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laughing

A Love Letter To Letting Go & Laughing More

Time and time again, I have seen proven, that laughter truly is the best medicine.

I am a full-fledged recovering serious person. I am a firstborn, people-pleasing, recovering-perfectionist. In the past, I’ve known myself to be very anxious and not a stranger to panic attacks.
Today, thanks to years of therapy, a library full of self-help books, mindfulness, meditation, reiki, my dear friend Zoloft, and an easy-going husband with a wonderful sense of humor (who happens to have a professional comedian on his resume) I have slowly, and at times painfully, learned to “lighten up.”
One major reason why I decided to live lighter was that it was too damn exhausting to be so damn serious all the time. Many would have called me rigid. Things had to be a certain way…MY way. My anxiety caused me to be controlling and perfectionistic.

Does this ring a bell for anyone?

I began to recognize that what may have worked for me at one time (anxiety=control=protection), was causing more problems than it was helping. I didn’t need to protect myself as much as I once did and therefore I didn’t need to be as controlling or anxious. As a result, I slowly and cautiously started allowing myself to have fun.

But I had to learn how to have fun.

It was not something that came naturally to me. And I had to accept that my version of “fun” (read books for fun, have deep conversations, go to bed early, wake up early, contemplate the meaning of life…) was not always the same as others.
I began to get to know myself and what I needed at any given moment. I had a better understanding of my anxiety when it did come to visit, but it was no longer a constant companion.
Now I balance my high-achieving nature with a “good enough” mentality. I don’t need to give 110% to everything I do. I honor myself and what I need and want at any given moment.  And I look for every appropriate opportunity to find humor and laugh.
silly

Embracing the Silly Things in Life

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

Be silly.
Be honest.
Be kind.

This is my Mantra!

The last two come very easily to me. That first one though…being silly…has taken a lot of intentional practice.

I am by nature a deep thinker, a firstborn, highly sensitive, highly empathic, and intuitive person. I can naturally see the seriousness, depth, and intensity of any issue. So much so that it can paralyze me. Or at least in the past, it has.

I love the depths to which I can go and those who can join me there. I also know I feel better when I don’t live in that space. It can make me very anxious and depressed. I’ve learned to live in the “Both, And” space of being deep (which can have a heaviness to it) and being light, fun, playful, and yes, even silly.

I used to fear being silly because I equated it with looking foolish.

In the past, I was pretty mortified with the idea of looking foolish. I think it was fueled by my anxiety and need for control. Now that my anxiety is pretty non-existent and I have embraced the ebb and flow of life, releasing the need for control, I don’t fear looking foolish. I have embraced silliness with a sense of confidence.

When I am silly, I am playful, laughing, and light.

And that feels wonderful!

I got a wonderful compliment from my 8-year-old daughter last night after a big event with lots of kids and parents. She said, “I’m so glad I have a CHILL mom!” My eyes just about popped out of my head! I looked at my husband and asked, “Did she just call ME chill?!” He nodded, knowingly.

All my intention and perseverance are paying off! Not only do I feel so much better, but those who mean the most to me are also benefitting too!!

overthinking

Free Time: Overthinking It?

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

When thinking about Free Time and “being” rather than “doing,” I am reminded that I am not only a “do-er,” I am also a “thinker.” A pretty deep thinker at that. My mind can go to places that are seemingly quite unnecessary. I’ve learned over time that this is one of my greatest strengths and one of my greatest challenges.

Now don’t get me wrong, thinking is wonderful.

Over-thinking is what is the issue for me. It’s the thoughts that I can’t stop thinking. The what-ifs and the should-haves and the panic and fear that I’ve done or said the “wrong” thing. This was a prison I felt I was in for a very long time. The prison of anxiety kept me from fully and completely expressing myself in the fullest capacity possible.

If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know that fearlessness is a theme for me. If you watched my Creative Mornings Louisville talk on Silencing Fear you know about my stint with improv comedy and how it brought me to tears.

What I realized about fear and anxiety was that it was a prison that I was putting and keeping myself in. What was the key that would unlock the door to the prison?

The phrase, “Fearlessness resides in the softness of the heart,” was my key. I thought this was what a yoga instructor said in class once. When I asked her after class who wrote that saying, she responded, “That’s not what I read, but maybe that’s what you needed to hear.”

