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Uncertainty

Uncertainty

Uncertainty is in the air right now, along with fear, worry, confusion. Today, my darling, we’ll be talking about uncertainty and how you can support yourself now, as ever. Whether you’re reading this during the COVID-19 quarantine or long after, the central message and tenants are the same.

Life is full of uncertainty and accepting it and learning to show up for yourself in the midst of it are vital for your mental, physical, and spiritual wellness.

We live in uncertain times.

This is the refrain on social media. In my own life, I’m wondering if I may get called into the hospital to help out. I’ve registered myself as available to do so because I truly want to and because I feel it’s my duty, and I feel good about that decision.

I really ran a check, I wrote it out, I did my thought work about it, and I feel clear about my why, the driving force for making that decision. And I’m not making it from guilt or codependency or martyrdom, all of which I may have done 10 or 15 years ago. I want to continue to be of service and to put my skills to use.

My training and experience as a life coach only strengthens my capacity to give back right now. I can start an IV while teaching my patient about thought work and the protocol I share for lovingly managing our adult minds. I can use my skills around centering and regulating the nervous system to help the other nurses while we wait for the next set of orders.

So I could be telling this story that there’s some added uncertainty in my life right now, and I want to share with you the framework that I’ve been using to stay grounded, centered, and lovingly in control of my own mind, versus letting it control me.

And to be clear, I’m in charge of my mind most of the time. So I’ve had my moments of spin, particularly at the outset. And that’s okay. Spin happens. It’s normal, it’s natural, it’s human. And it’s what you do next with it that determines whether you take that spin and spin out, or physics, harness that spin energy for your own best good.

Let’s talk about uncertainty.

Whether you feel uncertainty around COVID-19 itself or around the rest of life that’s getting impacted for so many of us right now. Maybe you feel uncertainty around your job or income, especially if you’re in a service position or work in the gig economy.

Childcare, what it means to have your kids or your spouse or your partner at home right now, or if you’re separated from your partner, kids, or spouse, that uncertainty. Maybe you feel uncertain about the health of your aging parents, your own health. There’s a lot of uncertainty and fear in the air.

From everything my one-on-one coaching clients are saying, from the emails and DMs I’m getting from all of you, telling me about your frustration, stress, and worry, the deluge of requests for extra one-on-one coaching calls right now, and from all that the people in my world are sharing, from what I feel swirling in the collective energy, many of us are feeling the huge shifts that are moving through our global energetic field, and in each of our minds, bodies, and spirits.

So let’s start by doing what we do. Let us breathe together.

Put your little feet on the ground, uncross your legs. If you’re lying down or seated, feel your weight wherever you lie. Feel the earth holding you up. If you’re standing, feel yourself, allow yourself to sway. You can sway in a chair too. Gently forward and back, side to side.

Give your body a little motion. Let’s orient ourselves to time and place. Let’s tap into our senses. Name a thing you can smell. I smell the vetiver essential oil I’ve been diffusing in this room. A thing you can hear. I can hear my own breathing. I can hear an airplane overhead.

Name a thing you can feel. I feel my desk chair under me, I feel my cozy warm sweatshirt on my skin, all furry and soft. If your eyes are open, name a thing you can see if you are sighted. If your eyes are closed or you do not have sight, allow yourself to explore the colors, the energies, the shape that you can see through closed eyes.

Deep breath in and out. Let’s start with the facts. My love, the world is an uncertain place. It always has been and I imagine it always will be. We are born, we die, and nothing else is promised or certain. At any moment and in every moment, things change. That is the nature of life. It’s full of change. Some change we may like at first and some we may not.

Time will tell what the circumstances, events, facts of our lives will mean for our lives as they play out over time.

But the moment of change, it’s normal and human to have a reaction or a response. And to feel feelings, like fear, anger, doubt, worry, even if it’s a change you’ve wanted. Like a promotion, a marriage, a divorce, a birth, a new puppy, a move to a new home.

