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 Gift of Appreciation

Appreciation is about value. It is that to which we recognize that something or someone holds an invested place in our life.

Sometimes it comes with a sense of awe – the brilliant colours of the sun rising over water, the luminous effect of a full moon or a sky full of stars, the reassuring presence of moutains in the distance.

Sometimes it comes with a sense of wonder – the marvel and intricate system that makes up our body, the feeling we get when a ‘coincidence’ moves to a serendipitous moment, the times when we can feel the presence of grace.

Sometimes it comes with gratitude – the feeling we get when someone does something for us out of love, for the blessings that are present in our life, for the times we recognize as opportunites for growth and renewal.

What we appreciate, appreciates. It grows as we water it. Appreciation is about recognition – it is the act of praise, it is found in a compliment, it is felt within. It is a conscious act that can only increase our sense of what is valuable – leading to a more peaceful and settled place.

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Two Common Thinking Traps of the Anxious Mind

There are times when our internal dialogue works against us. Sometimes this comes in the form of our core beliefs, but other times it can come from our thinking styles. For someone with anxiety, two common thinking traps tend to have the capacity to influence and reinforce their anxious mind:

  • Catastrophising: the tendency to magnify the situation; to blow things out of proportion. This is really the “what if” kind of thinking that can lead someone into a loop of rumination, as they work themselves into worst case scenario thinking. It is the type of thinking style that keeps you very centered on the future, and what you can’t control. Very often, what started out as a legitimate worry, becomes so magnified that it takes over the ability to rationalize it.
  • Jumping to Conclusions: Very often, we imagine we know what others are thinking and begin to guess at what their actions mean; we become so focused on what it “could mean” that we lose sight of using effective communication, and end up in another all consuming thought loop.

The first step to changing a thinking style is simply to recognize it. Understanding that it has developed as a habit can give us permission to create newer, healthier thinking styles that focus more on the present and on what we know. Allowing our logic to play some role in our thinking will take away some of the power that our emotions have in those moments.

With the overall goal of having flexible thought, we can begin to recognize when we are feeling trapped by our thinking and remind ourselves to “Take a deep breath, focus on the facts, ask for clarification or support.”

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When to Take the High Road

As we get better at understanding and processing our emotions, we also begin to realize that sometimes we need to say something to another person about how they made us feel, and sometimes we choose not to. Sometimes, the choice to take the high road is the one that presents to us as the healthier option. Here are some general guidelines as to when to take the high road:

  • if your attempt to communicate is falling on deaf ears. If repeated attempts are not working, perhaps denial has gotten in the way. Dealing with a person who tends to be inflexible in their thinking will often produce the same result as they are not open to hearing it.
  • it isn’t the right time. Sometimes a moment calls for an open conversation and sometimes the timing is off. ‘Sleeping on it’ is always a good rule of thumb in creating enough space for processing.
  • it will only lead to conflict. If we know that someone is defensive or conflict driven, sometimes it isn’t worth the time or energy for the debate.
  • it just doesn’t feel right. When we take the time to reflect on how we are feeling; when we examine the what if’s about speaking up or taking the high road, our instincts will usually guide us in making the decision.

The important piece when taking the high road is to remain committed to processing the emotion surrounding the upset. Perhaps you have brought it to therapy, talked with a trusted friend, taken a long walk to mull it over. When we choose to take the high road it usually comes with a feeling of peace; choosing grace to build upon itself. And when it just doesn’t feel right to take the high road, that is when we pluck up our courage to say something – rewarding the effort and not the outcome, reminding ourselves that we are important too. 🙂

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A Little Reminder About Rest

I love this quote by Morgan Harper Nichols:

“A restful approach to restless uncertainty provides strength and endurance for the rest of the journey.”

– Morgan Harper Nichols

Very often, we seek rest at the end of our day. Our work and home duties completed, kids off to bed, we sink into the couch for a good dose of Netflix, catch up with a friend, relax with a book, take a bath. We reward ourselves with rest.

But what about the days that catch up to us? What about the stressful days? The restless ones? It is on those days that carving out time to rest is essential for our self-care, for those are the days we need it the most. Sometimes it may not seem possible, but it is. It may mean consciously putting every thing aside for some quiet time outside with your face to the sun, or taking 20 minutes for a leisurely stroll in the park. It may mean taking a power nap, or spontaneously calling a friend to meet for lunch. It may mean unplugging for a solid 30 minutes.

Making rest an important part of our day, regardless of its tone, builds our resilience; providing strength and endurance for the rest of the journey 🙂

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Emotional Suppression and What We Need to Know About It

There are times when we may suppress emotion. Sometimes that is a learned behaviour from childhood – becoming the favoured way of dealing with things; other times we may avoid recognizing our emotions and we use our defense mechanisms (like avoidance) in order to not have to deal with a painful event. In any event, when we suppress emotion we run the risk of:

  • building resentment. If you are unable to tell someone how you feel, this may build resentment. This type of under the surface anger can lead to having less favourable feelings towards your loved one over time.
  • displacement. If something makes you angry and you struggle to process or deal with it, you may take out that suppressed emotion on the people around you.
  • addiction. When we suppress our emotions, we run the risk of turning to something external to ease the pain.
  • a build up and release. Any time that tears come as a result of an emotion, we consider that a healthy way of releasing it. Build up emotions however can lead to uncontrolled emotion by way of an over-reaction.
  • mood swings or depression. Heavy emotions that don’t get processed sit with us; this can often lead to experiencing mood swings or the symptoms of depression.
  • physical ailments. When we suppress emotions, they can turn inward and create physical symptoms or illness.

