Powerless

You can take care of yourself. You can check on your people. You cannot force anyone to get the help he or she might need.

When you suffer from a mental illness, it’s like a fog that cannot be lifted. You can’t see the way out. Or sometimes, you can see the way out but it’s too daunting to rise above. Nothing in the world can motivate you. While I’m not a trained mental health professional, I can attest firsthand that no one can pull me out of my current state. It’s entirely up to me.

I’ve learned over time through trial and error what to say to people, how to talk about what I’m experiencing and how to rise above my anxiety. It can happen in hours or can take weeks – every instance is different. While you can’t see it or perhaps even notice it, I know its always there. You don’t need to treat me differently, however I do appreciate a general awareness.

And this is the situation when you’re diagnosed and openly talking about it.

Imagine seeing someone you love so sick that they don’t know they need help. This is often the case with addicts. Because they are debilitated by the disease, they are unwilling to seek treatment. So what do you do?

For starters, we’re not mental health professionals so we can’t and shouldn’t walk around diagnosing people. Instead, we can:

  • Remove any judgement we have about the person or his/her situation. Because the truth is we don’t know what’s going on inside his/her mind, heart, soul, etc.
  • Be open and receptive if/when the person reaches out. Try to make the time to connect with them and take their concerns seriously. Listen, hold space and do not preach.
  • Pray and if that’s not your thing, send positive vibes out into the universe for that person. I firmly believe in the power of pray or good vibe sending. It can make a difference while bringing a sense of peace to a tumultuous situation.
  • Keep taking care of yourself. Yes, I’m saying it again because it’s that important. Running yourself ragged worrying about someone who isn’t ready to accept help isn’t going to help. It’s actually going to make the situation much worse. If you need to, talk to someone about what you’re experiencing as the loved one or caregiver of someone with a mental illness. Support groups are another resource that could offer perspective on a pretty shitty situation.

Honestly, it sucks being powerless and unable to help those you care most about. Talking about it and setting boundaries helps and yet, there will still be times when it sucks. I’m giving you full permission to hate on it, let it suck, whatever. But, you cannot stay in the suck. Remember you can only control your reaction to the situation. Choose that reaction wisely.

I hope this month’s posts gave you some insight into my views on mental health. It’s only by continuing the conversation that we can remove the stigma.

Showing Up…Uninvited

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” – Fred Rogers

I always want to be the person helping and have been since I was a kid. My role as big sister lends itself to my helpful nature as well. I like adding value and if I can make someone’s life easier in the process, win-win.

I’m also intuitive and an empath (they usually go together), which makes me sense things before they happen. I have a weird ability? to think I know what people need before they say it. Handy at times, detrimental at others. It’s only through reflection, discernment of my own intuition and detachment that I’ve learned to manage my helpful, somewhat fixing ways. There can, in fact, be too much of a good thing 😉

Couple last week’s post with my ‘I know what you need, allow me to help you’ attitude and you can imagine the predicaments I’ve gotten myself into. Yet, there are times when invading personal space and challenging others’ perspective is necessary. How do I know? It’s a feeling, one that I’ve learned is different from my own desire to serve. When it’s about the other person, I feel it in my gut versus feeling it in my heart when it’s about me. I’ve practiced cultivating this awareness with lots of silence and creating open, honest relationships, where people keep me in check. Thank God for them!

I still get anxious at times when I know I need to invade personal space. Fear of the unknown or an adverse reaction is real! I also know my friends, the ride or die tribe, want honesty, want challenge, want help. They want me in their corner for the good, the bad, the messy and the chaotic. A few ways I’ve learned to show up:

