in your pockets.

Loss begins to show itself when our children are still tiny babies. They get up on their tiny feet and walk not only towards us, but away too. Before they are a year old they are looking out and reaching for the world. Their worlds include us, but we get smaller and smaller. It is the way it is supposed to be—even to the point of being able to move continents away (as one of my children did for a year) and still know the people you love are there for you.

I have lived through my children’s ups and downs. Sometimes it’s a subtle ride, while at others I feel that I need an airsickness bag. At times their happiness and pain permeates my being to such an extent that I lose my separateness. It is so hard to distinguish our pain from theirs, because at times they are so entangled and enmeshed. Quite frankly, the hardship of comings and goings, and the weight of the anxiety that stirs up have a lot to do with our own experiences as children.

Being a parent involves lots of watching, waiting and worrying. And it doesn’t end.

I’m steadfast in my efforts not to burden them with my pain but I will probably always cry when they leave. I will feel mother-love pain when life doesn’t make their dreams come true. I will watch clocks and not sleep at night. I will remind myself to work diligently to love them but not burden them. I am teaching both my children and myself how to hold emotions gently in our hands. It is what grown-ups are supposed to do.

P.S. Frequents naps are a requirement.


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Schedule Time For Having Fun!

I believe you need a plan for everything you do—even if you end up not following it.

Plans aren’t the law but they are a place to begin. Whether it’s a business plan or a plan for putting more fun into your life—make a list, write it down, decide what you want and put it on the schedule. Most likely it won’t happen if you don’t make it happen.

Let’s use fun as an example –

First get yourself one of those old style memo pads (I know I’m dating myself here) or use one of the great Note Apps on your smart phone.

Start with what seems like fun in your life because fun is different for everyone. Make a list (try this downloadable form-it’s free!) I have a list of both what I don’t enjoy i.e. things like Theme parks, big parties, extended amounts of time in big cities, throngs of people and loud, sharp noises (honking horns and sirens are like forks on a china plate to me). On my list of likes are walks in the park with my dog, my husband or a close friend. Reading, writing (yay! It’s on my list everyday now) and painting—I’m pretty fortunate that some of my likes are also my work. But I haven’t taken a long walk in the park in ages and the same goes for my painting.When I create those lists, my likes and dislikes begin to become more concrete.

And then I can choose what’s important to write into my schedule—or not.

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What’s So Special About ME?

I’m not the first person to use the words INSPIRE, ENVISION, CHALLENGE and REINVENT and I certainly won’t be the last. These particular words have been in the dictionary since the mid 1300’s so needless to say they’ve been around.

So why do I bring this up? Recently, a woman came to see me and we began to work on a plan for her new business. Through some of our work she was able to define her niche and start putting together her ideas and goals. She was extremely excited and enthusiastic about the future— until a few days ago when she reached out for help.

“Why me?” she asked.  “What’s so special about what I have to offer that someone else couldn’t offer?” She was filled with a sudden flair up of self-doubt and was questioning her ability to start anything. This is a normal and common occurrence. What’s different I said, is YOU. No one person has all the magic, all the ideas and all the talent. Take a look around and everywhere you look there are simple, often silly ideas that have mushroomed into million dollar ideas. It’s not the idea or the product that made it so—it’s the person with the vision and the courage to take a risk that makes things happen.

I fall into the self-doubt trap everyone now and then but I try to catch myself before it takes over. I remind myself that the words Inspire, Envision, Challenge and Reinvent are very personal to me. No, I didn’t invent them but I add ME to the recipe and so they change. I inspire in my way—and so will my client who will bring her ME, her unique vision to her new venture. The rest will fall into place.

For more like this and to learn about Midlife Coaching Go To: http://womenscoachingcenter.com/coaching-focus/midlife-coaching/

Follow Me on Twitter @mreichcounselor

 

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A Cure For My Insomnia?

I have suffered with insomnia for decades. Honestly, I have tried nearly every herbal remedy—beginning with Chamomile (lame at best), Valerian which smells and tastes like manure (I held my nose and swallowed), Kava, Braca spray and numerous other herbal cocktails. There’s been Benadryl, Unisom sleep and lots of Melatonin, all to no avail. I stay open minded to almost anything anyone suggests, much like I did when my son suffered with colic (salt in his water bottle?).

I ventured into the prescription market when my muscles ached, my head pounded and perhaps not being as young as I used to be, I felt hung over after a night when I was unable to sleep at all. Insomnia was definitely more fun when I was twenty-five and raring to go. Some of the prescription medicines work, some don’t— but nothing works all the time. What I do know for sure is that I haven’t slept five hours in a row for more than thirty-five years and yes, occasionally it makes me really, really crazy.

