Posted by: silverliningsblog | December 2, 2018

The gifts of sensitivity

butterfly-1127666_1280Have you ever been told you’re “too sensitive?”

The statement implies there is something wrong with you, when the reality is, you’re only “too” much…for them.

So ultimately, that means that they are less sensitive than you. And that you are more sensitive than them. And is that really such a bad thing?

Defining sensitivity

Being “sensitive” means your nervous system is finely tuned, and you are more easily aroused than most others. Everyone feels best when they are neither too bored nor too aroused. For the sensitive person, this range of “feeling ok” is simply more narrow, meaning you can tolerate less stimulation than others can.

Discovering the downside of sensitivity

If you are a sensitive person, chances are you’re already well aware of the downside of sensitivity…everything from food allergies and skin conditions to sensitivity to noise and criticism.

Some examples from my life you may be able to relate to:

  • I was the child in our family who felt what everyone else was feeling…and would have emotional meltdowns when it became too much.
  • I was the kid in school who was bullied and struggled with self-esteem because I was “too soft” and “geeky” and thought the unkind things others said about me must be true.
  • I was the partner who my ex-husband dubbed “Goldilocks” because I didn’t like things too cold or too hot, too bright or too dark, too loud or too quiet.
  • I was (and am) the friend who needs to eat a gluten-free, dairy-free, caffeine-free diet, because my body is sensitive to many foods.
  • I’ve never liked librairies, antique shops, or second-hand stores, because I can feel other people’s energy on the objects (and when I don’t know the source, that makes me uneasy).
  • I am very uncomfortable in crowds, and can’t stand the feeling of being trapped.
  • I hate itchy materials, like wool and clothing tags.
  • I get overwhelmed by too much noise or stimulation.
  • I can’t watch horror movies, news, or violent anything.

For most of my life, my sensitivity seemed like a curse. No one seemed to appreciate it, least of all me. It seemed to set me apart, to make me different, when all I wanted was to fit in. To be “normal.”

In more recent years, I’ve come to accept and even embrace that I’m not “normal,” certainly when it comes to sensitivity. As Elaine Aron defines it in The Highly Sensitive Person, I am definitely highly sensitive. And as Judith Orloff describes in The Empath’s Survival Guide, I am also very much an empath (someone who feels other people’s feelings and energy).

If you suspect you may be sensitive and/or empathic, you may want to check out these quizzes:

It may help you understand your quirks and realize that you are, indeed, different (and that it’s ok to be!).

Appreciating the upside of sensitivity

Thankfully, there are many benefits to being a sensitive person, both for ourselves and for others:

  • We’re the “canary in the mine” who notices when things are wrong/off long before anyone else does. (We are wired with stronger survival instincts.)
  • We are better at spotting (and correcting) errors.
  • We can sense people’s moods and energy, which allows us to assess what is going on (and whether we want to stay in any given environment).
  • Our bodies tell us sooner than most people’s when something we’re doing or eating isn’t right for us.
  • We’re more sensitive to other people’s feelings and needs, making us better friends, parents, and partners.
  • We’re more conscientious and take more time to reflect on issues impacting others.
  • We’re typically more compassionate, caring, and giving than most.
  • We’re very intuitive.
  • We’re more attuned to nature, energy, beauty, music, the arts.
  • People come to us for advice, help and support.
  • We tend to be the thinkers, advisors, teachers, healers, and spiritual leaders of our society.

How to manage your sensitivity

If you are sensitive, it’s important to listen to what your body is telling you. You will need to live and do things differently than others, and that’s ok.

Some ways you can manage your sensitivity so that it works for you (and not against you):

  • Balance time spent with people with time alone.
  • Get lots of sleep and take rest breaks.
  • Meditate regularly.
  • Eat lots of vegetables, and avoid processed foods / common allergens.
  • Exercise regularly (walking and yoga are particularly beneficial).
  • Ground and shield your energy daily.
  • Clear your energy field every day (some ways to do this include smudging, using chimes, and using water).
  • Take baths / shower to reset your energy (especially after an encounter with a difficult person).
  • Swim or sit by water (water produces negative ions, which balances you).
  • Get out in nature daily.
  • Avoid negative people / complainers / energy vampires.
  • Practice setting boundaries and saying no (“no” is a complete sentence!).
  • Journal to process your thoughts and feelings.
  • Find high-vibrational / supportive friends.
  • Use essential oils to balance your energy.
  • Use crystals to protect your energy (especially amethyst and black obsidian).
  • Use salt lamps (especially near electronics).
  • Take regular days off, and a retreat at least once/year.

Honour your sensitivity

If you’re a sensitive person, honour who you are and the amazing abilities you have. Instead of focusing on your frustrations (or the frustrations of others), focus on your unique gifts and the many ways these gifts enhance your life and the lives of others.

You are definitely not “normal”…you are very, very special and gifted! Embrace it!

Big hugs from one highly sensitive person to another. 🙂

Share your thoughts!

I’d love to hear from you…please share your ideas and insights below.

Resources for further learning

**************

IMG_1956a_5x7Karen Strang Allen is an empowerment coach for single women and mother of two. She is the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2. Widowed at 22 and separated at 35, Karen’s mission is to help single women feel great, turn their heartbreak into a breakthrough, and create a life they love, so they easily attract their dream partner. Check out Karen’s free resources and workshops at www.karenstrangallen.com.

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Posted by: silverliningsblog | November 1, 2018

Motivating yourself…when you just don’t feel like it

MotivationWhen you’re feeling down, it can be hard to want to do anything. Everything just feels like too…much…effort.

I understand this feeling very well. I’ve suffered from both adrenal burnout and depression in the past, so I’ve had periods when I’ve wanted to lie in bed all day and do nothing. When bending over to pick something up off the floor felt too hard. And exercise? No way I had the energy for that.

A lot of the work I do with my clients is helping them to get in touch with their emotions…to listen to their bodies and validate how they’re feeling (e.g. if you feel tired, rest). But there are times when it’s not useful to simply “do what you’re feeling” – like when you’re in the lower vibrational energies of sadness, despair, powerlessness, and depression. Because what you’re likely feeling like doing is watching Netflix and eating an entire cake…and that’s not ultimately going to make you feel better.

