Tag Archives: Self-Care

M & M: Its not just Candy

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How Are You?

How Are You?

We hear it practically every single day of our lives and sometimes more often than once or twice during the day. When we see each other in person, when we call each other on the phone, maybe even when we text each other, one of the most common types of questions involves how we are feeling.

I’m not looking to be controversial, but I have to wonder, how many of us really knows the answer. It seems, in my experience at least, I find myself on ‘automatic pilot’ as I go through my day unless I made a very conscious effort to show up to my own life. I not only go through the physical activities such as waking up, shutting the alarm clock, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, kissing my spouse, reaching for my morning coffee (you get the picture,) but there are even more internal things going on within me that I hardly am present at.

Sometimes it feels as if my brain is just keeps on going and going, like the Ever Ready Bunny, never slowing down at all, just whirring on, like the processor in my computer. The only thing is that my computer always lets me know when it is overheating and needs some time to cool down. Not so with my brain and my emotions. It is such a natural thing for me to just keep going non-stop, without coming up for air. I have to consciously remind myself to get up and move around and reacquaint myself with the moment of life I am in.

Multi-Tasking

Multi-Tasking

If you asked me, I would tell you that I’m doing quite well, I’m okay…I’m fine and more than okay because I am not “feeling” the stress that is piling up all around me. I’m dealing with it, from multi-tasking moment to multi-tasking moment. I am deluding myself into believing I am being highly productive because I am getting ‘all this stuff’ done.

Not really. It may seem as if I am doing more, but actually, I’m not focused and truly accomplishing and producing less. I’m focusing on external distractions (and believe me, there is no end to them). So when the time comes for me to reign myself in and focus on the one thing I really need to do, it is harder and harder all the time.

Meditation

Meditation

What’s a gal to do? Enter the double “M” solution. The combination of mindfulness and meditation is something quite remarkable. It helps me isolate the times when I need to focus on what is going on with me internally, my emotions or my thoughts, giving them a time and a place in which I pay particular and intensive attention to them. I acknowledge and accept them by tuning into what is going on with me internally. I become extremely aware of how it feels to breathe and take a deep breath. I become focused on how it feels when I tighten and then release muscles in my arms or legs. I allow myself to devote my energy to myself without having my attention pulled in countless directions.

This 1:1 is just what I need to refresh, rejuvenate and keep my ‘stuff’ in the right place, leaving me with the ability to dedicate all I have to give to the tasks I have to face. I am able to apply myself to what needs to be done and still honor the parts of me that get ignored when I falsely convince myself I am getting so much done. Not only am I freeing myself up to be all I can be, but I’m also teaching myself a new way to honor who I need to be. . . no judgment, just making at least as much time for caring about me as I do for all the things I feel I need to care about.

Such a different way to treat myself than what I’ve known! And it appears to be working out for me because the more I practice this, the more alive I feel and the more I find I am able to check off on my “to do” list each and every day.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

The Control of Change

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Controls

Controls

I find control is an interesting concept. It interests me because I don’t see myself as a Type A personality or a controlling sort, but with the mindfulness word I have been doing, I am becoming more and more aware of just how often I do indeed try to have things turn out my way.

I am not saying this makes me an awful person, on the contrary, I see it as a very human quality, to want to have things turn out our way. But the question then becomes how do we handle things when it doesn’t. How do we deal with rejection, with not getting things our way?

Do we just take it in stride? I like to think that I do just that, as a part of life on life’s terms and something that is what it is and therefore I need to deal with. But up until recently, I used to try and resist this reality at all costs. One of the most common reactions I found myself guilty of was blaming others in my life who are closest to me; not a very mature or pleasant quality for me to be proud to admit.

But, truthful nonetheless.

Boyfriend-Girlfriend

Boyfriend-Girlfriend

What I understand is that one of the first steps involved is in understanding what I truly am able to have control over and what I’m not. When I was a teenager, I remember having a crush on a senior who I wanted ‘love me in return’ in the worst way. He, on the other hand, didn’t feel the same. But I was not prepared to accept the truth of the situation. I wanted him to care for me and did not understand or accept that my continuing to try to get him to care for me would not change the situation. The reality was that I could do absolutely nothing, from involving myself as the assistant coach for the boy’s baseball team because he was on it, to changing my hair style, to losing weight…none of the changes I made in me, changed the result.