There are so many reasons why this fact, the fact that life is full of uncertainty can feel so challenging to humans, myself included. And there are so many reasons why we can find peace in this life because of this fact. And of course, it wouldn’t be Feminist Wellness if I didn’t pause to name and voice that so many people live every day of their lives on this planet with uncertainty around the basics.

Food, clean water, money, health, physical safety. Whether they’ll be sleeping in a park or under a bridge, or maybe indoors. For so many of us in the United States, this is the first time that we’re experiencing what most of the world lives with. Deep uncertainty.

So I want to both name that this is real for so many humans, to live with this level of uncertainty, and that it’s – what’s the word in English? Chocante. Like it’s like a shock to the system, for those of us who’ve lived with a sense of relative certainty, safety in this world, to now feel like that’s being taken away.

I want to name that, that it can feel like a real shock to your system. That’s real.

And you don’t have to create a swirl around it. We’ll get to that in a moment. So let us take a moment all together to send meta, loving-kindness to all of those who feel uncertainty on the daily about the basics of life. While so many of us work from home, a heated indoor home, with running water, lots of food, lights, heat, blankets, Netflix, internet.

Friends and family a quick phone call away because we have phones to call on. I’m not implying anyone should feel guilt for what you have, but rather to take a moment to think of those without it all. Deep breath in and out.

So as you can imagine, I’ve been shifting things around over here. I had the intention of talking this week about people-pleasing and I think that’s actually really relevant right now. I just wanted to get this blog about uncertainty out to you as soon as I could and so as I was thinking about creating this for you, I was thinking back to my hospice nurse days and how often I would hear the families of my dying patients say things like, “Oh gosh, I’m so upset and worried because I don’t know when she’ll die.”

And it was so fascinating to me because we never know when we’ll die or when those we love will die or fall ill.

It was an interesting thing to notice, right? That the moment of getting checked into hospice, and by definition, hospice means you have six months or less to live. That was what sparked folks to get worried, to start to spin around the uncertainty of how much longer this person will live because they’ve been told that they are dying.

But the fact of the matter is we’re all dying each and every day, and the sooner we can get comfortable with this fact of being, the more freedom we’ll have to not worry about it, but rather to accept the fragility and uncertainty of life and to simply move on.

My darling, I’m not being flippant here. I don’t mean to be harsh or unkind. I’ve sat at the bedside and held the hand of so many dying people. I don’t mean to be flip about it. I just mean it. Life is simply uncertain. And this moment in history, this moment is no different.

Suffering happens when we attempt to fight reality, to not be in acceptance of the truth of what is. Life is uncertain.

This much is true. And the more you mash your fists and stomp your beautiful little feet about it, the more tension, stress, suffering you bring into your perfect body and your energy field.

To be clear, I want to invite you to have your feelings about this fact. Have them. Get mad about it. Process them through your body and out. And then, my love, you can hold space to begin to let go of the need to grasp onto the idea that life can ever be certain. Acceptance brings peace. And you can feel acceptance, peaceful acceptance about a fact you don’t like.

And is that not so much better than feeling angry or upset about a fact you don’t like? For your own best good and that of the collective unconscious, this dream of certainty is one I invite you to release. Instead, well, I’ll speak for me, I’ll take the uncertainty and will, knowing that life is uncertain, live my life to the fullest. Tomorrow may not come.

Knowing this propels me further to live each day to the fullest, to practice lovingly managing my mind in the here and now, so I can spend less and less time swirling in thoughts and feelings that don’t serve me, and can spend more time loving, laughing, enjoying life, quietly reading poetry, being of service, knowing of course, that life is 50/50.

A full half of this life is glorious, amazingness, and joy, and a full half, well, sucks. A full half of life is full of upsetting, sad, suffering things. But I don’t want to choose more suffering than my allotted 50%. And so I release that want for things to be different and I embrace and accept the uncertainty.

Let’s take a deep breath in and out.

Let’s get nerdy up in here. Nervous systems and brains don’t like uncertainty. Brains like to solve problems, to feel like we’ve got things under control, or rather, to think that we have things under control. 

