living in the now

Are We There Yet???

Written by Cheryl Young, MAMFT

…. HOW MUCH LONGER???

Wow! Does this sound familiar to you? It brings back sweet childhood memories of long family vacations in the car. All four kids sandwiched in the back seat of our family Buick, literally sitting on top of each other (without seatbelts!. Stuck together through the hot summer sun on our way to our family vacation.

Where are we now?

Metaphorically are we still in the back seat of the family car…on the long car ride to where? And how long will we be on top of each other. How much longer???

Some of my best memories from those long car trips are making up games to pass the time and learning to appreciate the little things along the way. Finding hidden treasures, creating new memories and storing them in my personal polaroid picture album.

Do you remember the ‘World’s largest Yarn Ball’ or the ‘World’s Biggest T-Pee’ and ‘The World’s Biggest Rocking Chair?’ Family vacations always revealed the best hidden treasures along the way.

Perhaps…we are on the greatest Family Vacation ever right NOW!

I don’t remember missing the comforts of home during those trips – it was our ‘new normal.’ We learned to live in the moment and appreciate all of the wonderful food available at Stucky’s rest stops along the way, or cold sandwiches we packed in coolers. I also remember waiting patiently for the gas station breaks (even the see-through toilet paper!).

These experiences bring strength to our current day. What about your family vacation memories? My rosy perspective gives me the gift of remembering all the good memories of these trips and edits out the car sickness, wishing for more room or missing all of my friends…but they were all a part of this trip. Both existed at the same time.

While this current family vacation looks very different – and I am no longer sharing the same physical space with my siblings, they are still with me. And now, during this time of quarantine, I am able to meet my neighbors, recognize kids as they ride their bikes, wave at families while taking my daily walk. I am NOW starting to know my neighbors’ names and not just the cars they drive. This global and uninvited slowdown has given me the gift of perspective and appreciation.

Living in the NOW!

So, what if…this is your/our time?! THE time to create new memories is in front of us. It always has been. With or without the global pandemic…we are LIVING RIGHT NOW!

NOW is the time we need to be present and find our contentment and joy.

What if we decide to live TODAY as we choose and dream? What if we followed our passions and what is inside our heart and our dreams? Who would care- who else would show up?

I am still in the back seat of that Buick – trying to find my place in the ‘seat’ and also claiming my voice. What about you? Can you relate? I am uncomfortably – comfortable. I know that I am bigger, smarter and stronger – yet still hesitate to show up as my authentic self. What about you?

Is our journey today any different?

Let’s take the ‘mask’ off and ground ourselves in the reality that we are possibly living our ‘best life.’ What if we are already ‘There’ and NOW is the time to participate in this thing called life?

How would you go through your day differently if you knew this was it? We are no longer on pause – this is our Now!

Maybe have a dance party in the kitchen (BEFORE breakfast?!!)…or spend a little more time listening to those who matter to you?

Well, my friend…this is the time – I invite you to enjoy it!

finding your new now

Finding Your New “NOW”

Written by Cheryl Young, MAMFT

I don’t know about you, but the words, ‘unprecedented, unsettling and uncertain’ are starting to lose their shock value on me. It is disturbing to listen to the news and feel that I have lost control of my very purposeful, intentional and planned out future.

The myth of being in control is now clearly being revealed. The belief that we controlled any areas of our lives has been exposed to wishful thinking. Our ‘needs’ that we intentionally took care of are now no longer needs but simply ‘wants.’ How does this sit with you? Does this feel ‘unsettling and uncertain’? Our new ‘now’ is teaching all of us that we never really were in control and perhaps there are other ways to have what we ‘need.’

Prior to our globally forced slow down – what were your plans or dreams?

What were your barriers? How have they changed? How have you changed? And now… what will you choose? Very rarely do we choose to go through pain and discomfort to reach our desires.

Personally, I have found that you cannot find true joy, unless you learn to embrace the natural pain that comes along the journey. The degree to which you avoid discomfort is also the degree to which you cannot access the delight.

When we make the decision to begin a new exercise program…the pain is expected and even accepted. We physically feel the pain of healthy growth and even welcome it as a sign of our commitment in making new uncomfortable choices to improve our physical bodies.

This is also true for our mental, emotional and relational selves. We are wired to avoid pain and to seek pleasure. Yet the growth and strength in the many areas of our lives requires the decision and willingness to face what feels uncomfortable, and sometimes painful.

To choose connection and not isolation, we must accept the risk and sometimes pain of being known and vulnerable along with the risk of being hurt. To be emotionally healthy, we have to come in contact with and befriend the very emotions that we don’t want to have.

