Anchor Your Day ~ a mental health blog by Counselwise ~

The Importance of Looking Inside

A little poem  by Krishnamurti that caught my eye:

In oneself lies the whole world

If you know how to look and learn,

The door is there and the key is in your hand. 

In many instances, we can lose the ability to self-reflect. Sometimes it is our emotions that get in the way; we get caught up in feeling sad or angry or guilty, and we lose the ability to access our rational brain. Other times it is our core beliefs that put up road blocks; if we land in an automatic thought about ourselves it can often override our courage. And sometimes the messages that we have internalized from others can lead us away from who we truly are. Perhaps the first step in moving towards greater self-reflection is to simply be curious. To give ourselves pause and ask the question “Wait, does it have to be this way?” The act of being inquisitive, of giving ourselves permission to look inside for the answer, has the potential to bring us towards a new door, one in which we now hold the key.

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

10 Facts About the Brain

Here are some amazing brain facts from The Nature of Things with David Suzuki:

  1. Your brain contains 100 billion neurons: about 16 times the number of people on earth.
  2. 95% of your decisions take part in the subconscious mind.
  3. The language and consciousness part of the brain (neocortex) accounts for 76% of the brain’s mass.
  4. Your gut, or “second brain,” contains 100,000 neurons.
  5. Your brain keeps developing until your late 40’s.
  6. Our IQ’s have dropped over 13 points since the Victorian era. 🙁
  7. Women have more grey matter and a larger hippocampus (involved in emotional processing) than men.
  8. The brain consumes 20% of the body’s energy production.
  9. The brain is capable of re-wiring, re-engineering itself.
  10. Neuroplasticity is the science behind the “wires that wire together, fire together.”

With the notion that the brain is not fixed; that it can change itself, we can begin to really appreciate what our brains do for us in terms of not only our physical being, but our psychological lives as well. All the more reason to holistically take care of ourselves on a daily basis; it’ll do the brain good!

To listen to an interesting video on “The Brain that Changes Itself/Part 1/The Nature of Things” with David Suzuki and featuring Norman Doidgehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFJYUzsXCSE

Photo credit: http://Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash

The Relationships We Manage

I like to say that there are three categories of relationships in our lives. There are the healthy ones; those we feed, are invested in, and consciously continue to build. There are the toxic ones; those to which we eventually learn how to strip them of power and in some cases, end the relationship altogether. And then there are those that we manage; relationships that aren’t quite in the healthy category, but we are not ready, or in a position, to remove them entirely from our lives.

We live in a society in which “family means everything,” and “blood is thicker than water;” expressions that certainly ring true for anyone who has grown up in a home that was not touched by dysfunction or abuse. Societal norms can make us feel pressured to continue to try and adjust ourselves within a relationship, simply because they’re family; leaving us at times to wrestle with uncertainty and compromised values.

Perhaps a better solution, is to be able to look at the relationship we are struggling with and ask ourselves, “Are both of us invested in making this healthy?” If the answer is no, and it is pretty clear that only one of you is doing the work, then it really is okay to give ourselves permission to manage that relationship. Sometimes that comes in the form of placing in some much needed boundaries, other times it may mean taking a bit of space to slow things down; in any case, it becomes okay to accept the relationship as one that perhaps needs a bit of regulation and direction from time to time.

Photo credit: http://Photo by juan pablo rodriguez on Unsplash

4 Steps to Being Worry Free

We are pre-programmed to worry. It comes from our days on the plains when we had to concern ourselves with things such as food, fire, and shelter. Fast forward to today where our basic needs are being met, but worry remains; it can still function for us but at times can take up too much space and energy in our lives. Sometimes worry is a learned behaviour; often times we identify with a parent that has had a history of it.  The good news, is that it doesn’t have to be like that forever; we can give ourselves permission to “unlearn the worry.” This involves 4 steps:

  1. Ask yourself, “What am I worried about?” in order to identify what is occupying your thoughts.
  2. Is this a true alarm or a false one? (This can trip people up as all worries feel like a true alarm; emotion trumps reason after all. Focus instead on the facts of the worry:what do you know right now?)
  3. Is there something I can do about the worry, at this moment? If the answer is yes, do it. Direction and plan always help process.
  4. And if there is nothing you can do about the worry right now, give yourself permission to back burner it. Put it on a shelf in a box that says “Will worry about this later.”

In the beginning, writing it out often helps as worrying is a pretty ingrained behaviour so it will be important to practice. Using these four steps can help bring yourself to a place of worrying less and feeling more settled.

Photo credit: http://Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Self-Esteem Explained

In a recent article entitled “Where Does Self-Esteem Come From and How Can I Develop it? by Caty Harris and featured on GoodTherapy, Caty takes the mystery of self-esteem and explains it through a nature and nurture lens.  “Self-esteem is influenced by evolution, childhood, rejection, social group stability, and, most importantly, beliefs.”

Two points that especially stood out to me: how beliefs and rejection can hinder a child’s ability to form a well developed self-esteem. As a child, we have magical thinking which can often affect how our experiences get cemented into our belief system. She explains how “the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) begins to develop at the age of 2-3 and it serves as a key region in understanding ourselves as well as others; our ability to make positive judgments about ourselves is rooted in our childhood.”  (loosely quoted)

She also talks about why acceptance is so important to us from an evolutionary perspective and how rejection can trigger a physical response which includes a decrease in heart rate and the production of  cortisol, the stress hormone. “Our brains hold tightly to memories connected with negative emotions and experiences, especially those where we feel unsafe, criticized, or rejected.”

