DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Four Options with Any Problem

I am struck by the quickness with which we feel we do not have a choice.  I hear myself (and others) saying things like “I didn’t have a choice…” or “I guess I have to…” on a regular basis and yet I am also equally struck by the concept that we do have a choice! In any given moment and with every given situation, you always have a multitude of choices!

I DBT we teach that a person always has four choices in coping with a problem:

  • Solve the problem

This is quite possibly the worst one on this list because if it were so simple, I think we all WOULD solve our own problems!  What is valid about this option is that we must take time to assess what the actual problem is and determine whether it is in our control or not.  If we are determining that the problem is: my spouse folds the towels wrong then I would challenge you and say that you need to dig deeper and look at what role you play in the scenario.  We might discover that the real problem is: I am clinging to my preference as to how the towels are folded and judging my spouse as incompetent.  In the second version of the problem, we now can apply the strategies below to solve the problem in a more creative way.

  • Change your opinion/thoughts/beliefs about the problem (one of my favorite…more below)

In continuing with the same problem above, we could work to change how we are thinking about the towels.  We could have a more comical thought: The way the towels are folded does not change their absorbency. You could have an attitude of gratitude: I am so grateful that my spouse took time to fold the towels.  You could have a change in your thought process: I never thought to fold them like that, I’ll give their way a try and see if I like it better.

  • Accept the situation (ie: stop lamenting how bad it is and accept that it just IS, letting go of your anger and resentment about the situation)

This option allows you to not get so angry every time you see the towels folded differently than you prefer.  It allows you to look at the towel and recognize that it is a towel, not a symbol of spousal defiance.  It allows you to see your partner as a partner, not a nuisance.  I also love this option due to the freedom it brings.  There is a freedom in not getting so angry about the “little things” or about the things in life that are out of your control.

  • Stay miserable (and/or make it worse).

This is the option we all tend to jump to! We belittle people we love, we yell and scream over things that really don’t alter our life’s course.  We throw things, we hurl insults, we give the silent treatment, we make passive aggressive gestures and comments that only serve to fuel the fire.  This option does not take into account the long-term goals (staying married) and only pays attention to the short-term urge.

 

Which do you jump to?

Which do you think would be the most effective one for you to start using more?

Take time this week to press pause when you feel yourself preparing to engage in a problematic reaction to a (perceived) problem and take a moment to ponder these 4 choices.  You may be able to free yourself from potential negative consequences!

doors

Advertisements
Inspiration, mental health

Stuck.

revisited from (and updated)

 

What do you do when you are stuck?

  • stuck in a meeting
  • stuck in traffic
  • stuck in line at the store
  • stuck at home?

The reasons for stuck-ness are innumerable…mandated attendance, weather, the person in front of you can’t move, illness (hello flu season!); however, the feelings associated are typically the same: anger, annoyance, resentment, frustration.  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! To my amazement, the longest wait time was 2 minutes 45 seconds.  Really??….the line was LONG when I walked in! 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 and I can cope”

  1. 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…

  1. 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 I am grateful for, or I can just enjoy this time to breathe!

  1. 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 a great way to make the situation worse.  Accept that you are where you are! (this will reduce suffering).

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

DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Meditation 101

Formal Zen meditation is the type that I practice and encourage my friends, family, clients, etc to practice also.  Notice I said practice…yes, sitting upright and still requires PRACTICE! The basic components are:

  1. Sit upright and still on meditation cushions (zafu and zabuton) with three points of contact with the floor to stabilize you.  This should be a comfortable position and should not cause straining.  For example, if you cannot get yourself into lotus position, don’t! It is encouraged that you find a position that you can hold for the duration of the meditation without discomfort.  Frequent shifting is discouraged, I recommend that you experiment with different positions in your first few weeks.

download

 

  1. Clear your mind as best you can and focus on either nothing or your breathing.
  2. Practice non-attachment when you notice your mind drifting (as it will) by gently bringing your attention back to your breathing. The reality is that your mind will wander and it will wander more when you are new to meditation and/or when your stress is higher.  We can acknowledge this without judging ourselves or the practice.  It is simple, not easy! Many people complain that they feel MORE anxious when they try to quiet their mind…which may be true because they have removed all of the distractions that they normally put between their feelings and their consciousness.  Ride that wave, calmness will follow. It reminds me of snorkeling in choppy water…the water is only choppy until you put your head under the water to see the reef below!
  3. Length of meditation varies, the magic isn’t in the number of minutes; rather it is in the willingness to practice steps 1-3 over and over and over.  Meditation is a muscle that most of us forget we have, thus it is out of shape and needs to be worked consistently over time.

