Anchor Your Day ~ a mental health blog by Counselwise ~

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

Photo credit: http://Photo by Will H McMahan on Unsplash

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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.

In a ‘Working with Emotions’ group that my colleague Darlene and I run, we start out by addressing this very system, and how 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: http://Photo by Deleece Cook on Unsplash

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Criticism and It’s Internal Voice

“It is all my fault.” “There is something wrong with me.” “Nothing I ever do is good enough.” Clients who come to therapy struggling with self-worth say these things to themselves. And pretty much every one of them had a parent who was critical.

The need to criticize another person is about control. What better way to control someone than to oppress them; if they feel lesser than you, they will most likely do your bidding and you feel safe and secure in top position. Unhealthy? Absolutely.  When we grow up with a critical parent we get these messages honestly; when we become adults, our internal voice takes over and we begin to repeat the messages to ourselves, usually acting in ways that reinforce the way we feel.

We can challenge our inner critic by identifying  the messages, then asking ourselves “Who does this really sound like?” (It doesn’t usually take much exploring to get to the answer.) From there, we can begin to ask ourselves “Could it be different?” And the answer is unequivocally “Yes.”

Your inner critic is yours; it is yours to keep listening to or it is yours to challenge.  You can allow it to keep its throne, or strip it of its power. The choice, ultimately is yours; perhaps that realization is the first step in quieting your internal voice and putting it in its place.

Photo credit: http://Photo by Houcine Ncib on Unsplash

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Authenticity and its Value

Be yourself. We hear that everywhere. And yet what do I tell my young client, a woman in her early thirties, when she tells me that she doesn’t know who she is. Parentified at a young age, she was left in charge of her younger siblings; forever the caregiver, never the one being taken care of. There was no time in her young life to discover who she was as an individual, and she carried the weight of an absent father and her mother’s emotional troubles.

We have done much work; exploration as to how her childhood has affected her and she has come to accept the limits of her parents. She has put much needed boundaries into place, and ended a romantic relationship that was unhealthy. We have now moved into the place where she can become curious about who she is, what her qualities are, her interests, values and so forth. Where she was stunted in her emotional growth as a child, she is moving to reclaim.

Authenticity as defined by the Webster’s dictionary is: genuine//true//reliable. I believe that authenticity is a feeling; found in the calm regions of our core. As we gain more confidence in who we are, we have greater access to that feeling, relying on the ability to be genuine rather than on trying to be something we are not. Feet on the floor, take a few deep breaths and bring the thought, “just be yourself” into that space. The calm will guide you to be true. 

Photo credit: http://Photo by Natalia Figueredo on Unsplash

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A Classic Poem; forever timeless

My friend Nathalie once shared this poem with me and every so often I look it up and remind myself of its timeless and wonderful value.

Desiderata 

    • Go placidly amid the noise and haste
    • and remember what peace there may be in silence
    • As far as possible without surrender
    • be on good terms with all persons.
    • Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
    • and listen to others,
    • even the dull and the ignorant;
    • they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1927.

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

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Trauma and Attachment

I have worked with many clients over the years who have suffered traumatic childhoods; ones in which they were thrust into survivor mode from a very young age, often experiencing abuse and/or neglect while having to take on adult roles in the family. In a recent article that my colleague Darlene recommended, I was impressed with the writer’s words in explaining attachment in the face of trauma.

“Attachment and C-PTSD: How Complex Trauma Gets in the Way” by Fabiana Franco and featured on GoodTherapy, Franco had this to say: “Like all human traits, the ability to form attachment bonds is not purely innate; it is learned behavior. And as with most human learning, attachment is learned by doing. From the moment they exit the womb, babies are learning attachment. This, and not only the need to materially provide for the child, is the basis of the family, a universal component of human society.”

“Survivors of complex trauma typically emerge with gaps in their ability to form attachment bonds with others. This is not to say their desire for attachment is any less—far from it. The unfulfilled desire for connection and pervasive feeling of loneliness in survivors of complex trauma is a major contributing factor to the symptoms they experience, including depression, inability to regulate emotion, and engagement in risky or self-destructive behaviors.”

Successful treatment of trauma often requires long term therapy, but the ability to attach is an innate process and one that can move towards the formation of  safe and secure relationships. A person’s trauma does not have to define them.

