The Gift Of Giving

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‘Tis the season of gift giving. Buying, wrapping, giving, and receiving. We spend so much time searching for the perfect gift and so sometimes so much money. But the best gift we can give is the gift of ourselves.

Christmas brings out the spirit of giving, but giving of ourselves is something we can do all year long. Most all of us live in places where there are other people and it provides us with the opportunity to give to others all the time.

The opportunities are endless. Some take a bit more time than others but all give to others. The only cost is your time and a bit of your heart. Here are some possible opportunities to give of yourself. If you do not have these exact things where you live, I am sure there are things that are similar.

* Volunteer at the food bank or other similar food distribution place. Many people are in need of food all throughout the year in our communities. Help these places to serve them.

* Adopt a family or children through your local family and children’s services or reach out to child protective services. Offer your time as a mentor or collect and donate clothes, toys, and other items to help kids in need.

* Organize a hat and mitten tree donation through your school district at all the schools. There are a lot of kids that are in need of these items during the colder months of the year.

* Organize a gift card drive for at risk and homeless students in your schools at various times throughout the year. Gift cards for food and clothing as well as personal care items can help so many.

* Organize a coat and sock drive for your local homeless shelter or other homeless adult services. Having a coat or a good pair of socks can provide much needed warmth and protection.

* Visit nursing homes or assisted living facilities. In almost every town there are places like these with elderly people who are alone. A few minutes of conversation is sometimes the best gift of all.

* Volunteer at charitable organizations. Seek out the charitable organizations in your town and find a spot for yourself to give to others.

These are a tiny fraction of the opportunities available for giving of yourself. It does not have to be a big thing or an organized thing. It can be one thing done for one person that makes all the difference. And it can be done all year long. Practice the gift of giving of yourself and you will also be given to in gratitude and love.

Until next time,
Deborah

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Reduce Holiday Stress With Self-Care

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Self care is one of the most important things you can do to take care of yourself. It can also be one of the most difficult for many people.

The great majority of people it seems are consumed with taking care of others. Making sure that other people are happy. Allowing people to treat them in any way they want in order to make sure the other person is happy. They don’t want to rock the boat and make someone upset, so they go along to get along.

Peoplw who have suffered trauma of any kind are even more likely to do for others instead of themselves. These people many times do not feel they deserve or are worthy of care or that they should take care of themselves instead of others.

We all deserve to love ourselves and take care of us. The things we do to take care of ourselves do not have to be big things. Having time to ourselves. Enjoying a cup of coffee or tea. Getting a massage or a new hair cut. Writing or keeping a journal. Taking a nap. Taking a walk. The list is endless.

It is also okay to say no to other people. No to doing things you don’t want to or don’t feel up to. No to things that make you uncomfortable or feel under valued. No to things that damage your mental health. In truth, you can say no about anything. If you can get past the need to please or pacify others and accept that it is okay to do what you need, what you want, what helps you love yourself.

Everyone needs self care. Including counselors. It can be very hard for counselors to feel okay about taking time off and taking care of themselves. But it is important for them and for their clients.

The holidays can be stressful for many reasons, but not practicing your own self care doesn’t have to be one of them. Take time for yourself this holiday season to refresh and renew your own spirit, so you can feel up to giving the Christmas spirit to others.

Until next time,
Deborah

Request an appointment for a FREE initial counseling consultation

Go With The Flow

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“I just go with the flow.” How many times have you heard someone say that or have you said that to other people? Likely, it is more times than others have actually been going with the flow or that you have been going with the flow. It is a lot easier to say than to do on some days.

One can think they are going with the flow and just letting things happen. However, the moment you become distracted by or invested in surrounding events or emotions, you are not flowing. Any time you allow other people’s events or emotions to interfere in your emotions and thoughts, you are not flowing.

The definition of flow is a steady, continuous stream meaning uninterrupted and always moving. When we allow our negative emotions and thoughts to fill our daily lives, we are stopped with each one. We are not moving forward and we become stuck in sadness, in worry, in anger. We are unable to let these things pass and to keep moving. No matter how many times we say to ourselves and others that we just go with the flow, it is just words without action.

Another of the main reasons our flow is interrupted is that we cannot let go of the need for control. To be in control of ourselves and others. To be in control of events that surround us. To be in control of our traumas. It is a tremendous amount of work to maintain control all the time. It requires all of our focus and does not allow for flowing or moving.

So, how do we learn to flow more freely?