I tried meditation and still meditate but it has no impact on how well I sleep. I exercise. I take long baths and I play soothing music. Recently in a moment of total frustration and a little desperation I consulted a sleep specialist. He was both enthusiastic and convinced he could help me get to sleep and derived a plan for me.

The Plan: I was to give up surfing on my computer at night—which was a true sacrifice and TV screens ninety minutes before my desired bedtime. I was instructed to read a book backwards (I chose The Life of Einstein) with an itty-bitty book light—OY! And for five days I listened to a custom made CD all night long (yes you heard this right). By day three of this, I began to get anxious just thinking about the bedtime ritual. It seemed that efforts to resolve my insomnia and the promise of sleep seemed to be drifting further from my reach. I began to dread the “cure” more than the insomnia.

And then it occurred to me that I had to find another way and stop fighting with my insomnia. It’s chronic and we have to live together as peacefully as we can. My biggest challenge is how to explain my condition to others who generously offer book suggestions, doctor referrals, website links and just about anything else you can imagine. No one believes it when you tell them (even doctors) that you have chronic insomnia, that it isn’t hormones or unhealthy bedtime rituals and that you can subsist on a few hours of sleep each night and a nap when you are lucky.

Of course none of this is easy, it’s not the path I would take if given the option to choose. But life is like this. We don’t always get to choose. And maybe now that I’m “gasp” middle-aged, I’m getting tired of talking about sleep and ready to get on with the rest of my life. There’s going to come a time when I will sleep quite a bit. When that time comes, I hope I’ll have a good mattress and the softest Egyptian cotton sheets. I won’t even have to iron them.

 

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Using Vision Boards to Create The Perfect Space

 

Have you ever dreamed or imagined what your “perfect” space would look like? I’m not just speaking about workspaces but spaces of creativity and tranquility. If you had a room of your own—

 

  1. What color would it be?
  2. What kind of furniture would it have in it?
  3. What kinds of things would be on the walls? Photos? Art? Shelves lined with books?
  4. Picture the windows and the light

Now start working on a vision board or use a journal and glue your pictures in. And please don’t obsess about making it look pretty. Vision boards are about exploration and insights.

For the most part no one has the luxury of creating the perfect space but visualizing what it might look like if you did is really interesting.

Take a moment to look at my Perfect Space Vision Board. The first thing you might notice is that it is very white, creamy and light. It is decidedly contemporary in feeling but accented with warm woods and a lot of natural light. Interestingly enough it is totally unlike any of the spaces I currently live and work in.

 

So, I sat with this Vision Board for the last few days so that I could absorb the now concrete image of what had been swirling about in my head. But as the days have gone by new thoughts and questions arise and I’ve written them down.

Could I really work in this space? Is it too spare and clean? Would I be so anxious about keeping it neat at the expense of my creativity? What is all the cream, white and light trying to tell me about what I’m needing?

As you can see this vision board is going to take me on another journey that is more about my internal self than the space itself.

Try it and feel free to share comments and email pictures. Have fun!

 

 

 

 

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Pick A Word and EnVision it!

ENVISION: To picture in the mind; imagine.

 

 

You have to have a vision to get anywhere. Do you have a dream job? A dream house? A passion? An art? Are you looking for your passion?

TAKE THE VISION CHALLENGE—Choose a word a day for 7 days and find a way to work it!

Pick one from this list of words or choose your own:

1. Inspire 2. Peace 3. Success 4. Color 5. Connection 6. Strength 7. Courage 8. Faith 9. Change 10. Solitude 11. Energy 12. Creative 13. Fear 14. Dance 15. Music 16. Beauty 17. Acceptance 18. Movement 19. Question 20.Heal

One Word, One Day

The word “Creative” is calling out to me today so here’s how I am going to work with it.

1. Print the word in a fun font or use magazine letters

2. Do a 2-5 minute journal entry

Formulate 3 questions that relate to the word— These are mine:

  1. 1. What is the best way for me to use my creativity right now?
  2. 2. What are my short-term goals for my creative self?
  3. 3. How will I get there?

 

List of Supplies: Glue stick, magazines, sharpie or your favorite pen in your favorite color, some type of journal. I’m using Real Simple’s Deck of cards on a ring – they are intended for recipes but I use them all the time for projects like this. You can buy them at Target or online.

 

 

 

On Monday, I will post a picture! Have fun with this.

 

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Use your Smartphone To Help You Manage Stress!

Managing stress can be as simple as installing an App on your smart phone—actually even the activity of searching for an App can lead to a reduction of stress. The reason? Refocusing your energy and your attention is the single best way to manage an acute attack of anxiety and is particularly effective in the midst of a panic attack. But you need to prepare in advance—you need to have a pre-determined set of tools.

Quick Tip: Find yourself in the middle of a panic attack? Immediately turn your attention to something else, anything else. Check out what people are wearing. Count the tiles on the floor. Find things to taste and smell. Engage your senses.

