Less Stress More Joy

How to tap into more joy when you need it most

In these last days of summer, our house is full of family, people and things are everywhere. Plates of food with warm stone fruit next to plates of food with fried rice. People yelling each other’s names from across the tiny house. I am grateful and full of connection. 

Mind you, I am also an introvert, and I took a few days out alone, away from all my family before this next batch of sweetness arrived. I needed time to connect first to myself, to say “oh hello there Annie.” I needed time to be outside. My body and being need time near the water in stillness to recalibrate my inner compass. I am grateful for a supportive partner who did the household preparations for a month of family time so that I could have alone time. I am grateful for the moments we can be outside in the woods or near a river.

Now, in this house full of people from 80 to 4 years old, I am feeling joy. I am feeling the joy of good food, of laughter, of stories shared with our son. I am delighting in the feeling of creating a life with this wild family.

And when I was alone with my thoughts, books, and a shoreline, I felt joy. I felt the joy that comes when you notice the sound of water moving at the same time as a bird call. 

It is not all sunshine and ease, we’ve had major changes in life plans in the last month that caused stress. We are navigating the fires and the virus with apprehension and sadness. We are listening to the news from around the world and our own town – people navigating devastation and loss of life, lands, homes, and rights. We are fielding phone calls from friends and family about illnesses. 

This is to say – the connection is essential. Amid all the changes, and our own and other’s fights for a safer and more just world – we need to remember our connections to each other, to ourselves, to the natural world, to our experiences, our breaths, our stories, and the bigger picture.

And the connections lead to joy. And we all need joy. Joy is a reminder of delight and “aliveness” in the middle of the mess and the heartaches.

This week think about using connection as a source of joy.

What do you need to connect to right now to make a little room for joy?
Who do you need to connect to now?

Want to dive deeper into what joy can be and how to access it? Here is a quick video for you to go further into this practice and how to apply it even in a work setting.

Guess what? I asked a few amazing communities I am a part of what they do to build joy. The answers form an inspiring list you can use to build joy & connection into your life anytime – especially when you need it most. 

Get it here!

Want to share this joy-building list and video with a friend so you can inspire each other? Send them this link to share for free!


Looking for genuine connections in your professional life?
Clear Harbor is a community of fellow leaders who practice equity and make room for joy!

Get on the waitlist before the doors open in September.

Rheanna SmithHow to tap into more joy when you need it most
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How to make and maintain healthy connections

Are you finding yourself getting clearer right now on who you want to be in relationships with or what you need from the relationships around you?

As I begin to see friends and clients in person, I am acutely aware of what I missed, what I need, and what I want to offer. 

I know how important my connections are to the people in my life because of the distance we had to have between us. I am grateful for the connections in my life because of the immense support I received from colleagues, clients, friends, and family in the last year.

A few weeks ago, I offered you a check-in to assure your personal and professional connections are healthy and supportive on many fronts.

(In case you missed it here you go…)

Perhaps you have found yourself longing for connections in your life that are joyful, supportive, diverse, and value-aligned.

A reminder it is a lot to ask any one person to be all these things for you all the time! We need to continue to cultivate old and new relationships for our well-being.

Today I am giving you a quick set of reminders for how to make and maintain healthy connections in your professional and personal life. 

We can all use people in our lives who have our back, remind us of joy, support our learning, and ensure that we continue to become better versions of ourselves.

May your July bring you healthy new and old connections!

Has this note made you think of someone who supported you in the last year? Send them a quick text telling them you appreciate them!


Are you a leader committed to a more equitable and just world looking for a space away from your current work team to reflect, build relationships, and problem solve?

The next cohorts of Clear Harbor are opening in September! 
Get on the waitlist now before the doors open.

This year there will be two kinds of cohorts.
Cohorts for leaders with a high-level of decision-making authority and responsibility (job titles like CEO, ED and Director) AND cohorts for leaders who lead from within in their business or organization (any job title).

Wanting more support from a community of leaders committed to inclusion, equity, and anti-racism?

Jump on the waitlist and I will be in touch.