When you’re feeling really down, it’s important to know how to motivate yourself to do something different so you can shift out of your current (non-resourceful) state. It’s a myth that you’re going to wake up one day and you’ll suddenly feel motivated to do what you already know you need to do. We’re wired to do what’s easy and familiar, so we all have a natural resistance to doing anything that feels uncomfortable or hard. Which is how we get stuck.

As Mel Robbins says in her powerful interview on motivation, you don’t have to feel good or ready in order to change. You just have to decide to do it, one tiny step at a time. And it’s only once you begin to take those steps and climb the vibrational ladder that you’ll begin to feel better and your desire to pursue your goals will kick back in.

So let’s take that first step…

Taking control of your state

It is normal to experience feelings of sadness and despair in response to adverse life events (e.g. death, job loss, major life changes). In most cases, these sad feelings resolve as you come to terms with the changes. It makes sense at these times to listen to your body, slow your pace down, process your emotions, nurture yourself, and give yourself time to heal.

But sometimes these feelings linger, and turn into excessive sadness, loss of interest in enjoyable things, and low motivation. And it starts negatively impacting your life. That’s when you know a different tactic is needed…it’s no longer useful to simply “listen to your body” and “do what you feel.”

Instead, you want to take steps to consciously change your state (instead of accepting that you have to feel this way). And this will often involve doing things you DON’T initially feel like doing (i.e. taking action opposite to how you feel).

3 ways to change your state

Once you’ve taken some time to observe, process, and validate your feelings, you’re ready to begin shifting out of a non-resourceful state back into a state where you feel motivated to create change.

The three ways to change your state are by changing your:

  1. thoughts (mind)
  2. physical state (body)
  3. emotional state (spirit)

Changing your thoughts (mind)

Some ways to change your thoughts about the situation include:

  • Journal to process your thoughts and feelings so you can let them go.
  • Ask yourself empowering questions to challenge the thoughts that are making you feel sad.
  • Remind yourself of times you’ve gotten through situations like this.
  • Decide how you’d like to feel instead. (e.g. “I want to feel happy and joyful.”)
  • Journal about all the good things in your life/day that you’re grateful

Changing your physical state (body)

Ways to change your physical state include:

  • Get out of bed and have a hot shower. Dress up in your favourite outfit.
  • Stand/sit upright, in a confident position. Pull your shoulders down away from your ears.
  • Release endorphins and move the negative energy out of your body by exercising.
  • Go for a walk outside in nature (better yet, go with a friend).
  • Do an enjoyable activity (e.g. get a massage, do a craft, play an instrument, have a bubble bath, walk in nature, watch a comedy).

Changing your emotional state (spirit)

And finally, ways to change your emotional state include:

  • Listen to upbeat, uplifting music. (Better yet, sing or dance!)
  • Watch inspirational videos, like these TED talks on motivation.
  • Use energizing essential oils.
  • Spend time with loving, supportive people.
  • Reach out for support (call a supportive friend, mental health professional or crisis line).

Just do it!

Nike had it right all along…it really is about “just doing it.”

There will naturally be times in your life when you just don’t feel motivated, or when you feel afraid. In fact, that may be most of the time. But you can take control of your state and consciously shift it by doing what will help you to feel better…whether you “feel like it” or not.

Keep putting one foot in front of the other, and just take the next step. Soon, you’ll realize you’re moving in the right direction, away from fear and pain and towards the life you want to create.

Good luck…sending you a big virtual hug and lots of positive energy!

Share your thoughts!

I’d love to hear from you…please share your ideas and insights below.

Resources for further learning

**************

IMG_1956a_5x7Karen Strang Allen is an empowerment coach for single women and mother of two. She is the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2. Widowed at 22 and separated at 35, Karen’s mission is to help single women feel great, turn their heartbreak into a breakthrough, and create a life they love, so they become a magnet for their dream partner. Learn more about Karen and check out her free empowering resources and workshops at www.karenstrangallen.com.

Posted by: silverliningsblog | October 1, 2018

How one simple word can change your life

thanksgiving-2903166_1280As a coach, I often work with clients who are going through difficult times in their lives. Whether it’s a break-up or divorce, a sudden career change, or a full-on mid-life crisis, change often doesn’t seem like a good thing. At least at first.

But I’ve come to trust in the mysterious ways of the Universe, both personally and professionally. I know that there are blessings in every challenge, and that life is often steering us in a direction we can’t yet see.

I also know that, even when life is at its most difficult, and it feels like we’re going to break into a million pieces, there are still good things to be grateful for.

And it’s this ability to say “thanks,” even when times are tough, that will shift your energy higher and help you begin to attract more good things.

How gratitude changed my life

When I was 22, my husband and soulmate Blair passed away from liver cancer, less than 3 months after his diagnosis and 6 weeks after our wedding. I was devastated – I had lost the amazing man I was planning on spending my life with.

The same year, I moved to Ottawa to pursue a Masters in Journalism, 3,500 kilometres from my home and everyone I knew. I slid into a deep depression, and seriously considered dropping out of school. I had no energy, no motivation, and just wanted to stay in bed all day.

I called a former university professor, and told him of my struggles. He recommended that I “look for the silver lining in every day.” So I started a gratitude journal, and before I went to bed each night, I wrote down three things that were good about that day and my life overall.

At first it was hard to find three things to be grateful for. But gradually, it got easier and easier. I even started to see the many wonderful things I had in my life that I had been taking for granted:

  • heat and lighting
  • clean water
  • food to fill my belly
  • a safe place to live, in a safe country
  • a beautiful city
  • friends who cared about me
  • a scholarship that allowed me to pursue a higher education

And slowly but surely, my depression began to lift. I started enjoying life more, and spending more time doing things I loved. I met new friends, and got a great job. My life really turned around in just over a year, and I credit doing gratitude journaling (and some great counselling) as the main reason why.

