Self Care Is Not Selfish

self care isn t selfish signage

Many times during sessions when I work with clients on the importance of self-care, they respond that they feel doing things for themselves is selfish. Self-care is never selfish, it is essential for your mental and physical health.

Some people have never considered self-care at all. Through their own traumas and negative beliefs they have been taught about themselves, they feel that they must always be taking care of others.

Smoothing over any chaos or anger in others to keep the peace. Making other people happy so more trauma doesn’t happen.

Many times people who have suffered trauma feel that they must always say yes to everyone around them to keep them happy. Again, to keep the peace, avoid more trauma.

And then there are those who are codependent feeling they must ensure others are taken care of, especially those who do not take care of themselves such as people with addictions. People can feel that they are responsible for everyone else to make sure they are safe but provide no safety for themselves.

In many relationships, when people do attempt self-care, others can make them feel selfish and even tell them that they are being selfish and thinking only of themselves. Toxic and abusive relationships are filled with those who will make others feel badly for wanting to take care of themselves or wanting to change their lives.

Self-care is absolutely imperative for your own mental and physical health. If you do not take care of yourself, you will be worn down in your mind and your body. You will constantly feel worn out.

Not practicing self-care can lead to depression, anxiety, anger, and physical illness. You cannot pour anything into others from an empty cup. Self-care is essential to filling your own cup.

To have a cup to pour from you must fill yours first. It is not selfish, it is self love. And self love is always the right thing to do.

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. ~ Buddha

Until next time,
Deborah

Do What You Can Where You Are

women holding hands

In the last couple of weeks, I have had many clients coming in with the same question – what can I do to make change in racial issues in the world?

I usually start by talking about how looking at these issues on a world scale can be very overwhelming. There are so many facets that have an impact on these issues all over the world. To think about it in a global way only leads to feeling helpless and hopeless.

So what can you do? You can do what you can where you are. In your city or town, in your school or workplace, in your state or region. These are things that you can do to affect change.

But where do I get started? Many communities and other aspects of different states and countries have a variety of options for those who wish to be part of making change in their society.

There are organizations for discussion and planning. There are organizations for understanding and learning. There are organizations for legislation and government. There are organizations for political candidates. They are organizations for schools and colleges. There are organizations associated with the workplace.

You can reach out to national organizations about starting a branch in your community if there is something you would like to see offered.

If your community does not have a lot of these options, then you can find like-minded individuals around you and start some yourself. Every organization starts with a few people who are passionate about a cause and you can be that starter.

If we look at things in more manageable sizes they do not seem so overwhelming. When we are able to do things in smaller chunks we can find that we do not feel helpless or hopeless. We feel involved and productive.

If you go to a protest in your community or make a sign and stand on the sidewalk at your house or you wear a tee shirt when you are out running errands or you become involved in organizations in your community or you start an organization. These are the smaller chunks of things that you can do where you are. If you add each one together they become something bigger touching more people.

Change on a large scale starts with change on a small scale – a single person’s mind and heart spread to another and another. Can you change everyone’s mind? No, but you might change one persons or several people with words and/or action.

If you have been asking some of these questions – do what you can where you are.

Until next time,
Deborah

Informed Versus Overloaded

technology computer display text

I have written about self-care a lot over the years as I feel it is one of the most important things we can do to manage our mental health. Sometimes our self-care does not always include managing the amount of information we take in about what is happening in our society.

In times of crisis, the amount of information we can expose ourselves to is seemingly unlimited. Every news outlet, social media platform, radio, television, anything that can contain information is running nonstop 24 hours a day seven days a week. There is no end to the continuous river of information.

While we need to have some information to be aware of what is happening around us, overload is something we choose to engage in. We can read a single article about an event or we can read hours worth of articles about the same event from multiple sources.

We choose how much of the information we consume. And how we choose determines how much of the information consumes our mental health.

Some days, consuming any information may not be the best self-care. There are some days where we are better off not being informed at that moment about all the crises surrounding us. Sometimes, self-care is choosing not to be informed at that moment. And that is okay.

If we do choose to be informed, monitoring our intake is vitally important. Overloading ourselves with too much information can result in emotional and physical symptoms.

Too much information can result in sadness, anger, fear, and anxiety that can translate into headaches, fatigue, insomnia, nightmares, hypervigilance and more. We can be short tempered with others or oppositely we can want to withdraw and isolate ourselves to escape.

We have to be deliberate in our management of the information we consume. We must set limits for our time spent in consumption of this information. It can be difficult when every screen, broadcast, and radio program have more of this same information we are trying to limit.

