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

The New Normal

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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.

Inspiration For Survivors

This week I thought I would do something a little different. We all need inspiration. We all need motivation. We can all use encouragement for our journeys. Seven quotes to encourage, inspire, motivate each day of this week. Use them as affirmations, read through them every day, repeat and reinforce.

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Being an overcomer, a survivor means that you have been at the bottom, the darkest places, but you have chosen not to live there. You have found ways to motivate yourself, believe in yourself, never give up on yourself. If you feel you haven’t started that journey yet, perhaps these quotes can help you take that first step.

Believe in yourself, always.

Until next time,
Deborah

How To Identify An Addiction

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Whenever most people hear the word addiction, their first thought is drugs or alcohol. While drugs and alcohol can lead to addiction, they are by no means the only things people can be addicted to.

An addiction is anything in our lives that we cannot stop doing and that we feel compelled to continue doing and if we attempt to stop doing it we suffer negative reactions.

We can be addicted to almost anything. Food, exercise, shopping or spending, gambling, phones or tablets, video games, self-harm such as cutting, soda, hoarding, cleaning, and anything else we are not able to stop doing and that if we try to stop causes us negative reactions.

Addictions are built up over time of repetition and reinforcement. Similar to forming habits, but the difference in addictions is that our brain becomes convinced that we need the thing we are addicted to and that we cannot live without doing it. We are compelled to do it by what becomes a chemical need for it. The addiction releases dopamine into our brains (reward chemicals) that make us want to have that reward or in some cases release more and more.

If we try to stop these addictive behaviors, we suffer withdrawals just the same as we do if we are addicted to drugs and alcohol. In fact, the withdrawals can be exactly the same. Nervousness, shaking, feeling depressed, being irritable can all be present. I have seen many clients who are addicted to electronic devices and/or video games who stop doing them or are prevented from accessing them by parents, who then display these withdrawal symptoms.

Most all addictions have a negative effect on our lives. We may tell ourselves that our addiction doesn’t affect us negatively so that we can continue doing it, but a truthful examination will show that is not true. Addictions cost us money, time, relationship issues, health issues, emotional issues, and much more. What is your addiction costing you, honestly?

Many people with addictions do not want to give them up. Convinced that they are making their lives better or that the addictions make them feel better emotionally (which dopamine can do that) but it is a false sense of feeling better. It is avoidance of dealing with the emotions that are driving the addiction. Many times, I have clients say, I play video games all day because I enjoy it. Only minimally true, it is more likely because they are avoiding a negative emotion or situation. Constant dopamine release can make one feel that way.

So, if you have an addiction, how do you break it? One step at a time. One choice at a time. One moment at a time. And working to gain understanding of what the addiction is helping you to avoid? Emotions, trauma, relationships? It can take quite some time to break an addiction and there will be negative responses by both your body and brain during this time. This is why many people start trying to break an addiction and when the negative responses come they find it too hard and give up or relapse.

Even if that happens, we can always start again and again and again. As long as we are alive, we have the opportunity to begin again. We do not fail because we do not succeed on the first attempt or the 50th, we fail because we do not try again.

One step at a time. One day at a time. One hour at a time. One second at a time. One choice at a time. Repeat as often as necessary. Fail. Try again. And then keep trying.

Ways To Find The Good

photo of a woman standing on the sunflower field

Every day we are faced with a choice. The choice to look for the bad or to find the good. Whatever you look for it will be found.

Each day we can look for the things we want to find. Regardless of our circumstances, we can find the good. If we are going through difficult times, it can be hard for us to pull ourselves out of that space to look for the good. But it can be done, one thought at a time.

SLOW DOWN

The everyday stress we carry can sometimes be overwhelming. If you have added stress from relationships, physical or mental health issues, or unresolved past traumas, it can be even more overwhelming. Everything can seem to be moving at light speed. Slow your thoughts and emotions down. Practice deep breathing, just a few very big breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth can lower your heart rate and blood pressure and give you space to think more clearly. Once you have slowed things down a bit, you can look around you for the good.

