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Sick and tired of not following through with your New Years Resolutions? Beating yourself up for not sticking to last years plan? Overwhelmed by the possibilities of all that you could have accomplished - if only you could quit getting in your own way? Put the bat down. Changing your behavior may be an easy concept to grasp but it’s not a simple task && they call it New Years Resolution for a reason. It takes a series of small successes to create change that lasts a lifetime. && unfortunately that means committing to working at something for more than one year. But here’s the thing, you don’t have wait until NYE to take small steps towards changing your behavior, addiction, relationships, mental health etc., you can begin today. (Right now in this very moment, its already happening).
A Word on Wellness:
What is your relationship with technology? Do you have boundaries in place? Maybe this is the first time your thinking about this, in that case, I invite you to use this post as a reminder to review what your doing and whether or not its working for you.
It’s no surprise that there is an instantaneous and demanding exchange of information on the internet. To this end, the internet has created an unrealistic demand for our attention. Think about it-nowadays, our phones go off regardless of whether we have made a conscious decision to be ‘on-line’ or ‘plugged in’. Snapchat, instagram, linked-in, facebook notifications - AND we haven’t even discussed the work aspect of technology (emails, calls, texts), boundaries and impact on self-care. Now think about the demands of technology for those who are on call 24/7 or who have a needy boss, always wanting more from us. We are constantly plugged in, online without even realizing it. The only real way to detach yourself from these unhealthy patterns is to truly UN-PLUG from the internet. Our phones should not be conceptualized as baby birds in which we need to nurture and protect-No, our phones/technology represent dysfunctional, maladaptive patterns, encapsulating the belief that we are constantly behind and that we incessantly have tasks to tend to.
Often times, this this type of thinking and behavior AKA staying ‘plugged in’ induces anxiety and depression; poor sleep and eating habits, temperament and irritability. For some this could mean challenges with communication and relationships and for others relapse, if struggling with addiction. When we get caught up in this type of thinking and behavioral patterns, our breathing becomes shallow, our muscles tense and we become irritable and short with others. Our stress (cortisol levels) goes up while our cognitive functioning goes down. When this happens STEP AWAY FROM THE INTERNET, un-plug and step into nature. Become one with the universe; go for a walk, get some fresh air, prop yourself up against a tree- restore balance and homeostasis. Listen to your body, I promise it’ll thank you.
Somethings to consider when thinking about your relationship with technology and/or your phone:
How quickly am I responding to texts, emails, miscellaneous notifications?
Do I interrupt the quality of time with family and friends to respond to notifications?
How often am I apart from my phone and my computer?
Do I sleep with my phone next to me?
How often am I expecting others to respond back to my texts, emails, phone calls etc.
Now, in terms of boundaries and self-care how does your relationship with your phone/technology (review above questions) impact you (mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically)? What can you do to implement new boundaries and/or revise old one’s?
Put your phone on silent during designated hours of the day.
Turn your phone off or put on ‘do not disturb’ when sleeping.
No phones when eating.
Reminding yourself that you don’t have to respond to text, phone calls instantaneously. Give yourself permission to respond to text, phone notifications within the next week versus the next hour.
Do not check or respond to work emails when you are not working (weekends especially).
Remove certain social media apps from your phone and/or turn off notifications.
Are any of the above listed boundaries/self-care strategies put in place? If so, AMAZING. If not, no worries-select one or two and give it a whirl starting TODAY. Not only will you benefit from revising your technological boundaries and improving your self-care but others will benefit too, for individuals will emulate after you and the healthy behavioral patterns that you set-forth, giving them permission to do the same.
“Who me?” “What problem?”
“I’ll think about that tomorrow”
“Things aren’t that bad”.
“Quit nagging me”.
If you identify with any of these thinking patterns you may be in the pre-contemplative stage of change (yes, there are stages to change). Change is a gradual process and it’s not easy. You need to recognize the issue and admit to it before you can fix it. Whether it be challenges related to changing your addictive patterns, trauma, anxiety, depressive symptoms or relationships…..
