Taking Breaks

Photo by AJ Wallace on Unsplash

Sometimes we can be so tired in our mind and body that only a complete break from our everyday life will reset us. This past weekend, I was able to have one of those resets.

My family and I went for four days to what is called the Missouri Breaks in Montana. It is several hours north of where we live where there are almost no people and definitely no Internet, cell, or television service of any kind. The land is high prairie with pine trees, juniper bushes, and sagebrush.

The sky is magnificently big and seems to go on forever.

The only noises are the animals and birds in the morning and evening. In the in between, there is no noise. Zero noise. It is completely quiet. The peace is immeasurable.

In the morning, you can hear everything from Western Meadowlarks to Canadian Geese along with coyotes and elk and many more starting off daybreak. In the evenings, it is much the same and the music is amazing.

In the in between time, there are walks or hikes to view wildlife, find amazing rocks and fossils, and breathe in the world around us. There is also time for coloring and naps and the occasional classic movie such as Chisum or Lonesome Dove.

In the evenings, there is peace and the campfire. The hypnotic mesmerizing flames are like a colorful dancing meditation and we sit transfixed as if we are stones. We roast the occasional marshmallow and having brought my telescope we view the heavens above in all its unpolluted by light glory.

Mars is there, along with Orion, the Big and Little Dippers, Hercules, Gemini, and many more along with super bright binary stars and red giants. It is a light show unlike any other and as far as you can see there are stars. Also satellites that go streaking by very fast and shooting stars.

There are no phone calls, no text messages, no appointment reminders and no email. There is no social media distraction and no news of the day in the rest of the world. There are no work day duties. Only peace.

I sit in the sun and watch the burning embers of the fire from the night before and I feel my body, mind, and spirit being fed. It seeps into me resetting me once again.

Taking breaks is necessary for those in the mental health profession just as it is for everyone else. It is okay to take time for yourself so that you can give care to others. It is more than okay. It is a requirement for a healthy life.

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Be Your Own Valentine

Valentine’s Day can be the cause of great joy and great stress. When we have a special someone in our lives we feel we have to work extra hard to keep them and when we do not have that special someone we feel we must spend all our energy trying to find them.

On Valentine’s Day, and truly every day, we can be so invested in keeping or finding our special someone, or being very sad that we have lost them or have not found them, that we forget to love the person who needs it, deserves it, and benefits most….ourselves.

Do you love yourself? Do you make you happy? Do you practice self love?

If you answer no to these questions, perhaps it is time to start changing that, right now, this moment, today. And to build in love for yourself on every day of the year.

If you believe that you do not or can not love yourself, why is that true for you? Where did that belief start in your life? You were not born not loving yourself. It started at some point after that. Experiences, trauma, caregivers who caused you to form this belief, internalize someone else’s beliefs as your own. We do not wake up one day as an infant and decide that we, ourselves, do not love ourselves any longer. We are conditioned to believe this. How were you conditioned to answer no to the question of do you love yourself?

Are you happy with yourself? If the answer is no, what parts of yourself are you not happy with? And why did you become unhappy with those parts? Again, who informed that belief, who gave you that belief? What experiences caused that belief to become something you now accept? You were not born unhappy with yourself. How were you conditioned to believe that you make you unhappy?

If you answered no to the first two, it is highly unlikely that you practice self love. When is the last time you did something to show love to yourself? Were you taught that to think of yourself and do things for yourself was selfish? Were you taught that you had to or needed to take care of others and care about their happiness before your own? When you were born your own needs were very important to you – food, care, clothing, safety. When did that change?

“Loving yourself… does not mean being self-absorbed or narcissistic, or disregarding others. Rather it means welcoming yourself as the most honored guest in your own heart, a guest worthy of respect, a lovable companion.” —Margo Anand

Loving yourself is the most kind, respectful thing that you can do for you every single day. Repeat after me – I love myself, I am worthy of loving myself, I deserve to love myself, my love for myself makes me happy with myself.

Be your own valentine!

Until next time be well,

Deborah

What’s On Your Christmas List?