Rheanna SmithHow to make and maintain healthy connections
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4 essential human connections we all need right now

Connections to other humans keep us learning and growing.

Healthy human connections provide us with love and support (even in the workplace).

Our relationships to each other can increase our joy, fun, and happiness.

Social connections have been proven to help us regulate emotions, have higher empathy, reduce anxiety & depression and even improve our immune system.*

We need each other.

And we need more than one or two people in our lives.

We cannot be everything to everyone.

And no one person in our life, can be everything to you, or their family, or their work teams.

We need a diversity of social connections and interactions to be fed and keep going.

(Don’t worry fabulous introverts this doesn’t mean you have to be interacting all the time with a dozen other humans either!)

How can you have relationships around you that support your health, and growth as a human?

I made this quick “audit” for you to think about what your current connections are offering you (and you are offering them) and how to have an even greater level of support and joy from the different relationships in your life. 

Check out the video here:

May you have social connections around you that hold you up and support you in all parts of your life.



Looking for a new place to build supportive professional relationships?

Clear Harbor waitlist is now open!

Are you a leader committed to a more equitable and just world looking for a space away from your current work team to reflect, build relationships, and problem solve?

The next cohorts of Clear Harbor are opening in September! 

Get on the waitlist now to get more information when the doors open.

This year there will be two kinds of cohorts.
Cohorts for leaders with a high-level of decision-making authority and responsibility (job titles like CEO, ED and Director) AND cohorts for leaders who lead from within in their business or organization (any job title).

Wanting more support from a community of leaders committed to inclusion, equity, and anti-racism?

Jump on the waitlist and I will be in touch.

Rheanna Smith4 essential human connections we all need right now
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The first hug in a year

I gave my first hug to a friend I hadn’t hugged in over a year. I felt a mix of tenderness, joy, relief, sadness, and distance. The feelings surprised me. I expected sheer delight – I love this person SO much! Instead, I think the hug was exactly what is meant by the word bittersweet. 

I recognized something else in that hug and subsequent first hugs after. My feelings right now are different than I assumed. They are milder and murkier than I expect. I think this is because for the last year, I was not able to have many nuanced emotions.

My mind has been locked down tight. I was focused on attending to the safety and wellbeing of my family and the community. I watched Covid take people’s lives, wellbeing, and livelihood.  I witnessed the racial reckoning of our country with held breath and continued to find what I must do and undo professionally and personally to be a part of ending racism. I observed friends navigating hardships from a distance and did my best to send love. I supported clients in their huge lifts to carry on their missions.

This last year I felt sad, and angry. At times I felt grateful and glimmers of sweet joy. And that was it.

My focus was tight and that was necessary, but it had its repercussions.  

I did not make room for a larger reflection on what was missing.

My spectrum of thinking, feeling, and experiencing was constrained to attend to the immediacy of survival and to respond to immediate personal and societal concerns.

This is not a new thing for humans. We all close in our emotions, and perspective in our daily lives in moments of pressure, trauma, conflict, violence, and loss. 

As tender and quieter thoughts and emotions emerge, I can feel the shape of the cold, exterior container I built to get through the last year. I do not want to be in that container but I know it will take awhile to set it down.

I want to share with you the slow ways I am dancing with the re-emergence of a fuller spectrum of emotions and thoughts. (I am not a trauma-expert, so I am including other resources below.)

You can better see and support others in your work and life, if you tend to where you are emotionally, mentally, and even physically, in this transition.

Here is what is supporting me:

  • I am paying attention to how I am feeling in the moment.
  • I am moving at the speed I can and trying to understand what others may be feeling or experiencing (i.e. go at your own pace and support others in their own pace.)
  • I am building connections with people who can listen without judgement or shame and whom I can offer the same to.
  • I am reflecting alone with walks, movement, and writing. 
  • I am finding moments of appreciation, thinking “I appreciate this… I appreciate you for…” and then letting the appreciation sink in.

