one black chess piece separated from red pawn chess pieces
Inspiration, mental health

Mindfulness and The End of The World

I tend to teach my clients a LOT about mindfulness.  Mindfulness is about being fully present, in what is happening TODAY, without judging it/clinging to it/trying to make it go away.  Mindfulness is choosing to pay attention in life, to fire your auto-pilot and really experience your interactions with the world, compassionately.  We, as a culture, tend to be very roped into seeking the “next best thing”.  Think about it…we want the next smartphone before we even figure out how to work the one we have, there are dating apps that make small talk and polite conversation irrelevant and take you straight to the bedroom, there is a drive-thru for darn near everything you could want! We live on fast forward.  It doesn’t work and it is causing a decline in life satisfaction and relationship satisfaction, all the while creating an increase in depression, divorce and suicide rates.

Riddle me this: if life is SO GREAT living this way…why are we so obsessed with the post-apocalyptic worlds that we think would be generated after the fall of our modern civilization (that’s probably not where you thought this post was going is it?)? They all have something in common: NO technology and a rebuilding of the “takes a village” mentality.  Ironically two of the tenants of our current society that we try to convince ourselves make us “superior”.

The Walking Dead, The Hunger Games, Divergent, 2012, Lost, Jericho, The Book of Eli, World World Z…the list is really quite expansive.  And yet, we continue to live IN our phones and in isolation from one another.  I do wonder if one purpose of these shows, aside from entertainment, is to warn us/show us what COULD happen if we do not change our ways…and yet…

Take a moment to read this age-old fable:

The Fox and the Goat

A Fox one day fell into a deep well and could find no means of escape. A Goat, overcome with thirst, came to the same well, and seeing the Fox, inquired if the water was good. Concealing his sad plight under a merry guise, the Fox indulged in a lavish praise of the water, saying it was excellent beyond measure, and encouraging him to descend. The Goat, mindful only of his thirst, thoughtlessly jumped down, but just as he drank, the Fox informed him of the difficulty they were both in and suggested a scheme for their common escape. “If,” said he, “you will place your forefeet upon the wall and bend your head, I will run up your back and escape, and will help you out afterwards.” The Goat readily assented and the Fox leaped upon his back. Steadying himself with the Goat’s horns, he safely reached the mouth of the well and made off as fast as he could. When the Goat upbraided him for breaking his promise, he turned around and cried out, “You foolish old fellow! If you had as many brains in your head as you have hairs in your beard, you would never have gone down before you had inspected the way up, nor have exposed yourself to dangers from which you had no means of escape.”

Look before you leap.

(Aesop’s Fables)

Perhaps it is time to look before we leap. 

Look at the data trends before you buy our 4 year old an IPAD, look at divorce statistics before you sleep with someone on the first date, look at these movies as  more than just random entertainment…see them as a warning as what could happen if we don’t change! 

Dare to be different.  Dare NOT to download every popular app.  Dare NOT to give into every urge you have for instant gratification.  Dare NOT to pay hundreds of dollars for the “cool” shoes/boots.  Dare NOT to pay $5 for the logo on your coffee mug when you could put that money away for a rainy day.  Dare to have an opinion that is DIFFERENT than the masses…afterall, isn’t that what Catniss did? And she became a hero…

woman in red t shirt looking at her laptop
DBT, Inspiration, Journaling, mental health

STUCK.

What do you do when you are stuck?

  • Stuck in a meeting
  • Stuck in traffic
  • Stuck in line at the store
  • Stuck at home
  • Stuck at the airport
  • Stuck in quarantine
  • Stuck in the parent pick-up line

The reasons for stuck-ness are many…mandated attendance, weather, the person in front of you can’t move; however the feeling is typically the same.  Anger.  It may start off as slight irritation, moving into annoyance and frustration before moving into full blown anger; however typically, being stuck makes us mad!

