It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us. 

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Mindfulness expert and author Julie Potiker is an attorney who began her serious study and investigation of mindfulness after graduating from the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of California, San Diego. She went on to become trained to teach Mindful Self-Compassion, and completed the Positive Neuroplasticity...

Mindfulness expert and author Julie Potiker is an attorney who began her serious study and investigation of mindfulness after graduating from the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of California, San Diego. She went on to become trained to teach Mindful Self-Compassion, and completed the Positive Neuroplasticity Training Professional Course with Rick Hanson. Now, she shares these and other mindfulness techniques with the world through her Mindful Methods for Life trainings and her new book: “Life Falls Apart, but You Don’t Have To: Mindful Methods for Staying Calm In the Midst of Chaos.” For more information, visit www.MindfulMethodsForLife.com.

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2020: Your Year of Mindful Self-Compassion

2020 2020: Your Year of Mindful Self-Compassion

Just for a moment, forget about all your standard New Year’s resolutions. It goes without saying that most of us want to be healthier, wealthier, and wiser – but what if we’re going about it all wrong? Have we ever really stopped to wonder whether it’s possible to shame and “should” ourselves into going to the gym more or eating better?

Luckily, there’s another solution. Allow me to introduce you to a lovely practice called Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC). Mindfulness is the foundation of MSC. Why? Because we need to become aware of and acknowledge our suffering in order to respond to our discomfort with kindness. Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself as you would act towards a dear friend when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself.

Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “tough it out” mentality, you can stop to tell yourself, “This is really difficult right now. How can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?” Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, you are kind and understanding towards yourself when confronted with personal failings. After all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?

You may try to change in ways that allow you to be healthier and happier, but when you are mindfully showing yourself compassion, you change because you care about yourself, not because you are worthless or unacceptable as you are. Perhaps most importantly, having compassion for yourself means you honor and accept your humanness.

Things will not always go the way you want them to. You will encounter frustrations, and losses will occur; you will make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, and fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us. The more you open your heart to this reality instead of constantly fighting against it, the more you will be able to feel compassion for yourself and all your fellow humans in the experience of life.

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Using Mindfulness to Let Go of Stressful Triggers

Using Mindfulness to Let Go of Stressful Triggers Using Mindfulness to Let Go of Stressful Triggers

A wise person once said, “Hell is other people!” That being true, what’s a being to do? We have little to no control over the actions or reactions of someone else. The good news, however, is that if we develop the tools, we potentially have 100 percent control over our reaction to a given situation. It doesn’t mean we won’t experience difficult emotions; it means that we can manage those emotions before they eat our heart out.

Mindfulness, present moment awareness, allows us to notice emotions arising. If you find yourself stressed out at family events, for example, slow down and notice what is coming up for you: “Oh, that’s anger in my chest,” or “that’s anxiety in my stomach.” Labeling the emotion puts more space between you and the situation, allowing you to observe what is occurring instead of being hijacked by the emotion. Once you label the emotion, your brain calms down. Then, you can soothe yourself by placing your hand wherever you identified feelings constriction and consciously sending yourself softening and soothing thoughts. Imagine placing a warm compress or warm oil on the hurt.

The next step is to acknowledge that it’s difficult to feel this way, and give yourself love and encouragement by way of an affirmation like, “This too shall pass.” Everything really does change; the good changes and the bad changes.

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Keep Calm and Carry On

meditationhome Keep Calm and Carry On

Honey, are you keeping up your meditation practice?” my husband gently inquired. “This is such a stressful time. I really think you should try to exercise and do some good meditations.”

Yeah, well, I’m using Insight Timer and doing a meditation for going to sleep every night,” I replied.

“I don’t think that’s enough,” he lovingly suggested.

I’ve been sleeping on the couch at my Dad’s apartment, hanging out with my sisters as we watch and wait for this beloved, elegant, and generous man to transition from this world. Today I realized that I was out of contact lenses. I drove home (a blessed 10 minutes) to replenish my supply.