Photo by Mike Arney on Unsplash

One thing that most of us do during the Christmas shopping season is make lists. Lists of gifts we need to buy, food we need to shop for, gatherings we need to attend, everything has a list this time of year. One thing we usually do not do or do enough of is make a list for ourselves.

Christmas is the season of giving. The old adage is often repeated, it is better to give than to receive. However Christmas can also be a very stressful time of year. This year offers even more stressors than normal with the ongoing virus. It is quite possible that we need to think about giving to ourselves as well.

As we sit down to make all of our other lists, we should think about pulling out some paper to make a list of what we can do for ourselves during this holiday season to love ourselves and to lessen our stress levels.

There are many things we can for ourselves. Some take seconds and others require a little more planning, but all are worth it to love ourselves more this holiday season. Here are just a few that you might add to your list this year.

  1. Start the day as soon as you wake up with taking time for yourself. Whether that be deep breathing, breathe in counting 5 seconds and breathe out counting 7 seconds or doing a brief guided or unguided meditation. Perhaps a few short yoga movements or some nice stretching when you get out of bed. Just to feel centered and grounded.
  2. Taking a nice warm bubble bath or shower and using some of the wonderful products out this time of year. Holiday scented scrubs and body washes. Lighting some holiday scented candles. Picking up a holiday scented moisturizer.
  3. Scheduling a massage, facial, hair or nail appointment. Doing something just for yourself. Some just you time for pampering.
  4. Get out in the sunshine. Winter can be a difficult time with lots of cloudy and darker weather. When the sun is out finding time to just go out and stand in it or to take a brief walk in it can do wonders for your mood and body.
  5. Be mindful of your commitments. Many times during the holiday season we can over commit. Agreeing to any and everything others want us to do leaving no time for ourselves. Be mindful not to over schedule yourself.
  6. Try to stay as much in your routine as possible. The holidays can often lead to staying up late, eating too much, and skipping daily habits such as exercise and taking your vitamins. Sticking as close as possible to your usual routine will keep your bod and your mind happier.
  7. Make a spending budget. Many people stress over what they spend during the holidays. If you make a budget and stick to it you can avoid the after Christmas spending blues a little easier.
  8. Give yourself time outs. If you start feeling overwhelmed or overly tired, find ways to take a time out. Spend some time doing things that make you feel recharged and rejuventated.
  9. Manage you expectations and roll with the changes. Inevitably our holiday schedules can get jumbled up or rearranged. Let go of what you cannot control and focus on enjoying what unfolds.
  10. If you feel overwhelmed or that your stress is too much for you to manage, seek out help. Talk to someone about how you are feeling. Delegate tasks and do not try to do everything yourself. And if you are experiencing stronger feelings of grief or sadness, seek out professional help.

When you are making your holiday lists, make one for you and give the gift of self love to yourself.

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Do One Thing

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I have a sign in my office that states, do one thing every day that makes you happy.

In a world of grief, division, blame, election chaos, and Covid finding happiness can seem a herculean task. But finding one thing, no matter how small, might seem a little more doable.

Think right now the first thing that comes to your mind that makes you happy. What is it? It does not matter what it is. It does not have to be something big or enormously meaningful. It can be tiny and to others may seem insignificant or even trivial, but to you it makes you happy. It makes you smile.

The first thing that came to my mind is coffee. A really good cup of coffee. Every time I have my coffee in the morning, it makes me smile. it makes me happy. It makes me warm and fuzzy. And this is something made of just beans.

Do one thing every day that makes you happy.

And in the great tradition of building habits, if you can do one thing for a period of time, you can also add to that one thing with another thing. And possibly another thing.

What if you added enough of one happy things that it filled most of your day? Would you think you would feel happier overall? You would need to notice and acknowledge each one. Speak gratitude for each. Enjoy the smile, the happiness, the warmth for each one.

How many one things could you have in a day? Five, ten, twenty, a hundred? Just think of the dopamine and serotonin you would get from all those one things that make you happy every day.

This week I put up the Christmas decorations in my office because Christmas lights make me happy every single time I turn them on. Every time. One thing.

What will your one thing be today?

