Anchor Your Day ~ a mental health blog by Counselwise ~

Anchor Your Day

Thank you for visiting! The purpose of this blog is to provide short, daily counsel on a variety of topics and interesting facts about mental health. We all live busy lives which is why the focus of this blog is to have something relatively quick to read; it can act as an “anchor to your day” so to speak. If you would like to have this blog sent to your email directly on a daily basis, please follow the link below (you can unsubscribe at any time) and join me on the path to self-care. 

The Four Agreements; Post 1

In 1997, “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” by Don Miguel Ruiz was published. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, Ruiz offers a code of conduct, known as the Four Agreements that promote a life of peace and contentedness. The next few posts will feature Ruiz’s teachings; today’s post is about the first agreement:

  • Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.” – Don Miguel Ruiz

We all know the value of giving someone our word. It can be as a promise, it can be spoken out loud or implied. It is often a felt response. This agreement reminds us that when we are speaking badly about ourselves or others, we fail to be impeccable with our word – instead, we move ourselves into a category where the standards perhaps aren’t where they need to be in order to feel good about our choices. It reminds us that we can decide to tame that critical voice, and to work more diligently to not become tempted by the tantalizing effects of gossip.

The first agreement also reminds us what we have all most likely heard at some point in our lives – “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Using our words with the intention to create an environment that is truthful yet gentle, kind yet authentic, allows us to have faith that when we give someone our word, we mean it.

To visit The Four Agreements website: https://www.thefouragreements.com/

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@amandagraphc

Setting Work Boundaries

There are times when we reflect upon our work schedule and know that it is off balance. Sometimes this may come from a difficulty in saying no, a strong work ethic, a heavy caseload, the need to achieve. In any case, we are not doing ourselves any favours by ignoring the importance of setting personal work boundaries – ones that are created with self-care in mind.

  • Book end your day. Have a start time and an end time that is reasonable and achievable. Not sticking to this daily schedule should be the exception, not the rule.
  • Reset at lunch. I have noticed that if I don’t get outside for even a 15 minute walk around the block at lunch, my afternoon feels longer. A bit of fresh air and knowing I have set aside time for myself at lunch resets my energy for the afternoon.
  • Let work stay at work. Turn off the email notifications on your phone, let work phone calls go to voicemail. Technology has allowed us to send messages along to people when we are thinking about it – that doesn’t mean it can’t wait to be answered during business hours.
  • Create a weekend. Two days a week should be off limits to work; spending time instead on what brings us joy. Some of us have Monday to Friday jobs and we can honour the no-work-weekend rule, for others who work shifts, it will be important to create a weekend.
  • Only take on what you can handle. It’s really okay to say no. When you take on everything that is expected of you, a precedent is set. Knowing and expressing your limits will help to keep your work from spilling into your personal time.
  • Create an inviting work space. Your work area can be a reflection of your personality; keeping it neat will help.
  • Pace and timing is everything. Take a break to make yourself a tea, close the door if you really need to concentrate, remember that not everything has to be done in a mad rush. When we have a balanced pace to our day, we are feeding our comfort system. It is possible to have a reasonable work day.

Keeping these tips in mind will help in creating a work day that is balanced and productive. When we keep our self-care in mind, we are allowing for a greater, richer performance. After all, as the Chinese proverb goes “We can’t pour from an empty cup.”

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@domenicoloia

Nature’s Reminder

I came across this lovely poem by Mary Oliver that reminds us how important nature is to our well being:

When I Am Among the Trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

– Mary Oliver

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@tbzr

A Focus on De-Escalation

Sometimes we are faced with someone whose anger is getting the best of them. This might be a child, partner, co-worker, friend, or someone at the grocery store. In any case, we are better served to employ some de-escalation strategies in an effort to bring the communication back to a place where compromise has space to be sought.

  • Remain calm. Or at least act it. When someone is getting angry, it automatically creates in us a defensive or frustrated stance. By centering ourselves to not fight anger with anger, we are helping to de-escalate the situation.
  • Lower your voice, speak clearly. When anger is rising, so does the cadence of our voice. By purposely lowering your voice, it creates space for listening.
  • Use language in which they feel heard.  “I’m here for you.” “Tell me what happened.” “How can I help?”
  • Be aware of the non-negotiables. Just because someone is angry, it doesn’t mean we automatically give them what they want. We may be able to compromise, but we might also be in the position of reminding them (calmly) that “sometimes no is a no.”
  • Take a break. Sometimes we need to encourage our loved one to create some space for themselves to slow down the emotion train. This might include taking some deep breaths, holding the hands of our little ones, asking the person to take a walk if they need to. Revisit the issue when things have settled.

Healthy communication requires calm parties. Sometimes anger will get in the way of that process; however it always takes two people to have a conflict. Sometimes we are better to take the high road and move first to de-escalation as a means to pave the way towards a healthier way to deal with someone’s troubles. 🙂

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@lebalu

A Myth That Needs Our Attention

Perhaps one of the biggest myths that society continues to reinforce is the notion that “the more I have, the happier I’ll be.” We see it in the shows we watch, the advertisements on TV, the influence that we place on celebrities. Social media has exploded the pressure that young people feel to get ‘likes’ or followers – most often tied to their appearance. The myth that the more we have the happier we’ll be gets tied to material possessions and the notion that happiness is found out there. And as soon as we begin to believe this myth, the “if only’s set in.”

“If only I could be a smaller size, have a different body shape, be shorter/taller….”

“If only I could find love/ fame/ fortune….”

“If only I had a bigger house/ a fancy car/ the latest toy….”

“If only, if only, if only.”

