Anchor Your Day ~ a mental health blog by Counselwise ~

The Power of “I am”

Words matter. Ask anyone who has been criticized in their childhood, or bullied with words, and they will tell you that it has long lasting effects.

The way we speak to ourselves; therefore, matters. Our internal dialogue is often automatic and we can carry with us the words heard (and now believed) from childhood. Repeat after me:

I am worthless.

I am ugly.

I am unlovable.

We can play around with the words “I am” to incorporate almost anything negative. “I will never meet anyone.” “No matter how hard I try, nothing ever works out for me.” “I have a black cloud following me around.”

We can call it a self-fulfilling prophesy; or we can look at it as the energy that we are sending out into the world. In either case, the result is the same – when we say those words to ourselves, we hear them. And we live them.

It is important to recognize the power of “I am.” Repeat after me:

I am worthy.

I am beautiful.

I am lovable.

Take a deep breath, and say them again. And again. And again. Take any negative statement that has been created in you, and change it. Say it before you believe it. Be determined. I guarantee you, it will change how you see yourself, and you will begin to see results.

I am capable. I am worth it. I am brave. I am here for me.

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Hoping for Change

People come to therapy because they are wishing something would change. Sometimes it has to do with someone in their life, sometimes it has to do with themselves; in either case, there are times when we are willing to change, and other times when we have gotten stuck in hoping for change.

What is the difference?

  • when we hope for change, we tend to convince ourselves that the future will be different. For example, we may be dissatisfied with a relationship and know that things are not where they should be, but we stay the course, hoping that things will change with time (let’s face it, they usually don’t – at least not without accountability and professional help.)
  • when we hope for change, we procrastinate. We may be aware of something that we want to change or improve, but aren’t doing much about it. An example might be breaking an unhealthy habit or knowing we need more self-care in our lives.
  • when we hope for change, we spent too much time lamenting on the problem and not on the solution. If you get the sense that you are in the “poor me” cycle, then you probably are.

When we are in the process of actively changing something, we are dedicated and feel purposeful. We have faith in ourselves that we can get there, no matter how slowly or how many stepping stones it may take. We give self-doubts only a little bit of time and space before settling back into accepting that we are our own solution 🙂

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Self-Reflection Question 9

Today’s self-reflection question taps into what we have learned in our lifetime. The growth that we continue to experience as we age, will bring to us knowledge about ourselves and the way we process the world. The question:

“What are five things I have learned?”

will likely change as we enter different stages of our life. As a 48 year old, here are my answers:

  1. I have learned that despite who surrounds us, has shaped us, or continues to love us – we are for ourselves, the greatest agent of change.
  2. I have learned that “I am important and so are you.” In other words, it is important that we recognize our own needs and learn how to ask for them (this has been a working challenge, yet so wonderful to see results).
  3. I have learned that authenticity, grace and creating soulful moments keep me grounded. Having my two feet firmly planted gets me through the storms.
  4. I have learned the importance of movement forward. Process, action, plans, goals – they all equal growth.
  5. I have learned that laughter truly is the best medicine 🙂

What are 5 things you’ve learned?

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Should We Be ‘Friends’ With Our Children?

We live in an era where we are conscious of our children’s needs; long gone are the days of “children are to be seen and not heard.” We want our children to have a voice, we wish for them to be happy, and we desire to know them as individuals. As they age, we can be tempted to befriend our children; we love who they are becoming and the closeness we feel to them can bring us to the friendship line.

When we become friends with our children, we run the risk of:

  • creating in them a confidante. Children are not equipped to handle our marital issues or family drama and are not meant to carry the weight of adult’s problems.
  • creating in them a mediator. Children are not meant to carry messages back and forth to the other parent; it puts them in an awkward position of seeing their parents’ emotional reactions.
  • creating in them a secret keeper. This creates turmoil, inner angst, and can create long lasting effects.
  • moving towards pleasing our children instead of needing at times to say no. We may love our children and want to know them personally, but we are still their disciplinarians and their protectors – being a friend to our child automatically blurs those lines.
  • creating a parentified child. When children feel that they are taking care of you, the power differential has shifted, placing too much responsibility on someone not mature enough to handle it.

Whether they are four or forty, we will forever be in the parental role with our children. They will come to us at various times in their life and just need us to be mom or dad. And we can love, support, and be close to our children as a parent – let your friends be your friends, and let your kids be your kids; they are forever roles.

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A Little Bit of Inspiration to Keep Going

I love this quote by Morgan Harper Nichols:

“One day you will look back and find that you were strong in ways you not able to see at the time,

and you will be grateful for how you chose to keep going even without knowing

what the future would be.” -MHN

When we are in the midst of a challenge, we often can’t see our strengths, and our courage is found one day at a time. And that is okay. 🙂

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Emotion Regulation System; Post 3

In our last post based on the work of Dr. Paul Gilbert, we look at the Drive System.

The Drive System, also known as the Incentive and Resource-Seeking System, is built to help us achieve goals. Its primary function is to motivate us, to provide the incentive for us to accomplish tasks and to seek resources that are going to allow us to survive.

