Design a life you are crazy about

Stress Management

Today is National Stress Awareness Day.

I am sure there will be a lot of tips on breathing, eating healthy, and mindfulness (all of which are good) BUT, I would just like to remind you to also think in the macro…

Life is what we make it.

It can be relaxing,

It can be adventurous,

It can be stressful,

It takes a little bit of effort, but our life can be whatever we decide to make it.

Step One

Figure out exactly what kinds of things make you happy.

Maybe it is music.

Maybe it is travel.

Maybe it is animals.

Maybe it is the beach.

Again, this list could be endless.

Step Two

Figure out the specific things in life that cause you anger, anxiety, or depression and work to limit these factors in your life as much as is possible. We will never be able to avoid everything in life which causes us stress, but we can actively reduce these stressors.

Maybe there are specific people in our lives which cause us to feel angry or unloved. We can work to limit the amount of time we allow them into our lives or remove them all together.

Maybe it is our job that requires changing.

If bills freak you out, maybe you schedule one or two days a month specifically for opening mail and paying debt followed by something relaxing.

Step Three

Schedule things which bring you joy, peace, or excitement  into your weekly calendar or to-do list just like any other chore or activity. Consider these activities promises to yourself and honor them as you honor promises you make to others.

It can be really helpful to space these activities throughout your week either as little rewards or as ongoing stress reducers. For example, a tentative schedule could look like this:

 Sun

 Mon

Tues

 Wed

 Thurs

 Fri

 Sat

Hike

Pay Bills

Sauna

Read a Book

Yoga

Dinner out

Beach

Play Golf

 Gym

 Manicure

 Bubble Bath

 Tai Chi

 Live Music

 Road Trip

 Try Meetup .com

 Pay Bills

Try new recipe

Draw or Paint

 Get Massage

 Plan Vacation

 Bike Ride

 See Movie

Create New Playlist

 Volunteer

Netflix binge

Clean your car

 Laundry

Call Parents

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Could you or should you?

Stress Management

Choice and judgement go hand in hand

I woke up with a memory from my past life this morning. I was still in a very strict evangelical religion and we were doing an icebreaker at the beginning of a small group study. The icebreaker that particular night was, “If you could be any crayon in the box, which one would you be?”.

 

I said that I would be the crayon that has different colors in one crayon. This was actually a pretty telling answer for me because I have always felt like I don’t really belong to any one group of people. I have always had trouble fitting in and I was trying to express that I have a loud side and a creative side and a thoughtful side etc.

51haoeuxyll

The pastor’s wife got very irritated with me and said I was cheating. Cheating. Because my answer didn’t fit into the one-color crayon idea she had in her head, I was cheating. She said I was wrong, I was cheating, and I had to pick another crayon.

I find that we do that to one another in life all the time. People do not have ideas or opinions we have so we think they are wrong or bad or broken. And, most of the time, we do not even realize we are doing it. We use words like “should” “must” or “have to” to express our ideas or preferences as if they are fact or as if there is only one way to do something.

So, what do we do?

Well, knowing we all do it and that we are not intentionally trying to be jerks (most of the time) helps. But, it is not enough.

While I believe in and encourage non-violent language and “verbal judo”, I’m not usually one who advocates for trigger-warnings or safe-spaces because, let’s face it, we all have to adapt and get by in the real world.

What I mean is that while it is nice to be aware of our own language and how we speak to each other, we cannot “police” the language of other people, so the work is best done on ourselves.

I work with people who want to learn improved communication skills. I help people learn the difference between “coulds” and “shoulds” in order to be better life partners, better co-workers, and better parents. I help clients see their world from other points of view and help them to learn the difference between their musts and their possibilities.

I also work with highly sensitive people and empaths who want to improve their stress management skills. Clients learn to have better boundaries and how to not take the ideas and opinions of others as facts and criticisms.

Learning to agree to disagree in a world that is constantly trying to put us in black and white boxes is a skill we all benefit from having.

