self-care

Stop Verbally Abusing Yourself

Stop Verbally Abusing Yourself

Avenues Counseling

“You’re so stupid!”

“Of course you failed at that. It’s what you do.”

“No one could ever love you.”

These are extremely painful statements to hear; ones I cringe to even write out. And if these things were said out loud to you, they could easily be called verbal abuse. No one should be told those things. No one.

And yet, how many of us have a tape that plays in our heads that sounds remarkably similar? Or maybe not quite as extreme as the statements above, but still carries with it the same underlying critical, harsh message and/or lack of compassion?

Why do we think it’s okay to talk to ourselves the way it is not okay for anyone else talk to us? Or maybe we don’t even consciously realize how severe our self-talk is. Day in and day out. An endless reel of criticism and condemnation in the face of life, that by its very nature is just hard.

These voices can come from many places – maybe they were given to you by the ones who are supposed to love and encourage you most; maybe they are what you think is needed to keep your drive alive to excel at life; maybe it’s in your DNA to be self-critical and perfectionistic; maybe it’s how you try to remain “humble”. Wherever they come from and however they’ve been formed, I wonder what it would look like to say, “It’s not okay to talk to me like that,” and to start replacing them with the voice of compassion for yourself.

Drawing upon the research of Dr. Kristin Neff, below are some practical ways to begin to better relate to yourself with compassion and to respond to the critical, harsh reel in your head:

1)   Be kind to yourself. Pain, failure, disappointment are part of this life. We are not perfect beings and never will be. Extend to yourself the same grace, forgiveness or understanding you would extend to others when you mess up or things don’t go the way you hoped they would.

2)   Remember the bigger picture. You are not alone in whatever you are experiencing. Sometimes this is hard to believe because we are all working really hard to cover up our own places of shame (and unfortunately, we’re really good at it), but I guarantee you are not alone. It is often our weakness that connects us the most to each other. Stop using this against yourself or allowing it to isolate you and start looking for ways to connect to others in our shared human experience of weaknesses.

3)   Be mindful. To begin changing the way we speak to ourselves, we must start by being aware of how we do it. Being self-compassionate does not mean avoiding your negative thoughts or difficult emotions. It means experiencing these thoughts and feelings with the posture of kindness and in the context of being human. This keeps us from over-identifying with our negative thoughts and emotions and allows for thoughtful consideration of how there might ways we could do things differently next time around.

So…as some version of the tape is currently playing in your head now, please remember: your words have impact. Instead of continuing to verbally abuse yourself, please be kind, remember the bigger picture, and be mindful as you talk to yourself today.

by:  Melinda Seley, PLPC

Increasing our Ability to Love and be Loved

Increasing our ability to love and be loved –

Whew…I literally just finished reading this article (below) by Brene’ Brown, who happens to be one of my fav’s when it comes to teaching me how to live and love.  I thought I would share of few of parts of the article that were highlights for me.  This article is so good.  So, so, good!

“To say no (to something or someone), we have to understand why we’re saying yes.”  This is so true and needs no further words – if we don’t understand why we are doing something it just won’t last.

This next highlight I have never considered before, but I sure am now!  Here it is, “I had to push myself to rediscover my own artistic side.  Unused creativity is not benign.  It clumps inside us, turning into judgement, grief, anger, and shame.”

“None of us get calmer by telling ourselves to calm down.  we get it by understanding what calm is: being able to see clearly because we are not overreacting to a situation.  We’re listening and understanding.  We are letting ourselves feel the vulnerability of the moment (the call from the doctor, the meeting with the angry boss) and then managing that feeling.”  To feel is to allow yourself to be vulnerable – what a great reminder for me!

Here’s my last highlight to share before sharing the article in its entirety.  “We become what we do.” Yep, simple and true.  The more I practice at growing a garden (my current hobby) the better I will become.  Similarly, the more I practice loving who I am and not hating myself the easier it will become.

So those are the specific items Brene’ shared that impacted me.  I wonder how it will impact you….

-Lianne

“5 (Doable) Ways to Increase the Love in Your Life

Can we increase our ability to love and to be loved? Brené Brown, PhD, author of The Gifts of Imperfection, on what wholeheartedness means—and how you can take a few practical steps to cultivate it.

