Category Archives: Karen Salmansohn

How To Stay Calm In the Midst of Challenging Changes

Karen Salmansohn – Author

constant-change-karen-salmansohn

If you’re human, you’ve had phases in your life when things are in flux. Maybe you’re even in one of the following flux states right now:

Career flux: Feeling that the career ladder you’re on is very wobbly beneath your feet.

Love flux: Believing Cupid rhymes with stupid for good reason.

Money flux: Sensing you should rename your Amex Green Card your Red Card.

Maternity flux: Taking baby steps into a whole new life by creating a whole new life.

Home flux: Questioning where you’re gonna be resting your weary head in the future

Education flux: Going through first-degree or second-degree college degree brain burn.

Technology flux: Enduring an upgrade you hope won’t lead to a breakdown.

Yes, there are many varieties of flux. Yet it only takes two words to describe all of ’em: Flux sucks!

Thankfully, it also only takes two lenses to see your way clearly through flux—a long-term lens and a short-term lens. Basically, if you’re enduring an anxious trip into the Land of Change and Uncertainty, a bifocal lens will ensure you better enjoy your travels. How?

A long-term lens will help you keep your eye on the prize of your ultimate goals of happiness and fulfillment, while a short-term lens will help you keep your eyes on your feet so you don’t get tripped up by fear.

By seeing both points of focus, you will navigate at your least clumsiest and most wisest—making decisions from your most confident self.

Unfortunately, people sometimes can get stuck viewing flux with only one lens, which creates problems. For example, if you only view flux with short-term vision, you’ll be focusing too much on present fears, obstacles, failure and disappointment. As a result, you’ll choose habits and thoughts from a low-level place of negativity. Likewise, if you only view flux with your long-term vision, you risk becoming overwhelmed by the gaping distance between what you have now and what you desire in the future. As a result, you can get confused by which steps to take because there appear to be far too many.

However, when you choose to view flux with a bifocal lens, you will reap the benefits of seeing both the first few steps in front of you and the top of your goal illuminated in the distance.

This bifocal view will allow you to better aim your daily steps in the right direction. Plus, when you’re bifocally blessed, you will have the happy choice to swap to a different lens when one is needed more than the other.

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For example, let’s say you’re in career flux and feeling anxious and fearful about what you see with your short-term lens (aka an unstable career). You can instantly calm yourself by switching to your long-term lens and refocusing on a happy future visualization in which you imagine the happy career you desire and deserve.

I’m a big believer in the power of visualizations. And so are neuroscientists. Numerous studies have proven how merely imagining positive circumstances sends blood flowing from negative brain regions to positive ones.

In fact, when you visualize doing an action, you stimulate the same brain regions as you do when performing that action. For example, if you visualize lifting your left leg right now, you will stimulate the brain region that gets activated when you truly lift your left leg. Because visualization is so powerful, many professional athletes have trained for events by visualizing successful results, thereby increasing their likelihood of attaining them.

If you’re in the midst of flux, and feeling stressed because you’re hyper-focused on short-term problems, you can benefit from this proven science of happy future visualizations. Simply take five to 15 minutes to refocus your attentions on attaining your long-term goal.

I believe a lot of what contributes to the sadness and downward-spiraling in our lives is a sense of hopelessness. We become resentful when circumstances aren’t unfolding as we want, leading us to doubt whether we will ever get what we want. Unfortunately, if you spend too much time thinking negative thoughts, you simply refuel your hopelessness by sending a surge of blood flowing into brain regions associated with depression and anger. However, if you want to feel happier immediately, you can create a brain environment that supports clarity and solutions by spending time doing happy future visualizations, which sends blood flow to the positivity regions of your brain.

A favorite book of mine, A Course in Miracles, says: “Patience is easy for those who trust.” The more you do happy future visualizations, the stronger your patience muscles will become. Basically, fear and emotional pain have a harder time existing when your long-term lens is focused on a confident belief in happiness and success.

Likewise, if you feel overwhelmed by the long road you know you must take to get to your long-term goal, it’s time to tap into your bifocal lens and refocus on your short-term vision. Ask yourself: “What I can do right here, right now to feel better right here, right now?” “What are some tiny steps I can do today that will get me closer to my goal?” As the Buddhists say, “The 1,000-mile journey begins with one step.”