You already know change is anxiety provoking, fear inducing, and extremely uncomfortable - but did you know that when you work through the resistance to change you reward yourself with the greatest gift of all-self transformation?
Let me end with this- No one has ever died from fear (to my knowledge) but many have died from suppressing discomfort, fear and pent up emotion- derived from reluctance to change.
Don’t let that be you.
See below for the 6 stages of change.*
*Change is an evolving process so don’t beat yourself up if you feel stuck in one of the stages of change, digress towards an earlier stage, and/or continue to struggle with constant relapse (which can occur in any one of the stages of change). Relapse is expected and a part of the process. The take away here is that you don’t give up and continue to make an effort to embark on the journey of self-transformation.
Did you know that you can actually use your physical body and your imagination to reprogram the way that you think and feel on a neurological level? Or that you have been programmed as child to think and feel (or not feel) a certain way?
Media, culture, family, and friends all influence your programming. This translates to the inner critic inside your head telling you that you aren’t worthy enough or that you aren’t capable of success. These are your shadows && the truth is, no one escapes childhood without them.
We all have a dark side and a light side. Some people’s shadows are darker than others, but the truth is, we need both darkness and light. The problem is we are constantly suppressing the way that we think and feel because we have been conditioned to do so for most of our lives. Our shadows reflect our deepest wounds. && It is our shadows hold the most light.
Break free of the ties that other people hold on you. Imagine what it would be like to think and feel for yourself. To let go of the emotional and energetic connections you hold on to. Whether it be relationships, past hurts, trauma…the list goes on and on. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy to reveal your shadows after all these years BUT with the tool below you can begin to scratch the surface.
Fill in the blanks. Answer the questions with simple words or phrases and spontaneously. If your thinking about a question too much then move on to the next question and come back to it. Your first instinct is usually right so listen to your inner coach and trust where you feel guided. Initially this exercise should take you no longer than 3-4 minutes.
When finished, think about the questions you had the most difficulty answering. These are where your darkest shadows lie. Leave the questions and come back to them a day or two later. Dig deeper in to the words and phrases that you chose initially. What did you really mean by them? Go deeper and deeper. The more open and willing you are to explore your shadows the more apt you are to bring them to light. Happy Hunting.
The thing about me that I feel most aversion to is ________
The emotion that I have most difficulty expressing in a relationship is _________
The emotion I have the most difficulty expressing is _______
In dreams where I am trying to escape or being pursued I am running from _______
I have the most difficult time admitting that I am ___________
What I don’t want others to know about me is _________
What I have most difficulty admitting to in a relationship is ____________
This might be the one time that I encourage you to be selfish-with yourself, your kids, your spouse, mom and dad, your dog, you name it. Give yourself permission to be selfish in the sense that you take care of you and your needs first. I’m talking about diet, exercise, sleep, hygiene-yep you guessed it, self-care.
Your diet/self-care isn’t just what you eat its who and how you surround yourself; what your looking at online/social media, sleep hygiene, exercise, etc. How does it serve you, your mental health and well being to give into your instagram feed for hours on end, or to eat that gooey mac n’ cheese’ because you’re ‘lonely’ or your friend ‘wanted’ you to.
Whether you are working on personal boundaries with yourself, co-workers, family, friends, DON’T give into something/someone because it’s convenient or because you feel bad saying “no”. Ask yourself what you and your body really wants and needs before saying yes instantaneously. The more you listen to that whisper in your head the louder it’ll become.
Next time you are faced with a opportunity to test your boundaries try using the phrases, below as they are alternatives for saying “No” to something/someone that doesn’t serve you.
