Anchor Your Day ~ a mental health blog by Counselwise ~

Beginnings and Endings

When we think about the beginning of something, usually something exciting comes to mind. The start of a holiday is always filled with the thoughts of adventure, a new relationship is saturated with the honeymoon phase, the nervous jitters of a new job is often tempered with possibility.

When we think about something ending, usually unpleasant thoughts are quickly enveloped with feelings we wish to avoid. Endings bring about change and a new and potentially uncomfortable reality; they remind us of the fragility present in our lives, the passing of time and how unpleasant being out of our comfort zone really is.

And yet endings are a necessary part of our life’s experience:

  • Endings signify transition. We can’t avoid transitional periods in our lives; good ones (birth of a new baby) or painful ones (death of a loved one.) Endings allow us to envelope a new reality; one that allows us to integrate the transition into our lives in order to adjust our comfort zone.
  • Endings allow us to gather strength. When we spend time grieving, when we give the loss adequate space, we give ourselves the gift of a strengthened spirit. We tend to not sweat the small stuff quite as much as we used to.
  • Endings allow us to move forward. With every beginning, we have the gift of choice. With every ending, we also have the ability to choose.
  • Endings allow us to see the beginning. It is never quite so clear at the ending; after all, we must give ourselves the time to let go. But in looking back, we can often see that the ending brought about a different purpose for us. One we may not have chosen, but have gathered strength in along the way.

Beginnings and endings are a part of our journey. Change is a part of our reality and sometimes we have no choice but to adjust our sails and reset our course. As Lazarus Long quoted “Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.”

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“Something Bad Is Going to Happen”

Over-estimating danger is a common thinking trap. Often tied to a core belief or learned from past experience, we can fall prey to believing that something bad is going to happen. For some people, it can be an accompanying thought to a low-level feeling of anxiety that is often described as “a feeling of dread.”

If your childhood was filled with uncertainty or chaos, you most likely live with low level anxiety. Our fight-or-flight system responds to this low level anxiety as “something is wrong.” The same will occur if you have been triggered to a past trauma. This can create a loop of feelings, thoughts and behaviours; therefore referred to as a thinking trap. When we over-estimate danger, we exaggerate the chance that something bad will happen.

We are much better served when we begin to realize that these thoughts are tied to the past and are now misplaced anxiety. We can challenge the thought by asking ourselves “Am I confusing the possibility with certainty?” It is about using our rational brain to comfort our emotional brain; focusing on the facts of “I am safe, I am in charge of me, I have choices.”

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The Importance of Why

A client remarked to me the other day, “When the why is strong enough, the how will follow.” As I reflected upon this with her, I was once again brought back to one of my favourite words: curiosity.

People come to therapy because they want something to be fixed; they want to feel better. Sometimes that comes with a clarity as to what they are struggling with; other times it is obscure or hidden from them and they are basing their presenting issue on feelings or symptoms. In any case, whether they realize it or not,  what they are seeking is the ‘why.’

We often rush to seek solution which makes total sense – after all, we are feeling crummy and want it to end. If we can find immediate relief, we alleviate the symptom. Unfortunately, this type of relief is usually temporary (think of the way we soothe ourselves with food, alcohol or marijuana), and the more encompassing issue is still present, just waiting around for us to do something about it.

And this is where the ‘why’ comes in. When we can gain a greater understanding of how our patterns, core beliefs and relationship dynamics were formed, we can move towards acceptance. The freedom of letting go of something that weighs us down is what allows structural change to form.

When the why is strong enough, the how will follow. Bottom line: we can allow ourselves to push past fear to where curiosity is patiently waiting for us.

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Saying I’m Sorry

What is a proper apology? I can tell you that any apology that starts out with “I’m sorry but…” is not an apology. Neither is “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

Essentially when you word an apology in these ways, you are negating the whole purpose of saying sorry which is to acknowledge a wrong doing while seeking repair. It is about owning up to your role in the conflict.

Essentially, you wish to say you are sorry for the behaviour you feel guilty about EVEN when the person you are apologizing to may have their own reason to apologize. Example: When you want to say “I’m sorry that I yelled at you but you really pissed me off,” actually needs to be “I’m sorry that I yelled at you when I got angry. It is not the way I want to handle things.” Period. End of story. If you are lucky enough to get an “It’s okay, I got heated too and said things I didn’t mean either” than you are off to a great start in repairing the rift. And if you don’t get an answer, or the person you are saying sorry to is still feeling prickly, then reward the effort. Chalk that one up to a healthy choice in the relationship books and you are free to let go of any guilt that is still lingering around for having lost your cool. 😊

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Relationship Phrases 101

There are 6 relationship phrases that are considered important when looking at the health of a relationship or family.

They are “Please,” “Thank you,” “You’re Welcome,” “I love you,” “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you.” Although at first glance this appears to be just about good manners, it is important to think about the context of when and how you use these phrases. Do you use them with your partner or spouse? With your children? Are they encouraged between partners, parent and child, siblings?

Sometimes it’s easy to say “Grab me a coke when you go to the kitchen;” and forget the importance of the appreciation phrases of  “please” and “thank you.” Are you able to say sorry to your partner? To your child? That is sometimes a tough one, and it often comes from what we learned about apologies growing up. When we say “I’m sorry” (and it is a proper apology…tomorrow’s blog post!) we often get back an “It’s okay,” which allows us to focus on repair, an important part of a healthy relationship.

