Grief in the Time of Coronoavirus with Andrea Lott

Andrea Lott joined us today to talk about grief and how it might feel different right now because we can’t be with the people we love when we lose them. There’s very little that can replace a hug. Ironically, it’s touching more than just coronavirus victims. Even people dying from other causes are passing at a time when we can’t run to the side of the people closest to them to give them a hug or sit and remember the good times. The risk is feelings getting buried and depression grabbing hold while we sit in isolation.

Andrea offers some advice from her experience as a grief counselor (she also came highly recommended from a client). After talking with her, I can see why she’s so good at what she does. Take a minute and listen to her wisdom and then, if you want to know more about the Anchoring Heart Technique, look below.

And please share this with whoever needs to hear her words of comfort right now. Andrea has graciously extended her availability, her email is lottae at (you know, change the at to @).

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The Anchoring Heart Technique

The Anchoring Heart Technique is an age-old somatic practice that grounds people and helps them feel more secure. It is simple and straightforward; the hard part is remembering to do it when you feel uncomfortable feelings you prefer to disconnect from.

WHEN YOU ARE CENTERED: Calm energy usually resides low and deep within yourself.  You might report feeling open and relaxed.

WHEN YOU ARE “Beside Yourself”: Anxious energy usually rises; it’s no longer deep in your belly, but climbs up in your chest. Your voice often rises in pitch. You might report feeling uptight and flighty.

WHEN YOU ACCESS INNATE BODY WISDOM: Have you ever received bad news that caught you off guard? Maybe you gasped and grabbed your chest with an open palm, UNCONSCIOUSLY anchoring yourself. The “Anchoring Heart Technique” simply applies the same gesture CONSCIOUSLY. It is:
• an act of self compassion you can use whenever you feel anxious, stressed, or helpless
• useful whenever you are in need of strength, courage, or patience
• helpful to re-train  your brain and the synapses in your nervous system to allow emotional pain and hurt sit side by side with peace (instead of fear)

There are 3 steps to the Anchoring Heart Technique:

  • anchor the Heart firmly and tenderly & Breathe deeply
  • feel whatever uncomfortable feeling that you are experiencing (even if it’s just for a few seconds)
  • be curious about the place inside that is NOT afraid of emotional pain (builds awareness and new synaptic nerve connections)

You can use one hand or two; you can keep your eyes open, lower them, or close them — whatever is most comfortable for you or whatever the circumstance might dictate.

Marie Bainbridge, a Vietnam Veteran Bronze-star recipient, uses the Anchoring Heart Technique when her PTSD is triggered. However, she says she also uses it in many ordinary situations: “I can be impatient in traffic. If I’m in a store and someone is blocking the aisle so no one can get around them, I want to huff and puff and complain about their self-centeredness. Now, I use the Anchoring Heart Technique to cultivate patience, courtesy, and self-control. It really helps.”

People can also use the Anchoring Heart Technique with others. People often need anchoring and security, especially during times filled with uncertainty. If a calm person places their open hand on an unsettled person’s sternum, it can often help him/her feel secure, more stable, and less anxious. Place your hand firmly on the other person’s heart and just breathe deeply to induce calmness. This often helps the other person feel more connected with themselves and more secure in their own skin.

An alternative form of the Anchoring Heart Technique is to approach the heart from behind – in other words placing your hand firmly on their back between their shoulder blades. This conveys a feeling of “I’ve got your back.” It can be used with people you don’t know well when placing your hand on their heart would be too intimate or too invasive.

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Managing Anxiety in Strange Times with Heidi Koronkowski

Heidi Koronkowski completed her Behavioral Coach Training at Anxiety Treatment Services with Dr. Dufford, Clinical Psychologist and Mary Szeles, Behavioral Coach. She also draws on her personal experience in overcoming severe panic and agoraphobia. Her goal is to provide context-sensitive coaching aimed at helping people live symptom-free.