  • Invading personal space is not just for anyone. This holding a mirror up for another person to see themselves is recommended for relationships built on a strong foundation of trust and understanding.
  • Timing is everything! The middle of the work day isn’t always convenient. As the invader (ha!), it’s important to ask permission…is now a good time to talk about ________? Do you want my opinion or an opportunity to vent without judgement? How can I help you in this moment? Receivers of the invasion must be honest and share their true feelings, not what they think their friend wants to hear.
  • Typically, when you’re checking in on someone or calling them out on their shit (both are important), there will be emotion. Don’t let that freak you out. Our strong friends usually have the strongest emotions. Let them release, be their soft place to fall.
  • Trust your intuition. You know what your person/people need. Sometimes it’s a hug, sometimes it’s simply your presence, sometimes it’s driving meatballs to their kid while they’re traveling. Go with how you feel, not what you think. My go-to question is: How am I serving this person in this moment? It helps me to tap into that gut place of knowing.
  • Above all else, no one is broken, you’re not fixing anyone or anything. Pain and suffering are part of the human condition. A cornerstone of my coaching program (CTI) is holding people naturally creative, resourceful and whole. When you look at this kind of situation from the NCRW perspective, you’re showing up to hold space, not put pieces back together.

One of the promises of friendship (or any relationship really), is to be there no matter what, especially when your friend isn’t 100%. Everyone needs someone looking out for them. How and what you do is different for each relationship, in each situation. Don’t be afraid to show up unapologetically, without hesitation or preconceived notions.

Kelly Clarkson’s new song Broken and Beautiful sums it up perfectly. While I’m not in love with the word broken, I do think the verses tell the story of what most of us need.

Check on your Strong Friends

When you describe someone as strong, what do you mean? There are different representations of physical strength: Running a marathon, push-ups or burpees (my least favorite exercise), hitting any number of yoga poses, childbirth, the list continues.

What about mental and emotional toughness? Not as easy to identify, right? Perhaps it’s someone with a level of resilience, the friend who’s been dealt a series of less than optimal hands and still shows up with a smile. They’re the friend who always figures it out. When you ask if they’re okay, they’ll reassure you with an “of course” or “yep, all good.”

Very nonchalant and never wanting to draw attention to themselves, our strong friends are often our soft places to fall. They’re our first phone calls for the good and the bad moments life throws at us. Because they can handle it. They always have, they always will, right?

Until they don’t. Until our strong friends are so depleted they can’t function. I’ve watched my strong friends lose themselves and I myself have experienced this. Here’s the thing, were all strong in our own way. Strong isn’t a one size fits all adjective. And as the song goes, we all need somebody to lean on.

We’re not supposed to do life alone. I, for one, know I don’t want to do life without my tribe. Asking friends for help (not misusing or disrespecting boundaries) is part of the human condition. Thank God for that! Imagine how terrible life would be if there weren’t other people involved!

Together, we need to redefine strong. Strong is being vulnerable, showing the full range of emotions, not just the ones that are comfortable. Strong is articulating what you need, even if you’re not sure what exactly that is. It’s showing up as you are, perfectly created, for the moments of pain, grief, anxiety, addiction and sadness.

Check on your strong friends. Better yet, check on your tribe. You will not and should not have the answers. That’s not the point. You are there to invade personal space and remind your people they’re not alone in this ever winding journey called life.

How do you invade their personal space without pissing anyone off? Check back next week for some ways to start.

Extra Measure of Grace

May is Mental Health Awareness so I’ve decided to write a series of posts highlighting what I know about mental health. While I’m not a trained mental health professional, I do believe that the only way to remove the stigma associated with mental illness is to talk about.

The challenging part of these issues is that they’re unseen and hard to articulate symptoms as many vary by person or develop over time. Regardless, it starts with you and generating a self-awareness about what you’re experiencing.

Showing yourself grace and compassion is essential as you work through whatever you’re experiencing. I’ve learned to label the energetic dip I experience as the recovery zone. This typically occurs after a period of high energy expenditure, like overly busy times at work or gearing up for a holiday. It also happens to me after bouts of increased anxiety. I become overstimulated, peak and hit a valley that’s challenging to come up from.

Some label this as burnout or high functioning depression; only you can name it to tame it. This place isn’t just low energy, its exhausting, a place where everything is hard and where you can see the way out but aren’t sure how to get there. It’s a place that’s necessary though it can be lonely as I’m the only one who can climb my way out.

This will likely look different for each person – it should! These are not cookie cutter experiences or solutions. When I’m recovering, here are a few ways I return to my steady state.

