Anchor Your Day ~ a mental health blog by Counselwise ~

“I Just Want to Be Happy”

Is a statement I hear over and over again in therapy (usually when we get to the goals section of the intake.) Happiness, however is a weighted word, and at times will feel like an unattainable goal; it is at this point where we move to breaking it down to something more tangible, achievable.

Instead, I ask what it would mean to be content. How would you know that you were satisfied with your day? What daily moments bring you peace? If you are struggling to find those instances, what used to bring you feelings of comfort? If our lives have reached a frenetic pace, we have most likely stopped seeking peace to make room to get everything done. (Uh, oh) If we are faced with a challenge, the weight of it often squishes our contentedness right out of us. But that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to still feel it; in fact, it is in those times that we need it the most. Being proactive to finding space for those times will help us to build the bridges we need. You know, the ones going over to Happiness Island. 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by Airstream Inc. on Unsplash

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Depression Fact # 4

Chronic pain can result in depression. Actually, so can having a chronic condition. Sometimes we don’t realize how being in continual discomfort can cause us to become depressed. We may choose to stay home one day due to increased pain levels; heightening the isolation factor. We may have to cancel plans because we are experiencing a flare up; leading to feelings of discouragement and disappointment. Potentially, we become so focused on what our physical bodies are putting us through that we may not realize the toll it is taking on our mental health as well; leading us to find ways to manage our chronic pain/condition that includes our emotional health as well.

A great online course that helps with this very topic is found through Living Healthy Champlain: https://www.livinghealthychamplain.ca/en/betterchoicesbetterhealth

If you would like more information about depression: http://depressionhurts.ca/en/default.aspx

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

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Michael J. Fox and Alan Alda on Acceptance

In a recent Clear and Vivid podcast with Alan Alda, he sits with Michael J. Fox, sharing their experience of living with Parkinson’s disease. Diagnosed with early on-set Parkinson’s in 1991, Michael notes that he spent 7 years with the disease before going public with the news; the sharing of which brought him into a community in which he could draw from their strength. I especially resonated with his words on acceptance: “Acceptance does not mean resignation. When you accept the reality of something, you accept it as tangible………….what I don’t do is project. To project is to think about where its going; you need to understand where it is today but I don’t have to spend a lot of time on where its going to be tomorrow.”

This seems like pretty good advice for any challenge we may have in our life. When we move into the worries of tomorrow, it can throw us into thought loops that keep us anxious and actively fretting; a reactive position. If we concentrate however only on today, on one thing at a time, we can break down our moments into ones that feel proactive, making us feel calmer, more accomplished and more accepting of our situation.

To listen to the full podcast: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/clear-vivid-with-alan-alda/e/57201087?autoplay=true&fbclid=IwAR3UasQtAdT5ns-KLjbkoiYAvijFgwN5TljlAVYo0L3xG5xCneiGYL_tQ3A

Photo credit: http://Photo by Marcus Wallis on Unsplash

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The Structure of Society

Structure and routine help us to feel grounded and safe. There was a time when society contributed to that framework for us; but today we see less and less of it in our ever busy and technology filled world. Some examples of how I experienced that structure when I was a kid (in the 70’s and 80’s) include:

  • Sunday was a day of rest. As a family, we went to church and then spent the day in relax mode.
  • Stores were closed on Sunday; on weekdays, you had to do your shopping before 5 pm or you were plum out of luck.
  • There was “phone time.” My sister and I had about a 1/2 hour tops before my Dad would tell us to not tie up the line.
  • We didn’t have TV’s in our rooms (and there were no computers or laptops yet) so when we went to bed, we read to help relax our brain.
  • My Dad worked an 8 to 4 job; supper was at 5.

In today’s society, it is often hard to escape the frenetic pace that consumerism and technology has created. Heck, we can buy things online at 2 am if we don’t feel like going to a 24 hour Walmart. Our society may have changed, but our need for structure and routine remain; it becomes important for us to establish our own limits, our own family’s framework in order to establish our own structure. Society may have dropped the ball on this one, but we need to remain in the game 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

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The Notion of Unconditional Love

A little poem by Matthew Spenser caught me eye:

There are days when the sun rises a little later and I am all storm clouds,

I hope you love me still and choose to dance with me in the rain, instead of reaching for your umbrella…..

It is the notion of unconditional love that speaks to me in these words. The idea that you can be granted the freedom to have your feelings, give space for your emotions and have those around you simply allow it to be. No conditions, no unspoken rules, just acceptance. It is about positive regard for the other; not only an unconditional affection for the one experiencing the storm clouds but also an understanding and sense of empathy for the one standing in the rain. For unconditional love to grow benevolently, there must exist both symmetry and vulnerability to the dance.

Photo credit: http://Photo by Joel Overbeck on Unsplash

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Getting To Know Our Anger

In an article entitled, “Anger 101: Making Peace with Your Angry Feelings” by Lillian Rozin and featured on Good Therapy, Lillian writes about our lack of formal education when it comes to our emotions. She states, “We are rarely taught about our feelings with any intention. We learn emotion by observing our families and by experimenting in our relationships, mostly without anything that could be construed as constructive feedback.” 