The moment we get trapped in this loop, we will be chasing happiness. We will achieve the ‘if only’ just to then replace it with the next one. We are much better served to seek the feeling of contentment. To understand that joy is a feeling that can’t be chased, but rather felt in the here and now. It comes from within. When we actively seek joy in every day living, when we can feel content in the ordinary, that is when we no longer believe what society tells us. We can enjoy what life brings us (which may include the fancy car), but it doesn’t come as an expense to our sense of self. Instead, it is tied to what we already know – that joy comes from the inside out.

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@jayicastor

“Before You Put the Cuffs On….”

I want you to ask yourself, “Did I actually do anything wrong?” This is often the counsel I give to clients who are struggling with guilt. The definition of guilt as written in  Webster’s Dictionary: “the fact of having committed a legal offense // the fact of having transgressed the moral law // a feeling of culpability.” In my “Dictionary of Emotions by Patrick Michael Ryan,” he lists guilt as: “remorse caused by feeling responsible for some offense.  In either example, there is the element of having made some form of a transgression that elicited the feeling of guilt as a direct consequence of the mistake. Seems pretty straight forward, right? And yet many of us struggle deeply with this emotion.

Guilt is actually one of our healthy emotions because it allows us to repair. But we also learn a lot about guilt growing up; from our caregivers, our communities such as school or church, our extended family and so forth. If one of the people in our life used guilt as a way to elicit compliance, then it can sometimes become a default setting for us.

So before you put the cuffs on, ask yourself “Is this guilt warranted?” “Did I do something wrong?” “Did I hurt someone’s feelings by my words or my actions?” And if you did, fix it. Say you’re sorry, ask for understanding, reflect on how you can change that behaviour in the future. If the answer; however, brings you to the conclusion that you, in fact, did not do anything wrong but rather have slid into default guilt, then acknowledge that too. Take a deep breath and remind yourself, “I didn’t do anything wrong in this situation. It is what it is, I am going to move on” and let Officer Guilt know on the way out the door that he had the wrong suspect. 🙂

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@mengmengniu

The Process of Letting Go

When I read this poem by Erin Hanson, I thought of the grief we often feel through relationship loss:

I was the type of person,

That held onto things too tight,

Unable to release my grip,

When it no longer felt right, 

And although it gave me blisters,

And my fingers would all ache,

I always thought that holding on,

Was worth the pain it takes,

I used to think in losing things,

I’d lose part of me too,

That slowly I’d become someone,

My heart no longer knew,

Then one day something happened,

I dropped what I held dear,

But my soul became much lighter,

Instead of filled with fear,

And it taught my heart that some things,

Aren’t meant to last for long,

They arrive to teach you lessons,

And then continue on,

You don’t have to cling to people,

Who no longer make you smile,

Or do something you’ve come to hate,

If it isn’t worth your while,

That sometimes the thing you’re fighting for,

Isn’t worth the cost,

And not everything you ever lose,

Is bound to be a loss.

-e.h

And through just such a process, we go from letting go to moving on. 🙂

Photo credit:https://unsplash.com/@an_ku_sh

4 Goals to Wellness

In an Oprah SuperSoul Conversation podcast episode entitled, “Oprah and Dr. Dean Ornish: Your Life in Focus,” they start out by discussing that “it is our nature to be peaceful and healthy.” Through research, Dr. Ornish has been able to prove that four simple techniques will help to prevent and even reverse chronic disease:

  1. Eat well.
  2. Move more.
  3. Stress less.
  4. Love more. (By this he refers to the importance of connection.)

In all of these techniques, the focus is on simplicity. Most of us already know what we should be eating, the importance of movement, the contribution that stress management plays in feeding our comfort system and how critical connection is to our soul.

The podcast was a simple yet powerful reminder that we can focus on simple strategies to create a healthy life.

To listen to the full episode: https://www.oprah.com/own-podcasts/dr-dean-and-anne-ornish-how-simple-lifestyle-changes-can-reverse-most-chronic-diseases-sept-25-2019

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@frankbusch

Moving from the Inside Out

This quote from Victoria Erickson reminds us that reaching our full potential comes from within:

“If you inherently long for something, become it first. If you want gardens, become the gardener.

If you want love, embody love. If you want mental stimulation, change the conversation.

If you want peace, exude calmness. If you want to fill your world with artists, begin to paint.

If you want to be valued, respect your own time. If you want to live ecstatically, find the ecstasy within yourself.

This is how to draw it in, day by day, inch by inch.”

― Victoria Erickson

We can’t always choose our beginnings. We don’t always have control over what challenges come into our lives. But we do have choices in our journey; we can determine the path. Our goal to live joyfully is within us before we ever find it out there. Let us move from the inside out.

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@jupp

What is Emotional Dumping?

After having walked away from a verbal exchange with someone, do you ever feel more conflicted and confused than before you started?  Then you might have just experienced emotional dumping.

Emotional dumping is used as a way for people to escape from taking any responsibility for their actions, circumstances or state of the relationship. It is also a way to deflect the real issues at hand, as a way to protect themselves from coming into and embracing a vulnerable state. Emotional dumping includes:

  • the need to be right or feel justified trumps the ability to compromise or look for a solution.
  • victim type behaviours and language.
  • defensive with the need to blame you/others.
  • the conversation is overwhelming – either with a ‘dumpload’ of issues, or a constant repeat of the same issue.
  • the conversation happens on their agenda and your time is not considered.

There are times when emotional dumping will be directed at you or you become the emotional dumping ground – in either case, the person in front of you isn’t really wanting your input, advice or perspective. Knowing this can be helpful in allowing yourself to make decisions about how you want to handle this type of behaviour in the future, by taking your space, shutting it down, or politely explaining that you can no longer participate in a conversation that goes nowhere. 🙂

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@gary_at_unsplash