Anchor Your Day ~ a mental health blog by Counselwise ~

Those Darn Expectations

In a recent article entitled “How Expectations Undermine Our Relationships and Happiness” by Jen Picicci and featured on tinybuddha, Jen highlights, through her own experience, how the expectations we place on others can lead to an automatic response in us, thereby creating  negative thoughts and feelings instead of realistic ones. It really becomes about what we set up as our “hoped-for response,” in which we place an expectation on someone, placing great trust that they will follow through. She notes, “Hoping for the outcome you desire is one thing, trying to force it and being overrun with negative thoughts and feelings when it doesn’t work out is another.” 

She goes on to suggest some ways to counter our expectations of others including an acceptance piece; reality being that we can’t change or predict another person’s behaviour, as well as a mindfulness piece in which we try and focus on the present moment as a way to focus our own thoughts and beliefs on what we can control; ourselves.

To read the full article:

Jenn Picicci is an artist and teacher of inner guidance:

Photo credit: http://Photo by Lisa H on Unsplash


Morrie’s Lesson

When I was doing my graduate degree, we had a professor who stated that “We learn just as much about ourselves from what hurts us as from what loves us.” Then we all watched “Tuesdays with Morrie.” 🙂 Further to this, we had to write a journal style essay exploring this statement and how it was relevant in our own lives; the experience of which was quite therapeutic and has helped to informed me, not only in my professional life but in my personal life as well.

We often have no control over the challenges that come our way; it is the feelings associated with those difficult times that we most fear; landing us, alone, on the island of avoidance. A place that at first may seem appealing, (who wouldn’t want to go to an island right now?) however; isolated from others and essentially ourselves, we become increasingly lost.

Perhaps then, it becomes about incorporating what hurts us into our story; to matter-of-fact accept that it happened, to see ourselves in that space, and to honour who we are within it. When we consciously make the decision to incorporate our hurts with our loves, we land ourselves on a much richer and more promising island.

Photo credit: http://Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash



Anxiety Fact #4

Anxiety does not last forever. Even though anxiety can feel very permanent in the moment, it is a temporary process and does decrease. It ebbs and flows, existing as part of our adaptive mind-body system; when we process what we are worried about, we can often move to a position of feeling calmer. In a past post, we learned that emotion tends to trump reason which will often allow our fears to take over; taking a few deep breaths and then asking ourselves “What can I do about this worry right now?” will help us to allow our rational mind to come in and have some influence over our emotion, therefore decreasing the anxiety.

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” – Corrie Ten Boom

Information for this post and a great website is:

Photo credit: http://Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash

Knowledge Incorporated = Structural Change

A quote that I came upon: “Education does not take place when you learn something you did not know before. Education is your ability to use what you have learned to be better today than you were yesterday.” – Iyanla Vanzant 

It is in the therapy office that I see examples of  this statement becoming reinforced over and over again. When clients first come to therapy, the first question I ask them is “what is bringing you to counselling?” It is a good way for me to hear from them, in their own words, what part of their story they are struggling with and through exploration, we are able to begin to put some of the pieces of the puzzle together to work towards resolution and possible change.

In order for there to be an element of transformation to that process however, what I like to call structural change will often need to occur. It is about going back to move forward; figuring out how our experiences in our lives have led us to core beliefs and patterns that became ingrained and therefore a part of how we process the world. Through discovery, we can gain an understanding of how something developed, which will guide us into acceptance. Knowledge sets us free; we begin to feel that something has shifted and we can give ourselves permission to move towards not only a deeper healing of those experiences, but to new ways of thinking about ourselves, and then finally, a call to action, an important step in which we incorporate some new skills into that knowledge. And so, the change becomes structural, a shift in our foundation that finally feels right. 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by Andrea Reiman on Unsplash

The Power of Nature

The benefits of walking are without question; not just from a health perspective but also a psychological one. A study, conducted by Stanford University entitled “Stanford Researchers find Mental Health Prescription: Nature,” addresses the increasing trend of urbanization (we have reached the 50% mark for people living in urban areas) and along with this statistic, two accompanying trends: a decrease in the amount of exposure we get to nature and an overall increase in mental illness including anxiety and depression.

For the study, participants went for a walk either in a natural setting or on a busy street, both near Stanford U campus. Their brains were scanned before and after their walk; the participants walking in nature had decreased rumination (the looped cycle of negative thinking that often accompanies the onset of depression) whereas for the urban participants, there was no change.  “These results suggest that accessible natural areas may be vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world,” said co-author Gretchen Daily. 

Although the article highlights the benefits of planning green space into urban settings, perhaps this study can also encourage those of us who live in small towns or rural areas to get outside. It would seem that the very act of being in nature soothes the mind and gives us the space to slow things down, bringing clarity to our thoughts and a feeling of weightlessness to our spirit.

To read the full article (there is a 2 min video):

Photo credit: http://Photo by Ugne Vasyliute on Unsplash


The Love of Story

I have always been an avid reader. Kudos to my mother for beginning what would be a lifelong journey of delving into the lives of others. I can remember the joyful feeling of trips to the Vankleek Hill library, of being allowed to freely choose a few books and the unending fascination I had as a young child with Mrs. Boucher, the librarian, who got the distinct pleasure of pulling out the library card and stamping each book, reminding us of its timely return (oh, how I envied her!)