We are much better served to lean into simply acknowledging our emotions. Observe the emotion, describe the emotion, not place judgement on the feeling. Perhaps you will say something, perhaps you will talk it over with a friend or therapist, perhaps you will go for a walk. When we simply allow our emotions to be, with the conscious decision to process, we cut down the tendency to suppress the emotion – leaving us with a grounded and secure feeling.

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The Wisdom of Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was a civil rights activist and celebrated author. She is someone that naturally exuded grace, simplicity and wisdom. Here are three of my favourite quotes (although it was very hard to choose only three, so I squeezed an extra one in!):

  • “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better” – Maya Angelou
  • “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel. ” – Maya Angelou
  • “My mission in life is not to simply survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some compassion, some humour and some style.” – Maya Angelou

The themes of Maya Angelou’s advice was about living your best life; to love life; both for its beauty and richness and in spite of its challenges and times of suffering. She was a big advocate in being in charge of your own existence in the world, being both true to yourself and compassionate towards others. As she best said it, “Precious jewel, you glow, you shine, reflecting all the good things in the world. Just look at yourself.” – Maya Angelou

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Am I Dating A Narcissist?

As I often note, everything exists on a continuum. The same can be said for narcissistic behaviour; if it goes to far, it can develop into a disorder. Unfortunately, if you are dating someone who exhibits narcissistic traits, you will most likely be left in their dust, as they require a whole lot of time and attention and often have difficulty giving it back. Here are some traits that tend to be narcissistic in nature and can lead to you wondering if you are dealing with a narcissist.

  1. They have a sense of entitlement and tend to feel they are superior to others. Although a narcissist is in fact, insecure, they present themselves in the beginning as being quite charming and confident. Not too long into the relationship, you will begin to notice that the narcissist only feels safe in top position, and they feel entitled to getting their own way, all the time.
  2. They have a constant need for attention. From you and from others; which often leads to narcissists either being unfaithful or finding someone else at the tail end of a relationship so that they aren’t alone. It is a process of validation that is tiring and without end.
  3. They have trouble taking responsibility for their actions. Narcissists tend to carry shame (that is masked of course by their sense of superiority), and so admitting that they made a mistake will threaten their tightly veiled system.
  4. They don’t tend to have a lot of empathy. Because their emotional capacity is limited, and they put lots of energy into producing a false sense of self, they really don’t have time to think about how you feel.
  5. They can turn on a dime. You are either the love of their life or their worst enemy; and they reflect both in their actions towards you.

As we all know, we can’t change another person. There are times in relationship, when changing our reactions or our choices can influence the relationship in a way that can produce a desired effect. Dealing with a narcissist; however, can prove to be a very unsatisfying experience as their need to maintain their false sense of self trumps their desire to have a healthy relationship.

Bottom line? If you see the red flags, heed them 🙂

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A Little Quote About Faith

I came across this quote:

“When I finally let go of having to totally control everything around me and let my life unfold, I was stunned by the results. How could I have ever thought I could outsmart the universe?” – Geri Larkin

Sometimes our anxiety or fears can lead us to over control. If we can just get everything tickety-boo with no room for error, all will be fine. But not all of our paths are straight. Sometimes they are narrow and crooked, sometimes we have hills to climb, and the skies become stormy. In designing our own lives through the choices we make, we must also make room for some chance and fate. We can acknowledge that some of our successes and failures were supposed to happen that way and that we can weather life’s challenges with grace. We can have faith in the mysterious yet infinite energy of the universe.

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Power in the Pause

In a past blog post, I spoke about the difference between a reaction and a response. Our reactions tend to be immediate – based more on the action urges that come as a result of our feelings, whereas a response tends to be more mindful. A reaction stays in the emotion brain, a response allows the rational brain to chime in.

The window of slowing down between a reaction and a response is the pause. It is that moment of recognition that things could go sideways fast – words that can’t be unspoken, behaviours that can’t be undone. There is power in the pause; it allows us to set our ego aside and become aware of the repercussions. It allows us to identify our feelings.

Taking a deep breath and leaning into the pause can help us to prevent:

  • the “0 to 60 response”
  • name calling or yelling
  • blaming others
  • “he said/she said” behaviours
  • “eye for an eye” behaviours
  • the look of hurt on someone’s face
  • the fearful look on a child’s face

Learning to slow down our reaction comes from the same place where we learned that it was somehow okay to skip past the feeling and go straight to the action urge. What is learned can be unlearned. When we know that there is power in the pause, we can use it to feel more grounded, stay mindful, and improve our communication skills. Sounds like a good plan to me 🙂

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Dancing: How It Can Help Our Brain

In an article entitled “Dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain” by Frontiers and featured on Medical Xpress, we read about a study out of Germany that looked at the benefits of exercise in the elderly to determine what type of effect it can have on the brain:

“Exercise has the beneficial effect of slowing down or even counteracting age-related decline in mental and physical capacity,” says Dr Kathrin Rehfeld, lead author of the study, based at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, Germany. “In this study, we show that two different types of physical exercise (dancing and endurance training) both increase the area of the brain that declines with age. In comparison, it was only dancing that lead to noticeable behavioral changes in terms of improved balance.”

Rehfeld goes on to explain that by constantly changing the dance routines and introducing different genres of dance, the seniors in the study were constantly engaged in a learning process.

We know that music it itself can greatly affect our mood and can be an important element in our emotional health; just putting on music while I am cleaning the house always makes the task that much more enjoyable. Now I have a reason to put some swing in my step!

Bottom line? Find some time to dance 🙂

To read the full article:

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