Heidi suffered with anxiety, panic and phobias for over 15 years. After finding limited success through talk therapy and medication, she had a severe relapse and realized she needed to find a different kind of help. Dr. Dufford’s Anxiety Treatment Services relies on cognitive-behavioral tools and techniques that change the thought processes that fuel the anxiety. As a result, she has truly found freedom from anxiety, panic and agoraphobia.

Or listen to the podcast

Tips for reducing anxiety

Today, on the show, Heidi shared a list of what you can do to help lower your anxiety. Here are her tips:

Set limits on information.
Limit how much you watch or read about the virus. In fact, moderate your intake of news in general including politics, the economy and all the information being shared right now. Try to consume it no more than one or two times a day. By constantly feeding your brain information about these scary events that are generally not in our control, your reinforcing a fight or flight response. To stay mentally healthy, we need to normalize our lives as much as we can.

Engage in the here and now.
Meditation lowers anxiety – here’s a great app that has guided mediations at no cost. Going out into nature works like meditation. If you can’t leave the house open a window. Hear the sounds, smell the air. Use all five of your senses. Go barefoot and let your feet feel the ground. Smell the flowers. Touch the leaves.

Be grateful.
Hopefully you can shelter safely. Now appreciate that. In fact, consider how many times you’ve said you wish you had a day at home. Take time to do projects or nap or watch a movie. Spend time with family.

Get creative.
Knitting, crocheting, painting, writing, baking are all great for helping anxiety. The key is to do something that feels productive and is tactile – using your hands and your body to create something engages your brain in healthy ways.

Have sex.
Sex releases dopamine, endorphins and oxytocin, which can boost your mood. There are six positions that are linked to relieving anxiety. Just remember, you have to decide if you want to end up with a baby in nine months – so be careful!

Tap your higher power.
Spirituality, however you define that, has been shown to reduce anxiety. It delivers hope, you’re taking positive action and you’re connecting to others energetically.

Finally, remember to connect with others. Check on your friends and family. Listen to them talk to make sure they’re doing okay.

Know that you are not alone. We are all in this together.

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The Mind Body Connection with Ron Johnson

Ron Johnson spent more than four years as a personal trainer in San Jose. He loves his career helping his clients become fit and confident. Ron believes our bodies are such an essential part of our well-being, our personas, and how we are seen in the world – he understands the mind body connection. He realized working on his own body, that real transformation was possible.

Ron believes to experience equanimity and well-being, it takes more than just changing one’s physical strength. It is also takes understanding of how we feel within ourselves. This awareness has led Ron to expand his life’s work and integrate life coaching with personal training. He is determined to help his clients live a more well-rounded life.

Update: If you look closely at Ron’s podcast, you’ll find an interesting one with me! I spoke with Ron and Gloria on Life’s a Shuffle about insecurity and confidence. It was an amazing discussion.

Or listen to the podcast

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Managing Negative Energy to Stay Healthy with Jennifer Carole

This is about you and how you can manage your energy. It sounds super woo-woo, but it’s not intended to. It’s intended to help you make conscious decisions about the way you feel and how you choose to take in information and manage it. As an energy coach, typically if I was coaching, I would be talking to you about what it is that you’re dealing with right now. It’s very different from therapy, coaching is more action oriented.

I coached someone this morning about when it might be a good time for them to go visit their parents in light of the virus. That’s something a lot of people are struggling with. What are the conditions that would be optimum for visiting your parents? That’s just an example – we would go through all the issues, roadblocks, feelings and you would decide on a plan that works best for you. That’s how coaching works.

But today, I want to talk to you about energy.

Or listen to the podcast

The goal of energy awareness is increased consciousness.

Many of you have already said, oh, my gosh, there she goes. But the thing is, it’s really important. Consciousness just means you’re mindful and you are aware of the decisions you’re making at any point in time. If you have energy awareness as well, you’re able to then decide how you want to react: negatively or positively. You can manage how you feel about things.

