Link roundup: Dating survival guide

Some great resources for dating again and/or entering a new relationship (many from Baggage Reclaim, because I love it so much!):

  • “Knowing If You Feel Good in New Relationships, Part One.” This has some good places to start before you start dating. Are you over your ex? Have you established what your boundaries are? Are you secure in your authentic self and not inclined to change just to suit someone? Part Two deals with recognizing a positive (or not-so-positive) relationship.
  • “It Doesn’t Have to Be So Scary in a New Relationship.” This one hit realllly close to home. “When you’re scared in a new relationship and struggling to relax because you don’t know the middle and end of the plot, you’re wanting Mystic Meg to come along and say, “Yes it’s going to work out” or “No it’s not”, or to give you the end date so that you can privately accept failure from the outset and feel safe in knowing that your fears and the story that you tell yourself are true.” I also love the part where she points out that this is “not an audition process where this person holds the key to your happiness.

If this relationship isn’t going to work out, it’s not going to work out.

Now, it can either not work out and you spend the whole time worrying (praying for what you don’t want to happen), anticipating doom, feeling ill at ease etc, or you can step up and be present in your relationship so that whatever the outcome, you know that you were there, you gave it your all, that you enjoyed yourself, and that you didn’t spend the whole time looking over your shoulder to see if Freddy Kreuger the relationship killer was at the door.

  • Mathew Boggs has some pretty good videos on YouTube, although I’m not wild about the clickbaity titles. I do like his emphasis on confidence and mindfulness. I particularly like “Feeling Insecure?” This one particularly focuses on  not making comparisons between ourselves and others (one of my big struggles … “I’m not as thin,” “I’m not as successful,” etc.). He really encourages women to find their own uniqueness and remembering that no one else has your particular combination of traits.
  • I also really love Boggs’ “3 Ways to Feel More Confident With a Man.” In this video, he talks about going into the date with a positive mindset instead of resistance, about starting from a point of gratitude, focusing on what you can give instead of what you can get, and focusing on seeing if this man is someone who can earn a role in your life rather than someone you’re trying to get to like you.  (I actually listened to the meditation he provides in the notes before a recent date, and I felt like it really helped!).
  • “Reclaim You: 100 Tips for Dating With your Self-Esteem in Tow.” My favorite is No. 13: “There are some people who won’t live up to the hype they created on the first few dates. Don’t spend from here to eternity trying to recreate that ‘persona’ that they exhibited as some people are very good at putting on a performance at the start but quickly fade into the ‘real’ them. If what you saw has disappeared that quickly, trust me when I say it wasn’t real. People unfold.” And of course, No. 85: “It’s good to have a dating hiatus especially if you’ve found that dating is making you miserable, cynical, or yielding a familiar pattern that isn’t working for you. Taking a 3-6 month break lets you focus on you and when you come back to it, you can start afresh with renewed vigour and attitude.”
  • This blog is aimed at guys, but DoctorNerdLove has an article on “Leveling Up: Developing An Abundance Mentality.”  It defines an abundance mentality as “simply the belief that there are many, many amazing and available women out there. While a rejection or a break-up may hurt – and it certainly does – it isn’t the end of the world because there will be others out there who will also be incredible.” It also talks about how to cultivate that mindset.
  • Berkeley International is apparently some sort of matchmaking company. I do like their blog post on “Dating When You Have a Fear of Rejection,” though, especially the part about asking yourself, “What’s the positive intention behind your fear?” (I know for me, it’s to protect myself from getting hurt again by trying to
  • “People Unfold.” Another great one from Baggage Reclaim. (Seriously, can Natalie Lue just make all my life decisions for me?) In this one, Natalie writes, “If you’re feeling bruised by your expectations not being met, there’s something to be learned by slowing your roll and spending more time in the present. … You never have to experience this disappointment if you accept that you meet someone on day zero and it’s going to take some time to get to know them.”


