Regrets Have One Purpose

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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.

Bring Your Goals Into Focus

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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

Living Better Through Trauma

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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

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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

Stay On Schedule

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Every day there is a new article or news report about the most important thing we can do during this virus crisis. From distancing to mask wearing and everything in between. However, there is one thing that is being overlooked and which I think is extremely important.

STAY ON SCHEDULE

All of us, from children to adults, are used to a schedule of some kind. Whether the schedule is for work or school or even the schedule you had if you were already staying at home before this crisis happened. Most everyone has some kind of schedule.

In having this schedule, your brain and body become used to doing things at a certain time. They become accustomed to responding to the need to work, eat, play, sleep at regular intervals. They become conditioned to this is the time and at this time this is what we are supposed to do.

Keeping a schedule when everything you kept a schedule for has been turned upside down is very difficult. It is very easy to slip into pushing the conditioned schedule responses away.

We stay up later watching movies or playing video games. We sleep in later as we realize there is really no where we need be in the mornings. We skip meals or start “grazing” or eating in passing of whatever is available. We stay in our pajamas and routine hygiene can become less and less.

This all may seem quite liberating at first. No demands or pressures to get up at 6am or be in class or at work by 8am. We can choose Netflix or Hulu and lie in bed all day long. Sounds like what we may have longed for all those days we were bound to the schedule.

Very soon after, however, our brains and bodies start to react to the lack of schedule and routine. The brain becomes sluggish. As if it’s not really awake. The body starts to feel tired even if we are sleeping more. We have body aches and pains from all this new laying about for hours. We start to feel sad and then possibly irritated or both. And we long for our past schedule and the activities that go with it.

It is especially true for younger people and children. Their need for structure, routine, and schedule is even more pronounced. Without it, they fall into boredom, sadness, irritation and are less able to self-regulate their emotions, which leads to outbursts of anger or tears.

When you add on possible fears of getting sick or having someone in your life who is sick and then add on possible job losses and financial issues, this can increase the body and brain’s response to lack of schedule.

So, how do we manage this at this time in our lives? We must make every attempt to stick as close as possible to the schedule we had before this event started. The brain and body need it. We need it. Yes there can be some leeway or stray from the 6am alarm time, but it should not be more than a couple of hours at most and the same for bedtime. Eating should be monitored so as not to stress eat or eat poorly. Hydration should be kept up. Getting outside should be scheduled in.

You can make a new schedule with different activities due to the way things must be managed during this time, but you can make a schedule and stick to it.

Believe me, your brain and body will thank you for it. You will feel better and your emotions will feel better. And it is not too late to start if you haven’t been doing it thus far. Today is a new day and your schedule can begin again.

Until next time,
Deborah

Get Some Sun

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Social distancing does not prevent us from going outside. It just helps us not to congregate together. Going outside is essential to physical and mental health and even more so during this time.

Most of us are spending a lot of time at home right now. We are finding it difficult to keep on a schedule. We are consuming a lot of streaming shows and videos. We just are not getting out much in some cases.

Our bodies and minds need the outside and they need the sunshine and vitamin D. During this time of staying at home, it does not mean we cannot go outside and get some sun. There are many ways to do it and the benefits are invaluable.

In northern climates, it is even more important to get out and get some sun due to the fact that there is less exposure during the winter months. Increasing your intake of vitamin D can also be helpful, but being in the sun is still necessary.

Recently in Montana, we had some snow for a couple of days. It was cold and the sun wasn’t out and many people I talked to felt very down during those days. The sun is out now and it is beautiful outside, and we need to be outside too.

Even if it is just to go out into your own yard or on to your own porch for an hour or two. Going on walks on paths and trails or bike rides in the sunshine. Walking around the block of you neighborhood a few times. Or just getting a lawn chair and sitting in your driveway in the sun.

It does not matter how you get out and get sun just that you do. Your mind and body will feel so much better and brighter just like the sun itself. Even a few minutes can make a big difference.

Remember to keep your distance with others when you are out, but go outside. Staying in the house all the time during this crisis is not helpful. Social distancing does not mean complete isolation. We need to still be social in the ways that we can and we need to be outside as much as possible when the sun is out.

Go outside today. Get your family outside. Soak in some vitamin D and be mindful of the beauty of the coming spring and change of season.

Go outside and get some sun. Your mind and body will be grateful for it and your spirits will be lifted.

Until next time,
Deborah

Calm Your Worries

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In times of uncertainty and increased anxiety, our worries can increase with out fears. With each added worry or fear, we can find ourselves feeling overwhelmed and in some cases unable to do even the most basic things.

The first step to calming your worries is acknowledging they exist. Many times, we think it is easier to ignore or deny or dismiss what it is we are afraid of or worrying about. This might work temporarily but the worries present themselves again at some point and in usually greater numbers.

Sometimes we use behaviors to distance ourselves from the fears or worries. By using substances or sleeping all the time or becoming irritated and taking that frustration out on others around us. But still we are not recognizing the fears and worries for what they are.

Confronting fears and then truthfully analyzing them is the only way to take away their power. Monitoring the truthfulness of the fears or worries. This can be done in a variety of ways.

Keeping a journal of your fears or worries. Writing them down daily. Coming back to them the next day to see if they actually came to pass. If they did not, then it helps to reinforce that they are not true and are a creation of your mind. If you do this repeatedly you will find that your mind starts to dismiss the same fears or worries because you have already shown it that they are not going to happen.

There is an app also that can help with managing fears and worries. It is Worry Watch. The app helps you keep track of your fears and worries and also helps you to track the truthfulness of them. There are also positive affirmations and other tools for reinforcing new thoughts to replace you fears and worries.

In times of uncertainty, fear and worry seem to grow rapidly. It is important to face them, apply the test of truthfulness to them, and replace them with different thoughts that are true.

Take some time today to get ahead of your fears and worries before they get ahead of you.

Until next time,
Deborah