Holidays can be tough. Some people love them; some people dread them.
I thought a lot about the holidays as I was writing Happier at Home, because the holiday season tends to be a time when we focus on home. Maybe you’re going “home” the way I go home to Kansas City for Christmas–which may be fun for you, or not. Maybe you’re deciding how to decorate your home. Maybe you’re making an effort to arrange the holidays the way you experienced them as a child–or the opposite. Maybe you’re feeling sad, or happy, about whom you will or won’t be seeing.
From talking to people, it seems that one of the biggest happiness challenges of the holidays is dealing with difficult relatives. You want to have a nice dinner, but Uncle Bobby makes you crazy. What to do?
1. Ahead of time, spend a few minutes thinking about how you want to behave. If you’ve had unpleasant experiences in the past, think about why they were unpleasant and what you could do to change the dynamics of the situation. Get more sleep. Give yourself more travel time. Pick a seat far away from Uncle Bobby. In particular…
2. Think about how topics that seem innocuous to you might upset someone else. You may think you’re showing a polite interest, but some questions will rub a person the wrong way: “So do you have a girlfriend yet?” “When are you two going to get married/start a family?” “Didn’t you give up smoking?” “Can you afford that?” “When are you going to get a real job?” Show an interest with more open-ended questions, like “What are you up to these days?” or “What’s keeping you busy?” Also…
3. Dodge strife. Some families enjoy arguing passionately amongst themselves; however, most don’t handle arguments very well. If you know Uncle Bobby’s views are going to drive you crazy, don’t bring up the subject! And if he brings it up, you don’t have to engage. Try to make a joke of it, and say something like, “Let’s agree to disagree,” “Let’s not talk about that, and give the rest of the family something to be thankful for,” etc.
4. Don’t drink much alcohol. It can seem festive and fun to fill up your glass, but it’s easy to lose track of how much you’re drinking. Alcohol makes some people feel merry, but it also makes some people feel combative, or self-pitying, or lowers their inhibitions in a destructive way. I basically had to give up drinking because alcohol makes me so belligerent. And if other people seem to be trying to avoid or curb their drinking (or their eating, for that matter), don’t make a big deal of it or urge them to indulge. In my study of habits for Better Than Before, it became clear to me that many people become very uneasy when they feel out of step with what others are doing, and that makes it tough for them to stick to a good habit. Don't make someone feel conspicuous or strange in what they're doing.
5. As best you can, play your part in the tradition. For some people, traditions are very, very important; for others, no. You may feel irritated by your brother’s insistence on having exactly the same food every Thanksgiving, or by your mother’s extreme reaction to your suggestion to eat dinner an hour earlier. Try to be patient and play your part. In the long run, traditions and rituals tend to help sustain happiness and family bonds. On the other hand…
6. If you’re the one who wants everything to be perfect, try to ease up on yourself and everyone else, so you can enjoy the day, whatever happens. Even if the day isn’t exactly the way you hoped it would be, try to enjoy what it is. My mother once told me, “The things that go wrong often make the best memories,” and it’s really true. And too much fussing to make an experience “perfect” can sometime ruin it altogether.
7. Find some fun. One of my Secrets of Adulthood is Just because something is fun for someone else doesn’t mean it’s fun for you, and vice versa. If the time with your relatives is meant to be fun, make sure you’re spending at least some time doing something that’s fun for you. Working in the kitchen, playing touch football, sitting around talking, running errands, watching the parade on TV—these things may or may not be fun for you, no matter how the rest of the family feels.
8. Find reasons to be grateful. Be thankful that you get to cook, or that you don’t have to cook. Be thankful that you get to travel, or that you don’t have to travel. Be thankful for your family or your friends. Be grateful for electricity and running water. Find something. Studies show that gratitude is a major happiness booster. Also, feeling grateful toward someone crowds out emotions like resentment and annoyance.
Wait, you might be thinking, these strategies don’t tell me how to deal with my difficult relatives—they tell me how to behave myself. Well, guess what! You can’t change what your difficult relatives are going to do; you can only change yourself. But when you change, a relationship changes.
by Cindy Ricardo, LMHC, CIRT, Mindfulness Based Approaches/Contemplative Approaches Topic Expert Contributor
“Stressed souls need the reassuring rhythm of self-nurturing rituals.” --Sarah Ban Breathnach
Do you find yourself doing things for others, with little or no time for yourself? Do you walk around feeling stressed out and irritable? Is there little room for joy, gratitude, and peace in your life?
If you feel like an electrical outlet on its way to burnout, it’s time to look at how and where you’re spending your energy.
