Anchor Your Day ~ a mental health blog by Counselwise ~

Getting Ready for Mental Health Week

May 3 – 9th, 2021 marks mental health week. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has a catchy theme this year:

#GetReal about how you feel. Name it, don’t numb it. “This CMHA Mental Health Week, we focus on how naming, expressing, and dealing with our emotions — the ones we like and the ones we don’t — is important for our mental health.”

They offer downloadable toolkits and lots of information and articles about naming your feelings and understanding your emotions. You can also subscribe to get updates. This is a great resource and with almost a month before the event, we can spend some time exploring and learning about emotions.

Follow the link for more information: https://mentalhealthweek.ca/

Photo credit: CMHA

Perfection and Procrastination

For anyone who tends to lean into the tendency of perfection, they may also notice that procrastination likes to accompany it. Easily distracted to other things, the task at hand gets left behind (for now) and it appears that time management is the issue.

But perhaps something else is in the undercurrent. If we believe that we must do something perfectly, look perfect in our appearance, or have others see us as perfect, we are in binding situation. Our rational minds tell us that it is impossible to achieve perfection and that perfection is relative and subjective. Yet our internal voice tells us we must achieve it. Tied to our self-worth, we will struggle to let go of the idea that “to get it perfect is the only way.”

When we proscrastinate, it is often because we are having trouble facing a difficult emotion, or we fear a negative one. Trying to bring logic to a perfectionistic brain is not always an easy task, and so procrastination slips in to help. By the eleventh hour, on the cusp of a deadline, we complete the task and accept it as such. We are able to externalize the outcome of it as potentially not being perfect because we “ran out of time.”

We are much better served to begin to work on the perfectionist tendencies that hold the reins on procrastination. Exploring where the perfection need arose, why it is tied to a core belief, how it has served us, are all important to uncover and absorb. From there, it becomes about changing our internal dialogue; bringing us to a realistic expectation as to what achievement and success look like.

Perfection and procrasination are partners in crime. Perhaps it is time we gave them some space from each other 🙂

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

 

Learning to Love Again

Getting back to yourself after a break up can be a difficult addition to the already painful swirl of emotions surrounding you. The Poem “Love After Love” by Derek Walcott focuses on loving the inner self after a relationship ends; moving towards the knowledge that within you is the power to heal.

Love After Love

The time will come 
when, with elation 
you will greet yourself arriving 
at your own door, in your own mirror 
and each will smile at the other’s welcome, 

and say, sit here. Eat. 
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart 
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you 

all your life, whom you ignored 
for another, who knows you by heart. 
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, 

the photographs, the desperate notes, 
peel your own image from the mirror. 
Sit. Feast on your life.

-Derek Walcott

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

 

The Wisdom of Robin Williams

No one could make us laugh like Robin Williams did. His comedic genius masked inner conflict; although he was quite honest about his mental health struggles, it was easy to forget about that after seeing him on stage or in a move like “Mrs. Doubtfire”. Today I feature three of my favourite quotes from a man who could always make me get to the belly laughs:

  • “You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to.”
  • “I always thought that the idea of education was to learn to think for yourself.”
  • “But if there’s love dear, those are the ties that bind, and you’ll have a family in your heart forever. All my love to you poppet, you’re going to be alright.” – Mrs. Doubtfire

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

 

 

What Anxiety and Anger Have in Common

You’re running late, feeling keyed up about not being on time; no one seems to be co-operating and the littlest one is starting to have a meltdown because she can’t find her favourite hat. Before you know it, you are yelling at the kids and yanking the closet door practically off of its hinges.

How did you go from anxious to angry so easily? Simply answered, our bodies set us up for it. When we are anxious, our body’s muscles tense up, our blood pressure rises, our heart rate increases, our breathing becomes more shallow and our attention narrows. The same thing happens when we are angry. Both our anxiety and our anger activate what is called the sympathetic nervous system which gets us ready for action. It becomes very easy when feeling stressed, to simply shift into anger because our bodies are already there.

It is our parasympathetic system that gets us back to a relaxed state. Eventually, whether anxious or angry, built in mechanisms eventually bring us back to calmness (picture driving to work after having dropped off the kids, coffee purchased and music playing). In the midst of feeling stressed, we can help that process along and allow it to get us there sooner by taking some deep breaths.