Come to think of it, maybe a better answer to my crayon icebreaker should have been white, since the color white is in fact all colors of the rainbow in one.

darkroom-color-2

Reconnecting with the world around you

Stress Management

Mindfulness

One of the ways that we reconnect with the world around us is through Mindfulness. Simply put, mindfulness is staying present and in the moment without:

  • fantasizing or daydreaming to escape your life

  • blocking upsetting thoughts / feelings with constant music or tv

  • numbing your thoughts and feelings with drugs, alcohol, or self injury

Mindfulness is being in the moment. Feeling what you feel, seeing what you see, hearing what you hear, smelling what you smell, and tasting what you taste. It is experiencing your life using all senses available to you.


As I sit here I can hear birds, airplanes, wind chimes, an occasional car, a dog barking in the distance, and the clicking on my keyboard.

I feel cool air,  an occasional breeze from the open window, the firmness of my chair, the feel of my clothing against my skin.

I smell my coffee, incense

I see my computer screen, my dogs, a hummingbird, some bees, flowers, a tree, a roaming kitten

I taste my coffee, some chocolate, gum.


Ways to reconnect with the world around you:

  • play with a child
  • carve a pumpkin
  • turn off the tv
  • dance
  • draw
  • teach tricks to an animal
  • garden without a radio or iPod
  • practice carpentry
  • play with the pets
  • paint
  • put down your phone
  • turn off your electronics for an hour
  • wash dishes by hand
  • eat gobstoppers
  • Go on a walk without your phone
  • touch your food, feel the lettuce
  • walk barefoot
  • float in a pool of water and notice how the water feels on you
  • take a sculpting class
  • go stargazing
  • watch an eclipse
  • meditate outside in nature
  • make biscuits from scratch with your bare hands
  • find an outdoor yoga class

The trouble with defining trauma

trauma

When you think of the word “trauma” what do you think of?

Is it a really terrible experience that changes someone’s perception of reality?

Is it an event that exceeds a person’s ability to cope?

Perhaps it is a life-threatening or ego-threatening event

Or, is it not being able to move through a bad incident from the past?

All of the above are certainly pieces to what is a trauma. The one thing to keep in mind is that the word trauma is a noun…it is a thing… and in the original Greek, the word trauma means wound.

Emotional traumas come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

Some wounds are not very deep and do not require a long healing process.  Maybe you had a pretty good home life growing up, but you struggle with minor life challenges.

For others, maybe they did not have such a great home life. Emotional or verbal abuse at the time may not seem like much to some people, but when you experience it every day for your entire childhood… it is a traumatic wounding that does not go away quickly, or on its own. If the wound is continuously poked with insensitive or hurtful comments, the wounds will worsen.

The problem with some chronic family conditions is that someone may not know until much later that their family conditions were not the norm and in the mean time, other symptoms will appear. For example, a child who grows up hearing that he or she is lazy over and over may develop issues with substance abuse.

A child who is constantly referred to as stupid just may develop anger management problems…and the family just has no idea why…

Later in life a client will seek help to work through their anger problems or their drinking problems…and realize that their anger or drinking (for example) aren’t the real problem. I mean, yes, an inability to control drinking or anger IS a problem, but it is only a symptom of a deeper emotional trauma.

These upsetting life events which are difficult to handle for many are sometimes referred to as “small-t trauma”. Small-t traumas include verbal abuse, excessive teasing, divorce, bullying, humiliation, a medical crisis, losing a pet, always being picked last, and many other examples.

There are many therapeutic approaches to process trauma.

Let me help you find one that works for you. I am knowledgable in

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

  • Exposure Therapy

  • Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy

  • Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy

I offer sessions 7 days a week, and sometimes even same-day appointments may be scheduled.

How can I be lonely? I live in Los Angeles?!

self esteem

Being alone vs being lonely

 

There are about 10 MILLION people in the LA area and yet many would describe themselves as lonely. There is no shortage of things to do or people to do them with, so what gives?

