DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Hiking

I love to hike. At the risk of sounding like one of those health-nut hippie, save-the-earth types, I must encourage you to join me in my love of hiking! When I say hiking, I am sure most of you think of long, strenuous trips across rugged and lonely trails; and while sometimes that is true, often it’s a shorter jaunt down a simple path.

A hike, in my opinion, is any walk taken in nature with no electronic devices. A hike could be .25 miles at a local park or 4 miles at a larger campground, forest, nature preserve, etc

Here are a FEW (of many) reasons why hiking matters so much:

  • Metaphors – look at this tree.  Do you ever feel like you are barely hanging on? This tree gets it! I love finding trees near creeks that have exposed roots or like this, mid-forest, that remind me that all living beings have such hidden strength! When you feel like you’re going to fall apart, nature will visibly show you that you have deep roots and strength that you never thought imaginable!

  • Slow down – Scenes like the one below remind me to STOP.  Nature has a way of being serene and subtle…and in a world that seems to be going at break-neck speeds, a reminder to slow down is more than required for me!

  • Connect – as a parent, sometimes my kids drive me crazy! Whether you have kids or not, hiking reminds me to connect and bond with those I love.  I often hike alone, and still come out with more appreciation and love for those in my life! The quiet stillness of nature prompts a lot of internal reflection on relationships and where I want to put my energy.  When hiking with friends/family, I am reminded what I love about them.  Without all of the distractions in other life-realms, hiking lets me see their true self and appreciate why I have invited them into my life.

  • Listen – while nature is generally quiet, it really isn’t! Hearing something like the waterfall in this photo reminds me to tune into what’s really happening in my life. Listening reminds me to tune into what is really happening: in my body, in my home, at work, in my mind, etc. As a culture, we don’t always take time to hear what other’s are saying to us…we look but don’t see and we hear but don’t listen.

 

If you are familiar with Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, I encourage you to find as many skills as you can within hiking.  I will tell you that for me, it’s almost all of them!

  • Within the mindfulness module: I observe, describe and participate in hiking.  I do it one-mindfully, effectively and non-judgmentally.  Hiking helps me get into my wise mind, when I am struggling with fiery impulses of emotion mind or analysis paralysis of rational mind.
  • Within the emotion regulation module: Hiking allows me to implement self-inquire needed to explore what is happening with my cycle of emotions. It reduces my future vulnerabilities.  Hiking reminds me to check the facts in situations that I am struggling with. It is a clear example of building mastery, accumulating positives (long and short term), prioritizing my physical activity/health,
  • Within the distress tolerance module: I do use hiking as intense exercise and while hiking I often do paced breathing (TIPP skill), hiking is a distracting activity that generates different emotions and some strong sensations (cold stream water, muscle fatigue) which are parts of ACCEPTS. I use a lot of the IMPROVE strategies in the woods (finding prayer and meaning, being on a mini-vacation, being one in the moment, etc).  Lastly, hiking is almost always a required component for me to work toward radical acceptance!
  • Within the interpersonal effectiveness module: hiking is a time that I can reflect on my current conflicts and plan out DEARMAN communication strategies.  It seems to put things into perspective faster than in any other setting.

 

So what are you waiting for? Get out there! Hiking is free and can open up personal change in a way you may have struggled to experience before!

 

DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Mindfulness and Hot Tea

I was sitting here reflecting on what to write about when I noticed my mug of tea.  To some, it may seem irrelevant; however I try not to do things that aren’t on purpose (meaning, I like to be mindfully awake to my life: what and why I make choices).  Mindfulness means that you happen to your life, not the other way around.  When I used to be less aware and less mindful, I would often go all day without drinking anything…or i’d be half way through a frappachino before I realized that I had ordered it.

Being mindful and tuning into my body, my emotions, my urges, my sensations…has allowed me to notice when I am thirsty, when my body needs a hug, when I am feeling overwhelmed.  This is not a bad thing or a thing to fear as many believe; rather, it allows me the chance to make wise-minded choices.

Hot tea is like a warm hug from the inside.  When I sip my tea, I feel nurtured and cared for.  It reminds me to slow down.  The process of making tea can be a mindful practice on it’s own: experiencing the smells, sounds, sensations, etc.  Hot tea is not something I drink fast either, which makes it a lovely reminder to slow down and enjoy this one moment. The reality is, that all we have is this one moment. Now is now. You might as well enjoy it!

The reality is that my moment currently doesn’t look as beautiful as the photo above…yet when I close my eyes and take a sip, I can transport myself to that photo each time!