Keeping with this theme, the Japanese have a wonderful word, kaizen, which means “small habits over time which add up to large results over time.” A good example: If you were training for a marathon, you might wake each day and run for small bits of increasing time (10 minutes, then 12, then 15, etc). Eventually, you’ll find you can run for marathon levels of time. Ditto for all those different flavors of flux.

Each day you can awake and focus on small, easy goals you can accomplish in the short term—goals that, over time, will lead you to your long-term goal. For example, if you’re in career flux, you can write three emails to past business colleagues and take one hour to scan job websites. At the end of the day, you should write down your daily progress in an appreciation journal. Whenever you feel weary, repeat the following mantra, “I have it within me right now to get me to where I want to be later.”

If forward progress feels slower than you want, remind yourself that you can’t rush the time and process of a flux. Everything has its needed time and process. For example, pregnancy takes nine months. Wanting to give birth faster will not necessarily yield better, happier results. Ditto for love flux or education flux or home flux. Those also have their specific times and processes.

In summary: If you’re feeling as though flux sucks, first take a deep breath. Next, ask yourself, “Is my negative short-term lens or negative long-term lens giving me this stress?” Then, refocus on the lens that will empower you to feel at your happiest. Your bifocal lens goal is to enjoy your journey in the present while feeling confident that your journey’s taking you to exactly where you want to go!

http://notsalmon.com/2011/09/21/how-to-stay-calm/

 

Are you Egotistical or Soul-itistical?

By Karen Salmansohn

I confess there was a time, a few years back, that I lost myself in the role of mommyhood. I didn’t put in the time for “me,” because I was so caught up in making sure I was lovingly taking care of my son – in every way possible.

For example, when my son (Ari) began Kindergarten, I’d spend the morning putting far more attention into deciding what Ari would be wearing, than what I’d be wearing. Ari and I would discuss what clothes were “cool” (sweatpants and Pokemon tee shirts) and “not cool” (jeans and button down shirts). Meanwhile I just threw on a “whatever” outfit (usually involving yoga pants).

One morning my son and I were riding down in our building’s elevator with a neighbor. My son was talking with me in an animated way about his favorite Pokemon cards.

My neighbor warmly interrupted, “Excuse me,” she said smiling.

Ari and I looked at her. It was common for our neighbors to interrupt us – so as to say something sweet to Ari. In fact,  I was pretty certain whatever she would say next would be about Ari.

“I love that necklace,” my neighbor said.

I immediately looked at Ari. But he was not wearing a necklace.

I thought I must not have heard my neighbor correctly.

“What did you say?” I asked her. “I didn’t hear you.”

“I love that necklace,” she repeated.

Again I looked at Ari. Again, I reconfirmed that there was no necklace around my son’s neck.

My neighbor pointed to my neck. “Your necklace,” she said

I laughed. “Oh, I’d forgotten all about this necklace,” I explained. “I bought it many years ago. I sleep in it. I even shower in it.”

“It’s beautiful,” she said.

Although this compliment might seem at first like a simple exchange – it had a big impact on me. It was a bit of a wake-up call even.

Why?

Because I realized in that moment that I hadn’t simply forgotten about my silly necklace. I’d forgotten about me too.

I’d forgotten that I could be notice-able. 

Plus I also realized that I didn’t feel comfortable in the role of The Noticed.

I much preferred my role as background fodder to my son.

I know a lot of moms wind up losing themselves in the process of parenting their kids. In my case, Ari made it easy to do so – because Ari’s naturally outgoing and spot-light oriented. For example, Ari loves to dance down the street in the mornings – simply because he wakes up happy. Plus, Ari has a passion for asking strangers permission to pet their cute dogs. And when it’s Ari’s birthday, he’s not shy to tell random people on the street. As a result, overtime I’d become the quiet one in the family.

Even after Ari entered preschool, and I had more time to myself, I still found myself preferring a more quiet life.  My days were focused on writing, writing, writing – trying to do the “working mommy balancing act” – which often meant juggling in far more work than play. Over time, since Ari was born, I’d lost contact with some of my favorite friends – my local gym – and my neighborhood mani-pedi place.

My top priorities had become: be the best mommy to Ari when with him – and make money to support Ari when not with him.

Mommy-time and work-time eventually superceded self-care time and Karen time.

My needs had become invisible to me.

I’d become invisible to me.

My next wake up call to my Invisible Woman role came about one month later.

Ari and I were watching a Disney movie on Netflix. We got to talking about the concept of “lead characters” versus “sidekicks.”

The next day Ari came home from school and asked me if he was the lead character in his Kindergarten classroom.

