Anchor Your Day ~ a mental health blog by Counselwise ~

The Natural State of Change

It is in our nature to resist change; we wish for permanence and yet change is inevitable. In this poem by Khalil Gibran, he reminds us to challenge the fears that surround change:

Before entering the sea, a river trembles with fear. She looks back at the path she has traveled,

And in front of her, she sees an ocean so vast, that to enter, there seems nothing more than to disappear forever.

But there is no other way. The river can not go back, nobody can go back. 

The river needs to take the risk of entering the ocean because only then will fear disappear,

because that’s where the river will know, it’s not about disappearing into the ocean,

but of becoming the ocean.

– Khalil Gibran

Let us surrender to the things we cannot change; for the natural state of change is to evolve. It is through our act of surrendering that we grow strength, faith, and courage.

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A Little Poem About New Beginnings

I love this little poem by S.C. Lourie:

You still have time, darling.

To have a beautiful life.

To enjoy a wonderful relationship.

To grow a deep friendship.

To experience a wild adventure.

To create a wonderful moment.

To discover a new aspect of yourself.

Lift your head, lovely one.

Where you have assumed there are just

full stops, there are new beginnings

waiting for you. Look again.

S.C.  Lourie

I especially appreciate the line “Where you have assumed there are just full stops, there are new beginnings waiting for you.” So often, the endings in our lives feel like full stops – and yet usually, they are only pit stops on our journey ahead. Not everything is meant to last; we have the time and space to create meaning and purpose in our lives.

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What it Means to be in a Codependent Relationship

People often think about the word ‘addiction’ when the phrase codependent relationship comes up. And although issues with addiction can create such a relationship, the codependency dynamic can exist at any time that one person is supporting another person in an unhealthy way.

Generally speaking, the partner who is in the caretaking role is providing emotional, financial or physical support; putting someone else’s needs above their own. And the partner on the receiving end, lets them – pulls at them even, creating the space for poor boundaries and the need for the caretaking partner to feel overprotective of their loved one.

When we are in a codependent relationship, we can often recognize that what we are doing for our partner is unhealthy, but our struggle is in letting them struggle. As a result, we begin to eventually feel resentful; feeling weighed down by the responsibility, with little of our own needs being met.

Recognizing the signs of codependency is the first step; creating much needed boundaries while beginning to honour your own needs through self-care are good follow ups. Creating change in a codependent relationship can be very difficult, as the dynamic can create a strong hold and very often, professional help is required.  Codependency threatens the very nature of a healthy relationship which is our ultimate goal; one in which we feel generally satisfied and support is reciprocated.

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The Art of a Skillful Choice; Part 2

Yesterday’s post explored the difference between an impulsive choice and a skillful one. Today’s post walks through an example; it is one that is universal and is tied to a pretty common impulsive (and therefore emotional) choice.

I am sitting in front of the TV and it is about 8 pm at night. I think to myself “Hmmm, I wonder what I could eat,” and I go to the pantry and open its doors. “I could eat some chips, make some popcorn, have a few cookies or a chocolate bar. Maybe I could go to the freezer and get some ice cream…put some maple syrup on it.”

This is where the pause needs to happen. I know inherently that I’m not hungry, so this is where I need to ask myself “How am I feeling right now?” Perhaps I am bored, feeling a bit restless. Perhaps I am feeling a bit blue, or the stress of the day is now working its way through my system as I have sat down to rest. Perhaps I am feeling a bit like self-sabotaging. Maybe there is a conditioned response happening – one that associates TV and snacking.

When I can identify how I am feeling, I can then ask myself “How is this going to benefit me right now?” The clear answer – “It isn’t.” And from there, I can follow that up with “What do I want the end result to be?”

Well, I certainly don’t want to experience the “I feel bad about myself” feeling that always happens after I have made the impulsive choice. And so I can then move to solution – if I am bored I can do some crafting while watching my show. Perhaps I can examine why I am feeling down, or what stress is lingering. Ultimately, I am making the connection between how I am feeling and the action urge that follows it.