Well, as it turns out, there is a difference between being alone and being lonely.‬

Loneliness does not come from being alone, it comes from feeling left out or that you don’t belong. And, let’s face it, if you feel like you don’t belong then chances are you are not going to go get together with a bunch of strangers from meetup or take a cooking class by yourself, even though you may actually enjoy it.

Loneliness robs us of our quality of life because it, in part, prevents us from going out and doing stuff we would enjoy… because we don’t want to do those things alone.

Holidays can magnify this feeling of loneliness because watching others fit in and have fun reminds us that we are isolated. Maybe you don’t get invited out for new years, no one expressing their “undying love” to you on Valentine’s Day. You are sitting home seeing everyone else’s pictures of barbecues and swimming pools over the 4th of July.

For all of the benefits of social media it really intensifies feelings of social isolation. But there are skills we can learn to help ourselves fit in better. We do not have to stay lonely. Just because we do not fit in with one group of people does not mean that we do not fit in with any group of people.

If you’re struggling, reach out. There is always hope, sometimes we just need a little help to find it. I’d love to help you find your place in life.

Mental health in the workplace

relationships

How we re-create our families in the workplace

Mental health is generally considered a very personal thing. However, aspects of our mental health sometimes collide with our very public work selves. Much more than just depression or anxiety, the mental health umbrella also covers the underlying causes of why we communicate the way we do with one another. Most of the time, our families of origin are the biggest influences in how we communicate.

How our mothers and fathers express anger is the foundation for how we express anger. Sure, as we grow and develop we also learn from teachers, friends, coaches, or even television and other media. But our foundations come from our caregivers. I interact with you the way my family of origin taught me to interact with others; you interact with me the way your family of origin taught you to interact. In this way, we are all carrying around family baggage.

This notion extends to bullying behaviors. If I come from a family that manifests its expressions of anger as bullying, then those behaviors will likely seem normal or natural to me.

Have you ever said something to someone at work and been perplexed because he or she flew off the handle? It can be hard for people who have experienced bullying not to take things personally. People with a history of being bullied may, through no fault of their own, be emotionally fragile. They may get their feelings hurt relatively easily, and in turn they may shut down and become passive or lash out in an aggressive manner. Being bullied is awful, and this possible byproduct is just one of the reasons.

When someone with an aggressive communication style gets his or her first job, coworkers may not initially like the person. This might seem puzzling to the new employee, since he or she isn’t doing or saying anything out of the ordinary. The person may struggle to stay employed or get promoted and not understand why.

Dysfunctional communication styles damage workplace morale and may create a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I am sensitive to criticism, I may interpret comments as harsher than they were intended to be. If I react emotionally, my coworkers may feel like they have to “walk on eggshells” around me and may even choose to avoid me. If I notice people avoiding me, it might trigger my sensitivities and cause further alienation.

In my experience working with people who have family-of-origin issues, not only do they often have difficulty fitting in and making friends in the workplace, they typically do not understand why, which only adds to their feelings of frustration, shame, and worthlessness.

According to researchers at King’s College in London, people who experienced bullying in their formative years often drift from job to job, never quite fitting in. Such individuals typically work for less pay, take fewer risks, and apply for fewer promotions. They do not understand that they, personally, are not the problem; their communication styles are the issue, and communication styles can be refined and improved with observation, practice, determination, and perhaps therapy.

Businesses may benefit from periodically consulting with a therapist or conflict coach who provides lunchtime or after-work workshops on topics such as assertive communication, stress management, and team building. Such workshops could lead to improved productivity, reduced workplace burnout, and higher employee retention.