I explained to Ari that everybody in his classroom was the lead character of their own life – and how there were multiple storylines going on at the same time.

I also told Ari that although he was the lead character in his own life – sometimes Ari played a sidekick in someone else’s life story.

Ari looked surprised – then he looked accepting.

“So, my friend Michael is the lead character of Michael’s life?” Ari asked.

“Yes,” I confirmed. “And Harry is the lead character of Harry’s life. And you are a part of their stories. They each have their storylines to lead – the way you have your storyline to lead!”

Ari smiled. “Ok, I get it,” he said. “I’m just the lead character of my life only.”

“Yes,” I said. “Correct.”

“BUT,” Ari said, “I’m also the lead character in your life too….Right, mommy?”

I smiled – but said nothing.

“Right mommy?” Ari asked again. “I’m the lead character in your life too?”

I paused and wondered.

Ari had become the lead character in my life.

And I wanted Ari to be the lead character in my life.

I even felt bad thinking that Ari was not the lead character in my life.

I felt it would make me a bad mommy – to put myself before my son- and to be the lead character of my own life.

Then I thought again.

I was reminded of my neighbor in the elevator – who complimented me on my necklace – and how surprised I was that this woman was even noticing me.

I had stepped into that elevator as “Ari’s sidekick.” Then after this woman’s comment to me, I was jolted back into my body – and hence back into awareness that I was not simply Ari’s background fodder.

I thought about this more – and became aware of some new thoughts.

Firstly, it didn’t make me a “bad mommy” to be the “lead character” of my own life. This was not an egotistical choice. It was a “soul-itstical choice.”

I also realized how there’s a big difference between being “egotistical” and “soul-itistical.”

Plus I found it interesting how we don’t have this word “soul-itistical” in our vocabulary – and it’s a very important word to think about.

Here are my thoughts on what it means to be “soul-itistical.”

I believe we are here on this planet to become our best possible selves.

We are here to stretch and grow our souls – or our “core selves” – if you’re more psychologically oriented.

It’s important we be the lead character of our own lives – because that’s why we’re here on this planet – for our soul (core self) to learn, grow, thrive.

With this in mind, it’s essential that we not simply exist in the background of someone else’s life – because then we’d forget about our soul’s unique and true purpose!

We need to make sure we are nurturing our soul’s unique and true purpose  – living authentically to who we are – in order to be truly happy.

If we’re not living awake to the needs and cravings of our soul (core self), then we are missing out on the whole purpose of why we’re here on this planet!

In fact, many problems occur in life when we stop paying attention to our soul’s yearnings – and put our soul’s needs on hold in order to make others happy!

In fact, when we stop making ourselves the lead character of our own life, we can become pretty darn sad, angry, resentful, regretful.

It’s not egotistical to be the lead character of our own lives. It’s soul-itistical.

We need to pay attention to our soul’s needs and cravings in order to find true happiness and deep fulfillment.

“Sooooo,” Ari said, “Am I the lead character of your life, mommy?”

I sighed loudly. I hoped I could say what I wanted to say in the right way.

“Ari,” I said, “Right now you are the most important person in my storyline – but I am the lead character in my own storyline. My storyline has been a long, interesting and zig zagging one – and many of my most favorite parts in my storyline all happened when you arrived. You are one of the biggest contributors to what makes my storyline fun and happy. But…well… I am the lead character of my story. ”

Ari took a moment to take all of this in – then smiled hugely! “Ok! So, I’m your fun sidekick,” Ari announced. He sounded super-excited to play this role.

Shortly after this conversation, I stepped back into being the lead character of my own life. I started to go to the gym more – makes plans to see friends more – do more of my favorite hobbies (like reading novels and seeing indie films) – get mani-pedis and blow-out my hair. I also started to get dressed up in the morning – in non-yoga pants. Although these were small outer changes, they were symbolic of a bigger inner change. I became passionately determined to make sure I was indeed the lead character of my own life – without feeling guilty about it.  I accepted that it was absolutely okay – and even necessary – to pay more attention to nourishing my soul.

My hope for you:

I hope you embrace the role of lead character in your life. Be soul-itistical! Don’t forget who you are at your core. Do not allow yourself to become The Invisible Woman or The Invisible Man. Appreciate that you are here to grow and stretch your soul. And appreciate all the many sidekicks who help to make your lead character role here on this planet a fun and happy storyline.

Are you Egotistical or Soul-itistical?