Inspiration, mental health

Is life sucky right now? GOOD!

A friend of mine sent this to me recently after I was having a difficult time emotionally.  I got to thinking about what Jocko is saying in this video.  It is so easy (SO EASY) to fall into the pit of despair…the “it’s not fair” lifestyle…the woe is me attitude…

…and yet is is so POINTLESS to go there; stagnation doesn’t produce growth.  We have to WAKE UP to our lives and realize that we have CHOICES…every single moment of our life presents us with CHOICES…

I love when someone tells me that I can’t do something. This video reminded me of the “watch me” mentality that I adopt when someone doubts me.  I am not a weak, dependent female…I am not incapable…

I am:

  • a role model to my girls
  • a strong independent woman
  • a proud survivor
  • a motivator
  • a teacher
  • a brilliant thinker
  • a talented artist

 

….and I became all of these things out of the struggle! The hurricanes that life throws at us are an AMAZING gift because they make us who we are! They make us stronger and more resilient! Embrace the struggle and have faith that you will come through this and you will be able to help others once you are on the other side.

So I ask…who are you?

 

watch meI can

Inspiration, mental health

Self Care Life Hacks

  1. Bring a water bottle with you EVERYWHERE. Seriously, hydration affects everything from our skin to our moods. The ripple effect of dehydration makes us moody, constipated, and our bodies will start to crave any foods we see (regardless of health content) because our body can leach water from the food. I most commonly hear people complain about the taste of water fountain water…I challenge you to conquer this fear as the cost of NOT drinking water fountain water is so steep.  You can certainly fill it before leaving your home with your water of choice…but in a pinch, fill up! Take the leap and buy the water bottle you have been lusting after…it is a small price to pay for the benefits reviewed.
  2. Take time at the beginning of your week to review your schedule and make a plan for when you will eat each day. This seems to be the first thing people skip and again, the consequences have a negative ripple effect on everyone you encounter (including yourself)! Each morning, make sure you have a stash of healthy snacks available in your bag, car, purse and/or desk. The magic time frame that you don’t want to exceed is 4 hours between meals.  The kindest thing you can do for your blood sugar is to keep it stable.
  3. Eat raw. There are oodles of studies that show the health benefits of eating raw fruits/veggies/nuts/seeds; there is even indication for reduced risk of cancer! Eating raw produce, nuts, and/or seeds also provides you with the nutrients, fiber, fluids and energy that you need for optimal mood end energy stamina to get through the day! I would encourage you to always keep your fridge (home and work) stocked with produce and cheerlead yourself into eating it before it goes bad! Some are easier than others to take on the road: bananas, apples and carrot sticks travel quite well.
  4. Meditate. I know…big eye rolls from about 75% of you. Mediation doesn’t have to mean full on lotus position for 60 minutes; mediation could mean you close your eyes and take 10 slow deep breaths to re-center yourself and then resume your day. Longer periods of quiet reflection time can produce more long-lasting benefits, yet you need to start somewhere!
  5. Go outside. I am not sure of an easier and more FREE life hack than going outside for fresh air and sunshine! The act of walking away from the task at hand, improving blood circulation and taking slow cleansing breaths will provide you with renewed energy and fresh perspective. Stand firm and insist on breath breaks…just as smokers insist on smoke breaks! If you have time on your drive home, stop at a local park and take a moment to yourself. Whether walking or sitting on a bench, enjoy nature.
  6. Take the stairs and the “bad” parking spot. We live a more sedentary lifestyle than ever before; we even have to rely on pedometer devices to encourage us to move our bodies! A quick few hacks for how to get more steps are to take the stairs more often (use a restroom on a different floor, don’t take elevators, make yourself go to a different floor of your house more often) and to opt for a really bad parking spot (ie: the one FURTHEST from your destination!).
DBT, mental health

Noticing in Nature

Continuing with the message from my previous post, I would like to share some nature (landscape, animal, plants) photography from my Texas vacation.  Nature photography is a way for me to cue myself; to remind myself to slow down and really observe.  I am fascinated, in awe of the variety and uniqueness in each plant (the same is true of each human)!  I wish we all remembered to slow down and smell the roses more often, this practice is a hidden gem that will always calm me (I bet you too)!

Animals are also great teachers because they don’t fear judgment at all! The giraffe doesn’t worry about whether she will will be judged for sticking her tongue out, the unidentified animal from the safari doesn’t care that it is muddy, and the peacock cares not that the people watching want him to display his tail-feathers.  Animals just are.  They are masters of being in one moment.

