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. 

Should I Get Diagnosed?

That is always a question that clients wrestle with at times. As a Registered Psychotherapist, I am not qualified to diagnose, yet I am able to recognize symptoms that are often indicative of an underlying mental illness. It is part of my job to suggest to the client the option of referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist for diagnosis as a potential part of their treatment plan.

Getting diagnosed for some clients is validating; they finally have a name to what they have been experiencing and can recognize themselves in the listed symptoms. It can be an empowering process as they begin to read about their diagnosis, join support groups online and have an avenue to express their own struggle with it. Suddenly, it just all makes sense.

Other clients have experienced a diagnosis as a label they can’t shake. They can feel stigmatized and defined by their mental illness, becoming even more burdened by its mark.

Getting diagnosed is a choice afforded to a client; in either case, therapy’s greater aim is to treat the person. That includes their symptoms, but it also includes their competencies and strengths, their core beliefs, patterns, interests, what they are passionate about, their self-care regime, their coping strategies, their support system, their history, their story. As a therapist, I am ever mindful that with or without the diagnosis, It is the relationship that heals.

Photo credit: http://Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash

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A Podcast about Prison Life

A recent article on CBC led me to a podcast entitled “Ear Hustle.” Ear Hustle, known as eavesdropping in prison lingo, is a podcast featuring Earlonne Woods, an inmate at San Quentin Prison who teams up with Nigel Poor, a visual artist, to bring stories of prison life to the outside.

In Episode 2, entitled Misguided Loyalty, Tommy Shakur Ross opens up about his decision as a teenager to involve himself in gang life. Nicknamed “the Joker,” Ross’s eventual choices and subsequent murder of someone landed him at the San Quentin Prison; 30 years later he is telling his story on Ear Hustle.

A message I particular resonated with is the self-reflective work that eventually led Ross to not wanting to be known as the Joker any longer. Earlonne remarks, “Prison does different things to different people. Some guys are the same guys that walked in here years ago; its like they’re frozen in time or something. Other guys, they change. They go through all the groups and shit and think about what they’ve done……….You can never change the facts of the case. The only thing you can do is move forward with your life and try to be a different person. Mohammed Ali says it best: the man who views the world at 50 the same way he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life. And if you are going to change, the story you tell about yourself has to change; and that’s true if you’re inside or outside of prison.”

Earlonne Woods has since been released from San Quentin State Prison after Governor Jerry Brown commuted his 31-years-to-life sentence for attempted 2nd degree armed robbery, commending the guidance he has provided to fellow inmates through his work on Ear Hustle. Woods and Poor continue producing the podcast in the media lab of San Quentin.

To listen to the 30 min podcast: https://www.earhustlesq.com/episodes/2017/6/28/misguided-loyalty

To read the article: https://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/ear-hustle-earlonne-woods-sentence-commuted-1.4964040

Photo credit:http://Photo by Carles Rabada on Unsplash

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Honouring Your Own Story; A Response to Grief

I have been working with a client who is going through her “year of firsts” after losing her grandmother. This time is one of process; one in which we go through the first year, weaving through the stages of grief and learning how to live without our loved one. It is also a time to honour our family member at each “first;” birthdays, holidays, special events so as to both recognize their missed presence and acknowledge the valued place they held in our lives.

This particular young woman is struggling with looking at pictures of her grandmother as it brings her such sadness; yet a dissonance is created, as she so desperately wants to see her grandmother’s smile. She further shared that hearing “your grandmother would not want you to feel so sad all of the time,” is both comforting (as she knows it to be true), yet uneasy as she feels as though somehow it is a catch all phrase when others don’t know how to handle her grief.

In our exploration, we went big picture; we traveled down the path of her grandmother’s story

Read moreHonouring Your Own Story; A Response to Grief

A Quote by perry poetry

I came across this quote the other day:

Never fall for a heart that doesn’t beat as loudly as you do for it.  – perry poetry

I suppose we all, to some degree, have let this happen. It may have been in an intimate relationship, a friendship, or even a colleague at work. In any context, in order for a relationship to be healthy, reciprocity is an essential ingredient. Of course, there are times when we may carry the weight of the relationship, and we do so lovingly and with understanding. When we reach a point in the relationship; however, where we hesitantly admit that we are consistently doing more of the work, this is where the relationship has become unbalanced.

Perhaps we move towards trying to change it, perhaps we accept it, all the while turning our focus inward with some self-care, perhaps we make the tougher decision to leave it. In any case, creating some space to explore it, is an important piece to gaining a greater understanding of the symbiotic beating of hearts, and the healthiness that lies therein 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

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Harriet Lerner’s Advice on Apologizing

I have a stack of books that I read for work; in fact, sometimes I have to limit my purchasing as I remind myself to catch up on the ones I have on my shelf! (I have this issue with fictional books too.) Most recently, I read Harriet Lerner’s “Why Won’t You Apologize?” and gained some insight into the art of the apology. Here are some points I resonated with:

  • We are all apology-challenged with certain people and in some situations; some apologies are easier to offer than others.
  • What drives over-apologizing? We can never know for sure. It may be a reflection of low self-esteem, a diminished sense of entitlement, an unconscious wish to avoid criticism, an excessive wish to placate, some underlying river of shame, or a desire to show off what a well-mannered Brownie Scout is. You don’t need to know what causes something in order to fix it. If you over-apologize, tone it down.
  • Perfectionism can make it difficult for any of us to offer a simple apology, because we are unlikely to be able to view our errors and limitations in a light and self-loving way. 
  • Not everything is forgivable. Accepting an apology doesn’t always mean reconciliation. The best apology in the world can’t restore connection.
  • A true apology does not ask the other person to do anything – not even to forgive.