SHARPEN YOUR SENSES

In the same way that you would use your senses for grounding yourself during periods of stress, you can do the same thing when looking for the good around you. What do you see that is beautiful, magical, uplifting, etc.? What can you touch that is comforting, warm, soft, etc.? What can you hear that is calming, beautiful, uplifting, etc.? What can you taste that is calming, comforting, filling, warm, etc.? What can you smell that is calming, comforting, etc.? Use your senses to find the good around you.

GRATITUDE

Turning your mind to what you are grateful for rather than what you are not can have a profound effect on your thoughts and emotions. Gratitude does not have to be something big. Even the smallest thing that you are thankful for, that makes you happy, that gives you even the smallest joy, is something to be grateful for. Everyone can find something to be grateful for and once you begin to think about it, your mind will help you find others. Find the good in your gratitude.

SELF-CARE

Even if the darkest of times, self-care is still important. When you are overwhelmed, find one moment, one thing that you can do for yourself. Five minutes of decompression before facing something difficult. A short hot shower. A few minutes of meditation or deep breathing. A piece of dark chocolate or a cup of herbal tea. A few minutes smelling essential oils. Self-care can help you recenter and find the good.

Every day, even every moment, offers an opportunity to find the good. There is something you can find if you slow down, use your senses, practice gratitude, and self-care. Find the good in every moment to help get you through stressful and overwhelming times.

We find whatever it is we are looking for. Look for the good. ~ Al Carraway

Do or Do Not

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Every day, even every moment of the day we are confronted with choices. So many of them we don’t even consider choices but choices they are. It truly is do or do not at the core, emotions are what makes it grey.

When the alarm clock goes off, we can choose to get right out of bed or we can hit the snooze button. The clothes we wear we choose what to put on. Do we eat breakfast or do we not? And what do we eat if we do? Choices all.

As we go throughout our day the choices are nonstop, every second there seems to be a choice that we are making whether we realize it or not. So automatic some of these choices become that it can seem as if we have no control of them as if we have no choice.

That, however, is the emotion of the choice speaking. Making us sometimes feel that we have no choices about what we do or how we live. If we are struggling financially and cannot see a way out, we can think that we have no choices about what we do in that situation. However, there are still choices.

Choices can be easy, mindless, automatic or they can be agonizing, painful, and traumatic. Many times we will avoid the ones that hurt and keep choosing the ones where we are comfortable – emotionally. But that is still a choice complete with its own consequences.

If we change nothing about our choices then nothing changes about our lives. There is no magic choice and change fairy to come and change things for us. Nothing changes without choices. But are we emotionally able and emotionally strong enough to make those choices?

Many times we have past trauma that causes us to be unable to make these choices. Other times we have become so conditioned to choose what we have always chosen that we cannot see a different choice.

One of the main reasons to seek out therapy is to have an objective, not emotionally involved person who can help us see these choices we may not be able to see on our own. To offer alternatives and paths for us to choose differently.

In choices, there is do or do not two options. The middle ground exists as a result of emotional turmoil, it is a creation of the mind built on past traumas and automatic negative thinking. We can believe with all our hearts and minds that the middle ground exists and use it to justify our choices. It is a false narrative.

Examining the why of our choices in an objective, unemotional light is the only way to see clearly outside of the grey.

Until next time,
Deborah

Be Happy Where You Are

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Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

Many times we find ourselves being unhappy with where we are. We wish and hope that things will change. We want something, possibly everything, to be different. We cannot seem to be able to be happy right where we are.

I was reading the book The Four Agreements in bits and pieces again between clients this last week. I kept coming back to doing your best. We often can think and then feel that whatever we are doing, where ever we are, we are LESS than. It is not good enough. But in doing your best, it is WHATEVER we are capable of doing at that moment.

Some days, where we are is just awake lying in bed. But our best on that day is being awake lying in bed. Other days, we get up and sit in a chair or on the sofa. On that day, our best is in the getting up and sitting somewhere else. Still other days, we get up, get dressed, and accomplish a single task like brushing our teeth. On this day, our best is doing one single task.

Where we are takes on many shapes. It changes from moment to moment. Where we are can be difficult or it can be easy. Even so, sometimes when it is easy, we are still not happy where we are because we search for something more or find something else that needs to change.