Change is a Process

The next step is being able to determine the difference between what I do have control over and what I might like to have control over, but do not. This was one of the most difficult things for me to learn and accept. AND it still is difficult. Some of the things that I want are things, like with everybody else, that do not happen. So, when I feel I am doing things differently to get them to happen, I easily begin to perceive other people as needing to do things differently as well – – – and why is that? In order for them to help me get my way.

In other words, I am not doing things differently at all – I still am working on getting things my way, not learning how to care for myself better at those times when things don’t go my way. As I said, I still struggle with this one from time to time, but I am more aware of it now than I’ve ever been. I am learning to make myself and my feeling frustrated at the outcome, my focus. I put my energy into taking care of myself and giving myself the permission I need to be upset and frustrated and still love myself even with the less than perfect reaction to disappointment and set-backs.

And by doing this, I care for myself in a more loving way and HAVE done exactly what I needed to do, change the things I truly do have control over; myself, my feelings and my reactions.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

Mindfulness and Trauma

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Stability

Stability

Mindfulness is about stabilizing. Studies have shown that people who have experienced trauma can benefit highly from this type of work. (Cullen, 2011). When people have experienced trauma, they can be challenged with high levels of stress, anxiety and depression at any time.

When we increase focus, stress and anxiety decreases, and as insight increases, depression may also be reduced. The implications of effective mindfulness on these specific features are truly significant and the more studies that are being done, the stronger the evidence of effective results of mindfulness.

When a person experiences trauma, racing thoughts and chain reactions of distressed thinking and intense emotions are more frequent, more intense and can last for longer periods of time. The thought pattern easily becomes negative and thereby creates greater levels of anxiety and depression, especially if ignored.

What mindfulness does is brings us into the present moment. Being in the present is provides direct opposition to the racing thoughts which are based in the past, thoughts about things that have happened, or based in the future, worrying about things that might happen. When we practice mindfulness, we pull away from these past and future thinking patterns and redirect ourselves into the moment, grounding ourselves in the present where we regain the ability to address the negative emotions of anxiety, stress and depression that are associated with our thoughts.
We can, for example, tell ourselves that in the present moment, there is nothing bad or harmful occurring to us. We are most likely sitting or lying quite comfortably in a safe place where we can focus on slowing down our breathing and letting the negative feelings go as we exhale. We can ground ourselves and regain our stability, acknowledging the feelings but proving to ourselves that in this present moment, we are okay…we are fine…and we are safe.
We have managed to regain control over the intense emotions that were beginning to overwhelm us. We have become more aware, more able to calm ourselves and less of a victim to our run-away thoughts.

Kabbat-Zin (1994) provides this definition of mindfulness: “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” We are actually doing an awful lot although it seems we are doing nothing. We are freeing ourselves and giving ourselves permission to just be in the moment. And it is extremely soothing. It is like allowing our mind to float and just immerse itself in now.

It is very important for people to work out their own form of practicing mindfulness, something that works for them. I strongly advise people to do some research on it and see what feels like it might be a way to begin your personal journey.

Attention

Attention

Remember that the point is NOT to empty our thoughts but rather to pay attention to them in a purposeful way without judging them and then refocus attention onto whatever it is you were focusing on prior to the thought popping up. Mindfulness is a journey of exploration, discovering sounds, textures, shapes, temperatures, things that always exist but that we don’t focus on because we are not being mindful to them.

If you are just starting out, I suggest just a 10 minute exercise in which you find something to focus on, an object to look at or hold perhaps. It is wonderful if you become adept enough at it to practice it when you begin to notice any negative thoughts or symptoms that you are trying to decrease such as depression, racing or distressing thoughts, etc.

Snoopy Writing

Snoopy Writing

There is a wealth of information available on mindfulness as more and more people are finding it beneficial to many different situations they encounter. I would love to hear from you about your mindfulness journey and results. Feel free to comment or contact me directly.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

Halloween is Calling

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Halloween

Given the current economic state of most of the people I know and the fragile condition our nearing-shut-down-for-good government, I would have supposed that Halloween spending would show significant declines, but that is not the case. As 2012 revealed, our American culture seems to be quite attached to the macabre.

Wake Forest University English Professor Eric Wilson says it is more than just an interest in the macabre, however. He writes in his book Everybody Loves a Good Train Wreck, that the tougher the times, the more our desire to escape and seek to become somebody else. Halloween presents one of the most socially acceptable times to do just that.

