A Therapist's Guide to the Holidays

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A Therapist's Guide to the Holidays

So many of my clients find the holidays to be an extra difficult time of year. Holidays have a tendency to stir the pot of family issues, emotional pain, and insecurities. Yet, in a world filled with social media and comparison, everyone else seems to be alright... only adding to the pain of feeling sub-par. 

But I have news for you, just because everyone else's situation "looks" picture perfect, does not mean that their lives really are. The truth of the matter is that everyone has "stuff." The extremity of their stuff may vary, but it is important to recognize that you are not alone in how you are experiencing the world. 

So often the struggle to face feelings head on is one of the root issues. So instead of beating around the bush, let's go straight to the source. 

1. Allow yourself to feel. Feel all the feelings. The positive ones, the negative ones, the in between. Feel them. Honor them and don't try to change them.

2. Let go of judgement. Quiet that inner critique and be gentle to yourself. You do not have to make sense of every feeling, but try not to criticize it so harshly either. 

3. Accept your feelings. And by this I mean radically accept. Let go of trying to fight it. Instead, allow it, welcome it even. Treat yourself as you would treat a child or a close friend. With loving acceptance. 

4. Honor boundaries. This may mean something different depending on the relationship. It may vary from person to person. But set limits and boundaries that feel safe and comfortable to you and honor them. Keep them clear and defined and permit yourself to need them. 

5. Validate yourself. So often we seek validation from others who are not able to validate us the way that we need or deserve. Become your own best validator. Allow yourself to be seen and heard by yourself. Make space for the belief that you matter. 

6. Focus on gratitude. Honor what you do have. Give space for being grateful. Make a list of the positives in your life and be thankful for them. 

And last but not least...

7. Stop comparing yourself to others. Let go of the comparisons. Don't try to be something or someone your not. Remember that everyone has something going on that is hard for them, whether you can see it through the lens they share with the world or not. So be gentle to others and to yourself. Allow yourself to just be this holiday season. 

Happy Holidays! Remember, happiness is a CHOICE :) 

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Three Ingredients of Marriage

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Three Ingredients of Marriage

This past weekend my brother and his beautiful wife vowed to commit to one another in marriage. In sitting down to write my speech for their wedding, so many different feelings came up for me about marriage. I have learned so much from my own marriage as well as from the relationships of those around me. When looking at my brother and his new wife, I see that look of hope in their eyes. The promise of love. It is beautiful. 

As a therapist, I see the many different sides of marriage. I see the good stuff, the exciting stuff, the joyful stuff. But I also see the worst of it. The pain of it. The fear of it. The end of it. 

Though many would say I am still pretty young myself, I have quite a lot to say on the subject of marriage. But if I break it down into some of the highlights, the focus is clear. Marriage takes work. It takes both people being willing to work at it 100% of the time. It takes each partner giving to the other more so than to themselves. Putting the other person first. Being selfless. Being gentle. Being patient. While it takes many different things to make a marriage work, I believe that there are three key ingredients. 

These three key ingredients are:

  1. Mutual Respect - In a healthy marriage there is mutual respect between both parties. It is crucial that you see your partner as your equal. That you treat them with the utmost respect. Of all of the people in this great big world, you chose each other. There is something to be said for that. Honor that. And if and when you lose sight of the reasons why you stay married in the first place, remember the value of mutual respect. You don't have to like each other all the time, but make an effort to always respect each other, even during the fights. Because how you treat each other when the going gets rough is a true testament to the respect that you have for one another. 
  2. Understanding - In a healthy marriage there is understanding between spouses. There is willingness to see the other person's side. To step into their shoes and explore life from their perspective. To give them the benefit of the doubt and trust that they are trying their best, even when their best is not what you see. There is an effort to support each other unconditionally, and to be understanding and supportive when the other is struggling. There is an effort to bring each other up, rather than squash each other down. There is love, patience, and empathy. But above all, there is understanding. 
  3. Family Unit - In a healthy marriage you become your own family unit. You loosen the ties a bit between yourself and your biological family and secure yourself into a new family dynamic. That of you and your spouse. You put each other first 100% of the time. You both win that way. It becomes the two of you against the world. And no matter how many times the world knocks you down, you have each other. You have your family. You are a team. 

While I am aware that to many this may seem idealistic and romantic, there is truth to these words. And no matter how far away from these ideals you may have become, it is always possible to get back to this place if both people in the partnership are willing to put in the work. No one said marriage was easy, but in my opinion, it is definitely worth it. 

 

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The Power Of Mantra

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The Power Of Mantra

Where we place our energy has a tremendous link to the outcomes in our life. Yes, there are bad things that happen to good people and there are things that happen in life that just don't seem to make sense. But at the end of the day, we hold so much more power than we often realize. That power lies in our minds. It is founded in our intention. It can be directed through mantra.

A mantra is a statement or slogan repeated to aide concentration in meditation. It can help to empower you. To keep you connected to something greater. To offer you support when life feels uncomfortable.

The beauty of mantra is that it can be anything you want. Anything that fits for you. And it can evolve based on what is present for you at any given time. But choose wisely, because where we focus our mind our lives will often follow. So choose something hopeful, something positive, something real to you.