I had a friend last week who made a mistake at work and when I talked to her, she was beating herself up over this mistake. Finally I said, “You just need to accept the mistake. It happened. The world isn’t going to end. You’re not a bad person. You didn’t intend to make that mistake. But beating yourself up is just dragging you down. There is no point to sit in that kind of muck right now.”

Embrace the mistake. Own it and move on.

That’s the idea of being mindful, know what’s going on in your head. Being aware of your energy allows you to shift it so that you will do better and feel better. Imagine the power of that kind of self-awareness. It will make a huge difference in the days to come. It also can make a huge difference on the people that you know and love.

The Butterfly Effect

This physics concept broadly says what happens in one place can affect something somewhere else. The real concept is more complicated. For our purposes, the notion is that what you take has an effect on others – case in point, social distancing. We stay home, we flatten the curve, more people survive. This works the same with energy.

When you make that phone call, face time, whatever it is to check on the people you love. That energy matters. That’s a connection. You can shift the energy of somebody who’s feeling lonely or down. You could shift their energy to being more positive and having a more positive outlook. It sounds trite and I don’t mean to sound trite. But what I’m saying is what you put out there can affect other people. That’s the most important part here.

If you are aware of your energy and you’re paying attention to it and being mindful, managing your energy can deliver a sense of well-being. This is so important in managing your body’s response to stress, your body’s response to sickness and being isolated.

Two kinds of energy – catabolic and anabolic.

Catabolic energy is typically unproductive and anabolic energy is typically productive. They work together in flux. They move through us throughout the day. And sometimes the unproductive energy really does have a productive purpose.

Imagine being at the bottom of a cave, at the bottom of a hole. All you can see is the light at the top and the walls surrounding you that are nearly impossible to scale. In fact, it feels impossible. You might feel helpless. You might feel like a victim; like there’s just no way out of this deep, deep hole. That is how catabolic energy feels. You can also experience it as anger or rage or the need to fight.

If you do feel the fight, it’s the bad kind of fight; a win lose kind of fight like you want to kill them or you want to get even. They’re going to pay. Those are the kind of thought you might have. These are the kind of thoughts you have if you’re exhibiting really catabolic energy. And it’s the kind of energy you’re much more likely to have in a stressful situation. Like if your sheltering from a virus that we don’t know when will end.

The idea of being cut off from the people we care about, being cut off from our patterns and behaviors; from shopping and eating the kind of foods that we love, that can really create some catabolic energy. You’re at the bottom of a deep, deep pit. The bad news is, if you’re at the bottom of the pit, it’s really hard to know what your options are because it feels like your choices are limited.

Now imagine you climbed out of that hole and you’re up on top.

Now you can see the possibilities. You can tell what the weather is going to be because you just don’t see sky but you see the horizon, in all directions. You can see where other people are that could help you if you lost. You would know where to get help. As you can see, you’ve gotten yourself out of that unproductive energy. It’s a metaphor, but it’s a really powerful one because not only does this help you, but this metaphor can help you empathize when you want to help others.

If you can imagine and have the empathy to understand somebody in a catabolic state; stuck in a pit. Imagine your ability to empathize and to provide productive support knowing that they can’t see the possibilities and you rattling them off is not helpful. By the way, just being there with them in that place of being stuck is ok for right now. What you’ll eventually want to do is move them to where they start to fight and then ideally move them to anabolic energy. But you can’t just command them to be there with you.

Anabolic energy is the productive kind of energy.

If you can imagine, there’s this crossover point where you go from wanting to fight someone to letting go of the fight and moving to a place of almost productive complacency. It’s a kind of anabolic energy that we use a lot to cope in life. It’s the energy that allows you to deal with going to the store and getting the kids to school or attending another meeting at work.

You don’t love it, but you don’t hate it. You get it. It’s important. It’s the thing you’re supposed to be doing. It’s a complacent level of energy that is still productive. You might get down a little and dip into catabolic energy, but typically, you can use it to bounce back up. This is the go-along-to-get-along kind of energy. In coaching, this is the first of four levels of anabolic energy.

