Everybody Hurts

As a mental health therapist frequently working with clients suffering from high anxiety and heavy depression, I am often discussing the subject of self-talk. With all of the messages we receive daily from ads telling us that we are not enough and that we need the product advertised in order to feel good, in addition to the picture-perfect images displayed on social media to compare our messy, real lives to, it’s no wonder that people are trained into comparison, negative thinking and feeling as if they are the only ones who feel the way they feel.

These critical thinking patterns reels of negative self-talk are not motivating us to become better people; they are just making us feel awful.

Because of these messages that we are not good enough, we can fall into a cycle of fearing that we are not worthy of love and happiness, striving to perform perfectly in order to earn approval, feeling bad and beating ourselves up when we cannot meet impossible expectations, and then isolating and believing that there is something wrong with us or that no one could ever understand.

This is no way to live. And it’s way more common that one would hope.

We must learn to recognize what we are experiencing, remember that we are not the only ones who have felt this way, and then practice redirecting our self-talk to a kinder, gentler conversation in order to feel better about ourselves.

In speaking about the inner critic, Kristen Neff, author of the book Self-Compassion, points out that we can fall into a habit of criticizing ourselves because at times, it can feel better to identify with the critic than to be the one who screwed up. She also tells us how we can begin facing our fears and changing our self-talk by learning and using the 3 elements of self-compassion:

  1. Mindfulness- First, we must be able to recognize when we are in pain or suffering and name what we are feeling to calm the alarm center in the brain. If we can become aware of what we are feeling and allow ourselves to feel it, we can move forward from there.
  2. Common Humanity- Next, we must acknowledge our own vulnerability as a human who feels and remind ourselves that every one struggles at some point in their journey. We are not the only one who has ever felt what we are feeling or experienced difficulty. If we can reach out and share our experience, we will often find that others understand.
  3. Self-Kindness- Finally, we can help ourselves to feel better by treating ourselves as we would treat a friend who is experiencing difficulty. We must work to use kind and compassionate self-talk, recognizing that all hurt matters and that judgment only exacerbates the pain.

We can apply these steps during any moment of pain- no matter how big or small- to begin to create a habit of self-compassion. When we are experiencing pain and difficulty in our lives, and we give into the habit of numbing ourselves from the feeling it, telling ourselves that no one else feels the way we do, and beating ourselves up for not being able to handle it with Facebook-post-appropriate grace, we are only setting ourselves up for more even pain for longer periods of time.

So, give it a try. What’s the worst that could happen? You go through something painful without beating yourself down even more? You begin to feel better about yourself over time? You are able to feel compassion for others who are going through tough times? Yup, worth giving it a try.

If you need someone to chat with about the process, give me a ring. I will be trying right along next to you.

Chat again soon,

k

Why Don’t You Be You And I’ll Be Me

Brene’ Brown defines authenticity as “the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are”. Woof. There are a lot of things in that one sentence that may brush up against the ole comfort zone.

First, this definition asks us to take a look at how authetically we are living right now. In the last blog, we learned about the difference between fitting in and belonging. Our authenticity is sacrificed when we attempt to change who we are to fit in with others. So, to acheive true connection and belonging, we have to present ourselves as we truly are.

Next, like anything that we want to automate, authenticity takes daily practice. But, this is a practice well worth adding to your To Do list. When we practice being our authentic selves, we avoid having to keep up the charade and wear the mask that hides who we truly are. We feel deep satisfaction as we are living in alignment with our core beliefs. We experience true connection with others and leave emptiness behind.

We are told regularly by all media that we are not good enough as we are and this constant subliminal (and not-so-subliminal) criticism encourages us to try to be someone else. We are trained into the desperation that pushes us toward trying to fit in because of the level of vulnerability it takes to put ourselves out there as we are. The critical messages, impossible expectations, and double standards in our society also happen to be keeping me, as a mental health therapist, in business.

Do you want to feel content and satisfied with who you are? Do you want to experience joy and fulfillment in your life? I know you do. So, then, it’s time to be brave.

Making the daily choice to show up and be seen as your authentic self takes courage. We have to make the choice to feel uncomfortable and vulnerable as we step out without our masks. We must be brave and choose to put ourselves out there even after it didn’t go so great the last time. We have to practice being ourselves so that we can experience contentment and true connection. And we must recognize that our happiness and our sense of self-worth depend on it.

So, go be you. I will be practicing right along with you and if you need someone to talk to about it all, drop me a line.