So how are we going to get through this UNENDURABLE situation?  To start, stop exaggerating! It’s not unendurable.  It’s not typically as bad as we make it out to be in our head.  Let me give you an example:  I like Starbucks (fact), but the line at the drive through is absolutely ridiculous (opinion).  My problem solving skills lead me to park and go inside every time I go there.  I was very content with this decision.  One day, while inside, I was so excited to see that there is a screen for the baristas that tells them how long people have been in the drive-thru.  I expected to see 10 minutes….15 minutes…FOREVER, because let’s face it…waiting in that line is AWFUL! To my amazement, the longest wait time was 2 minutes 45 seconds.  Really??….the line was LONG when I walked in…like wrapping around the building and almost to the main road! Then it hit me: I’ve been inside for about 3 minutes too! Why is it that being trapped in my car causes me to perceive time moving so much slower?  I felt stuck!

How to guide to get unstuck:

  1. Realize that the trick isn’t actually to get unstuck, it’s to change how you feel about being (what you perceive as) stuck.
  2. Stop judging. Words like should, always, terrible, OMG, worst, never…are typically attached to a judgment.  Instead, be descriptive.  Explain how you feel and why. Ex: Repleace “this is the longest line EVER, I ALWAYS get stuck in long lines” with “I am sitting in line at Starbucks, this has happened before”
  3. Observe your posture. Ex: Take your fingernails out of the steering wheel, let your shoulders fall from your ears back to their relaxed state, remove the scowl from your face…
  4. Consider other possible alternatives to catastrophizing Ex: I finally have time to respond to those text messages (safely while not driving), I can plan the next few hours of my day, I can sit here and remember a positive memory to improve my mood, consider things you are grateful for.
  5. Stop fighting reality. In conjunction with #4, the reality is that you are in a situation that you can’t immediately get out of; catastrophizing is an example of the situation worse.  Accept that you are where you are (this will reduce suffering).

I am wondering if you are willing to give it a try?   It’s amazing what changing your interpretation of a situation will do for your mood!

green typewriter on brown wooden table
DBT, Inspiration, Journaling, mental health

Self-Assessment for the End of Year Pondering

As the year comes to an end, I believe it is a great practice for us all to slow down and assess where we are achieving and where we are struggling.

I have created this “worksheet” of sorts to to help people identify where they might have room for growth.  We all have areas for growth, we all have areas of strength. Consider these questions to guide you in your journey (with a therapist or without)! This is also a great exercise to do as a couple and as a family to set some goals, with intentionality, for the new year!

In what areas are you (or we) making emotionally based choices?

Consider the following areas. Do you (or we) tend to give into short term impulses in any specific areas?

  • Food/eating ____________________________________________________________________
  • Time management (working/playing) __________________________________________­
  • Anger impulses _________________________________________________________________
  • Social Anxiety ___________________________________________________________________
  • Fears ____________________________________________________________________________
  • Sleep schedule__________________________________________________________________
  • Self-harming behaviors__________________________________________________________
  • Substance abuse ________________________________________________________________
  • Emotional urges _________________________________________________________________
  • Trying to “fit in” __________________________________________________________________

Questions to journal on:

What changes would you like to see in those areas?

What are you doing to self-sabatoge?

What are you doing to set yourself up for success?

Are you able to identify any areas that you do well in exercising restraint against urges and making more mindful choices?

What changes are you willing to make in the next month, to work on moving in an effective direction for yourself?

If you want more help with managing short-term urges in order to achieve long-term goals, consider checking out my book Adulting Well (available in the Wellness Shop tab above)!

DBT, Inspiration, mental health

The OTHER Antidote for Depression

If you’ve experienced depression I am sure you’ve heard (once or twice) that you should exercise to improve your mood.  That advice isn’t wrong; and yet, it isn’t easy.  I am here to let you know that there is another very powerful antidote for depression and it takes the form of the DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) skill of BUILDing MASTERY.

Build Mastery is a very small skill in the DBT manual (which makes me sad) but it packs a powerful punch.  To build mastery is to spend time developing a skill/talent/hobby/activity.  It is important that you understand the following table:

Too EasyNo effect, could backfire and make you feel infantilized
ChallengingBuilds self-worth/self-esteem
Too HardLikely leads to you feeling incompetent

The task that you choose to work on (let’s take running a 5k as an example) needs to fall in the middle row: challenging.  If you decide, with no prior training to run a full marathon (too hard), you will injure yourself, fail and probably feel worse about yourself.  If you choose to walk to 10 paces forward (too easy), you won’t feel any sense of accomplishment because that’s too easy! You won’t continue to work toward your goal of running and therefore will feel like the exercise was pointless. The sweet spot involves breaking your goal of running a 5k into reasonable and tangible steps (such as researching and purchasing running shoes, finding local trails/parks, downloading Couch 2 5k or joining a running club, sharing your plan with others, beginning to work up to short jogs and slowly lengthening the distance.