Why gratitude helps (hint: it’s all about focus)

When times are tough, it’s so very easy to focus on what is going wrong. The problem is, when we focus on the negatives, we feel bad, our mood and energy drops, and our energetic vibration plummets. We feel like crap, and so we continue to attract crappy people and situations to us. We get stuck in a vicious loop.

But if instead, we can shift our focus to what is already good in our lives, and feel grateful for those people/things, we’ll feel our mood lifting. Our energy will start to rise, which will motivate us to take action, and help us to attract better people and situations into our lives.

Looking at it from another angle…don’t we all love it when someone shows us appreciation? Doesn’t it make us want to do MORE to help? Similarly, when you say thanks to the people who ARE there for you (instead of focusing on the ones who aren’t), it makes them feel good, and causes them to want to continue to support you.

Energy goes where our attention flows, and what we focus on expands.

So if you want things to change for the better, focus on what’s good in your life. Show appreciation to the people who love you and tell them you how much you value them. And as your mood lifts, watch the world around you begin to shift.

Wishing you a joyful and love-filled Thanksgiving holiday.

Share your thoughts!

I’d love to hear from you…please share your ideas and insights below.

Resources for further learning

**************

IMG_1956a_5x7Karen Strang Allen is an empowerment coach for single women and mother of two. She is the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2. Widowed at 22 and separated at 35, Karen’s mission is to help single women feel great, turn their heartbreak into a breakthrough, and create a life they love, so they become a magnet for their dream partner. Learn more about Karen and check out her free empowering resources and dating workshops at www.karenstrangallen.com.

Posted by: silverliningsblog | September 3, 2018

The energy of desire: Manifesting what you want into your life

Manifest desiresSo you’ve decided you want to manifest (attract) something into your life. Maybe it’s something big, like a life partner, a new home, or a new job. Or perhaps it’s something small, like a gorgeous new dress.

The interesting thing to note is that—whether it’s big or small—the process for attracting what you want into your life is the same.

And even more important than the process you follow is the energy behind your desire.

The energy that manifests desires

You see, most people get this ass-backwards. They think that the more they WANT something (the more desire they have for it) the faster it will come. WRONG.

In fact, the energy of wanting will push away your desire. “Wanting” is an energy of lack…it’s based on noticing that you don’t already have the thing your heart desires. It’s kind of like the energy of a child who is begging at the store, “Mommy, can I PLEASE have this toy? I NEED it!”

The truth is, you don’t really NEED anything to make you happy (once your basic human needs for food, water, clothing and shelter have been met). You may believe that having certain things in your life will make you happier, but the truth is you can choose to be happy now, exactly where you are, exactly the way things are. And that energy of happiness is what will draw what you desire to you.

Splash padLet me tell you a story to help illustrate this more clearly. I once went to a splash pad with my children. At the splash pad was a beautiful little black girl with multi-coloured bows in her hair. She looked to be about three years old. She was standing beside a pole that had three buckets on top. The buckets would intermittently fill up, then dump water one at a time. So the little girl tried to guess which bucket was going to dump next, and stood underneath it. She closed her eyes and squealed in delight, “It’s coming, it’s coming, it’s coming!!!” while her mother watched with a smile.

The fascinating thing to me is that even when she picked the wrong bucket, she didn’t get discouraged. She simply stood there patiently waiting, knowing her bucket would eventually fill and tip on top of her. And she continued to squeal “It’s coming!!!” the whole time, until eventually it did.

I think this is a great analogy for the energy we need to embody in order to attract what we want into our life. To attract something you desire, get into an energy of excitement and anticipation, like this little girl. Imagine what it will be like to have it before you even do, and feel grateful and excited for it as if it’s already here. This gets you into the vibration of abundance, which is the energy from which all new things are created.

5 steps to align your energy with what you want

To break this process down further into manageable steps, here is how to manifest something you desire into your life:

1. Get clear about what you want – Decide what it is you would like to create (manifest) in your life. If you’re not sure what you want, check out my energetic goal-setting process.

2. Focus your attention on what you want – This step is where most people go wrong. Don’t focus on the ABSENCE of what you want, or on how crappy your life is without it. Instead, focus on the PRESENCE of what you want. Start by noticing positive examples around you of people getting what you want, and examples in your life of you getting what you want. (e.g. When dating, don’t focus on the “bad fish.” Instead, focus on the examples of awesome guys you know, and happy couples around you. This is proof that what you want is possible.)

3. Visualize it happening – Imagine what you desire happening, as if it’s happening now (e.g. having an awesome partner in your life, going on adventures and travelling together). Use your five senses, and imagine what it will look, feel, smell, sound, and taste like. Focus on your feelings of joy and gratitude.

4. Relax and be patient – Release the “need” to have what you desire now. Trust that it will come to you in the perfect way and timing. Don’t insist it come in a particular form (e.g. it must be your ex Ted) or at a particular time (e.g. I must get married this year!). Instead, release your desire to the Universe, asking for “This or something better, in the perfect timing for me.” Stay in the energy of “It’s coming!!!”

5. Be happy now – Enjoy your life as it is right now (don’t wish it away waiting for something else). The best way to manifest your desires faster is to get into the same energetic frequency as the things you want to attract. If you are feeling miserable, you will push what you want away. Do things that make you feel happy (doesn’t matter if it’s unrelated to your desire), so that your vibration rises to one of joy, love and gratitude.

Be patient and positive

To sum it all up, having success with attracting what you desire requires:

  1. Being clear about what you want.
  2. Focusing your attention and envisioning only what you WANT.
  3. Having a positive attitude (about yourself, your life, getting what you want).
  4. Being patient and trusting what you desire will happen.
  5. Enjoying your life now (instead of postponing your happiness).

It takes practice, but once you get the hang of it, creating the life you want and manifesting your desires is a lot of fun!

If you need help with this, or with attracting your soulmate, reach out!

Share your thoughts!

Please share your ideas and insights below.

