blue skies
DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Meditation Saves Lives



This is my all time favorite representation of the power of meditation. I encourage you to watch the video and reflect on what it could mean for you. When he gets overwhelmed with the multiplying flies (his thoughts, which only multiply when you refuse to let them be) and places his hands over his ears, I am moved to goosebumps. It helps me see that I am not the only one who gets overwhelmed with racing thoughts and I am not the only one that has an INCREASE in racing thoughts when I first sit down to clear my mind.
If you can embrace the thoughts for what they are, blips on the radar and not feed into them, you will find that they settle on their own.

A few great FREE resources for new meditators:

https://www.mindfulleader.org/meditate-together
Insight timer app
YouTube guided meditations

red gray and yellow abstract painting
DBT, Inspiration, mental health, parenting

Sick and Tired?

I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. I am fed up with feeling exhausted and having a pity party because:

  • I don’t have time
  • I can’t find a sitter
  • I have kids with me
  • I have a to-do list
  • I have chronic pain
  • I have a full-time job

The reality is that I have to make the time, I have to accommodate having kids with me, accepting that not all things need to get done at the same time, off and on nagging pain will always be a part of my life, work will be there and work can wait. I have to create the opportunities that I’ve been wanting to have fall in my lap.

This has all come to a head this week as my gym’s kids club keeps shutting down for staffing issues. I fell into a bit of a woe is me pit because as a working mom, it isn’t fair. I have an amazing husband who tells me to go to the gym anyway and he’ll watch the kids, but as I already take time away from my kids and husband during the work week, I feel too guilty taking more time for the gym. So, I must take my own advice (see Overcoming Obstacles as A Working Parent) and make it happen. After my pity party cleared out, I was able to see clearly that I do have options available to me:

  1. My office complex has a very mediocre gym, on-site. Let’s face it, I’m not a body builder and this will be sufficient!
  2. It’s spring and I can resume walking around the block, bicycling, and playing outdoors with my kids for more physical activity.
  3. Instead of paying $90 as a copay to every doctor I see, I can spend $90 on supplements one per month to optimize how my body is working.
  4. I can eat healthier…that one doesn’t cost anything.
  5. I can resume daily journaling to improve my clarity and mental health.
  6. I can resume reading to improve my self-image.

I could keep adding to my list, but the reality is: I have choices. I can take control of this ship and steer it in the direction I’d like to go and you can too! Find an accountability buddy (I have different friends and co-workers that I write with, read with (book discussions after we read books on our own), apps that prompt healthy habits, etc…and before long, I know that the habits will be self-reinforcing because the payoff will be worth the effort.

hands people friends communication
Inspiration, mental health, parenting

Three Ways You Can Show Meaningful Love to Your Person/People

  1. Explore and communicate in their love language

The love languages are a couple’s therapist most basic tool; however, that being said, I am a big fan! The five love languages are ways that people can express love and ways that people receive love (quality time, words of affirmation, touch, gifts, acts of service). Oftentimes we see that couples and parent/child dyads are misaligned. This isn’t a bad thing but it does take effort to understand and address. If you want your person (spouse, partner, child, friend) to feel loved, you MUST learn to communicate in THEIR love language, not your own. The inverse is also true, if you aren’t feeling loved, it is probably because they are communicating in a love language that doesn’t register with you as much. This can be fixed relatively quickly, there is hope!

A great example is that for me, my love language is NOT touch. I am not a hugger or a touchy feely person; however, one of my daughters is touch person, she NEEEEEEEEDS touch to feel loved. This means that I have to work hard to remember to be (what feels to me like) extra touchy with her: snuggles, back rubs, lotioning, hand-holding, etc. so that she feels my love. Another of my daughters prefers quality time. This means that for her, it’s more important that I sit down and play with her, read with her, take walks with her, etc. Learning to communicate in the right love language will save you so much time and effort in the long run!

I’d challenge you to take the love languages quiz (this can be found via a Google search or on the 5 Love Languages app) and let your people know the results. Then you can ask them to take the quiz and share their results with you.

  1. Play board games

It doesn’t matter who you are trying to connect with, board games are connecting. Playing board games require you to sit down with someone, giving them your full attention and share with them your true personality. You can choose to engage in a game that either brings the two of you together toward a common goal (a cooperative game) or pits you against one another (competitive game) – either way, you will find yourself feeling calmer, happier, and closer to the person (and calmer, happier and closer to yourself!

I always chuckle at the eye rolls that I get from people when I suggest board games because it seems that universally, people think they’re “lame” AND universally, when people actually play games, they have FUN! Board games may be “old school”, but they stand the test of time. Whether your loved one is 2 years old or 100 years old, there are board games out there…a small amount of research will unveil a hidden nerd-centric world that you didn’t even know existed. Check it out!

  1. Go for walks and hold hands (if appropriate)

My husband and I enjoy going for walks around the block after our children go to bed (don’t worry, with the technology in our world – house and bedroom cameras, smart locks, etc. – they’re safe when we take a .5 mile walk in a square around our home). This time is often the most connected we are all day because we hold hands, walk without screens, and discuss our days. We process our fears and hopes and find the time to be a safe space to be vulnerable. The movement is a bonus because it allows us to let go of our anxieties and use movement to release our daily frustrations. We often come up with our best ideas on these walks!

Kids and friends also enjoy walking with their people. One of my daughter’s favorite rewards, is being able to take a walk around the above mentioned block with me before school. We also hold hands and see the same benefits that I’ve already mentioned. Friendships would benefit from the same practice! Walking with neighbors, friends, or co-workers can bring you closer together (although the hand-holding is likely not going to be as relevant)! You can get to know so much about people just by spending committed time with them, without the distractions of screens and the pings of your phone.