Avenues Counseling

Of all the thousands of people I’ve interviewed and studied over the years—looking for patterns in the data—only about 15 to 20 percent were folks living with their whole hearts, folks who were really all in when it came to their relationships. So I decided I wanted to find out why. What quality did these people have that made them so capable of both receiving and giving love?

When I examined my research, I discovered that these were people who deeply believed that they were worthy of love and belonging. These folks believed this regardless of the circumstances, unlike the majority of us who think: “Okay, I’m worthy of love and belonging a little bit, but I’ll be superworthy if I get promoted. Or I’ll be superworthy if I lose 20 pounds.” These folks believed that they were loveable and that they had a place in the world, and those beliefs translated into specific choices they made every day. They were aware. They recognized shame, and they knew how to deal with it. They recognized vulnerability, and they were willing to feel it—rather than ignore or numb it.

What I wondered was, How do the rest of us cultivate these same qualities? It’s not like we can just decide to be vulnerable or say, “Hey, I’m worthy,” after which—poof—this instantly comes true. But there are practical changes you can make in your life which encourage these beliefs. Here are five basic everyday actions that can help you develop a deeper, more loving sense of wholeheartedness, both for others and for yourself.

Letting Go of Exhaustion

Everybody in the world says that you need to work less in order to live a fuller, more connected life. But so few of us address what prevents us from doing it. The reasons are simple: (1) exhaustion is a status symbol in our culture, and (2) self-worth has become net worth. We live doing so much and with so little time that anything unrelated to the to-do list—taking a nap, say, or reading a novel—actually creates stress.

Wholehearted people, on the other hand, know when to stop and rest. Personally, I had to learn this. I’m still learning this. I screw it up every now and then, but five years ago I made some huge changes in my personal and private life. I went from full time to part time at the university, and my husband, who is a pediatrician, cut his hours to four days a week. As it stands now, we never get less than eight hours of sleep.

What did this require? A constellation of choices. For example, one of the things I have to do to cultivate more rest is to say no. Last year, I turned down 85 percent of the invitations I got to speak. Because I have a commitment to be at the family table four nights a week.

To say no, we have to understand why we’re saying yes. One of the reasons is scarcity. I, like many of us, was so afraid that maybe all these opportunities would just go away, that maybe next year people wouldn’t ask for me to come speak, and maybe my work wouldn’t get the attention it needed, and that if I didn’t have my work, who would I be? So I thought I had to say yes, yes, yes. The only reason I can now say no is because I work on my shame “gremlins.” Gremlins are the tricksters who whisper all of those terrible things in our ears that keep us afraid and small. When the gremlins say “you better say yes, or they won’t like you” or “they’ll think you’re lazy,” I whisper back: “Not this time. I get to say no. I get to love myself, stay home and drive soccer carpool.”

Painting a Gourd

All of us were made to make things. During my studies, I found out a surprising piece of data: There is no such thing as a creative or noncreative person. Every single human being is creative. Every research participant could recall a time in his or her life when creativity brought him or her great joy. It was usually childhood, and the creative expressions ranged from coloring or finger-painting to dancing, singing or building. What was most fascinating was that the participants never talked about learning how to be creative—they just were.

As adults, what keeps us from being creative—from painting, cooking, scrapbooking, doodling, knitting, rebuilding an engine or writing—is what I call the comparison gremlin (a close cousin of the shame gremlin). People say, “I’m not good enough,” or “Why am I the only one with dangling modifiers?” or “I’m not a real sculptor…I’m a total poser.” In other words, we shame ourselves into stopping. While we may have all started creative, between ages 8 and 14, at least 60 percent of the participants remember learning that they were not creative. They began to compare their creations, they started getting graded for their art, and many heard from a teacher or a parent that “art wasn’t their thing.” So we don’t have to teach people to find joy in creating; we have to make sure not to teach them that there’s only one acceptable way to be creative.

I had to push myself to rediscover my own artistic side. Unused creativity is not benign. It clumps inside us, turning into judgment, grief, anger and shame. Before I turned my life around, I used to dismiss people who spent time creating. When a friend would invite me to go to an art class or something, I’d respond: “How cute. You go do your A-R-T; I’m busy with a real J-O-B.” Now I realize that was my fear and my own frustrated need to create.