As I began trying new things like improv comedy in my “free time” I chose to place myself outside of my comfort zone. It wasn’t about succeeding at improv comedy. It was about doing something that scared the shit out of me and sticking with it. After 9 months of classes every week, it became less scary. I still didn’t enjoy it, the actual performing that is. What I did enjoy and was “in joy” with were the friendships I had made, following through with a challenge and commitment I made to myself. and proving to myself that I could “do hard things” (“Untamed” reference!).

So while you may choose to do an actual activity with your free time, perhaps something other than improv comedy, I wonder if you are also avoiding free time like I can find myself doing.

For those of us who have a tendency to run a bit anxious or are constant do-ers, sometimes it is the quiet of free time that scares us.

This week, I challenge you to embrace the solitude of your free time, to sit with yourself, and remember that, “Fearlessness resides in the softness of the heart.”

worry

Worry Too Much?

Anxiety, we all have it from time to time. Though rarely welcomed, it can be a healthy response to life’s challenges and is a natural human response. In fact, anxiety acts as our body’s alarm system, allowing us to anticipate when we are in danger or in harm’s way. But if left unchecked, anxiety can be an overwhelming, never-ending cycle of worry that keeps us from understanding important parts of ourselves.

If you experience anxiety, ask yourself this:

If your mind wasn’t full of these current ANXIOUS thoughts, what would you think about? Although not necessarily pleasant, anxiety can serve as a distraction from dealing with what really needs to be addressed at the core.

Here are some signs that worry might be problematic in your life:

  • Chronically on alert and thinking about potential future dangers or threats.

  • Consistently making negative predictions about the future.

  • Tend to overestimate the likelihood that something bad will happen.

  • Repeat worried thoughts over and over again in your head.​

How can I tell if my anxiety is normal?

Anxiety is problematic when it is constant and goes unresolved, interfering with your lifestyle and relationships. An anxiety disorder can keep a person from coping with life’s ups and downs and make a person feel anxious most of the time, sometimes without any identifiable cause.

If this sounds like your current experience with anxiety, perhaps it’s time to change your relationship with anxiety by altering your perspective on it.

You don’t have to go it alone. Seeking professional care for your anxiety can provide hope and clarity on how to best navigate it.

January 2022: Napa Valley, CA Retreat “Nurturing the Entrepreneurial Spirit”

Megan, Bartley, Retreat, Napa, Napa Valley, Calistoga, Indian, Springs

Megan Bayles Bartley

is taking the Mindfulness Center

ON THE ROAD!

That’s right! We’re headed to Napa Valley, California in January of 2022 for a Women’s Retreat to “Nurture the Entrepreneurial Spirit!”

Who nurtures you, the busy woman that you are? Who Nurtures the Nurturer?!

This is a question I ask many of the people I work with. Oftentimes I get blank stares. No one ever asks us that question. And we tend not to ask ourselves that question because we’re often avoiding the answer…

2022 is my year to offer more group-focused events. We’ve all been cooped up during Covid and it’s time to BREAK FREE. This is the nurturing girl’s trip you’ve always wanted but perhaps just didn’t have the ideal people to go with or for the ideal intentions. (Shout out to all my introverts: THIS IS THE EVENT FOR YOU! I’ve created it with us introverts in mind!)

There will be some light programming to review 2021 and to set goals and intentions for 2022, lots of self-care, self-compassion, laughter, and lightness. As well as pool time, spa time, and wine tastings too!

This is your chance to review the past year and be intentional about the upcoming year.

Is this only for Entrepreneurs?

Nope! It’s for those with the “Entrepreneurial Spirit” – those who are driven, calculated risk-takers, out-of-the-box thinkers, those who follow their hearts, and GET SHIT DONE! (Ahem, calling ALL MOTHERS!)

Also, you’d be surprised by how many husbands and partners think this is an AWESOME idea for their wives and partners! Men are often great at taking guy trips or golf trips. They wish for and WANT their wives and partners to experience the same!

Spots are limited and the Early Bird registration is available NOW!

Want more details? GREAT! Click here for more information!

P.S. Pairing this with the 2022 monthly class entitled “Nurturing the Entrepreneurial Spirit” I offer each year (full-year commitment) is highly recommended (but not necessary!) to keep your momentum for nurturing, self-compassion, self-care, thinking of things in new ways, and working to accomplish BIG things in 2022!