Chat again soon,

k

I Want You To Want Me

Picture it: You start a new job and on your first day you are meeting all of your new coworkers. Within the first week, you are attending meetings with them and having conversations to get to know them. You are observing to learn the dynamic of the workplace. This is a group of people with whom you will be spending time with every day, so, you have a choice in how you proceed here at the beginning of the relationship to the group. You can survey the land, notice how others act, and then put forth the version of you that you think will best fit in. Or, you can be your authentic self, showing up to be seen just as you are, and take a chance on belonging.

Fitting in vs. Belonging. There a difference in the two and they have near opposite effects on how we feel about ourselves when we choose one over the other. We innately need connection and have a deep desire to belong, but because that deep desire can lead to feelings of desperation, sometimes we do what we can to fit in, not knowing that we cannot reach the same result in the end.

In her work as a Social Work Researcher, Brene’ Brown has explored the differences between fitting in and belonging. While working with middle schoolers several years ago, she asked the class what they thought the difference was between fitting in and belonging. Their answer: Fitting in is when you want to be a part of something and belonging is when others want you.

In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene’ says, “Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”

When we change ourselves to fit in, we are essentially selling ourselves out. We are putting forth an image, wearing a mask, pretending. This may sound a little harsh, but deep down, you can feel that it’s true. When we try to fit in, there is a deep feeling that something is missing. It just doesn’t feel quite right.

Fitting in requires a great deal of energy. We have to keep up the illusion; maintain that presented version of ourselves for those we are trying to fit in with. Not only is that exhausting, but it also blocks our ability to belong as belonging can only occur when we allow ourselves to be seen and accepted as who we truly are.

When we can be brave enough to step forward in our authenticity, as our true selves, and to refuse to change ourselves to fit in, then we can truly belong. When we battle through the vulnerability and the fear by staying true to ourselves, we are practicing a pure version of self-love and respect. And living our truth allows us to not only belong, but to also feel more joy, satisfaction, and freedom in our lives.

Looking at these concepts under a microscope can shine a light on how we have been doing things and that may feel uncomfortable or vulnerable. But, that edge-of-the-comfort-zone-space is where growth begins. When we allow ourselves to really look and to become aware of what we have been doing, we can recalibrate and stop making things harder than they need to be.

This week, do your best to really look at where you are trying to fit in and how that feels. And then notice where you truly belong. Be brave. Be you. You are worth it.

I will be practicing courage right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

Tell Me Sweet Little Lies

As a professional coaching people into their bodies and helping to bring the mind and the body together, I help others to realize that the body does not have the capability to lie. The mind can lie and frequently does. We tell ourselves stories to try to make ourselves feel better, but we also tell ourselves stories that make us feel awful. We default to the brain rather than the body and it takes a toll.

Our bodies send the brain signals constantly, reporting in about what is going on in different areas. For example, as I write this, my finger tips are cool, my shoulders are a bit tight, I can feel my weight sinking into the cushion of the chair beneath me, and my toes are snug in the fuzzy insole of my slippers. But, as we are moving through our day, we ignore a great deal of what the body tells us. And as long as the system is functioning as it should, we don’t necessarily need to pay attention to every single thing that is being reported on. So, we selectively listen and we turn our attention to other things like planning our day, driving a car, giving a presentation, etc.

The problem is that we turn the selective listening into ignoring what the body is reporting on a regular basis. We begin to trust the brain over the body and we talk ourselves out of believing what the body is telling us. We even tell ourselves that it won’t make a difference if we ignore the body this one time. But it makes a big difference when we do this over and over.

We find ourselves doing things like ignoring the signals in the evening that we are tired and should go to sleep. We ignore the message that we have eaten enough and instead we have another portion. We ignore the digestive distress signals that we are eating the wrong foods at the wrong time. We ignore the fact that the body holds on to memories and stress and trauma. And on and on it goes.

Over time, ignoring what the body is asking for leads to bigger problems. The language of the body is sensations and symptoms. The brain loves the comfort zone of not changing, so we tell ourselves that we feel “fine” and we can find ourselves facing issues like inability to concentrate, insomnia, getting sick more frequently, gastrointestinal distress, anxiety, hopelessness, isolation, etc. Then we end up at a doctor saying something like, “All of a sudden, I have a rash and acid reflux and I can’t sleep at night.”

Our bodies cannot make up lies about what is going on or when something needs to change, so it is imperative that we listen. When we ignore it, the issue builds the body has to send a louder signal. Many of the things that we do throughout our day are taking us further out of sync with how are bodies were created to function.

Setting up our daily routine to meet our own bodies needs rather than what everyone else is doing or what our out of sync society says is ‘normal’ is the wisest thing we can do. And in getting ourselves back in rhythm with our nature, we will free up energy to better perform in all areas of our lives. Making small shifts in things like what time we are going to bed, when we are eating our biggest meal, how much time we spend on our devices, our bedtime routines, moving our bodies and quieting our minds will make a huge difference.