The cliff notes:

  • Notice your feelings.
  • Go at your own pace.
  • Know and understand other peoples’ pace.
  • Connect with others who can listen, and you can listen to.
  • Reflect alone.
  • Appreciate the people, moments, the things you can.

Reflection questions to go deeper alone or together:
– What have I been feeling about…
– What am I feeling now about…
– What do I need? What do you need?
– What am I experiencing right now?
– What do I want to take with me from last year?

May you have moments of real connection with others and with yourself this month.


Here are two guides from the past months to support in this continued time of transition:

5 steps for grounding during instability
How to prepare for reopening


Trauma, grief & tending to emotions – a mix of resources

People on Insta for support & resources:
@nedratawwab – Nedra Tawwab
@Alex_elle – alexandra elle

Websites
Self-compassion – Dr. Kristin Neff’s resources & meditations
Cloud Sangha – facilitated mindfulness groups, including groups for people of color and women
Spell for grief & letting go – adrienne maree brown

Movie
The Wisdom of Trauma movie – Dr. Gabor Mate

Books
The Body is not an apology, Sonya Renee Taylor
The Body keeps the score, Dr. van der Kolk
No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering, Thich Nhat Hanh
Walking each other home: Conversations on loving and dying, Ram Dass & Mirabai Bush
The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity, Nadine Burke Harris

Thank you to my social work colleagues for these resources! 
Have others I should include in my list? – Please send your recommendations.

Rheanna SmithThe first hug in a year
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How I am preparing before we open back up (it might not be what you expect)

Here, in the Pacific Northwest, flowers are beginning to peek up out of the ground. The days are getting longer. A smattering of them have been without rain. Which means there are less mud puddles. That means a lot less loads of wash for me to run. 🙂

Thankfully, some of my family have managed to get their Covid shots. In most places, infection rates are reducing as opposed to rising. 

I find myself thinking… perhaps I should be feeling more relief. More hope. 

Yet, I find myself sitting with a strange mix of emotions these last weeks. Here are the words that come to mind as I try to name them: exhaustion, wariness, nostalgia, sadness, hope, gratefulness, and grief. As we face the prospect of returning to gather in person, my hope and relief is mixed with powerful reminders of what family, friends and community have had to endure this past year – the loss of time spent together, the loss of jobs and security, the loss of loved ones. 

That’s when I begin to notice my posture of “just put your head down, Annie, get through it, push on.” This is not the first time in my life I’ve used this survival technique. It works. For a short time. But it takes a toll when I do it for long enough. 

You see, in order for me to “push through” I must also actively avoid feeling my own emotions – both negative and positive. That includes empathy, grief, tenderness, and gratefulness. This year provided me with moment-to-moment opportunities to both experience and avoid my feelings. Because of the intense magnifying glass our lives have been under this last year – I am noticing the moments I’ve avoided my feelings in order to simply “push through”.

The key for me moving towards hope and accessing my ability to open myself back up to people and public space, is to move myself from a posture of avoidance into a position of allowing myself to experience my own feelings. I am doing this now… ever so gently.

Here is how I am opening myself up to the feeling of hope and the learnings of the last year:

I am focusing especially on my feelings of grief and gratitude.

I am noticing in a specific way. It’s a technique coming out of mindfulness and Buddhism. 

I try to be aware of any feelings I may be experiencing in the moment. Then, I see if I can slow down and acknowledge the feeling, whatever it may be. It goes something like this:

“Hello there, sadness.” 
and 
“Whew, here it comes again… I’m missing someone…” 
and 
“Wow, I am so grateful for…”

I say to myself or (if appropriate) to those around me, just what it is that I am feeling.  I offer appreciations out loud when I am experiencing gratitude. 

I try to offer some variation of Valerie Kaur’s offering around grief if I am grieving with or because of something someone else is experiencing, “You are grieving, but you are not grieving alone. I am here with you.”

I let the feeling remain with me. Till the next one comes.

Then, I am practicing being quiet and present in the moment. (You know me – this is taking a lot of practice!)

This is not new information. It is centuries old and across traditions. However, there is a reason we continue to strive to learn it – it is hard work & it is life changing.

