Stop Paddling Up Stream, Follow Your Flow

by CrisMarie on February 17, 2016

Stop Paddling Up Stream: Follow Your Flow, Reprinted from 406 Women Magazine 

I am paraphrasing Abraham from Ester and Jerry Hicks’ You Tube video called, The Stream.

We are born into this Universe with its raw power and natural flow, like a giant river. Then we are told by well meaning people,  “Put your canoe in the water and turn it up stream, and paddle like crazy.” Work hard towards lofty goals, family obligations, or esteemed accomplishments. (Like having the perfect family, a powerful and famous career, or being desirable and beautiful.)

Yet, if you stop paddling so hard upstream, the canoe will naturally right itself, and you will effortlessly flow down river. Toward what you really love and are a natural at. (Like having a good enough family, a career that makes your heart open, and falling in love with yourself just as you are.)


I’m Paddling Upstream

When I heard this it made me think about how hard I am working in so many areas of my life.

  • Susan and I are trying to grow our business, thrive! – right here in Montana. In case you didn’t know, we work with business leaders and their teams to help them learn how to use the energy of conflict (rather than defuse it) for innovative, profitable results. In our efforts to grow our business, we take one step forward, and it seems like we stall.
  • Then, there is the book on our thrive! methodology and client success stories. Yes, the book – that we have been trying to write for the last, oh, I don’t know, three years! It has been a slough.
  • Of course, then there are my regular never ending quests like being thinner, having nicer skin and thick, long hair, and being fashionably dressed – all while I get older!

These are the places that I feel like I am currently paddling upstream – working really hard and on something that think I must do to survive; need to do to make enough money so I can finally relax; or should do because otherwise I will become irrelevant.

Ugh! Notice the survival quality and the worry about fitting in with the rest of the world. There is a quality of obligation, resignation, or desperateness. Not any fun!

Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe that we each have responsibilities and do have to work hard sometimes in our lives, but there is a difference between working hard on something you love, versus working hard, and spinning your wheels on what you think you have to do, or should do and don’t want to be doing.

Where Are You Paddling Upstream?

Think about your life. Make a list of the situations, places that you staunchly believe:

  • I have no choice, I have to do it.
  • People are expecting me to do this.
  • I won’t be able to pay my rent if I don’t!
  • The kids need me. They are not going to take care of themselves!
  • I can’t disappoint (Mom and Dad, my partner, the kids, _________)

Really? This is your life. Yes, I know you have responsibilities, but if you keep doing them from that energy of obligation, you are not going to enjoy this ride of life. Remember, this is a short trip here on earth. Why not try to enjoy it a bit more?!

Flow Your Flow: The 3 B’s

As many of you know, I am on the faculty at Martha Beck, Life Coaching Training. One of Martha’s basic tools is called the 3 B’s: Better it, Barter it, Bag it.

For those have to to do’s you want to improve your experience of them.

  • BETTER it! Okay, maybe there is something you have to do, but why not make the experience more pleasant? So often when we don’t like doing something, we buckle down and muscle through to get it done. Stop that! Make it more interesting, fun, and easier to do!
  • BARTER it! Is there someone else who can do this task instead of you? Believe me, all the things you hate doing, there is someone out there who loves doing them. Really. We are each wired differently, so why not leverage someone else’s talents? If you have the money, pay them. If not, what can you do for them so that you can trade services?
  • BAG it! Yes, just take it off your list. Forget doing it. Never mind it is not for you. Let’s be honest how does it feel to have it on your list? Are you groaning? Then woman, let it go. Stop the quest!


I talked to Susan about us paddling upstream regarding our business, thrive! – and asked, “Where are working really hard and we could do something different?”

As far as building our business here in Montana, we decided we did not have the skills necessary to do marketing effectively. No wonder it was no fun and not working!

  • We decided to BARTER it, and we hired Maria Phelps of Find It Marketing to get our social media marketing going, and our brochures up to professional quality.
  • We did not stop there. We also decided to BETTER our experience of marketing by learning more about it. So we hired a coach, Bill Barren.

