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Controlled Chaos:  Now That’s What I’m Talking About!  

Ellen Sichel:
Controlled Chaos Personified

I admit it- I am a Shark Tank fan.  One episode I watched two women in the beauty industry pitch their product: Controlled Chaos-  It gives those with curly hair a softer curl, controls frizz without the stiff product feel.  They were passionate, real, fun, and a bit chaotic- they eventually got a deal. I loved the founders and product name and can totally relate (way beyond my hair!).  I too can be chaotic and am sure you can too.

As for my hair, it is basically curly when cut properly, yet most of the time I blow dry the curl out.  I do not enjoy this chore at all (even when trying some mindful drying!)  Why, you might wonder do I participate in this hot, annoying ritual?  To look a bit tidier and more professional, especially when I speak.  I was raised with a more conservative look- neat and controlled.  Hmmm, this sounds really nuts to me as I write this.

Well, times have changed.  I am now committed to going curly- apply product, shake, and go.  I will even get my haircut to maximize my curls.  I have included a selfie (not my best.)  You might be wondering where I am going with this blog and what this has to do with stress management and calm living. Okay, here goes…

Control does not work
It creates rigidity just like a sticky and unnatural hair product designed to make hair behave.

Chaos can be fun when it doesn’t take over
Chaos can look natural and playful.  I have been trying (not too successfully) to behave- to keep some reserved air about me- after all, I teach calm living- right?  Boy,that too sounds lame.

This is why Controlled Chaos appealed to me.  It is the perfect combo.  Control without the edge, without the rigidity, without forcing-  It is natural and relaxed, mixed in with some play .It is both anchored and free.

You do not need curly hair to relate to this. Take a look at how you show up to life.  Are you showing up as-is, or are you running your life from a place perfection and frustration.  This is much of what underlies stress.  Fighting who we are.

Yes, I am still in my Inciting a Riot phase of life.  I will be a bit curlier, but know if I feel like it I can choose to style my hair (I am beginning to sound like a Barbie commercial- curly Barbie, dressy Barbie- Oy.)

Now it’s your turn
I hope you can come along and put a bit of Controlled Chaos in your day. For those of you who love the chaos, go ahead- after all calm living is not about being this Zen flower.  It is more about learning how to mix the two- tame your chaos, don’t get rid of it.

For now, notice where you are trying to stay socially acceptable or feel embarrassed when you try something a bit out of your comfort zone.  What stops you?

I would love to hear from you.  Leave a comment if you would like.
P.S.  More curls to come after my next haircut and yes, I did order the product!

Warm regards,

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I AM INCITING A SELF-CARE RIOT!  For Good Reason

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Back Story

I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of caregivers and professionals who are dealing with high stress events in their lives.  As I was teaching and listening to their stories, what came to light was the unyielding demands many have upon them.

When I asked one women what she loved to do that she can no longer do, she said: I loved to cook.  You might be thinking, that is easy enough for her to do- you are wrong.  This woman work is taking care of an Alzheimer’s patient throughout the day.  Now you might be thinking, well she can cook when she gets home- wrong again.  She comes home and takes care of her three children. Barely time to breathe.  This, I am sad to say is the reality for many.  Work all day in a demanding job, only to come home to a full evening of responsibilities.

When I responded, what I did NOT say was – you must find time for yourself.  That is what we hear over and over again and frankly, I am sick of it.  It is not helpful and leaves people feeling hopeless and unheard.

Realistic Response

I asked her if she goes to the market to shop for food.  She said yes.
I asked her if when she goes to the market could she go to the produce aisle and take a moment to look at the colors and textures of the fruit and then smell their aroma.

I went on to suggest a few other actions:

  • To pick a piece of fruit that she had never had before and purchase it.
  • To take a moment and walk by the flowers, look at the colors, and smell the aroma.
  • When home to put on the cooking channel, even if she has no time to watch, she can hear the sounds and conversations in the background.

You get the picture?  She did, and said yes she could and would do what I suggested.  As she said it, I noticed her eyes were a bit brighter.

