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. 

5 Facts about Curiosity

You know I am going to like this post as I often speak about the importance of curiosity:

  1. Curiosity tempers fear. Most of our fears are perceived – curiosity can help to work away at our worries. Asking ourselves “Does it have to be this way?” is a great start to moving past an engrained fear. So is asking ourselves “Is there another way I can approach this?” Sometimes just giving ourselves permission to imagine a different outcome can begin to work away at our fear – curiosity is our number one tool for this type of approach.
  2. Curiosity helps increase our self-esteem. When we are curious about something, it almost always lends itself to learning something new, and we all know how empowering knowledge can be.
  3. Curiosity can enhance creativity. Working along the same lines as increased knowledge, when we are curious, we tend to be more creative. Creativity feeds our comfort system.
  4. Curiosity promotes an active mind. When our mind is active, it also tends to be more open, flexible and self-reflective – which are all important components to our emotional health.
  5. Curiosity helps to connect cause and effect. When we understand where and why our issues developed, we move to acceptance and structural change.

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The Antidote to Contempt

Resentment can be quite insidious. What may begin as a few annoyances can build to a point where you are holding your loved one in contempt. The anger of contempt comes with its own army….all of those frustrations have now gathered and are ready to fight. You come well armed, yet your loved one isn’t prepared for the attack.

Dr. John Gottman lists contempt as one of the most destructive negative behaviours in relationships:

“Contempt is fueled by long-simmering negative thoughts about one’s partner, and it arises in the form of an attack on someone’s sense of self. Inevitably, contempt leads to more conflict—particularly dangerous and destructive forms of conflict—rather than to reconciliation.”

The antidote? Fondness and admiration. Gottman says that when we focus on what we love about our partner, it helps to sustain us through times when we feel annoyed. The same can be applied in all of our relationships where contempt can fester.

It isn’t always easy to bring those positive attributes to the forefront of our mind – our negative bias can get in the way, so can our anger. But it is possible. A proactive tip includes writing out a list of all of your loved one’s qualities. This can be a helpful tool in reminding us that the good outweighs the bad – it can also help to temper our response when we need to speak to them about our concerns, needs or feelings. It helps to bring the rational mind into our emotional space; putting contempt at bay and healthy communication on the front lines. 🙂

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The Art of Standing Still

There is a trick to standing still. To waiting. There are times when we keep ourselves stuck, other times when life’s circumstances have grounded us. We usually know the difference. 🙂 I came across this whimsical poem that reminds us that when we look for it, we can see that even when standing still, there is movement:

It was the longest night in winter,

When I sent a question into space,

Asking how I’d ever change,

When I’m trapped in the same place.

And I heard the full moon giggle,

As she cloaked me in her light,

Along with the same swath of stars,

I looked at every night.

I blushed pink as the sunrise,

At the joke I didn’t get,

Until the moon gave me her answer,

In the minutes before she set.

“You have much to learn on standing still,”

She told me with a smile,

“For since you first asked me that question,

You’ve moved five hundred thousand miles.”

-e.h.

A little reminder that even when we feel stuck or hampered by something, we have the capacity for movement. Even the slightest movements can contribute to change.

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React or Respond; It’s Our Choice

We have all had those “0 to 60” reactions. Something gets triggered in us, our temper flares and our reaction is immediate. Hopefully, whatever words or actions that came as a result of flying off the handle, will be repairable. Unfortunately, the repair piece is often forgotten, and excuses replace an apology:

“You made me so mad I couldn’t help myself.”

“If you didn’t piss me off, I wouldn’t yell.”

It is in these moments that we must check ourselves. Yes, we can’t control another person’s behaviour or choices – but we can control ours. And we can begin by asking ourselves “Am I going to react to this, or am I going to respond?”

Reacting is 0 to 60 with little thought to consequence. Responding involves the step of slowing down long enough to make your own choice as to which direction this is going to go. Reacting is full emotion, responding includes a deep breath and some rational thought. Reacting is chaotic, responding is calm. Reacting is incomplete, responding is mature.

And if, in trying, we still make a mistake – we can respond to our reaction with a genuine apology:

“I am sorry that I yelled at you like that. This is not the way I want to behave and I am working on changing it.”

React or respond – it’s our choice. 🙂

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The Role of Serotonin in Our Gut

Serotonin is the hormone that is responsible for stabilizing our mood. It produces feelings of well-being and happiness, and helps to regulate sleep and digestion. And 90% of its receptors are located in the gut. Because of this fact, serotonin plays a vital role between your brain and your gut health. As a result, researchers have begun examining inflammation and its link to the symptoms of depression.

In order to naturally boost serotonin, and thereby reducing inflammation, we can:

  • Eat foods rich in Tryptophan. An amino acid, tryptophan tends to be found in foods that are rich in protein. Chicken, eggs, cheese, fish, tofu, turkey, pumpkin seeds, avocados and chocolate are some examples of food rich in tryptophan.
  • Exercise regularly. When we get moving, we increase the amount of serotonin that is fired in the brain.
  • Manage stress levels. Chronic stress can wreak havoc on our hormones; creating balance with a focus on self-care will help manage stress levels, allowing serotonin to do its job.
  • Get a massage. Research has shown a link between regular massage therapy and increased serotonin levels.

By incorporating some of these natural ways to boost serotonin, we are supporting a healthy mind body connection by taking good care of our gut. Sounds like a good plan to me. 🙂

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Why is Personal Growth Frightening?

When we are attempting to change something about ourselves, it often carries with it anxious feelings. There are times when the uncertainty that accompanies change will threaten our efforts, sending us back to our comfortable and familiar ways – even if those habits are unhealthy.