My Aunt Sue also reinforced my love of reading; a teacher by trade, she would prepare a box of books for each my sister and I, and we would eagerly anticipate opening the box every time we traveled to visit my mother’s family in Worcester, MA. As distance predicted lengthy spans of time between visits, the books grew in number, waiting patiently to be opened and appreciated.

It is my love of reading, my inclination to story, that has guided and formed my appreciation of the narrative of people’s lives, but it is my experience of being a therapist that has deepened my respect for a person’s story. Someone comes in and trusts me with their beginning, weaving their experiences, their joys and their wounds into an account that can only be theirs and yet is filled with universal elements. As a result, I feel privileged in the process; understanding that perhaps that the beauty of story; no matter how distant it might be from our own, touches an element of familiarity that binds us together in a subtle, yet connective way. This knowledge gives us permission, in a way, to be open to our own narrative, to give space to the story that is perhaps patiently waiting to be opened and appreciated.

Photo credit to: http://Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

Make it Okay: Resource

I recently came across an organization named “Make it OK;” it’s aim: to educate the public about mental illness and to help put an end to the stigma that tends to be a concurrent issue for people who are brave enough to speak their truth. On the interactive website, you will find information about mental illness; did you know for example, that one in four people will develop a mental illness in their life time? They have quizzes to see if you recognize mental illness stigma and describe the tangibles of it such as “Exclusion. Telling someone to toughen up or snap out of it. Calling someone crazy. Treating mental illness as a fallacy for the lazy or attention starved.”

One part that I especially appreciate is the section that share people’s stories; you can watch videos or read about someone’s own experience with mental illness. Like Jess who spiraled into a depression and PTSD after the sudden death of her sister. When asked her advice as to how to help others, she stated, “Asking for help is hard but the stigma is reduced every time you speak out. You’re loved, you’re not alone, and it’s ok to show your emotions and be honest about how you’re doing. In fact, it’s imperative for you to be honest about that (for everyone who is struggling).”

Make it Ok gives out tips for generating conversation about mental illness; it even has a toolkit that can be downloaded that can help promote the message of their campaign.  To check out this great organization:

Photo credit: http://Photo by Jean-Philippe Delberghe on Unsplash


The Case for Tenderness

In a recent podcast that I was listening too entitled “Clear and Vivid with Alan Alda: Father Greg Boyle on Compassion, Kinship and Real Ways to Help Others,” Alan was speaking with Father Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, the world’s largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world. I was stuck by the following passages that touches on the process of healing and how it can be generalized in many ways across the human experience.

“Part of [what we do at Homeboy] is healing, so you have to do the work, we want people to excavate their wounds if you will, they have to go back and become friends with their wounds and their own brokenness. We get trapped sometimes with the message that it is all about content but its really about context. Its a community of tenderness where they can feel some relief and some rest from their own chronic, toxic stress; so then they feel safe. They become their own sanctuary that they sought in you.”

Read moreThe Case for Tenderness

“I Don’t Care What You Think”

Is often the sentiment when a difference of opinion gets to a heated place. We may not say that (or maybe we will) but either way, the point of the conflict has moved to one of having to prove that we are right; an indignant, inflexible place. Lost to our own anger, we are fueled to feel justified in our belief until it reaches the point of conviction, both parties becoming stuck in an unyielding pigeonhole of wanting to get your own way.

I always tell clients that “there is no point in arguing with an angry person or a drunk one; either case will get you nowhere.” As soon as anger rises in contention, you move into defensiveness and denial and there is no space left for solution. It is always best at this point to take a time out, agreeing to come back to resolution when everyone’s jets have cooled.

But how do you do this when you know you’re right? 🙂 Well, I suppose two things can help:

  1. Approach the problem with a healthier aim; one in which the focus becomes to find a win-win solution to the issue. This helps in creating an open-minded, curious position.
  2. Focus on the notion that listening to another person’s opinion may not be about changing your mind, but rather about developing your thinking.

Approaching conflict in this manner helps to move us to a more receptive position; one whose focus is of a deeper sentiment of care and benevolence. (As a side note, these tips work great with teenagers too!)

Photo credit: http://Photo by Victor Benard on Unsplash

“The Three M’s”

I am borrowing this one from my friend and colleague, Darlene Denis-Friske. It is a strategy she likes to call the “three m’s” and it is related to our call to action when we are in a highly emotional state. If you recall from previous posts, emotion will trump reason every time and the more heightened you feel while caught up in that whirlwind of emotion, the more likely you are to succumb to saying or doing something you will regret after your emotional state returns to a calmer place.

If we can catch ourselves before we move to action (yes, it is possible; take a deep breath to start), we give ourselves permission to slow down, to give some space to it so as to allow our rational brain to have a say in how we want to handle ourselves. This is where the “three m’s” come into play, as we can ask ourselves “is my response mature, measured and matter-of-fact?” 

The beauty of these three words is that they carry a lot of weight. Your response is now developed, practical and sound; and with less emotion, you increase the probability of results. Further to this and regardless of the outcome, what is of even greater consideration is that by choosing the “three m’s” you have moved into the position of “I am important and so are you;” allowing yourself to have a voice while respecting the other. 🙂

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