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. 

Chronic Pain; A Function Centered Life

Building on yesterday’s post about how chronic pain can affect someone’s emotional health as well, we can see how chronic pain can often lead someone to living a pain centered life. Prolonged pain can be quite stealthy, invading our system in an insidious way. Often times, we continue to live our life as we always did, ignoring the pain as we plow through our day. This becomes a pain centered way of life, forcing us to eventually face the pain when we have pushed ourselves too far.

So how do we shift it to a more function centered life? One in which we work with our chronic pain and not against it:

  • Get informed. Working with your GP and possible specialists to discover the source of chronic pain is only the first step. Identify with symptoms by researching, join groups online that share similar diagnoses, seek both medical and alternative methods of treatment and look into online resources that can help to understand not only your specific condition but how chronic pain affects you as well.
  • Know your limits. Begin to notice just how much you can do of any activity and re-adjust. This takes some acceptance, but you will be better served by it when you begin to honour your body and just how much it can take. Shorten, tweak, or limit your activities according to your pain.
  • Stay active. Very often, chronic pain can be isolating; even a 10 minute walk around the block is better than staying in bed.
  • Keep your established social connections. Chronic pain can often lead us to say no to activities based on our pain levels; friends are more understanding than we think and keeping them in our life is an important and healthy coping strategy. It just may mean some adjustments – hiking with friends for a day might be out of the question, but how about a spa day instead?
  • Work towards acceptance. Working with our chronic pain is a proactive versus reactive position. You will feel more in the driver’s seat as a result.

A great online course is available from Living Healthy Champlain: https://www.livinghealthychamplain.ca/en/LAHLchronicpain

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

 

Three Facts About Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is generally defined as pain that has gone beyond tissue repair, lasting longer than six months, and pain that is not responsive to usual treatment. It can be intermittent, such as migraines, or continuous, such as a back pain. Because chronic pain tends to be insidious, we don’t often realize that chronic pain and mental health disorders tend to go hand in hand.  Three useful facts:

  • Our brain is able to cope with acute pain as it is a part of our survival mechanism. When dealing with chronic pain; however, an emotional component becomes connected to the experience of pain and this leads to suffering and a greater tendency to experience negative emotions.
  • When emotions become intense and sustained over a long period of time, this can lead to mood changes. Over time, this can gradually lead to mental illness; research suggesting that 30 to 50% of people who live with chronic pain also struggle with depression or anxiety.
  • Chronic pain tends to automatically move people into working from a pain centered life. With pain always taking center stage, this can create feelings of helplessness. Moving to a function centered life becomes part of a self-management strategy to working with chronic pain.

Tomorrow’s post will look at how a function centered life can be a healthy approach when living with chronic pain.

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

The Anger Iceberg; a visual way of understanding anger

In the article entitled “The Anger Iceberg” by Kyle Benson and featured on The Gottman Institute Relationship Blog, Benson writes: “Think of anger like an iceberg. Most of the iceberg is hidden below the surface of the water. Similarly, when we are angry, there are usually other emotions hidden beneath the surface. It’s easy to see a person’s anger but can be difficult to see the underlying feelings the anger is protecting.”

In therapy, one of the most useful bits of information I provide to clients is about anger. Learning that anger is an emotion that tends to come after a feeling sets up a good understanding for why we use it; it keeps us safe. Safe from the other emotions that as Benson points out, hide under the surface. Beginning to recognize what feelings are prompting the anger is a good first step in beginning to process not only the anger, but the hidden feeling as well.

Benson includes a downloadable PDF graphic image of the Anger Iceberg that is worth checking out. To read the full article: https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-anger-iceberg/

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

 

 

Are Opposite Sex Friendships Okay?

Yesterday’s blog post touched on jealousy and how it can erode relationships. But are opposite sex friendships okay? The short answer…..they can be, but proceed with caution. Our attachment system works in such a way that we can easily attach to more than one child, more than one friend, more than one sibling or family member. When it comes to our partners, however, our attachment system tends to need full investment; when we begin relying on an opposite sex friend on an emotional level (instead of our spouse), we risk becoming attached to them, leading potentially to thinking that the grass is greener on the other side. It is a slippery slope; hence the caution.

The reality of our intimate relationships is that they ebb and flow from times that we are content to times that we are frustrated and feeling vulnerable. Leaning into our opposite sex friend instead of working to fix what is unhealthy at home can lead to infidelity if one is not very aware of their actions.

In order to maintain a friendship with someone of the opposite sex, transparency is a must. Both partners have to be okay with the friendship and adopt the philosophy that there is “nothing to hide.” When we work as a team with our partners, making sure their feelings take priority, we make the ground underneath us more even, and therefore, more secure.

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

 

Jealousy and How it Damages Relationships

Secure attachment is a safe place; one in which we feel a sense of reciprocal loyalty to our partner. Within the context of a healthy relationship, there may be times when we feel a bit territorial; if you are at a social event and it appears that someone has decided to put the charm on your partner, you may get a little prickly feeling, a natural response to someone invading your space.