When we put on a costume, a part of us at least, becomes somebody else. And we are more than willing to spend time and even money that is not so easy to come by on that opportunity.

According to phys.org, last year’s National Retail Federation Survey showed 170 million Americans planned to spend a whopping $8 billion dollars on their Halloween celebration. It will be interesting to see if we surpass that this year.

As someone who has spend many years in the mental health field, I am not focusing on the economic and marketing aspects of these findings, but more on the need that so many of us have to escape from our lives.

Halloween Costume

Halloween Costume

What is it, that we are failing to do for ourselves, in our own skin, that makes us look so longingly toward being someone else, even if it is only for one night out of the year? Are that many of us truly that unsatisfied with our own lives? These thoughts frighten me much more than Freddie Kruger or Mike Myers.

I wonder how many of us actually find the time to do at least one thing that we love to do every day. Before I began writing on more of a full-time basis, I was one of those people who would go through every day doing basically what needed to get done with little or no time for to do what I enjoyed doing or what nurtured myself.

Even if I managed to make it to the gym or walk for my health, it was crammed into my day in such a way that it became another thing I needed to make sure I did, rather than something I enjoyed or took the time to fully experience and take in.

Carved Pumpkin

Carved Pumpkin

And I wonder, how many of us are caught in that trap without carving out a 20-minute segment of time to just melt into ourselves. Speaking of carving, I bet we all have our pumpkins carved for this Thursday!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

The Zzzzzzs Have It

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Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

Restful Sleep

The weather changing usually helps me sleep like a baby, but the last few nights my body has had a rough time deciding if it is hot or cold, most often, switching back and forth between the two – causing me to sleep restlessly. And I’ve noticed the difference in the way I get through my days because of it, so it has me thinking.

With the hustle and bustle of life and the constantly quickening pace all around us, you may feel as if you truly don’t have enough time to do everything you need to do in a day. And if you’re like me, one of the first things that you compromise when this happens is your sleep. The type and amount of sleep we get impacts how we function throughout our day. It affects our mood and our attitude and over time, it can impact our relationships with others and with ourselves.

We’ve Heard it Before – and it is True

Develop your own sleep regiment. There are ways to learn to avoid sleep destroyers and develop a variety of healthier behaviors that help promote sleep. By experimenting with different sleep strategies, you can determine what works best for you.

To begin with, get a realistic assessment of how much you currently sleep. There are always some exceptions to the rules, but the average adult requires at least eight hours of sleep each night to be their best during their waking time.

Keep it Regular

Sleeping Baby

When it comes to sleep, consistency is key. Developing and maintaining your own body’s cycle for sleeping time and waking time is one of the most important ingredients in healthy sleep. This means going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day. It may not be easy to achieve, but the reward for your effort is feeling more refreshed and being more productive.

• Bedtime – Start off by picking a time when you are normally tired. This will help you avoid having to toss and turn and fight falling asleep. It may be a bit more difficult to stick with the same time frame on weekends, but it is important to keep it consistent. If you need to make an adjustment to the time, make the change in small, manageable increments no larger than 15 minutes.
• Wake up time – One way to check if you are getting enough sleep is to put your body to the wake-up test. When we get the right amount of sleep, we should be able to wake up without the aid of an alarm or another person. Try to resist the temptations to sleep in on weekends. Keep wake-up time the same all week long.
• Recharge with naps – If you need to ‘catch up’ on sleep, try napping to make up a few hours rather than sleeping late. Early afternoon naps are the best to assure you avoid insomnia. Also, keeping naps to no more than thirty minutes at a time can help you recharge without making insomnia worse.
• Avoid the dinner drowsies – Many of us get sleepy before bedtime and since we are relaxed on the couch, fall asleep for a while before ‘lights out.’ Fight it by moving around. Use a few minutes to get yourself ready for the next day or to take the dishes out of the dishwasher. It is smarter than giving in, waking up later at night and then fighting to get back to sleep.

Alarm Clock

A sure-fire way to learn your best schedule
Hide the alarm clock and make sure you go to sleep the same time every night. Trust your body to wake you up naturally. It may take a week or two at the most, but you will learn your body’s sleep-wake rhythm.

Respect yourself with the right amount of sleep and reap the benefits of the most productive you ever!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

Why Vs. How

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Why

Why


I’ve been doing some more work with emotional awareness and mindfulness. This is quickly becoming something that has a firm grasp on my interest and focus. And one of the things that I am zeroing in on is the difference between :

• Thinking about feelings
• Feeling the feelings

Historically, I am hugely analytic. Ask anyone who knows me. They will confirm that at some point or another, I have undoubtedly made them a bit crazy with my tendency to analyze and over-analyze anything and everything.