Lets say, you hate running and now you’re angry that I suggested that. Fair enough…you can build mastery in almost any area!

  • Gardening
  • Cleaning
  • Sewing
  • Painting
  • Learning a language
  • Computer coding
  • Playing chess
  • Cooking
  • Any sport
  • Reading (longer books, more complex books)
  • Home repairs
  • Budgeting
  • Crafting

I think build mastery is an attainable skill over this quarantine! I have been brushing up on my watercolor skills as a way to reduce stress and practice a challenging activity.  Take some time to think about what you could work on!20200318_1633398414760588646284697.jpg

top view photo of rocky shore
Inspiration, mental health

Too Much or Too Little?

I’m getting SO MUCH DONE! or We’ve done NOTHING…just laying round binge-watching Netflix all day.  I am hearing two extremes from people when they get overwhelmed, which side do you generally fall on?

Do you try to “keep up with the Jones’s, Pinterest Moms, Type-A friends in your social media feed? Are you stressing out about accomplishing everything that’s been on your to-do list? Are you trying to take advantage of all the Facebook Live free classes that people keep discussing? Be careful…you WILL hit a wall (and it’s a brick wall).

Do you find that being quarantined in 2020 was an excuse to stay in your pajamas, eat all the snacks and watch endless hours of streamed TV? Did you skip showers and avoid anything that resembled a routine? Be careful, if that is your fall back, you can fall into the pit (and it’s a muddy, mucky pit).

One day, if I am famous for saying anything…it will be for saying “there is no right answer; there is a more effective answer for you to reach your goals”.  This is a situation in which I’d give the same advice…there isn’t a RIGHT way to struggle…I’ve had doses of both scenarios describe. When you are having a difficult time, I think the trick is to ask yourself every few hours (or perhaps each morning or evening), what it is that you’d like to accomplish? What would you like to be able to say you did for the previous 8 hours or the next 8 hours.  If you have been working hard, it’s PERFECTLY acceptable to choose to take the day off and do nothing for a while. If you’ve just come to the surface after binge-watching 3 seasons of something, it’s a good idea to switch gears and organize your sock drawer and alphabetize your DVD collection!  A problem seems to occur after several days in one mode or the other without any sign of coming back to baseline.

It’s crucial that you’re kind to yourself and develop the ability to self-validate and self-encourage. Some examples of that include saying to yourself:

  • I am tired from _________ and that makes sense, today I’ll take it easy
  • I have enjoyed a few days of relaxation and now I am ready to tackle one thing off of my list
  • I am worthy of a break
  • My ideas are worth working toward

Take some time right now, close your eyes, and evaluate which side of the spectrum you’ve been on the last few days…and what is a step you can take toward the other side?  I propose an ultimate goal of learning to live in the balance (not balanced…as that doesn’t exist…but living in the middle range of the teeter totter, more so than at the extremes.)

photo of abstract painting
Inspiration

Truthbombs about Being Judged and White Privilege

How do you handle being judged because you are different? I can tell you that my go-to is to judge “them” right back. I can tell you that my go-to is anger. I can tell you that I’ve had to WAKE UP about this in recent years…and it was a rough awakening.

I thought I was pretty woke when it came to stigma, racism, homophobia, being accepting, not judging, etc…but then my white privilege started to show and I had to do some work on myself.  (Don’t stop reading).  I didn’t even know what white privilege really was until a few years ago, in fact, the topic used to bother me because I felt like I was being judged for something that wasn’t my fault.  In short, white privilege is the freedom I was able to experience because I never had to experience the looks, stares, comments, eye rolls, and judgments of others over my skin. I never had to worry about whether people thought my parents were lazy because I acted like a damn fool (and I did act like a damn fool).  I never had to wonder if I would be asked to get out of my car when pulled over.  I KNEW in my heart that I could cry my way out of a detention in 6th grade (and I did).  These are not freedoms granted to persons of color and I woke up to this when I adopted my daughters, who are not white. I thought that because I had plenty of friends who were black, that I understood what their experience was.  I thought that because I earned an advanced degree in social work, that I knew about stigma.