But what happens when it moves to jealousy? And what does that do to a relationship? The short answer…..it erodes it. Jealousy is a feeling that can border upon and include emotions such as envy, resentment, and bitterness. Jealousy is about unentitled ownership, mistrust, and suspicion; all of which will do nothing to contribute to the health of a relationship. Jealousy is about feeling insecure and placing that vulnerability on the shoulders of your partner; clearly not their job.

When feeling jealous, it is our job to ask ourselves why; to begin to take ownership for how those feelings developed and what we can do to change them. If our partner is excessively flirty or there have been questionable moments of infidelity in the past, that becomes a relationship problem; jealousy may be growing out of what now has become unhealthy.

In any case, jealousy is an emotion we need to keep in check. Leaning into it not only erodes the relationship, it also wears away at our own sense of a confident and secure self. We are best served to begin the work of not letting jealousy lead.

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

 

 

The Wisdom of Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa continues to be a source of inspiration to me; her ability to be gracious, her benevolent nature and the wisdom she found in living a charitable life is something we can all benefit from. Three of my favourite quotes from Mother Teresa include:

  • “Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary.” – Mother Teresa
  • “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” – Mother Teresa
  • “Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” – Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa lived a life in service of others; yet her words reflect our ability to begin with love and kindness in our own lives, in our own hearts and homes; moving outward as we grow in courtesy and compassion.

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

 

The Art of Being

We are used to being in the process of ‘doing.’ From the moment that we get up we are task oriented. This is not a bad thing; after all, we get a certain sense of pride when we are productive, when we feel in motion, when we can cross off items on our to-do list.

Sometimes however, in the process of doing, we forget how to be. Being comes from our moments of stillness, our conscious choice to be mindful – of a moment, of the way that the sun feels on our face, on how something tastes or smells. Being comes from our efforts to slow down; to move through the day at a comfortable pace. Being comes from our acts of kindness towards ourselves and others – taking time to make a tea, giving someone a hug, creating space for laughter, smiling at someone you cross paths with on your walk.

Doing is an external experience, being belongs to the internal. Being creates stability. When we consciously focus on our state of content, when we create joyful moments, when we understand that through self-compassion we harness creativity, that by accepting and giving love we push aware fear, we are building mastery.

We are moving in the art of being.

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

 

Procrastination; Why we Engage in it

Through an article entitled “Procrastination” featured on GoodTherapy, we are able to begin to see the difference between the natural tendency to put things off  and chronic procrastination:

“One common misconception about procrastinators is that they have poor time management skills. While this may sometimes be the case, there are often deeper issues at play. Some research indicates that those who are prone to chronic procrastination may find help with emotional regulation and stress management more valuable than skills-training for time management. This is because procrastination may stem partly from an inability to cope with difficult emotions in the moment or from a fear of being unable to cope with negative emotion.”

This makes perfect sense; if we tend to have difficulty regulating our mood, or find a particular emotion upsetting, avoidance is one of the ways that we cope. The effects of chronic procrastination can create a defeatist-type cycle; one in which can affect our overall quality of life.

Two ways that the article featured on how to begin to reduce the tendency to procrastinate I particularly resonated with:

  • Find accountability. This can include asking a friend or partner to help keep you on track; the process of doing so will help to create a sense of agency and accomplishment.
  • Start small. Very often, breaking down a bigger issue in smaller steps helps us stick to the task at hand and not feel overwhelmed.

To read the full article which included effects of chronic procrastination and additional coping strategies: https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/procrastination

 

 

Today We Have a Choice

Came across this lovely passage about today:

Today you have a choice.

You can choose between 

anger and love.

Division and unity.

Frustration and hope.

Selfishness and giving.

Turning away and showing up.

Choose kindness

and the choice is simple.

It’s hard to regret being kind.

– Rachel Marie Martin

 

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@ditto7

Observe and Describe; Getting Back to our Emotions

Our emotional system is quite amazing. We are born with a set of emotions that innately work for us and yet that same emotional system is shaped by the world around us. The experiences and lessons we have been taught by our caregivers will influence and guide us into our emotions and our reactions to those feelings, healthy or not.

We know that emotion trumps reason every time. In reclaiming our emotional system so as to begin to feel more emotionally regulated, the first step is to simply observe and describe our emotions at any given time in our day. This is easier said than done 🙂

Our emotions as adults often come with judgement: “Crying is a sign of weakness,” “I go from 0 to 60 when I’m angry and I know its wrong,” “I feel guilty because I disappoint people.” Judgments,; however, tend to be a precursor to action; so we are much better served to set our goals on observing and describing: “I feel sad right now,” “I can feel a tightness in my chest,” “I can feel my anger rising.”

This may not be easy, but with practice and patience, you will begin to see your emotions in a different light. Freeing them from their cages, you will feel lighter and less tied to developed patterns; giving you a sense of agency and direction in your own emotional world.

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