Here’s a list of iphone Apps—many of them are available on other smart phones as well. Most are free! Stress trackers are particularly good to have handy. Quantifying your stress level can send it down quickly.

Stress Management Apps

  • 1.Cleveland Clinic Stress Meditations
  • 2.Breathe2relax
  • 3.Whitenoise
  • 4.Stress Check
  • 5.At Ease
  • 6.Stress Tracker
  • 7.Stress Relief
The best way to search for these is to go into your App search and type in the word STRESS then scroll through to review the ones I have listed as well as any others that appeal to you.
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Is it Ever Ok to #tweet a Breakup?

In an effort to protect the persons involved I will henceforward call the couple Louis and Joyce. Their true names are nothing similar to this. I’ve tweaked (not tweeted) a few details for clarification purposes only.

About a week ago Louis shared that he had broken up with Joyce (his girlfriend) on Twitter. The tweet read “sad to say Joyce & I are no longer.” Perhaps Louis was feeling sad and lonely and was attempting to gather some pals around him to get through this? Uh-uh. As the facts unfolded it became apparent that Joyce had no idea Louis had broken up with her—via Twitter. Joyce was one of Louis’s loyal followers—for two years. Had Louis forgotten to “unfollow” or block Joyce? Or was this public announcement to over 800 followers, who in seconds would have the news of the unshared break-up, a pre-meditated effort to hurt and humiliate someone he once cared about in a once unheard of format? You tell me.

Joyce did not check her twitter feed until her lunch break and so did not see the tweet until after it circulated. She sat in her office dumb-founded and waited for her cell phone to ring- it wasn’t April Fools Day but bad jokes can happen anytime.

I don’t know if Louis ever called Joyce to explain but regardless of whether he did or didn’t, from the view from my chair, he’s a huge asshole and I’m being nice.

Unfortunately this isn’t the first story like this I’ve heard. I actually hear about text, voicemail and email breakups all the time—it seems no one has to speak directly to anyone anymore. And particularly rude, inept, inarticulate, uncaring or stupid, people can sext, text, rage and breakup in 140 characters or less.

So my question is— What the hell is this about? When did some people get the notion that they could beg out of a thing call dialogue, interaction, communication and a human interaction to talk out their relationship — even if that dialogue results in the ending of a relationship? What happened to a kiss and a hug to remind us what once was and may no longer be?  What about the chance for closure and understanding? Instead through facebook we can de-friend or block communication, un-follow, delete and block twitter followers, phones with visual voice mail can pre-screen and restrict callers. Break up via the Internet is both clean and dirty.

I love technology. I love email, the Internet and even facebook. Each has helped us to access information in ways that were unthinkable not so long ago. The disabled can get to the library and chat with friends. You can re-discover your best friend from the fifth grade or the girl who you bunked with in camp at 9 (I did). I love that we can converse with others who are miles away and do it all without expensive long distance charges and the hassle of transcending time zones.

I know I am still slightly behind the times but I still think the words “did you speak to him or her?” means really “speaking” to one another—like in you heard the other person’s voice. Although it’s hard to believe, email didn’t become popular until the 90’s. Facebook wasn’t born until 2005. Until then it was face-to-face, looking (at a person) and talking – but those days are seemingly over. And the quick slide down the technology abyss can have not-so-postive results. Research is already demonstrating that the lack of human connection and interaction on a regular basis is leading to social awkwardness and an increase in depression. We are headed for a troublesome future.

How many of us buy a wedding, birthday, and baby gifts on the internet? And marry? Yes, you can even get married on-line (I’m not sure it’s legit but I imagine it will be at some time)? I’m wondering if you ever get to meet the person, meet up at the alter, or you just skip the whole interpersonal thing altogether? Internet romances flourish; emotional affairs abound but what of touch, eye contact and body language? How often and how ripe are these new communication tools for miscommunications and unimaginable wounding? How often are relationships left with a bunch of emailed and texted words—just words and lines of text devoid of love and understanding? Did you know there are a multitude of  break-up Apps that simplify the process even further?

Can you have understanding and closure without the touch of a hand, the look in the eye, the grazing of a cheek and the experience of truly being in the same place at the same time? I don’t think so. Sadly, I’ve been de-friended. I have even de-friended. Although I reached out repeatedly for an opportunity to speak and share, a really close relationship ended with a lot of words ( a text – not mine) that looked more like my grocery list than an exchange between two people who once cared about each other — a lot.  I have to imagine that this is the best some people can do but it’s a cop out, it lacks courage and compassion. Breaking up is hard to do but doing it in 4G, Twitter, Facebook or text is just really lame and in the case of Louis and Joyce-reprehensible.

 

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