“Let me think about that”
“I’ll get back to you”
“I’ll check my schedule”
“You know that’s not necessarily something I want to put my energy in to right now”
“No thank you”
“Maybe next time”
Are you experiencing rapid heart rate, tight chest, difficulty breathing? Are you over thinking? Having a hard time slowing yourself down? If you are experiencing any symptoms of Anxiety and stress, take this is as sign that you aren't listening to your body! Put simply, when you are experiencing increased anxiety, you legitimately have an excess amount of carbon dioxide in the brain. This is why the power of breathe and complementary health care techniques (i.e. meditation, yoga, dialectical behavioral therapy) are so powerful in managing anxiety and stress! Often I find that as humans we overlook the power of the mind-body connection and underestimate what we are truly capable of. My hope is that this blog post will encourage you to take your power back, in just three simple steps you can feel more confident in decreasing your anxiety, stress, while improving our mood.
1. Breathe - Whether its yoga, a guided meditation, take a time out and just breathe-even if its just for five minutes! Purposeful breathe assists with improving cortisol levels (directly related to stress) as well as the central nervous system, enhancing the mind-body connection.
2. Step into nature - go for a walk, take a hike, smell the flowers, lay on the pavement, walk in the grass. The point here is to ground yourself (literally), doing so will assist you with connecting back to Earths center; improving homeostasis as well as mental clarity.
3. Practice Gratitude - Just by practicing gratitude you are actuality reprogramming your thought processes as well as your emotions and reactions to extraneous stimuli on a neurological level. When you take a minute to reflect on what you have it becomes sacred. Overtime, with the practice of gratitude all of what you wanted fades into the background. You are blessed, you are clothed, you are housed, you are loved. I invite you to implement a simple mantra and/or prayer into your routine daily for best results.
Most people wait a long time before they seek out counseling. You are a self-sufficient person, you do your best to use your coping skills. You talk to friends. You try to exercise, maybe yoga. And it is only when everything you can think of doesn't work that you reach out to see if therapy or counseling might help.
So How do you find a therapist in Boston, MA?
You go to Google or perhaps Psychology Today, my go to referral source for individual and group treatment. You can filter by location, insurance, and/or price of therapy. You can even search by approach and practice. If you’re still stuck, you can always contact your insurance carrier for therapist in your local area. Happy hunting =P
When I first started my private practice and began to build this website I told myself I would commit to blogging once a week, NO excuses. Ha! That lasted about a month or so before I ‘fell off’. In this case, ‘falling off’ for me meant enjoying my summer; traveling, spending time at the beach, with family and with friends. I made statements like “I’ll get to the later”, “I’ll do it tomorrow”, “One less week of blogging can’t hurt, right?” Well, days of not blogging turned into weeks of not blogging in this case.
Am I losing ambition? Do I really have what it takes to be a business owner? How is it that I can vicariously heal my clients with anxiety, depression, trauma, relationships, etc. when I am still battling with my own demons? It’s so incredbly easy to get lost in the spur of the moment yet as soon as a days worth of fun is over, you are alone again, in your head and in your thoughts. When this happens, you can just as easily get caught up in beating yourself up (mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually) for not keeping your promises (or mine in this case).
Here’s the thing, I am only human. People have this misconception that therapists’ aren’t real people. I am not a robot. I am the complete opposite. I plunge myself into the depths of emotion. I have compassion and dignitiy. I have my faults and my setbacks but I keep going. Regardless of how often I “fall off” I always always always make it a point to get back to the process-the evolving process of life.
So next time you are feeling like you can’t get out of bed and get through the day ahead to manage your kids, relationships, mental health, WHATEVER the case may be-REMEMBER that it’s a process. Remember that you will have another opportunity for growth and success. Most importantly, remember to laugh because you know it’s not going to be the only day that you’re going to feel like giving up. Smile because you didn’t give up anyway.
Keep going. Get back to the process. When the going gets tough again (because it will) keep going. The only way out is through.