I like to change my mantras up depending on the situation. One mantra that I use regularly as a therapist is "It is there stuff, not mine." This helps me to clear the energy and be best able to help my clients by letting go of feelings that do not suit the therapy process. It allows me to be clear enough for them to work through their stuff without it being colored by any of mine. This is a gift to my clients and also a self care necessity for me.

Here is a guide to creating your own personal daily mantra:

1. What are your goals for the day?

2. What do you need to focus on in order to achieve these goals?

3. How must you feel about yourself in order for these goals to be achieved? 

4. Combine the answers to these 3 questions into a short sentence or two.

5. Keep your mantra positive. For example, if you say, "I don't want to get sick today" you are focusing on being sick (negative). In comparison you can say, "Today I am healthy." 

What will your mantra be for today? 

Until next time,

Namaste

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Do you want to be a better parent, spouse, employee?

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Do you want to be a better parent, spouse, employee?

Between my therapy practice and my day to day life, I hear so often how common it is to strive to be better. To be a better mom, dad, sibling, student, teacher, employee, spouse, etc. We live in a world of comparison, where we are constantly exposed to snapshots into the lives of others, often making us feel less than sufficient at our own roles in our lives. 

Despite how things appear via social media, most people do not have it all together, no matter how blissful they may seem. Yes there are beautiful moments, but there are also less than perfect blunders along the way. We never really know what goes on behind closed doors, yet we constantly compare ourselves to others and decide that they are doing life better than we are. 

With that being said, lets take a dive even deeper into this search for life improvement. Because if you really want to be a better parent, spouse, or employee, you must first be a better you. And that means taking care of yourself on a regular basis.

As cliche as it is, the airplane analogy seems to really hit home for my clients when we explore this idea together. At the beginning of every flight, they tell us that in case of an emergency it is crucial that you put the oxygen mask on yourself first, before helping those around you. While the parents in the bunch often roll their eyes and know in their hearts that they would always help their children before themselves, the key here is not to be missed. Because as much as a decision like that is made with only the best of intentions, if you pass out before you can get to your loved one to help them it defeats the purpose. 

In order to be better to your loved ones you must first be better to yourself. Self-care and self-love fill up your cup so that you have something to give. If you are constantly emptying your cup for others, you will have nothing left for them without a period of refreshing and refilling. So what can you do to fill up your cup? 

1. Schedule time for you. This will look different for everyone. For some it may mean taking a mini cat nap while for others it may mean a day off of work. Do something you enjoy even for 5 minutes at a time. Regardless of what that looks like for you, make the time for yourself. 

2. See a therapist regularly. I have to admit that as a therapist I am a bit biased as to the value of therapy. But in all honesty, it is one of the only, if not the only place where you have skilled support directly focused on you and you alone. Therapy is a sacred place where you matter and can receive unconditional, objective support. 

3. Have a daily check-in. Ask yourself every night before you go to sleep how you are feeling about the day you just had. Ask yourself... What are the things I am most happy about right now? What are my struggles? How can I be better to myself tomorrow? What kind of support do I need?  

4. Ask for help when you need it. This is a tough one for many people. We as a society have become so focused on the idea of "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps." While there is something to be said for that mentality, it is human nature to be driven by social support. Work through your feelings about asking for help and realize that you are stronger for it. 

5. Allow yourself to feel without judgement. So often we stuff our feelings down because we are taught to only present our best selves to the world around us. When in reality, the more we sweep our emotions under the rug, the more power they have over us. Give yourself permission to feel. Let go of the judgement and embrace the emotions. They will pass sooner if you allow them to flow. 

Which one resonates most with you for today? Take time to pick at least one of the above suggestions and put it into action. Your loved ones will thank you. 

Until next time, 

Namaste

 

 

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The Stories We Tell Ourselves

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Have you ever noticed how much of your life is made up in your head? How we attach meaning to experiences, tell ourselves stories, and make sense of our life through our own biased lenses? While some of us have quite the romantic story reel, others have toxic tales of hurt and abandon.

Often times it is harder to see our lives for what they are, in an objective manner, because we are too involved in the story. A helpful tool to get you out of this subjective analysis and into a more objective thinking pattern is to imagine your life in a petri dish or in a story book. What do you see? What if you changed the plot?

While the truth of the matter is that we can not go back in time and change our experiences or actions, we can change their meaning to us presently and in turn, affect the outcome in the future. So what does this mean for you? You are more in control than you think!

I encourage you to take some time and answer these questions as a jumping off point to recreating your story:

  1. If you were to look at your life in a Cliff’s Notes version, what would the summary be?
  2. Do you like the story line or would you rather change it?
  3. What role do you play? Are you the hero? Or the villain? Maybe the victim is more in line with your character?
  4. Who are the other key characters in your story?
  5. What would it look like if you change the story from this point forward?

Use this exercise any time you are feeling stuck in your life or noticing that your past is repeating itself. Because rather than remaining passive in our story, we can rise up, change the meaning, and choose to attach to a different story line.