Anchor Your Day ~ a mental health blog by Counselwise ~

Pain is in the Driver’s Seat

For anyone living with chronic pain, they are forever challenged by the fact that try as they might – taking medications on time, getting the right amount of sleep and exercise, eating healthy – if pain decides to take over on any given day, they get bumped out of the driver’s seat. The dissonance that gets created as a result, lies not in the fact that you are having a pain day, but rather that you had expectations for the day. If we can’t get done what we had planned, or get less done than we usually would have, we can be quite hard on ourselves; resulting in feelings of discouragement, and we open the door for the blues to set in.

We are much better served to understand that “when I am having a pain day, my tank is full.” Waking up uncomfortable and sore lets you know that your body and mind are allowed to focus on what needs to happen in order to best alleviate the pain. That might include cancelling plans, doing less than you would normally do, going about tasks at a slower pace, taking more breaks. It is acknowledging that you have woken up with a full tank, and its not going to take much to spark a tipping point. If we can give pain its space, we can begin to celebrate  the fact that “anything I get done today is a bonus.”

When we can begin to be kind to ourselves where our expectations are concerned, we begin to feel that we have some control in our pain day. We may have had to let pain take the driver’s seat, but we can darn sure still give it directions! 🙂

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Healthy Relationships; Part 3

The choices that we make in a relationship are either going to help feed the health of a relationship or the dysfunction of it. In our last post about healthy relationships, I would like to talk about behaviour.

In any couple union, we are two individuals within a dyad. Although it is important that individual interests are respected within the relationship, the behaviours you choose are better served through the eyes of the relationship. Some examples of behaviours that feed the dysfunction:

  • not purposefully answering texts or phone calls (in an effort to avoid or ignore)
  • not asking your spouse if a certain weekend is free, or what needs to happen with everyone’s schedule before making individual plans (this is not about asking permission – it is about being respectful of everyone’s time)
  • making fun of your partner (in a way that is meant to embarrass or put down)
  • any form of unfaithful behaviour
  • expecting partner to carry more of the workload, finances (unless its agreed upon)

Examples of behaviours that feed the health of the relationship:

  • listening to your partner’s ideas or opinions
  • any form of affection or term of endearment
  • encouraging each other in accomplishments and successes
  • purposely doing small things for each other out of kindness

Whether you are contemplating a relationship, single and working towards one, or currently in a relationship, healthy relationships require trust, respect, open communication and investment. They can be built, but it is important for us to keep in mind, that in order for the foundation to be strong, we need both partners in on the work. 🙂

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Healthy Relationships: Part 2

Yesterday we looked at communication and what that looks like in a healthy relationship. Today, the big word is investment. When a relationship is healthy, there is a general sense that both people are invested in the relationship. We can see this in the following ways:

  1. Respect. When two people care about the relationship, they are interested in their spouse’s wishes, feelings and opinions. They are able to respect each other’s privacy, not want to purposefully hurt their feelings and when they inadvertently do, they are able to apologize.
  2. Compromise. Decisions within a couple are not always easily solved; sometimes we can go up, down, and all around with conflicting opinions. But when two people are invested in the relationship, they understand that compromise and finding a solution are what keep a relationship strong.
  3. Having fun together. Invested couples enjoy each other’s company whether that be sitting across from the table from one another, sitting by a campfire, kayaking together, window shopping along a city street, watching a show together, going for a drive, playing a board game. They tend to find common interests in order to keep their friendship alive within the marriage.

Investment by both partners is an important element in a healthy relationship; it brings about feelings of security, comfort and the overall sense of a deepening love. Tomorrow will be our third part in our quest for what to look for in a healthy relationship.

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What to Look For in a Healthy Relationship: Part 1

One of the things we often want in a relationship is good communication. But what does that really mean?

  1. Consistency. When communication is healthy, there is consistency. Texts are answered in a fairly timely matter and communication routines get set over time (chatting over dinner about your day, phone call at lunch, daily contact when one is away, etc.) When consistency exists in communication, we are not left in a position of guessing and we can begin to count on our partner to be there for us when we reach out.
  2. General sense of openness. Let’s face it; having to tell our partner when we are upset about something is not always easy. Being on the receiving end of constructive criticism can also raise our defenses. But overall, when communication is open, there is a general feeling that approaching our spouse with something sensitive is going to be received in a respectful way.
  3. Anger doesn’t lead. When communication is healthy, anger doesn’t take center stage. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t disagreements, and of course, tempers will flare. But the focus then moves into repair. No silent treatment for days, no brooding or grudge holding as a way to punish. If anger is leading, you have lost the openness of healthy communication.

Communication is an important element in creating a healthy relationship; requiring a balance between our feelings, thoughts and actions. If newly dating, be cautious if these characteristics are not present (remember, people show you who they are early on) and keep in mind, that this is all workable stuff when both people in the relationship are invested. 🙂 Tomorrow we will continue our exploration of what healthy relationships look like.

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A Lovely Quote About Light and Dark

I love this quote by Og Mandino:

“I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.” – Og Mandino

I often remind clients that we learn just as much about ourselves from what hurts us as from what loves us. This quote by Mandino can remind us that although we strive to feel light, to make our choices and goals line up for movement and growth, to design our lives with a focus on meaning and purpose, we can also not deny the dark.