To kick things off, I went to a gourd-painting class with my mom and my then-9-year-old daughter, Ellen. It was one of the best days of my life. I’m not kidding. I still paint, and now I’m having a serious love affair with photography. But start with something easy. Why not start with a gourd? Put a silly face on it. Make it smile.

Practicing Calm

None of us get calmer by telling ourselves to calm down. We get it by understanding what calm is: being able to see clearly because we are not overreacting to a situation. We’re listening and understanding. We are letting ourselves feel the vulnerability of the moment (the call from the doctor, the meeting with the angry boss) and then managing that feeling.

Calm participants in my studies all have a few things in common. They breathe when they’re feeling vulnerable. They ask questions before they weigh in, including the three most important questions—ones that changed my own life. The first is, Do I have enough information to freak out? (Ninety percent of the time, the answer is no.) The second is, Where did you hear the upsetting news? (Down the hall? From a trusted source?) The third is, If I do have enough reliable information to freak out, and if I do that, will it be helpful?

When my daughter, Ellen, comes home and says, “Oh my God, Mom, the school moved my locker, and now I can’t reach it!” I stop. I remember what I used to say: “Oh that’s it! I’m furious! I’m going off to school tomorrow, and you’re going to get your locker back!” Now I say, “Tell me more about it.” And 15 minutes later, I find out that the guy she likes has a locker down at the other end of the hall; what she really wants is to have a locker nearer to him.

This is real change. Four or five years ago, I was the least calm person you have ever met. And when people describe me today—people like my co-workers, friends and family—they say, “You’re the calmest person I know.” Well, it’s because I practice it, the same way you practice the violin. We become what we do.

Fooling Around

One of the things I noticed in my research was that wholehearted people tended to fool around a lot. This was how I described their behavior, “fooling around,” because I didn’t know what this behavior was. It was such a foreign concept to me that I couldn’t even name it correctly until I happened to be sitting in the backyard watching my kids jump on the trampoline. All of a sudden, I went: “Holy crap. Those grown-ups in my studies are playing! They are piddling and playing! They are total slackers!”

Then I found some research by Dr. Stuart Brown. He said that play is something you did “that caused you to lose track of time.” Which I called work. He called play “time spent without purpose.” Which I called an anxiety attack.

Clearly, I had a problem. So I sat down and made a list of nonwork-related things that I love to do where I lost track of time, I lost my sense of self-consciousness, I didn’t want them to end, and they didn’t serve any purpose except that I enjoyed them. Then I had my husband do the same thing. Then we did it with our two kids, and I made a Venn diagram to understand the data (sorry, I’m a researcher).

Our family-play Venn diagram showed us what kind of play we share in common, and we realized there were only three kinds that we all enjoyed. Because sitting on the floor playing Candy Land? I’m not losing track of time. I’ve been on the floor for 30 minutes; I could shoot myself. But swimming? Hiking? Going to the movies? All of us enjoy that.

So now, we totally build our family vacations around being outside. Because it’s play for all of us. It’s battery-charging for all of us. But that doesn’t just happen. We draw diagrams. We plan. And then…we goof off.

Doing the Scarecrow

What keeps most of us from dancing—at any age—is usually the desire to be cool, and being cool, even for grown-ups, is a refusal to be vulnerable. Cool starts early. Some of the latest research shows that rather than being an adolescent issue, our kindergartners and first graders are starting to feel anxiety over being cool and belonging. Imagine being 5 years old and deciding that it’s not so good to let others see how we feel.

When it comes to dancing, we’re afraid that we’re bad dancers or that others will laugh at us, so we don’t do it enough. About eight years ago, my daughter and I were at Nordstrom. She was in fourth grade, and there were these beautiful, put-together mothers in the shoe department with us. I was in my Jabba the Hutt sweatsuit; I looked horrible. And I was doing the whole shame routine…down to telling myself: “Argh. You’re a disaster. You don’t belong in this nice store with these fancy, put-together people.”

The kids’ department started playing a song. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw some movement. Then I saw three of the beautiful, put-together mothers and two of the daughters look past me, gasping. When I looked over, it was Ellen. Everyone was looking at Ellen. She had put her shoes down, and she was full-on doing the robot to the music—popping and locking. Without a care in the world. And you could tell these daughters were getting ready to laugh, and the moms were like, “Oh my God, girls, shield your eyes.”