To read the full article (it goes into so much more detail): https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/attachment-and-c-ptsd-how-complex-trauma-gets-in-the-way-0322185

Photo credit: http://Photo by Yeshi Kangrang on Unsplash

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Beautiful Boy; book about addiction

I have just finished reading “Beautiful Boy” by David Sheff. Perhaps the most unparalleled book I have read about addiction, “Beautiful Boy” is a bird’s eye view into Sheff’s personal account and journey through his son’s addiction and steps to recovery. Two quotes that I especially appreciated touch on how addiction permeates self and families:

“I probably don’t have to tell you that this is a disease that affects families too,” the speaker, a program counselor begins. “They don’t sleep, they don’t eat, they become ill. They blame themselves. They feel rage, overwhelming worry, shame. Many people keep their suffering to themselves. If your child had cancer, the support from your friends and family would flood in. Because of the stigma of addiction, people often keep it quiet. Their friends and family may try to be supportive, but they also communicate a subtle or unsubtle judgment.”

And from David Sheff on what it feels like to worry about your child on drugs: “Is he in mortal peril? His beautiful brain, poisoned, possessed, on methamphetamine. I wanted to remove him erase him elide him from my brain, but he is there. We are connected to our children no matter what. They are interwoven into each cell and inseparable from every neuron. They supersede our consciousness, dwell in our every hollow and cavity and recess with our most primitive instincts, deeper even than our identities, deeper than our selves.”

“Beautiful Boy” is a worthy read.

Photo credit: Me!

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10 Ways to Distract Yourself from an Uncomfortable Emotion

Dealing with an uncomfortable emotion can wreak havoc on our comfort system. We can try to avoid a prickly feeling, but it likes center stage; it will keep poking at us to the point where emotion trumps reason, leaving us feeling flustered and possibly regretful for things said or done in the heat of an all encompassing emotion.

When we attempt to bring our rational mind into the picture, one of the ways we can do that is with distraction. It is important to note that distraction techniques are not avoidance; rather they are useful activities that help shift us into a position that is closer to wise mind. Taking a few deep breaths to start, here are ten ways we can distract ourselves from an uncomfortable emotion:

  • Get moving on a task you need to get done. Focusing on something allows you to feel productive.
  • Pay it forward; doing something kind for another person allows you to feel altruistic, a higher-level emotion.
  • Watch a funny show or movie.
  • Complete a word puzzle such as a crossword. Work on a Rubik’s cube.
  • Count to 10, forwards and backwards. Repeat song lyrics or a prayer.
  • Get outside; fresh air and walking always help.
  • Organize something; a closet, your calendar, your plastics cupboard 🙂
  • Call a friend; inviting them out for coffee.
  • For 15 minutes, resist the urge to act. Very often, that is all it takes to resist unhealthy behaviours.
  • Use sensation; hold an ice cube in your hand, take a hot shower, wash your face in cold water.

Any one of these distraction techniques opens up the space for your rational mind to get a bit more wiggle room in the space that your emotions are occupying. When we allow some common sense to temper our emotions, we feel more grounded and prepared to deal with the situation in a calmer state.

Photo credit: http://Photo by Olav Ahrens Røtne on Unsplash

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The Difference Between Guilt and Shame

Guilt is one of our healthy emotions; if we manage our feelings of guilt in a way as to help us repair, it can strengthen our relationships and help contribute to a sound regulation of our emotions. Although there is a belief that shame is an extension of guilt, that is a misconception. Shame may share some characteristics with guilt; they are both self-conscious and fall into the class of “moral” emotions; however, shame differs from guilt as it is tied to self-worth.

When we feel guilty, we did something bad; when we feel shame, we are bad. Guilt will make us feel regret; shame will make us feel small. When we feel guilty, we desire to apologize; when shame strikes, we desire to hide.

People who struggle with shame often have experienced childhoods that planted the seed of worthlessness. Trauma, attachment injuries, abuse or being made to feel shameful can all apply. Although the working through of shame does often require therapy, it is important to remember that if you or a loved one struggles with shame, experiencing a shameful act or being made to carry the weight of shame by a parent does not make you a shameful person. You may have been affected by the experience, but you are most definitely not defined by it.

Photo credit: http://Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

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A Quote by April Green

I came across this little quote by April Green:

that’s the beautiful 

thing about self love – 

you wear it like a dress

and it becomes more and more

exquisite 

with time.

When we afford the same love and care to ourselves that we afford to others, we begin to wear it. People can see it in our smile, in our mannerisms, in our nature. What we feel within, shines outside of us. Make sure you write yourself a love note today 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by Bart LaRue on Unsplash

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