When to Use Distraction as a Technique

Part of my role as a therapist is to assess whether or not someone is using distraction or avoidance when they tell me “I just try and keep myself really busy.” Distraction is a healthy coping skill, and sometimes quite necessary when we are in the midst of trying to contain or reign in an emotion. Avoidance on the other hand, is going to catch up to you eventually as it tends to inhibit growth.

So when do we use distraction? Borrowed from the model of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) by Marsha Linehan, I have come to appreciate this series of questions that we can ask ourselves when faced with intense emotion:

  1. Am I able to solve the problem? (Is the solution available to me? Is this my problem to solve?) Answer Yes or No
  2. Is it an okay time to solve the problem? Answer Yes or No
  3. Am I in Wise Mind enough to solve the problem? (In other words, am I accessing enough of my rational brain or are my emotions still too intense?) Answer Yes or No

And here is the key: If you have answered yes to all three questions, move to solving the problem. This will allow you to experience movement and give you a sense of direction. If you have answered no to even one of the questions, move to distraction.

Have a coffee with a friend, clean out a closet, go for a walk, watch a favourite show, play a board game, take a hot bath, do some baking. Moving to keep yourself busy until you can answer yes to all three questions is a healthy way to use distraction as a coping skill until you feel able to solve the issue at hand.

Photo credit:ย http://Photo by Bao Truong on Unsplash

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5 Facts About Smiling

There is just something about a smile. Seeing someone’s smiling face is an instant mood booster and can lead us to wanting to join in the fun. Here are 5 facts about smiling that back up how good it is for us:

  1. Smiling reduces stress and anxiety. When we smile, we relax our facial muscles; this can help lower our blood pressure leading us to feel calmer.
  2. Smiling is contagious. We tend to naturally be drawn to people who smile and lean into a more positive attitude; this can help when forming healthy relationships.
  3. Smiling makes us attractive. Nothing says ‘don’t approach me’ quicker than a frown does; when we smile (especially with our teeth) we tend to draw people in. Smiling can make us look younger too!
  4. Smiling can lead to a longer life. Along with laughing and having a positive attitude, smiling contributes to the statistics that these habits support a longer life span.
  5. Smiling just makes us feel good. The act of smiling boosts our serotonin, the hormone that helps to elevate mood.

Bottom line? Find reasons to smile; it will do your body and mind good! ๐Ÿ™‚

Photo credit:http://Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

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What it Means to Numb; Best Said by Brene Brown

When we numb emotions, it is our way of avoiding painful feelings or traumatic experiences. Whether we push everything down, “just try and not think about it,” or turn to alcohol, over-eating, over-spending and the like, we are leaning into numbing behaviours. Brene Brown says it best:

“We cannot selectively numb emotion. If we numb the dark, we numb the light. If we take the edge off pain and discomfort, we are, by default, taking the edge off joy, love, belonging, and the other emotions that give meaning to our lives.”ย  – Brene Brown in “Dare to Lead”

It is in our nature to avoid what is painful; we don’t willingly put ourselves in harm’s way. It is also, however, in our nature to grow and in order to achieve that, we must also understand the pain. Sometimes this will require both courage and curiousity so as to lean into the pain; to explore how it has manifested in you and to reclaim it in the name of growth and movement. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Ask Yourself This Question When You Are Feeling Confrontational

We all get in those prickly, confrontational moods. Sometimes we can have a sour day at work, someone cut us off on our way to the grocery store, or our partner says the wrong thing at the wrong time. Other times, we might be quietly minding our own business, and we get pulled into someone else’s need for an argument. In any case, we end up heated and the fight is on.

Whenever we are in a confrontational mood, there is one question that we can ask ourselves that might help us temper the moment, moving us to take a break from what is clearly becoming the perfect storm.

Taking a deep breath, we need to ask ourselves “Okay, am I doing this to be right or to be effective?” The need to be right will rarely lead to a solution; leaning into anger almost always sends out the message: “I don’t really care what you think.” Being effective, however, leads almost always to a solution. Your goal becomes to find a compromise; sometimes that means simply taking a break from the argument; returning to the conversation after everyone has cooled their jets.