At that moment, I had a choice. Previously, shame would have taken over, and I would have looked at Ellen and just said: “Pull yourself together, Ellen. Come on. Jesus. Stop being so…weird.” But I just heard this voice, the voice from my research and the voice from what I was trying to change in my own life, and that voice said: “Don’t betray her. Be on her side. Be on her side.” So I looked over and said, “Awesome robot.” And she said, “Hey, Mom. Show me the scarecrow again.”

The scarecrow is when you swing your hands like they’re not connected to your elbows. I did not want to do the scarecrow in Nordstrom. Inside me there is a seventh grader with sweaty palms who doesn’t have anywhere to sit in the cafeteria. But I did it. My daughter and I danced. Maybe I was faking it at little, but actions are far more important than anything we tell children. We have to show them love and self-worth, just as we have to show ourselves love and self-worth. We can’t just overlay these ideas on our lives. We have to change the way we live—and, fortunately, there isn’t just one way to do it.”

 

 

How Are You Coping As a Parent?

By: Katy Martin, LPC

“You know, pull ups and training potties should come with a Xanax prescription.”

This is what I texted a friend a few weeks ago while I was in the throws of potty training my almost 3 year old.

(Side note: that statement in no way is trying to make light of medication. It can be a powerful tool when prescribed and taken appropriately.)

Raising children is hard work whether you stay home full time, work part time, or work full time. No matter where you are, those kids are yours ALL THE TIME.  Sure, it sometimes sounds easy and fun (can I get an Amen for nap time!) but these small people are reliant on you all the time. And there are a lot of really wonderful moments and seasons, but it’s a 24/7 job that can also be overwhelming.

How do you react during those moments of incessant whining, crying, fighting, or boredom? Maybe it’s your sweet new baby with acid reflux. Those moments of feeling utterly useless to make your baby or child feel better. Or the seasons when it just seems impossible to get a moment to yourself. Or the questions, the millions of questions, from your toddler.

Self-care and coping are so important in these situations. You can only give what you have, right? If you’re spent, overwhelmed, at the end of your rope, you just don’t have anything else to give. Sometimes we can muster up something to get by, but why should we settle for just getting by?

Here is a self-care list I came up with to start you and I out. Maybe you could add to it. Maybe you could tailor it to your personality or to your phase of life.  Consider what this would look like in your life.

*Connect with other people your age. Regularly. Play groups, church, work, time out with friends, etc

*Reach out via text, email, phone when you need it. This is where social media is on our side. Vent to a friend instead of taking it out on your spouse or kid. Talk to you someone so you’re reminded you’re not alone.

*Take a break. Turn the TV on for your kids for a bit without feeling guilty. Put yourself in time out for a few minutes to breathe, calm down, have one complete thought. Take a shower. Go outside.

*Practice mindfulness: take deep breaths, count to 10, direct your thoughts to the present moment and not the craziness.

*Eat healthy, get your body moving, and get enough sleep.

*What do you enjoy? What energizes you? Find a way to do those things even if it looks different than before you had kids. You are still YOU.

*Don’t compare yourself to other parents. Just don’t do it. We are all different and unique. Learn from each other but own your own decision and beliefs.

*Date your spouse. Your kids need this from you.

*If you mess up, lose it, or have a bad day, just start again. Apologize to your kids if you need. Don’t beat yourself up.

*If you start to feel completely out of control or that you just can’t manage, seek out a mentor, a therapist, a friend, or pastor. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or investigate your feelings. Maybe more is going on.

You’re not alone, parents. In the moment I sent that text to a friend of mine, I felt better because I invited someone into my chaos which made me feel less alone, less crazy, and I was able to laugh at the tower of antibacterial wipes on my counter and the growing pile of laundry. I’m definitely not prefect at this but we all have to start somewhere.

What are you going to start today?

When You Know You Need a Good Cry

By:  Lianne Johnson, LPC

I recently came across this blog post and thought it was worth sharing.  On a broader note….Hope and Healing is a blog I follow that you may also enjoy.  The blogger is Lundy Bancroft.  He specializes in working with victims and survivors of domestic violence, abuse, and trauma.