Signs that you are in need of self-care:
Let’s face it: If you don’t take care of yourself, who will? Neglecting yourself to meet others’ needs can negatively impact your physical, emotional, and mental health. For example, not getting enough rest or a good night’s sleep can result in feelings of exhaustion, difficulty concentrating, increased anxiety, and irritability. Over time, the stress might settle in your shoulders, neck, and back, creating physical pain like backaches or headaches. Your appetite could be affected, leading you to eat too much—seeking to tame anxiety by eating more—or too little—under stress, the brain releases a lot more acid, which can lead to feelings of nausea or heartburn. Living with a high level of stress could lead to high blood pressure or other heart conditions. The reality is that your body is like a car: if you don’t take good care of it, it will break down!
Emotional stress is often linked to stressful thoughts. This combination can have a detrimental effect on your level of energy, mental clarity, and emotions. Years ago, a family relative was stressed and overwhelmed by the things that were happening in her life. Her mother was ill and in need of personal care. She was also going through a divorce, on an emotional rollercoaster, and walked around with a constant headache. As a result of these factors, she was overwhelmed and her ability to focus and perform at work was seriously affected. Pressure was mounting, and something was bound to happen.
One morning, she was driving. She was so overwhelmed by emotions and thoughts that she didn’t notice a red light and ended up getting into an accident. Thankfully, she wasn’t seriously injured. Emotionally, however, it was a wake-up call for her to shift perspective and identify ways to create balance in her life by attending to her needs.
Lack of self-care can lead to anger and resentment. Putting your needs last on the list creates feelings of resentment and anger and can hurt close relationships. You may feel as if others are taking advantage of you or taking you for granted. You may be angry with yourself for not setting boundaries and being assertive. Mentally berating yourself or others doesn’t help. What helps is learning how to value yourself just as much as you value others. This can be a challenging task!
There are many reasons you may have a hard time practicing self-care:
Reflect on ways to incorporate self-care into your daily routine by reviewing the following list:
When you become still enough to connect with what is going on in your body, mind, and heart, you take the first step toward self-care. It is in that moment, when you identify needs and make time to nurture yourself, that you open the door to balance and life.
May you have moments of peace.
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Cindy Ricardo, LMHC, CIRT, therapist in Coral Springs, Florida
By Justin Lioi, MSW, LCSW, GoodTherapy.org Topic Expert Contributor
Everything is connected.
Perhaps you have heard your therapist say this after you began talking about something you dismissed as tangential or irrelevant. The thing is, there really isn’t any such thing as irrelevancy in therapy.
When you allow yourself to talk about that strand of an idea, that fleeting thought, or even that object on your therapist’s shelf that caught your eye, the potential is there for you and your therapist to move into a deeper space—one that may very well be connected to what it was that brought you to therapy in the first place.
We call the thing that brings us to therapy the “presenting problem/issue.” Effective therapy doesn’t lose sight of this, but rather allows space for other things you discuss to provide valuable insight that may be quite relevant to the presenting issue. No matter what you’re talking about, there is a good chance it will lead us back to what is causing you difficulty. This is an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the issue and perhaps identify a path to relief.
HOW SOMETHING OFF-TOPIC CAN BE ANYTHING BUTOnce, during a therapy session, an offhand comment about a detail I remembered from another session prompted a question about my memory. “This is off-topic,” the man said, but he noticed that I don’t take notes … so how could I have remembered that? I didn’t think it was such a feat, so I asked him about himself—did people usually remember things he said? This led to a deep discussion about his parents forgetting his birthday when he was very young. Something he thought was “off-topic” was, in fact, connected to what he was more actively exploring in therapy.
Unsure of the benefit, people in therapy are often reluctant to talk about things they believe are unrelated to why they’re there, but let’s take a look at some important issues that can come up because you’ve been brave enough to travel down that rabbit hole with your therapist:
On one hand, I’m talking about trusting your therapist, but more than that, I’m talking about trusting yourself.
The brain, though, is a bit more mysterious. Past events--“big T” and “little t” traumas—get stored in different parts of us, different ideas. We don’t always know up front the way in, so we learn to trust our core self. We trust the part of us that has an association with a topic and we dive in. Or dip our toes in, at least.
On one hand, I’m talking about trusting your therapist, but more than that, I’m talking about trusting yourself. Trust the part of you that says, “Examine this memory for a moment, would you? Take a look at this story or why this particular feeling is popping up.”
Therapy supports our growing awareness of ourselves. It helps us become more connected with us—which, by the way, goes a long way toward having better connections with others.
It really is all connected. You are a pretty fascinating being. When we get down to it, we all are. And if we follow our humanness in whatever direction it leads us, there is a wealth of freedom and self-understanding to be realized.