As you move up the energy ladder, you move from calm to inspired.

The higher you go, the more you are able to detach from judgment, detach from the here and now and start thinking about what is possible. Now be warned, if you’re really high in your energy and you talk to somebody who’s really low and catabolic, they might hurt you. That’s not a good way to share your energy. Instead, calibrate your energy to meet other people where they are and then work together to lift out.

Think about your anabolic energy. Think about the things that happen when you’re in the flow, when you feel really good, when you feel helpful. Help being helpful is very anabolic. Being willing to brainstorm and think of new ideas is very anabolic. Being able to detach from the here and now and think about “what if”, is incredibly anabolic. These are the kind of things that will motivate you and inspire you.

Even if we’re stuck at home or our world is somewhat limited, ideally, with anabolic energy, the possibilities are endless. And that’s basically the highest level of anabolic energy. It means you’re able to come into the situation, whatever it might be. Let go of all the parameters or rules, judgments, all the things that typically constrain how we think about something.

Let go of those things and just think, what if.

This is a common coaching practice where we listen to our clients talk and they have all the rules about why something can happen. My partner is not interested. My kids don’t want to play or the car is not working. We don’t have the money. Those are all constraints that can limit your ideas. In coaching, we work with you to let go of those constraints.

And that’s what I’m suggesting here. Let go of all the constraints and all your limiting beliefs. Think about what might be the perfect situation or what you could have if you could have everything you wanted? What would that require? Some of these constraints that you’re currently saddling yourself with may fall away.

I coach the other person this morning was talking about safe ways to get out of the house with the kids. OK, now is not the time to get out of the house. And yet maybe there’s still a way – maybe a car trip. You’d have to pack your food, ok. That way you don’t have any contamination vectors. You’re going to tell the kids the rules are you’re not getting the car. But you could go see some things you haven’t seen before, especially with fewer people. The trick here is to let go of some of the constraints – like don’t leave your home, don’t spread the virus. Oh, and please don’t get in a car accident. But new ideas come when you let go of the rules so you can find a way to meet the need that you may not have thought of before.

That’s the idea of anabolic energy. And that’s why it delivers endless possibilities as long as you’re willing to let go of rules that are holding you back. Or more importantly, the beliefs that you have that are holding you back. This is a big win for me because I feel like the power of energy coaching is helping you have the skills to help others. And I’ve talked about this on my other podcast before. There’s a great example I us and I made a video about it! Here it is.

What’s your idea or tell me more works.

By asking and listening, you just shifted the energy. You didn’t go catabolic, which was maybe your gut reaction at first to resist. And you’ve uncovered more information that’s going to make you both happier.

The outcome to any struggle isn’t limited to one.

We tend to limit ourselves right up front. Instead, let your thoughts go. Catabolic energy can be very productive that way, much like that wave in an ocean that tumbles and tumbles. Sometimes you’re on top. Sometimes you’re down below. Sometimes you’re in the green room when you get to just surf your way to heaven. Just know that energy moves all the time. But the more you are mindful and can be aware of how you’re feeling or how someone else is feeling, the more effective you’ll be at having more life satisfaction – for you and those you care about.

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Video Tip: Mental Prep for Christmas Week

“It’s just another day.”

Christmas Week is coming and for many, that means there’s a certain dread in the air. While we want to see our family, it’s maybe not the easiest thing to do. If you’re alone, you might feel like you’re missing out. Instead of letting all the magical tropes get you down, consider this: you can’t make others feel happy, you can only control how you feel and if you lower your expectations, you’re likely to get through it with your psyche intact. And most importantly, remember, with a few exceptions, most people don’t intend to make you miserable. With that, you just have to get through a few days and life will get back to normal.

[And special note: I started cracking up in the video because my darn hat kept wanting to fall off!]

How it works

What: Ease-up, relax, be mindful and watch what others are doing.