In other words, when at the market, be at the market.  For this woman, that might be her only opportunity for her to enjoy what she loves- maybe not in the same way but still filling the well even just a bit. Think of it as taking a short vacation at the market!

Simplicity works.  Simplicity is effective and simple opportunities occur throughout the day, every day.

My Riot

This is the riot I want to incite.  A riot of stopping the useless fluffy suggestions that are given to people who are dealing with high stress or dealing with daily health issues of their own to “take time for themselves.”  Get clear- they do not have the time!

I am ready to take on and transform what we think self-care looks like.  I want to teach people how to fill up bit- by-bit, drop-by-drop in a way that works for them.   All it takes is a bit of willingness to consider the possibilities- and there are lots of them.

Hope to see you soon!

Warm regards,

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Are You Up, Down, or Both?  It’s Enough to Make You Crazy!

Super Bowl Insanity

I watched the Super bowl a few nights ago and was immersed in the highs and lows of the game.

Feelings of excitement, anticipation, frustration, and huge disappointment all occurred within a 3.5- hour time period.

I even turned into an expert on how to coach a game- after all, I have watched football before! To help ease my pain at the loss of my Atlanta Falcons, I stuffed my face with my husband’s decadent chocolate pecan pie (definitely worth the calories.)
After the game, I decompressed, slept, woke up and did what I always do- my routine.

What Changed
Really, nothing had changed.  I was still Ellen, up and down with the challenges and joys of life.
Day to day, we face uncertainty and fear in our tumultuous world, yet we still go to bed, wake up and do our daily routine once again.
As I write this, it can seem pretty boring, yet there is something comforting about this.

The consistency inherent in my daily routines helps keep me grounded and sane (most of the time!) 

There is something important here- the need for grounding, especially in times of uncertainty.  I think it is the simplicity.  It is a coming home.  When I feel out of sorts, I need to remember to come home.  It might be a breath, a mundane errand, or some other sort of simple activity.  It is an “undoing”, rather than more doing, reacting, or forcing.
There is a book of poems by Danna Faulds that I read from when I teach my gentle yoga class.  The last stanza of a poem is on point:

This life, this extraordinary
imperfection, this moment
just as it is, this is all I’m
here to receive. The infuriating,
limitless simplicity of the day-to-day
living holds everything
I think I’m missing.

My Point

Yes, life is very complex, yet there is simplicity that we can embrace.  I know I am getting more esoteric than usual, but this rings so true. Allow your daily routines to help anchor you.  Stay as present when doing them as you can.  This way, when you go out to engage your world, you will have more of yourself to give.

Warm regards,

 

 

 

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My Anti- New Year’s Resolution  Enough Resolving, Act Already!

I recently read an article written by one of my mentors and she always leaves me feeling inspired.  What I love about her is that she has the guts to stay true to who she is.  That is what makes her

work so darn amazing. In my work, I think of myself as keeping it real as well, and with that said, I have to get something off my chest about New Year’s Resolution newsletters:


I Hate Them! They are boring, redundant, and most are full of nothing and not particularly helpful.

This got me thinking… why do most resolutions not work?
Research Needed:

I decided to research this phenomena, and take a look at the definition of resolution.

Resolution: A firm decision to do or not to do something.  Okay, so it is a decision- let’s look that up.
Decision: A conclusion or resolution reached after consideration. So it’s about consideration- let’s check out that definition.
Consideration: Careful thought, typically over a period of time.

Are you seeing a pattern here? Getting the picture?  Think and consider and decide, Oh my!

Hello, where is the ACTION???

Where is the part where you are actually doing something?

That is what I want to stand up and scream about (Okay, these days there are many things I want to stand up and scream about.)  Do something already!

My work is based on action, not resolution- change only comes from action.  You cannot think your way or get ready to get ready to change.  That, my dear reader is a big cop out and keeps you stuck.
I challenge you to act, no matter how small it is.  One of my actions is to get back to writing.  I love it, it is therapeutic, and I hope it helps others – even it brings a smile to your face.  The truth is, I write for myself- it is good for my soul.

