Anchor Your Day ~ a mental health blog by Counselwise ~

Today, Gratefully.

I came across this quote by Maya Angelou that reflects the importance of trying to live with the notion of today, the present moment – to try and heal from our past and not fret too much about the future:

“If you must look back, do so forgivingly. If you must look forward, do so prayerfully. However, the wisest thing you can do is be present in the present….gratefully.” – Maya Angelou

As a therapist, I do believe in the process of looking back. But it is never about blame, and always about understanding. It is meant as a way to heal and move forward – to do so forgivingly. When we look forward, we have the choice to do so from a worried place, or one in which we have faith; we can do so prayerfully.

And today, we can do so gratefully – by focusing on our blessings, by being thankful for the day and for the experience it brought to us. Thank you Maya Angelou for the reminder. 🙂

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Setting Work Boundaries

There are times when we reflect upon our work schedule and know that it is off balance. Sometimes this may come from a difficulty in saying no, a strong work ethic, a heavy caseload, the need to achieve. In any case, we are not doing ourselves any favours by ignoring the importance of setting personal work boundaries – ones that are created with self-care in mind.

  • Book end your day. Have a start time and an end time that is reasonable and achievable. Not sticking to this daily schedule should be the exception, not the rule.
  • Reset at lunch. I have noticed that if I don’t get outside for even a 15 minute walk around the block at lunch, my afternoon feels longer. A bit of fresh air and knowing I have set aside time for myself at lunch resets my energy for the afternoon.
  • Let work stay at work. Turn off the email notifications on your phone, let work phone calls go to voicemail. Technology has allowed us to send messages along to people when we are thinking about it – that doesn’t mean it can’t wait to be answered during business hours.
  • Create a weekend. Two days a week should be off limits to work; spending time instead on what brings us joy. Some of us have Monday to Friday jobs and we can honour the no-work-weekend rule, for others who work shifts, it will be important to create a weekend.
  • Only take on what you can handle. It’s really okay to say no. When you take on everything that is expected of you, a precedent is set. Knowing and expressing your limits will help to keep your work from spilling into your personal time.
  • Create an inviting work space. Your work area can be a reflection of your personality; keeping it neat will help.
  • Pace and timing is everything. Take a break to make yourself a tea, close the door if you really need to concentrate, remember that not everything has to be done in a mad rush. When we have a balanced pace to our day, we are feeding our comfort system. It is possible to have a reasonable work day.

Keeping these tips in mind will help in creating a work day that is balanced and productive. When we keep our self-care in mind, we are allowing for a greater, richer performance. After all, as the Chinese proverb goes “We can’t pour from an empty cup.”

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The State of Change

A recent quote got me thinking: “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it and join the dance.” – Alan W. Watts.

Although we have often heard that the only constant is change, we frequently hesitate to welcome it, much less plunge right into it. Perhaps this comes from the element of the unknown as it compromises our level of comfort and safety; perhaps it comes from the transitional element of change. Even good experiences (like weddings and babies) bring with them a time of flux that can be both exciting and stressful at the same time. Another potential reason for our apprehension can come from our past experiences where change brought us sorrow or heartbreak; the very thought of impending change can then default us into trying to avoid it. In any case, change often puts us into some form of limbo, and that is a difficult place to be; we need some sense of direction, plan and intent to feel secure.

Perhaps we can begin to view change instead as transformation; a process that requires our participation, perhaps cautiously but still present. The idea that moving with change then, seems achievable as it implies a willingness to simply stay the course, opening up to our feelings in order to discover where movement and growth will take us.

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The Winds of Luck

In a Ted Talk entitled, “Tina Seelig: The Little Risks you can Take to Increase your Luck,” I was impressed by her three pieces of advice that in many ways can be applied to having a healthy emotional life as well. They are as follows:

  1. Change the relationship with yourself: “Be willing to take some small risks that get you out of your comfort zone.”
  2. Change your relationships with other people: “You need to understand that everyone who helps you on your journey is playing a huge role in getting you to your goals. And if you don’t show appreciation, not only are you not closing the loop, but you are missing an opportunity.”
  3. Change your relationship with ideas: “Ideas are neither good nor bad. And in fact, the seeds of terrible ideas are often what grows into something truly remarkable. You need to look at ideas through the lens of possibilities.”

Tina Seelig refers to chance as the “winds of luck” and how it is very often the setting of our own sail that helps to capture those very winds.

To listen to the 12 min Ted Talk:

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Nature’s Reminder

I came across this lovely poem by Mary Oliver that reminds us how important nature is to our well being:

When I Am Among the Trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

– Mary Oliver

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A Focus on De-Escalation

Sometimes we are faced with someone whose anger is getting the best of them. This might be a child, partner, co-worker, friend, or someone at the grocery store. In any case, we are better served to employ some de-escalation strategies in an effort to bring the communication back to a place where compromise has space to be sought.