The benefits of sitting practice are innumerable.  Science finds that:

Benefits-of-Meditation

You can really meditate whenever your want, where-ever you want, with whoever you want. I recommend group meditation in the beginning…think about how much you cognitively know about exercising and eating healthy vs what you actually do in your day-to-day life…? I find that group meditation holds you accountable and achieves better results just as group exercise does! Most major cities have group meditations or a zen center to provide this structure.

 

 

Inspiration, Journaling, mental health

The Sound of Silence

In 2005 I took a trip as a college credit across the United States in a 15 passenger van with 12 other students that I really didn’t know.  The purpose of the trip was to experience different cultures and create art in ways that I could not experience in my Midwestern campus life.  The most inspiring part of the trip for me, that has left a lasting imprint on my psyche was a hike down into Canyon de Chelly in Arizona.  Hiking down into the basin of the canyon was the only time I have every experienced true Oneness with the world.

I recall a specific moment during the descent in which I subsequently felt minuscule and gigantic…and immediately started crying! In this one moment, I remember seeing a small flower growing out of a rock.  I was so much more complex, large, and evolved than this plant AND at the same time I looked across this canyon and realized that I am a tiny speck on this planet.  The hike into the Canyon is 1 1/4 miles each way and I would estimate that I had this experience about 1/3 of the way down.  I hiked the rest of the way with complete awareness of the awe of nature.

This is the sound of silence.

 

View of Canyon de Chelly

 

How would you capture silence in a photograph? Is it a positive image like this one, showing a much-needed break? Or is it the opposite, revealing the lack of communication in a friendship or the dangers of not speaking out? Show us your interpretation in a new post.

Inspiration, mental health

Things I learned from my 5 year old daughter:

1. Tell other people they are beautiful if you think they are.

It never ceases to amaze me how kind-hearted and honest kids can be. The truth is, I am shy! My daughter doesn’t get her outgoing nature from me! And yet…even today as we were walking into a building, she turned to another little girl (a stranger, approximately 9 years old) and said “you’re beautiful!” to her….and the little girl smiled so big and said “thanks! you are too!”

IT WAS AMAZING! In what world would two adult women (strangers) exchange compliments like that!?!

Furthermore, she does this often…grocery stores, church, etc…If she thinks you are beautiful, she will let you know 🙂

2. Dancing is a guaranteed mood boost.

Again…shy mom…NOT SHY kid! She can dance and dance and dance…My child will hear the faintest music in a store and break out dancing to her heart’s desire! It has taught me to join in occasionally…and it ALWAYS cheers me up 🙂

3. Slow and steady wins the race.

Being the mom of a preschooler is hard.  There are a LOT of comparisons.  There are parenting books about which parenting books to read! At every turn it seems like your preschooler is falling behind because she doesn’t know 7 languages and can’t write her entire name in cursive… but what I am learning right along side her, is that comparisons are crap.  Kids all get there in their own time and no amount of stress is going to speed them up, if anything, it will slow them down.

 

So think about your own life, what would be different if you were vocally kinder, danced more, and stopped comparing yourself to others?

Inspiration, mental health

Rise Up

A new year has me reflecting on words that spark passion in me.  Words that make me want to do better, be better, try harder…(yes…a word can do that for me!). Today I choose RISE.

When I think of the word rise, here’s what comes to mind:

  • sunrise
  • bread rising
  • Jesus rising from the dead
  • the phrase “rise up”
  • people rising up against something
  • a mountain peak rising against the horizon
  • the phrase “rise and shine”
  • my grandma saying “early to bed, early to rise, makes you healthy, wealthy and wise”

Every single one of these associations has a positive connection in my mind! I think of the freshness, the renewed energy, the promise that is associating with something rising, and that makes me think it is a perfect word for January! January is the rising of a new year, the sun has set on 2017 and nothing can be done to change it.

For me, as I have shared, my goal this year is mostly centered on building my business Your Mental Restoration in an effort of achieving my larger goal of helping others optimize their mental health.  I see my role as being a hand that reaches down into the dust of the depression pit, into the chaos of an anxious mind and reaches through the brick walls of anger in an effort of helping even one person to have better mental health.  I know that as I work on this goal, it will also propel me to naturally work on others; as we know that helping others is  surefire way to help ones’ self!

I hope that you think of a way to help yourself rise against the strife that 2017 brought for so many.  I hope that you create a vision that inspires you as a majestic mountaintop inspires many.  I hope that you find habits that help you to rise and shine each morning much as the words my grandma shared with me have guided me.

Happy 2018! It’s not over yet so we can’t call it a loss, don’t dare have actions that make it seem like you think it already is!

Inspiration, mental health

New Years Resolution. Fact or Crap?

In general, I vow not to make “New Year’s Resolutions”; I find them to be laden with high expectations and low follow through which leads to disappointment, depression and shame.  I am not; however, anti goal-setting or anti intention-setting.  In fact, my strategy has been for the last few years, to choose a word or theme that I deem to be my word or phrase of the impending year.