What can you do today that is good for your soul?  Do not resolve to do it, don’t consider it, don’t make a decision-  Do something, anything- not later- Now

Have an Un-Resolution, action-filled New Year!

Warm regards,

 

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My Anti- New Year’s Resolution  Enough Resolving, Act Aleardy!

I recently read an article written by one of my mentors and she always leaves me feeling inspired.  What I love about her is that she has the guts to stay true to who she is.  That is what makes her work so darn amazing.

In my work, I think of myself as keeping it real as well, and with that said, I have to get something off my chest about New Year’s Resolution newsletters:

I Hate Them! They are boring, redundant, and most are full of nothing and not particularly helpful.

This got me thinking… why do most resolutions not work?

Research Needed:

I decided to research this phenomena, and take a look at the definition of resolution.
Resolution: A firm decision to do or not to do something.  Okay, so it is a decision- let’s look that up.
Decision: A conclusion or resolution reached after consideration. So it’s about consideration- let’s check out that definition.
Consideration: Careful thought, typically over a period of time.

Are you seeing a pattern here? Getting the picture?  Think and consider and decide, Oh my!

Hello, where is the ACTION???
Where is the part where you are actually doing something?

That is what I want to stand up and scream about (Okay, these days there are many things I want to stand up and scream about.)  Do something already!

My work is based on action, not resolution- change only comes from action.  You cannot think your way or get ready to get ready to change.  That, my dear reader is a big cop out and keeps you stuck.
I challenge you to act, no matter how small it is.  One of my actions is to get back to writing.  I love it, it is therapeutic, and I hope it helps others – even it brings a smile to your face.  The truth is, I write for myself- it is good for my soul.

What can you do today that is good for your soul?  Do not resolve to do it, don’t consider it, don’t make a decision-  Do something, anything- not later- Now

Have an Un-Resolution, action-filled New Year!
Warm regards,

 

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Good Riddance 2016: Don’t Let the Door Hit You in the Butt!

 

This has been a very troublesome, painful year and we were all impacted.

Personally, I retreated from just about everything and am now crawling (okay, blasting) back out- yes, I am alive and well. My decision not to write and work with clients was a symptom of what was going on personally and worldwide.The truth is, I had nothing to give.  The political climate turned me into an angry, sad, fearful, person and all my practices were not enough to fix it.

This got me thinking…
I need for it to be okay to feel crappy, angry, sad, frustrated, scared, and confused.  My resistance to what I was feeling and my judgment of myself as a professional was pulling me down even more.

This too got me thinking
It is okay for me to ride the wave of all my feelings and still be the upbeat, proactive person I know myself to be.

Still more thinking (too much time off gets me thinking a lot)
It is time to shake things up.  To stop doing what is no longer working and make space for what is to come.  Here are a few first steps:

1.  I will write blogs again twice a month to start. I promise to keep it real.
2.  After February, I will no longer be teaching my evening class at the Cancer Support Community.
3.  I have taken a 10 hour per week job helping a non-profit coordinate their events. Stay tuned.
4.  I will only spend my time with those who are in alignment with my core values.
5.  I will no longer put myself out to those people and organizations who take me for granted.
6.  I will build my business in a way that feeds me.  No more focus on $$$ and more focus on what makes my heart sing. Stay tuned.
7.  I will be politically active- I will not “get over” prejudice and injustice, but do something about it.

One last thought…
These changes are just the beginning. I am cleaning house- no more clutter in all areas of my life (Robert and the kids, you can stay!)
I will not be a victim of our chaotic world.  I will take action and get back to being the powerhouse I know myself to be.

Wishing us all a peaceful, proactive, and joyful New Year.

Warm regards,

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Your Vacation: Leave yourself home and it will be great!

 

 

Yeah, Summer Vacation is Here!

Your vacation is around the corner and you are anticipating time filled with play, filling up, and chilling out. You leave your troubles behind- no work, no worries, no business calls (???)  A change of scenery and recharge is around the corner.   You plan, pack, buy new clothes, get your toiletries and  are finally ready to get in the car, or get on the plane to your well planned destination.

