Mindful Communication

mindful-communication-13

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

Illusion of Control

17_illusion-of-control

For many trauma survivors, the illusion of control provides a way to feel control so that they balance out feeling out of control when memories, flashbacks, and emotions of their past traumas surface. If they can control as much as possible about their daily lives it can appear to them that they are no longer out of control as a result of their traumas. The more control they have the better able they are to avoid the distress that comes with facing their traumas as described in this study Perceived Control and Avoidance in Posttraumatic Stress.

Many times a trauma survivor will seek out anything they think they can control in order to avoid the distress of their trauma history. The illusion of control is defined as “The illusion of control is the tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control events; for example, it occurs when someone feels a sense of control over outcomes that they demonstrably do not influence.” Many times people with trauma history will feel they can control everything around them and even convince themselves that the control they think they have is real.

If they can hold on to this belief that they are in control, then they do not have to confront the loss of control they feel when they relive their traumas. Even if they believe they control one thing, it is better than feeling as if they control nothing. This control can take many forms and some of them can be very destructive.

Self-harm is a classic trauma control. If someone is cutting, they are in control of the release of their pain. If someone is controlling their family members lives and choices, they are in control of trying to make their life different from what it was during their traumas. If someone is enforcing their control of themselves with drugs and alcohol, they diminish the emotions of their trauma.

The other side of control is avoidance. If someone can feel as if they are in control they can avoid confronting their traumas and the emotions that go with them. The very ways that they exercise control can be avoidance. For many trauma survivors, avoidance is automatic. They would do anything to not have to experience the emotions that come with remembering and talking about their traumas.

The illusion of control can seem very real, but it is false no matter how one might try to convince themselves otherwise. The illusion of control can seem to be real for a long time, years even, but there are points where it is evident that it is not and there will come a time it will not hold in the face of the emotions of trauma. These times usually come when their are anniversary dates involved with traumas, when flashbacks and memories occur, when someone engages in therapy, or when nightmares surface.

The illusion of control is only a covering, like a blanket of snow that remains for a while but eventually starts to melt, have holes, and disappear completely.

Until next time,
Deborah

Hold The Line

boundaries

Setting boundaries is one of the hardest things for people to do, especially people with trauma history. Many times, people do not feel that they can set boundaries as they want to do everything they can to make sure everyone else is okay and that everyone else is happy at the expense of their own feelings or needs or rights.

Also, the need to make other people okay or happy starts early, very early usually when people are still young children to win their parents love or attention. By the time most people realize that they are giving others everything and themselves nothing, the need to give up their needs and rights has become automatic. It is then very difficult to start setting those boundaries. It feels uncomfortable, even wrong. People react very badly to it. It is hard, very hard to do. But like anything else in life, it is repetition and reinforcement.

In order to start setting your boundaries you have to ask yourself what are your rights. What are your rights as a human being? The right to be respected as an individual, the right to make your own choices, the right to be find happiness for yourself, the right to manage your own life, the right to say no. Even these can be hard questions to answer for those who have not had boundaries most of their lives.

Start with one question that you answer, let’s say it is the right to make your own choices. Based on this, you then start making your own choices and then holding the line as you confront your own doubts that you can do it and the push back from others who are wondering why you are doing it now when you never have before. You will have to hold the line against opposition and against the negative thoughts in your own mind. And again, it is a daily, sometimes every minute repetition and reinforcement that this is your right and that it is okay for you to do it.

Most of the people who have known you a long time and have been able to treat you in certain ways all your life and have you respond to their needs and demands in certain ways all your life will not be happy that you are now setting these boundaries. They will in fact question why you are doing this. They will in fact look for reasons why so that they can blame this on someone or something else because you certainly cannot do this on your own. They will take it personally that you are not giving them what they want as you always have done and that it must because you don’t love them anymore. This will be your hardest task in holding the line.

Being healthy requires that you consider yourself, your needs, your rights, your emotions on the same level as you do for other people, maybe even more so. If you are not taking care of yourself helping others will drain you of your energy, your health, your emotions and there will be nothing left with which to support yourself. And as long as you are giving all to others they will continue to drain you dry and expect you to continue giving them what they need and want.

Define your rights. Be assertive. Learn to say no. Protect your space. Hold your line. By doing this you will find for yourself better self esteem, conserving your emotional energy, and be more independent. Hold your line.

Until next time,
Deborah

Request an Appointment

Moving and Expanding

moving

Mindful Montana Wellness, LLC is moving and expanding!! We are growing in order to serve more of Billings and the surrounding areas. We are very excited about the new opportunities our move and expansion will provide for us and for the community.

On Monday, September 2, 2019, we will be moving our offices to 926 Main Street Suite 18 in Billings, Montana. We will still be located in the Billings Heights. This location is on Main Street in the Heights in the brown office buildings next to Domino’s across from TireRama. Suite 18 is located on the right side near the back corner.

We are also very excited to be adding a new therapist to our practice. On Monday, September 9, 2019, we will be adding therapist Kirsten Pett, LCSW to our practice. Kirsten has several years of experience working in residential facilities and also in the public schools as a therapist. She utilizes Mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, and several other therapeutic techniques.

With the addition of a new therapist, we will be accepting new appointments for children, adolescents, and adults. These new appointments will start after September 9, 2019.

We are excited about these new opportunities and being able to continue to provide mental health counseling services in Billings and the surrounding area.

Until next time,
Deborah

Be Grateful

Zig Ziglar is credited with saying: “Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions.” And he is so right. Of all the emotions we can experience pure gratitude is one that boosts our “feel good” chemicals, increases joy, makes us more mindful, and attracts or brings more good things to our lives. Gratitude costs nothing outside of our effort to be thankful.