Original article found at https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/its-all-connected-why-nothing-is-irrelevant-in-therapy-1104164?fbclid=IwAR1Dw9NSO12DDK_rm7AIaIe9tz2rzl6N-3V7PB7Jb6XXeVBiGdNeLBMl6O4
Resilience and hope in childhood: how children can pick themselves up, dust themselves off and believe they can.
by Kim Martinez
We hear the common words resilient and hopeful batted around like ping pong balls but we don’t always know what they mean, how they help our children or even how to tell if our child has them.
Let’s look at their definitions-
Resilient: the ability to recover quickly
Hopeful:feeling or inspiring optimism for a future event
Many others have written about these concepts.
Brene Brown speaks of hopeful as, “Hope is not a way of thinking …And it’s 100% teachable.”
Desmond Tutu explains, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”’
Gever Tulley. “ Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.”
But what does this mean for our children?
It means that with hope (the belief it will get better or be better) and the skill of being able to be resilient (the ability to recover from a negative event) children and teens can learn from and move quickly on from what might otherwise be a defeating moment or experience for someone else.
So how do we inspire hope in our children?
There are many ways to do this. Can you think of more ways to teach hopefulness to your child? How do you show your hopefulness to your children?
Focus fully on your child to help build hope and resilience.
Eva Selhub, M.D. states, “Contrary to what many people think, resilience has nothing to do with avoiding stress, hardship, or failures in life. Instead, it’s about knowing that you’ll be met with adversity and that when it happens, you’ll be prepared to take it on, learn from it, and become stronger as a result. In other words, resilience is the ability to bounce back easily and thrive in the face of life’s many inevitable challenges.
It’s true that some people are naturally more resilient than others. These folks see challenges as opportunities, are able to maintain a positive outlook, and find meaning in the struggle. For others, resilience is learned and takes continuous work.
When you’re truly resilient, adversity doesn’t get you down physically, emotionally, or psychologically (not for long, at least). And the most resilient people have an inner trust that they have the resources to handle anything. “
Resiliency is a learned behavior often passed down through generations.
Here’s how to increase your child’s resiliency and your own.
1-Take small steps to create big change. It only takes one small pebble to make a big wave. What can they do first? Next? Taking small steps towards a goal gives them a chance to taste success. With each successive small step/success, they will want to take another step.
2-Have a toolkit of coping skills ready and available that work for you and your child’s individual needs.For example, yoga, mindfulness exercises, coloring, music, dancing, going for a walk, playing with a pet, deep breathing, reading, puzzles, art, etc.
3-Learn to be flexible. Discuss all the possible ways something could go right or wrong, with all possible outcomes. How can they handle minor disappointments or major obstacles?
4-Be optimistic-Is the glass half empty? Half full? Or, as I like to say, “Is it refillable?” Seeing the positives, even in a negative situation, can be difficult. Teaching children to write gratitude down daily can help.
5-Accept support. Learn who can help and when, as well as who are your biggest fans. Lean on them when the going gets tough.
6-It’s not personal:blaming never helps and letting your brain get on the hamster wheel of “what if’s” won’t remove the problem.
7-Nothing lasts forever. Most setbacks are temporary as are most problems. Take a deep breath, rest and take another small step.
8-Change your story. Have you always been the crybaby? Or the bossy one? Don’t let it define you or your child. Reframe the wording of your narrative to a positive. Your child is empathetic not sensitive. You are a leader not bossy.
9-Look back on other times your child succeeded and asks what worked then.See if those skills and tools can be used in this new situation.
10-Find your inner strength or seek guidance from your personal choice of higher power. What does that look like for your family? Prayer, meditation and spirituality have proven to help in times of struggle.
I believe that all humans can be resilient. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be in the career I am in now. Together we can help the littlest babies and our oldest teens how to sail their ship.
“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.”-Louisa May Alcott
Originally article found at https://yourtruenorthcounseling.com/resilience-and-hope-in-childhood-how-children-can-pick-themself-up-dust-themself-off-and-believe-they-can/?fbclid=IwAR237cNyaDN0p8QQMNhDccF9gWr-X6D1-G4MJiPaOh35xgnV7I1Q8KQmnrE
You’d think that as a therapist, I’d be a pretty good listener. Sometimes I am. But too often I find myself not allowing enough silence, not giving clients enough time to gather their thoughts, sit with their feelings, simply be in the presence of a supportive witness. And it’s not just clients whom I deprive of this quiet space; when I respond too quickly with a question, a comment, or a reflection, I also deny myself the gift of time to sit with my own thoughts, feelings, and possible responses.
