Peace Is Not The Absence of Chaos…

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As we prepare to depart the first month of this new year I feel like there is a lot going on already! I have heard from so many friends facing stress and troubles just this week, on top of my own, it seems like this year is a getting off to a rough start for a lot of us.

Something that I have been thinking about a lot and really stuck with me from the weekend getaway with American Widow Project was said by the Yoga Instructor we had visit us at the cabin (http://yogawithshanti.com/Yoga_with_Shanti/Home.html):

Inner peace is not the absence of chaos, it is the ability to be at peace while in the midst of chaos.

I think there are multiple versions of that saying, but that is my rendition. This quote made a lot of sense to me and a light bulb went off after I heard it. Though I try to avoid conflict and trouble as much as possible, the world is chaotic and there is always SOMETHING happening somewhere to someone. You can’t avoid troubles in life no matter what you do. Then comes the stress, anxiety, fears, tears and feeling like the world is falling down around us. And that is just when we realize we are out of toilet paper.

Okay maybe it is usually a little more serious than that.

So how do we deal with all of these emotions and these unexpected events? Drive ourselves to the brink by trying to control everything around us? (Which of course isn’t humanely possible!) Our do our emotions take over and end up running us and our lives?

Can we step away from our emotions and find inner peace in the midst of our chaos?

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The truth is, we all have the ability to maintain inner peace at some level. We just have to make it a priority and figure out what works for us. In today’s world I think we have such a problem with this because we have so many things going on! We are overstimulated and not well-equipped to deal with stress. For example, how many windows are open on your computer?

How many of us take the time to just be in the present moment? Can we even keep our mind in the present for more than 30 seconds before bouncing to tomorrow, yesterday or a year from now?

I was lucky to attend an amazing semester of yoga at the University of Montana when I first got out of the Navy and I learned how beneficial controlled breathing was and how beneficial it was to be able to calm yourself when things start getting stressful. You know what else they are good for? Calming your mind as you try to sleep! Doing 3-5 long breaths – with affirmations of your intention and to keep your inhalation the same duration as your exhalation, works almost every time for me.

So you would do something like this:

Breathe in through your nose to fill your lungs completely while thinking some kind of affirmation, to keep it simple try something like “re-lax, re-lax, re-lax” (you could also just count to 4. There are a lot of variations to this kind of exercise! I like the actual words).

As you breathe in focus on how the air feels as you breathe in.

Then hold your breath in and again “re-lax, re-lax, re-lax”. Notice any place that you may be holding stress or tensing and relax it, ex. your shoulders or jaw).

Then completely empty your lungs again “re-lax, re-lax, re-lax”. Notice the warm air as you exhale.

Usually after 3 time of this I just go to normal breathing again and I am out. If worries, thoughts of tomorrow, toilet paper or yesterday creep in, acknowledge them and then let them go. Come back to focusing on your breath.

This is just one example of the many ways to learn to control your mind from spinning out of control and to get in the present moment with yourself. Doing 20 minutes of sitting quietly and not thinking about anything, just observing the sounds of nature and relaxing your body can make a huge difference in your day. Just like anything else, the more you practice the better you get. You may find yourself handling stress much better! For those of you that compete, like barrel racing, and are having issues with anxiety before your run, these exercises can also be really helpful!

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No matter your stress or situation, it is always helpful to learn how to be in the present. Remember the past cannot be changed and worrying about the future does nothing for us. Give it up to God and trust!

Never Give Up & Namaste,

Chelsey

Take Pride In How Far You Have Come And Have Faith In How Far You Will Go…Blog Entry From June 1, 2011

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“Things turn out best for people who make the best out of the way things turn out”
John Wooden

My blog/journal Entry from June 1, 2011

So I have been absent from the online world for a couple weeks. It was kind of nice to rest my eyes a bit. For the first time I can say I was so busy that I really didn’t have much time to obsessively be on the computer.

It has been a roller coaster (as per usual I guess) the last month. I am still in that outgoing tide motion I guess. I am feeling okay and optimistic, then find myself stalling and being slowly pulled back out to feeling overwhelmed and helpless. There are new challenges as time goes on. It has almost been a year and life seems to be waiting on the other side, which I know many have discovered that on day 366 there is no miracle recovery….but I also feel that after 12 months of being in limbo and feeling that I have a good excuse for not having my life together, will run out. This is mostly a self-imposed feeling of course, but really I wonder….