Here is what happens when I allow myself to notice & experience my emotions, especially grief and gratitude:

  • I experience more love and connection in my life, and less resentment.
  • I give love and acknowledgement to those I am with, allowing them the opportunity to feel loved and appreciated.
  • I can stay in the present moment, which reduces worry, anxiety, and fear of the future,
  • I feel human and notice the humanity in others.
  • When I notice gratitude – it expands and unearths more appreciation. Gratitude and appreciation can coexist with pain and grief.
  • I move through the emotions so that unexpected emotions are less likely to surface later, which reduces the harm I enact on myself and others.

It can be hard. 

I am still head down, barrel through at times. And that is okay.

However, the more I drop into my emotions and the lessons they point to, the more prepared I am to keep showing up as a human being.

As I practice feeling more, I process more of the incredible lessons and hard moments of the last few years. As I sit with the grief and the gratitude, I find myself learning how to be a better friend, partner, and teammate. I recognize that I have more capacity than I imagined. 

And that gives me hope.

What are you feeling right now?
What emotions are you paying attention to? 
What are they teaching you?

May we allow each other the space to feel as we enter a new time of transition.

Feelings and emotions too overwhelming right now? Here is a place to go for support: NAMI Hotline

Want more resources to support feeling your emotions, supporting others in their grief, and practicing gratitude? 

Here are a few offers:

See no stranger, Valarie Kaur, The People’s Inauguration  and other learnings
A guide to transition from winter to spring, Kirin Bhatti
Lama Rod Owens – Acknowledging emotions meditation
Tara Brach – Pause for Presence
Untamed, Glennon Doyle
Emotional Agility, Susan David

Need examples? Here is what this looks like in real-time:

Grief

  • I am feeling grief for the lost time with people I love.
  • It hits me in a pang in my chest.
  • I sit with it and I say to myself, “Whew there is that feeling of missing and loss.”
  • I send a message or call when I can to tell the person I miss that I love them.

Gratitude

  • There is always more to do in our house, with our child, in my work. It is easy to get bogged down.
  • I am practicing noticing when my family is actively working on supporting someone else in the house or helping with a household task (which is actually very often).
  • I try and see it in the moment or shortly after and let them know I am grateful for what they are doing and/or I am grateful for them.

Grief

  • I am feeling grief for the people I care about who have lost loved ones to Covid.
  • I am feeling grief when I hear stories of people who have lost loved ones, including their children because of hatred and violence.
  • I offer my love and feeling of grief in the form of a mediation. 
  • When I can I drop into the moment with the person or the story and practice listening not solving.
  • I look for actions I can take afterward, in response to the grief – learning more about the story, taking a direct action, and supporting a person or organization.
  • For individuals in my life I am grieving with, I look for simple ways I can show up in support (and ask them first).

Gratitude

  • I notice when my heart is welling up with tenderness. It can be when I watch Lino and Rob dance in the living room or play cars. It can be when Lino is creating a hilarious made-up scenario or when Rob or his sister Lisa is preparing a warm meal.
  • When I feel the tenderness rise up, I notice it if I can.
  • I set down what I was doing just for the moment and take a mental polaroid.
  • I say to myself “THIS” and I say to myself or out loud, “I see you, I appreciate you”


What are the ways you acknowledge grief and loss?
What are the ways you offer appreciation?


I’ve created a guide to help you move forward during this time. Grab the guide here.

Rheanna SmithHow I am preparing before we open back up (it might not be what you expect)
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Simple ways to connect with each other, even virtually

Connections to each other are critical right now. All of us are experiencing a pandemic, along with many accompanying worries and struggles. 

We need each other.

And we can’t see each other… in person or up close. (And some of us are seeing a few people a LOT, up real close… all the time!)

I’ll be real, I fit less into a day than I used to. I am moving slow and I engage less. 

It makes sense that this is where I am at in this stage of a pandemic.

Yet it is a tricky place – less capacity and more need for humans and connection.

If you are like me, you need some new ways or simple reminders of how we can still connect with each other.