In any case, when I choose in that moment to close the pantry doors, and return to the TV, I can feel proud of myself for having made a skillful choice. 🙂

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The Art of a Skillful Choice

We make choices every day. Sometimes those choices fall into daily living activities such as what we might eat for lunch. Sometimes our choices are emotionally tied to us, such as how we might respond to a text or a comment. Sometimes our choices line up to a bigger life decision, such as whether or not to make a career change. In any case, we can make an impulsive choice or a skillful one.

Impulsive choices are linked to emotion. They are the decisions we make on the fly, based on how we are feeling in the moment. Sometimes we need that spontaneity (“Just go, it’ll be fun!”) and other times we need to slow down before making a choice (“Do I really need the drive-thru burger?”)

How do we make a skillful choice?

  • Pause. There is so much power in the pause. It is what allows the logic to come in to the emotion.
  • In that moment, think about how you are feeling. Spending a few minutes there can give us a better idea of where our motivation to act is coming from.
  • Ask yourself “How is this going to benefit me right now?” Very often, asking ourselves that question can curb impulsivity.
  • Ask yourself “What do I want the end result to be?”

When we can slow down to examine, we put ourselves in the perfect space for making a skillful choice. Tomorrow’s post will walk through an example.

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A Little Motivation

Yesterday’s post reminds us of the importance of walking – and how even 15 minutes can create an impact on your physical and emotional well being. Although my daily walk has become a well engrained habit, it isn’t willpower that keeps me faithful to it. After all, it is often easier to convince yourself no to go.

“It is too cold.”

“I could be doing something else.”

“I need to use my lunch hour to catch up on work.”

“I’m tired. Or hungry. Or cranky. Not feeling up to it.”

Sound familiar? The reason that willpower isn’t enough to keep us motivated is because it is tied to emotion. So if we are feeling good, willpower has the ability to kick in and help out. But if we are feeling crummy or blue, willpower isn’t anywhere to be found. When we want a practice such as walking to become a habit, we often need a bit of an external motivation. I always find myself more dedicated when I have something that prompts me to stick with it. Some examples include:

  • walking a dog (right now my nephew’s dog is my walking companion.)
  • using something like a Fitbit or Apple watch. It can be a fun challenge to get your steps.
  • joining a Conqueror Challenge Virtual Event:
  • lining up a walking or exercise partner.
  • paying for an exercise class.

Sometimes the extra motivation is all we need to get moving. Practice walking enough and it soon becomes a part of your day that contributes to your overall sense of calm and groundedness; something we can all benefit from in these times of uncertainty.

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Walking and How it Can Benefit Us

I have written similar posts to this one about the benefits of walking – but it bears repeating. In an article entitled “15 Minutes of Walking on a Daily Basis Can Change Your Body Drastically” by Sue Peckham and featured on “12 Weeks to Wow,” we read:

“Exercise buys you three to seven additional years of life. It is an antidepressant, it improves cognitive function, and there is now evidence that it may retard the onset of dementia.” – Sanjay Sharma, professor of inherited cardiac diseases in sports cardiology at St. George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in London.

In addition to listing health benefits, the article included benefits related to our emotional health:

  • It reduces pain and enhances mobility.
  • It improves cognitive performance.
  • It improves mood.

Although walking at a fair pace is probably the most beneficial, sometimes our mobility issues or chronic pain tends to impede the process. Walking at your own pace or at what you can handle will still prove to be beneficial; especially if you can get outside in nature. Two natural mood boosters, rolled into one 🙂

To read the full article:

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The Wisdom of Love

Here are 5 Quotes about love that can encompass all of the people we love in our lives:

“There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart.” – Jane Austen

“You always gain by giving love.” – Reese Witherspoon

“Love yourself first and everything falls in line.” – Lucille Ball

“When someone loves you, the way they talk about you is different. You feel safe and comfortable.” –  Jess C. Scott

“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” – Robert A. Heinlein

When we find good feeling in our relationships, it helps to sustain and support us. Today is a good day to appreciate all of the people in our lives who we love, have loved or who love us. 🙂

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Giving Up or Acceptance – What’s the Difference?