If we can tune in and work with our bodies rather than against them, we can feel our best- maybe better than we have in years. Small, repeated changes lead to big results. Find a partner or a group of people who also want to feel better so that you aren’t alone in the journey back to health. Learn more about honoring your circadian rhythm. Hit me up and we can chat about changes that could help you.

Start right now by taking a few long slow breaths and listening to what your body is saying in this moment.

I will be listening to my body right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

Ready to Run

In watching a video by Dave Ramsey the other day, he mentioned a concept that he calls “Gazelle Intensity” in reference to getting things done that seem impossible. He created this concept from a Bible passage and was talking about getting out of debt. The illustration from nature is quite powerful and can apply to anything.

In the African savanna, the Cheetah is the biggest threat to the life of a gazelle. It is the fastest land mammal and it is a predator with it’s eye on gazelle filets for lunch. When a cheetah is spotted, gazelles run as fast as they can darting around in different directions in an attempt to escape. They are literally running for their lives. And, as Dave Ramsey points out, the cheetahs are running for their lunch. The motivation is key here.

Dave reported that although the cheetah is the fastest land mammal alive, it only catches the gazelle 1 out of every 19 times. What?! The gazelle is relentless in it’s fleeing and is doing everything in it’s power to outrun, outsmart, and outdart the predator. And many times, it actually works.

So, what do you want in your life? Who do you want to be? For the rest of the year, if you approached your vision, goals, and decisions with Gazelle Intensity, what could you accomplish? Do you really want it? The gazelle really wants to not die and many times, it pays off. This is your one chance, your one life to live.

Here are a few tips that can help with your Gazelle Intensity:

  1. Take some time to sit down and really think about how you want to feel in your body, mind, and life. Then, write it down.
  2. Find an accountability partner or a tribe of other people who are also working toward similar goals with Gazelle Intensity.
  3. Post your goals so that you can see them and check in with them, revising as needed along the way.
  4. Celebrate small victories as you go. When something feels good, we naturally want to do it again. Notice how you feel as you begin to make changes and congratulate yourself for following through.
  5. Take it in small, baby steps. There is no need to try to change everything at once. Make it as small and as simple as you can so that you are the most likely to follow through.
  6. Don’t give up. All baby steps toward your goal is progress. The gazelle doesn’t give up because if so, it knows it’s all over for good. Rather than only looking at how far you still want to go, remember to look back and notice how far you have come.

So, who do you want to be by the end of this year? What are you working toward with Gazelle Intensity? It IS possible if you want it enough to pour all of your available resources toward making it happen.

If you need an accountability partner, reach out.

I will be running right next to you.

Chat again soon,

k

Well, I’ve Been Afraid of Changing

In both coaching and counseling, I often hear people say that they would like to “get back to who they used to be” or to go back to an old version of themselves. This always puzzles me because we are in a relationship where they have sought me out for help and the person they ‘used to be’ is the one who got them into the position of feeling unhealthy, unhappy, or unsatisfied with their life in some way.

My theory is that we tend to seek the comfort of going back to an old version, a version in which we know what to expect. However, that also means that we could expect the same results as we are creatures of ease and habit. I find our human tendancies interesting because we want to be comfortable, but we want things to change. These two desires most typically are not experienced together. Yes, it can be scary to change, but isn’t it scary to stay the same?

So, this is the point when we have a discussion about moving forward from where we are in the moment rather than moving back and about how growth occurs on the edge of our comfort zone. We take a serious look at what they have been doing and how it has gotten them the results we are currently dealing with.

James Clear is an expert on habits and habit change and both he and the ancient science of Ayurveda agree that who we are today is the result of the behaviors we have practiced repeatedly up to this point. Clear reminds us that our current habits are perfectly set up to continue to get us the results we are experiencing right now. In relation to this, he also points out that unless we change our habits, it is very difficult to get a different result.

When we break it down like this and say it out loud, it seems obvious that we must do something different to get a different result, but as our day unfolds, we tend to default to the path of least resistance which is made up of the behaviors that come automatically to us. The good news is that we trained ourselves into those automated behaviors and we can change them. The bad news is that it takes an initial investment of effort, focus, repetition and time.

This is the sacrifice we must make in the present to get the gains we want in the long run. At the beginning of next year, do you want to look back from the same place you are now? You don’t have to. However, you also don’t have to expect to be able to make all of the changes at once or perfectly or without help. Finding small, consistent steps to take all along the way is the key to big change. It’s about practice, adjustment, accountability and using support.