“Am I doing this to be right or to be effective?” Try it out….you may be pleasantly surprised by it’s effect on you ๐Ÿ™‚

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Habits for Kids that Lead to Growth

In an article entitled “Boundaries, Routines and Early Bedtimes: The 13 Powerful Habits That Raise Well-Adjusted Kids” by Lauren Tamm and featured on The Military Wife and Mom, Tamm writes about some essential practices that we can put into place to help our children become well adjusted. Although she spoke of the basics such as the importance of consistency through routine and making sure our little ones get enough sleep, I also appreciated some of the other featured habits including:

  • Being playful with our kids. “We donโ€™t reserve much room in our lives for fun and games anymore. Our days are filled with stress, obligations and hard work, and without realizing it, we are more disconnected from our kids than ever. Play is the work of the child and to connect with our kids, we must play with our kids.”
  • Reading to and with our kids. โ€œOne of the most important things parents can do, beyond keeping kids healthy and safe, is to read with them. That means starting when they are newborns and not even able to talk, and continuing well beyond the years that they can read by themselves. Study after study shows that early reading with children helps them learn to speak, interact, bond with parents and read early themselves, and reading with kids who already know how to read helps them feel close to caretakers, understand the world around them and be empathetic citizens of the world.โ€ ย Amy Joyce, parenting writer
  • Slow moving days. (I love this one!) โ€œI encourage parents to take some time to just watch their children, whether they are playing, doing homework, or eating a snack. Take a moment to drink them in. Remember and remind yourself how remarkable your children are. That pause alone, even if momentary, can drive a shift in the pace.โ€ John Duffy, clinical psychologist
  • Experiences not things. (Read that one again!) “The best life experiences cost little to nothing, like a picnic in the park, blowing bubbles in the backyard, making chalk drawings on the sidewalk, or tossing a football around, but they all have one thing in common: you do them together. What kids really want in life is quality time spent with their parents.โ€ โ€“ย Sally White, parenting writer

Some really good stuff here; what I like most about these four in particular is they are about the time we spend with our children and the experiences ventured. ๐Ÿ™‚

To read the full article (well worth the read):ย https://themilitarywifeandmom.com/raise-well-adjusted-kid/

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Caution: Sarcasm Ahead

Sarcasm is one of those tricky forms of humour. Using irony as a way to prove a point can be a skillful way of bringing some laughter to the moment; however most people will use sarcasm as a way to mask their hostility. Those on the receiving end of a sarcastic remark will feel the put down; you can say something but because it’s masked in “humour,” you will most likely be accused of not being able to take a joke.

Using sarcasm consistently as a way to get a message across to others is a form of anger and can lean into bullying behaviours. The intention of using sarcasm, then, becomes not to look for a solution, but rather to feel justified or right, to prove a point, or to “get back” at someone. No clear communication there.

So let’s move instead, to clever wit; being able to use humour when communicating can be very productive. People will know when you’re using humour because of your non-verbal signals; sarcasm almost always brings with it an underlying look of anger, being witty will have your face open and smiling. And if you are on the receiving end of a sarcastic remark? Call them out on it:

“Hmmm, that sounds a bit sarcastic. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to take that.”

“Geesh, can’t take a joke or what?”ย 

“Sure, I can take a joke when it’s funny.”ย 

Short and sweet; delivered calmly. It will carry more weight than trying to just ignore it or getting angry in retaliation.

Bottom line? Use caution when choosing sarcasm as a form of communication. Being witty is more effective and will not hurt those to which you’re teasing ๐Ÿ™‚

Photo credit:ย http://Photo by Melanie Dretvic on Unsplash

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What Stands in the Way

I love this quote by Marcus Aurelius:

“What stands in the way becomes the way.”ย 

It reminds me of the famous words quoted in Dumbo, in which it was noted that “the very thing that kept you down is going to carry you up.” Let’s face it, we often get in our own way of growth. If we have low self-esteem for example, we will allow it to direct a big portion of our lives; leading us to missed opportunities and feeling victimized. If we numb ourselves with alcohol, over-eating or online shopping, we rob ourselves of the experience of nourishing our comfort system in a healthy way; leading us to feeling poorly about ourselves. If we are driven to participate in drama, we feed the chaos instead of the calm, leading us to move away from who we truly are or can be.

The first step is to become cognizant of what stands in the way; most of the time we know what most afflicts us, other times some exploration is necessary to get us to the place where awareness can lead to change. Either way, the ultimate goal is to clear the path so as to continue on our journey ๐Ÿ™‚

Photo credit:ย http://Photo by Frederick Tubiermont on Unsplash

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It’s All About Connection

I just got back from a special vacation; Mexican sunrises, the warm heat of the sun, turquoise waters, and lovely ocean breezes. But what made it truly special were the people I was with. After having lost our mom this past November, my sister and I decided to try and co-ordinate our families for a week to enjoy some time together; not an easy task but we did it. Together we:

  • experienced new things together and made some amazing memories. Seeing my nephew’s wife jump into the ocean to go snorkeling when she is afraid of open water, warmed my heart. Having the chef at the Japanese restaurant throw rice balls into our mouths was nothing short of a little embarrassing, but hey – we all had to do it! Learning to do the Bachata in the main plaza with some of my family members, priceless fun!
  • relaxed and recharged. You never really know how much you need it until you are sitting on a beach under a palm tree. We got to take in some sun, spend lazy afternoons reading, explored little Mexican villages, lounge around in the pool, linger after dinner listening to music. Being with great company only added to the flavour.
  • had a much needed chance to connect. Put 13 people together for a week and you can’t help but walk away with awesome moments of connection. Being able to get lots of cuddles in with my nephew’s 6 month old, walks on the beach with loved ones, family dinners together, dancing at the disco (well, for the young ones….we let them have that one crazy night together, haha!), time spent chatting, laughing, sometimes a few tears. All good; all important.

Family time is important no matter how you get it; being able to connect allows greater feelings of safety and security, allowing vulnerability to bring about courage and faith in your support system. Mom would have been proud ๐Ÿ™‚

Photo credit: Me!

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Living by Design II; Dr. Phil Continued

Building upon yesterday’s post, I would like to touch on Dr. Phil’s Living by Design Series, Episode 2; specifically the factors that need to be present in order to have a healthy family. Dr. Phil notes that in order to be ready for change, we need to have a family system that can support it. He is quite clear that sometimes that means creating it; especially if we weren’t one of the lucky ones who were naturally granted it. Here are the 5 factors:

  1. We need to have a nurturing and accepting family system. Dr. Phil notes that everyone’s number one fear is rejection and that everyone’s top need is acceptance, therefore the family system needs to nurture every family member and let every family member feel accepted.
  2. We need the family to have rhythm and not chaos. Dr. Phil notes that we need to have a pattern to the family; it can include spontaneity, but that it needs predictability, routine and a calming rhythm that every family member can rely on.
  3. There are active communications in the family. Dr. Phil urges us to spent time talking to our kids about things that do not matter because its great practice for when we have to talk to them about the things that do matter.
  4. Create rituals and traditions in the family. Dr. Phil talks about creating traditions around things such as birthdays and holidays – memories that your kids are going to carry 30 and 40 years from now.
  5. A healthy family has to have crisis management. Dr. Phil states that every family member needs to know that when crisis occurs, there is no judgement, no punishment, no problem – the crisis gets managed and every family member is a resource. He goes on to say that everyone in the family needs to know that when problems arise, their primary unit is their family.

I consider this to be fridge-worthy information; tacking it up where we can see it as part of our everyday family goals. Thank you Dr. Phil!

He also talks in the podcast about the seven core characteristics of a champion. Listen to it at:https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/dr-phil/phil-in-the-blanks/e/58729660

Photo credit:ย http://Photo by Kevin Delvecchio on Unsplash

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Living by Design II with Dr. Phil Podcast

In Dr. Phil’s Living by Design podcast, his second episode is chocked so full of good stuff, I am going to cover it in two posts. We began this series about a week ago, with my original post introducing this lovely podcast. His second episode has proved to be just as good!

Dr. Phil talks about four stages of readiness for change. I quote:

Stage 1: is when you are going to commit to a change because is has been assigned by authority. Dr. Phil gives the example of a court ordered anger management program or a mandatory rehab program. He notes that these types of programs generally don’t work to facilitate change as the person is not personally invested in the program.

Stage 2: is when you are making a change because somebody else wants you to – you don’t really want to change, but you do it to please someone else. Dr. Phil notes that the chance of achieving meaningful change is slight – perhaps a bit more than stage 1, but not much.

Stage 3: is when you intellectually know you need to change – you don’t really feel it, but at least in your mind you know it needs to be done. Dr. Phil gives the example of smoking; perhaps you know that it is time, it isn’t good for you, your health is starting to show its effects, so we can white-knuckle ourselves through it and still get to change.

Stage 4: is where real change happens. It is when you are mentally and emotionally ready for a change; when you can look in the mirror and say “I will not take this from myself for one minute longer – I will face my fear and make the changes necessary to see real results.”

I appreciate Dr. Phil spelling it out for us; very often we can feel some inner resistance to change and perhaps this can be a starting point in our journey. Maybe step 1 is to do some self-reflection as to what stage of readiness we are in so as to get a clearer picture of the path we need to take to get to our goals.

To listen to the podcast:ย https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/dr-phil/phil-in-the-blanks/e/58729660

Photo credit:ย http://Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

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