Stop right now and notice where you are. What are you doing? Where are you? What can you see, touch, smell, hear, taste? Tell your mind that you are happy in this moment, right now. You don’t have to be happy about a specific thing, just in this moment I think happy, I feel happy. And smile.

How we think is how we feel, not the other way around. Work this week to be happy where ever you are and practice it over and over. Notice how thinking happy makes you feel happy. Be happy where ever you are.

Until next time,
Deborah

Thanksgiving Isn’t For Everyone

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Photo by Anna Tukhfatullina Food Photographer/Stylist on Pexels.com

In general, the commercials, the photos, the cards for Thanksgiving all depict the same kinds of scenes. Lots of food and family all smiling and happy and thankful. While this is true for many, for some Thanksgiving is a very stressful time of year for a wide variety of reasons.

Unresolved family trauma is a very real thing that rears its ugly head at the holidays. Long held beliefs about where one fits or doesn’t fit into their family come to the surface. Continued abuse either emotional, verbal, or physical find their way out during the holidays. Sometimes, just being in the same room with someone is more than many people can bear.

Grief and loss affect Thanksgiving for many others. The holidays are powerful reminders of those we have lost either through death or the end of relationships. The waves of grief can be too much to surf with a room full of people expecting you to interact and have conversations.

Some people don’t have families. There are circumstances that can leave people alone. Truly alone. Feeling that and being bombarded with the images of Thanksgiving as this happy family holiday can be overwhelming for many of these people.

So how can one weather the Thanksgiving holiday if our lives do not resemble the “happy family Thanksgiving” presented to us on a daily basis? The focus must be on doing what is best for you, not what is expected.

* Do not feel pressured to attend any event. This can be very difficult with families due to the possible judgment (real or imagined) that can occur. You do not have to go at all. However, if you do go, you do not have to stay very long. Don’t go early. Possibly present yourself for the meal only and after it is over find a way to leave quietly. If the event is with friends but you are not feeling up to it for whatever reason (grief, loss, illness, etc.) you do not have to go.

* Be aware of your own feelings. If a Thanksgiving gathering makes you anxious, sad, depressed, overwhelmed or any other negative emotion notice it, acknowledge it, and if you feel you need to leave for your emotional health – leave.

* Limit alcohol consumption. At many Thanksgiving gatherings, alcohol is part of the event. When we are feeling anxious, sad, depressed, grieving, or emotions from the past come up, we can think that drinking more alcohol can dull those emotions. Many time it can have the opposite effect increasing them and also lessening inhibitions that can cause us to act or say things in ways we would not if we were sober. This can lead to arguments, fighting, and even physical confrontations.

* Avoid the drama. Don’t take the bait of judgmental comments made by others. Redirect conversations that are critical, political, or confrontational. Enforce and reinforce your own boundaries politely but firmly. If things get too heated or make you very uncomfortable, leave.

* Give to others. If a gathering of family or friends is not something you are looking forward to, maybe finding a way to give to others would be better for you. Help collect and distribute Thanksgiving meals or turkeys to those who don’t have them. Volunteer to serve Thanksgiving dinner at a shelter or other facility for those without families or homeless. Visit a nursing home to spend time with some older folks who may not have family.

* Self-Care. Whether you spend time with family, friends, others, or alone for Thanksgiving, find time for your own self-care. Do something you enjoy. Something that you find relaxing. Go for a walk, meditate, write, paint, take a bath, get some exercise, put on your pajamas and watch football or a favorite movie. Invest time in letting go of any stress that has built up throughout the day or the several days of the holiday (shopping can be stressful too). Take care of you.

Whatever your Thanksgiving holiday contains, I do hope that you find a way to recognize the things you have to be thankful for. If it is family and friends be thankful for that. If it is for pajamas and watching football be thankful for that. If it is for helping others and giving of yourself be thankful for that. If it is for opening your eyes to another day be thankful for that. Find your thanks where ever it is. It is okay, Thanksgiving isn’t for everyone, but being thankful is.

Until next time,
Deborah

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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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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