As for the book, well we BAGGED it!

  • Well, at least writing it the way we were trying to, which was one long story about a team’s transformation. UGH, that was hard and no fun.
  • Instead, we decided to BETTER it, by utilizing our natural strength for writing short pieces, like this article, and our regular blog posts from our Healthy Conflict Blog (read them:

Finally, the never-ending quest for physical perfection.

  • As for losing weight, I decided to BAG it for this summer, since I am in an on-going battle with allergies that completely zaps my energy. It would definitely be working upstream to try to lose weight when I can barely take a walk.
  • As for dressing well, I asked Melissa Richardson of Style Me Montana to come to my home and help me build some fabulous outfits from my very own clothing. She also suggested a couple of new affordable pieces from The Village Shop in Whitefish to fill out my collection.

No More Settling Ladies!

I invite you to stop trying to be something you are not in order to please someone else, or even match some old picture you have in your head about who you should be.

Start with where you are, notice where you are paddling upstream. It doesn’t have to be that way. Start utilizing your own strengths and loves rather than working against them.

Pause, get creative and look for places that you can BETTER it, BARTER it, or BAG it!

CrisMarie Campbell is a Coach, Consultant and Speaker at thrive! inc. Clients refer to CrisMarie and her partner, Susan Clarke, as “The Team Doctors” because they focus on the health of the team in order to get the team to smart business results. They recently released their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It!, where they spoke on Conflict is an Energy Source for Innovation, Creativity, and Transformation. You can contact CrisMarie at

Stress: It Doesn’t Have To Be “The New Normal”

by CrisMarie on February 10, 2016

Stress: It Doesn’t Have To Be “The New Normal”, Reprinted from 406 Women Magazine 

We all have stresses in our lives. However, when a situation feels like it’s too much to handle, we get triggered into a fight, flight, or freeze reaction.

The problem isn’t the stress. The problem is that we don’t work with our reactions and let our system settle in the midst of the stress or afterwards.

Maybe you’ve gotten stuck in a chronic stress response, thinking that your stressed state is normal. My goal is to help you interrupt that chronic stress state, settling your system so that you discharge your stress naturally throughout your day.


Walk Much?

Imagine yourself walking in a mall. You’re shopping, carrying loads of bags full of goodies and your too-heavy purse. Someone calls your name. You turn to look over your shoulder to find the person and suddenly you trip, spewing everything all over. Ugh!

Many of us would be so embarrassed we’d pop right up, hopefully before too many people saw, and merrily chirp, “I’m fine, really! Just fine.” We’d quickly gather our bags while trying to make polite conversation with the person who called our name, starting with asking them, “So how are you?!”

Unfortunately in our culture, a mishap like this can trigger feelings of embarrassment, worry about looking bad, or feeling too emotional. We disconnect or suppress how we feel, what’s going on inside. Instead, we turn our attention to the other person, avoiding looking out at others, not realizing until we get home that we scraped our knees when we fell.

“Shake It Off!”

A more helpful stress release reaction after being in a triggering situation is to allow emotional energy to flow, to talk about it, notice body sensations, and shake.

Yes, I said shake. Have you ever seen two dogs fight or scuffle with each other? The first thing they do after they separate is shake. This is their nervous system discharging the energy of the fight.

Cue Taylor Swift’s song “Shake It Off!”

Our systems are wired the same way, but – unlike those dogs – we get into chronic, tight stress states and don’t allow our bodies to discharge the stress. We pretend we’re fine. All the while, that stress energy is trapped in our nervous systems, reducing our resiliency when the next stressful event occurs.

So shake it off.  Let that shakiness be there because it is how our bodies naturally discharge stress. Let your hands move, your legs wiggle. Allow your body to move in order to reduce the stress and settle down.

You Are Not Crazy

People come to me and say, “I don’t want to be so sensitive!” Sorry, sweetie. Welcome to the human condition.

You are not crazy. Our minds, at their steady state, naturally scan for danger. Our bodies are wired to be sensitive and reactive, to deliver a fight, flight, or freeze reaction, as necessary.