We cannot get through life without challenge, without pain, without being hurt, without struggle. In accepting the dark, we make way for the stars; those pinpricks of light that allows us to remember that without the dark, we would also not feel the infinite possibility of light. 🙂

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Achieving Grace

When I was going through an especially tough time in my life, I was given the lovely advice that “grace builds upon nature.” At first I was not entirely sure I knew what it meant, but I also knew that it was relevant to what I was going through at the time. Since then, I have reflected upon that advice many times; I have used it with clients, and I continue to say it to myself when I feel I need a gentle reminder.

I believe our true nature to be good. I also believe that when we are being true to ourselves, there is a sense of calm, an underlying confidence, and a feeling of being whole. It is the part of ourselves that is compassionate, both to others and to ourselves. If we are able to access that part of who we are, even when struggling, we can find grace. Grace is about courteous goodwill, it is about choosing to take the high road, it is about holding your head high and keeping your chin up. Grace is about opening up the space, even when its hard to, to recognize your blessings and through that process you will recognize your strength. Grace is the honourable process of knowing you may never get the answers you are seeking, and yet choose to forgive; becoming wrapped in faith that you can heal.

Grace builds upon nature; what a lovely little piece of advice 🙂

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The Wisdom of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela, best known for leading the resistance to South African apartheid, was incarcerated for almost 20 years, and then become President of South Africa from 1994 – 1999. Today we turn to some of his wisdom for inspiration:

  • “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela
  • “If you want the cooperation of humans around you, you must make them feel they are important – and you do that by being genuine and humble.” – Nelson Mandela
  • “It is in your hands to create a better world for all who live in it.” – Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was a lovely example of how one person has the ability to help create greater compassion and love for human kind. He was able to rise above his fears to tirelessly pursue his goals. As Nelson Mandela would say “Fools multiply when wise men are silent.”

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Facts Before Fill-Ins

It’s human nature to make assumptions. If a friend doesn’t answer our text, we might assume that they are mad at us, if someone stands us up for a date, we assume that there must be something about us that turned them off, if our spouse comes home in a bad mood, maybe it was something we’ve done.

The damage really isn’t in the assumption. If we tend to overthink, over-analyze or ruminate; however, our suppositions can often lead us to creating a full story in our minds; one that may feel very real and can carry consequences. Sometimes our emotions take over and we follow with an action that we then regret, other times we inwardly carry the weight of something when it isn’t ours to carry. It can become an emotional roller coaster, creating more heartache and worry than was ever intended. We begin to see the situation through an emotional lens and not a factual one.

The first step is to ask ourselves “Am I making an assumption here? Is how I perceive it the way it actually happened? Did I fill in the blanks before getting all the facts?” Perhaps the text didn’t get answered because the friend simply got busy and forgot, perhaps we got stood up not because of anything we’ve done, but because the person ascribes to that kind of crummy behaviour, perhaps our spouse’s bad mood was caused by a bad day at work.

Ask questions with the intent to gather information. Allow the rational part of the brain to temper the emotional one. Facts before fill-ins – works every time 🙂

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A Good Message About “Letting it Go”

One of my all time favourite soundtracks is Great Big Sea; Something Beautiful. One of my favourite songs from the album is called “Let It Go.” I especially like the chorus:

“Let it go, let it go
This is smaller than you know
No bigger than a pebble lying on a gravel road
Let it go, let it go
Got to leave it all behind you
Give the sun a chance to find you
Let it go”

Sometimes when we are told to “let it go” it doesn’t seem possible. In the context of this song, it is meant as a way to not sweat the small stuff, to not get too caught up on the things that you can’t change, to not let little things that might have annoyed you during the day continue to bother you.

I especially liked the line “give the sun a chance to find you” as it is often the case that getting caught up on the little things can lead us to feeling dark and stormy. Thanks Great Big Sea for that little reminder about giving ourselves permission to “let it go.” 🙂

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A Way to Look at Forgiveness

Forgiveness is one of the more challenging of virtues. We hear that we are better for it; that when we forgive ourselves or others who have hurt us, we find peace. Very often, we have to push against the feeling that by forgiving we excuse the hurt. Forgiving is not about accepting the transgression but rather that it happened.

We must also reconcile with the myth that through the act of forgiveness, we invite the person who hurt us back in our lives. There are times when that does happen, but forgiveness isn’t the guarantee of that process – sometimes we choose to forgive and also choose to move forward without the relationship. Forgiveness gives us the gift of healing the wound of the hurt.

Forgiveness also doesn’t guarantee that we won’t get emotionally triggered or still feel pain and sorrow when reminded of the hurt. When we have forgiven however, we hold a greater sense of freedom from the wound; it doesn’t control us as it used to.

A lovely quote that can give to us a way of looking at this valuable process is “Forgiveness is not a line to cross but a road to travel. – Unknown” 

Forgiveness is a journey, with some pit-stops, perhaps a brief stay or two, sometimes a crossroad to face; albeit heading to the same place – peace.

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