It is possible to experience a different outcome- one in which we do not look back and wish things were how they ‘used to be’, but one in which we look back and recognize how far we have come. This is the process of redefining our baseline and finding a new normal. One in which we choose how we want to feel rather than settling for the same ole, same ole.

Maybe your one small step today is making the decision about who you want to be and how you want to feel. Or maybe it is reaching out. Did you know that this is what I coach people in? Comment below or reach out on Facebook or via email and we can set up a time to talk about the changes that you want to experience. I lead a group of people through transformation three times per year. It’s time that you are living the life in the body and mind that you love.

And of course, I will be practicing right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

Can’t Buy Me Love

As a new year begins, we often default to thinking of ways to force ourselves back into line. We focus on goals with rigid schedules and restrictions. We often see things in a narrow view of what we have to do to get where we want to be and we try hard not to think too long on how painful it will be to get there. We are sucked in to the marketing of gadgets and programs that promise to help us in our arduous journey and we spend our money on memberships, monitors, equipment and pills.

For a few folks, this works. And then we hear the stories of people who start off strong and quit by the end of January. This punishing way of attempting to change ourselves is not motivating for the long term and the rigidity isn’t forgiving when life happens. It often begets the cycle of beating ourselves up when we don’t stick with something we didn’t enjoy in the first place and of comparing ourselves to others who have seemingly accomplished what we determine were just too weak to stick with.

Honestly, I can’t imagine that this is what any of us want to experience. No matter the time of the year. And it doesn’t have to be like this. Not again. So, what if we change our perspective a bit and focus instead on how we can invest in ourselves this year? What if we reframe our thinking and begin to plan out how we can take better care of ourselves in a loving, caring way?

Take a moment and focus on how you want to feel in the coming year. Turn your focus to what you do want rather than what you don’t want and how you do want to feel. Would you like to have more energy? Would you like to feel leaner and stronger in your body? Would you like to experience clear thinking? Would you like to have strong, efficient digestion? I am sure there are other ways that you could describe what you desire in your own body. I encourage you to take a moment to think about those things and to resist the urge to judge yourself for not being there now.

The bodies that we are currently living in are the product of the choices that we have made in the last year, months, days. That’s good news because that means that we can start working on our future body today. Small, consistent changes along the way add up to huge shifts. We don’t have to do it all at once and we can find actually enjoyment in the journey.

It’s about investing in ourselves. Being our own friend. Taking care of ourselves rather than just pushing through and expecting that it has to be hard or unpleasant or unattainable. It’s about loving ourselves more. And that comes from the inside out.

Having a partner or a group for support in the journey makes a monumental difference in our motivation and sustainability. Setting our sights on small, even tiny changes that we can make right now will get us there. When we do things that make us feel good, we will want to do them again. Investing our time, energy, and money in feeling better by creating habits of self-care can change everything.

So, how will you invest your money, your energy, and your time in taking better care of yourself in the coming year? How will you stop spinning your wheels and judging yourself? How will you experience more health and more joy?

These are the questions to ask. And if you need help with the answers, reach out to a friend, to someone who is where you want to be, or to me and chat about it.

I will be practicing right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

All I Really Want

In working with clients in therapy and in coaching, I have found that there are themes that pop up. I will have multiple clients struggling with the same type of hurdle and needing to shift their habits simliar ways. When I recognize this pattern, I do two things: 1.) I take heed of the universe’s hint that if this is affecting a few of my clients, it most likely is affecting many others. 2.) I look at my own life and patterns to see how this is something that I need to work on myself. 

The theme that has popped up this week is one of focusing on what we do want rather than what we don’t want. 

The problem grows as we get caught up in funneling our energy and attention toward what we don’t want rather than using our efforts to grow what we do want instead. And we have been trained into this pattern based on our society’s influence. For example, the years and years of energy poured into the War on Drugs has not eradicated the availability of illegal drugs. The more recent war against guns has led to more people having more guns and more high-powered weapons than ever before. 

History has shown that when we pour time, energy, money, and effort into what we don’t want, it does not effectively work to stamp out the issue. 

As I work with others on this issue in their own lives, I see how easy it can be to get caught up in thinking about what we don’t want be it phyiscal pain, stress at work, turmoil in a relationship, the extra 20 pounds, etc. These things are uncomfortable and it’s natural to want to be free of them. However, when we are constantly thinking about and focusing on the thing we don’t want, it only gives it more power in our lives. We can become obsessed with the one thing we want to be free of. 

So, we must funnel our efforts into focusing on what we do want instead.  When we take the time and energy to work toward what we want in our thoughts, actions, and especially feelings, we can get there much more quickly and find the things we don’t want falling away. It is also very helpful to find others who are also working toward the same or similar goals like an accountability partner, support group, or a tribe of people going in the desired direction. 