Paranoid Ancestors

Let me take you back to when saber-toothed tigers roamed the earth and our Homo sapiens ancestors gathered around the fire to keep warm.

If you were sitting around the fire when someone heard a noise in the dark, and you said, “Hey dude, chill. It’s probably just Fred getting firewood,” you were dinner.

On the other hand, if you were overly cautious, shouted, “OMG! What the heck is that noise?!” then jumped to your feet and shouted, “Run!” you and your buds survived.

Those slightly paranoid campers are our ancestors. This is what we have to work with.

What Happens When We’re Triggered

When you’re triggered by stress, you’re no longer present; you’re off balance and don’t have access to all your resources for handling the situation well.

Physiologically, your focus narrows and your breathing changes. You’re not thinking with your whole brain. In fact, when triggered, the body moves resources (blood and oxygen) from some parts of the brain and body to other parts to prepare for fight, flight, or shutting down altogether and freezing like a scared possum.

That is not an optimal state for problem-solving or relationship-building, yet this is how many of us walk around every day.

What to Do to Balance

Here are some more tools for helping you bring yourself back into balance from a triggered state so that you have access to more of your resources in the moment.

This will help you discharge the stress energy and stay connected to you – meaning connected to what’s happening inside you and aware of your environment – and provide you with more resources to work with for the situation at hand.

The tools below can be done while waiting in line, or sitting at your computer, or the dinner table. Other people will likely not even notice you’re doing them.

Expand Your Focus

When we’re under stress, our focus becomes narrow, our attention zeroing in on either something in the environment or on our internal thoughts. The simple tool of orienting helps expand focus and increase access to our resources.


When you notice yourself in a narrowly focused state, gently and slowly look to your left and notice something you haven’t seen before. Pause and let it in. Now turn your head s-l-o-w-l-y and gently in the other direction and do the same thing – pause and notice. Continue doing this for a couple of minutes.

Try doing this now and notice how your body feels. Does your breathing change? What do you feel in your body? Are you aware now that you have a body?

Connect to Your Physical Body

When stressed, we often disconnect from our physical body and focus on someone else in our environment or obsess about the problem so we can work out how to fix it. Our physical bodies can’t help but be aware and in the present moment. When triggered, a key way to recover is to connect to your body more consciously as a resource.

Grounding – Feel Your Feet and Your Seat

If you are sitting, focus on your feet, maybe wiggle your toes or swipe your feet back and forth. See if you can imagine your feet getting heavier. Then, feel your bottom and your back being supported in your chair. Relax into the support of the chair.

If you are standing, feel your feet on the ground. Shift your weight to the other foot. Feel your connection to the earth.

With practice, people report feeling more settled after doing this. Try it now and see what you notice.

Be Your Best

The tools above can help you settle your nervous system when you’re triggered. Experiment to discover which ones work for you. You can also come up with your own tools. The goal is to be settled and present versus triggered into a fight, flight, or freeze state.

When you’re settled, you’re at your best. You take care of you and more easily address the situation at hand.

Back To the Mall

Let’s go back to the mall.  There you are on the floor with all your personal items spewed around you on the floor. Instead of quickly jumping up and chirping, “I’m fine!” you take a minute to feel your body on the ground and notice what hurts. You look down and notice your scraped knees. Maybe you say, “Ouch!” and make some contact with your knees.

Slowly, you bring your feet underneath you and feel their contact with the floor. You then turn your head s-l-o-w-l-y to orient yourself to your environment. You see your friend and say, “Wow, I am so embarrassed.” You take your time notice your breath, and then ask, “Can you please help me?” Right there you’ve done something different and supported your nervous system to discharge some of the stress. And you and your friend have a very different conversation, one that’s more present and more real.

CrisMarie Campbell is a Coach, Consultant and Speaker at thrive! inc. Clients refer to CrisMarie and her partner, Susan Clarke, as “The Team Doctors” because they focus on the health of the team in order to get the team to smart business results. They recently released their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It!, where they spoke on Conflict is an Energy Source for Innovation, Creativity, and Transformation. You can contact CrisMarie at

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