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. 

Rumi Quotes to Ponder

Rumi was a 13th Century poet and Sufi mystic from Persia. It always amazes me how universal his words are and how they have transcended time. Here are a few of my favourites:

“Do a good deed and throw it in the river, one day it will come back to you in the desert.” – Rumi

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” – Rumi

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” – Rumi

“Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of what you love.” – Rumi

“Remember, the entrance to the sanctuary is inside you.” – Rumi

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The Idea of Productive Rest

We can all appreciate a good work ethic. When our head hits the pillow at night, there is a part of us that feels satisfaction from a fruitful day. And yet for some of us, the pendulum has swung too far. From the moment your feet hit the floor, it is go – go – go.

Perhaps it is Type A tendencies, expectations of self that tend to be too high, perfectionism, learned behaviours and/or developed patterns that have contributed to an association that resting is unacceptable. And as a result, when there is no more energy, and the crash comes, resting means doing nothing. Zoning out in front of the TV, feeling useless, grappling with the guilty thoughts of “I should be up doing something.”

But what about the concept of productive rest? Could it be that instead of rest being indulgent, it actually could be necessary? I often refer to our comfort system and the importance of recognizing that in order to truly be productive, we also need to rest our bodies and relax our minds.

Productive rest is planned. It is about carving out time to do something that is restful in nature and yet soothing to the soul. For me, that plan often includes reading – there is nothing like a good story to draw me in, resting my body, distracting my mind. Easy exercise, chatting with a friend, sitting by the water, walking in the forest – they all work too. It is about incorporating rest (even in little bits) throughout the day.

Giving ourselves permission to productively rest can help ease our minds too – we can begin to give up our core beliefs that somehow we are inadequate if we relax. When we can acknowledge that rest is an important part of our ‘work’ day, we give ourselves the valuable gifts of joy and peace.

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The Importance of Goals in Therapy

An important part of the intake process is the goals section. I often ask clients, “If you could walk out of here after so many sessions having achieved something, what would that be?” Some clients have no trouble defining their goals, others will be stumped by the question. For some people, it comes down to a feeling – “I just want to happy,” or “I want to feel like myself again.”

Having an end goal (or two, three or four) is an important part of therapy. When you come with a problem, you most likely want a solution. Being able to define your goals is the roadway to get there. The importance of goals in therapy can easily be paralleled to our personal goals in life:

  1. Talk it out.  In therapy, you have someone who can draw out exploratory questions which can help you get to the root of the issue. Finding a trusted friend or colleague can be helpful in exploring how you are feeling and what steps you can take to help solve the issue.
  2. Dive a little deeper. Wanting to be happy is a great goal, but what does that really mean? Was there another time in your life in which you felt content and what was different about then versus now? What will your life look like when you are content? (I often use the word content instead of happy as it is more easily defined.)
  3. Define your goals. Setting them is important; a therapist writes them down as part of your treatment plan. You can do the same; breaking them down in steps makes them feel achievable. It also keeps you accountable.
  4. Review your goals. It is always good practice to see where you are in goal achievement. This allows you to gather up the troops and charge back in if things are lagging behind.
  5. Be your own cheerleader. Therapists are part of your cheerleading squad; they help to point out all the good that you are doing to achieve goals – you need to be a part of that too.

We can use these tips when trying to find a solution to a problem as goals are an important part of the equation. If you are struggling to get there yourself, don’t be too proud, shy or worried about seeking therapy. Sometimes a little help can go a long way (if I do say so myself.) 🙂

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Gratitude Poem by Melody Beattie

What a lovely poem I came across about the importance of gratitude:

Gratitude

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.

It turns what we have into enough and more.

It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.

It turns problems into gifts, failures into successes, the unexpected into

perfect timing and mistakes into important events.

It can turn an existence into a real life, and disconnected situations 

into important and beneficial lessons.

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today,

and creates a vision for tomorrow.

– Melody Beattie

 

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

Being Grounded as a Preventative Measure

There are times when we are just going to feel anxious as we get faced with challenges and worries that we must attend to. Using grounding techniques for those times help to get through the anxious moments.

But there is something to be said for the practice of “being grounded.” It can be a goal that we set as a way of life that helps us to consciously spend more time in our comfort system. By practicing the art of being grounded on a daily basis, we are giving ourselves permission to not only prevent a lot of unnecessary anxiety, but we also create a good foundation for dealing with worries when they strike.

