Anchor Your Day ~ a mental health blog by Counselwise ~

The Benefits of Laughter

In an article entitled, “Give Your Body a Boost — With Laughter” and featured on WedMD, author R. Morgan Griffin writes about the physiological benefits of laughter:

  • We change physiologically when we laugh. We stretch muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues.
  • When laughing, blood vessels expand and contract more easily.
  • Using humour may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boost the levels of immune cells.
  • A study of people with diabetes demonstrated that laughter lowered blood sugar levels.

Griffin goes on to say that the science of laughter is early in its stages, with more studies needed in order to back up its true effects.

Until then, perhaps we can rely on the way laughter makes us feel as our own proof that it does our body good. Laughter opens up the face, produces a warm and welcoming smile; we feel lighter, brighter, connected to others and more relaxed. Sounds like a great prescription to me 🙂

To read the full article: https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/give-your-body-boost-with-laughter#1

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Honouring Your Own Story; A Response to Grief

I have been working with a client who is going through her “year of firsts” after losing her grandmother. This time is one of process; one in which we go through the first year, weaving through the stages of grief and learning how to live without our loved one. It is also a time to honour our family member at each “first;” birthdays, holidays, special events so as to both recognize their missed presence and acknowledge the valued place they held in our lives.

This particular young woman is struggling with looking at pictures of her grandmother as it brings her such sadness; yet a dissonance is created, as she so desperately wants to see her grandmother’s smile. She further shared that hearing “your grandmother would not want you to feel so sad all of the time,” is both comforting (as she knows it to be true), yet uneasy as she feels as though somehow it is a catch all phrase when others don’t know how to handle her grief.

In our exploration, we went big picture; we traveled down the path of her grandmother’s story and I was privileged to hear what made this woman so remarkable to her family. When we came back around to the phrase she was struggling with, I asked her “What would your grandmother say right now to you about your own story?” And without hesitation, she stated “She’d want me to live it.” 

We bring our loved ones with us; through our challenges and our triumphs, through the graduations, weddings, births of our children, laughter, tears and treasured moments. Giving ourselves permission to live our own story pays honour and respect to theirs; a lovely gift for those we have had to say goodbye to.

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A Quote by perry poetry

I came across this quote the other day:

Never fall for a heart that doesn’t beat as loudly as you do for it.  – perry poetry

I suppose we all, to some degree, have let this happen. It may have been in an intimate relationship, a friendship, or even a colleague at work. In any context, in order for a relationship to be healthy, reciprocity is an essential ingredient. Of course, there are times when we may carry the weight of the relationship, and we do so lovingly and with understanding. When we reach a point in the relationship; however, where we hesitantly admit that we are consistently doing more of the work, this is where the relationship has become unbalanced.

Perhaps we move towards trying to change it, perhaps we accept it, all the while turning our focus inward with some self-care, perhaps we make the tougher decision to leave it. In any case, creating some space to explore it, is an important piece to gaining a greater understanding of the symbiotic beating of hearts, and the healthiness that lies therein 🙂

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Harriet Lerner’s Advice on Apologizing

I have a stack of books that I read for work; in fact, sometimes I have to limit my purchasing as I remind myself to catch up on the ones I have on my shelf! (I have this issue with fictional books too.) Most recently, I read Harriet Lerner’s “Why Won’t You Apologize?” and gained some insight into the art of the apology. Here are some points I resonated with:

  • We are all apology-challenged with certain people and in some situations; some apologies are easier to offer than others.
  • What drives over-apologizing? We can never know for sure. It may be a reflection of low self-esteem, a diminished sense of entitlement, an unconscious wish to avoid criticism, an excessive wish to placate, some underlying river of shame, or a desire to show off what a well-mannered Brownie Scout is. You don’t need to know what causes something in order to fix it. If you over-apologize, tone it down.
  • Perfectionism can make it difficult for any of us to offer a simple apology, because we are unlikely to be able to view our errors and limitations in a light and self-loving way. 
  • Not everything is forgivable. Accepting an apology doesn’t always mean reconciliation. The best apology in the world can’t restore connection.
  • A true apology does not ask the other person to do anything – not even to forgive.