It’s not just in the therapy office. Like a lot of folks, I notice that in everyday conversations, I’m often quick to respond, sometimes “helping” someone finish a sentence (are they truly not capable of finding the words, if given a moment?), or starting to speak before another person has even finished what they were saying. Sometimes people don’t mind; other times, I see a slight tensing up, or closing down, or a flash of irritation.
Maybe it’s anxiety, this difficulty sitting with silence. Or maybe it’s just habit, years of responding quickly rather than allowing a small pause before speaking.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? If you’re like most people, the answer is probably “yes." Most of us are great at talking, and great at responding, but perhaps a bit less great at allowing brief moments of silence during conversations. In fact, in group discussions, if you don’t jump in at the first millisecond between comments, it can seem like you’ll never get a word in edgewise…and so the conversation becomes a kind of competition for airtime. Still fun and engaging, but also kind of exhausting. And daunting for anyone on the shy or quiet side.
So I was intrigued some years ago when I discovered a jewel of a technique in the marvelous book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and It’s All Small Stuff by the late psychologist Richard Carlson. Carlson called it “Breathe before you speak” and that’s exactly what it is.
Here are the instructions:
Before you respond in a conversation, take a breath. Not an enormous, loud, obvious breath that screams out “I am trying a new technique for better listening!”. No, just a normal, simple, ordinary breath. That’s it. The whole technique, right there.
Well, yes and no. I’ve assigned this technique to hundreds of students as a homework exercise, and they’re always amazed at just how difficult it turns out to be. We want to jump into the conversation, to respond quickly, to interrupt, to finish the other person’s sentence. And other people may even expect us to do so. So when we take this very small pause, create this tiny space of silence, it can create some anxiety, for ourselves and others. If the anxiety is too intense at first, try a smaller breath, or just an inhale. It will feel easier, and it’ll still make a difference.
And then the magic starts. In the therapy office, when I give clients the gift of a brief quiet space created by that single breath, they invariably sit with their experience, and then continue talking. I wouldn’t have known they had more to say if I’d started speaking myself. The small bit of silence allows them to explore a bit more, to formulate their thoughts, to reflect further on what they are thinking or feeling. In our everyday lives, most of us are not used to having this moment of space to relax and think about what we really want to say, what we are feeling, and what we might—or might not—want to share. Therapy should be a place where we do enjoy that kind of space.
article continues after advertisementAnd something else often happens when I take that breath with clients: at least half the time, I reconsider what I was about to say, either saying nothing at all, or something different than I would have said without the breath. The gift of a moment’s reflection is a gift to myself as well.
In everyday conversation, I find I interrupt people a lot less often. In response, people seem more relaxed when we are talking, knowing they don’t need to rush their words and anticipate being cut off. Sometimes, of course, people get uncomfortable. They’re not sure what’s happening, something just feels different, and they start filling in every breath-long space I create. I am reminded then that a discomfort with silence is pretty widespread. When that happens, I shorten it to a half-breath, a gentle inhale, and the anxiety usually disappears.
So if you want to become a better listener, or a better conversationalist, have a go with this remarkably simple yet surprisingly difficult technique. Try taking a breath before you speak. The impact may surprise you.
by Kerri-Anne Brown, LMHC
“Therapy is for crazy people” said no one ever.
Ok so maybe people have said that. But it’s so far from the truth. Therapy isn’t about making “not so normal” people “normal.” It’s for everyone! I believe that everyone could benefit from therapy at some point in their life.
It’s always interesting to me when I hear other people’s view of going to counseling or therapy. It seems to vary from person to person and from one situation to another. Most people understand the importance of their well-being but struggle to see how their mental health fits in.
Our well-being is multidimensional. It involves several areas and they are all interconnected. There’s our physical, social, emotional, spiritual and even financial well-being. Difficulty in one area will often impact another.
I find that people often give lots of attention to areas such as their physical well-being. They invest in gym memberships, personal fitness trainers and sacrifice their time to commit to regular workouts. They do this because they see the value in doing so. Their physical health obviously matters to them and because they see the benefits, it keeps them motivated to continue.
I like to use the example of when you’re taking a shower. You take care of your entire body and make sure all parts are cleaned well. You don’t focus on a specific area and forget the rest. You give adequate attention and care to all areas when you’re showering. That’s how we should all be approaching our well-being. Making intentional choices to take care of all dimensions of our health.
When you’re struggling with a life issue, seeking therapy says that you value yourself and believe you’re worth it. It says that you see the value in investing in you. If you’re seeking counseling for your relationship, it means that you value this partnership. It’s something meaningful to you. You want to give your best efforts by seeking professional help to ensure its success and longevity.