Link roundup, 4/10/18

It’s another edition of “Stuff That I’ve Found Useful”:

  • Baggage Reclaim, one of my favorite blogs/podcasts, has a great list of “48 Ideas for Increasing Emotional Availability and Breaking Harmful Patterns.”  Some suggestions include “make people real and take them of the pedestals that you’ve put them on in your mind” (a big one for me, as I wrote about here) and “go on a social media diet.” Many of the suggestions have links to other great articles on the site.
  • If you want to learn more about mindfulness and meditation, check out the free online course at Palouse Mindfulness.
  • Coursera also just started a free course on “De-Mystifying Mindfulness.” 
  • Wondering how mindful you might be? I really enjoyed the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire, which rates you on observing, describing, acting with awareness, nonjudging of inner experience, and non-reactivity to inner experience. You can take it online here, or download the full form of the questionnaire here in PDF format. (My biggest shortcoming, which was not a huge surprise, was acting with awareness — I can be terribly distractable! Nonreactivity can also be an issue, as I sometimes get very caught up in my emotions and have trouble stepping back to observe them.)

The disease of distraction

When we stop the busyness of the mind and come back to ourselves, the enormity and rawness of our suffering can seem very intense because we are so used to ignoring it and distracting ourselves. When we feel suffering, we have the urge to run away from it and fill ourselves up with junk food, junk entertainment, anything to keep our mind off the pain that is there inside us. It doesn’t work.

— Thich Nhat Hanh, “No Mud, No Lotus”

If I have a forte, it is finding distractions. Texting, checking Facebook, playing with my 101 gadgets, listening to an audiobook as I fold laundry or a podcast as I get ready in the morning, playing a game as I watch a show …

Long story short, I have a really hard time being alone in my head. And not only is it bad for my punctuality (I can intend to check one Facebook notification and emerge like Rip Van Winkle hours later from the Internet), it’s bad for my brain. And yours.

First, it can be dangerous (like trying to send a text while driving). Second, it gives us little satisfaction from EITHER of the activities we’re trying to do simultaneously (you can’t focus your full attention and enjoy “This Is Us” if you’re also playing Bubble Witch 3 at the same time). Third, it makes us less effective at both tasks.

life-is-availableBut I get irritable and fidgety without my phone. As I said, I have a hard time being alone in my head. Without distractions, I can tend to “ruminate,” or continually replay problems in my mind. It often goes hand-in-hand with anxiety, as well as depression, addiction and eating disorders. This article by psychologist Jennifer Mulder has some excellent info about rumination as well as coping strategies.

Distraction is one of coping with ruminating, though there are healthier ways to do it than scrolling endlessly through Facebook, getting in arguments with strangers over gun-control legislation. Um, not that I would do that. Mulder suggests that distraction is better used for coping temporarily with rumination than as a regular method. (See the linked article for more tips!)

So, I’ve just traded in one unhealthy habit for another when, instead of ruminating, I turn to my phone or computer to distract myself. The ideal, of course, would be to use mindfulness to stay in the present moment and not dwell on past or future stresses. And that’s a work in progress.

I’ve noticed that the distraction -> stress -> distraction cycle generally builds on itself. The more I allow myself to focus on distractions, the more restless and stressed I get when they aren’t present, to the point where even watching a movie or TV show without my phone in my hand becomes difficult.

To that end, I’m focusing on limiting phone and browser distractions. Some tips that have been helping me:

  • Keep your phone in your purse or your pocket, or in a drawer in your desk, if you’re at work, so you aren’t constantly tempted to check it.
  • If you tend to pick up your phone first thing in the morning and stay up too late using it, charge it overnight in another room. Get an actual alarm clock instead.
  • Don’t bring your phone EVERYWHERE with you. Unless you’re a surgeon who’s on call, you can probably leave it at home while you go for a walk.
  • Use Airplane mode if you MUST have your phone with you but don’t want the distraction of notifications. I often use this while I’m meditating (since I use the Headspace app on my phone).
  • Minimize notifications on your phone or other devices. Do you really HAVE to know every time someone “likes” something you post on Facebook? One study showed that receiving a notification can be as distracting as responding to a text or phone call.
  • Remember that you don’t need to respond to every message instantly. Your friend will be fine if you take a little while to reply “LOL” to that meme.  I promise.
  • Don’t leave social media tabs open on your browser, so it’s more difficult to constantly check in. (I’ve even taken to deleting the Facebook app from my phone at night so I’m not tempted to fall down the rabbit hole; I don’t re-download it until I’m ready the next morning.)
  • Before you pick up your phone or log in to social media, ask yourself, “What am I hoping to gain from this?” Are you genuinely in need of checking a message? Or are you seeking connection? Distraction? Inspiration? Make sure you’re clear on your intentions and that they’re healthy.
  • Set goals and rewards; go 30 minutes without checking anything and then maybe give yourself 5 minutes for your effort.
  • Use blocking software or extensions if you’re really struggling; I’ve had good luck with StayFocusd for Google Chrome and Cold Turkey for Chrome and other browsers. (There’s also a mobile version, but I haven’t tried it.)
  • You knew I was going to say it … but practice mindfulness. When I am in a more peaceful place mentally, I am less likely to feel that restlessness and go searching for things to distract me.
  • Remember that what you practice grows stronger. Every time you make a decision to pick up your phone for the third time in five minutes, you’re strengthening your “distraction” muscle. Every time you decide you really don’t need to check it yet again and choose to be present instead, you’re strengthening your “focus” muscle.

‘Detach from outcome’

My sister is always suggesting I try to “detach from outcome.” I admit, I always kind of blew it off. But today, after sending her some frantic texts about a situation that has been causing me a lot of anxiety, and she offered the same advice, I decided to Google it.

I particularly liked the article titled ” ‘Let Go, or Get Dragged’: Find Your Peace by Letting Go.” It includes signs that you are holding on and getting dragged, including:

  • Constantly thinking about a person or situation.
  • Trying to control a person or situation and create the outcome you want.
  • Engaging in rigid, all-or-nothing thinking.
  • Experiencing body tension and stress.

3c43b95b207e52a0e502373d50e56432--trauma-ptsdAnd yes, those are allllll things I do, generally on a daily basis.

The article points out that “if we relax and let go, we may feel we are giving up, giving in or losing control.” Hoooo boy, is that one hitting close to home too. I feel like worrying about something incessantly is part of caring. If I don’t worry about an outcome incessantly, how will the universe know I REALLY REALLY REALLY want it?! How will I MAKE it happen through the magical power of my worrying?

Buddhaimonia has a great article on “The Beginner’s Guide to Letting Go and Becoming Enlightened Through Non-Attachment” by Matt Valentine. It clarifies that:

All attachment originates with the ego. The ego, a construct which was built through years of conditioning and is in no way a “real” part of you at all, is what convinces you that you’re this separate entity disconnected from all other living and non-living things. And when reality doesn’t match up to the image, friction happens and pain occurs.

This is part of resisting what is so, which has been a struggle for me in the past. I can’t know what an outcome will be. I can’t control what the outcome will be, either. So instead of resigning myself to the fact that I can neither see nor determine the future, I ruminate over it incessantly. I try to divine it from little signs. I try to seek reassurance from friends who I hope will convince me things will go the way I want them to. I try to obsess my desired outcome into reality.

Instead, I should be focusing on:

  • Recognizing that I can always choose to let go.
  • Remembering that letting go doesn’t mean that I don’t care about a person, situation or outcome.
  • Watching for the physical and emotional signs that I am “hanging on.”
  • Investigating my fears of losing control of a situation (or person).
  • Realizing and respecting the impermanence of life.
  • Remembering that the outcome I’m attached to may not in fact be the outcome that God has in mind for me. It may be something far better than what I am currently hoping for, something that in my limited view of time and space, I can’t see. (Remember that Garth Brooks song “Unanswered Prayers”?)

Lama Surya Das says, “Letting go means letting be, not throwing things away. Letting go implies letting things come and go, and opening to the wisdom of simply allowing, which is called nonattachment.”

Allow your life to be what it is. Allow events to unfold as they will. And know that however it happens, you will be okay. (I’ll be over here trying to do the same!)