Focusing on slowing down our breathing pushes the reset button on both our physiological state and our mindset. We are much better served to stop, take some deep breaths and state to ourselves “It’s okay, like every other morning, we’ll get there.” Leaving everyone less rattled and the door still on its hinges 🙂

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

 

The Importance of Brain Health

In the podcast episode “Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Brain Health” from Well Said, Dr. Gupta reminds us of the importance of brain health in maintaining cognitive function as we age. He spoke of 5 pillars of optimal brain health:

  • Movement – which means more than just exercise. In fact, he believes that “activity is the cure for disease.”
  • Nourishment – how and what we eat. He speaks of an acronym “S.H.A.R.P” that we can all follow that helps to nourish our brain.
  • Rest & relaxation – features why sleep and stillness is important for our brain health.
  • Connection – Here he speaks about the importance of “profound connection” and the impact of loneliness on our brain.
  • New activities and experiences – how challenging our brains with something creative will help to form new and valuable pathways.

The 23 minute podcase is filled with valuable information and goes into much greater detail. It is well worth the listen: https://www.stitcher.com/show/well-said-2/episode/dr-sanjay-gupta-on-brain-health-81140896

Dr. Sanjay Gupta has also written the book “Keep Sharp – Build a Better Brain at Any Age.” 

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@alandelacruz4

A Thought About Empathy

Here is a lovely passage about empathy by Thich Nhat Hanh:

Empathy

“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce.

You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun.

You never blame the lettuce.

Yet, if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. 

But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce.

Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument.

That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding.

If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love and that situation will change.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh

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

Why Being Curious Promotes Growth

I often speak of the importance of being curious. Outside of love, it is our best defense against fear.

When we are worried about something, the fear center of our brain is activated. Perceived fears can be just as powerful as real ones, and so we can easily become fixated on the worry, eventually choosing avoidance over curiosity.

Take someone for example who is afraid of change. Most of us are to some degree, but if someone has experienced traumatic or especially difficult times in their life that produced immediate change, they can develop a sensitivy to all shifts, even transformative ones.

Curiosity tempers that process. It is a gentle way to ask ourselves “What are the alternatives?” It allows us to simply set aside the grip of avoidance, without commitment, to the possibility of something different, better.

Curiosity promotes growth because it also tickles our creative nature. It awakens our sense of agency. It gives us faith in ourselves. Combined, it leads to action. As this quote by Mario Testino reminds us:

“My favourite words are possibilities, opportunities and curiosity. I think if you are curious, you create opportunities, and then if you open the doors, you create possibilities.”

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

 

Five Fun Facts About Laughter

Consciously keeping laughter as part of our daily routine is a great self-care strategy! Here are five fun facts about the importance of keeping yourself amused:

  • Laughter is contagious. People are 30 times more likely to laugh when in the company of others.
  • Laughter has bonding qualities; when couples tackle stressful situations with humour, they are more likely to report higher levels of satisfaction with their relationship.
  • The average person laughs around 13 times per day; spontaneous laughter bringing about more instances of belly laughs.
  • Whole-hearted laughter boosts our immune system, working against harmful illness.
  • In an average day, children tend to laugh 3 times more than adults.

What do these facts tell us about the importance of laughter? They all tend to focus on the importance of working towards adopting a carefree attitude to our daily stresses; using laughter as a way to counter some of the challenges we may face in our busy lives.

Photo credit:https://unsplash.com/@omarlopez1

 

 

Stuck at a Crossroad? Try these 3 things!

People often come to therapy because they have reached a crossroads in their lives. Unsure of which way to go, they end up standing at the crossroads, struggling to make a decision and feeling stuck.

A job presents itself but is accompanied by change, a relationship has reached a point of being unhealthy, a bad habit is beginning to feel dysfunctional, past trauma is affecting your current experience. In any case, the impasse represents our comfort zone; choosing a path is frightening. Turning back is always an option but most likely not a good one and standing in the same place puts you directly in the absence of growth.

Three things can help begin the process of choosing:

  • Find your direction. If you were lost, you would google map it. Get informed; find out as much as you can about what it would look like to take the paths in front of you. Curiousity is always one of the best ways to temper fear.
  • Ask for help. If you were standing there and a fellow wanderer came down the path, you may ask them about the best way to reach your destination. Use your loved ones as sounding boards; seek therapy.
  • Use your instincts. Let’s face it; you wouldn’t be at the crossroads unless something in your gut was niggling at you and telling you that some form of change was necessary to feel a difference.

Standing at a crossroads needs to be a temporary, not permanent position. The choice, ultimately is ours and being proactive and involved in the decision making will give us a sense of relief and confidence in having stepped towards a path.

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