Knowing this can help us to understand how our self-esteem developed in childhood and the steps we can take to move towards self-acceptance and creating a more accurate view of who we are based on our qualities and attributes.

To read the full article (you will really appreciate it!): https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/where-does-self-esteem-come-from-how-can-i-develop-it-0703184

Photo Credit: http://Photo by Laura Briedis on Unsplash

The 3 Functions of Emotions

Now that we have defined emotions, let’s look at how they work for us:

  1. Emotions help us to non-verbally communicate our feelings. We can tell through the tell-tale signs of emotion if, by the look on their face our partner had a bad day at work, the quiver of our two year old’s little chin when on the verge of tears, the heaviness of grief in someone’s eyes, the look of terror that is captured at amusement parks, just before you come over the ridge of a roller coaster (you’ll never see that on my face, ha!) or the universal look of joy when someone is wholeheartedly laughing. We wear our emotions in our body language, tone, facial expression and posture, and we can learn to put trust in our non-verbal expressions and those of others around us.
  2. Emotions prepare us for action. Undoubtedly, our emotions will produce an action urge and we are motivated to act on them. At times, this can work for us (the tears that follow feeling sad, hugging someone when we feel happy) and other times the behaviour that follows an emotion we can live to regret (sending a nasty text when we’re angry.) Emotional regulation becomes an important part of learning how to manage our action urges so that the emotion and behaviour can work together for optimum success.
  3. Emotions give us valuable information about ourselves. When we tune in to how we are feeling, our emotions can be self-validating, they can serve as a signal that something is wrong and they can help us to find words to how we are feeling. It becomes about listening to your gut. 

Defining both emotion and it’s functions can allow us to move towards a greater understanding of how our feelings are hard-wired into our amazing, complex system of mind and body; ready to work efficiently for us if given the opportunity. 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by Mark Daynes on Unsplash

 

Before You Say Yes

We tend to over commit. Say yes to things because it feels bad to say no. We just try to squeeze everything in to make people happy, putting our own needs on the back burner. It can be difficult to decide where our responsibilities lie, and everything begins to feels as though it’s a requirement.

Instead of jumping in with both barrels, is it possible to move to a position of balancing our priorities with our demands? Three questions that we can ask ourselves before we say yes:

  1. What is my current energy level? Do I have the time and strength to dedicate to this task?
  2. What amount of help or support will I have if I say yes to this request?
  3. What is my emotional state? Do I feel up to committing to this invitation?

Working through this checklist can give us insight as to what we are capable of agreeing to, at that moment and time in our week; furthering our goal to make ourselves important too 🙂

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

The Importance of Self-Care

When life gets busy and overwhelming, we can easily put ourselves on the back burner.  We may find excuses as to why our planned walk isn’t necessary, or meeting with a friend this week “will have to wait.”  A few days of this is tolerable and sometimes necessary, but if it becomes  more of a constant than not, we begin to feel depleted. In our busy lives, it often feels overwhelming to think of possibly fitting some self-care into our day and yet it is also a vital way to build and restore energy. It is also one of the number one ways we reduce stress, and therefore, anxiety.

Optimal self-care is daily; it begins by recognizing the things that bring us peace and building from there. This can include anything from a warm bath at the end of your day, to 20 minutes of reading, a walk with the dog, watching a favourite show, playing a board game, sitting with a friend for coffee. Setting the goal of daily self-care is the first step; tailoring it to fit you will make it sustainable. Try at first to give yourself even 10 minutes of “you time “a day; it will become a healthy habit you will never want to break 😊

Photo credit: http://Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Our Hugs at the Door

I have come to really appreciate this statement: “Love begins and ends with attention.”

The definition of the word attend in my Webster’s Dictionary is: “to be present at//to accompany//to pay attention to//to apply oneself//to care for, look after.” It becomes about the investment we place in our relationships and our conscious effort to attend to those we love. We can find it in the 2:00 a.m. feeding of our newborn, in the hugs we give at the door, in the dinners we make to bring family to the table, in the little gifts of affection we buy, in the love notes we leave in our absence, in the temper tantrums of our two year old, in the gatherings of holidays, in the distance shortened by a phone call, in the search for repair, in the kisses before bed, in the moments of shared grief and those of play and laughter.

For love to be healthy, it requires a joint effort. When one person attends, and the other doesn’t, it will change the value of love, the shape of it; it’s meaning will shift.  And so, love begins and ends with attention; it is about our effort to feed the health of the relationships to those we love. All the more reason I’d say, to get our kisses before bed and our hugs in at the door 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by Xavier Mouton Photographie on Unsplash

 

Those Darn Expectations

In a recent article entitled “How Expectations Undermine Our Relationships and Happiness” by Jen Picicci and featured on tinybuddha, Jen highlights, through her own experience, how the expectations we place on others can lead to an automatic response in us, thereby creating  negative thoughts and feelings instead of realistic ones. It really becomes about what we set up as our “hoped-for response,” in which we place an expectation on someone, placing great trust that they will follow through. She notes, “Hoping for the outcome you desire is one thing, trying to force it and being overrun with negative thoughts and feelings when it doesn’t work out is another.” 

She goes on to suggest some ways to counter our expectations of others including an acceptance piece; reality being that we can’t change or predict another person’s behaviour, as well as a mindfulness piece in which we try and focus on the present moment as a way to focus our own thoughts and beliefs on what we can control; ourselves.

To read the full article: https://tinybuddha.com/blog/how-expectations-undermine-our-relationships-and-happiness/

Jenn Picicci is an artist and teacher of inner guidance: https://www.jenpicicci.com/

Photo credit: http://Photo by Lisa H on Unsplash