Think about our drive to get out of our cozy bed in the morning, the effort we undertake to go for a walk after working all day, the motivation we muster to finish that last assignment in course work or the effort it takes to prepare our family’s dinner.

The brain chemical that is produced when the drive system is engaged is dopamine, our reward hormone. This is why we tend to always feel better after doing something that we had to convince ourselves to do in the first place!

When the drive system is engaged, we feel motivated and excited. Our emotions illicit pursuing and consuming behaviours as a way to keep us on track to achieving our goals.

The three systems of emotional regulation – the soothing system, threat system, and drive system – best serve us when working together. When we can recognize that one of our systems is out of alignment, we can work to create balance again. That might mean pushing the drive system, taming down the threat system, or making sure our soothing system isn’t left behind. 🙂

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Emotion Regulation System; Post 2

Yesterday’s post featured the Soothing-Contentment System of emotion regulation according to the work of Dr. Paul Gilbert. Today’s post features another system entitled the Threat & Self-Protection System.

The main function of this system is to pick up on threats early in order to protect us. This is the system that helps us to survive danger in order to seek safety and will attempt to manage fears. The feelings that are typically associated with this system include anxiety, anger, disgust and shame.

Picture a car suddenly coming to you in the oncoming lane, the feeling that you get when the Ferris wheel stops mid ride and you are at the top, feeling triggered to a past trauma or that rushed, overwhelmed feeling that you get when you are worried about something.

The main hormones that are activated when this system is in motion are cortisol and adrenaline, as our bodies are put on alert to deal with the danger. Although we may not realize it, many of us spend too much time in the threat and self-protection system, not because we are faced with real danger, but because we perceive the feeling of not being safe.

It is important to recognize what is a true alarm versus what is a false alarm so as to regulate our fear and worry and get back to our soothing and contentment system.

Tomorrow’s post will feature the Drive System.

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Emotion Regulation System; Post 1

According to the work of Dr. Paul Gilbert, we have three different systems we use to manage our emotions. These systems are different from each other and yet are designed to work together to help regulate emotion; they include different brain regions and chemistry. This post will begin a three part series in which we examine each of the systems in turn.

The Soothing-Contentment System: The main function of this system is to create a system in which we feel the safest.  It is the system that allows us to slow down, encourages rest and it is our restorative system where kindness and care are felt. When this system is engaged, we feel overall contentment and connection.

Think of sitting cozy by the fireplace, resting under your favourite tree while capturing the warmth of the sun, being in the arms of someone you love and feel secure with or standing by the ocean, enjoying the sounds of the birds and the slight breeze on your face.

The hormone that is produced when we are in our soothing-contentment system is oxytocin, our “feel good” chemical.

It is important to recognize when we are in our soothing-contentment system, as we are often not in it enough – the busyness of our lives and the stress and anxiety that are present as a result will often push us into the threat and self-protection system; our focus in tomorrow’s post.

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Chronic Pain and the Link to Emotions

In an article entitled “Chronic pain can change the way your brain processes emotion, scientists find” by Sophie Scott and Mary Lloyd and featured on ABCNews, we read about a group of Australian researchers who have made an interesting discovery between chronic pain and compromised emotional processing:

“Associate professor Sylvia Gustin, found patients with chronic pain had lower levels of a substance called glutamate, a key chemical messenger between brain cells that helps regulate emotion. “[It] means their brain cells can no longer communicate properly and therefore their ability to process positive emotion is jeopardised,” Gustin said.” 

The report goes on to say: “As a result, people in chronic pain can have personality changes where they are “prone to feeling tired, unmotivated and constantly worrying on a daily basis”, she said. Researchers found the greater the decrease in glutamate, the more chronic pain sufferers showed fearfulness, pessimism, fatigue, and sensitivity to criticism.”

People who live with chronic pain often report having a comorbid condition such as depression and/or anxiety. It would stand to reason given that living with chronic pain puts your body and mind in the automatic position of trying to manage pain symptoms. Chronic pain also puts you in a state of limbo, as those who suffer from it never know on a daily basis if they will be able to carry out their planned activities.

Although the article goes on to mention that there are no medications that target reduced levels of glutamate in the brain, there is hope that programs can be developed in the future to address these issues for chronic pain sufferers. Often, just knowing that there could be a physical reason for emotional difficulties can relieve the guilt one experiences for having these feelings.

Chronic pain sufferers can begin managing symptoms by fostering a function centered life and talking to their GP about pain management.

To read the full article:

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A Little Poem About Giving

I came across this little poem about giving by Cleo Wade:

Doing What You Can With What You’ve Got

And even when I had not a penny

in my pocket, I still knew the

joy of giving.

I gave my time.

I gave my spirit.

I gave my heart.

I gave myself fully to the moment and

even through my tears, I gave

my smile to the world – it 

needed it more than I could

have imagined.

Cleo Wade

The act of giving has the potential to aid in our journey of healing. When we set aside our own moments of feeling blue to give even a smile to another person, we have created a motion that also reverberates inside of ourselves.

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