Pros and Cons

Many times during therapy sessions I ask clients a question, “What do you want?” It seems simple, straightforward, but in fact it is quite the opposite. The answer is tangled up in emotions, the past, fear, low self esteem, and much more. It can be very difficult to come up with what you want, with what you want to happen or change, with what your goals are. But deep down everyone knows them, fear usually prevents acknowledging what they are and accepting what will have to happen in order to obtain them.

When I talk to clients about what they want, I ask if they have ever made a list of the pros and cons for each one. Usually the answer is no. The only way to weigh them out is to truly see them. Writing is one of the most therapeutic ways available to all of us to analyze different parts of ourselves and our stories. Write out the pros and cons of what you want, what you want to happen or change, and your goals.

For example, if you want to remove yourself from a toxic relationship, what are the pros of that and what are the cons. You may be thinking, how can there be cons when removing something toxic from our lives, but every choice has consequences. Some are good and some are not. Pros – You might be happier, safer, freer, gain more self esteem, find better relationships, not be abused by that person, start a new life, protect others, etc. Cons – You might be alone for some time, you may lose family or people that are important to you but toxic, you might feel badly for the other person’s emotions if you leave, other people may blame you for how the toxic person reacts, you might not be happier or feel safer being alone, you might fear the changes that come with ending a relationship, etc.

But what is your ultimate goal in wanting this change? And if you don’t change will you ever be able to reach that goal? Can you continue the same as you are now and have anything change in yourself, for yourself? Remember we cannot change anyone else. So it is only you in the decision to change.

Fear will be the greatest enemy when weighing the pros and cons. Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision. “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” ~ Jack Canfield Acknowledge what you fear and continue with the pros and cons. Acknowledge the cons, and proceed with the pros. Do not let fear keep you from what you truly want.

Until next time,
Deborah

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Boundaries

Setting and maintaining boundaries is one of the most difficult things for many people to do. Most of the time, it is because they have been taught by others that having boundaries is wrong. Why would anyone want someone else to feel that setting boundaries is wrong? Because they benefit from the other person NOT setting boundaries as it gives them whatever they want from that person without resistance. That is also why those very same people are the most angry and upset when we decide to put boundaries in place where there have been none.

As we are taught to believe that we have to please others in order to gain their love and friendship, we are taught to believe that we have to always say yes to them. Always be doing things FOR them. Always be giving of our time, our money, our feelings, our effort to make them happy so that they will care about us. This is a false relationship. What they care about is what you are doing for them, giving them, allowing them to take from you….it is not you the individual that they care about.

We can have no boundaries for years of our lives. We can come to believe that this is how we have to live. We can come to believe that this is necessary for any relationship we have. All the while, we are pouring from our cup until there is nothing left in the cup for ourselves. We are drained, tired, angry, sad, and empty in our efforts to fill the cups of others.

To examine your own personal boundaries have a look at this set of questions BoundarySigns Take some time to really think about and answer these questions. Think about all of your relationships from early in your life forward. What do your boundaries look like and why do they look that way?

After you have spent some time examining your boundaries and why they are the way they are, sit down and really think about your life priorities. Some examples of priorities are Work, Family, Health, Relationships, Recreation, Self-Care, Personal Growth, or Sports. There may be others that are priorities for you. Once you have your priorities, write down how you can focus on those for yourself not others. Again, for yourself and not others.

Doing these two things will provide you with more clarity about the state of your boundaries and what is really important to you. Then, you have to implement the changes necessary to start maintaining the boundaries necessary for your priorities to be realities.

Until next time,
Deborah

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
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Growth Hurts

growth

Growing is a painful process. Change hurts. Fear of both keeps us stuck.

We fear the unknown. The situations that we have experienced in the past and the situations in which we currently allow ourselves to live – are familiar. We know them. We know what they will cost us. What we have to give up to stay in them. What we have to tell ourselves to be in them. These are things we know and so we do not fear them. Change and growth on the other hand are things we know nothing about and we are terrified of them.

If we grow what happens? What will change in our lives? Will it be better or worse than what we have now? Will we be alone – lose our relationships or our family members if we change or grow? What will this growth cost us?

