When going home hurts

Stress Management

The holiday season is in full swing.

In the United States, Thanksgiving through the New Year is a magical time of year for family, love, friends, and celebrating life. Hanukkah started last night and Christmas is tomorrow. Everywhere I look, I see holiday lights, candy canes, Santas, and other festive decorations.

For those of us who were raised in abusive or neglectful homes, this time of year can be very stressful and confusing. We feel nostalgic for a childhood we never had (but saw in all of those Christmas movies). We have a hope that this year will be different. This phone call home will go smoothly. This time so and so will be nice to us.

To make it more confusing, many people who were raised in abusive homes would not identify themselves as survivors of abuse. This is mainly because there are different types of abuse.

Physical abuse includes:

  • punching, shaking, kicking, pinching, hair pulling and many other terrible examples.

Sexual abuse includes:

  • unwanted touching anywhere that is typically covered by a swim suit or underwear. Sexual abuse also includes being forced to watch others engage in sexual acts against our will.

Emotional abuse is:

  • when people try to break our spirits by calling us names like “stupid”, “worthless”, a “mistake”, “fatty”, and even worse. Emotional abuse leads to feelings of shame, guilt, depression, anxiety, and anger. Emotional abuse is often not recognized as often as it should.

Physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse can all cause life-long problems, but especially when they are inflicted on us by the very people who are supposed to love us and keep us safe. Some of us continue to live and interact with our families on a regular basis and some of us have to make the decision each year whether or not we want to go home for the holidays.

Part of us really wants to go home. Part of us wants that love and validation that we have never been given. The other part of us already knows it will, in all likelihood, not happen that way yet we go home anyway, out of duty. Because during the holidays, that’s what you do, the holidays are all about family after all.

How do I fix myself?

I recommend developing coping skills first and foremost. You cannot dig into all of the deep pain of a broken childhood without having coping skills already in place. A mental health professional can help you learn, practice, and use these skills correctly.

Coping skills include (but are not limited to):

  • Yoga
  • Using music effectively
  • Exercise
  • Hiking
  • Reading particular books
  • Meditation
  • Learning to use and guide your thoughts and imagination
  • Guided Imagery
  • Support groups

 

 

Farewell to 2016: A time for introspection

self esteem

Ahhh, It’s the winter solstice; the longest night of the year. Traditionally, this time of year is associated with introspection and rebirth.

As 2016 comes to a close, let’s look back at how we grew throughout the past year.

What did 2016 represent to you on your path?

Was it a struggle? Maybe yours was uplifting and encouraging.

What did you learn about yourself in 2016?

Maybe you realized you’re an empath. Maybe you finally realized and accepted that you’re a little selfish.

What do you need to forgive yourself for?

These could be things you did directly or things you allowed to happen through silence.

When did you feel most alive this past year?

What were you doing? Who were you with? What was sacred about it?

What are you passionate about?

Animal rights? Childhood obesity? Literacy? Social justice? Human rights? Women’s rights? Homelessness? Veteran’s Affairs? The arts? The elderly? LGBT causes? (I could literally go on forever with examples).

What are you doing to pursue your passion?

Maybe you can find a way to make it your career, find an organization already working in that area to volunteer with or to donate money (no use re-inventing the wheel if you don’t have to). Or maybe it’s a regular hobby. You could also write big posts trying to educate others and spread your passion.

Are you happy with where you are in life right now?

What parts of your life are going well? (GREAT! Do more of that!) What could be improved? Time management? Better diet? Increased physical activity? Do you have the right amount and the right types of friends? How is your job? How is your sleep? How is your sex life?

Who and what are weighing you down that you need to get rid of AND how will you do it?

Are there toxic people who make you feel lonely or shitty? How does your boss make you feel? Are you spending too much money?

What self care actions can you practice on a daily basis in 2016?

Being more social? Being less social? Getting more sleep? Massage? Yoga? Meditation? Therapy? Eating better? Swimming? Bubble baths? Pleasure reading?

What do you want to let go of in 2016?

Self doubt, fear, self criticism, shame?

To what do you want to dedicate 2017?

Independence, artistic pursuits, self acceptance?

And finally, what is your plan for achieving your 2017 goals?

If you are at a loss for how transform your life and your relationships, I can help and this is a perfect time of year for this project. Call or text me.

Is life passing you by?

Stress Management

Here are 4 amazing and simple tips to increase your gratitude and create a life you love:

(Because if you are anything like me, you might wonder where the heck your year went, what you did and where you went)

Make a memory box

Buy some nice stationary and some pretty ribbons and write or draw positive events that happen. Store them in a special box, then, review them next New Year’s Eve. It could be a lovely tradition for yourself or for your family. Once a week (or once a month) create time and a space for yourself to add to your box. 

You can take time to decorate your box and really make it special. You could also include ticket stubs, photos, or trinkets from outings.