Then perhaps we need to separate ourselves from these sources of information. Having information free days can enormously benefit your mental health especially in times of crisis.

Making sure that you are informed but not overloaded in this age of unending information availability is vital to your mental health.

Until next time,
Deborah

Regrets Have One Purpose

text on shelf

Regrets should only ever serve one purpose in our lives. To help us learn something and make changes for future decisions.

Many of us go through life filled with regrets. The should have, would have, could have thoughts dominating our thoughts. The what ifs and I wish thoughts consuming our minds.

These thoughts generally only lead to one place. Negative feelings about ourselves and negative thoughts that come with those feelings. We can sink into the quicksand of self blame and living in the past.

If we allow ourselves to have regrets at all, we should be sure that coupled with the should, would, could, what if and I wish we have the what can I do differently going forward. How can I work to not repeat this choice or behavior in the future.

This is truly the only positive purpose of regrets in our lives.

We should also strive to have very few regrets. Regrets are a result of an inability to accept what has already occurred. To know that there is no changing the past and that living there does nothing to move us forward.

But we are human and as such we will sometimes have regrets that make their way into our daily thoughts. These are the ones that need to serve a purpose. A path to knowing better so we do better.

when we know better, we can choose to do better.

Regrets can be all consuming if we fall into their negativity and wishing we could change the past mentality. We can find ourselves stuck in wanting to undo what has been done. Beating ourselves up for choices and decisions we made at the time. Feeling as if we are a failure every day after these choices are made.

We only fail when we do not learn. We can turn regrets into success by knowing our regrets and doing better when we have the choice now.

You do not have to live in a world of regret and self blame. Learn, grow, know better, do better.

Every regret is a chance to learn something and apply that lesson to our lives going forward.

Pick Your Battles

two white and black chess knights facing each other on chess board

Some days it can seem that all we do is fight battles. With ourselves, with our thoughts, and with others. These battles can be years long or new occurrences. Some may be worth fighting but some may be better let go.

The battles worth fighting are the ones that are going to keep us safe, mentally and physically, or those that are going to improve our lives. Battles to no longer be abused are worth fighting. Battles to change negative thoughts and behaviors we have are worth fighting. Battles to replace negative or destructive habits with positive ones are worth fighting. Battles to make our lives better are worth fighting.

These battles, even though they benefit us, are still sometimes very hard to fight. Especially if we have had years of conditioning that have made the life we currently live become normalized. Even if it is destroying us, we may still feel it is normal, for us.

There are also battles that are not worth fighting. The battles that are not winnable. The battles that cause us more harm than good. The battles that make our lives worse instead of better. These battles we should work to let go.

The battle of believing someone we love who hurts us will change someday. The battle of holding onto toxic relationships because we do not want to be alone. The battle of continuing negative thoughts or anxious worries always thinking about the next calamity or what we hate about ourselves. The battle of always needing to have control over everything and everyone, which is a false sense of security.

The battles we should let go of are those which negatively impact our lives and are not winnable. They are like whirlpools that go around and around and around but get nowhere. They are the battles where we walk the same ground over and over never moving forward. These battles are never about progress. They are only about negative repetition.

Practicing and learning to let go of these battles is also a process of repetition, but this repetition is positive. It is forward moving. It is not covering the same ground. It is not spinning around the whirlpool.

It is making change. Stopping the negative and choosing positive. It is refusing to continue doing as we have always done. It is about making our lives better, healthier, stronger.

Some battles are worth fighting. Some battles are not. Pick your battles and fight on to a better you.

Until next time,
Deborah

Bring Your Goals Into Focus

green typewriter on brown wooden table
Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com

I have long been an advocate for my clients to use writing as part of their therapeutic process. Writing not only incorporates our emotions but seeing things in writing also holds a form of accountability and truth.

Writing things out that you want to change, that you want learn to accept, that you want to understand, that you want to create makes them tangible and real. Words flowing on to paper offer emotional transference and a reference of who we truly are. We can know ourselves better and on a deeper level by writing about all the parts of our lives – past, present, and future.

I recently discovered an amazing journal that allows not only the writing of emotions and experiences, but also allows for goal planning and accomplishment, habit forming and reinforcement, and vision for the present and future. This journal was found on Amazon and I have no affiliation with Amazon or the maker of this journal, however I highly recommend it. The Phoenix Journal is a three month exploration of many parts of oneself. It is undated allowing for use at any time of the year.

The journal offers daily planning of schedule as well as key actions, tasks, a place of focus, a place of gratitude, guidance for the day, a place for daily victories and ways to improve. It also offers a blank bullet journal page for each day so that every day emotions and experiences can be recorded and examined.