I hope you consider joining us!

the subtle art of not giving a fuck

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

The title of this book caught my attention recently while I was at the airport. Working with many people who have anxiety or feel stressed out I thought it could be an interesting read. I like things that make us question the status quo and may be a bit provocative. The subtitle drove home my decision to purchase it: “A counterintuitive approach to living a good life.” Even cooler!

I was curious about the author and what his credentials are so I looked on the back cover and discovered he was a well-followed blogger. Hmmm… Not your typical (potentially dry) self-help PhD? Not surprising with a title like this. My graduate studies had taught me to be leary about non-scientific based information, but I’m an out-of-the-box thinker, so I’m usually willing to let things speak for themself. As I read I realized Manson has no specific education or credential as a therapist or in the mental health field. What he does have is his own personal experiences, which he shares freely in the book (which is different than most PhD, self-help authors!). He’s likable and seemingly very open, which is a plus for me. Essentially what I found is a very direct and easy-to-understand and assimilate way to communicate mindfulness (without really talking about mindfulness!). Even cooler!

I have many clients who are not “readers” and I’m always on the lookout for books that may be interesting to the uninterested reader. This book fits the profile. I have recommended it to several people and they *loved* the title and were willing to give it a whirl upon my recommendation.

A few of the premises in the book that caught my attention:

  1. We can never really avoid being in pain and discomfort (he uses the word suffering), so choose what you want to be in discomfort about.
  2. Choose what you want to give a f*ck about rather than giving a f*ck about everything.
  3. Your emotions are there for a very good reason – to give you feedback, to get your attention. So PAY ATTENTION to them!
  4. Make sure you are aligning with your values and priorities. Are the people you surround yourself with people you strive to be like? Are the decisions you are making assisting you in being the best version of yourself?
  5. Failure is to be expected! Welcome it. Learn from it! Perfectionism can keep us from living in reality… I mean really, at what point is “perfection” achieved?! Or are you always telling yourself you’re STILL not good enough.
  6. It’s ok to say “No.” Again, choosing what you do and don’t want to participate in establishes appropriate boundaries.

I found it to be a very enjoyable, humorous, entertaining read, and am glad I read it.

Intrigued?! Give it a whirl for yourself!

 

setting the bar

Setting The Bar Too High

Our expectations for ourselves are often far higher than our expectations for others. Why couldn’t we see into the future about how that marriage would end? Why did we say the wrong thing in that interview? Why can’t we find the motivation to do A, B, C, D, E, F, G….the list goes on.
It’s like someone told us that we are supposed to get everything right the first time and that we are off the rails if our life map involves various stops and starts.
The more people I meet, the more convinced I am that this is all an illusion. The truth is we all crash down only to rise up again. And again. So my message to you is this: The next time you hear that self-critical voice in your head, pause. Notice it. Grab on to grace. Hold it against your chest. Breathe it in. Listen. Let go of the judgment. And give yourself some rest.
You don’t have enough information to do everything right the first time. Give yourself some grace.
train your brain

Exercises to Train Your Brain to Think, Feel & Behave Differently

Greetings! Megan here.

We know the brain has plasticity, so we know we can shape and mold it. However, many of us don’t know what to do to see a difference.

Oftentimes we see things as black/white, good/bad, like/dislike, right/wrong which are limiting perspectives and keep us stuck in just two options. To increase our flexibility and make training the brain easier, we have to work on the brain’s flexibility and give our brain more options and perspectives from which to see our life and the world.

If you want to decrease your anxiety, anger, irritability, and depression, here are some specific exercises that help you create flexibility in the brain.

Create a Mind-Body Connection

First, focus on your 5 senses.

Take a minute or two, wherever you are, to focus on each sense and be as descriptive as possible. Naming and noticing while not judging (they aren’t good or bad; right or
wrong; they just are).

Sight: What are you seeing? Colors, textures, name the objects, just notice.

Smell: What are the smells around you? Do you smell the grass, flowers, stale
office furniture, someone’s lunch, your deodorant, or shampoo? Again, use your
adjectives: pungent, sour, sweet, stale, fresh, etc.