As we are careening toward a new year and a time of reassessing and goal setting, I would like to encourage you to focus on what you do want in your life. How do you want to feel? How do you want to think? Who do you want to be? Determine these things and then find one way today to act as if you are that person. When we act on what we do want, we get more of it. 

Give it a try and see how it feels. Yes, you will still focus on what you don’t want at times, but when you notice yourself doing that, try to shift your attention to what you want in its place. 

Reach out and we will chat about it. We can make a plan together to help you get where you want to go. I would be happy to help.

And I will be practicing right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

Simply the Best

As the year is rolling to an end, I have been talking with counseling clients, course members, and friends about what their vision is for the coming year. This line of questioning has caused many of them to pause, to consider, and to attempt to come up with the “right” answer. It also seemed to bring up lots of judgment and a view that they should be in a different place right now than actually they are. Many of the comments I heard were about harshly comparing where they are now to where they want to be, placing expectations on how they should be able to handle what comes up in their lives, and then excitedly pushing where they were in the moment away as if it were bad. 

And then I had one client come in and this question brought out a totally different answer. She told me that in the next year, she was planning to simply do her best and to focus more on doing things that she loves and that she wants to do. She talked about spending time with friends, scheduling trips to places she has always wanted to go, and creating time for self-care in the form of getting regular massages and working on healthier daily habits. 

In looking back over this past year, she was able to identify times when she really beat herself up because she was comparing herself to her former boss at work, because she was judging her ability to be the best parent ever, and because she was not upholding healthy boundaries around what she needs to feel her best. She could see how she lost time feeling shame and discounting the value of her contributions in her life. She stated that her goal for 2019 is to just do her best every day and to go from there. 

And a shaft of light came down from heaven… or maybe that part was just in my head, but I definitely wanted to high five her and hug her and tell her that she was going to be just fine. 

In his book The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz tells us that we should not expect our best to look the same every day- that it will depend on all of the contributing factors in that moment as to what our best will look like. He wisely points out that “It doesn’t matter if you are sick or tired, if you always do your best there is no way you can judge yourself. And if you don’t judge yourself, there is no way you are going to suffer from guilt, blame, and self-punishment.” 

 And this feeds into the work from the great Brene’ Brown on building shame resilience, connecting to our true selves, treating ourselves with compassion, and showing up to be seen as we are. Brene’ guides us to live our lives from a place of understanding that we are imperfect AND worthy of love and belonging. 

Once we can begin to live from the perspective that we can hold within us both imperfection and worthiness and we begin to build our lives, our thoughts, and our decisions from that point, we can live happier, more fulfilling lives. 

Ah, expansion and growth, here we come.

So, as we are looking back in review of 2018 and looking forward in our visions of the future, let’s try on the idea of planning to do our best. Of course we can have external goals, but what if as we are making those goals, we ask ourselves how we can do our best in working toward that goal? What if we take a new perspective on recognizing that until we take care of ourselves, we will find great difficulty in the journey toward who we really want to be. 

So, here’s to doing our best! 

You know I will be trying right along with you. 

Let’s chat soon,

k

I’ve Got No Expectations

What if you trusted where your life is going and that things really do happen for a reason? What if you let go of trying to control everything and just experienced each day as it came, doing your best for that day? What if you stopped beating yourself up for things not looking exactly like you envisioned them and instead embraced where you already are?

My guess is that for some of you, the suggestions above seem like a fantasy. But, they really are within your reach if you can open yourself to the possibility. 

As the year is marching to an end, we have the tendancy to look at where we are in our lives and to re-evaluate where we are heading. This is a good thing. In order to efficiently and effectively reach our goals, we need to check in periodically and make sure that we are still sailing in the direction that we intended. 

Problems arise when we begin to judge ourselves and criticize where we are in our lives in relation to our expectations. An expectation is a standard we set of how we envision the journey to go. Expectations get a bad rap, but this is because we use them as a reason to criticize and judge ourselves. We turn up the pressure when we have an expectation of how something should go and even if we end up where we wanted to be, we are frequently disappointed because the journey went differently than we had envisioned. 

Many of us battle with tons of expectations every day: how our body should feel, how our body should look, how we should respond in any given situation, how our day should go, how others should treat us, and so on.  We really increase our own suffering by constantly “should-ing” on ourselves. And these should statements are judgments that report to us that things are not good enough or that something is wrong. 

Evaluating where we are in order to determine how we can move forward is healthy. Criticizing where we are because it is not where we feel we “should” be and getting bogged down in feeling bad about ourselves is not healthy. This judgmental perspective narrows our view and we can miss out on opportunities in the moment to experience joy, peace, and expansion.  