Talking about your problems is really a sign of strength, not weakness. It takes courage to do what seems hard or scary and to do it anyway.
It’s no secret that life is hard, and we sometimes struggle with the challenges that it brings us. There’s so much value in the therapy experience. Here’s what you get that you’ll be hard pressed to find outside of the therapy room.
There’s no shame in doing what’s best for you and taking care of yourself. Please share this with someone who needs to be reminded of this truth today.
Original article: https://healingwithwisdom.net/say-no-to-shame-and-yes-to-therapy/
It’s not easy feeling like you’re always under the spotlight being judged for each little mistake you make, or at least that’s what you tell yourself. Your mind’s in an endless loop playing what you said and did over and over again. And if you find one little mistake, then the torment of self-bashing begins. You wish you had a time capsule to go back and make things right. You fear what others will think about you and that they will reject and dislike you. You seek to be socially perfect. When in reality, odds are no one even thought twice about your goof up but your anxious mind won’t let you see the truth.
Academically, you work long endless hours just to make those stellar marks. Although most would say “it’s good to have high standards.” They have no idea of the internal hell you put yourself through to achieve perfection. And heaven forbid if you get anything below your set standard. If you come up less than your desired goal you feel as though you have failed, but you’re far from failing, you just don’t see it that way. So instead you resort to telling yourself that you’re stupid, and not smart. Sometimes you call yourself lazy because you procrastinate on tough tasks if only you knew that delay comes from your fear of failing not because you’re lazy. The pressure you place on yourself weighs you down and you wear the “not good enough” label each and every day.
You not only have high standards for yourself but you also have them for others. If people don’t perform up to your expectations then you deem them as incompetent. This causes a lot of frustration because you can’t trust anyone to get things right. And you don’t want someone to ruin the good reputation that you’ve built for yourself. So instead of being a team player you fly solo and try to do two or three jobs at once. Your unrealistic expectations cause you to criticize and judge others and that leads to problems in other areas of your life.
The attempt to be perfect - the epitome of insanity. It’s called perfectionism and it’s the unachievable American dream that’s damaging our emotional and mental health. We strive for perfection with our body, in our performance, and in our relationships. In a society that magnifies mistakes is it any wonder that so many young people attempt the impossible task of being perfect?
You know you’re a perfectionist if you’re:
1. Finding fault in what you or others do
2. Setting unrealistically high-performance standards
3. Being overly critical of mistakes
4. Seeking approval for doing something well
5. Procrastinating and avoiding situations that could result in perceived failure
6. Self-bashing and endless questioning (e.g., do I look good, am I smart enough, will they hate me?)
7. Shrugging off compliments
8. Failing to acknowledge success and victory
9. Spending a lot of time on tasks making them more cumbersome and burdensome than they should be
10. Ruminating on what you shoulda coulda woulda said or how you shoulda coulda woulda done something differently
If you’re a perfectionist, there’s nothing new to you on that list and you know exactly what the desire to be perfect feels like. It’s the self-defeating behaviors that occur when you don’t believe that you did something right. It’s the internal name calling and taunting that occurs when you can’t get your mind to slow down. It’s the feeling that all eyes are on you when you make a mistake. It’s the fear that seizes you and keeps you from trying something new. Perfectionism results in failure because in your eyes, things can always be better and that pressure can lead to a breakdown. A breakdown that can come at a high cost - your psychological health.
According to the American Psychological Association perfectionism among young people has significantly increased since the 1980s. The rise in perfectionism could be associated with the nation's increase in stress, depression, and anxiety. The desire to be perfect has even been tied to suicidal thoughts. In a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Personality, researchers found 45 studies involving 54 samples, with 11,747 participants linking perfectionism to suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
Researchers reviewed studies with themes of perfectionism centering around excessive expectations on oneself, feeling pressure from others (including parents or society), or holding other people to unrealistically high standards. And the findings indicated that those who scored high on perfectionism also reported having more suicidal thoughts. And those who were reported being self-conscious and overly concerned with meeting their perceived expectation of others’ reported more suicide attempts. The only type of perfectionist that wasn’t linked to suicidal thoughts or attempts was those who hold themselves to high standards, but even this type of perfectionism has been linked to stress and anxiety.
5 Steps to Soothe Your Desire to be Perfect
We all have flaws, fears, and make mistakes and that’s perfectly OK. It’s our imperfections that make life interesting and they help us grow into a stronger more resilient person. We don’t have to strive to achieve the impossible. We are designed to be perfectly imperfect.
I write articles based on my experience as a therapist or a training or conference attendee. Many of these articles are written by others who are experts in their field and I share their information as resources for others.