Here is his post I want to share with you… (sorry the below formatting isn’t the best)

WHEN YOU KNOW YOU NEED A GOOD CRY

                I wrote a previous post about the powerful healing role that crying can play, especially if you can train yourself to cry hard and long. Many women who have heard me speak about this subject have said to me, “There are times when I can tell that I need to cry, because I’ve built up so much pent-up emotions, but I can’t do it. How do I get that cry to come out of me when it’s stuck?”
                There are several techniques to use to get that dam to break:
  •  Make a crying date with yourself, where you actually set aside time and find a way to be alone. Tears are much more likely to come when you know you won’t have to choke them right back off again.
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  • Collect some of the music that has brought you to tears before. Listening to your favorite sad or touching song can be a great way to get your crying started; and once the ice breaks, you’ll move on soon to crying about issues that have been weighing on you.
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  • Spend some time thinking about memories from long ago. It’s usually easier to start crying about sadnesses from far in the past. 
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  • Let your crying take you where it wants to go. Sometimes you will be sad about an old loss, and suddenly you’ll find that instead you’re crying about an event from yesterday. The opposite will happen also, where tears about a recent emotional wound carry you into deep sobbing about a much earlier period in your life. Don’t fight this process; your soul knows exactly which piece it needs to grieve today. 
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  • Photographs can be powerful for evoking emotion. So can certain passages from books, pieces of poetry, or scenes from movies. Draw on whatever gets you going.
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  • If you have a trusted friend, see if she would sit with your or hold you while you cry. Similarly, you can imagine your best friend or closest relative sitting with you even if you are actually crying by yourself, and that image can help the tears flow.
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  • Anger can help to unlock crying. Yell into a pillow or pound on couch cushions, and keep at it for a long time, ten or fifteen minutes or more. Try to make yourself feel powerful; the more your rage comes from a place of power, the more likely it is to unleash your tears.
                Almost anyone can cry (especially among women), but not many people can cry deeply and at length except by training themselves to do so. In other words, learning to cry is a skill, like studying an instrument or developing your athletic abilities. The more effort you put in the deeper the rewards.
If you’re interested in reading more from Lundy Bancroft here you go…  http://lundybancroft.blogspot.com

Food for Thought: The Holidays

By: Katy Martin, LPC

Oh, the holidays.  Christmas lights are appearing on houses, Christmas music is playing everywhere, and Christmas trees are beginning to glow in windows.  Stores are highlighting great gift ideas and sales.  Stores are filled with crowds and calendars begin filling up with parties, gatherings, and holiday traditions.

And should we mention the food?
Sweets are everywhere, aren’t they?  Cookies, bakery items, and treats that would make fantastic gifts for that person in your life.  (Trader Joe’s has the best!)  Aisles at the grocery store suddenly have entire sections dedicated to making the perfect green bean casserole and holiday trimmings. 
Not to mention the fact that it feels as if most holiday gatherings and parties are centered around food.  Fancy dinners, potlucks with co-workers, cookie parties with friends, and we can’t forget those holiday dinners with the turkey (or ham) and every side dish being some sort of casserole.  We dress up, gather together, and celebrate with the people in our lives.
Food is a big part of this season, isn’t it?  We cannot escape it.  We truly have an abundance of food that God has blessed us with.  For some, it’s wonderful, we’re thankful, we enjoy it.  For some, it’s beyond overwhelming.  If we have an unhealthy or dysfunctional relationship with food, it is a marathon of anxiety and/or destructive behavior. 
How do we stop this cycle?  It might be helpful to share your anxiety with a friend, pastor, or mentor.  Checking in with a therapist can get you on the right track.  Practicing self-care by spending time with people in positive settings, preparing yourself for certain food situations, and maintaining good food and exercise habits that you have formed previously in the year.
In the book, “Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food” by Jan Chozen Bays, MD, she encourages the Zen practice of mindfulness to utilize self-care.  Mindfulness allows you to be fully present in the moment.  Try asking yourself these questions when you begin to feel overwhelmed or anxious:
Am I hungry?
Where do I feel hunger? What part of me is hungry?
What do I really crave?
What am I tasting just now?
I want to encourage you during this time, particularly if you know the holidays are a difficult time for you or if you suspect you’re heading that way.  No matter how severe your struggle is; you can care for yourself and enjoy this time of the year.  
Merry Christmas!