* Let go of the need for control
* Practice mindfulness, be aware
* Learn to breathe and pause more
* Practice letting go of negative thoughts and emotions
* Start with one thing at a time
* Increase your meditation time
* Accept change and imperfection

Breathe, pause, release, and flow.

Until next time,
Deborah

Request an appointment for a FREE initial counseling consultation

Thankful Moments

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November, the month of Thanksgiving, in the United States. As with many other things in society, it has morphed into Thankful November where people record everything they re thankful for over the month sharing and posting and generally participating in being grateful. For a month. After this though, many people move away from thankfulness on a daily basis. It’s a temporary state of being rather than a changed way of living. It looks good on Instagram and Facebook, but it’s a once a day post generally about something big and then for the next 24 hours after it’s not a thought.

There are many books on the practice of daily gratitude. The words “daily gratitude” imply that the practice should be undertaken on a once a day basis like a multivitamin. I agree that incorporating any time daily on being thankful can be beneficial and can form a habit of daily gratitude if done repetitively. It can be incorporated into a daily meditation practice or other daily routine where it can be repetitively done. Even once a day is better than not at all.

What if we did it more than once a day? What if we did it about everything and not just the big things? What if we did it every day of our lives and not just a month out of the year? Change of thought processes, emotions, and habits is done by repetition and reinforcement. If we incorporate thankfulness into every moment of our lives then gratitude thoughts, emotions, and habits become automatic.

You can be thankful for anything and everything. It is easy to be thankful for big things – family, home, job, food, etc. It is fairly easy to be thankful for somewhat smaller things – favorite foods, video games, books, etc. It is somewhat harder to remember to be thankful for much smaller things – coffee, paper, ink pens, candles, slippers, etc. It is very hard to be thankful for things that are not good. Remember thankful in every moment means just that every moment – no matter what is happening or what the experience is. To be thankful that you are there to experience it, learn from it, grow from it, change from it, enjoy it, love it – every single thing in every single moment.

It is Thankful November and it is a good time to start or expand your thankfulness practice with the goal of continuing it, growing it, living it moment to moment. Speak it out, write it out, think it out – put your gratitude out into the universe for every moment and watch what comes back to you and how you change you thoughts, emotions, and habits as a result.

Until next time,
Deborah

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To Tell The Truth

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The truth is one of the simplest things to understand and yet one of the hardest things to do. Especially when it comes to telling yourself the truth.

So much of our time is spent in cultivating lies that are not true that we convince our minds are true. The things that we learn from others since young childhood and beyond. The things we internalize and turn into truths by our acceptance of them. The things we tell ourselves about our own choices to make them acceptable. None of these are the actual truth. It can get to the point where we don’t even know that the lies are not the truth.

The things we learn from others – you are stupid, you are ugly, you aren’t valued, your feelings don’t matter, your needs aren’t important, and more are the things that others tell us by their words and actions or by what they do not say or do. These are the things taught to us that we take in and repeat to yourself until your brain believes they are the truth. They become your truth.

The irrational fears we repeat over and over until our brains believe them. The worst possible thing is going to happen. Reading other people’s minds and knowing how they think and feel about us – she thinks I am weird. The I can’t habit – I can’t get a job. Seeing the future – I am never going to be happy, I will always be alone. These are completely unproven, unknown thoughts that we turn into beliefs or truths.

The other side of the truth coin is the lies we tell ourselves for our own choices. If we drink every day, and we drink to get drunk every day, and we drink and have a hangover the next day and drink to manage the hangover, but we still work, we still manage our bills in some fashion, we still interact with others. We are not alcoholics we tell ourselves. We do not have a drinking problem we tell ourselves. We do not have an issue with alcohol we tell ourselves. It is a lie, but we have convinced ourselves that it is the truth.

The truth is hard many times. The truth that one is an alcoholic is a hard thing to come to terms with. It makes us feel embarrassed, ashamed, powerless, and sad. But it is a powerful step towards freedom, towards a healthier self, towards recovery. The truth of the things we have learned from others can change our lives – if we go from you are not valued to you have so much worth, if we go from your needs aren’t important to what you need matters and it’s okay for you to take care of those needs – we can begin to love ourselves, respect ourselves, believe in ourselves. If we change our irrational fear truths into just the thoughts that they are without proof – we can be set free from crippling fear and anxiety.

Is any of this truth telling easy? No. It is very difficult and a process that can take a long time, even years. But if you never start the journey, everything remains the same and nothing changes. However, these “truths” are affecting your life they will continue to do so without taking the first step towards changing them, replacing them.