Resources for further learning

**************

IMG_1956a_5x7Karen Strang Allen is an empowerment coach for single women and mother of two. She is the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2. Widowed at 22 and separated at 35, Karen’s mission is to help single women feel great, turn their heartbreak into a breakthrough, and create a life they love, so they become a magnet for their dream partner. Learn more about Karen and check out her free empowering resources and dating workshops at www.karenstrangallen.com.

Posted by: silverliningsblog | June 29, 2018

How to make online dating easier

Online dating - womanIn speaking with many single clients, I’ve found that the vast majority do not enjoy online dating. This anecdotal feedback seems supported by a December 2016 Consumer Reports survey, which found that people were generally not happy with ANY online dating service out there (free or paid).

Certainly, it can be very time-consuming when you’re bombarded by messages from creeps, disheartening when you’re looking through countless uninspiring profiles, and frustrating when the one person you’re interested in doesn’t message you back.

That said, online dating IS a convenient way of meeting a wide variety of people you wouldn’t ordinarily meet from the comfort of your own home, at a relatively low cost (when compared to the expense of attending live dating events or meeting in restaurants).

So is there a way to make online dating easier? Can a person actually learn to enjoy it?

Top 10 tips to avoid wasting time online

There are definitely ways to make online dating easier. I’ve found that most people blindly begin without even thinking about which site is best given their relationship goals and demographics. They just use whatever their friends are using (whether their goals are the same or not).

Furthermore, most people set up a profile as quickly as possible without putting a lot of thought into it, and then wonder whey they’re attracting the wrong people. Or (on the other end of the spectrum) they spend too much time online dating, and wonder why it feels like the joy has been sucked out of their life.

Here are my top tips for being efficient and making the most of your time when online dating:

1. Choose one or two dating sites/apps to focus on – Being on too many sites scatters your focus and requires too much time to manage. Choose the site that has the best demographics for you and best serves your goals. (For example, if you’re over 40 and looking for a long-term relationship, Tinder or Bumble would not be the best choice as they are more commonly used by people under 30 for hook-ups and casual relationships.)

2. Choose a paid site – I recommend paid sites over free ones as they typically include at least some screening, so there are fewer weirdos to weed through and the “quality” of people is generally better (there will still be strange people anywhere though, or people with different goals than you). Paid sites also usually have enhanced privacy options and more features, and no (or fewer) annoying ads.

3. Create a great profile – Spend time learning how to create a great profile, and getting friends to review it to ensure it shows you in your best light in a creative (but honest) way. Think about it from your ideal partner’s perspective – what are they looking for, and what makes you a great catch? Don’t be too heavy – humour is almost always appreciated.

4. Use invisible/private mode – Most paid sites have an “invisible” or “private” mode, allowing you to keep your profile hidden, browse through other profiles, and only make yours visible once you find someone you’re interested in. This helps prevent being inundated with unwanted attention from creeps/scammers.

5. Set aside 30 min/day or one evening/week – Don’t spend your entire life online dating! A romantic relationship is only one aspect of your life. Be sure you’re maintaining balance and continuing to do activities you enjoy with people you love. Set aside a specific amount of time each week to dedicate to your search – and then the rest of the time, enjoy your life as a single person (you won’t be single forever)!

6. Ignore messages if you’re not interested – If someone messages you and you’re really not interested, just ignore the message. It becomes too time-consuming to respond to everyone, and it’s kinder to not waste someone’s time if you’re not digging them. However, if you’ve been communicating with someone or have gone on a date, then it’s common courtesy to respond and “let them down easy” if you’re no longer interested, rather than to ignore (ghost) them.

7. Report creeps and scammers – Don’t buy into early promises of love, or send people money or naked pictures. If someone sends you something inappropriate or asks for money, please report them to the dating site/app you’re using to spare others from going through the same thing! You can also report scammers to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

8. Message people who catch your eye – If someone catches your eye, send them a brief message telling them what you liked about their profile, or asking a question. Then let them respond – if they don’t, they’re either not interested or have perhaps found someone already.

9. Talk on the phone to learn more – If you’ve messaged back and forth a few times and decided you like someone, ask to speak on the phone (you can learn a lot about someone by the tone of their voice and how they hold a conversation). If the person avoids this, NEXT!

10. Meet in real life if it feels like a match – Within 1-2 weeks of meeting someone you’re really interested in online, meet in real life. Remember: You don’t really know who they are and can’t really assess how much you like them until you’ve met them! Ensure you meet in a public place, and drive yourself there (don’t accept being picked up at home until you know them better). If they don’t ask you to meet in person within a couple weeks, suggest it. If they avoid meeting in real life, move on to someone who thinks you’re worth their time!

Be patient and positive

Having success with online dating requires three things:

  1. Being clear about what you want.
  2. Having a positive attitude (about yourself, the opposite sex, dating in general).
  3. Being patient enough to wait for what you truly want (i.e. not settling).

No matter which dating site and strategy you use, there will be oddballs out there you have to weed through. There are good and bad “fish” in every pond, so don’t take it personally if you get a creepy message or picture, or if someone doesn’t message you back (only 1/3 of messages on online dating sites are responded to). You don’t need to like every fish, or have every fish like you – you just need to find one! It’s about quality, not quantity.

My #1 tip for making online dating easier is to have a good attitude going in. Be sure you only start dating once you’re already feeling good about yourself, your life, and your chances of finding a good match. If you’re not feeling good about these things, you will not attract good dates! It just doesn’t work that way. Do your inner work first, then date from a place of power and happiness – your results will be much, much better.

If you need help with this, or with creating your online dating profile, email me!

Share your thoughts!

Which site do you prefer? Please share your ideas and comments about online dating below.

Resources for further learning

**************

IMG_1956a_5x7Karen Strang Allen is an empowerment coach for single women and mother of two. She is the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2. Widowed at 22 and separated at 35, Karen’s mission is to help single women feel great, turn their heartbreak into a breakthrough, and create a life they love, so they become a magnet for their dream partner. Learn more about Karen and check out her free empowering resources at www.karenstrangallen.com.