There are weekly targets and targets for the entire three month span. There are weekly check ins at the end of each week of writing to see how you have done on your goals and actions. At the end of the journal, there is a comprehensive place for reflection.

Building goals and habits takes repetition, reinforcement, and accountability. We can make all the goals and plans in the world, but if we never question if they have been accomplished the result is only thoughts or words. A journal like this offers us a place of vision, of gratitude, and of self examination along the way.

I am sure there are many similar journals available, but this one has personally allowed me to establish goals, lay out a vision, and reflect on both myself in the past, the present, and the future. Perhaps it could be of help to you as well to bring your goals and yourself into focus.

“The successful warrior is the average man with laser-like focus” ~ Bruce Lee

The New Normal

question mark on yellow background

Every day, many times a day, the phrase “the new normal” is spoken by thousands perhaps millions of people in regards to what happens after the coronavirus crisis. But even as this is said, it is almost immediately followed with the phrase “I don’t know”.

And here is where the issues start for most people. I don’t know is a phrase filled with uncertainty just as much of this situation is. There are so many questions that cannot be answered.

There are a lot of maybe answers. A lot of possible answers. A lot of if this happens, then this is the answer but if that happens, then this is the answer. There is no certainty, no knowing.

And this is a very scary place for the human mind to live.

Human beings want certainty. They want answers. They want safety and security. One of the biggest needs that human beings have is to be able to feel safe and secure. The phrase “I don’t know” does not offer either of those things only the unknown.

When things are unknown it leads to the mind then creating what it thinks will happen, good and bad. In anxious situations and thinking, the mind generally creates what bad things will happen because we don’t know and we have no control over the outcome.

Worst case scenario, catastrophes, predicting the future, all of these and more become where the mind goes. These anxieties build on themselves and in short order we are overwhelmed with anxiety about every aspect of our lives.

It is tremendously difficult during times like these to find space to stop and really think about how our anxious thoughts are affecting our lives, our choices, our emotions.

But stop we must or be overtaken with fear.

The way to confront these thoughts is to stop with every single one and ask the question, what is going on in my life right now that is true. Not what I am creating or imagining, but what is actually happening right now. Do I have a place to live, do I have food, is my family safe. These are the basic needs for safety and can calm many other fears once we acknowledge that we have this security.

Every anxious thought must be confronted with the lens of truth. If we are creating coming catastrophes with our thoughts, we must ask are they true right now this moment. If they are not, we must then replace them with what is true in this moment. We cannot predict the future, no one can, we must live in the right now. And only the right now.

There is no good that can come from anxious living and thinking. That is something we do know.

It can be difficult to confront anxious thoughts as they can quickly go from one thought to a mountain of thoughts. We must start with the first thought and confront it. Then the next, and the next, and the next. Repeat and reinforce the truth not the unknown.

Things that we do not know can only hurt us if we let them, if we give them power. The truth takes their power away and keeps our mind from being overwhelmed.

The new normal is to stay in the right now and live in the truth.

The Anxiety Of Reopening

woman in gray coat wearing white face mask

Throughout the Covid-19 virus crisis, anxiety has been a part of the lives of many. Even with the shut down orders in most states, many people are still anxious about their own health or the health of friends and loved ones.

People have been anxious about their education as schools are closed. More have been anxious about their jobs as employment has also been shut down for many people. Still others are anxious about loss of income and paying their bills.

There has been anxiety over supplies such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Anxiety over relationships as being at home with others all the time can be very stressful and in some cases even dangerous.

Some states are now beginning phased reopening. Some businesses are being allowed to reopen with guidelines. People are starting to come out of their houses in much greater numbers. The traffic in stores is increasing daily. Some people are being allowed to go back to work.

This brings fresh anxiety to many people. Will it be safe to go out? Will my family and friends be safe if they go out or if I go out and come back to them? Will I be protected in my work environment? Will reopening cause cases of the virus to go up?

All of these things are unknowns.

As so much of this virus is, unknowns are a huge part of this crisis. From the symptoms to when will things get back to “normal”. No one has all the answers and in some cases they have no answers at all.

This is all very difficult for humans. We do not enjoy unknowns. We want answers. We want to know. When this is not possible we get anxious. Reopening is just the latest in a long line of unknowns that can cause anxiety during this crisis.

So what can we do? Concentrate on what we do know, however little that might be. Concentrate on what is going on in our lives right now. Are we going back to work? How will that be managed? What can we do if we do not feel safe going back to work?

Concentrate on what we know right now for our friends and family. Are they healthy? How can they continue to be protected?