One thought at a time, one fear at a time, one choice at a time.

Until next time,
Deborah

The First Step

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The most difficult thing for many people to do is making their first appointment for counseling. It is very difficult to feel comfortable with the idea of talking to a stranger about your life and everything that has happened to you and everything you feel now. In fact, it is one of the bravest things a person can do when they schedule and come to their first therapy appointment.

Many times, one can feel as if there is no hope for their lives and that nothing can change anything about how they feel or what the have been through. One can feel that an unknown person cannot understand them and their lives. One can feel that this person will judge them or their life choices. One can feel that going to therapy means there is something wrong with you. There are so many feelings that one can have regarding starting therapy and it can sometimes be paralyzing and prevent people from seeking help.

Some of the time, one can make the appointment but then feel as if they are unable to actually go to it. They can cancel and reschedule, or cancel and not reschedule, or not cancel and just not go. Walking into a therapist’s office can be overwhelming and scary. Answering questions about yourself can be extremely difficult. Just picking a therapist can be a difficult task for many.

Picking a therapist can include everything from insurance coverage to the type of therapy they practice and everything in between. You may schedule an initial appointment and meet with the therapist to find out you do not click with them. You may find out that your insurance doesn’t cover as much of the cost as you thought or if you don’t have insurance that the cost to you is a lot. There are a lot of things to consider when picking a therapist and it can require some research. This can also be overwhelming.

Utilizing websites like Psychology Today can be helpful. Asking your primary care provider for recommendations. Talking to friends or family about their own experiences with therapists. If you are in school, talking to a school counselor. Making a list of things that are important to you in a therapist including insurance and cost, schedule availability, location, types of therapy they practice, therapist past experience, and services they offer are just a few considerations.

It can take a little time to make a decision on a therapist. But the first most important decision is to take the first step towards getting help. After the first appointment, you can decide whether to continue with that therapist or try another. It is absolutely okay to shop for a therapist to find the best fit for you. Just as you would shop for any other service or product, you can also try different therapists to see which one you feel most comfortable with.

In any decision, it is the first step that is the most difficult and the most important. The first step when you acknowledge you need help with your mental health and have narrowed your therapist search is to make that initial appointment and go to the appointment. You can do it, take the first step.

Until next time,
Deborah

Mindful Communication

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One of the main causes of conflict in relationships is problems in communication. The ability to truly listen and speak to others and to truly be heard and understood. Along with the ability to be truly honest with ourselves and others. It is not being able to do these things that causes so much relationship conflict.

The first part of mindful communication is always listening. Most people think they are listening in conversations and/or “arguments” when many times they are just thinking about what they want to say or their next response while the other person is talking. To mindfully listen, we must actively listen to the other person so much so that we are then able to repeat back to them what they said BEFORE we have a response. We must be able to then pause and consider our response carefully taking into account exactly what they said not what we think we heard them say.

Avoid judging the other person when communicating. Many times during communication we make judgments against the other person and what they are saying based on our feelings or perceptions. This judgment then makes it very difficult for us to truly listen and then to understand the other person’s perception and feelings. By judging, our own feelings become foremost in our minds leading to an inability to think clearly.

Instead of immediately responding, we should also pause to validate their feelings and words. By simply saying first, I understand what you are saying, I heard what you have said, I heard you say and then repeat or summarize what they said. By doing this, the other person feels understood, which is what almost everyone is seeking in any communication.

Be completely focused on the conversation at hand. No looking at phones or worse yet using the phone. No watching TV or paying attention to other people who are around. No tuning out or daydreaming during the other person’s speaking. We must practice being fully present in conversations for the other person to feel respected and also to be able to fully listen and understand.

Conversations aren’t competitions. The goal shouldn’t be to win the discussion. It should be to be heard and understood and possibly come to a compromise of understanding or at the very least an understanding of the other person. We don’t have to win to successfully communicate.

Do no harm. In any conversation, words should not be hurtful. Carefully consider what you are saying and how you say it. Consider tone carefully. Try to avoid putting the other person on the defensive by not using the word you and staying with using I. Do not bring up everything from the past, stay with the topic at hand. Do not blame. Do not use profanity or make generalizations. Be specific and speak with truth and love. If you are upset about something, it is best to wait until your emotions have settled before speaking. Be impeccable with your word.

“True communication goes beyond talking and listening. It is about understanding.” ~ Gerald Campbell

Until next time
Deborah