When: Grab this mindset when you feel like your anxiety is increasing or you find you want to dump mashed potatoes with gravy over someone’s head. Examples: 

  • When a reasonable question provokes the crap outta you. You don’t owe them an answer but they don’t mean harm, so simply change the subject. “Do I have a boyfriend, you’re so funny. What’s your golf handicap these days?”
  • When your mom (insert any family member here) humiliates you in front of someone. “Mom’s so funny. Don’t tell her I still wet the bed after too much wine.”
  • When you’re alone and convinced everyone else is having a magical time full of love, warmth, good food and presents. “That’s a damn myth, and today is just another day and I’m just where I’m supposed to be right now.” I don’t mean this to be condescending. Instead I mean accept you’re doing what you need to be doing for yourself right now. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Not during Christmas Week.

Benefit: You may have a less stressful, more delightful day based on your values rather than everyone else’s (including those imaginary values promoted by our culture).

If you use this tip – let me know how it works! Hit me up on social media or leave a comment here. And if you like this content, subscribe on YouTube and share with your friends. Thank you.

Video Tip: Managing Transitions with Ease

“Hey honey, it’s time to go.”

Transitions can be tough. When you approach someone who is wrapped-up in an activity and need them to change their behavior to accommodate your needs, it can often result in conflict. This little tip can make those requests go much more smoothly by setting expectations and engaging the person you want to influence in a meaningful way.

How it works

What: You need someone to stop what they are doing and do what you ask.

When: Use this when you want to manage a transition without drama. It might require some negotiation, but it will generally make transitions much less painful. Examples:

  • You want to leave a party and your partner isn’t quite ready yet.
  • You need the kids to stop playing and get in the car.
  • You want a co-worker or subordinate to stop what they are doing and focus on a new task.

Benefit: Instead of demanding someone change their behavior, you’re asking them to partner with you to decide the best time for the transition to occur. It doesn’t mean you have to give up your position; instead it encourages a conversation that more often results in a cooperative outcome without fighting or bad feelings.

Did you try this technique? How did it work? Hit me up on social media or leave a comment here. And if you like this content, subscribe on YouTube and share with your friends. Thank you.

Video Tip: A Simple Way to Ask for What You Need

“Here’s what I want you to do.”

Ever need to talk to someone hoping they’ll say just the right thing to make you feel better or heard? This is an easy way to have that happen. Humans are pretty bad mind-readers. With this technique, you help them deliver what will help you most.

How it works

What: You specifically tell someone how you want them to respond.

When: Use it when you’re feeling vulnerable and how another person responds will make the difference between you feeling better or worse. Examples:

  • When you have an idea and don’t want to have it shot down immediately.
  • When you’re upset and don’t need a solution, just a friendly ear.
  • When you have something hard to say and need to be heard.

Benefit: You should shift the experience. If you’re lucky, it will be a learning experience teaching the other person a new way to respond. At a minimum, you should feel much better about the interaction. This technique tends to slow down communication and make both participants more aware of how they manage their responses.

Did you try this technique? How did it work? Hit me up on social media or leave a comment here. And if you like this content, subscribe on YouTube and share with your friends. Thank you.

Video Tip: Stop Fighting by Asking One Simple Question

“What’s your idea?”

This is a great way to avoid fights while gaining insight into the motivation of the people you work or live with. It’s easy and incredibly productive.

How it works

What: This simple question, “What’s your idea?” can reveal motivation you didn’t anticipate.

When: Use it when you’d normally tell someone no, or not now, or to do something else. Examples: 

  • When a kid starts to get up from the table.
  • When an employee hesitates.
  • When a loved one resists your suggestion.

Benefit: What happens next might stop you in your tracks.Rather than default to controlling someone, ask them their intent. You may discover they have a good idea that you can support. This has prevented a lot of squabbles in my life.

If you use this tip – let me know how it works! Hit me up on social media or leave a comment here. And if you like this content, subscribe on YouTube and share with your friends. Thank you.