What I am going to do with the rest of my life?

There it is.

Waiting.

I imagine it like a cat in the dark waiting to pounce, and all I can see are it’s expecting eyes as I am forced towards it by time. I know it is inevitable and that I am crashing head-long into it, sometimes with fervor and sometimes being drug behind Father Time on a black horse. I wish I could say I am 100% in at this point, but a lot of the time I am half-hearted about it. My motivation has not fully returned.

I try to focus on the potential life that I would like to have if I still have to be here, but sometimes it just seems impossible to attain and then I hit a wall of sadness and helplessness. My motivation comes from hope for the future, and it is hard to maintain that hope. I am constantly battling the winds of doubt, fear and the past from snuffing out my flame of optimism.

I am also laughing, joking, accomplishing small goals, taking risks, and feeling a bit of my old self from years ago that has a bit of mischief and adventure in her eyes….thinking of possibilities, dreaming, and taking steps towards making some of them happen.

I want to make something out of this life I have left. I don’t want to go on unsatisfied, disillusioned and settle for less than what I started out for years ago. I don’t want to hear that it may never happen, that this is the way things are now, that life is unfair, or that wanting or doing any of these things is wrong or unrealistic. I want to try, I am going to take risks, I am going to take life by the scruff and have it follow me instead of being mauled and defeated.

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Isn’t amazing to look back to when we couldn’t even imagine where we are today? I know the day I wrote this I couldn’t have imagined my life as it is today! Horses, love, confidence, and an opportunity to help and encourage others. Yes, there has still been challenges, loss, and tears since then, but I have come far from the darkness of the early days.
Journaling is such a great tool to help us express ourselves and heal in the moment, but also to encourage and heal us in the future when we look back and see how far we’ve come. Widowhood can bring a particularly vague vision of the future. Hang in there and believe that great things are just around the corner and God has amazing plans for you. Take action, be open to opportunities, take risks and have faith in God. Great things are coming your way. Never give up. *Chelsey

American Widow Project Weekend Retreat

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So I am back after my first Weekend Retreat with the American Widow Project. It took me 3.5 years but I am so glad I finally signed up for an event.  After Tyler died I started searching online for some kind of help and information on being a widow. AWP was one of the most unique and helpful resources that I came across in my search. I then requested their AWP Pack that they offer free to military widows, that included the documentary that Taryn Davis, the founder of AWP, had made early in her experience.

AWP has been on my radar since the very beginning and they helped me immensely, though it was from afar, they gave me one of the most important things that I needed, to see other military widows LIVING again. They were going beyond just existing. They were smiling, they were traveling, they were going out and sharing their story and hero with others. They were trying new things, pushing past fear and building a new life…..and they were doing it proudly. They were not hiding that they could smile and that they wanted to still live an incredible life after their loss. That meant a lot to me, especially in the early days of my journey. The women I saw became my role models and I was inspired to not hold myself back, but to go do more with my life than I ever had before….and most importantly that I could do all of that and honor Tyler at the same time.

My intentions for the weekend originally were to get more involved and see what it was all about, but I needed it more than I knew. I have been in Nevada a while now and while there are so many great things that have come out of it, I have missed my circle of friends back in Virginia. I had not been to an event with just military widows in a long time and I had never been to one like this. What makes the American Widow Project (www.americanwidowproject.org) so awesome in my opinion, is that it is for military widows, BY military widows. While there are so many scholarship programs out there and some foundations help with the immediate needs after loss (usually financially if you are in a bind), there isn’t much in the way of support like the AWP offers. Really, I don’t think there is anything like the AWP. They fill a very specific niche and I think it is because Taryn, the founder of AWP and a military widow, obviously is aware of where there are gaps.

The Weekend Retreats offer military widows a chance to meet and spend a weekend together in an intimate setting (the group size is limited to ensure this). You get to know everyone, their story and their hero. You have a roommate, which encourages building a relationship and sharing even more. There are activities to help everyone bond and to open up. It is a weekend that encourages healing, true understanding and camaraderie. All these things are SO important. Some widows don’t know any other military widows until they participate in this event. Some finally feel comfortable after having to pretend everything is fine because no one in their life understands. And we all learn from each other’s journey.