As you are reviewing 2018 and beginning to set intentions for 2019, see if you can take a leap of faith that things are working out the way that they should be.  Be gentle with yourself and recognize when you are doing your best. No, things may not have gone exactly as you had planned, but I would also invite you to recognize how much of that was out of your control. Life has its own plan and we cannot expect that we know better than life does. The challenges are opportunities for growth, for expansion, and for connection. 

I can tell you with certainty that we cannot see the path. And I can tell you that when I remind myself to stop questioning and judging how things are going, I am able to enjoy the journey much more and things turn out way better than I could have ever expected. 

Give it a try and just see what happens. 

Chat again soon,

k

I Want To Thank You

The word appreciate has two meanings. The first is to recognize the value of something. We do this when we practice gratitude. The second meaning is to increase in value. Simply by recognizing the value of something, it increases in value to us. Together, these two meanings support the practice of valuing what we already have, turning our attention to the good, and funneling our energy into what we want more than what we don’t want.

Where we pour our attention in our lives will grow. When we focus our energy on what we do want rather than what we don’t, we give what we do want more power and more ability to grow. We also begin to train our brains to look for the good and to see it more easily. 

There are tons of benefits to a gratitude practice on physical, psychological, and social levels. Increases in happiness levels, optimism, life satisfaction, charitable giving, physical health and health of relationships have all been shown as helpful outcomes of practicing gratitude. A regular practice has also been shown to decrease negative emotions and actions as well as to decrease effects of PTSD. 

A “regular” practice doesn’t even have to be daily. Taking the time to pour attention into the details of the practice can be highly affective even only a few days per week. The important piece in the practice is to feel into what you are grateful for. As you are focusing your mental attention on thinking about what you appreciate, also try to feel gratitude in your body. Notice the sensations that you experience on a physical level to add more power to your practice.  

Feeling into it can be a way to savor the thing, person, experience, or place that you are focusing on. But, know that while savoring the good helps it to grow, savoring the bad- as many of us are in the habit of doing by focusing on what is wrong- helps the bad to grow as well. 

You have several options on what a gratitude practice might look like. You can start to focus on 1-3 things you are grateful for first thing in the morning when you wake up to start your day on a good note. You can begin a gratitude journal and write entries daily or a few times per week. (The fun thing about a journal is that you can go back and look at entries later.) You can discuss what you are grateful for at dinner in the evenings to wind the day down on a positive note.  

Here are a few more tips for starting a gratitude practice:

  • Be as specific as possible 
  • More details per ‘entry’ (verbal or written) is more important than more entries
  • Focus on people, beauty seen, and experiences as well as things
  • Acknowledge negative outcomes that were avoided, escaped, or prevented
  • Savor gifts and surprises
  • Revise the ‘entry’ if you repeat it on another day to focus on a different aspect
  • Commit to a regular practice

I encourage you to give it a try. Run an experiment and find the version of the practice that works for you. Talk with others about what you are grateful for to spur them on to do the same. I appreciate your joining me on this journey and am grateful to have a community to share and learn from. 

Chat again soon,

k

 

Here Comes The Rain Again

You know the feeling. You had high hopes. You had made plans and had envisioned exactly how things were going to go in your mind. And then life does what it wants without checking with you. Things end up going in a completely different direction and it’s like a shot to the gut. Disappointment. Sometimes it’s a searing heat and sometimes it just sits like a rock in your stomach.

The feelings often come in waves: you get mad, then you think it will work itself out; you get sad, then you tell yourself it’s no big deal; you may cry, scream, blame, and question why this is all happening. It can cause you to completely reassess where you are going.  Or you may try to deny all the feelings and act like we aren’t disappointed at all or like this total 180 degree turn had no effect on you whatsoever.

Even though it may not feel like it, you have a choice in how to react to this disappointment. Pausing and remembering that it’s important to feel all of the things is important, but then we want to keep on moving. Getting stuck and reliving the emotions over and over won’t help.

Sometimes our reactions come from a place of expecting that all is supposed to go our way. As if we had an agreement with life that it would all be cupcakes and happy dances and how dare it not going according to that plan. Alas, there was never such an agreement. This is how real life goes and it goes how it wants to go.

tara-brach-nothing-is-wrong

We often end up in a situation of making things harder on ourselves than they have to be. We keep ourselves in suffering when we refuse to accept the moment as it is. I have found in my own practice of handling stress and disappointment that when I can breathe, recognize that I am not in control, and notice what is happening without judging it as good or bad, I can find some relief from the suffering.

Author and teacher Tara Brach teaches a mindfulness technique in dealing with hard times using the acronym RAIN. I think it may be helpful here.