I Used to Hate Him, But Now I Just Resent Joseph DeAngelo

The El Paso shooting has just happened and I am heartsick. I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn I’m anti-gun – particularly when it comes to using them to kill one another – but I even feel like it’s not a fair fight when hunting. I don’t mind hunting, but use some skills darn it. I’ve fired a gun. It’s unforgiving. [Sunday morning: another mass shooting overnight. Hard to get out of bed. But I had a comment about guns for legit protection and I agree. There are horrible moments in life when you need to protect someone or save yourself. Damn.]

As the August 22nd hearing grows near, I’ve realized I’m really starting to resent these quarterly treks to Sacramento just to watch an aging monster, age. This thing is moving at a snail’s pace and honestly, there’s no story here anymore. He’s been caught. He’s been vilified in the media. The survivors have proven their resilience. The investigators can finally sleep. Even his family must have figured out some way to get up every morning knowing the horrific legacy he’s left them.

So yes, I’m way over it.

I resent he hasn’t just died and given us all an out; allowing us to go on living without his god-awful name ever having to be mentioned again.

I resent he’s taking up space.

I resent my taxes are paying for him.

I resent he’s going to cost our state tens of millions of dollars.

I resent politicians – whoops, I’m sorry – district attorneys who will use this as leverage in their next election.

I resent this gives any fuel to the death penalty debate.

I resent watching his female attorney look at him like he’s a small boy who’s lost his way.

I resent that we have to shut our mouths in court because “decency” and “rules” as if this was in any way related to how he behaved.

I resent family members and survivors are living with the dread of having to testify.

I resent every trauma he caused, every person he hurt, every life he stole.

I resent the years we all lived in fear because he could still be out there.

I resent every damn breath he takes.

Yes, I’m going to be there. My expectations are minimal. I’m much more excited about seeing my kid (who lives there now) than being ushered into that tiny jailhouse courtroom in the August heat.

Stay tuned.

Advocating for Human Rights In Your Own Backyard

Listen2Youth is pleased to support the 15th Annual Queer Youth Leadership Awards in Santa Cruz, California on May 12, 2012.

The Queer Youth Leadership Awards recognizes queer youth and allies across Santa Cruz County for being leaders within their community. Being a leader encompasses many attributes and spans across all disciplines and activities. I have the privilege of knowing one of this year’s nominees, Heidi Koronkowski.

Sometimes leadership chooses you.

Heidi is the mother of a 13-year-old transgender child. In the last few years, I have watched her morph from a private housewife with a rambunctious, sometimes challenging daughter, to an outspoken advocate for human rights as she supported her child’s transition to living as a male. Her unwavering support of her son has taken her down a path she never expected.

Heidi has suffered the loss of several of her friends from church as they concluded they understood God’s plan for her son better than God did. It tested her faith and her trust in what makes a good friendship. And while she and her husband (and amazingly supportive family) did what they needed to do to follow her son’s lead, she redefined her faith and ended up becoming an unassuming role model providing guidance and information for other parents of transgender kids.

Gender doesn’t define us, who we are defines us.

I was a friend of Heidi’s when she had a daughter. I am Heidi’s friend now that she has a son (whom I care about very much). I am thrilled that she, and the Trans Family Support Group, have both been nominated for this year’s Queer Youth Leadership Award. I wish more people could be as open, understanding and adaptive as Heidi has been over the last five years. She’s incredibly down-to-earth and her openness makes her accessible. The fact she’s “regular folk” only adds to her appeal.

At Listen2Youth we have worked with teens of all kinds for years. In fact we named our company Listen2Youth because we were so impressed by their insights and perception. Today, our business has shifted to social media where we talk with our clients’ customers and listen to their insights. We believe everyone has a voice that needs to be heard. Sometimes it means speaking up and taking a stand in your own backyard.

UPDATE: Our dear friend Heid’s group, Trans Family Support Group, has won the 2012 Award. Congratulations to all the winners, nominees and thank you to everyone supporting these amazing folks.