In yesterday’s post we looked at the danger of complacency in relationships; today’s post features the question about the difference between giving up and acceptance.

When we are faced with an issue in our lives, I like to say that our choices are one of three – change it, accept it or leave it. Most people will attempt to change it first, and if that doesn’t occur, the process begins of exploring whether to accept it or to leave it. When this comes to the issue of complacency in relationships, there tends to be a lot of gray in that decision. Is complacency enough to leave a relationship? Some might say a definitive yes; others will look at the variables that need to be considered with such a decision such as whether or not there are children involved, the age of the kids, financial considerations, the strength of an external support system and so forth.

When we decide to stay but we have “given up,” it tends to be with resignation and underlying resentment. Feeling forever unsatisfied with our partner’s indifference, we can end up feeling trapped, lonely and pervasively sad about the relationship (hence further contributing to the complacency).

When we decide to stay but our decision is one of acceptance, it is with a different focus. There is some grief to go through, as the sense of loss to a full, healthy relationship is felt. There is a shift to self-care as the understanding grows that what you can’t get from your partner, you must give to yourself – planned outings with friends, an increase in hobbies or interests, continued quality time with the kids. There is the decision that despite the complacency, you will not shut off completely from the relationship; this may seem counterproductive, however we can lean into our own sense of values to continue to be kind.

When we decide to stay and give up, we are choosing self-defeat. When we decide to stay and accept, we are choosing self-growth. There is a big difference 🙂

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The Danger of Complacency in Relationship

Sometimes we can become complacent in our relationships; without realizing it, we can end up underappreciating our loved ones or taking our partner for granted. The honeymoon phase may be over, but rather than the relationship falling into an easy exchange of healthy bids and affection towards each other, the relationship begins to feel empty or stuck.

Knowing what causes complacency is a good place to start in trying to address it:

  1. Indifference. This one is a silent killer of relationships. Sometimes it comes from having an Avoidant Attachment Style, sometimes it comes from lacking true appreciation for the power of a healthy support system – it can also come from the tendency to lean into narcissistic traits. When one person is indifferent to the relationship, there is often very little the person on the receiving end of that indifference can do. The indifferent person must undertake some much-needed soul searching to get to the deeper layers of why they are using indifference as a way to protect themselves.
  2. Being too comfortable.  Being comfortable in a relationship is a good thing – it means we feel settled and secure. Being too comfortable means we are not giving enough thought into keeping that relationship in good working order. In order to keep complacency at bay, we need to keep reciprocity at the forefront of our minds, making sure that we continue to feed the health of the relationship by initiating time spent together, affection, words of endearment, and acts of kindness.
  3. Giving up. Sometimes when we give up in a relationship it is due to the change we wish to see but never do. It is a way of acceptance that the other person is not going to change, and that ‘giving up’ is the only thing left to do. This doesn’t always mean that the relationship ends, but rather elements of the partnership shift; sometimes the act of giving up will inadvertently feed complacency.
  4. Anger. If we use anger as a  go-to emotion, we run the risk of using it instead of trying to deal with more vulnerable emotions such as sadness, guilt or fear. Anger prevents us from truly understanding our loved one’s feelings; over time, the anger reinforces denial and defensiveness which feeds complacency.

When we understand complacency, we can begin to also see the danger it carries along with it. The goal of investment helps us to keep our relationships in a healthy place; ones in which our security and safety is being supported by a deeper, more satisfying love.

Tomorrow’s post will explore a bit more in depth the difference between giving up and acceptance in a relationship we choose to stay in.

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