I was not ready for the ceaseless comments about them, our family, their “situation”, etc.  I was so ignorant to the systematic racism that still exists and 5 years ago I would not have believed you if you tried to tell me.   I was not ready to experience (secondhand) the judgement of my kids by their peers, their teachers, the public…

Stay with me…

My first reaction was to judge them as ignorant. Live with anger. Try to shield my kids. But that was MY ignorance.  Ignorance is not an insult in this sense. Ignorance means “lack of knowledge” and I did have a lack of knowledge that led me to believe that my truth was the only truth and that my judging other people would somehow inspire them to change.  I was SO wrong. SO VERY WRONG.

So how do you become less angry when people judge you? You educate yourself. YOU educate YOURSELF. You learn about the other person’s point of view.  You need to wake the hell up to their reality and only then will you be able to have an understanding about why their truth has truth. Only then will you be able to put your own judgments aside and possibly have a relationship with the other person.

American culture is at quite a crossroads in my opinion.  We currently have people alive and interacting with one another that lived through segregation and integration. The criminalization of and decriminalization of gay marriage, women earning the right to vote, a first black president, the fear of radical Muslims after 9/11 and our current movement toward inclusion.  We are a nation divided on topics of sexism, racism, homophobia, religious freedoms, left vs right, etc.  I can tell you that the answer is not to judge and blame. The only way through this mess is to openly discuss our differences and WHY there is truth to “our side”…WHILE looking for the truth in “their side”.

Beliefs from childhood are very hard to change. So if someone is judging you, remember it isn’t personal…it’s likely that something about you is foreign to them and they aren’t sure what to do with it…so their natural inclination is to push it away/judge it/make a face of disgust. That is the same way you would probably react to something new/different/foreign.

white clouds
Uncategorized

How to Change Your Attitude

I am as guilty as anyone of falling into pessimistic thinking. I can throw a killer pity party…although no one ever wants to come. Sometimes I can even be downright judgmental. I think it is our cultures default to be negative…which is why we MUST exercise the muscle that allows us to find contentment.

Please hear me, the goal is not to turn you into Susie Sunshine…rather, my goal is to be a Neutral Nelly. It is a reality that no one wants to be near Negative Nancy…and that all humans are wired for connection. It isn’t a difficult equation to see that pessimism won’t yield a great deal of relationships (especially not any enjoyable ones). Learning to see the “ok”, “not awful”, “possibly decent” parts of life can be a difficult journey. It only takes one check-out lane to prove that point. Our media tends to be overly negative and overly panic-inducing. FEAR sells!

Initially, trying to be less negative for me was like trying to strengthen a muscle that I didn’t think I had. I would get so frustrated and I found myself thinking that other people were naturally born more optimistic and that it wasn’t a choice. WRONG! While biology (nature) and your environment (nurture) certainly play a role, we are all humans with free will! This means we can train ourselves to think differently! With (a lot of) practice and persistence, you will find your inner Positive Polly and begin to see the world in a less hateful way!

Here are my life hacks on how:

1. Keep a gratitude journal. Every.Damn.Day. Every single day you need to jot down and really savor a few things that you are grateful for. These can be really big things or really simple things. They can be things you noticed in the world or things you accomplished. Sometimes (on hard days) I ask myself “what doesn’t suck right now?”. There are several apps that exist for this. I prefer an old school journal or the Bliss app.

2. Follow more positive on social media. Almost everything has a hashtag, consider following #mindfulness, #positivepsychology, or hashtags related to uplifting interests such as #abstractart or #nature to increase your enjoyable scrolling. You can also look up and follow businesses such as mine that put out encouragement and uplifting content.

3. Limit your time around Negative Nancy. She isn’t good for you.

4. Take walks. It matters, trust me. Het away from your desk, get our of your head, avoid the couch slump. Go play Wizards Unite or Pokemon Go if that helps! Download an app that helps you raise money for charities based on your steps, challenge yourself or a friend with a steps challenge…find ways to incentivise yourself!