Reference:

Takizawa, R., Maughan, B., and Arseneault, L. (2014). Adult Health Outcomes of Childhood Bullying Victimization: Evidence from a Five-Decade Longitudinal British Birth Cohort. American Journal of Psychiatry, 171(7), 777-784. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2014.13101401

Emotional Abuse is small-t trauma

relationships

Not all traumas are the same. There are the big obvious traumas such as, experiencing an earthquake, surviving a car accident, or being robbed at gunpoint. However, there are emotional events in our lives that are also traumatic. Emotional abuse is often referred to as “small-t trauma”.

Contrary to how they sound, small-t traumas are not small to the person who experiences them.

Emotional abuse includes:

  • Consistently being left out of group activities

  • Being called hurtful names

  • Always being picked last on the playground

  • Being gossiped about at work

These traumas change the way we see the world, and never for the better. Our world becomes more frightening, people seem unpredictable, and we do not feel safe.

The effects of emotional abuse build up over our lifetimes with:

  • Increased substance use,

  • Poor sleep quality,

  • Difficulty making or keeping friendships,

  • Working for less pay,

  • Higher rates of unemployment,

  • Taking less educational or employment risks

How can therapy help?

When working with those who have emotional abuse in their past it is important to begin with strengthening the coping skills the individual already has:

  • Breathing skills

  • Visual skills

  • Music and sound

While often over-looked, it is important to practice mindful breathing skills. There are a variety of breathing techniques that can be useful depending upon what experience will be the most useful. For example, “belly breathing” fully expands just the belly area while “complete breathing” also includes the rib cage area. There are also two variations with how to exhale: either a slow release which increases tranquility, or a quick release which helps with experiencing how good surrendering can feel.

Guided imagery is useful for providing a safe and calming place to go to when needed for stress management. Research shows that our brains cannot tell the difference between us actually being someplace safe and calm versus us imagining that we are someplace safe and calm. The same brain chemicals are released in both scenarios.

Music has the ability to make us feel happy, powerful, calm, sad, or any other emotion! Start by creating different playlists for different moods. We could have a playlist for traffic, one for visiting family, and one for trying to get to sleep. Aside from music, there are also white noise apps, nature sounds, and binaural beats which many people find helpful.

Coping skills are important to have in place before trauma processing begins so that clients can calm themselves if they become overwhelmed. Processing just means making sense of a situation from our past.

Types of therapies useful for traumatic experiences include:

  • Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy

  • Acceptance and commitment therapy

  • Exposure therapy

  • Hypnosis

  • EMDR

  • Narrative therapy

If a child had a traumatic event such as being picked last every time on the playground and received hurtful negative information at the same time such as being called stupid or useless by the other kids then that is the filter through which the child sees their world.

A goal of therapy is then to change a hurtful belief of “I’m not smart enough” or “I am not worth anything” to a more adaptive belief of “I am smart enough” or “I am worth something”.

As people start to move toward a more balanced view of themselves, big changes in their lives are bound to happen. As they stop beating themselves up, they are less likely to allow others to beat them up as well.

Giving up the strain of small-t traumas can be so unimaginably wonderful that we sometimes wonder how or why we ever carried them with us for so long. These changes require adjustments to the way we live our lives.

This is where we learn to become assertive and stand up for ourselves. We get to learn and practice healthy boundaries including who we spend time with and how much time we spend with them. We also get to decide what types of people we would like to have in our lives and how to go about making and keeping positive friendships.

If you find yourself experiencing unwanted effects from emotional abuse, remember that there is hope and recovery is possible.

Empathy and love addiction

relationships

What the heck is an empath?

Simply put an empath is someone who is very sensitive to the people around them. They pick up the mood, energy, and body language of others. Because of this extra sensitivity, they often get their feelings hurt by things other people may not even notice.

Love Addiction and the Highly Sensitive Person

Because many empaths and other highly-sensitive people have an almost Spidey-Sense to any perceived slights against them, many of them turn to sex at an early age to “fit in”. This is a desperate attempt to avoid possible abandonment or rejection by their peers.