*Pro-tip: you can also pull them out and look at them any time you are feeling depressed, discouraged, or need a pick-me-up.

Become a photojournalist

Take one photo a day every day for the whole year to document your life experiences.

You can collect these photos in Instagram, Snapchat, or a special photo album on your tablet. Set a reminder in your phone to remind you if you need help remembering. This project will also help you look for the positive things in your life throughout the day as you decide which one photograph you are going to take for that day.

At the end of the year you will have 365 photographs that sum up the good in your life.

*Pro-tip: at the end of the year, load the photos on to Shutterfly (or some other similar website)  and create a keepsake photo book to printed and mailed to you.

Keep a diary

Jot down one positive thing that happens to you each day in a journal. It can be a beautiful paper journal you purchase just for this project, or you could use Evernote (or any similar app). You could write about anything that you consider a positive thing. An amazing book you read, a new outfit, dinner with someone special, a particularly good film you saw, a vacation, a promotion at work, etc. Again, set a reminder in your phone if you need help remembering at first.

*Pro-tip: Review your year. What were the highlights? Times with friends? Times of growth? Times of solitude? Use those insights to create more experiences you will love in the upcoming year.

Create your vision board or bucket list.

Make a list of things you really want to do or have in your life. But, here’s the catch, you have to actually work on doing or getting them. This isn’t about documenting your dreams, it is about turning your dreams into goals. Actively develop a plan for how AND when you will achieve these things on your list.

Include big things like a specific car you have always wanted, getting a specific degree you would like, or a trip to another country. Also include smaller things that you have always wanted as well. Maybe a nearby city you have always wanted to visit, or a day trip to a local winery, a specific restaurant you want to try, stargazing on a new moon, starting that yoga class.

*Pro-tip: you can make these tips circular by using your vision board or bucket list to create opportunities for amazing photo or journal entries and then using your diary to help define what goes on your bucket list. 

3 Reasons your resolutions fail

self esteem

It is New Year resolution time again.

That magical time of year when we are so hopeful because it is a new day, a new week, a new month, and a new year all at the same time!

We really want to make changes in our lives and yet it is so hard. I want my life to change and yet, change is hard work.

There are 3 major reasons why gyms are packed in January but not in March.

1. We make goals for things that we do not even want to do in the first place. I mean, let’s face it…if we wanted to do these things…we would.

  • Lose weight

  • Exercise more

  • Get out of debt

  • Quit smoking

  • Spend more time with family

2. We make the goal too big with no smaller steps built in to help us see our progress. This is the primary reason we get overwhelmed and quit. Instead of developing a plan to lose 2-3 pounds a week, we say we want to lose 50 pounds and throw all of our food away except the lettuce.

3. We do not reward ourselves with little treats along the way to keep ourselves motivated.

For example, maybe you purchase that book you have been wanting when you lose your first 5 pounds.

Before you set your goal for the new year…ask yourself these 3 questions:

1. How important is the end result to you?

2. Do you actually believe in your ability to achieve your goal?

3. Do you have an accountability partner?

If the end result is not that important to you, it will be hard to stay on track. Then, when you fail not only did you not reach your goal, but you add guilt and a feeling of resignation to something you did not even want to do. Yet, people make these goals every January.

And, this probably goes without saying, but if you do not believe the goal is within your ability to grasp then you are not going to try very hard and you will not be surprised when you fail. Then you can tell your partner, your family, or your friends: “See. I told you I couldn’t do it”.

Lastly, research shows that we are better able to stick to our goals if we have made a promise to someone or have a person who is aware of our goal and is checking in with you on your progress. This person could even be the keeper of the rewards

Once you decide that you really want the end result more than you want what you have now, you believe you can actually do it, and have an idea of someone who make a good accountability partner it is finally time to make goals or resolutions that you can achieve.

How to develop SMART goals:

The goals are:

S specific

M measurable

A achievable

R realistic

T time-sensitive

So the, “I want to lose 50 pounds” goal becomes: “I will lose 2-3 pounds per week by July 1st.”

Other examples include:

  • I will put $5 in a savings account (or a cookie jar) every Friday for 3 months.

  • I will walk on the treadmill for 45 minutes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the next month.

  • I will limit myself to one chocolate bar (or one sugary drink) per week for the next month.

By setting smaller, time-sensitive goals it gives you a feeling of accomplishment when you complete the goal and it helps you develop your ability to believe in yourself. As you develop your belief in your own abilities, you are more likely to make goals in the future and actually stick with them to completion.

Also, be careful not to take on too many goals at once. Radical change usually does not lead to lasting success. Just pick one goal at a time.

When you have completed your goal, you can decide whether to set a different goal or begin the completed one again. For example, you could continue going to the gym for another month, or you could turn your attention to another goal which is important to you.