Practicing gratitude is like all other things we practice and make habits in our lives. If done daily, even as little as once a day, it can become a habit in as little as 30 days. To do it more than once a day allows us to fully be aware of all the things that we have, that we are thankful for, that are bringing good to our lives. Being focused on these things instead of the things we don’t have, or the things we wish weren’t in our lives, or the things that don’t bring good things to our lives frees us to embrace happiness and joy.

There are many ways to practice gratitude. Mental gratitude – being thankful just in your mind, thinking about the things we are grateful for. Spoken gratitude – speaking out the things we are grateful for. Written gratitude – writing down the things we are thankful for. A combination of gratitude exercises can increase the habit of being grateful daily.

I have been talking about writing as emotional transference quite a bit in sessions recently. Writing can also be very helpful in being grateful to reinforce your gratitude and the habit of being thankful. There are many, many options for gratitude journals online. You can also just as easily use any kind of paper for a journal. You can use a guided or prompting journal that gives you specific things to be grateful for on that date or you can just write about anything you want. There are also many apps that allow you to have gratitude daily. I use the Gratitude Journal – Private diary & affirmations on my phone to keep a daily record of my gratitude. But I also incorporate mental and spoken forms of gratitude during the day and during meditation.

It doesn’t matter what you are grateful for. It can be something big like family, a home, a job, or health or something seemingly insignificant like coffee, a pen, paper, or ink. It is not what you are grateful for that matters it is that you practice BEING grateful every day to increase your own happiness and joy. If you have more on the grateful side of things, you will find that more joy, more happiness, and more things to be grateful for come your way.

Until next time,
Deborah

The Five Minute Journal: A Happier You in 5 Minutes a Day | Original Creator of The Five Minute Journal – Simple Daily Guided Format – Increase Gratitude & Happiness, Life Planner, Gratitude List

Soar Journal (Notebook, Diary) (Black Rock) (Guided Journals Series)

One Thing

I have had a lot of conversations lately with people feeling overwhelmed with everything going on in their lives. Feeling as if they try to do one thing and then see all the other things they need to do and move on to something else and something else and ending up doing none of them well and feeling inadequate and overwhelmed.

I have been telling all of the people who are feeling this way that a beginning to gaining some control over these feelings is to do ONE thing. It doesn’t matter what that one thing is, just do ONE thing. Whether that one thing be decompressing in the bathroom or your bedroom of your home when you arrive from work for even 5 minutes. Changing your clothes into something more comfy, washing your face, taking a 5 minute brisk shower, doing 5 minutes of meditation or journal writing BEFORE you engage with other people or things in your home. Just a brief break to gather yourself and your thoughts. And when this one thing is accomplished, recognize it and yourself for having done so. Say it out loud, I have done this one thing, I feel more calm, I can think more clearly.

Another ONE thing can be to take a break when you feel overwhelmed. This can be the most difficult for overwhelmed people to do. The feelings generally push harder on us to get these things done or manage this situation or deal with these people wanting our attention right now all at once. When you start to feel overwhelmed take a break. A break can be just going into another room and doing some deep breathing. A 5 minute or even a 1 minute meditation. Going outside and grounding yourself in nature. Lying on a bed or even the floor and grounding yourself with the 5 steps – What can you see, what can you hear, what can you touch, what can you smell, what can you taste. Wash your face or take a quick brisk shower. Go for a short walk around the place where you are. Color something or do some free writing and emotionally transfer your feelings out of you. One thing, just one thing, can change your mindset in seconds. Again, be sure to recognize the one thing you are doing and recognize what it does for your emotions and how that feels in your body.

If you are driving from school or work to home or somewhere else use the drive to decompress. Do some deep breathing while you are driving. Get into the being mode while driving and notice everything around you during the drive instead of going on automatic pilot and letting your thoughts dominate the drive. Put on some relaxing music or something you like to sing to. Do progressive muscle relaxation while you drive. Don’t spend the drive thinking about all the things that will confront you at your destination and things you cannot control.

Try it out today. Do ONE thing to redirect anxiety and overwhelming feelings. It does not matter what the one thing is just make sure to acknowledge it, notice it, pay attention to how it makes you feel and where you experience that emotion in your body. Do ONE thing every day that centers you.

Until next time,
Deborah
Request An Appointment

Laughter Is The Best Medicine

The phrase “laughter is the best medicine” has been spoken for years and even though there may not have been a whole lot of science behind it long ago, there is now. Laughter is one of the most healing therapeutic tools that we all have access to.

Laughing especially an “old fashioned belly laugh” or “laughing until you cry” can cause the release of endorphins from the brain into the blood stream. Endorphins act as pain and stress reducers in the body. They are often referred to as a natural analgesic. Endorphins are released during exercise, when you eat chocolate, and when you laugh.

Some studies have shown that laughter decreases the stress producing hormones of the body including cortisol (a stress hormone very prevalent in women), epinephrine (which increases anxiety reactions), and decreases the effects of some dopamine repressing acids. Other studies have shown that laughter can alter dopamine and serotonin activity, thereby causing a decrease in depression symptoms.

If you have ever laughed so much that it made you cry or your face muscles or stomach muscles hurt and then right after noticed how you feel – it is almost an anesthetic type of euphoria. I know for myself laughing like this has made me feel completely relaxed afterwards almost as if I had exercised for 30 minutes. It was the same effect on my mind and my body.

Opportunities for laughter can be found all around us. The Internet is quite a resource for finding things that make us laugh in pictures and videos. Movies offer another resource of laughter. Books another. And personal interactions provide some of the best opportunities to laugh.

Laughter truly can be therapy and this book offers some insight into how laughter can help.

Laughter Therapy: How to Laugh About Everything in Your Life That Isn’t Really Funny

Until next time,
Deborah