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Sharpen The Saw

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The last of the 7 habits of highly effective by Dr. Stephen R. Covey may well be the most important and the hardest for many to accomplish. We spend a great deal of time taking care of others needs and also trying to accomplish everything in our daily lives that we forget about the most important person – ourselves.

The phrase sharpen the saw is used to describe self-care or self-renewal. To be effective for others, we must take care of our own physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual health. We cannot pour ourselves out onto others or into the other parts of our lives (work, school, family, friends) if our own vessel is empty.

We can attempt to pour from an empty vessel, but in doing so we will find that we are very ineffective and our own bodies, minds, and spirits become worn down, sick, and unable to function in a healthy way in any part of our lives.

Taking care of our physical self and renewing our bodies requires beneficial eating, exercising and resting. Choosing more healthy options over fast food, meal planning, picking nourishing foods with which to refuel ourselves. Exercising as much as possible and getting creative when we have less time such as taking the stairs instead of elevators, parking farther away from where we need to go so that we walk more, incorporating yoga or tai chi into our office breaks. Adequate sleep is paramount in renewing our bodies and minds. But adequate sleep that is actually restful is even better. Finding ways to achieve deep, restful sleep such as meditation before bed, warm baths, herbal teas, or supplements.

In renewing our social and emotional selves we must make intentional, meaningful connection with others. Intentionally reaching out to friends or family to sincerely connect with them even if it is just for a few minutes of your day. Many people use texting as their only method of communication and it is connection, but what if we had an actual phone call, sent a hand written letter, or made time for lunch or coffee instead.

Renewing our mental health means not only addressing our emotions and responses to stressors and trauma, but adding learning about ourselves and our mental health. Reading about how to strengthen our minds and emotional resilience. Writing our emotions in journals. Seeking out therapy if needed. Being open to processing and working through things that impact our mental health.

Expanding our spiritual renewal by spending time in nature, utilizing meditation, music, art, prayer, or acts of service. Connecting with whatever our spiritual beliefs might be and being aware of our spiritual self and connection with the universe. Enriching our spirit through reflection and meditation.

These acts of self-renewal or self-care allow us to grow and change as individuals to be able to offer more to others and to the world around us. Renewal allows us to increase our ability to handle challenges that arise because we are fresher and stronger.

If we live our life in balance we take the time to renew ourselves. The four areas of renewal when practiced regularly have an overlapping center that contribute to our ability to be our best possible selves within all areas of our lives, and especially for our own self-care. Without this, we are unable to be effective anywhere else. A saw that is not sharpened will not be of any use.

“We must never become too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw.” ~ Dr. Stephen R. Covey

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

Informed Versus Overloaded

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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

The Importance Of Self-Care In Isolation

man standing beside window
Photo by Jose Antonio Gallego Vázquez on Pexels.com

Self-care is an important practice at all times, but now even more so during these periods of isolation. With so many things on our minds during this time including care for others, worries about jobs and bills, children home from school, not being able to get supplies, our own self-care can fall by the wayside.

Isolation for those not used to it and even for those who are who feel even more isolated can result in an increase in mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

It is very important to keep up your self-care routine as much as possible or to start doing self-care on a more regular basis while isolated. Many of our self-care options are being limited by social distancing such as gyms, movies, massages, restaurants, etc. We can find that many of the things we did for self-care before are not available to us now.

That is when we have to find new ways to care for ourselves in the confines of our current situation. If we do not find these outlets for our anxiety and depression, we may find ourselves sinking further into despair and worry.

Here are some ways to practice self-care at home during this time:

1 – Writing. Starting or continuing a journal. Writing poetry. Writing short stories. Getting emotional transference through writing.

2 – Meditation. Continuing or starting a meditation practice. Calming your mind can go a long way to calming your life. Apps like Headspace, Calm, Worry Watch, and more can help you in this meditation process.

3- Art. Painting, drawing, crafting, creating and any other art related activity can inspire creativity, promote the release of dopamine and focus your thoughts on what you are doing.

4 – Games. Playing games can be very helpful during this time. If you have kids at home playing games with them or playing games by yourself on your phone, computer, or gaming system. I wouldn’t recommend doing it nonstop but every now and then offers a good break in the routine.