There are no easy answers to those questions. There is no way to know what will happen. I am not sure there is even a way to stop the fear of growing and changing. But there are some other questions you can ask that may have an answer.

Are you happy reliving the past? Are you happy in the present? Do you want to keep living in the trauma of the past or the trauma of the present? Can you see yourself in the same place in a year, 5 years, 10 years? Do you want to continue to live the way you are living? Is a different life worth the risk of the pain of growth and change and the risk that you may lose people in the process?

Only by honestly answering these questions can we begin to pursue change and growth which is a process. Growth and change are not immediate. It takes time. Each person’s time is different. It is often painful. It is hard and we often want to give up because the familiar is so much easier, we think.

Do you want change and growth and what cost are you willing to pay for it?

Until next time,
Deborah

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What Is Your Brain Growing?

The subconscious mind, which runs 95 percent of our lives, takes everything literally. Just as you say it. Just as you believe it. Regardless of whether it is true, the subconscious mind takes these things as fact. Once you put them into your mind and then allow them to plant themselves there, they will grow roots and spread just like weeds.

Is your mind full of weeds? If you find that you have negative automatic thoughts that constantly repeat and repeat in your mind, then the answer is likely yes. Mind weeds are the plants we allow to grow, have roots and spread and then they are always there.

These mind weeds can be the truth or they can be things we have told ourselves are true. If you question your automatic thoughts, you will find that many of them are not true. But the subconscious mind believes them. Sometimes our mind weeds can be so thick we cannot see what the real truth anymore. We come to think that we cannot get rid of them.

However, just as they appeared they can be replaced. And just as they took root with being repeated and repeated, we can repeatedly address them and replace them until they are changed. Pulling the weeds out one by one.

Just like we talk to the plants we grow in our houses and yards to help them flourish, we can talk to the weeds in our mind to remove them.

Until next time,
Deborah

Self-Talk: Change Your Mind, Change Your Life

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

Color Yourself Calm

Coloring as therapy has grown exponentially in the last few years. Coloring books, pencils, markers, and coloring apps are some of the best selling products currently. Everyone is jumping on the coloring bandwagon, but what are the benefits of coloring on mental health? Depending on whether you are an adult or a child they can differ slightly, but some of the benefits exist for both groups.

Let’s start with the benefits for children and coloring. They are not all mental health related, but they all build skills and provide tools that help with both mental health and learning. Ten benefits for kids are: Improving motor skills, prepares them for school and school work environment, stimulates creativity, contributes to better handwriting, color awareness and the nuances of colors, improved focus and hand to eye coordination, structure and spacial awareness, improved confidence and self-esteem, and stress relief. Coloring with kids offers a wide range of learning, motor, and mental health benefits. Coloring can be used to help children learn focus and to calm down when frustrated. Coloring can be used to express feelings. Remember it doesn’t have to stay in any lines or shapes to be helpful. The actual act of coloring in any manner – even angry coloring – is beneficial.

For adults, the benefits are mainly related to mental health, but even adults, especially the elderly can benefit from the motor skills benefits of coloring. Some of the benefits for adults and coloring are: Coloring produces a meditative state in the brain, Stress and anxiety levels can be reduced, Negative thoughts are replaced as you create positivity through coloring, being focused on the present activity creates mindfulness, if you color without an app unplugging from technology allows for less screen dependence, you don’t have to be an artist to color, it expands the creative parts of your brain, and it is something you can do anywhere. Since it is portable you can have it with you where ever you are and whenever emotional issues arise. You can use it to gain mindfulness. Meditation mantras or affirmations in your mind while coloring boost positivity and increase the meditative state.

Coloring is not about being perfect, always inside the lines, or needing to look a specific way. Coloring can be completely abstract. It can be messy. It can be quick or very slow. It can be whatever you need and however you want to do it. The focus should be just that – focus. The coloring allows you to focus – your mind, your emotions, your energy in a specific area instead of having these things be out of control. Transfer thoughts, emotions, energy through your arm into your hands and onto the coloring surface. Visualize this happening as you color. If your thoughts and emotions wander, notice it, let it go, and bring your focus back to the coloring. Mindful meditation through art therapy with coloring.

Here are a few coloring books to get you started:

Happy coloring!

Until next time,
Deborah

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