I was just amazed that in such a short amount of time I felt completely comfortable and willing to share with all of these amazing women. We all now have a connection and I am sure that we will continue to be in each other’s lives from here on out. I needed this weekend more than I knew. I learned a lot, but overall what was really highlighted was the importance of these kinds of friendships, having the right people in your life, and how necessary it is to give and receive empathy. Experiencing that with other military widows is on a whole different level.

On another note, it is impossible not to be inspired by these women and their heros. To see these women walking the same path as me and identifying with their stories, challenges and victories so much, was incredibly validating and encouraging. It was an amazing experience to receive support and advice from those further out than me and to encourage those that are a little newer in their journey, and to see yourself in both.

I hope you will look into the American Widow Project if you are a military widow looking for support or if you are looking to support a great organization that helps our military. American Widow Project is different to me because they are doing real and tangible things to help our military widows. (www.americanwidowproject.org)

I am so grateful to have had this opportunity this weekend and I am more energized than ever.

Never Give Up,

Chelsey

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The Beginning and The End

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I wanted to share some of my writing with you as I work on my book. Mostly I am just writing my experience. I also journaled after Tyler passed away to help deal with my grief, both on paper and online. I am very glad that I did, as sometimes it is hard to remember some things and I can see exactly where as was at specific time intervals.

Every book has a beginning and mine starts with an incredibly painful ending. It is easy to overlook how much pain and darkness someone has had to wade through when you see them smiling and happy. It may look deceptively easy and maybe even result in  people thinking “so what’s the big deal?” (sadly). So, I feel it is important to share the darkness and pain, so that it is understood what it takes to get back to a place of happiness and hope. It sometimes takes a very dark walk to appreciate the light. I would love to hear feedback, please don’t be shy!

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Much of the first months after Tyler passed were a blur of emotion. Though we had his memorial within days of his death, he could not be buried in Arlington until much later. Any progress I may have made by the day of his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery was lost and I had to start all over.

Receiving the flag from his casket was extremely surreal, yet the pain was searing and heavy. I almost felt as if I couldn’t move. I didn’t want to leave after the ceremony; I didn’t know what to do. I could have stayed there all day if they would have let me. But instead, I was swept up in the forward motion of the people around me and the schedule of Arlington.

The days and nights in those months were incredibly difficult and painful. One night in particular, after everyone had left and I was at our home alone for the first time after he had passed away reality sunk in even deeper as I became acutely aware of my solitude. I had been waiting for him after he died, just as I had waited for him for over the years to return home from training trips and deployments. I started to realize that night when I kept thinking I should call him and then realize that he wasn’t going to answer ever again. Then the thoughts started flying through my mind, finally breaking through the fog, each one slamming into my heart and shattering it further.  He was never coming home again, I’d never see him again, never hear his voice again, all our plans meant nothing, they would never happen….our life and everything in it seemed to lose all meaning and just be floating in suspension.

That night I felt as if my chest was caving in and my heart was being ripped out of my chest. I screamed and cried. I didn’t know that kind of pain existed until then and it was terrifying. I felt completely alone, lost and wished that I could have died right along with him. Nothing made sense or held meaning. The only thing that would give me a trickle of guilt and purpose at first were my dogs, which still relied on me. They would lay on the bed next to me and I imagined they knew what happened and were sad too. Perhaps they were, or maybe they just sensed my sadness and stayed close to comfort me.

Blog/Journal Entry 11/15/10

I think all situations have their specific hardships, beyond the obvious one we all share (in widowhood). 
I remember staring out the window, wanting to go see him, so confused, my brain wouldn’t let me understand. Why couldn’t I go to the hospital? I needed to be there to make him feel better. But he was never in the hospital. He had already died, about 3 hours before I even knew about it and instantly. I didn’t see him for days. It drove me crazy the entire time, I remember just being in shock, staring and staring out the window, waiting for him to come home or for me to be able to go to him.

When we finally got to go to see him (at the funeral home) I had to sign paperwork, etc. first apparently. It was a lot of standing around, talking, and I was about to lose it and scream at everyone. He was just in the next room and obviously he was waiting for me. It was almost like as time was going on it was diminishing my chances of bringing him back. When I saw him and his casket I literally ran to it. And then instantly cried and cried. I couldn’t bring him back, I couldn’t help, but I did feel a little better that he wasn’t waiting anymore. I also thought that he didn’t look like himself and he would be irritated with how his hair looked. It made me smile for a nanosecond. I did feel much better to be with him, and if they would have let me I probably would have climbed right in and said “see ya, I am going wherever he is going”.