5. Get enough sleep (8-9 hours in a row)! You need a solid foundation.

When you find yourself sinking into a negative headspace, try to become aware of it without beating yourself up. Over time you will learn which hacks work for you, and you can say to yourself “You’re getting negative. Go for a walk, it always helps…”!

Uncategorized

Getting to Know Me

I thought it would be fun to play a game with this bucket list. I’ll share what I’ve done and you can comment what you’ve done or want to do!

The Typical Bucket List

1. Skydive – Nope. NOPE. Never gonna happen.
2. Road Trip – Yep. I’ve taken a van trip across America (Ohio to San Diego, up the coast to San Francisco and back) with 12 artists.  It included a few nights on a Navajo Indian reservation, painting a mural on the side of a bridge, staying in a hostel, etc.  I also flew to Phoenix and road tripped back to Cincinnati with a friend.  I’ve also road tripped all over the Midwest and southern United States.
3. Raised farm animals – do chickens and ducks count?
4. Watch Sunrise – yes. Many times. Camping, on a cruise, at home.
5. Roller coaster – little known fact: I LOVE them! I didn’t ride a single ride until age 15 because I was so scared, but when my friends drug me on one, I was hooked. I laugh hysterically while on them!
6. Snorkeling – yes. It’s amazing. I’ve done it twice in the Bahamas. Unfortunately due to my asthma, I won’t be able to snorkel again.
7. Scuba Diving – never tried.
8. Play an Instrument – No, and I regret it. I learned the fancy recorder in grade school and at the time was able to translate the skill into flute, clarinet, etc but I never actually tried.
9. Learn Another Language – yes. I was fairly fluent in both Spanish and American Sign Language; however, its a skill that you loose if you don’t use.
10. Fall in Love – yes
11. Donate to Charity – yes. Many ways and I believe it’s a very important task for ones mental health.
12. Disneyland – yes. I went to Disneyland AND Disney World when I was 24.  A friend worked there and got me in free. It was fun but not something I’d be eager to do again or with kids. It’s over-stimulating, expensive, and so…much…walking…..
13. Get Married – yes.
14. Buy a House – yes.
15. Go to a Concert – yes.  I have been to quite a few.  The top ones in my book: Less Than Jake, Miranda Lambert, Kip Moore, Incubus, Nickleback, and most recently: Kane Brown.
16. Slept on the Beach – no…but that’s going to change next month!
17. See the Northern Lights – not yet!
18. Met Your Idol – I’ve met and trained under Marsha Linehan a number of times. She isn’t my idol but I do have a lot of respect and gratitude for her work in the mental health field.
19. Climb a Mountain – not a real summit hike but I’ve been to Clingman’s Dome which is the highest point in the Great Smokey Mountain’s National Park.
20. Ski in Aspen – Nope. Not a huge fan of the cold.
21. Hopped a fence – yes
22. Storm Chasing – no. I’m a scardy cat…however, I was in my house when a tornado jumped through my yard!
23. Protest – nope
24. Go on Safari – nope
25. Visit the Giza Pyramids – nope
26. Visit the Taj Mahal – nope
27. Visit the Grand Canyon – nope
28. Ride a Horse – yes, during a girl scout outing in elementary school…I am afraid of them as a result. It bucked up on two legs and freaked me out!
29. See the Ballet – yes. It’s enjoyable but not my favorite. I prefer Broadway.
30. Go to the Opera – yes, same as ballet
31. See a Show on Broadway – yes. So many! I get season tickets with my mom. I’ve also seen Wicked and The Lion King in NYC!
32. Visit the Eiffel Tower – no
33. Visit All the Countries in the World – no!
34. Visit the Great Wall of China – no
35. Walk the Kakoda Track – no
36. Have Children of Your Own – 3 adopted girls!
37. Set a Guinness World Record – not to my knowledge…who knows!
38. Learn to Surf – no
39. Hot Air Balloon Ride -no
40. Gamble in Las Vegas – nope, not a fan of gambling
41. Swim With Dolphins – yes. a very cool experience.
42. Helicopter Ride – no
43. Shower in a Waterfall – no
44. Ride an Elephant – no
45. Visit the Seven Wonders of the World – no
46. Whale Watching – no
47. New Year’s Eve in Times Square – no, but I have been to Time’s Square. All of those people in the cold doesn’t’ sound fun to me.
48. Donate Blood – yes numerous times, and I pass out every time, so I’m not able to do that any longer.
49. See the Mona Lisa – no
50. Bungee Jumping – NO NO NO NO
51. Ride a Camel in the Desert – no
52. Fly First Class -yes! I got an upgrade once and it was great!
53. Go to Mardi Gras – no, but I’ve been to Bourbon Street in New Orleans.  Again, the thought of all those people at once sounds terrible.
54. Zip Line – nope
55. Paint Ball – nope
56. Get a Tattoo – yes
57. Ride in a Limousine – yes
58. Paraglide – no
59. Go to Oktoberfest – no
60. Swim With Sharks – no
61. Run a Marathon – not a formal one. I’ve done a few 5k races though.
62. Go on a Cruise – yes…3. Once solo. I’m not a cruise person, I get bored.
63. Get a University Degree – yes (2)
64. Publish a Book – ALMOST! I am in the process of finishing the book and then trying to get a publishing deal!
65. Grape Stomping – no
66. Backpack Europe – no
67. Hold a Tarantula – no
68. Hold a Baby Sloth, in the Amazon Rain Forest – lol, no
69. Hold a Koala – no
70. Float in the Dead Sea – no…but I have done a float loft. A cool experience!
71. Go Zorbing – not even sure what that is?
72. Cliff Dive – yes
73. Fly a Plane – yes! A small 4 passenger.
74. Walk the Sydney Harbour Bridge – no
75. Attend Coachella – no
76. Be a Part of a Flash Mob – no
77. Visit Niagara Falls – when I was 2…I don’t remember it at all of course
78. Drive Route 66 – no
79. Gondola Ride – no
80. Volunteer – yes! a lot… It’s amazing for a person’s self worth!
81. Trek the Inca Trail – no
82. Water ski – no, I’m fearful of water…
83. Jump off a Bridge – no, but I have been cliff jumping
84. Cooking Class – no
85. Sleep in a Castle – no
86. Ancient Ruins – no
87. Ride an Ostrich – no, do people do this?
88. Parasail – yes, a great experience!
89. Host an Exchange Student – no
90. Build a Treehouse – no
91. Learn to Ballroom Dance -no
92. Sit on a Jury -not yet
93. Sleep Under the Stars – yes! a few times at my families cabin
94. Ride a Bull – no