I can’t recall a time in my life when I didn’t try and understand why things happened the way they did. As I experienced life more, my need to understand why things happened gave way to understanding how things happened.

I believe the transition from why to how occurred because life taught me a bit about acceptance. Even as I write this now, it seems to me that why comes from more of a non-accepting place. I wanted to understand because I wasn’t content or accepting of what happened. A great example of this would be when you ask yourself or someone else “why did that person have to do that” In essence, by asking why we are also questioning why something else did not happen. It sounds extremely non-accepting to me.

Acceptance

Acceptance

But when I began to become more interested in how, I stopped asking why. By asking how, in essence I am saying that I accept it is happening this way or that it will happen this way, but I am looking to understand more about the process. I have accepted that there is nothing for me to do regarding whether it happens or not – but rather I can learn more about the occurrence.

If all this analyzing and thinking sounds like a lot of work, that is correct! I spent so much time thinking and over-thinking, analyzing and over-analyzing, that I left myself very little ability to feel anything. Lo and behold, there was an entirely different dimension to who I was that I knew practically nothing about. My emotional development suffered greatly due to the fact that I felt so much more comfortable in my intellectual self. It felt so much safer to me because that is where I had experienced success and established so much more familiarity.

I tried to break down one concept into a lot of words to assure readers can relate to where I’m going with this. We cannot bring ourselves into balance unless we allow all of who we are to develop; even the part or parts we are not comfortable facing.

Acceptance

Acceptance

Learning to become aware of the way I am feeling in the moment was not something comfortable for me – rather, it is something I avoided for a long time because of just how afraid of it I was. I had to do a lot of work on myself before I was ready to get there. But now that I have begun the process, there is nothing that makes me feel more complete and I choose to devote a part of my day practicing emotional awareness through practicing mindfulness – also known as ‘self-care,’ for the rest of my life.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

Fear Of Abandonment

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Abandonment

Abandonment

At the risk of sounding Freudian, the fear of abandonment most often stems from a major loss in childhood. Sometimes that loss is through death or divorce. Other times it is from the loss of a protector through neglect or abuse. It varies in intensity based on the way one presently perceives the trauma from childhood.

An adult with serious abandonment issues continues to fear the risk of being abandoned by every significant individual in their life today, the same way they were by their protector when they were a young child. They experienced this fear in their early life and it is as if they got stuck there emotionally, and relive that fear over and over again in their adult life with the people who take the place of protector; the people who they are involved in the most significant relationships with. Rational, balanced thinking is distorted and disrupted and this affects all significant relationships.

The actual abandonment is usually connected to a traumatic event that occurs in a person’s life. The abandonment may be physical, emotional or even financial in nature and in many cases, one type of abandonment leads to another type, deepening the intensity. For example, many times serious money problems result due to death. There are often extensive medical costs or loss of income, so the child who has lost a parent, also suffers a loss of financial security and lifestyle; maybe even the loss of home and neighborhood. And it all happens at the same time.

Fear of Abandonment

Fear of Abandonment

It may be becoming clearer how strong the negative impact this type of trauma can have on someone’s life. It is very possible that this type of loss can cause pervasive feelings of anxiety and apprehension that roll over into every other relationship in the person’s life that follows from here. It may even spill over into a variety of relationships, business and social, as well as intimate ones. In all cases, serious fear of abandonment diminishes a person’s quality of life.

There is, however, hope. Even when people have developed overwhelming abandonment, appropriate treatment can help them learn to manage their lives and made themselves happier and more productive once again. Talking with a qualified therapist is a great place to start working on altering the emotional reaction to the thoughts of abandonment; something that must occur in order for things to improve. A trained therapist will help put fears from the past into a healthy proportion in the present, and break through the distorted perceptions that have taken over. It leaves a person open to make the changes necessary in their thinking that restore positive, realistic responses to the things that happen in their life. They begin to develop a balanced, healthy perspective and realize that their current relationships are not connected to their past relationships after all, and that they can find happiness.

Hope

Hope

By improving your level of self-care, trusting other people, regaining balance and learning how to appropriately communicate one’s needs in intimate relationships, you can move onto a healthier life, free of overwhelming fear and anxiety.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!