Seems disheartening doesn’t it? Here we are, wanting to change something, and we end up feeling anxious, jittery, uncertain. Why is personal growth so frightening?

Dr. Jonice Webb has this to say about the anxiety of personal growth:

“This is one of the most powerful, yet least talked about, forms of anxiety. It’s the anxiety that’s naturally built into virtually every step of emotional or psychological growth that you take in your lifetime. It’s especially intense when you’re trying to give up a coping mechanism that you needed in childhood. This anxiety arises when you’re about to make a healthy change in yourself, and tries to pull you backward.”

Our body and mind love associations. They get formed along the way and through reinforcement, will become hard-wired and automatic.

“I turn to food to comfort me.”

“I hate confrontation and will even avoid stating my opinion about something.”

“I let people walk all over me and I know it.”

Even though our associations seem hard wired, we also know that with the plasticity of our brain and through our own efforts, we can change the pathways to create healthier habits. The trick becomes in pushing past the initial anxiety of trying something new, of tempering that fear with curiosity and faith.

When we understand that the initial fear is simply our body’s way of signalling potential danger, we can use our rational brain to slow down the fear response, opening up a doorway to the meaningful and enriching experience of personal growth.

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Let’s Try and Avoid “Should”

The word should is one that rolls right off the tongue:

“I should exercise more.”

“I should be able to do that.”

“You should take my advice.” 

According to the dictionary, it is a modal verb, meaning that you use the word should when you are saying what would be the right thing to do or the right state for something to be in. 

The problem with the word is that it goes against our goal to be open minded and flexible. When we hear the word should, it implies rigidity and control; our own critical voice will use it to judge ourselves. It strengthens core beliefs, it will put someone’s back up. It also reinforces our tendency to want to be right about something (as nothing builds our ego more quickly.)

Using it really doesn’t serve us well. We walk away feeling diminished, we make other people feel inferior. Instead, we can make the conscious effort to find alternatives:

“I enjoy walking and am going to try to get out once a day.”

“Maybe I can try it this way and find greater success.”

“I wonder if you tried this, would it help you?”

When we use the word try, we have opened up possibility and potential; we have implied choice. We give ourselves and others permission to be flexible and open to success. We tame criticism and encourage praise and support. Let’s try and avoid “should.” 🙂

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Self-Reflection Question 15

There are times in our lives that we can look back with regret. Perhaps we wish we could take back something we said or did; perhaps we left something unsaid, perhaps we wish we could have done something and now it is too late.

“If given the opportunity, what would you go back and rewrite?”

I appreciate the way this question is worded as it implies that our story includes choice. Perhaps there is a wrong that can be righted, or we can set a goal in relation to a regret. Mine is one that fits into the “too late,” category, but still brings to me a valuable lesson.

Every summer since his retirement, my father would spend time in his home town in Cadillac, Abitibi. Although my mother would join him for part of that time, he would go for most of the season as he was very drawn to the simple life of a trailer by the water, fishing daily. For two years, he mentioned to my sister and I that we should come up together to spend a week – no kids or husbands, just us. I don’t really know why we didn’t make it happen – I can guess that it had something to do with short, busy summers, trying to also fit in our family vacation to Maine, my father’s way of ‘mentioning’ something without clearly asking it. I can distinctly remember a conversation that my sister and I had intimating that we would plan it for “next summer,” as we knew, that in his quiet way, it was important to him. Unfortunately, we never got the chance as he passed away the following May.

I can’t rewrite this part of my story. I sorely wish I had those memories of seeing my father where he was the most content, time spent on his boat, campfires, battling the bugs of northern Quebec – but I don’t. I was reminded instead that we can’t let life get in the way, most things can wait and  that our relationships are what need time and attention – for it is within those relationships, and time spent together, that we experience the richness of our story.

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Photo credit: Me! A young pic of my Dad 🙂

 

 

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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Tips for Moving Past Social Anxiety

Yesterday’s post examined what social anxiety is and how it tends to develop for people. Today, we will look at ways that we can begin to challenge social anxiety by lessening it’s hold on us.

The first step comes by way of exploring why social anxiety has become an issue. When we can understand something, it tends to give us permission to ask ourselves “Does it have to be this way?” It is also important to recognize that what may have started out as an association, has now become a fully formed habit due to reinforcement; after all, the more we feed something, the bigger it gets.

Tips for challenging social anxiety:

  • Start small. Going to the biggest event in history is probably not the best way to challenge social anxiety. Instead, choose an event in which there are going to be people present that you know, as well as a few people that you don’t.
  • Create a safety net. Arrive with someone you know, position yourself closest to an exit (sometimes just knowing that you can ‘escape’ helps), give yourself a timeline (commit to an hour), purposely choose your time to go to the store or use the phone (peak times are not the time to be challenging your social anxiety.) Feeling safer in social interactions will help to temper the fear response.
  • Get your mind into it. Your body is designed to react to your fear response; by challenging that fear with curiosity and positive affirmations, we can begin to temper our visceral response. Are you telling yourself you are going to be judged, or are you telling yourself that people are usually pretty wrapped up in what they are doing, and not really noticing what is going on with you. Use reality; logic, your rational voice. Tell yourself what you would tell a friend.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Challenging a fear means choosing a different focus and creating a new habit. Social situations can be less daunting, and as you challenge those fears, it will increase your self-confidence and sense of agency.

The goal of challenging social anxiety is simply to become more comfortable with social interactions and meeting new people. Big crowds and social situations may still give you the nervous nellies, but with coping strategies in place, you also can be reassured that you don’t have to continually miss out. Sounds like a good plan to me 🙂

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