While my usual ‘silver lining’ outlook is growing skeptical and full of doubt, I have found that practicing intentional gratitude during these ‘unprecedented, unsettling and uncertain’ times has provided me with a new lens through which I look to greet the day or difficult situation. This lens doesn’t remove the ‘bad’ – it just allows the good to shine a little brighter.

Choosing to start each day with an intention of self-love, compassion and growth provides internal grit and strength to face the uncertainties and clouds of fear that hang over all of us. Having a daily intention allows us to pay attention to what we say is important to us and not let the distractions of the day take control.

The practice of gratitude and setting daily intentions does not eliminate the potential pitfalls around us. Rather, it allows us to respond in a way that we get to choose. Learning to accept the emotions that follow doubt and fear, allows us to release the power they have over us.

Finding your new now means being present with all of your emotions, feelings and thoughts. Accept the good with the bad. Allow the best of you to shine through even while we are living in these ‘unprecedented, unsettling and uncertain’ times. Always remember you have a choice of which lens you choose to look through.

Cheryl Young supports people on their healing journey. Email her to see how she can help you discover a healthier YOU at cheryl@louisvillemindfulnesscenter.com

parenting in a pandemic

Parenting in a Pandemic: 3 Ways Not to Lose Your Mind

Written by Chris Davis, MSSW, LMFT

Parenting is difficult. End of story. I have done office-based and in-home therapy with parents and kids for over 10 years. I believe I have just about seen it all. But how about parenting in a pandemic when it seems like the whole world is falling apart and we’re pretty much stuck inside with our kids? Sounds like a parent’s nightmare. And in many ways, it is.

However, it is possible to shift our thinking, feelings, decision and actions to break the trance of “I’m stuck and this sucks.” In a previous article, I discussed important steps to take before reaching a point where we might possibly abuse the ones we love. Many of the same principles apply here. However, I would like to focus on three other important principles we can follow that will alter our experience enough to make it through these difficult times. 

1. Adjust Expectations

There is no template for how to live, much less parent, during a pandemic and extended quarantine. We are all on shaky ground struggling to find our footing. One of the biggest mistakes I have seen when working with parents during the quarantine is the expectation that they can continue parenting as they always do. Their kids will continue to act in the same ways and need to be parented the same ways. This is not the case. NOTHING is normal or the same.

While our children may seem oblivious, or as if they don’t care about what’s happening, they are aware and do care. They are experiencing a significant amount of stress and trauma like the rest of us. Children are very sensitive and pick up on all the stimulation around them. They are like little antennas for stress. Adjusting our expectations and establishing a “new normal” can make all the difference in how successful our parenting is during these difficult times. 

2. Strike a Balance

Parenting is on a continuum. On one side are very permissive parents. On the other are very authoritarian parents. Most parents fall somewhere in between. During the quarantine, most parents will attempt to continue parenting as they always have, as discussed in the previous point. Some parents will swing the pendulum to the other side, however. This severe change in parenting can leave children quite confused. The goal of parenting, as with most things in life, is to strike a balance as close to the middle of that continuum as possible. Children need enough guidance and structure to keep them from falling too far without a safety net. But they also need enough room to make some mistakes and learn from them.

During the quarantine, parents who find themselves a little too far on either side of the continuum can benefit from shifting more towards the center. If you are a parent who counts every minute of your child’s screen time, it might behoove you to be a little less stringent on that. If you’re a parent who more or less let’s your kids do whatever they want as long as they aren’t getting hurt, it might be best to tighten that up some. Striking a balance in our parenting can make this quarantine a better overall experience for us as parents and for our kids. 

3. Prioritize Play

I believe one of the most important things parents can do to make not only their parenting better during the quarantine, but also just their own personal experiences, is to prioritize play. What I have heard from many parents is that they are struggling to keep themselves busy. They often finish their work faster if they are at home. They clean the house. Then deep clean the house. They hang up that picture they’ve been meaning to. They even organize their sock drawer. Ultimately, they are struggling to find something productive to do. Therein lies the problem: the idea that we should all be productive all the time. We have a serious problem in our culture in that we do not know how to play. This is not everyone of course. There are plenty of adults who are gamers, hikers, and cultural creatives. But many adults struggle with being able to adopt an attitude of play. Now we can relax. And we can vacation. But it’s not the same thing.

Playing is the language of children that we forget as we grow up. When we grow up, our culture tells us it is time to work. We are also told it is okay to rest. Playing, however, is a rarity and requires the ability to flip the idea of being productive on its head. Playing is the opposite of being productive. It doesn’t mean that being productive can’t be a byproduct of play. Some of the greatest inventions and accomplishments came through an adult at play when they occurred. The end product wasn’t even the goal. So, during this time where we are all mostly isolated in our homes with our families, try finding some activities where you can purposely not be productive. You just do the thing, whatever the thing is, for the sheer enjoyment of it. A great way to start is to let your kids teach you their language. Ask if you can join them in whatever activity they are doing. Then branch out to find your own activities that you can immerse yourself into. By prioritizing play, we can detach for a while from the madness the world is experiencing. We can drop into a different experience with our children. 

