Sadness, anger are important and nothing to be ashamed of

feeling down

Have you ever felt ashamed of your sadness? Like, when you feel low but force yourself to look on the bright side?

You shouldn’t feel ashamed to admit when you’re unhappy. It’s natural for feelings to ebb and flow.

I loved the movie Inside Out, a Disney film my kids and I went to see years ago. It acknowledged the importance of expressing all our emotions.

And rather than labeling them good or bad, they all had a job to do.

It turned out Sadness had the most important job of all. She showed up when the protagonist needed help and made sure she got it.

In my post on emotional neglect, I touched on the tendency to fear so-called negative emotions. To label them good or bad, acceptable or unacceptable.

I will expand on that concept here and describe the purpose of these emotions. 4 reasons to embrace rather than fear anger and sadness.

4 reasons to embrace anger

sadness mental health

1. Anger that manages to stay under wraps will eventually cause physical illness.

I read about monks who refused to acknowledge their anger and showed higher rates of diabetes. This, despite the fact their diets were healthier than average.

So, stuffed anger can be a good deal more dangerous than expressed rage.

2. Anger helps you know when something is not working.

It might be that you are being mistreated and disrespected. You might need to remove yourself from the situation.

Or take a serious look at what needs to change in your life so you are treated the way you deserve.

3. Anger can help you see where you have internal work to do.

For instance, if you feel angry at being asked to do something. It could be that you are uncomfortable setting boundaries.

Anger at the person asking is masking your guilt around setting boundaries. So, now you know what you need to work on.

4. Anger can also act as a signal for others to stay away from you.

That way you have space and time to work out your feelings without hurting anyone.

4 reasons to embrace sadness

1. Suppressing sadness can have the counter-intuitive effect of making you more depressed.

Refusing to acknowledge sadness takes away the opportunity to deal with things that might be causing the pain. This keeps you feeling stuck and hopeless.

2. Sadness helps you slow down and look at a problem.

When felt and processed it can lead to personal growth and healthy change. When it’s denied, however, things stay the same and that may not be a good thing.

sadness personal growth

3. When acknowledged, sadness gives us an opportunity to turn inward.

Not in a selfish way but in an honest way. It says, things are not okay and we need to find out why. It helps us connect with ourselves.

4. It’s also a time to draw near to God.

I’ve never felt closer to my savior then during periods of intense sadness.

You might feel scared to surrender to your sadness because you fear where it will take you. In my experience, it’s never as bad as you think it will be.

(Unless you’re dealing with depression which is a different issue and not covered here.)

When I first started to allow myself time to sink into sadness I assumed it would put me out for days. Truth is, even the most intense feeling of sadness would see me recover in less than a day.

I’m sure my dependence on God has a lot to do with that manageable time frame. It’s in my weakness His strength is made perfect (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Cultural importance of sadness and anger

These so-called negative emotions of anger and sadness have benefits beyond our personal lives. Famous paintings like The Scream have depended on their artist’s lower moods for their inspiration.

When Munch painted his masterpiece, his sister had been committed to an insane asylum. He said the inspiration for the work came from a scream he heard in nature while taking a walk during this hard time.

Handel wrote his most famous composition Messiah only after grappling with dark feelings. Beethoven’s most inspiring symphonies (including the Fifth) came out of his sadness.

Virginia Woolf, John Keats, and Vincent Van Gogh also produced their finest creations while struggling emotionally.

7 signs you’re highly sensitive and how to nurture yourself

highly sensitive personality types

Are you highly sensitive? That doesn’t mean you cry easily, or get offended at the drop of a hat.

Psychologist Elaine Aron coined the term to describe those who are easily overwhelmed by external stimuli, among other traits.

Finding out you’re a highly sensitive person can help you understand yourself better. It will give you guidance on effective self care and help your loved ones understand you, too.

7 signs you’re a highly sensitive person

1. You’re easily overstimulated.

Bright lights and strong smells overwhelm you. Loud noises like sirens make you jump, cover your ears, or want to run and hide.

2. Time constraints bother you.

When you have a lot to do in a short amount of time you feel pressured. You may not perform as well on a timed test. Too many things on your to do list stress you out.

3. You avoid watching violent movies and television shows.

Even viewing the news can be difficult for a highly sensitive type. Violence and horror affect you deeply and may even make you feel physically sick.

4. You have a rich and complex inner life.

Your brain processes information and reflects on it deeply. For this reason, you experience more subtleties than the average person. You notice things that others miss.