Choosing to ‘be grounded’ involves soothing techniques and creating space for daily self-care:

  • Anchoring your day. When we dedicate time to feeling grounded, we begin our day with something that anchors it. It doesn’t need to take up a lot of time – it can be something as simple as doing some morning stretches, saying your prayers, sitting by the window for a few minutes, meditating, writing in a gratitude journal, reading a favourite blog. 🙂
  • Bookending your day. It is good practice to break up our day with activities that reset our system. It is good to have a mid-day reset (such as a 15 min walk outside) as well as one at the end of the work day (listening to a positive podcast on the way home from work, or playing a soothing playlist.) A short ritual at bed time is also recommended (it can look quite similar to your morning activity.)
  • Choosing to soothe. This involves making sure that we are creating moments of feeling soothed or grounded throughout the day. It can include having a warm cup of tea, listening to music while making dinner, taking time to just step outside to take in the fresh air. Wrapping yourself in a cozy blanket, having the dog or cat cuddle up beside you, giving hugs to your loved ones.
  • Creating joy. Building time into our week that focus on joy and laughter is a great way to remain grounded as those types of activities soothe and feed the soul. Making sure to build those into our week on a regular basis helps to feel settled as we have connected with the joyful and creative sides of ourselves.
  • Get outside daily. Find the green spaces, do some gardening. The earth has the ability to remind us daily that it is okay to feel settled and calm.

To live grounded is a choice. There are times that are going to unsettle that feeling and that is okay; we will be better equipped to handle those challenges when we have worked diligently to live in our comfort system.

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

 

Grounding Techniques; Post 2

Yesterday’s post touched on the importance of using the practice of grounding when feeling especially anxious or overwhelmed. We explored five ways to use our physical selves to bring our calm back to the situation at hand. Today’s post will feature five mental techniques of grounding:

  • Describe what is around you. Take in your surroundings as a way to help ground yourself. “I am sitting on a blue chair. I can feel the way the chair supports my lower back; my feet are flat on the floor.  The sun is shining, the leaves on the trees are so green. I can faintly hear the birds chirping.”
  • Use math or a repetitive phrase. Counting backwards from 100 by threes (it is harder than you think!), running through times tables. Saying a favourite prayer repetitively until a sense of calm begins to return, choosing a favourite positive affirmation such as “No matter what I will be okay,” or “This too shall pass.”
  • Use your imagination. We all have a place to which we associate a feeling of being calm. Use your imagination to picture yourself there – “I am sitting on the gray sand of York Beach, Maine. The sun is warm on my face, I can see the waves rolling in and crashing on the shore. I can hear the seagulls calling each other, sounds of people in the ocean. I can close my eyes and feel the slight breeze on my face, the scent of salt water in the air.”
  • Listen to a guided meditation. Sometimes we have trouble bringing our mind away from the ruminating cycle of thought and we need to hear someone else’s calm voice.
  • Play a category game. Using the alphabet, think of a person’s name for each letter. Pick any category and try to list as many things as you can – examples such as “zoo animals,” “bands from the eighties,” “places I’ve visited,” etc.

The trick to grounding techniques is to use them. Very often, our anxious moments are so convincing, we are pulled into feeding our fight or flight system versus realizing that we can make a conscious choice to feed our comfort system.

Tomorrow’s post will feature the act of grounding as a preventative measure; as a way to stay ahead of our anxiety instead of chasing it.

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Grounding Techniques for when Anxiety Strikes

We can all have those moments when we feel especially overwhelmed. For those who struggle with pervasive anxiety, chronic worry, or panic attacks, being able to slow things down can feel almost impossible. Grounding is a practice that can help to do that. Grounding techniques are designed to use distraction as a way to help manage challenging emotions. Here are five grounding techniques that focus on using the senses, or our physical self in order to calm:

  • Deep belly breathing. When we are especially anxious, we are breathing more quickly which can feed the spiral. Diaphragmatic breathing triggers our comfort system as it helps to inhibit anxiety. One way to practice is to place your hand on your belly and begin to take in deep breaths through your nose (about 3 seconds) and exhale through pursed lips (for 6 seconds). Doing this for 2 minutes resets the system.
  • Temperature change. Running cold water over your hands, splashing your face with it. Holding an ice cube. If it is winter, stepping outside and taking in some deep breaths.
  • 5 senses trick. Using the environment around you, label 5 things that you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. Doing this exercise can help to bring our body and mind together, distracting our mind from  thoughts that are pushing to take over.
  • Go for a walk. The change of scenery will help, so will counting your steps, movement alone does wonders for getting your body and mind working in sync.
  • Pick an anchor object. We may have a difficult moment we just need to get through. An anchor object is a small item that brings you comfort when holding it. It might include a charm on a necklace, a worry ring, a smooth stone, a rosary, a coin. When feeling anxious, it helps to hold the anchor object, reminding yourself of why it brings you comfort.

These grounding techniques are ones that are use our physical senses to help calm our mind. Tomorrow’s post will look at mental techniques that we can use when feeling anxious.

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Should We Compare Ourselves to Others?

The quick answer? It depends.

We are a relationship species; we seek connection and some of our most valuable experiences are those that are shared. It would be pretty difficult to not compare ourselves to others within our social circle, work place, society. In 1954, psychologist Leon Festinger suggested that people have an innate drive to evaluate themselves, often in comparison to others – he called this Social Comparison Theory. Comparison is often one way that influences our self-worth and it is a common way that we get to know ourselves.

Comparing ourselves to others can be quite positive as it motivates us to achieve. Perhaps we admire the way that someone asserts themselves at work, or a skill that someone else has mastered such as being a good cook or a talented guitar player. Perhaps we appreciate how someone in our life has completed a 5km run and we strive to undertake the same goal for ourselves. In this way, comparison can help us to identify what we deem as important in our lives and we can strive to succeed; fortifying our sense of worth.

Comparison can also prove to be damaging to our self-worth at times as it opens up a doorway to inner criticism and judgement. Think about the unrealistic body images that inundate our social media, for example. Other times, we may compare ourselves to where our peers are at in their lives and ours don’t match – if we fail to recognize that we also need to objectively examine context, we may begin to feel anxious about not being good enough.

And so, I suppose, it comes down to balance. When comparing ourselves to others, it becomes important to recognize our own skills and abilities, reach for what we are capable of, remind ourselves of our blessings, and be kind to ourselves throughout the process.

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5 Nature Quotes to Inspire

With spring in full bloom, we are spending more time outdoors these days. Here are five nature quotes to inspire:

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“When your world moves too fast and you lose yourself in the chaos, introduce yourself to each color of the sunset. Reacquaint yourself with the earth beneath your feet. Thank the air that surrounds you with every breath you take. Find yourself in the appreciation of life.” – Christy Ann Martine.

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

“Nature does not hurry and yet everything is accomplished.” – Lao Tsu

“A walk in nature walks the soul back home.” – Mary Davis

Find yourself outside today, sit out on the back deck with a book, go for a walk in the woods or along the water, open the windows to hear the birds. Breathe in the peaceful air to feel settled and still.

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

Self-Compassion; the Antidote of Shame

Yesterday’s post examined shame, how it develops, and how it can make us feel invisible. We also learned that the first step in being able to move past shame is to label it; seeing it as an emotion which doesn’t have to be tied to our self-identity.

We can begin to transform shame with self-compassion. Dr. Kristen Neff, a leader in the study of self-compassion, defines it as such:

“Having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others. Think about what the experience of compassion feels like. First, to have compassion for others you must notice that they are suffering. Second, compassion involves feeling moved by others’ suffering so that your heart responds to their pain (the word compassion literally means to “suffer with”). When this occurs, you feel warmth, caring, and the desire to help the suffering person in some way. Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself.”

Once we label shame as a way that we have been triggered to feel, from here we can move to curiosity. We aim to replace judgement – “I am bad, not worthy, not deserving” with a more objective look at why we are feeling this way. Gaining an understanding of why we used shame as an adaptive coping strategy in childhood, can lead us to challenging our inner critical voice.

How do we do that? With kindness. It requires gentle reminders to ourselves, it is about self-care, it is about choosing actions that will lead to healing. When we focus on self-compassion as our overall goal, we can help uncover our true identity and put shame in it’s place.

To read more about self-compassion, visit Dr. Kristen Neff’s website (linked above.)

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