  • Generate an awareness that I’m there. A few indicators include not being able to fall asleep, lack of motivation to do anything, more snacking and a quicker temper.
  • Flow with the tide. There’s no magic bullet to pull me out. I feel the feels aka cry at every commercial and don’t force myself into doer mode. It’s very much about being in order to restore my own energy.
  • Love thy self, hard. This should have been the first commandment. I increase my self care where I can – exercise, binge watching, reading a book. I *try* to speak to myself the way I’d speak to my best friend, with care and compassion and give myself an extra measure of grace.
  • I let go of others’ judgement. *Insert eye roll here.* This is the hardest part for me. People hear recovery or burnout or depression and generally become helicopter friends. That’s not what I need. Support from a distance. Know that if someone you love is in this season, they have the resources they need within to recover. Walk beside them, not behind them pushing them along.

This is a season, a moment, not a place I’ll live forever. I’ve learn to accept my internal wiring and know I’ll come out the other side stronger. I’ve also created more routines that help prevent longer periods of recovery – things like daily exercise, meal prepping, monthly therapy and massages. I believe I’ll always experience this and find it to be a restorative process.

How do you show yourself grace when struggling mentally or emotionally?

The Pursuit of Happiness?

I went to Mantra Lounge here in Philadelphia last month to hear Devamrita Swami, a traveling monk, speak about happiness. I had absolutely no idea what to expect and was pleasantly surprised with how his ideas stuck with me after the event.

After meditation, he discussed the ambiguous nature of happiness. As it’s written in the Constitution, happiness is always a pursuit. When I get this job, when I meet that guy/girl, when my children are settled…on and on we go. We look to materials, places, people to complete us, to put a bandaid on a bullet hole.

Before we peel back some of these layers with a few questions, I want to define happiness. I don’t mean slap happy, jumping for joy, euphoria (though that’s fabulous). I’m talking about being at peace with your life. Now for the questions:

  1. When was the last time you were genuinely happy?
  2. What were you doing?
  3. Who were you with?
  4. Where were you?

Now strip all of tha away. Would you still be happy? For sure, there are things that make me happy. Happy hours with my besties, pedicures, Grey’s Anatomy and peanut butter enhance my mood and certainly I enjoy all of those things. However, if I stop, slow down and look at my life, am I pleased with what I see without those things? Yes, for the most part, I am.

It’s a bit of a tricky concept to articulate. No one is saying stop setting goals or going on trips. Well, the traveling monk might say that however, I’m not. Go for the promotion, dance to the music, kiss the boy (or girl). And don’t let those experiences define your mindset.

If you’re struggling with the ‘I’ll be happy when’ syndrome, here are ideas to try. It’s an art, not a science, each day will be different and present its own challenges.

How does the idea the pursuit of happiness mess us up?!
  • Start with gratitude. ALL of us walk around taking the little things for granted. You slept in the bed last night, right? Ate decent food? Are walking, talking, reading this on your own? Start there. On your worst day, there is someone who has it worse.
  • Notice the world around you. Go outside without headphones and listen to the sounds of nature. Get present in your body by focusing on your breath. Scan from top to bottom, intentionally focusing and showing love for each body part. They’re all part of the system that keeps you running each day. How miraculous is that?
  • Pay attention to how you’re talking to yourself about your life. How do you show yourself grace? How do you shake off a bad day? What does your gut say about the situation? There are little clues hidden in these places. Self-care is extremely important here too.
  • Practice non-attachment, the hardest part of it all. This goes back to gratitude. If that thing you really wanted doesn’t happen, what did happen? What is the universe trying to show or tell you? Remember, when you show up to the universe with openness, the universe will respond back

I’d love to hear more about your relationship with happiness, what challenges you’re facing and your reactions to this post. The good news is there’s no right answer!

During the month of May, I’ll be sharing a series of posts about mental health. Please shoot me an email (acrispino25@gmail.com) if there’s something specific you’d like to see posted.

The Rise (and Fall) of the GirlBoss

If you scroll through Twitter or Instagram (or any social media site really), you’ll see lots of posts with #girlboss attached. If you Google #girlboss, there are over 1 million hits, including an entire website dedicated to providing inspiration for ambitious women. I’m down with that!