Once home, I wrestled with the choice to either burrow under my covers in my cozy bed or get my butt on the elliptical trainer machine. Go down, ahh… Go up, ugh… Hearing my husband’s whisper in my head, from miles away out at sea, I stepped up on the elliptical trainer, put Donna Summer radio on my Pandora App, and let my feet follow the beat. I am so fricking out of shape; I stayed between level one and level three, working up a sweat for 20 minutes. Then I walked on the treadmill for 10 minutes. After stretching and doing a little yoga, I chose a 20-minute guided meditation from Insight Timer called “Coping with Grief’s Difficult Emotions,” led by Heather Stang.

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Bursting the Super Woman / Super Mom Bubble

whoops-i-stained-myself-mommy-picture-id1063651740 Bursting the Super Woman / Super Mom Bubble

Wake up. Work out. Make breakfast (for everyone). Drive the kids to school. Drive yourself to work. Take the kids to all their activities. Bring them home. Make sure they’re doing their homework. Make dinner (for everyone). Be a mom. Be a friend. Be a daughter. Be a lover. Go to bed. Repeat.

Okay, so maybe not everything on this list applies to you personally, but I’m sure there are some others that are unique to you that you could swap in – and then some. As women, we are often expected to do ALL. THE. THINGS. And let’s be honest: our families, coworkers, and others learn to expect this from us because we are so darn good at making it look like we really can do it all! The reality, though, is that with so many balls in the air, something is going to drop. 

When something does inevitably drop, what’s your reaction going to be? And perhaps even more importantly, how are you going to react on a daily basis to the juggling act you’ve got going on?

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3 Mindful Tips to Support Your Mental Health

3mindfultips 3 Mindful Tips to Support Your Mental Health

It’s easy to let the stresses of daily life overwhelm us and send us into unhelpful thought patterns. Before I learned mindfulness, I suffered greatly from depression and even had thoughts of suicide. Now, though – thanks to a wonderful therapist and my committed study and practice of mindfulness techniques – I have tools right at my fingertips that can help me through the hardest times. My goal is to share these tools with as many people as possible so others can feel empowered to help themselves, too.

I invite you to try these three mindfulness techniques for yourself and see what impact they have on your mental state and well-being.

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It’s Time to Fire Your Inner Critic

owncritic It’s Time to Fire Your Inner Critic

We’ve all got that incessant voice in our heads that speaks up when we do things like try on new clothes, make a mistake, experience a perceived failure, or consider branching out of our comfort zone to try something different. And this internal diatribe occurring inside us tends not to be in the nicest of tones, am I right? This voice is our inner critic.

Often, the voice mimics our internalized version of criticism from a primary caregiver in early childhood. It tries to keep us safe – urging us to avoid pain and disappointment – but not in the best of ways.

If you’re ready to send your inner critic into early retirement, grab a writing utensil and a journal and follow these six steps. (You can certainly do this activity on a mobile device or computer if you prefer, but I find that there’s so much more power and connection in writing important things out by hand!)

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Can Mindfulness Help You Be Healthier?

happy-smiling-woman-rides-a-bicycle-on-the-country-road-under-blossom-picture-id1131658795 Can Mindfulness Help You Be Healthier?

Raise your hand if you’ve met all your health goals and are in perfect shape. Anybody? Okay, how about those of you who are never self-critical and love the way you look every time you look in the mirror. Any takers?

Let’s get serious for a moment: most people have long since abandoned their New Year’s health goals, and a whopping 79 percent of Americans feel at least occasionally unhappy with how their body looks. Rather than being stifled by unmet goals or struggling with our reflection though, what if there were a gentle and effective way to encourage healthier behaviors? Let’s take a closer look at how mindfulness practice can help us improve our physical, mental, and emotional health.