The phrase “I love you” seems innocent enough but it too can often be something that is a struggle for people; to be able to say it, or to assume that with time it doesn’t need to be said. And yet being able to say “I love you” without restriction is a wonderful gift, filled with acceptance and connection; two essential components of a sound relationship. And so with this food for thought, it might be time to allow ourselves to bring these good manners back to the table.

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3 Quotes to Build Resiliency

Three components of resliliecny include growth, strength and courage. Let’s celebrate each one of these with a quote:

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” – Marcus Aurelius

“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” – William Faulkner

When we build resiliency, we compel our strength and courage to do the best we can; in life’s challenges we find growth.

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“No” is a Complete Sentence

This can be a good mantra for people pleasers. And although it is perfectly acceptable to simply say no to a request, it often feels difficult to do so. The first thing that enters into the picture is the propensity to say “Yes” – and that pull tends to be quite strong. Next comes the guilt – somehow saying no indicates what a horrible person you are. Tsk. Tsk. Unfortunately, saying yes all the time makes us tired, feel as though we are being taken advantage of, and places ourselves in the “I am not important and you are” position. Ugh.

Perhaps to start, we need to think about the word ‘maybe.’ In answering someone’s request, ‘maybe’ often sounds like:

“I am not sure I can do that. Let me check my schedule and get back to you,” or

“I understand that you would like an answer right now, but I have to think about it. I will get back to you in an hour, (by lunch, by tomorrow, etc.)”  – This one tends to work well with kids and teenagers 🙂

Then you take the time to run this quick inventory before you decide:

Do I have the time? Sometimes we just don’t have the time to squeeze one more request into our day; other days the pace is going well.

Do I have the energy? Perhaps it is the end of the week, and we are running on empty or maybe the walk we had this morning has given us some pep.

Do I have the support? Perhaps we can say yes if others are around to help carry the load, or maybe we are flying solo and it becomes too much.

Once we have the answers to these questions, our maybe can become a yes, or it might have to be a no:

“I’m sorry, I can’t commit to that. My schedule doesn’t allow it this time.”

“Going to the party isn’t going to work this time. I understand that is disappointing.” This doesn’t mean that the arguing and cajoling isn’t going to ensue – after all, you always say yes – it is okay to remind your loved one that “I say yes a lot, I try to make things work for everyone. This time, it’s a no.” 

And by keeping the boundary in place, that is when “No” becomes a complete sentence; having faith that everyone will survive you having said no, including yourself 🙂

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How We Stand In Our Own Way

Sometimes we create our own roadblock to change. This is not always obvious; after all, denial is a big line of defense. It can happen consciously – we verbally deny observations or questions brought to our attention; and it can also occur unconsciously, where the pull is stronger and it usually involves ‘forgetting’ elements of what has taken place.

Typically, when we sense that there is something we hold back from ourselves, this represents our sore spots, our fears, our deep insecurities. It is usually tied to something from our childhood, and the thought of facing it is too frightening. The result? Self-sabotage. We find it in addiction, patterns of behaviour, automatic thoughts. It weaves itself into our relationships and can affect its functioning.

In therapy, we often reach the point of exploring the resistance; usually when the therapist begins to feel compelled to convince. The first step is to come to the realization that we have created our own roadblock to change, and by sticking to old patterns, thoughts and behaviours, we are now perpetuating the cycle.

From there, we can be curious. Where did this develop and why? Having these answers often makes it okay to give ourselves permission to ask ourselves “Does it have to be this way? Can I push past my comfort zone? Learn new ways of coping?” 

Sometimes, we have to step out of our own way 🙂

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A Little Reminder About the Joy of Seeking Adventure

I can remember the adventures of my childhood; exploring the back fields and woods with my sister, building forts among the thorn bushes, playing by the ‘big pond’ – racing over to the tracks to watch a train barreling by. Each adventure had a story.

When I came across this poem, it was a lovely reminder of the joy that comes when we seek adventure:

Little one remind me 

how to run again barefoot

through the pathless woods.

Show me where the fairies 

hide messages in curled 

up maple leaves.

Show me treasures,

rocks and feathers,

frogs that beckon us

forward, forward through the

curling grapevine.

Lead me under a moon

that is as full as 

our pockets

past chicory & mushroom rings

down, down to the river

where I can see myself

as if for the first time

peering back at me.

– Nicolette Sowder

 

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5 Things We Can Do Less Of (In Order to Get More)

When it comes to our emotional health, there are a variety of things that if we did less of them, we would actually get more in return. From my work with clients, I would say that these are what I would choose as the top 5:

  1. Speak less and listen more. One of the most useful skills I learned in graduate school was how to listen. To listen with the intention of understanding, to get the full picture. We tend to listen with our own emotional filters; coupled with living in a society that teaches us we must have an immediate opinion. By listening to understand, we slow down this process and allow for greater communication.
  2. Get ‘out of our head’ and into our body. From our own critical voice, to rumination, to needless worry – we spend too much time focusing on what’s in the noggin, and not enough time feeling centered and grounded.
  3. Less information and more wisdom. We are on information overload; what our emotional health needs more of is self-reflection – it is here that we gain a greater understanding of ourselves in order to create structural change.
  4. Less negativity and more gratitude. Being aware of our negative bias is crucial to our emotional health. In order to combat the tendency to complain, we can purposely focus on our blessings. Writing them down is especially confirming.
  5. Less rush, more peace. We spend way too much time in the fight-or-flight system – which is easily brought on by a hurried pace of life. By slowing down, focusing on self-care, anchors to our day – we feed our comfort system. And there, we find peace.

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