There is nothing in your way, except…  Yourself!

YOU are the only thing that you must take with you. This is a problem because there is no escaping the way you deal with life.  A coach once told me- how you do anything is how you do everything. You do vacation the way you do life.  Here are a few examples:

  • If you are perfectionist- you will want your vacation to go perfectly.
  • If you are a complainer- you will complain about the weather, traffic, delays, food, etc.
  • If you are a doer- you will be a busy bee with little down time- after all, you don’t want to miss a thing.
  • If you are in a planner- you will miss out on spontaneity.

You might be one or all of these.

The Sichel Vacation

My husband and I recently took a vacation to Maine and Nova Scotia. We planned and booked our flights, our B&B’s, rented a car, and off we went.  My husband has trained me that vacation begins once the door to our home closes (such a wise man.) The trip to airport, the drive to hotel is all part of the vacation.  I have chosen to take that philosophy as well and it works beautifully.

My personality is one of a bit of a combination from the above vacation approaches, and I constantly strive to do it differently.  Here are a few examples:

1.  The weather was not good for most of the trip.  I had to constantly remind myself to let go of how I thought the weather would be and remind myself that the weather is not personal.  Actually, the weather did not get in our way of what we wanted to do and my holding back on complaining (for the most part J) allowed us to have much more fun.

2.  My “doing” personality was forced slowed down- we visited many beautiful sleepy towns.

3.  I must add on an extra perk- The Food!  Seafood… Memorable, delicious, and for the most part healthy. I think I took more pictures of the food than anything else!

4.  Trip home- this could have really have put a damper on the last part of our vacation.  We were delayed over 6 hours and did not take off from a small airport until 11:30 pm.  I could have gotten frustrated, but instead I got out my Fit Bit and got someone’s child to join me and we walked over 3000 steps. His mom,brother, and my husband eventually joined us.  I met some great people and joked and laughed. Delta, brought in pizzas and could not have been nicer.

So what does this have to do with calm living?  Since you cannot leave yourself home from your vacation, you can give yourself permission to shift one small habit. You will catch yourself in old behavior, which will give you a choice to make a shift. Maybe a simple breath is all that is needed when you catch yourself.

Take a moment and notice how you show up to life. Find one area from my list (if you are the perfectionist, please only pick one)  See what small shift you can make. Let me know how it goes.

Bon voyage!

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My NY Bagel Debacle:  Never Again!

 

Recently both of my daughters and myself flew to NY to spend Mother’s Day with my mom.  It was a treat to have us all together with my sister and brother and their families.

Of course no NY visit would be complete without NY Bagels.  If you are from the south and you think the bagels here at the chains are good bagels- you are mistaken.  Most of their bagels are baked and I refer to them as “rolls with holes”.  They are yummy, but not a true bagel.  Bagels are boiled, not baked and what makes NY bagels superior to a real southern bagel is the water they are boiled in.

NY Bagels can even be colorful- a perfect match for my younger daughters hair!

Enough about your bagel lesson.  What I want to share is a lesson I learned about the power of the bagel.

Before we left we visited our favorite bagel shop to purchase bagels to take home.  My daughter was giving a dozen bagels as part of a house warming gift.  All together we bought two dozen.

Since two dozen bagels are quite heavy, I got the bright idea to wrap them very well, pack them, and send them through luggage. All went well and our precious bagels arrived safely in Atlanta.

The problem arose when I opened my suitcase.  The smell of the well packed onion bagels satiated every last item in my bag, including my bag!  I had to take the bag out of our bedroom as it was stinking everything up.

I proceeded to wash everything, even my raincoat.  Still a mild smell.  I wiped out my bag with a surface wipe which did not help.  Still onion smell.  The icing on the cake (or bagel) was what happened the following morning when I went to open my makeup case, which smelled of bagels.  When I applied my foundation, there was an odor coming from my makeup brushes-onions.