Chris Davis is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with over 10 years experience working with individuals, couples, and families. Chris’s passion is helping couples increase their intimacy and connection with one another to have the type of relationships they have hoped for. Chris is also passionate about helping everyone he meets to experience increased awareness and mindfulness to be more present in their lives. He utilizes a variety of techniques and approaches to meet each individual and couple where they are. 

quarantine

Before We Abuse: 5 Ways To Handle The Quarantine

Written by Chris Davis, MSSW, LMFT

Stress at home is not a new thing. We all experience a regular amount of tension, conflict and stress on a daily basis. Being a loving, patient, caring partner and/or parent can feel like a full-time job. When the stress gets too high, and we find ourselves without coping skills, the slippery slope from conflict to abuse can happen all too quickly.

If this scenario is all too common during “normal” life, the “new normal” of isolation and quarantine from the coronavirus has compounded the difficulties of managing conflict in households. Combine this likelihood with the fact that abuse hotlines and state child/adult services were already overwhelmed, and the potential problems multiply exponentially. In fact, statistics from all over the world are showing a definite increase in reported abuse. It does need to be clearly stated: If abuse has happened or is presently occurring to you or someone you know, those incidents have to be reported. Anyone who suspects, or is aware of abuse, can and should report it. While services may be overwhelmed, actions can still be taken to help those in danger.

So, what can be done prior to abuse? This article is intended to provide some awareness and options to those who find themselves on the edge of committing abuse. By taking important steps before getting to the point of no return, you can choose an alternative path. While options may be limited, there are steps that can be taken to lower the risk of domestic violence and child abuse. Below are five options that can lower the risk of abuse and provide tools for those that find themselves on the brink of doing or saying that will damage those they love.

1. Get Help

While it may not be possible to see a therapist in-office right now, telehealth is a perfect solution to get the assistance you need before things spiral out of control. Telehealth has proven to be a perfect solution for the times we all find ourselves in when we need counsel. Reach out to a therapist or schedule an appointment here to get started: www.louisvillemindfulnesscenter.com

2. Stay Connected

We may not be able to have all the social interactions we’re so used to, there are alternatives to stay connected with family and friends. FaceTime, Zoom, Skype and a host of other options are available to stay connected to friends and family. Reach out and be real with the struggles you are having and the fears you have about what you may say or do if you can’t de-stress.

Click here to read the full article!

toxic positivity

When the Dust Settles: Avoiding Gaslighting, Toxic Positivity, & External Validation

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

In Julio Vincent Gambuto’s brilliant article, “Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting” we see that the treadmill we’ve been on for a decade has abruptly stopped. When life returns to “normal” or some semblance of a “new normal” the economy is going to need a huge boost and we will be sold a lie that we need stuff to soothe ourselves from the trauma we’ve experienced due to COVID-19.

Gambuto’s article refers to Gaslighting as: “Manipulation into doubting your own sanity.” The example he gives is, “Carl made Mary think she was crazy, even though she clearly caught him cheating. He gaslit her.”

The last several weeks of realizing that the treadmill is broken and there’s no way we’re ever getting back on it has been a traumatic experience whether we realize it yet or not. While we’re “in” the traumatic experience we go into survival mode (fight, flight, or freeze) to get through it. It’s not until the trauma has stopped and things go ‘back to normal” that we begin to see the effects of trauma unfold.

Most of us are quite resilient and will recover from the isolation of this pandemic just fine. Some of us will be shaken up for a while and need help getting our bearings. If this is you, therapy can be extremely helpful. Look for a wonderful therapist who will validate your experience and allow you to move beyond it as you are ready. Don’t get caught up in toxic positivity which forces you to think that if you aren’t “staying positive” something’s wrong with you. That’s a load of shit. You are human and your moods are watery, shifting and changing with the tides. A good therapist helps you make friends with the ocean so you can navigate it and find the balance that is best for you in each new moment as you ride the wave of life.

Click here to read the full article! 

calm yourself during covid-19

5 Easy and Practical Ways to Calm Yourself During COVID-19

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

I think I have COVID-19! I’m having a hard time breathing, my chest feels tight, and I’m more tired than normal. Or perhaps it’s just my wonderful friend Anxiety, reminding me I’m still alive and kicking.