Stay focused on what is going on in the right now moment. Not on what you do not know and what no one can give you answers to.

You can also work to lower your response to anxiety. Meditation, deep breathing, exercise, journaling, hobbies, and other forms of self-care to continually train your mind and body to relax. Let go of negative or anxious thoughts by writing them or practicing the cloud technique of watching them float by and replacing them with positive or relaxing thoughts.

In this new world of unknowns the possibly of anxiousness seems to be lurking everywhere. We can work to avoid giving in to it and allowing it to overtake our emotions. We can’t have all the answers, but we can practice staying in the present moment with what we do know.

Living Better Through Trauma

photo of woman in pink long sleeve shirt and blue denim jeans sitting on brown sofa with her eyes closed

I often have clients ask me the question, will I always be affected by my past traumas? The answer is yes and no.

The answer is yes because there are only a few ways to completely remove memories from the brain that I am aware of. Lobotomy. ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) possibly. And the controversial memory manipulation therapies that have been used to change memories or even implant new, false memories.

There is also research that has been done in the past and that is being done now on the drug propranolol (used to manage high blood pressure) and controlling the emotional response in trauma survivors. It does not erase memories. It changes, sometimes dramatically, the brain and body’s response to painful or scary memories. However, taking this drug every day if you do not have high blood pressure is not generally recommended. Some people do already use it for panic attack inducing situations taken before participating in those situations so that it allows them to get through them without panic.

None of these removal processes sound particularly good, which leads to the memory of trauma will always be present in the brain. However, how that memory affects us can be changed.

The answer is no in that traumatic memories can be acknowledged and confronted. They can be understood and accepted. They can be processed and minimized in their effects. Several therapies can be utilized to help trauma survivors live better. EMDR is used to reprocess the brain’s response to traumatic memories. Hypnosis has also been used to retrain the brain. CBT is used to change how people think about themselves and their experiences. And other therapies that reduce emotional response to traumatic memories are also used.

As I tell my clients, it is not the memory or the experience that continues to affect them throughout their lives, it is their emotional response to those things that drive their behaviors, choices, thoughts, beliefs, etc. The memories make them FEEL fear, sadness, anger, worthlessness, doubt, and more that then translates in a response in the brain that moves through the body and becomes manifested in actions, thoughts, beliefs.

The hardest thing for my clients to hear is that I cannot eliminate their trauma memories. That we must find a way through them. To find a way to live better with them. It is at this point that clients either decide they are willing to try to do that or they are not and they stop seeing me and keep searching for a way to remove the memories.

I wish I had a magic wand and could make all the horrible things that have happened to people disappear. But I do not. But you can find a way to live better even with the memories.

It is hard work. It is not comfortable. It is a daily process of choosing to live differently. But it is possible.

Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing creates change you do choose. ~ Michele Rosenthal

Counseling Is Still Open

person writing on notebook

While much of the United States is closed or in some other way restricted, counseling is still open. Albeit in different form than many are used to, but it is still available.

Most therapists have gone to a video model of counseling during this crisis. There are some who are still seeing clients face to face, but that is becoming fewer and fewer during this time.

The video model is a workable option for most clients, but not all. Some do not have stable internet access. Some are not technologically familiar. Some do not feel that video counseling provides the same experience. And some have home issues that prevent confidential and safe environments for video counseling.

Most of my clients have continued therapy through video counseling during this time. I have about six who have not for various reasons. Video counseling is not the same as in person in that it makes it difficult to do some therapy modalities and with clients at home it can be difficult for them to have a session that is not interrupted by family members in some way.

But we continue on as therapists trying to at least provide support for our clients who are struggling with fear, anxiety, depression, job layoffs and losses, kids being home and needing help with their school work, relationship issues due to strains of finances or just being together 24/7, and many other issues.

Even if the traditional forms of therapy cannot be provided at their fullest and most complete, having someone to talk to can make a huge difference.

Offering tools and tips for how to manage anxiety and depression, communication, issues with the kids or other family members, and practice their own self-care are vitally important. This can be done via video counseling.

In my own practice, I have noticed a significant decline in the number of people reaching out to begin therapy. I have to wonder if some people think therapy is not going on because you are not supposed to see people in person. But therapy is still available. Therapists are considered essential workers and all therapists I know are providing therapy still either via video, phone calls, or even in person where I live.

If you are struggling and think that you could benefit by talking to a therapist during this time, please reach out. I have limited openings at this time, but there are openings and many of my colleagues also have openings.

It may not be the traditional in person therapy people are used to doing or expecting, but it is still therapy and it is still available. Reach out.

Until next time,
Deborah