So brains do what brains are built to do, to work and spin and work and spin in an attempt to solve what we see as a problem. When you’re freaked out, when you’re in sympathetic activation, fight and flight, your lizard brain, your reptilian, the oldest part of the human brain takes over, and your prefrontal cortex, the more – let’s call it evolved part of your brain, the part that does executive function, like, well, thought work and choosing your thoughts on purpose, but also typing an email, driving a car, prefrontal cortex. That part goes offline.

When you find yourself saying, “I feel overwhelmed, stressed out, frazzled,” this is your chance to pause and to take a moment, even literally 10 seconds.

If you’re with other people, you can excuse yourself to the bathroom, to breathe in and breathe out. In and out through your nose, the surgical mask you wear all day, and to picture yourself choosing the next thought, the next right thing that you want to actively, on purpose, feed into your mind, body, spirit, to give, to offer to your nervous system for processing, knowing that panic thoughts will keep your nervous system reacting as though there’s something to panic about because it loves you.

You tell your nervous system to panic, it’s going to panic, and vice versa.

Choosing to think about what’s going well, understanding that this moment is not any more uncertain than any other, and thus, shifting into acceptance with it, into self-love, and giving your nervous system the opportunity to shift into that calmer parasympathetic place and into ventral vagal, the safe and secure part for yourself, with yourself, and thus with the people you love in the world is such a gift.

Fighting reality, wishing things were ever certain, and focusing your energy there, spending your precious moments there robs you of this chance to regulate yourself and co-regulate with others. I know when I’m freaking out, when I’m all revved up, I’m less likely to ask for a hug or to breathe, or to call a friend and allow their calm energy to fill me up, to co-regulate with them, which is when your body matches your internal energy to someone else’s calm or loving energy.

Instead, I may compulsively clean. That’s one of my coping mechanisms. Or I might worry. And remember that worrying is the action you are taking when you are doing it, which means while you’re worrying, you’re not doing anything to make the situation better. We talked about it in this blog and this one.

And of course, I’m never ever inviting you to emotionally or spiritually bypass, ever. I’m always out here saying feel the feels, but don’t spin in them. Give yourself the chance to down-regulate your nervous system from fight or flight, freak out brain, to parasympathetic, by actively and lovingly addressing your perfect mind.

To put your brain in context, I want to be clear to say the brain does not like to live in the present, to be present when you’re having challenging thoughts.

And my love, that’s not your brain. That’s brains. So you’re in good company with all of humanity, my darling one. And that’s all brains until you learn to retrain them because science and survival.

Remember, the first one in the village to spot the lion or the invaders on the horizon is the most likely to survive because they’re the first one to start running. So your brain always wants to be that human. The one always on the lookout for danger, ready to sound the alarm, start screaming, and head for the hills.

When challenged, your brain is likely to want to future-trip, to project out into the future, to worry about tomorrow and next week and next month and next year if this moment feels scary to think about. And your brain may want to roll around in worst-case scenarios in an unhelpful way. A way that leads you to feel worse and not to release your stress, which is something I teach my life coaching clients and the way I teach you to do in my blogs on worry, which are linked here and here. I teach us how to use worst-case scenario thinking as a thought exercise, a tool, to see that the worst thing that can happen, generally speaking, is a challenging feeling.

So worst-case scenario is usually not actually that bad because you can handle any feeling. I know you can. Truly.

Untrained, unmanaged, a toddler alone in a china shop with no adult around, your brain may want to project out all your fears and worst-case possibilities as likely doomsday realities. Terrible things that will happen as fact and not just thoughts.

Your brain may also want to roll around in memories of mistakes past like Scrooge on Christmas, replaying every time things didn’t go according to plan, as though torturing yourself in this way could lead you to act differently, which we know it can’t because it’s your thoughts that create your feelings, and you take action based on your feelings.

So beating yourself up about every time you’ve ever goofed in the past or not taken action the way you wish you had is not an effective way to protect yourself now or ever. It’s a way to punish yourself for what you didn’t know or do or say when you didn’t know to know or do or say things any differently.