Rejection and mindfulness

In dealing with the sting of rejection recently, I realized how badly I had internalized the messages I was getting — or really, thought I was getting. Because no one has ever come out and said, “You’re not fun, you’re not very smart, you’re not pretty enough, and you have too much baggage.” That was just what I was telling myself.

I googled “rejection and mindfulness” to learn a little more about what was going on. First, I found a great article on “Understanding Rejection: How to Mitigate Its Effect On the Brain.” It starts off discussing “contingent self-worth,” or basing our sense of self-worth on how much stuff we have, how successful we are or how much people like and accept us.

Of course, building up your sense of self-worth would be one step to helping rejection hurt less. (And it does hurt; research shows that social rejection actually activates the same regions of the brain that physical pain does.) Building up your independence and resilience also are important pieces in handing rejection well.

In the article, psychologist Arnie Kozak says:

It’s helpful to ask yourself, ‘what’s really on the line here?’ You can then see if your sense of okay-ness is really undermined by the rejection. Often, we worry how we’ll be perceived by others and that is just another contingency. Rejections aren’t the end of the world, but sometimes we can react as if they are. Being turned away from one opportunity makes you available for another. Ultimately, I encourage people not to take things so seriously. If that reaction arises, mindfulness practice can help people to back away from it and keep things in perspective.

I liked that a lot, because so frequently, what’s on the line is … not much. So I didn’t hear back from a guy who I had hoped might be a potential romantic candidate, even though he had been the one to approach me and ask me out. What was on the line? Clearly, a guy who doesn’t have the time, interest or capability to communicate with me clearly. Whoopity-de-doo.

Another article, “Our Need for Acceptance and the Pain of Rejection,” discusses breaking free of rumination and self-criticism, which is apparently my forte:

If we’ve been rejected, we may end up ruminating on what we could have done differently; how we could have done more to make people want us. Thoughts like “What’s wrong with me?” might be echoing around in our minds. If we’re not mindful, we may start coming up with harsh answers to these questions. Before we know it, we’re caught in a downward spiral of self-blame and self-criticism.

36334268I don’t know if I have ever blamed anyone but myself for rejection. My initial instinct is to always assume I’ve done something wrong, said something wrong or even been something wrong. But when we’re mindful, we can examine the messages we’re telling ourselves, and we can examine their truthfulness. We can realize that frequently, the rejection wasn’t about us at all. Maybe there was another candidate that was better qualified. Maybe he wasn’t over his ex. There are a thousand reasons that we can’t know behind someone’s motivations.

And finally, we need to embrace the suffering to some extent. I have been reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s “No Mud, No Lotus,” and this passage struck me:

When you’re overwhelmed by despair, all you can see is suffering everywhere you look. You feel as if the worst thing is happening to you. But we must remember that suffering is a kind of mud that we need in order to generate joy and happiness. Without suffering, there’s no happiness.

What can I grow in this mud of rejection? What is it teaching me about myself and the work I need to do? What wisdom can it impart to me? The lotuses I am hoping to grow are Self-Worth, Resilience and Mindfulness.

What will you grow?

Link roundup, 1/12/18

I’ve run across some great websites lately that have been helpful for me, and I thought I’d try to get in the habit of sharing them here occasionally. Some good ones:

  • Here’s Why I Keep Coming Back from Baggage Reclaim. This is written from the point of view of an ex who keeps popping back up in your life: “You keep thinking that we’re getting back together because you assume my intention is to get back together with you. You assume that in giving me the power to provide what you want, yet again, that I will come through. We get back together because I want the power and control back. That’s it. That’s the truth.”
  • The Monkey Trap from Teach the Soul. In some countries, allegedly, a trap can be made for monkeys by drilling a small hole in a gourd and placing a nut or piece of fruit inside it. The monkey grabs it, but the item is too large to pass through the hole. Rather than let go of its prize, the monkey will hold on for dear life, even until it’s captured. I don’t know if that is true, but I heartily with this: “If you’re going to find happiness in life, you need to examine what you hold. Take a close look at the tumblr_nsvd7bvk7F1u2h341o1_1280attachments in your life. Do you place more importance on things outside of yourself than on things inside you? The more important something is in your life, the more you become attached to it. If what you treasure is outside yourself — that is, other things or other people — then you risk being trapped by those bonds.”
  • One Year Wiser is a website and also a series of books; I recently found this one at my local bookstore and enjoy the illustrations and the inspirational text, which is primarily about Mindfulness.