 

Posted by: silverliningsblog | May 30, 2018

It’s not a disease! The benefits of being single

Single WomanIf you’ve ever been single, you’ve no doubt felt pressure from others around you to “find someone.” You probably dread the question, “Why are you still single?”

It’s as if people think being in a relationship is the miracle cure for solving all your problems. Or that being single is like having leprosy – some horrible disease that proves you’re undesirable (if you weren’t, wouldn’t you have someone by now?).

And yet, the latest research is showing that being single has some important benefits.

So why is it assumed that being in a relationship is better than being single? And is this assumption actually true?

The over-idealization of marriage

We live in a culture that reveres romantic relationships and marriage. There are many reasons for this:

  • We are social creatures who generally prefer togetherness over isolation.
  • We want to procreate (which ensures the continuance of our species).
  • We want security (someone to care/provide for us when we’re ill).
  • We want financial stability (two incomes, sharing expenses and lodging).
  • We want a family (the nuclear family is still assumed to be the best model for this).

While there are certainly benefits to being in a romantic relationship, our over-idealization of this one type of relationship often comes at the expense of other types…including our relationship with ourselves.

By putting so much focus and energy into our partner, we often neglect other people in our lives. I’ve seen it time and time again with clients and friends (and yes, I’ve done it too) that as soon as we’re in a relationship, we drop our friends and family like hot rocks, focusing all our attention on our partner to the exclusion of others. I don’t believe this is a good thing, as it is very unbalanced and suggests that the only relationship really worth having is a romantic one.

It also puts far too much pressure on our romantic relationship to fulfill all our needs – which is unrealistic at best. And what happens if that romantic relationship doesn’t work out? Because you’ve put all your eggs in one basket, if that basket is suddenly withdrawn, guess what…you have no eggs left.

Also, many people hyperfocus on their romantic relationship to the detriment of themselves. They put aside their own interests, passions, dreams to please the other, gradually sacrificing too much and losing themselves in the process.

And, let’s not forget that our romantic relationships don’t always result in happiness. Sometimes they are riddled with conflict, disappointment, and pain. Indeed, as many of us have come to discover, being miserable in the wrong relationship is far worse than being alone.

So while, yes, there are benefits to romantic relationships, there are also drawbacks, and it’s important to see both in balance to make an educated choice about what is best for you.

What I mean by this isn’t that everyone should break up and become single…it’s that we need a greater appreciation of the benefits of being single, so that as a culture we stop rushing people who are single into relationships, as if there is something fundamentally wrong with being alone.

The value of being single

I’ve spent more years living alone than I ever intended (over 10 years at this point). I always imagined I would get married straight out of university, buy a home together, create a family, and live happily ever after. I didn’t anticipate becoming widowed at 22, or divorced at 35.

After my first husband died from liver cancer, I resisted being single. I was urged by my parents and friends to find someone to fill the gap, and rushed into a relationship too quickly. It did not end well, because filling the empty hole in your heart with another person’s love is not the real answer to loneliness.

Then I remarried, and while I married a good man, it was not the kind of partner/relationship I needed. So after 10 years of trying to make two mismatched puzzle pieces fit, my marriage ended. And this time, I decided to take some time to be single, and re-discover who I was again.

My single years weren’t always easy, but they have been a true blessing. I’ve learned more about myself and my preferences than I ever would have being in a relationship (because I used to be one of those gals who sacrificed who she was to be with someone).

I learned to be ok with being alone – and not only ok, to actually look forward to my alone time (when my two kids are with my ex). I learned to meet my own needs, so that I’m not so “needy” in my relationships. I re-invested in other important relationships…with friends, colleagues, family. I re-discovered my passions, and spent more time doing things I loved to do that made me feel alive and truly happy. I changed careers and created a business where I’m helping people change their lives. And I fell in love with myself, truly enjoying my own company and coming to appreciate the many gifts I have to offer others, finally trusting in my own value.

I am now with a terrific guy, but I can honestly say I’m glad I didn’t meet him sooner – because my life is so much better balanced now, and the gift of loving myself is far greater than any external love could ever be.

For those who think being single is a curse, here are some benefits of being single you may have overlooked:

  • Doing what you want, when you want.
  • Decorating your home the way you like, without having to compromise.
  • Organizing your space the way you like (and having stuff stay put!).
  • Getting a better sleep (no more snoring!).
  • Having more time for
    • other important relationships
    • your own interests and passions
    • exercise and eating healthy
    • personal development
    • going within and hearing your own thoughts

More and more people are choosing to be single

I am certainly not alone in seeing the benefits of being single. There are more and more people who are living alone these days…and even consciously choosing to be single. There is a ton of emerging research that shows that marriage isn’t the be-all and end-all…and that many people are happier alone. I follow a lot of Bella DePaulo’s research, check out this article for a new perspective on the reality of single vs. married life.

To summarize a few interesting statistics from her article:

  • 45% of the adult population in the US over 18 is single (i.e. not married).
  • For the first time ever, more Canadians are living in one-person households than any other living arrangement.
  • Over the last 50 years, individualistic beliefs (like valuing friends more than family) have increased significantly for 79 percent of the world’s nations.
  • Recent studies show that marriage does not improve self-esteem or health, as previously thought. In fact, single people were reported to have better health than married people.

Living alone is not only more common these days, it’s often even a preference. More and more people (women especially) are choosing to have relationships, but live apart. Gone are the days when a woman wants to be a maid to her partner, and many women are financially independent, so they can choose to keep their own home instead of moving in together.

I personally know quite a few single people who are HAPPY being single. It’s a choice, not a requirement to be in a relationship, and it has nothing to do with how “desirable” you are. In fact, some of the highest calibre women and men are single the longest, because (rightly so) they have higher standards and are not willing to lower them just to be with someone.

It’s really about choosing what’s right for you

All this to say, it’s YOUR CHOICE whether you want to be single or be with someone, living together or living apart.

So, when someone suggests you SHOULD be with someone, trust that they likely mean well (being in a relationship is their view of what would make you happy, probably because they are in one). But understand that their view is a little one-sided. Ultimately it’s for YOU to decide how to live your life. Living your life based on someone else’s values and not your own will never result in happiness.