If you’ve been feeling lonely, I would challenge you to follow these tips for one week and see how you feel. Journal about how you feel before the challenge and then again each day of the challenge. Are you feeling more connected? Less lonely? Do you find yourself feeling more loved and important to your people? What surprises you about the experience? What were the challenges to implement the practices?

Inspiration, mental health

Self-Worth – What Is It and How to Increase It

Worth is the value of something placed on it by society or yourself. Worth is subjective and is up for discussion which is why some people have a difficult time believing a compliment.

I am sure you can think of an item you own (or owned in the past, even as a child) that you placed more worth on than society would have, it came from within. For me, I have had a treasured rock collection, special tattered quilts, and I currently still have a Fozzie Bear Muppet Baby figurine that is precious to me from my childhood. I place high worth on them, and I am aware that other people may not find them to be worth anything at all.

Improving your self-worth must come from within. You will need to determine that you are worthy of your own time, attention, and resources and until you do that, it is likely that others will ignore your requests and will see you as a push-over. People with low self-worth often make jokes at their own expense and are not likely to speak up for their preferences. If others laugh along at the jokes or do not pick up on minor preferences that are casually mentioned, the person uses their confirmation bias to determine that it is proof of their low worth. I mentioned earlier in the book that I would use your love for your children to manipulate you: this chapter is one place I will do that. If you want your children to have healthy self-worth, you must lead by example.

Self-esteem and self-worth can be thought of as synonymous. Self-esteem cannot be bought; it must be earned. That means that unless you set a goal and struggle to reach it (be that at work, with parenting, in a hobby, financially, etc.), you will not feel good about yourself.

Ideas for Raising your Self-Worth:

  • Treat your body as a sacred place.

This means that you recognize the mind-body connection and treat your physical body accordingly. You understand that chronic stress and anger take a dramatic toll on your physical and emotional well-being. You can reverse that toll by taking the steps that you know lead to healthier life.

  • Stop smoking and/or vaping.
    • Exercise regularly.
    • Drink water as a primary beverage.
    • Go for walks.
    • Stretch.
    • Eat fruits and vegetables every day.
    • Limit fast food and junk food.
    • Visit the dentist twice per year and the primary care doctor yearly.

To prioritize any of the mentioned suggestions here for healthier living forces you to engage in an action that only someone who thinks their life is worthy would do. You might have to “fake it” initially, but I know that over time you will develop a sense of pride over the healthy choices you are making. In time, that pride will increase your self-worth!

  • Values-based living.

Values-based living is a concept that I introduced in chapter one. If you have time, go back, and re-read that section and see if you have taken any strides toward values-based living in the time it has taken you to read the last 4 chapters. If you have not taken any actions that are aligned with your previously identified values, that is ok! That might be a sign to pick a different value to start with, to recommit to your prior plan, or to evaluate what got in your way and problem solve it.

Living according to your values raises your self-worth because it is not always a convenient thing to do, and yet you are taking actions that tell yourself and the world, that you are worth it. You are worth your own time, attention, and resources.

  • Journal and meditate.

Self-reflection is not something a person does if they think they are worthless. They do not believe their thoughts, time or attention are worthy of evaluation or recording on paper. They believe they are disposable and that others see them as disposable. I hope that you do not believes those things about yourself.

Journaling can help us to see patterns in our thinking and your behaviors. When we find problematic patterns, we can journal to explore solutions and problem solving. In doing so, you give yourself the message that your problems are worth solving, your moods are worth improving and your relationships are worth saving. There is more information on journaling in chapter seven.

Meditation achieves a similar result without the writing. When you meditate in any fashion (such as clearing the mind, listening to a meditation recording, focusing on a mantra or affirmation, praying, etc.) you will generally find a sense of peace and clarity that seems to magically improve your abilities to cope, and problem solve. You would not take time for such an activity if you did not believe you deserved such an experience. I believe that meditating and journaling on a regular basis will improve your self-worth because they are actions that tell yourself that you are worth your own time and energy!

  • Celebrate your wins (somewhat unapologetically).

People who have low self-esteem feel ashamed and embarrassed by their accomplishments. They are likely to think that they do not deserve celebration and/or their success was a fluke. If you fall into this category, you will need to practice acknowledging that you worked hard and that your success was earned, and you will need to accept compliments and/or praise from others with a “thank you” and not a self-deprecating remark. Your success is just as well earned as anyone else’s. You made the choices in life that yielded the results you have; when it pans out in your favor, accept the congratulations from others and pat yourself on the back!

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.)

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?

anonymous young lady paddling boat in lake during trip in mountains
DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

I cannot express enough, the power and efficacy of progressive muscle relaxation. By and large, it is one of the best treatments for stress and anxiety.  For my clients struggling with chronic anxiety, difficulty falling asleep, and the stress of a chaotic lifestyle, I routinely recommend this type of meditation.  I encourage you to utilize this video as a way to sink into a calm mental place and enjoy the peace it brings.

If you tend to be an anxious person, progressive muscle relaxation is a simple and easy tool that can take your baseline from an 8/10 to a 5/10 which will improve focus, improve sleep, decrease racing thoughts, release muscle tension…all for free!

Modern technology is quite a blessing in this regard. Gone are the days when you would have to purchase relaxation CD’s…using YouTube, it’s quite simple to find a guided meditation that works for you and your style.  Consider searching terms such as “progressive muscle relaxation”, “paced breathing”, loving kindness, and/or relaxation meditation.