Here are five things you can do to welcome your friend, Calm, into your life during this time:

1. Blow out Birthday Candles!

Say what?! Yup! When you are holding your breath, you already have a breath of air in so you want to focus on your exhale. Forcefully blowing out air and squeezing every last bit of air out of your lungs invites your body to breathe a deep breath in on the inhale. Do this a few times and it feels wonderfully invigorating!

2. Get clear on what you have control over and what you don’t have control over.

The easy answer is: You don’t have any control over COVID19, you only have control over yourself. Your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Even if it sometimes feels like you don’t, you can learn how to do this. What you don’t have control over is anyone or anything else — what they do, what they say, how they think, how they feel, or how this whole pandemic plays out.

3. Focus on Your Five Senses

Take a moment, or two, wherever you are, to focus on each of your five senses — sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. Encourage yourself to find descriptive words for each sense you notice. Being curious and noticing counteracts the desire to judge or evaluate things. Allow what you notice to be just as it is without it being good or bad, right or wrong, you like it or don’t like it.

Click here to read the full article!

extrovert

The Extrovert’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving COVID-19

Written by Ashley Vaden, LMFT

It’s a basic human need to feel connected to others, and more importantly, connected to ourselves. The fact is, we are all in this together, and we share much more in common than we realize. Everyone knows what it feels like to be alone, or have your mental health rocked in a time of confusion or uncertainty. Here’s how to make the most of it:

Get creative.

There are a lot of posts/messages on social media about making this a productive time; to really buckle down and tackle projects that you haven’t had time for, read that book you’ve always wanted to read, and start that hobby that has always felt like a distant dream. The truth is, it’s great to get stuff done and “be productive,” but because this is a difficult time, we might be placing a little bit too much pressure on ourselves to “be our best selves” and “live the life you’ve always imagined.” While we are not advocating that you neglect our responsibilities, shun your school work, and stay in our pjs all day (although, we’re not against it), we are saying that instead of framing your quantity of work to equal a successful day, why don’t you give yourself he chance to be creative?

Is there any creative endeavor you’ve wanted to research, learn about, or even try? This is the time to go for it. Not only will you be more present because you’re learning something new, it adds an extra built in layer of meaning to your day that doesn’t have to come from getting stuff done. You are more than a number; use your imagination. Connect with your sense of wonder, your curiosity, your passion, your interests. Ask yourself, “what inspires me?” and run with it.

We know the words “mindfulness” or “meditation” may make your eyes glaze over.

But hear us out! Just 30 minutes of self-compassion a day has shown to make a positive impact on mood and increased happiness (Desmond, 2017). Doing this practice may add some much needed structure to your day and help to cultivate joy. A lot of people think that if they just focus on the future and the fact that one day the quarantine will be over, as soon as that day comes, they will be so happy! Full of energy! Thankful, blessed! However, our happiness doesn’t always work that way.

Most of the time, our happiness is kind of programmed to stay at a certain level, and if we aren’t intentional about smelling the roses and thinking about what we’re thankful for, even just in the current moment, then our happiness levels tend to drop and may take a while to comeback up. Kind of like if you don’t go to the gym for a while you can get out of shape. If you are intentionally working toward being positive during this time, you’re much more likely to be able to bounce right back when this is but a distant nightmare.

  • Take a few minutes to focus on your breath. Try taking 5 deep breaths, slowly in and out, and notice how your breath feels in your nose, and in your throat.
  • Focus on feeling thankful for breath. Focus on breathing in positivity and joy, and breathing out anything that is negative and does not serve your body or mind.
  • Identify and locate any positive sensations, thoughts, or feelings in your body, and imagine these growing, almost like a flower blooming. Welcome them to become as big as they want or even to stay the same.
  • Take a minute to write down what you noticed in the exercise and 3 things you are thankful for that day.

Volunteer and reach out.

If you’re catching yourself complaining, know that it’s ok, and that you can offset it by reaching out to someone or helping someone. We aren’t here to compare pain, or feel sorry for ourselves and others; we’re in this together, and there is always someone out there who maybe has it a little or a lot harder.

That’s not said to bring on feelings of shame, but more to make you aware that you can help someone in this time. There is a problem out there and all it needs is someone to care enough to fix it. If you’re naturally inclined to want to be around people and connect with them, find out how you can become involved in community efforts to make an impact. Your generation has so much to contribute that you may not even be aware of! This is an opportunity for you to notice a deficit and bring light to it with your natural talents, gifts, abilities, and interests.

Social distancing doesn’t have to mean social neglect; organize a Go Fund me with your friends, or even reach out to someone that you’ve been meaning to check on. This could be a great time to build relationships. Maybe someone that you’ve always wanted to know more about is feeling lonely at this time too; wouldn’t it be a great opportunity to connect or find out more about someone that you may not have had the opportunity to in the past? What if they are wanting to talk to someone just as much as you are?