Lerner’s chapters on forgiveness and finding peace were especially worth reading. Lerner’s words are easy to read, direct and woven with humour. “Why Won’t You Apologize?” is a worthy read.

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The Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy

Often used interchangeably, the words empathy and sympathy are quite similar. They both involve emotion and we use the words to convey to another person that in some form we understand what they are going through.

As defined in the Webster’s dictionary:

Empathy: the power to enter into the feeling or spirit of others

Sympathy: a sharing in the emotions of others; especially the sharing of grief and pain

When we sympathize with someone, we have some degree of understanding, as we have most likely experienced the emotion ourselves, or we can take a pretty good guess as it how it would feel. Eliciting our own feelings, sympathy allows us to have the ability to share their sorrow or pain to some extent. But empathy is a bit different; a more nuanced, ennobled process that allows the listener to intuitively “feel themselves” in another person’s experience, all the while, inherently understanding that empathy requires an opening of our heart and a stillness to our mind.

To hold another person’s vulnerability, with no other intent, is the gift of empathy.

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The Boundaries We Seek

Sometimes our breakups end well, amicably. Sometimes when we decide that we can no longer have a person in our lives and we put boundaries into place, they are respected. Sometimes this is not the case, and the person with whom we have asked for some space persistently pursues, sometimes to the point of manipulation, abuse, and attempts to coerce.

When we have an ex or a fallen out loved one who begins to relentlessly text, you can almost guarantee a mixed bag of messages – apology texts to the point of begging, angry texts that are meant to punish, manipulative texts that infer that suicide might be a possibility. Sometimes you hear nothing for weeks, only to wake up to a barrage of texts in the morning. Phone calls out of nowhere.

It is through our boundary setting and consistent response that we can begin to feel as though we have some control in what is intrusive:

  • Decide that you won’t play the game; that you won’t get pulled in. Our own emotions often get in the way of our rational decision to end the relationship; allow the facts of the relationship to be present when our naturally driven, ‘hopeful’ thoughts come into play.
  • Remain consistent with your message. If you have to have contact because of shared children or you attend the same family events, be cautious of the emotional nature of your communication. Switch to text or email only if the phone calls tend to go sideways; only answer the factual parts of the message.
  • If you no longer need to have this person in your life, consider blocking their avenues to contact you. So often, I hear from clients that they “feel bad” doing this. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be necessary if the person was respecting the space you have asked for.
  • If they threaten suicide, call 911 and report it. It is not our place to try and guess if the person is serious about the attempt or trying to manipulate. By calling 911, it moves it out of your hands.
  • If the behaviours towards you increase and you begin to worry about your safety, report it to the police.

It is important to recognize that the patterns that make up relationships are still present even after the relationship has ended. If your ex or family member disagrees with the separation they may be consciously and subconsciously working hard to maintain the dynamic. Recognizing that is what allows us to consistently maintain our own boundaries; to build our seawalls when the storms are surging.

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Resource for Cyber Stalking

We live in a technological world and as a result, there are many advantages to our daily lives that have been improved by technology. Unfortunately, it also creates the space for cyberbullying and cyberstalking.

The Cyberbullying Research Center defines cyberstalking as: “Cyberstalking involves the use of technology (most often, the Internet!) to make someone else afraid or concerned about their safety. Generally speaking, this conduct is threatening or otherwise fear-inducing, involves an invasion of a person’s relative right to privacy, and manifests in repeated actions over time. Most of the time, those who cyberstalk use social media, Internet databases, search engines, and other online resources to intimidate, follow, and cause anxiety or terror to others.”