OY VEY!  Big mistake.

Today I went to the store and bought heavy duty Mr. Clean- success at last! I can finally store my suitcase.  As for my makeup brushes, a quick washing will hopefully work.

If you are around me and smell something mouthwatering, it is my new scent- Ode de NY Onion Bagel.

You might be wondering what this has to do with stress (or maybe you’re not.) The lessons here are:

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously
  • Have fun and laugh
  • Stay open to learning something new every day
  • Laugh at yourself even when you make some bad choices

For me, I have gained even more respect for the NY bagel.  They do not skimp on the onions!
Warm regards,

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Waiting for the Time? BIG Mistake!

The past few weeks have been very difficult for our family.  My brother-in-law passed away unexpectedly.  In addition to grief and sadness, something else got my attention.  My husband’s sadness was compounded by the reality that he waited to go to his dentist brother to fix his teeth. He kept putting it off partly because he hates going to the dentist and partly because he felt he could do it any time.  Sadly, anytime will not come. This brings to mind an experience my mother had when her friend died- she regretted not having her to her house for a visit.
She kept putting it off.   Unfortunately these are not isolated incidents – we all do this.
We not only wait on planning events with others, we wait on everything- both serious and mundane:

  • We wait to feel better to do something uplifting.
  • We wait until our kids leave for college to do what we want.
  • We wait to sell our house that is way too big and costing us a fortune in upkeep – that was one of ours and when we sold it, it was as if the shackles came off.  (Now we have wash and fold, trash pickup, no maintenance – Yes, life is easy. )
  • We wait to get the dishes we saw at Costco – and when we go back the next week, they are gone (another one of mine – silly but we all do this.)
  • We wait for a better time to take a vacation.
  • We wait to take the class we have wanted to take.

You get the picture…
Let me sum up waiting:  You snooze, you lose! 

Warm regards,

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Uplifting, Fun, Humbling, Exhilarating, Inspiring & Exhausting: All Rolled into One Great Weekend!

You might be wondering where I went on vacation.  No, this was not a vacation but an Ataxia Conference.

Many might not know about Ataxia.  I didn’t until I spoke at an Atlanta chapter support group meeting.  I am amazed by how many serious chronic illnesses there are that go unheard of.  Ataxia is a set of symptoms caused by a dysfunction in the cerebellum.  It causes uncontrolled, uncoordinated movements in gate, arms, eyes, or speech.  There are many different types and effects both young and old. Check out this short video clip recorded by Dana Mauro, the partner of someone who has Ataxia.

I had the honor of participating fully in this event: Speaking to 500 people (it was a blast!), running a support group, training the support group leaders, and leading an adaptive yoga class.  Guess I am a woman of many talents!

At the conference, I saw many in wheelchairs, scooters, using service dogs, canes, and walkers.  I saw smiles, laughter, community, fun, families, support, appreciation, and joy. Both loved ones and those with the illness chose to embrace the weekend keeping the focus on solution, rather than the problem.

This reminded me of a Viktor Frankl quote: “Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” That is exactly what I noticed at the conference. The choice enjoy the conference and work around their limitations. Their illness did not define them, but was part of who they are.

What also struck me was how vital it is to have community support and simple solutions in daily life.  This was the main reason many took the time and made the effort to be part of the conference. Ongoing community support is something greatly needed throughout the year.

The importance for support and community is not only for those with chronic illness, but for all of us.  We are not meant to travel the path alone.   I tried it for some time and it is much more fun to be part of, rather than apart from.

Take a look at who is in your circle of support.  Are they living in the solution or focusing on the problem?  Notice if you are a part of community or separate.   If you are in need of more support, take one small step to reach out.

This is the reason I am launching a new virtual program.  I finally set a firm launch date (guess I should read the chapter of my book on procrastination!)

You will find the full scoop here about how to cut through the B.S. can learn some downright useful tools. If you are interested in learning more, shoot me an email.  If you already know you need to be part of a group committed to living in the solution, then go right to the details.

Warm regards,

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