Yes my love, yes, review the past with a loving, gentle, “I can learn from this,” sort of energy. And if you feel yourself going into that spin of regret, self-recrimination, beating yourself up energy, pause, breathe, reset, restart, write it down. Learn your lessons and do so with kindness. The past is past, my beautiful one. To nerd further on it, Studies show that brains need to hear things more than once to really let them soak in. To really get them.

Ruminating on the past and future-tripping both trigger you into your sympathetic nervous system, your fight or flight response, which leads your body because it loves you to release adrenaline from your adrenal glands.

That short-acting acute response freak out chemical. Followed by the release of cortisol, the slow burn of hyper-vigilance, hyperalertness, and increased worry. While a burst of cortisol can increase immune system function in very short-term, over time, chronic and frequent elevations in cortisol reduce your magnificent body’s ability to protect you because it’s so focused on looking out for lions or marauders.

It can’t see the smaller threats, the microscopic ones. The pathogens, bugs, viruses that wear us down and get us sick. And as your body shunts more energy into freak out, or the slow burn of anxiety and worry, in all of its self-loving brilliance, your body shunts energy away from your digestion and remember, 70% of your immunity comes from your gut so you need your vagus nerve to be activating your gut and giving blood flow and energy to your digestion.

When you’re in this freak out in sympathetic, your cognition, your brain, your smarts are also down-regulated. They’re less online. They’re buffering more. It’s like that pinwheel of doom on a Mac. You’re less sharp. You’re less focused when you’re in sympathetic energy. When your thoughts are around worry and fear.

And let me pause. You know I’m here to love you. Please my darling, I don’t want this information to be another thing you add to your worry list, to beat yourself up for having worried and having fear and to then spin about how you’ve been hurting your immune system. Oh, my darling, no. Take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your nose.

It’s okay if you’ve been in those emotions.

That’s normal, expectable, human. And if you haven’t been taught or had another way to be in the world, another way to think about your thinking modeled for you, then how could you have done it any differently if you didn’t know you needed to or could or it was possible?

What you get to do now is to bring in gentleness, self-love, and to begin to shift your feelings by attending to your body and mind. Your nervous system and your thought habits. No beating yourself up around here, okay, my sweetness? No thank you.

Let’s also speak to the fact that your body and your energetic field are very busy right now.

We are all processing new realities. And if you’re reading this blog long after COVID-19 has passed, this is still super relevant. Uncertainty is a permanent part of the human condition.

You may experience job loss, a kid or partner or parent acting in a way you don’t want them to, a breakup, a marriage, a sickness unrelated to this virus in yourself, a friend, a colleague at any time. Not just during this uprooting and destabilizing pandemic.

Things happen, as things are prone to. And the more comfortable you can get with uncertainty, the more you can shift into acceptance. That is, the less likely you are to take on additional suffering, which is always optional, never necessary, required, or a thing that serves you or anyone in the world.

I love this teaching from Pema Chodron, the Buddhist teacher. “You are the sky. Everything else is the weather.” That is, there is always a solid peaceful state within you to connect with, even when things feel extra uncertain because you have the capacity to remind yourself that whatever the stressors are, it’s temporary. It’s just the weather.

Things are not extra uncertain, they’re just as uncertain as ever.

It’s just that the uncertainty of life has been brought to the fore for us to see and work through. Nothing has really changed, but also everything has really changed. Change is the one certain thing in this life and your life is being so life-y right now.

I want to invite you to focus not on labeling uncertainty as a new thing, a bad thing, to not make it a problem stacked on another problem. This is a moment – well, every moment is a moment to not borrow trouble. To not heap more worry on your plate by thinking about thinking of this moment as uncertain.

While yes, of course, there are so many things about this virus, the quarantine that we don’t know, the truth is everything is just as uncertain as ever, my beautiful one. Deep breath in. The key here is to begin to shift your thinking. If you are feeling unsafe around all this uncertainty, remember, you can’t create emotional uncertainty with your actions.

That’s simply not how brains work, once again, because science. No amount of hand washing will help you feel safe or certain because safety is a feeling in your body and your nervous system that you create in your mind with your thoughts.