You absorb the feelings and emotions of those around you. And notice small changes in facial expressions and body language.

HSPs tend to be seekers who want answers to the big questions in life. Small talk turns you off and you crave deeper interactions with others.

5. You need to withdraw.

Due to overstimulation and high perceptiveness, you need to get away sometimes. You need peace and solitude after a busy day to soothe your frazzled nerves and reset.

6. You arrange your life to avoid change or conflict.

Because novelty is stimulating, you go out of your way to avoid it. Even positive change causes you as much stress as joy. You need more time to process any type of shift.

You’ll go out of your way to avoid conflict because it feels so uncomfortable to you.

7. When you were a child, parents or teachers called you sensitive or shy.

Highly sensitive people are often mislabeled as shy, though the two can coexist.

HSPs tend to be misunderstood as anxious or neurotic because of their deep processing and need to withdraw.

Are you highly sensitive?

I compiled these seven characteristics from Dr. Aron’s quiz to determine if you’re highly sensitive, which you can take here.

If you’ve realized you’re an HSP, this may be a huge relief to you. Finally, you understand why you’ve felt so unique or misunderstood all these years.

So, what are some things you can do to nurture this awesome trait of yours? How can you care for yourself rather than pushing through as you’ve done in the past?

Self care for HSPs

Avoid or minimize those things that rattle you. Stop consuming violent media. Try some noise canceling headphones to block out loud sounds.

Accept that you will need time alone and make sure you take it. Let people know you get overwhelmed easily.

Reduce your to-do list. Feeling like you’re running behind is intolerable to an HSP. Consider having three things on your daily task list. Or a number that feels right to you.

Try eliminating clutter in your environment. If you pick up on things more readily than most, it makes sense that clutter would overwhelm you.

Make sure you have an outlet for your creativity and appreciation of beauty. Nurture your need for human connection. Find others who want to go beyond small talk to form a deeper bond.

Be your own advocate

In cultures that don’t value high sensitivity, people with the trait experience lower self-esteem. So, if you’ve ever felt wrong about the way you process the world, it’s time to tell yourself a different story.

Perhaps you were told not to be so sensitive. Or chastised for taking too long to make a decision.

Now that you know it’s your nature you can be your own advocate. Silence those voices and embrace all the amazing qualities of this extraordinary trait.

It’s a gift to experience things on such a deep level. To feel more empathetic toward others, to be moved by art and beauty.

To have a desire for human connection. These are the things that make life rich and meaningful.

How to simplify your life: 6 ways to reduce stress and stay healthy

simplify your life

My downsizing journey started in 2009 when I moved into a smaller home after divorce. Since then, I’ve made a concerted effort to simplify my life.

It’s taken courage to say yes to less when the world says more. It’s prompted me to get more clear on what I believe in and say no more often.

Some people love the idea of simplicity but are unsure how to get there. In some ways, it means questioning everything you’ve been taught.

Simplicity means questioning everything you've been taught. Click To Tweet

There are many things we take for granted or do because our parents did them. Consider whether you might live without some of those things everyone deems “essential”.

If you’re interested in how to simplify your life, rest easy. You don’t really have to DO anything. It’s all about letting go. Here are 6 ways to simplify your life.

1. Cancel your gym membership

If you’re an active person, you might not believe you could stay fit without a gym membership. You would be wrong.

The Minimalists have a great podcast episode with fitness expert Ben Greenfield. He tells you how to maintain a high level of fitness without ever setting foot in a gym.

Getting your fitness organically throughout the day saves you time on travel, money on membership fees, and frustration when you don’t get to the gym.

2. Declutter your closet

Okay, I said you wouldn’t have to do anything, but this one’s kind of fun. After you’ve pared down your closet using my 5-step guide, consider joining Project 333.

This is blogger Courtney Carver’s challenge to whittle down your wardrobe to 33 items every three months. (Including shoes and accessories; excluding pyjamas and workout wear.)

The now-famous challenge provides you with much-needed boundaries to keep your closet under control. And keeps you from growing bored with your minimalist wardrobe, because you switch it up every quarter.

3. Intermittent fasting

Keto diets, paleo diets, it’s hard to keep up and there’s a new one every month it seems. Whatever happened to the Zone plan Jennifer Aniston used to champion?

To simplify your life, let go of fad diets and do intermittent fasting instead. If you want to lose or maintain weight, simply reduce the window within which you eat.