5 – Organizing. Taking a room of your house one at a time and organizing, managing clutter, and tidying up can not only help your home space but your mind space as well.

6 – Schedules. Having a set schedule for each day regardless of if you can go out of the house or not. A time to get up, make breakfast, work on tasks, do self-care, etc. If you have children, a schedule is necessary to continue providing structure and routine which they desperately need.

7 – Get Outside. Even if you cannot go to places you normally would, you can go outside your house. Even if it is just to sit outside in your yard in the sun, it will make a HUGE difference.

8 – Exercise. Do some kind of exercise. Even if it’s just stretching. Yoga, walking around your house, anything to get you moving and get those endorphins and dopamine going.

9 – Humor. Don’t get trapped in the gloom and doom of the news, social media, and your fellow man. Find some humor. Find ways to laugh, a lot. Funny videos, movies, comedians and things like this are all ways to have a good laugh.

10- Therapy. If you go to therapy already either keep going in to the office if possible or see if your therapist can offer telehealth (video sessions). If you feel you need to see a therapist do the same thing, go in or see if they offer video. Your mental health is important too.

These are just some of the things you can do during this time of isolation to take care of your self-care. Don’t stop taking care of you.

Because you matter.

Until next time,
Deborah

Losing Yourself

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Photo by Rene Asmussen on Pexels.com

The more time I spend working in the trauma-focused world of counseling, the more I realize codependency is far more widespread than previously thought. Especially traumas that are experienced in childhood, which makes sense as that is where everything is set for future behaviors, beliefs, and choices.

Codependency most often stems from a childhood that contains either physical/sexual abuse, witnessed domestic abuse, addiction in parents, lack of parents, neglect, parents with mental illness, emotional abuse or any combination of these. Codependency also occurs if the child has no parents especially mothers in their lives.

The child will develop beliefs about themselves and an absolute need to try and contain, control, or cover up the situations they find themselves in. All while desperately wanting to maintain the relationship so their parent will love them or at the very least acknowledge them in some way.

The child will spend every waking moment trying to make sure the parent is okay or in their minds “happy.” If people are happy they won’t take their unhappiness out on them. They also spend their lives being small adults caring for parents who cannot care for themselves. Cooking, cleaning, providing alcohol or drugs, doing what the parent wants no matter what it is to keep them happy, taking care of siblings.

Always, always, seeking love from the parent, approval, even just being noticed is enough to keep the child repeating the cycle.

Through this behavior, the child develops a very low self-image believing they are not worthy of love. They develop poor boundaries and in many cases no boundaries. There is a constant need to save others or make others happy. They never consider what they need or want. There is a constant need for perfection so that they might be lovable. And an absolute need for control over anything that they can control because life with their parent is always chaos.

All of these things become set inside the child between birth and age 7. After this, these beliefs, behaviors, and choices become solid in the psyche and they are then seen as “normal” and they are not questioned. They are just repeated and repeated throughout their lives in every single relationship they have.

They seek out relationships with those who need saving. They never consider what they want or need or how they feel. Every relationship is the one they had with their parent or the one they didn’t have with their parent because the parent wasn’t there. They control their children’s lives because they couldn’t control their parents. They never say no in relationships because they need the other person’s approval for their own self worth.

Codependency can be extremely hard to change because by the time someone seeks out help it has been their norm for years and years. They have no concept of self-love or self-care. Boundaries are a foreign concept. Being alone is an all consuming fear. Children will always want their parent to love them no matter what the parent has done even when they are no longer children – it is genetic.

Learning to say no is one of the most important things codependent people can do to begin to set boundaries with others. Understanding the difference between saving people and supporting them without enabling their behaviors. Self-care and self-love are absolutely necessary to breaking the chains of codependency. Knowing that they have worth in themselves and do not need others to provide it for them.

Counseling can help codependent people see things more objectively and offer ways to start to change. The biggest thing that keeps people from letting go of codependent behaviors is fear. Counseling can help process through this fear and open the road to moving forward. Reaching out for help can be the first step to change.

Until next time,
Deborah

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

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