DBT, mental health

Learning to be mindful

I am a mindfulness teacher, and yet…I am still learning to be mindful.  I was caught off guard two days ago during a moment with my children.  We were at a nature preserve and they were playing at a free-play mud-kitchen type set-up.  They were sharing, playing together and truly enjoying themselves….and yet I found myself growing restless.  My internal dialogue was “hurry up”, “c’mon, let’s go”, “let’s go find the next thing” “I’m bored” AND it was very cool that I was fully aware of these urges to live on fast forward.

It dawned on me in that moment (thankfully), that this moment was perfect just as it was.  Sure, there are times that we must hurry children along…but this was not one of them.  In this moment, we had no where else to be.  In this moment, everyone was content.  In this moment, everything was at peace.

20180401_122401

 

Fast forward to today: we were visiting a Japanese Tea Garden (which was stunningly beautiful) and we came upon a waterfall.  Two things I am teaching the girls is to notice and point out the different colors they see in nature and to close their eyes and “just listen”.  Here is a pic of them practicing mindfulness of sound at a waterfall.

20180403_103800

I am so grateful that I have these mindfulness teachers in my life! Take some time right now, in just this one moment and take a deep breathe, exhale slowly.  Just this moment is all that exists.  There is no need to rush.

Inspiration, mental health

Yelling is Futile

Are you a “yeller”? Yelling at your kids, your dog, your spouse, your siblings, your parents, your friends?

I do fall into this pattern at times: yelling at my kids more than I intend.  Either after a bad day, a tiring day, or long stretches of grey weather.  It is futile and literally has no effect on the outcome (except that I feel awful and they avoid me)…

…so why do we do it???

In general, yelling at another person is a punishment.  From behaviorism research and theory, punishment is the least effective way to get another human to change their behavior…so…

…why do we do it???

In general, yelling at another person is a REWARD to the yeller…and we know that behaviors that are reinforced (it feels good and it relieves our pressure/stress) are likely to continue.  The fact that we feel calmer after blowing off steam keeps us coming back to it time and again, even though it does not get the results we want! So many times we want to blame others or say things like “I don’t know why I did that”, so I am here to unveil this conundrum.  We yell because yelling rewards US.  We also have a lot of beliefs surrounding yelling that reinforce the behavior:

  1. That they will take us more seriously (the opposite is true, you are probably regularly telling them to speak to you calmly and respectfully; you are not modeling the behavior which makes you a hypocrite)
  2. That they will respect us more (again, the opposite is true…see reasoning above)
  3. That they will listen better (the opposite is usually true: either they respect you less and therefore don’t listen, they might think you are blowing off steam and therefore don’t take your yelling topic seriously, or you frighten them which causes their anxiety to spike and their brain processessing abilities to tank)
  4. That they are more likely to change (research shows that they are actually just more likely to lie to you, avoid you, and resent you)

Debunking the beliefs and educating ourselves on the facts about yelling is one step toward reducing the behavior.  Taking time to understand why we act in certain ways can allow us to increase our awareness and become more mindful of our behaviors and triggers.

 

 

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

DBT, Journaling, mental health

Self-Encouragement

Today I want to introduce you to the skill of SELF-encouragement. In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) it’s taught as one part of the IMPROVE acronym. I believe that it is one of the most overlooked and under-utilized skills in the book. In short, self-encouragement is talking to you self as you would talk to a friend.

inspirational pooh

We would NEVER say to friends the negative statement that we say to ourselves. If a friend is crying to you about a life problem, I doubt you’d say “suck it up”, “get over it”, “what’s wrong with you”, etc…So why on earth would you say those things to yourself?

Furthermore, would you keep a friend around who talked to you in that way??? NO! You would avoid them like the plague.

 

So get with it and take a page from Hobby Lobby or Instagram’s book…
– print out those cutesy phrases
– follow inspirational people on social media
– splurge on that wall art that moves you
– set the backdrop of your phone and/or laptop to be motivational
– use a dry erase marker on your mirrors
– use bathtub crayons in your shower
– buy a positive though-a-day calendar
– buy the jewelry with the catchy calming phrase on it

self encouragement

Take control of that inner critic, silence the stadium full of nay-sayers in your head and BE NICE to you!

Feel free to share your favorite self-encouraging ideas, quotes and plans in the comments below.

 

Updated from original post on Edit“Self-Encouragement”

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!