Here are a few from me + more ideas from awesome women in a business group I am a part of. (And looking for ways to be alone… I’ve got ideas for that too!)

Ways to connect with family & friends you live with:

  • Play cards, a Board game, do a craft or a puzzle… non-screen activities without high stakes
  • Set aside coffee dates or date nights and turn off the screens & any household tasks or to-do lists
  • Slow down a bit when you are doing things for those you live with – while cooking or making a pot of coffee, think about who you are doing it for, and the care you are offering them
  • Build a short, doable family ritual in the morning – a song you always listen to at the beginning of the day or a brief walk you take together

Connect with friends & family you aren’t seeing in person:

  • Set up longer video calls over dinner or over a morning with a cup of coffee in hand (Zoom, WhatsApp, Houseparty)
  • Send real snail mail – perhaps pictures you have doodled during a zoom call, look at these blank postcards my son & I are decorating. Have a few cards already stamped and ready to send
  • Send short voice texts with text messages or WhatsApp (quicker than texting and fun to receive)
  • Start a picture sending project via text with a friend or group (think of it as the original Instagram, right now I send a real picture of the chaos of our messy house to two friends every few days)
  • Create new groups in text to stay in touch with & give them fabulous labels
  • Play games long distance with friends & family (Jack Box, Psych! etc.)

Connect with your team & co-workers:

You may be with your co-workers or team all the time on Zoom, and some of you are in person in stressful high stakes situations with your co-workers. However, neither of these scenarios guarantee real connection. Take a minute when you can to connect in small ways outside of the immediate work and it will make the work less stressful.

  • Have a co-working day with folks on Zoom, hang out and get work done
  • Add a few enjoyable activities to video meetings like share & tell or playing “highlights” or check-in question (only takes a few minutes and slows down the nonstop work meeting vibe)
  • Set up opportunities for folks to discuss and work in small groups and pairs while on video calls (we can forget that smaller groups even virtually create deeper connection) 
  • Offer office hours on zoom for folks to drop in & ask any questions they have
  • Offer coffee hour on zoom for folks to drop in and connect or other optional group gatherings like games or a poetry writing session
  • Drop off small care packages at your team’s door
  • Check out these helpful reminder phrases to build connection on Zoom work calls
  • In-person (and virtual) – find one small appreciation and offer it to folks on your team, make it a practice to seek out one appreciation per day for a different co-worker

Connect with yourself!

It is quite possible you need time alone and a reminder that it is totally a-okay to burrow in when needed. It is OKAY!

  • Take a walk in the middle of a workday
  • Plug into your earbuds to do the dishes or household tasks and give the fam a heads up that you are checking out for a minute
  • Set aside 4 minutes a day to breathe in and out, use a timer and hide as needed (bathrooms & closets work great)
  • Slow down and make simple things you do already more of a ritual – the coffee making, the egg frying, the teeth brushing
  • Turn off the screens for a few minutes a day

It is OKAY to be less in touch & need to be alone. If you can, let the folks around you or in your community know what you need – you could offer a simple – “I know I have been out of touch, I care about you & just doing my best right now to keep my head above water.” Or to your in-house humans, “I love you and I need to grab some alone time to recharge.”

Feeling alone in your work or community? 

Reach out, send a text, and let someone know you need to talk.

May you find moments of connection with the people in your life and may you find moments of rest and quiet.

What else simple ways are you building connection with others?

Rheanna SmithSimple ways to connect with each other, even virtually
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Loosen your grip

Last month, I wrote that the things and people we love can cause us both joy and stress. I wrote that both connecting and disconnecting—engaging and disengaging—are healthy responses. Here is a simple practice that will help you reduce stress and increase joy.

Think about an area of stress in your life. It could be your work, a specific project, volunteer activities, a relationship, your kids. Remember, the people and activities we love can still bring us stress.

Look deeply: What is something within that area of stress that you enjoy? What are you grateful for?

Practice being mindful when you are involved in that area of stress. Consciously deepen your connection to the thing you enjoy.