If you do want to find someone and get married, that’s great…but there is no rush and no ticking clock. In fact, being in a rush will result in one of two things:

  1. Choosing poorly (settling for “someone,” instead of choosing the right person).
  2. Pushing away good people because they feel your urgency/anxiety.

So, take your time and enjoy this period of being single…it’s not a disease or a curse! It’s actually a tremendous opportunity to discover who you are, create a life you love, and become truly happy.

Then, if you do decide to enter into a relationship, you’ll be doing it as a whole, healthy person and set your relationship up for success from the start. And if you don’t, you’ll have a well-rounded life that fulfills you, so you win either way!

Share your thoughts!

Please share your ideas and comments about being single below!

Resources for further learning

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IMG_1956a_5x7
Karen Strang Allen is an empowerment coach for single women and mother of two. She is the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2. Widowed at 22 and separated at 35, Karen’s mission is to help single women feel great, turn their heartbreak into a breakthrough, and create a life they love, so they become a magnet for their dream partner. Learn more about Karen and check out her free empowering resources at www.karenstrangallen.com.

 

Posted by: silverliningsblog | March 2, 2018

3 keys to finding the love you want

Lasting loveWe all want to be loved, nurtured, cared for, cherished. We want to be heard, understood and treated well. We yearn to find that special someone to share life’s adventures with.

These are natural desires…human beings are wired for connection. Our survival instinct is to belong. Our reproductive instinct is to find someone to mate with. Our spiritual instinct is to join in harmony with others.

So why does love sometimes seem so elusive?

Problem #1: Looking for love in all the wrong places

Part of the challenge is that we’re looking for love outside of ourselves, instead of inside. We’re insisting that others give to us what we won’t give to ourselves.

For example, we really want someone to listen to us, but we rarely listen to our own body’s messages (that it’s tired, needs rest, needs exercise, needs healthy food, etc.). Or we want someone to validate us, but we ignore and fail to validate our own feelings (e.g. we overlook those “red flags” we felt when we first met someone). Or we wish that our partner would say nice things to us, but inside our head we criticize ourselves relentlessly.

We have a psychological tendency to look to our partners to meet the needs that were unmet in childhood. But it’s important to learn how to meet most of those needs on our own and create a life we truly love. That way we take the pressure off our relationship (and partner) to be our “everything.”

It’s ok to want people in our lives to show us love. But the very first place we need to find love is within ourselves. And the neat thing is, once we change how we feel on the inside and express more of that to others, the outside world will reflect that back to us and we will receive more love. But it begins with loving ourselves, so that we’re approaching our love relationships from a place of generosity, not a place of lack.

When you really, truly love who you are and the life you’re living, you’ll attract better relationships.

Problem #2: Choosing the wrong person

The other mistake I see my clients making is that they choose the wrong person, and then try to make them into who they want them to be.

In other words, they pick someone who has very different values than they do, or flaws they can’t live with, and then expect them to change. It’s very common for women to pick “fixer-uppers” with major issues and think that, with their love, the person will improve. But that rarely works without therapy.

Instead, it’s best to be clear about what you want in a partner and in a relationship, and then choose a person who is capable of that and has a similar vision.

Problem #3: Not having the right skills

Few of us were taught by our parents how to have a healthy, happy relationship. And most of us did not learn relationship skills in school. As a result, any skills we’ve learned were through trial…and a few too many errors.

But for a relationship to thrive, there are many critical skills we must develop. For example:

  • how to communicate our feelings, thoughts and desires openly
  • how to say things in a way that won’t elicit a negative response
  • how to listen deeply to our partner
  • how to navigate differences
  • how to resolve conflicts

Learning these skills and applying them make all the difference between having a relationship that is joyful and lasts, versus going through many failed relationships.

The 3 keys to finding (and keeping) love

So to summarize, if what you’re wanting is to find lasting love, the keys are to:

  1. Love yourself and create a life you love
  2. Choose the right partner for you
  3. Learn the skills required to have a healthy, happy relationship

If you would like to learn more about how to find lasting love, I invite you to join me in Ottawa on May 5−6, 2018 for the Soulmate Attraction Summit!

Share your thoughts!

Please share your challenges, successes, tips and comments about finding love below!

Resources for further learning

Other articles:

**************

Karen Strang AllenKaren Strang Allen is an empowerment coach for single women and mother of two. She is the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2. Widowed at 22 and separated at 35, Karen’s mission is to help single women feel great, turn their heartbreak into a breakthrough, and create a life they love, so they become a magnet for their dream partner. Learn more about Karen and check out her free empowering resources at www.karenstrangallen.com.

Posted by: silverliningsblog | February 2, 2018

What to do when life gets you down…

Sad woman 1Let’s face it…life ain’t always easy. It sometimes throws us a curve ball like a lost job or a friend who passes away. Obstacles suddenly appear on our path to our goals. We get taken down by the flu. We get a bad case of the winter blues.

No one escapes having challenges in life…but some people definitely seem to handle them better. So when life gets you down, what are some concrete actions you can take to feel better and turn things around?

Action #1: Take care of your body

When we are under stress, no matter what the cause, the most important first step is to nurture ourselves and take good care of our body. It will be much harder to stick-handle any problems and see the solutions if we get sick (or more sick), or succumb to depression and anxiety.

Some ways to care for ourselves include:

  • Get 8 hours sleep (you may need even more if you’re ill)
  • Exercise regularly (walking outside and doing yoga are very helpful when under stress)
  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables (and limit refined carbs and sugar)
  • Take vitamin D and/or use a sun lamp (important in Northern climates during the winter)
  • Do something relaxing (take a bath, get a massage, meditate)

Action #2: Ask for help

It’s also critical to reach out for support. Many of us have a tendency to hide when we’re struggling, but this just increases our sense of isolation and separation. Instead, share your struggles with someone you trust, whose advice you value (e.g. friend, family member, coach or therapist).