Fondly, dearly, sincerely,
I find Gratitude to be an elusive, blanket term used to remind us of all of the people, places, and things that we are thankful for, and/or lacking appreciation in. As a therapist, I find that the majority of people practice gratitude via prayer, journaling, making lists, and/or taking inventory of one's actions, thoughts, and behaviors in everyday life. While the former list may work for most, I've found that for me, best practice comes with cultivating the use of my own breathe. By using my breathe, I am able to tune my awareness inward, doing so helps to ground and center my mind-body-spirit; allowing the purest expression of gratitude to filter into the present moment. Now, the practice of gratitude isn't just good for our egos-it has been empirically proven to rewire our thinking on a neurological level, decreasing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Bottom line-do what works for you and keep doing it. Fullest expression.
Incorporating mindfulness into your daily life 'should' be easy, right? It's a simple concept BUT---when you are dealing with the in's and outs of your fast paced, day to day life you get distracted, preoccupied, and inevitably, 'mindfulness' is now at the bottom of your 'to-do' list.
Here's the thing, when we are mindful, we are present and when we are present we are inadvertently engaging in self-care using our senses alone. When we tune into the present moment using our senses we are able to slow down our bodies "fight or flight" response by relaxing the mind. Easier said than done, right?
A few tips to become more mindful include but are not limited to: take long body stretch, epsom salt-bath, tune into your breathe, engage in one task at a time (avoid multitasking); use your senses to feel, touch, smell, taste, and visualize a sense of oneness.
The more you practice mindfulness the more it will become like clock work-pretty soon you won't even have to think about it!
2. Morning time
I remember discussing an article in English class as an undergrad on Walden; Walden introduced me to the simplistic notion of 'morning time' as well as the reciprocity of 'nature' and it's positive correlation to mental health. Because of Walden, I set time aside each and every morning, immediately upon waking to spend time with myself. Whether I journal, meditate, go for a walk, sip coffee on the veranda (aka my porch LOL)...I carve out time for me-even if its just five minutes!! Doing so provides me with clarity, focus, and balance-plus morning time increases the likelihood of engaging in more self-care throughout the day ;)
3. Pencil it in!!
Whatever yourself care is, PENCIL IT IN. Write down what day and time your going to attend your favorite spin class or when your going to read the latest new fiction novel at Barnes and Noble. Write down where your going to take 5 minutes to meditate, practice yoga, and get your nails done. Write down when your going to take lunch. In your phone, on your work calendar; you get the picture. Not 'penciling' in daily self-care indicates that you are most likely not engaging in any self-care. Planning ahead is key.
4. Self-care Sundays
I make sure to schedule my self-care activities on Sundays'. Whether it be reading, writing, yoga, or meditation... I make it a point to give myself a little extra love and care on Sundays. Whether that be scheduling a massage, pedicure, epsom bath, throwing on a movie, and/or eating my favorite meal with a friend. Remember, you work hard all week - (Self-care) Sundays' are meant to reward you for that (as well as to prepare you for the week ahead-DOUBLE Whammy)!.
You know that self-care is important, right? Self-care is mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually healing. Self-care reminds us to slow down, embrace our presence, and restore balance. Self-care can take as long (or as short) as it takes you to brush your teeth. Commit.
"We are never so vulnerable as when we love"-Sigmund Freud
This quote is so applicable, as it sums up exactly what I love about my job-the imperfect art of vulnerability. I so appreciate the rawness of vulnerability that is unveiled in the therapeutic setting. I am truly humbled and privileged to be able to witness other humans working through their fears and resistance in order to create a positive change in their lives. People often mistake vulnerability for weakness when in actuality, facing yourself and 'showing up' to treatment is the most noble and courageous thing that you can do. Freud said it best "Out of vulnerability will come strength". Cheers, to being brave and vulnerable.