Taste: What are you tasting? Toothpaste? Coffee? Breath mint? Be descriptive:
Minty, tangy, sweet, bitter, etc.

Touch: What does it feel like in the chair you’re sitting in or on the floor/ground
you’re standing on? Is there a breeze? Warm sun on your face? What do the
clothes feel like on your skin? Tight, loose, itchy, soft, cozy, etc.

Hearing: What are you hearing inside this space (room, car, etc)? What are you
hearing outside of this space (next room, outside, down the street)?

Next,  Count your breathing.

Count to 4 or 5 or 6 on each inhale and exhale for the same number. It
doesn’t matter what number you choose, one’s not better than another, just do what feels
best for you. Counting in and out for the same number is very balancing. As you do this
breathing work, notice the break in breath at the top of the breath and at the bottom where it feels like the breath is suspended for just a moment.

Set Boundaries

Know what you have control over and what you don’t have control over.

The easy answer is: You only have control over yourself. Your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Even if sometimes it feels like you don’t, you can learn how to do this. What you don’t have control over is anyone else – what they do, what they say, how they think, how they feel.

Awaken The Auto-Pilot and be Kind to Yourself (and Others!)

Notice your critical voice. We speak to ourselves, in our mind, with many different voices. Sometimes we’re very parental with ourselves and sometimes we are free and playful. Other times we can be very critical. If you have any sort of perfectionistic tendencies or are a bit Type-A, this may really resonate. When we begin to just notice (no need to try to change it) when we are speaking to ourselves critically we inherently change it. Just the sheer act of paying attention and noticing (without judgment) has the ability to change the issue at hand. And remember, don’t be critical of yourself being critical – just notice it for what it is and move on!

For ultra brain flexibility do a routine task differently.

-If you have “your spot” at the kitchen or dining room table, move to another spot at
each meal.

-If you have a morning routine in the bathroom, change it up. Brush your teeth first,
then take a shower, then floss your teeth.

-Soap up in the shower differently. If you usually start and your head, start at your feet.

Remember, there is no right or wrong, good or bad and we aren’t going for efficiency right now. We’re going for a change of perspective as well as flexibility of thinking and doing, which will help you change other, bigger, things if you want to! You’re building new neural pathways in your brain! Congrats!

I hope these insights are helpful! Let me know if you have any questions!

white fragility

Beyond Buzzwords: White Fragility

White Fragility is another wonderful book to read this Black History Month. The author Dr. Robin Diangelo has been teaching diversity training for 20 years. And she happens to teach at my alma mater, the University of Washington in Seattle. So cool!

Like Kendi, Diangelo speaks about her own discrimination and racism and the need for us all to consider important aspects of how we participate in racism even when our intention is to “not be racist” or even “antiracist.”

PLUS, through Metro United Way, Diangelo will be offering a “Beyond Buzzwords” event on February 23rd, 2021 from 12pm-1:15pm. Register HERE for FREE to attend!

Speaking of buzzwords, if you are noticing some phrases pop up that you aren’t familiar with, I encourage you to Google them and find out more. When we know better, we do better!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Be An Antiracist – February 2021 Monthly Book Giveaway

how to be an antiracist #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the National Book Award–winning author of Stamped from the Beginning comes a “groundbreaking” (Time) approach to understanding and uprooting racism and inequality in our society—and in ourselves.

“The most courageous book to date on the problem of race in the Western mind.”—The New York Times

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • Time • NPR • The Washington Post • Shelf Awareness • Library Journal • Publishers Weekly • Kirkus Reviews

I. Loved. This. Book.

And, to no surprise, I’m not the only one.

As a cis white woman (she/her/hers), I am fully aware that there is plenty I do not know about racism.  And not only am I not an expert on racism, there is plenty I don’t know about sexism, agism, ablism, and other prejudices. I also recognize that I still participate in racism and other prejudices even when I believe I am consciously trying my best “Not To Be” racist or prejudice.

Author Ibrim X. Kendi brilliantly addresses the difference between “not being a racist” and being “antiracist.”  He helps the reader understand that whether we like it or not, we are all participating in racism (even him!), even when we would consider ourselves “not racist.”

While this is a “how to” book, it’s also a wonderful narrative of Kendi’s life. Not only does he talk about his journey with racism and discrimination, but also with cancer. This book is a great “must read.”