Sometimes talking it out can be enough. Other times, you may need to make a specific request for help. Here are some ideas for things you might ask for:

  • Can you come over and spend time with me?
  • Would you be able to watch the kids for me?
  • Can you help me organize my paperwork?
  • Would you mind picking up some groceries for me when you go get yours?
  • Could you take me to see the doctor?

Action #3: Shift your focus

Once your basic physical and emotional needs are met, it’s time to shift your focus. Dwelling on what’s not working in your life will only attract more of what you don’t want. Instead, use your challenges as an opportunity to ask empowering questions like, “What do I want instead?”

Another great way to shift focus is to do gratitude journaling. Every night (or once a day at a time that’s convenient for you), write down what you’re grateful for about your life, yourself, and the people around you. No matter how difficult things may seem, there are always aspects of your life that are still good, and ways in which the Universe and others are supporting you. The more you pay attention to the good things you already have, the more will come to you. (And the faster your challenges will turn around!)

Action #4: Do things you enjoy

When we’re struggling, we tend to not only withdraw, but also to stop doing the things we love most. And yet, the best way to raise our energetic vibration (and mood) is to do things that make us feel joyful and alive.

So, make a list of things you love to do, and then pick something each day to lift your spirits. A few good ideas include:

  • listening to uplifting music
  • getting outside in nature
  • going to the spa
  • spending time with friends
  • buying yourself flowers

Tip #5: Don’t take things personally

When things go wrong, we often take it personally and beat ourselves up for it. But this habit is very disempowering, and keeps us from being able to see the best course of action.

In The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz advises to take nothing that happens personally, because what others do or say is never really about you; it’s about their own experience and perspective.

So when life throws you a curve ball, instead of replaying what happened over and over in your head, ask yourself “Who do I want to be in this situation?” Consider how you can remain true to your values and what advice your best self would give you, then decide what to do next.

Share your thoughts!

What are you struggling with? What helps you to feel better? Please share your tips/comments below!

Resources for further learning

If your self-esteem feels a little shaky lately, I invite you to attend my free upcoming online masterclass: Fall Madly in Love with You!

Other articles:

Posted by: silverliningsblog | January 1, 2018

How to accomplish your goals this year!

IMG_1081I tend to get excited when January 1 rolls around…the new year brings with it so much promise for improvement and potential for change.

Every year, I set new goals for myself. And every year, I achieve some, but not all. And I’ve started noticing an interesting pattern with the goals I achieve vs. the goals I don’t.

When I don’t achieve a goal, it’s either because it wasn’t important enough to me, or because I got overwhelmed by how big a goal it was (i.e. how hard it would be to achieve).

When I do achieve a goal, it’s because I am very clearly focused on why I want it, and committed to getting there no matter what obstacles I face.

So if you’ve ever struggled to achieve your goals, here are a few tips to make this year the year you accomplish what you set out to do!

Tip #1: Know your why

Goals that stick are typically the ones where we are very connected to our reasons for why we are doing them. And our reasons are closely aligned with our values.

So before setting a new goal, get clear on what your values are, and why you want to achieve this goal. Focus on the positive benefits, and how you’ll feel…not only once you’ve achieved the goal, but as you’re working towards it (i.e. what mood/state do you need to be in to achieve the goal?).

As an example, last year was a challenging health year for me as I faced adrenal burnout and gained weight, so this year I really want to have my best health year ever. This goal is important to me because I really value my health and living a healthy lifestyle, and I want to model for my kids and clients what being active and healthy looks like. To get there, I’ll need to tap into feelings of vitality, strength and energy.

Tip #2: Commit to what you want

It’s also critical to not just set a goal, but commit to achieving it. You must decide that you want this no matter what, and will do whatever it takes to get there. You have to make the pleasure of getting where you want to go greater than the pain of the work to get there.

For my fitness goal, I remember how great it felt to feel good in my clothes, to feel my muscles in action as I played sports, to run without jiggling. J So I’m making that more important than the extra exercise I’ll need to do and food I’ll need to cut back on. And I’m helping myself remember my commitment by posting a colourful tracking sheet in my office, so I can add fun stickers to the days when I work out and/or make good health choices. I’m also putting up a picture of me in my best shape a few years ago, so I can remember what I’m trying to achieve on those days when I feel less motivated.

Tip #3: Mind the gap

When you’re working towards a goal, especially a big goal, it’s important to “mind the gap,” as Jack Canfield says. In other words, don’t focus on how far you have to go to achieve your goal. Instead, focus on how far you’ve already come.

For example, I could easily beat myself up for the fact that I’ve gained over 10 pounds in the past year, and feel overwhelemed by how much work it will take to lost that excess weight. But that will just put me in a negative headspace and lower my energy, making it much harder to achieve my goal of getting back in shape (and into my pants) this year.

Instead, it’s far more helpful to acknowledge how much progress I’ve made with my health overall in the past 10 years…eating more healthy foods, eliminating dairy and gluten, clearing 80% of my allergies, re-balancing my hormones, exercising regularly, running a marathon, becoming a solid athlete and team player.

From that space of positivity (and gratitude for everything my body allows me to do), I can focus on my goal and enjoy the new steps forward I take this year. It’s a much, much different energy! J

Tip #4: Take it one step at a time

Once you’ve set a goal and feel good about working towards it, it’s important to break it down into manageable steps, with rewards after every step and once you reach your goal.

Breaking it down makes it easier to move forward without becoming overwhelmed, and to acknowledge each positive step we’re taking.

In my case, I’m focusing first on getting back into a regular exercise routine (then I’ll be turning my focus to what I’m eating). I’m rewarding myself for going to the gym by spending 10 minutes in the sauna after each workout. And my bigger reward for will be going clothes shopping once I lose 10 pounds!

Tip #5: Make it fun!

Working towards your goals should be fun, not a chore. It’s just as important to enjoy the ride as to reach your destination.

So whatever your goal is, find ways to make it fun for you, and to celebrate your successes!