This is especially true when it comes to anger. Being our safest emotion, anger allows us to skip over any preceding emotion and instead, step right into defensiveness and denial; moving us into a need to be right, not into process, which includes compassion and compromise. The article features three key points in making peace with our anger; one that resonates with me and is a great starting point is to “examine the messages you received about anger – spoken and unspoken- you received growing up.”

When we can reflect upon the messages we internalized, we can begin to understand how we became informed as to how to handle anger being directed at us, but also how we learned to deliver it as well. By understanding its roots, we can begin to make peace with our anger, allowing us to choose process over past.

To read the full article: https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/anger-101-making-peace-with-your-angry-feelings-0825155

Photo credit: http://Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

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Anxiety Fact #5

Anxiety is mostly anonymous. As much as our anxiety makes us feel exposed and vulnerable, most people (except those closest to you) cannot tell when you are anxious. I can remember how nervous I used to feel when having to present something in front of my peers in graduate school; I would have that sinking feeling in my stomach and it felt as though everyone could see my uneasiness.  It was a physiological reaction and one that felt both out of my control and very obvious. Afterwards, my classmates would complement me on how calm, cool and collected I was. 🙂

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” – Armit Ray

Information for this post and a great website: https://www.anxietycanada.com/

Photo credit: http://Photo by Matthias Wagner on Unsplash

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5 Interesting Facts About Sleep

We all know how important a good night’s sleep is for both our physical and mental health; a few sleep deprived days can leave us feeling as cranky as a bear with a sore paw. Recently, I was introduced to a website called “Tuck” (what an awesome name!) and from their many resourceful articles, I was able to come up with some interesting facts about sleep:

  1. The ideal nap is 10 to 20 minutes. Anything exceeding the 20 minute mark can lead to feeling sluggish; potentially creating sleep problems at night.
  2. Experts estimate about 41% of people sleep in the fetal position, making it the most popular way to sleep, and it’s favoured by twice as many women than men.
  3. The best temperature for sleeping for adults is 15 to 19 degrees (for babies and toddlers add 3 degrees); as cooler temperatures help the body to maintain a consistent temperature.
  4. Tart cherry juice is a natural sleep remedy that boosts melatonin and staves off insomnia; specifically, tart Montmorency cherries.
  5. Sleeping naked is good for you! When we sleep in our birthday suits, it helps our body’s thermo-regulation system achieve the perfect temperature for getting a good night’s shut-eye.

All of this and more can be found at Tuck’s website: https://www.tuck.com/

They also have some great guides to explore under their Sleep Health tab: https://www.tuck.com/sleep-health/

Photo credit: http://Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

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The Relaxation Response

Yesterday we talked about how we have a fear response that can trigger the fight-or-flight mechanism in our brain when we are faced with true (or perceived) danger. But what about our relaxation response? Our comfort system? Just as our body is attuned to danger, it is also modulated by safety. When we feel secure, we feel less vulnerable and more capable of handling life’s challenges.

Our comfort system is about a feeling of peace; you may find it outside when the sun is shining warmly on your face or the white snow is gently falling around you. You may find it when you are curled up in your cozy armchair with a good book in your lap and the fireplace on. You may find it sitting across from a good friend, as you laugh and catch up, your hands around a warm cup of tea. You may find it in the top of your child’s head when you kiss them a final goodnight as you head to bed. You may find it in the space of your partner’s hand as you take a walk on a city street to look at shop windows. However you find your peace, it is through those moments that our comfort system is nourished and helps to balance life’s stressors and its subsequent burdens. To nurture and sustain our comfort system is a proactive approach to keeping ourselves both physically and emotionally healthy; take time today to go find your peace 🙂

Photo credit: Me! (and Cricket 🙂 )

The Fear Response

When we are going about our everyday lives, our brains help us to move and flow through our activities with a fair amount of ease. We call this top to bottom thinking; as the top parts of our brains, the pre-frontal cortex especially, help us to attend.  When our fear response kicks in, we call this bottom to top thinking; as the fear response part of our brain, in the amygdala, is closer to the base of our brain. When the brain detects danger, the fear response kicks in, and the rational part of our brain gets hijacked in a sense in order to attend to the threat.

The fear response sequence follows as such:

  1.  Freeze (danger is being assessed; happens in milliseconds)
  2.  Flee (fear will always choose to flee if it assesses the possibility)
  3.  Fight (when our fight response kicks in, it is still in an attempt to flee).

While this works considerably well for true danger, it is important to note that it works for perceived dangers as well. Our perceived dangers are often emotional, based on past experiences, or worst-case scenario thinking. Our brains get hijacked into bottom to top thinking, but in the absence of true danger, we get locked into an anxious state; which for some people can lead to panic. Knowing this can help us to begin to assess the reality of the worry. By focusing on fact, our rational brain allows greater space to be objective, which in turn settles down the fear response, and we return to a more grounded state.

Photo credit: http://Photo by Lubo Minar on Unsplash

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