And clinging to a dream of certainty will keep you feeling unsafe because uncertainty is never promised.

Yes, feeling unsafe can come over you like a wave of energy from your nervous system, when something sparks or triggers that energy in you. And learning to identify that feeling in your body gives you a vital tool to be able to pause, breathe, get curious and loving, and to then ask yourself what your thought is, knowing it’s likely below your consciousness.

You’re likely not walking around thinking, “Gosh, it’s time to panic.” But rather, those waves, that energy of sympathetic, the racing of the heart, the racing of the mind, the sweating of the palms, that is when you can pause to lovingly support yourself, to see this story in another way.

Just like how buffering, distracting yourself from the stressors at hand only works for a moment, of attempting to push your thoughts away or to change them without feeling them doesn’t work. All the hacks we’re seeing all over social media are great, like only turning the news on once a day, deleting Facebook from your phone, establishing healthy boundaries, those things are great.

I highly recommend them, but they’re hacks. Not solutions. Once you get clear that it is your thoughts that lead you to feel panicked, this is when you can take control back. And it’s by practicing what I always talk about, focusing on acceptance and love and curiosity about our feelings and thoughts that we find deep and lasting peace.

Acting out of fear and worry never serve you.

Acting from love and kindness for self and others is the energy I always want to show up with, remembering the old saying, “Where attention goes, energy flows.” And the beauty of the thought work protocol I teach you is that it’s a place to focus your attention, and you can literally apply this protocol to everything in the world if you want to, regardless of the circumstance, the situation.

This isn’t just a tool for everyday life, like not for big things like a pandemic. Please do use it here because as far as cognitive processes go, what your literal brain is doing is the same, regardless of the circumstances. Your nervous system processes your worry, your reptilian or lizard brain gets activated as you worry about uncertainty, and then you have the chance to pause and choose a shift to parasympathetic, to prefrontal cortex thinking, so the more evolved part of your brain can come online to guide you in making choices and having thoughts that serve you.

Remembering, the more you focus on labeling this uncertainty as something novel, something new, something problematic, the more stress it will create for you. Through the last two decades of working in health and wellness, as a life coach, a nurse practitioner, a birth doula back in the day, a hospice nurse, I have come to love the fact that life is uncertain.

Stay with me here. The uncertainty of it all is the promise that it will all change. Whatever you feel stuck in, whatever relationship, whatever mental habit, codependency, caretaking others, worrying, stressing, habitually choosing resentful thoughts, all of it can change because everything can change and everything will.

You are not stuck.

Of this I am so certain. Changing your thoughts and feeling by attending deeply to your nervous system, your inner child, your adult mind are the keys to your liberation. Uncertainty can be freeing once you choose to look at it that way.

I know you’re scared, I know you’re worried, I promise you, you don’t have to stay that way. You are the sky. Everything else is weather. This too shall pass, truly. Honor your feelings, give your perfect human body more love than ever. You are the sky. Everything else is weather.

Feel your feet on your ground, your body where you sit, stand, lie. Take a deep breath. Remind yourself that you are safe and you are doing everything you can to protect yourself and those you love. From a realistic place of understanding the complexity of this moment for so many humans, consider generating feelings of gratitude for your health and your breath in this one moment.

Acknowledge all the parts of your health that are working well.

If you, like me, have had chronic health issues and chronic pain, it can be tempting to focus on the ouch. I’ll instead invite you to take a breath and to invite in gratitude for your right elbow that doesn’t hurt, your left ear that feels fine, thank you very much.

This is a practice I did every single day when my chronic pain was at its strongest. Notice I didn’t say adjectives like worse. It was strong. And I needed to find a place to anchor myself. This is what we do. You start to use your attention to anchor yourself in the truth of what is. In this moment, you are breathing, you are digesting.

And you use this fact to calm your nervous system and support your immune system. You are breathing. This is an important time to remember that health and wellbeing are about so much more than being disease-free. You get to empower yourself by taking care of yourself holistically, by releasing your need to believe that the world is anything other than uncertain. That’s just what’s real and it’s okay and even beautiful, my love, truly.