For example, I’m making getting back in shape more fun in the following ways:

  • Doing micro workouts and playing JustDance with my kids (they love it!)
  • Trying fun new group fitness classes (variety and novelty motivate me)
  • Taking Zumba classes (I love to dance so it doesn’t feel like work)
  • Exercising outdoors when the weather permits (I’m a nature nut)
  • Taking my kids skiing, skating, rollerblading, etc.

The important thing is to know yourself and do things you enjoy, not try to force yourself to do things you really don’t want to (that is hard to sustain work long-term).

I hope these tips have helped, and that you are feeling excited about beginning a new year. I wish you tremendous love, joy and abundance in the year ahead!

Share your thoughts!

What goals are you setting this year? What has helped you achieve your goals in the past? Please share your tips/comments below!

Resources for further learning

If you would like to kick-start your year, I invite you to attend my free online masterclass on January 2, called Your most awesome year ever!

Other articles:

**************

Karen Strang AllenKaren Strang Allen is an empowerment coach for single women and mother of two. She is the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2. Widowed at 22 and separated at 35, Karen’s mission is to help single women feel great, turn their heartbreak into a breakthrough, and create a life they love, so they become a magnet for their dream partner. Learn more about Karen and check out her free empowering resources at www.karenstrangallen.com.

Posted by: silverliningsblog | December 2, 2017

12 tips to maintain balance over the holidays

Christmas sanityEvery year, I work hard to make the holidays “magical” for my kids. And every year I start off feeling joyful and excited…and end up feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Then like a scene from Bad Moms’ Christmas, I melt down and become a cranky-pants.

Can you relate?

Even if you don’t have kids, you’ve no doubt experienced the stress that can go along with the holiday season. In our well-intentioned efforts to create a special time for our family and friends, we sometimes go overboard and lose sight of what really matters – enjoying our time with others.

So this holiday season, I’m determined to do Christmas better and not get so stressed out. Here are my top twelve tips for taking the hustle and bustle out of the holidays.

Tip 1: Envision what you want

The key to getting what you want is to know what you want, and then imagine it happening. So start by asking yourself “What’s most important to me this holiday season?” And then envision it.

For me, I’ve come to realize that what I really want is a simple, low-key celebration where we eat good food and I have time to enjoy my kids and go sledding and play board games with them.

Tip 2: Plan

Once you know what your overall vision is, you can make a plan to create it. Make a list of what needs to happen in what order. Highlight anything that must be done. Postpone things that don’t need to happen now. Choose to let go of anything non-essential.

Tip 3: Put your health and wellbeing first

It can be so tempting to put off exercise and sleep and heathy eating when we’re busy and stressed. And yet that’s when our bodies need it most. So schedule your work-outs, meal prep, meditation and down-time first, ahead of everything else. It’s not worth it to end up getting sick during the holidays!

Tip 4: Take inspired action

Before doing anything on your to do list, stop and take a few deep breaths first. Center yourself, and think about your overall vision. Then set an intention for the outcome you want. You’ll be surprised by how much your enjoyment of each task will increase when you center yourself first and align your energy with your highest intentions!

Tip 5: Keep things simple

Here are some ways we can simplify our holiday traditions and maintain our sanity:

  • Buy fewer gifts (e.g. agree with friends/family not to exchange this year, give fewer gifts to your kids who likely have too many toys already anyway).
  • Scale down on decorating. A few pretty decorations can go a long way in making your place look festive (without all the work)!
  • Instead of mailing Christmas cards, consider emailing them.
  • Instead of cooking a full Christmas dinner, consider buying all or part (many places make dinner for you that you can bring home). Or do a pot luck!

Tip 6: Shop strategically

You can save a ton of time shopping with these tips:

  • Make a list of everything you need to get. Group items by store, and go to/order at as few stores as possible.
  • Order online and have gifts shipped directly to you!
  • Shop in stores during non-peak hours (e.g. weekdays, or Monday-Thursday evenings).
  • Shop in stores that offer free wrapping (e.g. MasterMind Toys).
  • Buy gift cards and let the person choose their own gift (kids love this).

Tip 7: Have a cooking baking day

To make Christmas baking easier, decide on a handful of recipes to make, buy all the ingredients in one trip, and do all your baking in one day. You can invite your kids, friends, or family to participate, making it a fun holiday tradition (my kids and I do this every year).

You can make cookie tins to give away as gifts to friends/teachers/service providers. And you can freeze the cookies so that whenever you host or go to a party, you always have something to bring!

Tip 8: Host a wrapping party!

Wrapping can take a lot of time and become a chore when you’re doing it all at once. So I started a tradition with my girlfriends where I invite them over a week before Christmas to wrap gifts while listening to holiday tunes and sipping wine! Makes wrapping much more enjoyable. J

Tip 9: Ask for help!

OK, I admit to having previously suffered from Wonder Woman syndrome, thinking I can do it all myself. So part of what makes the holidays more manageable for me now is asking people to help. My kids love to help with baking, decorating, and sticking stamps on envelopes. My partner enjoys cooking with me, and hanging the lights.

You may even want to consider if there is someone in your life (a retired parent or neighbour perhaps) who would enjoy spending time with you while helping you with what needs to be done!

Tip 10: Pamper yourself

I discovered long ago that a tired mommy is a cranky mommy. So I know the best thing I can do for my kids (and partner) is to make time to unwind before, during, and after the holidays. My favourite ways are to have a candle-lit bubble bath or lie in bed and read. And every year around New Year’s, I go to the spa near my home for some extra TLC!

Tip 11: Allow for imperfection

We tend to want everything to be perfect for the holidays, but perfectionism leads to stress. It’s far better to aim for an overall vision of what you want, and let the rest go. After all, it’s not the presents and decorations people will remember, it’s the feeling they had being with you.

Tip 12: Remember what’s most important

To me, what’s most important is to have fun with my family and friends. So my goal this year is to stop whenever I’m feeling stressed and ask myself if what I’m doing really matters. Because most of the time it doesn’t, and it causes me to lose sight of what does really matter…which is enjoying the time I have with the people around me.

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