  • Remain calm. Or at least act it. When someone is getting angry, it automatically creates in us a defensive or frustrated stance. By centering ourselves to not fight anger with anger, we are helping to de-escalate the situation.
  • Lower your voice, speak clearly. When anger is rising, so does the cadence of our voice. By purposely lowering your voice, it creates space for listening.
  • Use language in which they feel heard.  “I’m here for you.” “Tell me what happened.” “How can I help?”
  • Be aware of the non-negotiables. Just because someone is angry, it doesn’t mean we automatically give them what they want. We may be able to compromise, but we might also be in the position of reminding them (calmly) that “sometimes no is a no.”
  • Take a break. Sometimes we need to encourage our loved one to create some space for themselves to slow down the emotion train. This might include taking some deep breaths, holding the hands of our little ones, asking the person to take a walk if they need to. Revisit the issue when things have settled.

Healthy communication requires calm parties. Sometimes anger will get in the way of that process; however it always takes two people to have a conflict. Sometimes we are better to take the high road and move first to de-escalation as a means to pave the way towards a healthier way to deal with someone’s troubles. 🙂

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A Myth That Needs Our Attention

Perhaps one of the biggest myths that society continues to reinforce is the notion that “the more I have, the happier I’ll be.” We see it in the shows we watch, the advertisements on TV, the influence that we place on celebrities. Social media has exploded the pressure that young people feel to get ‘likes’ or followers – most often tied to their appearance. The myth that the more we have the happier we’ll be gets tied to material possessions and the notion that happiness is found out there. And as soon as we begin to believe this myth, the “if only’s set in.”

“If only I could be a smaller size, have a different body shape, be shorter/taller….”

“If only I could find love/ fame/ fortune….”

“If only I had a bigger house/ a fancy car/ the latest toy….”

“If only, if only, if only.”

The moment we get trapped in this loop, we will be chasing happiness. We will achieve the ‘if only’ just to then replace it with the next one. We are much better served to seek the feeling of contentment. To understand that joy is a feeling that can’t be chased, but rather felt in the here and now. It comes from within. When we actively seek joy in every day living, when we can feel content in the ordinary, that is when we no longer believe what society tells us. We can enjoy what life brings us (which may include the fancy car), but it doesn’t come as an expense to our sense of self. Instead, it is tied to what we already know – that joy comes from the inside out.

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A Thought from Oprah

I often listen to Oprah’s podcasts and one of the things I have heard her say that resonates with me is:

“We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”  – Oprah Winfrey

When we are caught up in the busy activities of daily life; when our feet hit the ground running and we don’t take time to pause, spirituality gets set aside. If we spend a lot of time in a negative head space, or get caught up in the drama of others, we may not be connected with the spiritual side of ourselves.

But when we pause, when we find the time to be silent, we find the center of ourselves. It is in absolute stillness that we are able to feel the connectedness of the universe, the peace that comes from feeling settled in knowing that our soul is the foundation of everything that brings us value.

Every time we do an act of kindness, speak nicely to ourselves or others, live to our value system, encourage and praise our loved ones and forgive those who have hurt us, we are in a state of spiritual being. When we focus and feel grateful for our blessings, we are in a state of spiritual being. We when take the time to be silent, to be in a reflective state, we are connected to our soul.

We are spiritual beings having a human experience. When we understand this, we are free to begin living it.

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Still Point

According to the Webster’s dictionary, the definition of still includes: to quiet, to still one’s fears; to become motionless or silent. The concept of a still point in therapy is an important one. Although we often talk about the importance of movement to facilitate growth, there are times when stillness facilitates movement. It perhaps comes after having made a major decision, it may be necessary during grief or loss, perhaps it is sought when life’s frenetic pace catches up to us; regardless of it’s reason, the purpose of a still point is to reset, recharge, renew. When we give ourselves permission to seek quiet it will lead to peace; a still point is a valuable stepping stone in life’s journey.

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“Before You Put the Cuffs On….”

I want you to ask yourself, “Did I actually do anything wrong?” This is often the counsel I give to clients who are struggling with guilt. The definition of guilt as written in  Webster’s Dictionary: “the fact of having committed a legal offense // the fact of having transgressed the moral law // a feeling of culpability.” In my “Dictionary of Emotions by Patrick Michael Ryan,” he lists guilt as: “remorse caused by feeling responsible for some offense.  In either example, there is the element of having made some form of a transgression that elicited the feeling of guilt as a direct consequence of the mistake. Seems pretty straight forward, right? And yet many of us struggle deeply with this emotion.

Guilt is actually one of our healthy emotions because it allows us to repair. But we also learn a lot about guilt growing up; from our caregivers, our communities such as school or church, our extended family and so forth. If one of the people in our life used guilt as a way to elicit compliance, then it can sometimes become a default setting for us.

So before you put the cuffs on, ask yourself “Is this guilt warranted?” “Did I do something wrong?” “Did I hurt someone’s feelings by my words or my actions?” And if you did, fix it. Say you’re sorry, ask for understanding, reflect on how you can change that behaviour in the future. If the answer; however, brings you to the conclusion that you, in fact, did not do anything wrong but rather have slid into default guilt, then acknowledge that too. Take a deep breath and remind yourself, “I didn’t do anything wrong in this situation. It is what it is, I am going to move on” and let Officer Guilt know on the way out the door that he had the wrong suspect. 🙂

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