Focus on the love in your beautiful heart, the folks being of service right now, and the magnificence of this beautiful, fleeting, amazing, challenging, uncertain thing called being a human living on this earth. Nice breath in and out. You are the sky. Everything else is weather. You got this, my love. You were born for it.

My beauties, I am doing a lot beyond the podcast and blog to help be of service any chance I can. I’ve led three breathwork groups already in the last 10 days or so and I’m going to be doing more free breathwork journey meditation sessions. And I’m also going to be doing some free open coaching calls. So you can get coached by me for free because I love you.

I don’t usually order you about but now I shall, I just really don’t want you to miss this. I love you; and I want you to get all the free things you can and the things you need. Go to the Instagram, put in victoriaalbinawellness. That’s me. Follow. Follow me on Facebook if that’s your jam. I’m less active over there, but whatever, I’m there.

So much free goodness is coming your way so stay connected.

I also want to let you know that I have space right now for two new one-on-one life coaching clients. And as of today, I will still be launching my six-month group life coaching masterclass in May because I truly believe that this work is the medicine we need right now to heal our minds, bodies, and spirits.

I know that my body was chronically sick, my spirit felt something I was not in touch with or in tune with, and my mind was – and I say this now, truly from a laughing with myself, not at myself, like, from a place of oh Vic. Babes, I was such a hot mess before coaching.

I was such a hot mess before I learned how to manage my mind and regulate my nervous system, and I know I would be having a very different reaction to all of this, particularly as a healthcare provider, if I had not learned how to not be codependent and release that need, if I had not learned to release my perfectionism, people-pleasing, negative self-talk, if I had not learned how to love all my maladaptive survival skills I learned in childhood, if I was stuck in analysis paralysis.

My point is life coaching saved my life and coaching myself saves my life every single day.

Keeps me as sane as possible, and so I want to share this all with you. Reach out to my team, podcast@victoriaalbina.com if you want to learn more about the masterclass, and if you want to hop on my schedule to talk about working together one-on-one.

Head on over to victoriaalbina.com. There’s a little box at the top right that says book a session, so that’s easy enough. I’m here for you, my most beloved one. Okay, oh gosh, before I forget, I’m going to be doing a special free breathwork session online obviously, specifically for healthcare providers. And yes, I’ll be doing some for the general public as well.

And like everything I do, it’s self-identifying. If you self-identify as a healthcare provider, please join the group. So I want to be clear that this isn’t just for those that like, the Western system. It’s not just for NPs, PAs, doctors, DOs. It’s also for herbalists, it’s also for acupuncturists, it’s also for breathworkers.

If you work to support the public health in any way, or you self-identify as a healthcare provider, join us. Okay, now I’m officially rambling. Okay my loves, breath in and out. You are the sky. Everything else is weather. Remember, you are safe, you are held, you are loved. And when one of us heals, we help heal the world. Be well, my beauty. I’ll talk to you soon.

Thank you for taking the time to read Feminist Wellness. I’m excited to be here and to help you take back your health!

I know not everyone is into podcasts, so I wanted to provide digestible blogs to go along with the episodes! If you’re curious about the podcast and haven’t checked them out yet, click here.  

VictoriaAlbina

Victoria Albina

Victoria Albina, NP, MPH is a licensed and board certified Family Nurse Practitioner, herbalist and life coach, with 20 years experience in health and wellness. She trained at the University of California, San Francisco, and holds a Masters in Public Health from Boston University and a bachelors from Oberlin College. She comes to this work having been a patient herself, and having healed from a lifetime of IBS, GERD, SIBO, fatigue, depression and anxiety.

She is passionate about her work, and loves supporting patients in a truly holistic way - body, mind, heart and spirit. A native of Mar del Plata, Argentina, she grew up in the great state of Rhode Island, and lives in NYC with her partner. A brown dog named Frankie Bacon has her heart, and she lives for steak and a good dark chocolate.

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