Intermittent fasting generally means eating for eight hours a day and fasting for 16. But you can adjust the time to suit you.

Be aware there’s an adjustment period of a few weeks where you will feel hungry during the fasting period, but that goes away as your body adjusts to your new schedule.

4. Buy only what you need

Strike the word “shopping” from your vocabulary. Minimalists are intentional about how and when they spend their money. They only shop when they need something specific.

It’s not essential, but you might implement a rule that nothing new comes in your house unless something old goes out.

Great care goes into deciding whether an item deserves space in your life. You hone your values this way as you decide what’s important to you.

And, of course, less spending helps you reduce and eliminate debt, another way to simplify your life.

5. Streamline your to-do list

Maybe you’ve got dozens of things on your daily to-do list and wonder why you always feel behind.

Why not give yourself a fighting chance to feel successful? Be realistic about your daily to-do list.

Reduce your list to three to five items. Such a reasonable number gives you a good chance of completion. If you finish before the end of the day, reward yourself.

Set yourself up for success. Reduce your to-do list to 3-5 items. Click To Tweet

You’ll go to bed feeling victorious rather than frustrated. A simple but effective tool to trick your mind into feeling productive. It’s called being nice to yourself; give it a try.

6. Read

Have you noticed time moves more slowly when you read a book? Reading quiets the chatter in your mind and calms your body.

It keeps you in the present moment rather than flipping from tab to tab on a computer.

I believe reading a physical book has greater power than online media due to the distractions that tempt you with the latter. And something about reading online doesn’t have the same calming effect.

Reading has been proven to make you smarter, healthier, and more empathetic. Click To Tweet

Reading is the antidote to the fast-paced interaction we engage in all day online. Plus, reading has been proven to make you smarter, healthier, and more empathetic.

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These are just six suggestions to help you simplify your life, and there are many more. If it seems overwhelming, try implementing one at a time and see the difference it makes in your life.

How to stop feeling busy and overwhelmed and start being happy

busy
Photo by Joanna Nix-Walkup on Unsplash

Feeling busy and overwhelmed holds us back from happiness. It stops us doing all the things we want to do. It prevents good health and well-being.

When we’re overwhelmed it’s because we’ve let life control us rather than the other way around.

We react rather than initiate and we do it way too quickly. For instance, we say yes to meetings and other commitments before we’ve even had a chance to look at our calendars.

We neglect to incorporate white space into our lives. Those our times in your schedule to do absolutely nothing. And yes you need to pencil them in.

We neglect to incorporate white space into our lives. Click To Tweet

If you’re busy and overwhelmed, you feel like you have no other choice. You’re too busy to even think of ways to change or imagine something different for your life.

Don’t wait for a brush with death or a nervous breakdown before you start taking care of your physical and emotional needs.

Here are three things you can do right now to promote more happiness and less busyness in your life.

1. Reduce your spending

Working for money is high on the list of reasons people are too busy. If you’re working too much to maintain your lifestyle, consider making some financial adjustments.

Are you drinking too much wine to cope with an overwhelming schedule? There’s something you could cut out.

Do you eat takeout too often because you’re too tired to prepare meals? Start packing your lunches and cooking dinners and watch your energy levels rise along with your bank balance.

Have you considered moving to a less expensive area? Urban environments are notoriously pricey and fast-paced which makes you feel more busy.

You could downsize to a smaller home. Less square footage is cheaper to buy, rent and maintain. While you’re decluttering to fit into it, you’ll make money selling things you no longer use.

Smaller square footage means less time cleaning. If you hired help to clean your larger space, you can save money by letting them go.

2. Slow down

slow down

Sometimes feeling busy comes from a lack of mindfulness. That means you’re not focused on the present moment.

John Eldredge has an app for that, based on the One Minute Pause chapter of his new book, Get Your Life Back. He calls it a simple way to connect with God in the middle of your busy day.

Prayer and meditation are other ways to slow down. Meditation means different things to different people.

For me, it’s taking time out to sit with my thoughts. I solve many problems this way and even make key decisions.

Take walks in nature if you can. Besides helping us slow down, nature is good for our health. Nature boosts mental capacity and makes us feel happier.

Nature boosts mental capacity and makes us feel happier. Click To Tweet

3. Set limits

Reject the world’s message that you have to be available at all hours because technology has made us more accessible.