Cyberstalking usually involves someone you know; an ex-partner or fallen-out friend. Comparitech, a company dedicated to in-depth tech research, notes that cyberstalking constitutes as criminal harassment and lists examples which “include sending harassing messages, gathering information about the victim (including using spyware), engaging in “cyber-smearing” (attempts to destroy the victim’s reputation), tracking a victim using GPS technology, and sending malware to the victim’s computer, among others.”

In order to protect ourselves and our family members from such events, we can begin by tightening the reins to our privacy and security. If you would like to read an in-depth article highlighting how to do this, follow this link: https://www.comparitech.com/blog/vpn-privacy/cyber-stalking/

Tomorrow’s post will provide tips on how to create boundaries with an ex-partner.

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What Does Bad Timing Have to Do with Anything?

The short answer? A lot. One of the biggest communication traps we can get ourselves into is that of bad timing.

Communicating how we feel or what we need isn’t always easy. There are a lot of variables to consider: recognizing what our need or feeling is, deciding whether or not we want to bring it to someone’s attention, how we are going to bring it up, who is on the receiving end of that conversation and whether or not it is going to be understood. We also need to consider when to have that conversation. The variable of timing is often overlooked and it can make the difference as to how the communication plays out. Let us consider some grounds rules for timing:

  • If you are feeling angry, that isn’t the time to bring something up. We are much better served to take some space from the emotion and let our rational brain chime in as to how we want to respond.
  • If you are feeling easily overwhelmed or on the verge of a meltdown, you may be too emotional to be able to communicate effectively. We are wise at this point to ‘sleep on it,’ or instill the 24 hour rule to see how we feel about it the next day.
  • If you are exhausted, get some sleep first. Nothing makes us more vulnerable than a bleary-eyed state.
  • Wanting to talk about something when getting into bed or when someone is trying to get out the door is most likely not going to go well as it creates the feeling of being blind-sided. A better option is to find an opportunity when both of you are relaxed and have the time.
  • Choose a private space. Saying something in front of your in-laws, children or friends is going to add insult to injury.

Timing is an important part of communicating well. When we attempt to create a time and space for telling someone how we feel we are contributing to the health of the relationship as we are moving from the position of “I am important and so are you.”

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A Winter Day Reminder

We are into February which brings the ever tiniest promise of spring. Still considered a month in the ‘dark days of winter,’ it can often seem long until we see the first true signs of warmer weather and the spring thaw. As the month progresses, we will most likely notice that the sun seems a bit warmer and the days a bit longer. We can only be patient, focusing on the present day as it comes with its own blessings.

To remind us to hold steady, we can rely on the words of Mary Oliver who wrote:

“Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.” – Mary Oliver

We can lean into the promise of the day by consciously stating our blessing for it:

“Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields…

Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.” – Mary Oliver

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A Thought About Healing from the Inside Out

Dr. Will Cole is an American functional-medicine expert who specializes in the underlying factors that cause chronic disease, autoimmune conditions, and the like. In a podcast episode I was listening to, he made two very enlightening comments about our intention to heal. He noted that:

“You can’t heal a body you hate.”

“You can’t shame your way to wellness.”

Isn’t it so true that when we think about our bodies or our appearance, we often focus on the things we don’t like? We walk past a mirror, and we immediately focus in on the part we wished looked somehow different, thinner, better? By doing so, we immediately shame ourselves – reinforcing what we have perceived to not be ideal or perfect for us.

We can begin to recognize that, in order to heal, we must do so from the inside out. That may include the foods we put into our body and the movement we increase to optimize our body’s ability to function well – but it can also include how we speak to ourselves. We can add to our gratitude list that we are thankful for the beating of our heart, the ability our bodies have to eliminate toxins, the miraculous system that is our physical self. We can also stop by that mirror and admire the things we love about our appearance; we can thank our body for serving us well, we can reinforce our commitment to it – that we will endeavor to heal ourselves from the inside out. 🙂

To visit Dr. Will Cole’s website: https://drwillcole.com/

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