I’m happy to see women stepping into their power, striving for more and supporting one another during the process. And yet, when Aarti Sequeira shared her frustration about this phrase on Instagram a couple of weeks ago, I had a visceral reaction.

It seems these days that everyone and their mother (literally) has a side hustle. Sales director by day, wedding planner by night. Kindergarten teacher by day, cake decorator by night. I can’t judge…I’m currently doing the same thing 😉 Social media becomes a hamster wheel until you run yourself into the comparison ground.

So, here we are, running so fast to keep up with our fellow #girlbosses that we’re exhausted, depleted and serving absolutely no one. If you’re find yourself feeling this way, here are three questions to realign your priorities.

  1. Where are your expectations coming from? Who says you have to do all the things all of the time and share them all with your social media followers? You are allowed to take a break or have an off day. For me, someone who is an extrovert, having off days is especially hard because people notice and think I need fixing. In reality, I need wine, Grey’s Anatomy or sleep (other options possible too).
  2. For each project or area of your life, ask yourself, how is this serving you? Not how it’s serving your brand or your business but how it is serving you the person? Start by visualizing what lights you up during the day and really feel it in your body. What do you dread? What can you eliminate or delegate? Set specific intentions for each project and reevaluate them as often as you need to.
  3. Get granular on your timeline. How long will you dedicate to each project? Are certain projects a means to an end, meaning do you need to upskill for your new job so you’re ahead of the curve? This is YOUR timeline that you create on YOUR terms. It’s not meant to be a check the box exercise or to self inflict pressure. It’s to help you move forward on your goals.

I’m here for the #girlboss as long as there’s intention behind wearing the label. Carry on my side hustlers, influencers, rockstars, moms trying to get through the day, superwomen, #girlbosses and don’t lose sight of your why.

Surrounded

“That’s what a great friend is: Someone who looks out for you when you’ve forgotten to look out for yourself. Find these superwomen, love them and let them love you” – Alicia Keys

That quote summarizes my life. I am part of this amazingly powerful, courageously vulnerable and overall badass group of women. Women from all walks of my life, who look, sound and feel differently than I do. Some are right here in Philly and some are across the country. Regardless of distance, they’re my go to at anytime even when it’s not convenient, ever-growing tribe.

There are many days when I sit back and admire this fierce lady tribe of mine. Members of the group have actually caught me staring at them smiling. Creepy, I know, but I’m not apologizing. I’m often in awe of how exceptional these women are and that ALL of them are in my corner. How in the world could I be this blessed?!

Note: I have some great men in my life too; that’s another post for another time. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been surrounded by a village. A village of strong, kind, brave, fun women. My mother created this village and filled it with other positive role models: Her mom (my grandmother), her sister (my godmother), various cousins and her best friends. I was the first born for my mom and her friends. I became their doll, perhaps their practice baby and that place of distinction hasn’t changed almost 30 years later. These women, mom included, set the standard for how I view friendship. They have, time and time again, shown up for each other, to celebrate, to grieve, to support. It is unconditional love at its best.

My mom monitored this village as I grew up. The older I got, the less control she had. Yet, she encouraged its growth, stating “you can never have too many people who love you.” That stuck.

Fast forward to present day, here I am with my extraordinary girl gang because my mom cultivated this love abundance mindset in me. She is grateful I have other women in my life to look out for me, take me to dinner or listen to me. Yes mom, you’re always #1, they know that too.

One of the tribe members leaned over my cubicle the other day and said “Everyone deserves someone who looks out for them the way you look out for me.” It’s like she knew I was writing this post (she didn’t). That my friends is what cultivating your own group of superwomen is about. I can’t give you a set of bullets to explain how these women walked into my life. I can say that there’s no perfect picture of who should be in your circle. Toss out any preconceived notions and stay open. Love is a limitless emotion and the circle that surrounds you can never be too big.

I am forever grateful to my mom for making sure I was surrounded and to all the women who are walking with me on this journey. Check out my Instagram (@alexcharlic) to see and hear about some of these amazing women throughout the month of March.

40 years of friendship right here

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