So you've identified a therapist, you are ready to take a leap of faith as you begin the imperfect art of counseling. Starting therapy for the first time can be a daunting and overwhelming experience; to be honest and open with yourself, let alone another individual can be super scary and anxiety inducing. On the same token, facing oneself in the therapy room is the most noble thing a person can do. Recall you already took the first step, applaud yourself for that-you're on your way to healing.
I would encourage you to write in your journal, make a list of priorities. Ask yourself, what's been troubling your mind? What takes up the most space in your head? What voice pops into your head time and time again? Are you listening?
Think about what you want to get out of therapy. What will your life look like when you no longer need therapy? What type of therapist (gender, sex, age, culture/ethnic group) suits your needs? Does it matter? Do a little research. Familiarize yourself with your insurance plan (co-pay, authorizations, etc.). No insurance? Consider asking your therapist if he or she takes a sliding scale to make therapy for affordable.
Inquire as to whether he or she has speciality. Ask your therapist if he or she has worked with clients struggling with the same challenges as you do. Most importantly, ask your therapist how he or she will be able to help you with your individual needs. Naturally, you want to be comfortable with your therapist, but more importantly - you want to be comfortable with the kind of care he or she will be providing for you- THAT will make all of the difference.
So ideally, prior to your first session, you've completed your intake form, discussed scheduling, prices and the unexpected (expected) cancellation fee's with your therapist, right? Next, you are preparing yourself for your very first session. I imagine that you are somewhat nervous. In fact, my anxiety level would go up if you were to tell me that you did not experience nerves prior to your first session. Maybe a series of thoughts and questions begin to flood your brain: am I doing the right thing? Should I back out? Do I really NEED therapy? If this is the case, I invite you to remind yourself of all the reasons that you wanted to initiate therapy in the first place. Remind yourself that just because you (and everyone else around you) would benefit from therapy doesn't mean that you are inept or incapable of meeting your own needs. The truth is, who wouldn't benefit from a sounding board, a listening ear, and a little guidance from a professional? The thing is, when we are 'in it' (trying to solve a problem in our head), collectively, we have a difficult time teasing out what is best for our greatest good. That's where the objective and unbiased therapist steps in.
Every therapist facilities the initial counseling session a little differently. One thing is for certain though, any legitimate therapist will expectedly review limitations of confidentiality and informed consent. Similarly, any competent therapist will review treatment goals and objectives. Once the formalities are completed, the client typically has the floor to address primary concerns and areas of clinical distress. Depending on your chosen's therapist style, he or she will guide you accordingly. For example, some therapists' might dive into scientifically studied techniques to assist the client in managing anxiety, depression, etc. Other therapists' might take a client centered approach, allowing the client to have full reins throughout treatment. What I'm getting at is, no two therapists are the same. Therefore, the expectations of the initial counseling session look different as they vary from clinician to clinician.
At this point, it is important to remind you that you chose the therapist you did for a reason. Whatever the case may be: age, sex, cultural background, education, stylistic approach, etc. Trust your gut on the therapist that you chose. If you steered yourself wrong, you'll know because you won't feel better after therapy. If this is the case you can always change therapists. In fact, I encourage you to change therapist if your not feeling better after the third or fourth session.
In conclusion, I invite you to expect the unexpected in your first counseling session. Allow yourself to be open and trust the therapeutic process.
What is therapy? Is therapy different from counseling or life coaching? What do the four letters signify behind a therapist name? What are the different types of therapy? What is the difference between seeing a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist? What is the therapeutic process?
If you're asking yourself these questions your in the right place. The truth is, therapy comes in all shapes and sizes. There are no two therapists of the same background, experience, culture, or beliefs. Therapy isn't infinite! Treatment goals exist for a reason. People often fear that once they are in therapy they are committed for eternity. You want to get better right? The relationship between you and your therapist is collaborate and integrative. Trust your instincts. You will know therapy is right for you because you will feel a rapport with your therapist. If you don't feel better after a therapy session, STOP GOING. It's okay to shop around for the therapist that suits you and your needs.