For example, one of the areas of joy in my work is small client meetings and groups. I love this work! When I have the opportunity to be in a client meeting, I can stop and think to myself, “This is wonderful. I am so grateful for this moment.” I connect with that part of my work.

Now think again of that same area that causes stress in your life.

What is something within that activity, project, or relationship that you could disconnect from? What could you delegate, take less seriously, or worry about less?

In areas of our life that are very important we can become very attached to every single thing that is occurring, how it is happening, and the possible outcome. This increases the amount of stress we experience.

You can let go! Loosen your grip and release that vision of the “perfect” result, the “right way” of accomplishing your goal. Say goodbye to a few less important tasks.

For instance, my home is not as clean as I would love it to be, especially when we have guests. But I can’t be totally attached to this part of my home life. Other things are more important to me, and I love having guests, so I say to myself, “A quick, imperfect clean-up is better than not having guests at all.”

This week think of something you want to deepen your connection to, and something you want to actively disconnect from. I promise that doing both will reduce your stress.

Annie Von EssenLoosen your grip
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2 questions that cut back the stress

I have missed you!

I didn’t write a blog post last month because I was just beginning my first online class, ever!  In February, I launched a 7-week online version of my Room Next Door workshop and really wanted to give my full attention and support to the folks in my class.

My Room Next Door workshops and classes are all about what we can do to reduce stress in our lives and increase joy. Needless to say, I have been thinking about this a lot in the last few months!

Growing my business is a super exciting and joyful endeavor. I would not want to be doing anything else. But even though I love the work I do, launching new websites and new programs is not without its stress.

Many of the things that cause us stress also bring us joy. And if something is stressing us out, the solution is not always as simple as saying, “Just stop doing that thing. Do less of it.” Our jobs, our beloved volunteer projects, and our families can all bring us a lot of stress — but we cannot just quit all of them!

So how do you reduce the stress you feel in the midst of your full, busy life?
Here are two questions you can use.

Ask yourself, “What am I connecting to? What am I disconnecting from?”

What do I mean by connect and disconnect?

We are making connections all the time. We choose to engage with ideas and people. There are activities and projects we choose to experience and enjoy. You can think of the connections as moments where you have your hand open, palm up. Or perhaps you are high-fiving. You are energetically saying, “Yes, please!”

You are allowing the person, idea, or moment to connect with some part of you.

 

At the same time, there are things and people we are disconnecting from: experiences, feelings and thoughts we are not engaging with. Think of the disconnection as moments when your hand is positioned in a gesture that says, “Not right now.” You are mentally and emotionally unplugging.

Disengaging mindfully and from a place of love can be a powerful way to care for yourself. In fact, sometimes it’s the only way you can move forward and get the work done.

 

Next time: How to engage or disengage mindfully and with love.

admin@annievonessenwebsite20152 questions that cut back the stress
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Back in the thick of it.

Are you back in the thick of things?

This can be a hard time of year because we want to feel that fresh start. Yet here we are, still pushing through the same work and juggling all the same pieces of daily life.

It can also be a refreshing time of year. Some people can harness the new year’s energy and then launch into both new and old work with a renewed sense of passion.

If you are working on a project that feels like it just keeps going with no end in sight, then this note is for you. If you are feeling super excited about the year ahead, then consider this note an extra boost!

When you are pushing through work that never seems to end, here are a few things to remember. You have heard these things before. Many wise teachers and dear friends have said these words. But for you, now in the midst of January, I am going to say them again.

Look back at what you have accomplished

You have done many things in your life that are awesome and powerful.  You have already done things in your work that are HUGE accomplishments. I know you have. Right now remind yourself of the great things you have done. (I won’t judge if you brag a little.)

Trust yourself

Yes! You actually have the ability to keep going. You have the ability to do this work. You have everything within you that you need. That includes the ability to ask for help and innovate with other folks who would be great work with. You can do this.