But I didn’t. I just left a note with everything I wanted him to know, in his hand.

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Never Give Up,

Chelsey

David and Goliath: Invest in Yourself

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Recently, I was listening to a motivating talk online and they mentioned that successful people consider books an INVESTMENT in themselves, not an expense.

Additionally, they are always carrying a book or taking a course. Basically they are always trying to learn more.

I was glad to hear that, as I have my own little library and it is always expanding!

This is my latest investment and what I am currently reading: David and Goliath -Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell. I have other books written by him as well, such as Outliers. When I saw this new book I knew I had to read it. It is great so far.

So, what is your latest investment? What are you reading?

Never Give Up, 

Chelsey Stimson

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Lone Survivor, A Widow’s Quick Review

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I watched Lone Survivor this weekend and I wanted to share my thoughts on it.

FIrst, I couldn’t help but think of the spouses and families of these men that watched the movie. It had to be incredibly emotional.

Overall, I thought they did a great job with the movie, there were some things changed/added, that I don’t think were necessary but those that haven’t read the book won’t know any different. It was a little disheartening to hear people in line say “What is Lone Survivor?” and as the movie started “This is a true story?”.

Then I realized, the movie is doing exactly what it should, bringing awareness to those that don’t know much about our military and making the legacy of these men known on a huge scale so that they will always be remembered, as well as inspire the next generation. There are, of course,multiple reasons why this is so important to me.

The part of the movie that made me most emotional was after it ended and real photos of men and their families were shown. I couldn’t keep it together through that. Make sure you stay through the entire thing and show your respect for all the men and families after the movie. It is my hope that from this film American’s gain a new understanding and respect for our Military men and women.

#NeverGiveUp Chelsey Stimson

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Sports Psychology: Mental Toughness

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PART 2

So continuing on from my first post on sports psychology let’s examine the importance of mental toughness in a successful athlete. It is applicable to life as well, especially when facing serious adversity. A definition from the previous post says:

Mental toughness is a psychological edge that helps one perform at a high level consistently. Mentally tough athletes exhibit four characteristics: a strong self-belief (confidence) in their ability to perform well, an internal motivation to be successful, the ability to focus one’s thoughts and feelings without distraction, and composure under pressure.

When I first started barrel racing I was extremely anxious. I wanted to do well, there were people watching, and I was new to racing. All that made me nervous. When I made my run it would be like I blacked out and I wouldn’t be able to focus or really remember what happened. I just kind of haphazardly went in and made my run. We didn’t go fast and we didn’t get great results.

Today before a race I feel very calm and focused. I sometimes still make mistakes, but I am conscious throughout my run and am in the moment. Afterwards I know what happened, what went right and where I made mistakes. Not to say that videos aren’t still helpful! But it is a stark contrast from when I started.

Making mistakes during a run can also throw riders off. Being confident, keeping emotions from taking over after a mistake and visualizing doing so before a run can aid greatly in recovering and preventing a mistake from ruining a run. Look over this list of strategies for building mental toughness for some tips:

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The website Strong Athlete’s article “Mental Toughness: The Winning SECRET of Elite Athletes” lists five techniques in achieving mental toughness:

1. Accepting Failure

2. Mental Rehearsal

3. Success Imaging

4. Goal Setting

5. Support Team

The support team is a unique component to examine in the formula of success, not just in sports, but in life.

Strong Athlete’s article expands on the support team saying:

Mental toughness can come from within but it can also come from outside. Having the right individuals around you is critical to achieving success. Always surround yourself with like-minded people who are as driven as you are to push hard, be the best, and achieve success. Negative people, or the “haters” as they are sometimes referred to serve no purpose in your life. Eliminate them and there’s nothing holding you back. Having a strong support team such as your family and friends is also great for defining purpose. Not only will you want to succeed for yourself, you will also want to succeed for them and that is a remarkably powerful motivator.

Do you have the right people around you in your support team? It can be very difficult to maintain a positive mentality, even if it comes naturally, if you have the wrong people around you. Being able to recognize and let go of these unhealthy relationships can make a huge difference in your overall success. I learned this after losing my husband, having the right people around you is one of most important things in life.

So, where does your mental toughness stand? Do you see areas where you could improve?

areyoumentallytough

I hope you have a new interest in sports psychology and how it could impact your success, in competition and in life.

Never Give Up!

Chelsey

http://www.facebook.com/chelseystimson