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Murder in a House of Worship

sad How mindfulness and self-compassion can help you manage fear, sorrow, and rage

Lori Kaye, gunned down on Saturday morning, April 27, 2019, at the Chabad Synagogue in Poway, California was an acquaintance of mine. She was an observant Jew, so when I heard about the shooting I feared she might have been in her house of worship on the last day of Passover.  

I texted her “sending love” and didn’t receive a reply. I thought she might not be responding because it was still Shabbat until sundown, and I didn’t know whether she followed the custom of not using her electronics on Shabbat. I called and texted Stacy (one of her best friends from childhood) and her husband Jon – our close friends – so they would know that a shooting occurred in case they wanted to reach out to Lori. 

I’ll never forget Jon’s voice on the line, “I think Lori is dead, Stacy and Michelle are on their way up to the hospital.” 

What unfolded is surreal, unthinkable, and unfortunately not unusual on this planet. Our town is still reeling; her funeral was an international event that was live streamed over the internet. Over four thousand people gathered on the sports field at the public high school in Poway for a unity rally against hate the night she was buried. 

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Antidote to Anger? Mindfulness.

woman-writing-dreams-in-diary-picture-id1135542281 Antidote to Anger? Mindfulness.

Everyone struggles with anger at some point in their lives. From lingering frustrations to outright rage, it’s easy to feel helpless when anger strikes and, too often, people end up speaking or behaving in ways they later find regrettable. However, there are tools we can use to lessen our experience of anger and live more peacefully.

In my classes, I teach that below anger there is usually a softer emotion – one that’s more vulnerable – and the anger rises up to protect it. I discovered my own anger while discussing an issue in my life during a recent therapy session, and underneath that anger was fear.

Identifying my anger and looking deeper allowed me to recognize this fear – a primal fear – and it brought me to tears, which was great! I’m not a big crier, and crying is such a wonderful stress reliever – so it felt good to let it out. From there, I was able to consider what I could do next to help myself heal.

There is a Buddhist saying that goes: “We make our own hell by wishing things were different than they are.” There are many things in life that we can’t control, and my anger was over one of these things in my own life. My solution? I decided it was time to renew my gratitude practice.

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Take the Sting Out of Stress with Mindfulness

close-up-of-meditation-in-park-at-sunrise-picture-id1039533792 Take the Sting Out of Stress with Mindfulness

April is National Stress Awareness Month – a "holiday" of sorts that invites us all to take the opportunity to acknowledge and address the stress in our lives. We all face stress from time to time, and some of us truly struggle with it. In fact, a recent study reveals that approximately 57 percent of people experience paralyzing stress, and 47 percent say their response to stress is to "take it out on themselves." Ouch.

One of the most effective ways we can reduce our experience of stress is through the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness can be applied in many areas of life, and it offers us the chance to tap into our inner peacefulness in spite of whatever outside stressors we may encounter. Here are some mindful ways to take the sting out of stress this month, and anytime. Try them for yourself and see how much better you feel.

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From Postpartum Depression to Mindful Self-Compassion

newborn From Postpartum Depression to Mindful Self-Compassion

I have this memory from 1990 of feeling like my little baby and I were all alone in the universe. The love that I felt for him was heartbreaking. I could sit and watch him sleep for hours, waiting for his little cherub lip to quiver in his slumber. Everything else in my life felt too bright, too loud, too something… too raw. My body was a disaster, and my mind wasn’t too far behind. The only bright spot was the baby.

I had flashbacks of giving birth for months. It was terrifying and excruciating. They call it a precipitous delivery, when your cervix dilates from 4 to 10 centimeters in less than 10 minutes. His head was stuck behind my tailbone and they were pushing so hard on my back that it felt like it broke. The anesthesiologist wouldn’t give me an epidural because they didn’t have an IV running. She responded to my screams for drugs: “You’re not getting any drugs, honey; your baby is coming out now.” It felt like someone was cutting my body open with an axe and pulling out my organs — and that was a vaginal delivery!

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