Find ways to sustain yourself for the journey

If you are going on a very long road trip, it is a good idea to pack snacks and food. It is also a good idea to pull over and eat that food, get out of the car and look around, move your body a bit, get some sleep, and even ask someone else to drive for a while.  Think of your big project like a road trip. Eat, sleep, listen to good music, see the sights, have fabulous conversations – get out of the car sometimes! You will still get where you’re going. And you will enjoy the journey a lot more!

Nothing is forever

“This, too, will pass,” said Persian Sufi poets and lots of other wise people. And it’s true. Everything ends and begins again anew. This current project will be over, this challenging job will end, the kids will grow older. Hold this knowledge, at least just for a second. This moment right now is the moment you have to make the most of. A few moments and blinks later, things will be different.

You’ve got this! Keep going. Look back and congratulate yourself on what you have done. And don’t forget to take a few breaks along the way.

You can even tell me! Feel free to write me a note or post a comment below.

 

Do you want to commit to finding ways to have a calmer, more connected 2016?

My Room Next Door class begins on February 14th. Choose now to be less stressed next year. Get more info and purchase your seat here.

admin@annievonessenwebsite2015Back in the thick of it.
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Maybe it’s time to start something new

I know I often write about de-stressing by taking things off your plate, but maybe it’s time to try something new.

Whoa! If your schedule is packed and you do not know how to fit in one more thing — or you don’t even feel like thinking about new things — this may seem like a very unhelpful suggestion.

Hear me out.

I imagine there is something you’re wanting to try. Something new that you’ve been thinking about, but haven’t shared with anyone. Maybe this new thing does not even require extra time in your schedule.

Trying new things is how we spark and light up. It is how we learn and grow.

New things can make us smile and giggle. New things can make us almost brim over with fear, and then experience the glorious release of saying, “Well, screw it!” and jumping in with both feet.

It’s like trying a bite of an unfamiliar new dessert at the bakery. It can be a sugary surprise and it is almost always worth it.

I am trying something new right now. For the last few months, I have been going to the gym and joining 10 other women of various shapes and sizes in weight lifting and interval training. This is way outside my comfort zone. My notion of myself has never been strong or athletic. Instead, I have seen myself as klutzy and goofy. I am more likely to be found bumping into the corner of a table than I am lifting a weight. Now I put on tight blue pants and running shoes and join the circle of women to receive our marching orders in a smelly gym.

You know that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? That’s how I felt as I parked my car in front of the gym for the first two months.

Then WHY in the world am I going?

Here is the reason: I have always wanted to feel a little less clumsy and a little bit stronger. And because something in me was resisting the idea SO fiercely, I knew something in me really wanted to try.

So in a practical sense, this is my new thing right now: This amazing class that is teaching me how to do a burpee. Every time I go, I dread it a little bit less. And I am getting stronger.

But do you want to know what the new thing in my life really is?

It is THINKING about myself differently. I am now trying on this idea that I am a strong woman. A woman who is totally capable of lifting weights and doing wall sits. This is the biggest shift. I have to give myself a talking to almost every class. It goes something like this: “Annie, you are totally capable of doing this. You are doing this! You are strong and you are getting stronger. Get it!”

So I turn back your direction.

What is the new thing you’ve been wanting to try? Is there something you are already doing that is new and scary and out of your comfort zone?

It could be an addition to your life – a new skill or hobby. Or it could just be a new way of thinking about yourself. I bet there is something, if you look closely.

Acknowledge this new thing you are trying on. Maybe you can begin to see yourself in a new light. You can say, “Hey, I am strong. I am capable. I am learning this new skill. I am becoming this kind of person.”

Look yourself squarely in the face. (Really do this. You could even go to a mirror.) And acknowledge the new thing you are trying on – the new person you are becoming.

And if you even want to tell someone about it, do it! Tell someone you love about this new thing that you are living into.

You can even tell me! Feel free to write me a note or post a comment below.

Do you want to commit to finding ways to have a calmer, more connected 2016?

My Room Next Door class begins on February 14th. Choose now to be less stressed next year. Get more info and purchase your seat here.

admin@annievonessenwebsite2015Maybe it’s time to start something new
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