R- Recognize what is happening

A- Allow the experience to be as it is

I- Investigate with interest and care

N- Nurture with self-compassion

By first recognizing what is happening in the moment, we are becoming the witness to the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that we can habitually fall into without noticing what we are doing. We begin paying attention to our patterns and with that awareness, we can handle things differently. From here, allowing it to be as it is may bring up resistance or fear around feeling out of control or not knowing what to expect next. If we can pep talk ourselves, we can recognize that we are ok even if we are uncomfortable. Growth happens on that edginess of feeling uncomfortable. Next, we can start to dig in and ask ourselves questions about what exactly is coming up and how we can best care for ourselves in this difficult time. Again, we are growing our awareness so that we can notice what is helpful and what is not. And finally, we become our own friend by recognizing that it is hard and by nurturing ourselves with loving words and compassionate thoughts.

Following these steps, we can take the disappointment in stride without getting caught up in fear, anger, or denial. We can more clearly plan for what is next and begin to provide ourselves with the loving kindness that we so often afford only to others.

Give it a try. Hit me up and share your experience or ask for support if you need it. You know I will be practicing right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

Check out this blog from Tara Brach for more on her RAIN method: https://www.tarabrach.com/selfcompassion1/

I’m Still Standing

Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness; the ability to bounce back. This applies to both the body and the mind. I like to think of myself as a resilience coach in that I teach people ways to keep going, to try again, to take that next small step.

So, what goes through your head when you stumble? Do you give up, question your goals, or blame others for the difficulty? Do you expect that things should go smoothly or that something must be wrong with you because there are obstacles that you didn’t plan for along the way?

If we can stop asking ‘why’ and ‘what is wrong with me’ and start asking questions like ‘how can I learn from this’ or ‘what is the next small step forward I can take’, we can move through life with more ease.

In her book Grit, Angela Duckworth refers to a Japanese saying: Fall 7, Rise 8. Through her research, she discovered that success comes from passion and perseverance rather than purely through talent levels. That means that success in anything can be achieved if we want it badly enough to keep on trying even when the going gets tough.

If you google “famous failures”, you will find a LONG list of successful people who refused to give up and who overcame all kinds of obstacles on their journey toward their goals. Yes, they may have talent, but everyone does in some area. The success came from their trying again and again. When you look deeper into “overnight success” stories, you typically find that the overnight success came after years and years of hard work and effort.

Yesterday, I was having a discussion about resilience with a mental health client of mine. She was talking about how “hard” it is to keep trying. I then asked her two questions:

  1. What do you expect the journey to look like? This helped me to get a better idea of her perspective, expectations, and mindset. She was coming from a view that many people have: that we should be able to go from point A to point B and it should be one straight, smooth shot with no obstacles along the way. We discussed the reality of life doing its own thing regardless of her expectations and desires, as well as how little she really has control over. This was also where we addressed her concern that something is wrong with her simply because life is difficult. Once we started talking about it out loud, she was able to shift her perspective and see that everyone experiences challenges every day.
  2. How badly do you want it? This was so that I could gauge her committment to feeling differently and working toward that goal. We discussed her desire to change and how she would be much more uncomfortable staying where she is than putting forth the effort to reach a different outcome.

I have found that many people believe that happiness and success in life should just come automatically; that there should be no effort that has to be applied in feeling happy. They believe that some people just are happy and that they are not one of those people. But, the universe is not set up to make you happy. There are many things that happen on the journey that are very challenging, but those are the things that force us to grow and to become the next best version of ourselves. And when we are on the verge of growth, the challenges multiply and grow in force as if ask us if we are really willing to put in the effort for the payoff.

vince lombardi get up

So, where do you begin? With one small step. Keep trying. Get back up. You don’t have to change it all at once or reach your goals in one day. Plot out where you want to be and then reverse engineer the baby steps to get there back to where you are today. Celebrate the small victories and remind yourself that it has nothing to do with you personally- life is just challenging and we weren’t given a handbook. However, I am hopeful that this helps.

You are more resilient than you give yourself credit for.

Take one step today. I will be getting back up right next to you.

Chat again soon,

k

 

Stop in the Name of Love

Did you know that you train others how to treat you? I know that this may be a little harsh to hear because that puts some of the responsibility on you, but it’s true. When you accept what others say and do without standing up for yourself, you are training them that what they are doing is acceptable. And they will most likely do it again. You are also training yourself to accept this as your new standard; that this behavior from others is what you are worth.

Well, I have 2 words for you: Stop It.