Lerner’s chapters on forgiveness and finding peace were especially worth reading. Lerner’s words are easy to read, direct and woven with humour. “Why Won’t You Apologize?” is a worthy read.

Photo credit: http://Photo by Marco Bianchetti on Unsplash

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Alan Alda and Rachael Ray podcast on Communicating Through Food

In a recent podcast entitled “Clear and Vivid with Alan Alda: Rachael Ray on Communicating Through the Medium of Food,”  Rachael has this to say about the process of cooking:

“The reason I like working in food is that it is such a great conduit for communication. It does things that words can’t do. It can connect you with literally who you are and to the generations that we’ve lost. Food is more powerful than words in some way because is appeals to all of your senses.”

She goes on to share stories about her Sicilian grandfather and what it was like for her to spend much of her early years with him. I especially resonate with the role that food plays in connecting with our loved ones who have passed away. Recipes, handed down from generations, are a way to remember the comfort that person brought us. One bite of the shrimp dip served at Christmas reminds me of my grandmother, corn fritters belong to my Aunt Sue, and cinnamon buns to my dear Mom.  The act of cooking for another is one of love and familiarity, it leaves us satisfied and feeling content.

To listen to the podcast (it was quite worth it; Rachael has a wonderful personality, and they even talk about toasted spaghetti!): https://art19.com/shows/clear-vivid-with-alan-alda/episodes/3f39213a-7f2d-4818-90db-31204033f2e4

Photo credit: http://Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

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The Value of Family Dinner

Growing up, our family of four ate dinner together every night; when I had my own family, I carried on the tradition. It was a good time to connect with each other, talk about our best and worst parts of our day, have a few laughs, and it served as a bookend for the beginning of our evening. But it is through my sister that I learned the true value of family dinner.

A few years ago, she decided to begin the tradition of having “Sunday supper;” a gathering at her house that she began as a way to gather her adult children on a regular basis. She cooks for all of us, every Sunday, and the group ranges anywhere from 10 to 15 people; a big deal when you think about it (and she is an excellent cook!)

What makes it so valuable is the importance she places on it; and as a result, it has also become a prominent part of our week. There has been much talked about at family supper, laughter, some tears, and the telling of stories. I have learned through Sunday supper that gathering to eat together is about attachment; stability, consistency, attunement. It nourishes our comfort system, strengthens the connections we have to each other and creates memories. Family dinner brings light to the kitchen.

Thank you, Karina 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

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The Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy

Often used interchangeably, the words empathy and sympathy are quite similar. They both involve emotion and we use the words to convey to another person that in some form we understand what they are going through.

As defined in the Webster’s dictionary:

Empathy: the power to enter into the feeling or spirit of others

Sympathy: a sharing in the emotions of others; especially the sharing of grief and pain

When we sympathize with someone, we have some degree of understanding, as we have most likely experienced the emotion ourselves, or we can take a pretty good guess as it how it would feel. Eliciting our own feelings, sympathy allows us to have the ability to share their sorrow or pain to some extent. But empathy is a bit different; a more nuanced, ennobled process that allows the listener to intuitively “feel themselves” in another person’s experience, all the while, inherently understanding that empathy requires an opening of our heart and a stillness to our mind.

To hold another person’s vulnerability, with no other intent, is the gift of empathy.

Photo credit: http://Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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The Concept of a Healthy Escape

The tendency to avoid is part of our human nature. When we are experiencing a challenge in our lives that come with tough emotions, we may lean into trying to sidestep them altogether. Avoidance can come in many forms including shutting ourselves off from our feelings, throwing ourselves into work, isolating ourselves from others; it may result in using external means to soothe, such as overeating or having that extra glass of wine. In any case, you may have gotten temporary relief from the feeling, but the issue has not go away; the emotion needs to be processed in order to experience resolution, acceptance and growth. 

But what happens when the feeling becomes overwhelming? Or it is not a convenient time in that moment to have the emotion? Or the process is just going to take a long time? That is when the concept of healthy escape comes into play. Healthy escapes are planned and they can range from taking a time-out from the immediate situation, to engaging in a distraction activity, to an intentional outing; even a planned holiday constitutes a healthy escape.

Challenges in our lives and the tough emotions that naturally accompany them are inevitable but there is a big difference between running away and a healthy escape; one leans into avoidance and the other, into process. When we are consciously aware of the choice, we lean into our sense of agency, creating resilience and strength.

Photo credit: http://Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash

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From Young to Old

A quote by Kristen Butler caught my eye:

“Sometimes you just need to talk to a four year old and an 84 year old

to understand life again.” 

There is no doubt about it, we get caught up in life. Deadlines at work, kid’s busy schedules, our volunteer duties; not to forget squeezing in some fun and self-care once in awhile. Although we may aim to remain grounded, and do so through thoughtful intent, there is nothing like the experiences we share with the little ones in our life as well as our elders. With the four year old, we are going to get the wide-eyed wonder of the way they view the world, and we are kept young ourselves by embracing their innocence. With the eighty-four year old, we are given wisdom beyond our years, drawing from their own experiences and how they navigated through their own time in history.

In either case, the perspective we gain is the same; an inherent feeling that our time on this earth is relative. It is a calling to place priority in our relationships, in building connection to our values and goals, all the while creating experiences for ourselves that bring into being both wonder and wisdom. 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

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