Set limits to your work hours and stick to them. Even if you work remotely, shut down your laptop at 5 pm and leave it closed until 9 am the next day (or whichever hours you choose).

Answer emails once or twice a day rather than every twenty minutes. Rather than firing off half-hearted replies, sit down and take the time to give each message the attention and response it deserves.

Consider ignoring emails over the weekend, or even going offline completely on Sundays.

Reduce your daily task list. Stop creating long lists of things you won’t possibly get through in a day.

Stop creating long lists of things you won't possibly get through in a day. Click To Tweet

Some people recommend putting three things on your list and no more. Others say to write one thing on your list! Once that’s completed, you can replace it with one more.

I’ve also heard it recommended to do a brain dump instead of a to-do list. Write down everything you can think of that needs doing in your life. Then pick one or two or three of the most pressing.

The brain dump method is said to relieve overwhelm by getting everything off your mind and onto the page.

Feeling down? 5 ways to get out of a funk and start feeling better

feeling down
Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Have you ever been in a funk? Not depression or serious grief, but a couple of disappointments back to back get you feeling down.

When you’re feeling that way, you want to take a vacation from life. You might hide out more than usual to avoid burdening others with your problems.

You’ve been burned in the past by people who lack compassion and understanding. When you went to them for support, they quoted Bible verses at you. Or made it all about themselves.

If you’re feeling down, there are a number of things you can do that don’t involve pretending or hiding. I believe in feeling your feelings and not “fake it till you make it”.

If you're feeling down, there are a number of things you can do that don't involve pretending or hiding. Click To Tweet

You should never fake anything. Remember Sadness in the Inside Out movie? They needed her so the protagonist could show her parents her true feelings and they could support her.

With that in mind, here are five ways to deal with feeling down without pretending you’re okay when you’re not.

1. Tell someone you’re feeling down.

Maybe you’ve been hurt before when you tried to share your feelings. Now that you know who’s unsafe, you can decide not to share with those people.

But find someone who’s shared with you in the past and return the favor. Or take a chance with someone you trust.

When we refuse to share our down times with others we deprive both them and ourselves of intimacy and connection.

Relationships deepen through struggles. That’s how we get to know each other better.

Do you ever notice when you share something hard, the other person is inspired to open up, too? Sharing our pain increases trust and helps us know we’re not alone.

Sharing our pain increases trust and helps us know we're not alone. Click To Tweet

So even when the last thing you want to do is expose yourself, it’s the only way to find true support and be fully seen and known by others.

2. Do something for someone else.

It’s healthy to seek a little bit of solitude when you’re feeling down. But it you find yourself avoiding seeing people and fixating on your problems, it’s time to get outside yourself.

In these situations, you have to do the opposite of what you feel like doing. It’s as simple as texting a friend to see how they’re doing.

Or making a donation to a cause near to your heart. Or promoting someone else on social media.

When Jesus told us to love others as ourselves, He didn’t mention the benefits. And that’s not the reason we do it.

But there is something therapeutic about reaching outside yourself to comfort or bless someone else.

3. Move your body when you’re feeling down.

feeling down

Literally, get up off the couch and move around. You don’t have to go to the gym to exercise: a few jumping jacks or push ups instantly change a stagnant frame of mind.

A walk around the neighborhood helps, too. If the sun is out you get needed Vitamin D. Nature does wonders for our quality of mind and can be very healing.

Again, it’s the last thing you want to do, but it will alter your frame of mind and keep you on the road to good health.

4. Take a deep breath.

It’s simple but sometimes we forget to breathe deeply and slowly. Shallow breathing encourages anxiety and feelings of fear.

A simple deep breath acts like a reset and can be therapeutic. You can take it further and practice mindful meditation.

Another way to slow down and breathe is to shut off the internet and read a physical book. The process of reading keeps you in the moment and away from your ruminating thoughts.

Reading helps you escape in a way social media never can. Click To Tweet

Reading helps you escape in a way social media never can. You engage with someone else’s story and take a break from your own.

5. Check something off your list.

The power of completing one small task when you’re feeling down will surprise you. Set yourself up for success by completing something easy.

Reach for the low-hanging fruit. You don’t have to stretch too far and grabbing it gives you the impetus to reach higher next time.

Accomplishing a seemingly insignificant task can make all the difference in getting back on your feet. Even if you simply begin, you’ll feel a burst of confidence.

Positive action reminds you that you’re capable and have the power to change your circumstances.