Uncategorized

Book Review: Last Lecture

This book was recommended to me by a client and I am so glad it was! Last Lecture is a phenomenal memoir.  It follows the last few months of life for Randy Pausch.  He was an esteemed professor at Carnegie Mellon University.  When Randy was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he embarked on the journey to write his “Last Lecture” (to an audience of peers and students…although his intended audience is really his three young children). 

Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture was focused on helping others achieve their childhood dreams.  I was most amazed at the life lessons tied into this lecture.  I found myself highlighting, underlining and taking notes throughout. Since reading it, it is a book that I gift to people I love for big life events!

I strongly recommend you read the book AND watch the last lecture here!

Inspiration, mental health

What if?

I’m sure you’ve heard of affirmations and positive self-talk by now. I am sure you know that on some level, they are useful tools to build your self-worth and self-esteem; however, I am also sure that there are times in which the statements are too much of a stretch for you. If the gap between your current mentality and the positive affirmation is too wide, you are likely to give up and avoid practicing. So, what’s the answer???

The answer is “what if”.

What if you believed them. What if you added “what if” to the beginning of the affirmation as a bridge to cross the wide gap? Take a look at the affirmations below and I’ll show you below how to implement the “what if” strategy!

You may struggle to believe “I have the power to control my thoughts”, especially if you struggle with anxiety and rumination. If it feels like Susie Sunshine is harassing you in reading that first affirmation, try reading git like this:

“What if I have the power to control my thoughts?” …does that feel any more realistic? I feel like it can make a huge difference in the choices you make because if there is a chance that you DO have power and control over your thoughts, you might be less likely to give into your next impulsive urge!

Let’s look at the last one on the pink page for a second example: “I am worthy of good things”. If you are struggling with that idea, try stating internally “what if I am worthy of good things?” and let your day unfold from there!

What do you think…are you more likely to use affirmations if you could add “what if” as the bridge?