Freeing up your head

When C. and I started talking again, Sara suggested that if we planned to try things again (that’s still not been determined, though we talk frequently), the most important thing would be for me to closely regulate myself. Don’t let my thoughts run away with me, and don’t let him take up too much space in my head.

Those will both be challenging, because if  I had a diagram of my head, it would show my relationship taking up about 95 percent of my brain space. And I don’t want to be the girl who is texting her friends, freaking out that “it’s been four hours and he hasn’t texted back”! Especially not at 41. Cripes.

So, here are some things I’ve tried and found helpful:

  • Slow living concept. Inspiration motivation quote Be here now. Mindfulness , Life, Happiness concept. 3d renderPractice meditation and mindfulness. I love the Headspace app and use it almost daily. I find that the self-awareness from my morning meditation often carries over into the rest of the day, and I’m more able to “catch” myself when I feel that tight, anxious feeling (about relationships or anything else) starting to form in the pit of my stomach, or my mind running away with a worry. Once I notice it, I can name it and then deal with it.
  • Center yourself. When I do feel my brain going haywire, one practice that helps me is just closing my eyes and paying attention to all my senses. What do I hear? (The hum of the furnace? Rain? The cat racing madly around the house after nothing?) What do I smell? Feel? Taste? (Hint: It’s usually coffee.)
  • Reduce your phone usage. This one is especially true if you’re the type who is  constantly checking to see if someone has called or texted. Leave it in the car. Leave it in your purse. Keep it face-down on your desk. Keep it in the other room. I recently started stopped charging mine in the bedroom at night, because I was spending too much time on it before bed and first thing in the morning. Out of sight, out of mind.
  • Focus on what matters. If you have kids, don’t let their childhoods pass you by while you spend all your time worrying about a guy or checking your phone to see if he’s sent you a message. If you don’t have kids, take stock of the important people in your life and focus on them. Who are the people who could use you in their lives right now? Who are the friends who’ve supported you in the past? See how you can be there for them.
  • Stay busy. Read an involving book. Focus on your work, if you have a tendency to let our mind wander on the job. Listen to an audiobook or watch a great show. If those aren’t enough to keep you busy — and I’m a person who has trouble just sitting still and watching/listening to something — knit or do some other craft while you watch a show, or play an audiobook while you do housework. (I find that I am far more likely to do laundry this way, too! It takes it from household drudgery to “time to enjoy a book or podcast I really like.”) See a friend. Go to the gym, as I’ve read about previously.
  • Don’t try to figure others out. The things you would do and say, and the ways you would think and react, are not universal. If someone tried to see inside your head and figure out your motivations or thoughts, how right would they be? (This is NOT a suggestion that you ignore screaming red flags, just a gentle reminder that you likely don’t have psychic abilities.)
  • Notice when you find yourself creating scenarios in your head, especially “what if …?” scenarios. I read “The Worry Trick” last year, which suggested that when a worry starts with “what if,” it’s your brain playing, “Let’s pretend something bad.” The book further discusses that it is actually not helpful to try to ignore the thought, or to convince yourself that the scenario won’t happen, because we can often convince ourselves to worry about it, no matter how unlikely. A former therapist once told me to follow the “what if …?” through to its logical conclusion. “What if C. and I get back together again and then break up again?” for example. Instead of refusing to think about it because it’s so scary and stuffing the thought back down to lurk like Pennywise in the sewer, I can sit and think about what that would look like. “Well, it would probably hurt a lot, and we’d both be very sad and miss each other. But we both would get through it, and I think we would still be glad we gave things another shot.”