As a result, empaths and other highly-sensitive people who do not feel supported fall easily into peer pressure as an attempt at validation. They may fall into unwanted or unfulfilling sexual activities, drinking, smoking, or drug use as a desperate attempt at finding a connection with others.

These behaviors make empaths easy targets for people who only want to use them. When empaths realize that others do not truly like them, but only tolerate them for what can be gained, the empaths are further hurt at the abandonment and rejection that follows fueling a vicious and hurtful cycle.

Empathy and substance abuse

Continued abandonment and rejection is too hurtful to bear which leads to further substance use and substance abuse as a way of numbing the emotional pain that comes from being so sensitive and empathic.

Non-supported Empaths just feel so overwhelmed and they do not what to do there is all this chaos swirling around them so they try sex, they try alcohol, they try SLAA, they try a new city, they try a new job, they try religion, they try therapy, they try CODA, they try drugs, and none of it seems to work.

What’s the lesson?

Our own validation can only come from ourselves. Our own acceptance must come from us. We cannot heal by finding the right city or the right job or the right mate. We are our mate. We are our own first love.

We must first accept and validate  ourselves before love and acceptance from others can feel real.  Healing can only come from ourselves.

As empaths, we must hear this message over and over before we get it. It took us years to turn against ourselves. We are not going to heal all of that in 2-3 therapy sessions. We need reminders of our own innate goodness.

We are good (enough)

Some helpful reminders, affirmations and mantras:

~You did the best with what you had at the time

~You are enough

~You are valuable

~Do not let the inability of others to see your worth trick you into thinking you have none.

~You are the one you’ve been waiting for

~I love who I am because I have fought to become her / him

~I am worthy of respect

~I am my priority

Codependent Relationships

Uncategorized

Are you in a codependent relationship?

  • Are you paying all of the bills?
  • Does your partner refuse to get a job?
  • Are you being emotionally mistreated?
  • Does your partner makes you feel “crazy”?
  • Do you feel like you just cannot live without your partner?
  • Are you constantly bending over backwards or walking on egg shells?

You might be in a codependent relationship.

Codependency is no fun

  • You are constantly shoving down negative emotions.
  • You are prone to headaches.
  • You feel like there is no right answer.
  • You feel like you are the only one struggling to make the relationship work.

So, you may have just realized you’re in a codependent relationship.

 

Do you have to end your codependent relationship?

This is up to you. You may want to improve your boundaries and self esteem in an effort to leave this relationship, but no, you do not HAVE to leave. But, you do need to learn some boundaries.

What are the minimum things your partner needs to do in order to stay in a relationship with you?

  • Get a job?
  • Go to couples counseling?
  • Clean the house?
  • See a psychiatrist?
  • Contribute financially?
  • Stop using substances?

Develop a your minimum list of what they need to and attach a timeline for when each expectation needs to be accomplished.

Be willing to walk away if your needs are not met. It is necessary to walk away, even temporarily to show your partner that you are serious. If you are not willing to leave then your partner will never change.

Give them an opportunity to prove to you that you are worth it (that’s the timeline), but if they are not willing to meet your minimum needs, leave.

How will you know that they are not willing to meet your minimum needs?

It will be through phrases like:

  • I’m working on it (but no progress is ever evident)
  • Don’t worry about it
  • I’ll get around to it.
  • Don’t you love me?
  • Why do you have to be like that?

Being alone may be better than a bad relationship

Learn to enjoy your own company so that you do not feel like a bad relationship is better than no relationship.

Spend some time with yourself. Go on hikes, go to the beach, enjoy bubble baths, do some yoga, practice meditating.

It may be uncomfortable at first because you have stuffing done so many negative emotions, but allow those feelings to come up and express themselves. This is how we gain mental clarity.

Make a list of what you enjoy or appreciate about yourself. Then look for opportunities to use those skills or qualities. This will improve your self esteem and improve your ability to spend time with yourself and maintain your boundaries.

And remember,

What you allow is what will continue.