As a mental health therapist, I work with people on boundaries and self-care almost daily. One of the things that I have recently heard more and more is “I don’t want to hurt their feelings”. Ok, so what I am hearing you say is that their feelings are more important than yours. This usually gets a blank stare for a moment as they take in what it sounds like to actually say this out loud.

What I want you to know is that you do not have to earn being treated with respect, kindness, and love. You deserve all of that simply because you are alive. However, if you do not remind others of this, they will take advantage. The bigger issue keeping you stuck here is that you aren’t treating yourself with respect, kindness, and love. When you can start doing that for yourself, you stop allowing others to violate that boundary with you as well.

Last week I wrote about changing your beliefs by using affirming statements over and over. If you didn’t check that blog out, go back and read it here. You can shift how you feel about yourself and the world around you. You can overcome years of negative self-talk and then begin to shift that transformation out to every relationship you have.

carolburnett Change My Life

When someone violates your standard of treatment, you have the right to say to them, “Stop It. It is not acceptable for you to treat me that way/speak to me that way/etc.” If you do not stand up for yourself, who do you think will? You can quickly fall into a downspiral of mistreatment when you allow it to happen. And that is not how you want to live your life.

Yes, it can be scary and hard. Yes, you may shake a little as you say it. But, once you do it for the first time, you can do it again and again. Stand up for yourself and begin to train others in how you will allow them to treat you. This is a form of self-love. This is something that you can do for yourself that will have a ripple effect into all areas of your life. Standing up for how should be treated increases your success and effectiveness in dealing with stress, interacting with others, and becoming the person you truly want to be.

You don’t have to be rude or mean about it. Just be clear about what you will accept and what you won’t. Yes, it may ruffle some feathers, but you are the only one who can do this. You get to determine what is ok and what is not. Start small by standing up for yourself in one situation today.

No one said it would be easy, but this is the road to happiness, peace, and ease.

That’s powerful stuff.

I know you can do it. If you feel like you need some support, reach out.

I will be practicing right along with you.

Talk again soon,

k

I shall believe

In the past two weeks, I have had many discussions with yoga instructors and with therapy clients around the power of self-talk.

When we hear something over and over and over, we begin to believe it. It takes repetition, but that repetition convinces our minds that it must be true and then we begin to shape our thoughts and behaviors to support the now-accepted belief. This works in our subconscious and we may not even realize that our belief system is being shaped.

For example, let’s say you are in middle school and a new student joins your class. This student bullies you and tells you every day that you are loser and that you aren’t good enough. At first, when you hear this, your brain says, “That’s not true!” or “I know you are, but what am I?!” But, day after day after day of this bully telling you that you are not good enough, that you are a loser, and that no one likes you starts to take it’s toll. Your brain begins to question if it really is true. Finally, your brain stops fighting and just accepts it as if it is the truth. This acceptance shapes your belief in yourself, your thoughts, your self-talk, your relationships with others, how you present yourself to the world, and how you behave. If nothing is done to intervene or to fight back against and overpower this process, it can likely result in negative and hateful self-talk for years or even a lifetime.

“Whenever we hear an opinion and we believe it, we make an agreement, and it becomes part of our belief system.” – Don Miguel Ruiz from The Four Agreements

We often accept opinion as fact and shape our lives around that opinion. The bully’s statements were his/her opinion; our negative self-bashing is an opinion; the messages that we receive constantly from marketing and social media that we aren’t enough are opinions. The power of persuation sets in when we hear the message repeatedly.

The good news is that we can make the same shifts in our beliefs with positive self-talk and affirming statements. In my work with clients attempting to shift their beliefs, I never fail to assign affirmations to repeat as homework. The most common question I get about the assignment is, “I should just repeat it even though I don’t believe it??” I say yes and then I give the example above of not believing the bully at first, but wearing down over time.

Life events have an impact on how we speak to ourselves and many times the ego in our minds works from a place of fear with the intention of keeping us within our comfort zone. The ego is afraid of change, including positive growth, because it doesn’t know what to expect, so it uses our mind to convince us that we are good right where we are, that things probably won’t work out anyway, that it could go terribly wrong, etc. However, you can’t believe everything you think. When left to its own devices, the ego will prevent you from ever stepping out of your comfort zone and into the zone of growth.

Using positive affirmations or repeating a new thought pattern in your mind over and over will work just like the negative things the bully said. Over time, you begin to believe them and then you shape your thoughts, actions, and life around supporting those beliefs.

 

 

The word is a force

Give it a try. Find a statement that will support what you want to believe and who you want to become. And then repeat it to yourself as much as you can throughout the day and the week. Post it on sticky notes and write it on your mirror in dry erase marker. Hit it hard and watch things shift.

You got this.

I will be practicing right along side you.

Talk again soon,

k