In order to set an intention for 2018, you must first tread into the land of goals and resolutions.  You need to ask yourself several self-inquiry questions:

  1. What am I proud of accomplishing in 2017?
  2. What do I regret doing and not doing?
  3. What do I want people to think about me? What kind of reputation do I want? If people described me in three words, what words would I want them to use?
  4. What is going well in my family life? What would I like to see improve?
  5. What is going well for me financially and what would I like to work on?
  6. How is my self-care? My health? Am I taking care of my body? What is a realistic area that I could improve on?
  7. How do I feel about my connections in life? Spiritually? Relationships with peers? Family? Co-workers?
  8. Am I living according to the values that are important to me? What do I feel passionately about?

I would encourage you to journal long and hard on these topics.  Research the ones that stand out to you.  Ask (trusted) people in your life what they think about your functioning in each area.

Once you have explored what went well last year and what areas you would like to grow in 2018, start looking for commonalities in your answers.  Do you see a common theme? If so…that might be something you can boil down into a word/phrase! If not, that’s ok! Triage your answers into your top one or two areas for growth and work to find a commonality between those two.  Don’t be afraid to use http://www.thesaurus.com/ to find a word that really speaks to you.

That’s it! That’s the hard part…once you have your word or phrase for 2018, shout it out, what is yours?!  I would encourage you to make it public so that your are more likely to achieve results.

 

My word for 2018 is BUILD.

Inspiration

Real Life Moments

As I walk through my house turning off the lights…heading toward bed, there are things that catch my eye…things that fill my heart with joy, love, peace…

I cannot imagine my home without these things, although some are new; some are fleeting…yet all make a home.

I want to share with you the images that when I rest my eyes upon, fill me with such positive emotions, such positive thoughts!

First we have the artwork on the fridge. No…I am not the mom that keeps all art; rather I prefer to truly savor each peace. If I find myself walking past without notice, it is time for a fresh picture!

I could stare at this for eternity. A tree covered in the love of hand painted and hand crafted ornaments, stockings hung in anticipation: a reminder of the magic of Christmas, and my “happy painting” that is a staple of our main room. No matter how messy life can become…a reminder to live it fully!

This little piggy stayed home. This little piggy has been in my life for as long as I can recall. I remember emptying his contents as I prepared to head off to college, emptying it’s contents in a panic when trying to “adult” (unsuccessfully at times!) and now I look at this piggy with prolongued grief as I am aware of the cracks that will oneday (soon) expand and shatter my trusty sidekick…likely the result of me using it as a step stool and a chair one too many times in childhood!

Guidance. As is necessary in all endeavors. Knowing that the answers are there, waiting, anytime I care to ask the questions.

A reminder that our mindset matters…and that just as we can strengthen our muscles…we can strengthen our minds to seek the good in life.
Post a photo or two below. Share with us…where are your peaceful places?

DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Validation to Improve Relationships

Validation is the ability to communicate to another person that they, their perceptions, their feelings and/or their opinions are valid.  Our world tends to be quite Invalidating, in that we are berated with the message that we aren’t enough and we don’t make sense.  It reminds me of the teacher that we all had, that would correct your response even if you read from the text the exact answer.  Validation is a skill that will instantly improve relationships, especially if you learn to validate and then STOP.  The STOP is about not jumping into problem solving.  Think about how it feels when people hurl solutions to you (have you tried____________??) without taking time to understand the problem or communicate to you that the problem is anywhere near valid.

Validation requires you to find the truth in another person’s point of view.  This means that no matter how ___________ (dumb, pointless, absurd, irrational) you deem their experience to be, if you want to expedite their calming down, it is necessary for you to validate something. Validating is not the same as agreeing with them if you truly do not.  You could say something like “I can see that you are really passionate about this” or “It sounds like you had a difficult day and it has you feeling really depressed”.  If you agree with them, you can be more validating by saying “I think it makes sense that you feel that way” or “given your background, I understand why his statement bothered you”.  Letting someone know that you hear them will aide in their ability to calm down and thus problem solve.

Some tips for validating

  1. Make eye contact, stop what you are doing and put your phone down. Communicate to the other person that they are important enough that you can give undivided attention
  2. Pay attention to their body language and whether it is congruent (think slumped teenager saying “I’m fine” and attend to the one you believe is more authentic
  3. Be open to correction. If I think you have your head down because you are disinterested in what I am saying, I need to remain open to you correcting me and telling me you have a headache
  4. Communicate to them with your words, that you think the make sense either because of their history or because ANYONE would feel that way given their circumstances
  5. In unique situations, share the feeling with them (not one-upping them, not taking the focus off of them) ie: when they get REALLY good or REALLY bad news

 

I have a feeling that if you reflect on who you like to spend time with, they are a fairly validating people! If you can channel that person, it may be easier to validate by thinking “what would _________ say?” Take time to practice!