Tag Archive for: anxiety

understanding mindfulness

Understanding Mindfulness

Written by Bridgette Allen, MAMFT

The definition of mindfulness is simply paying attention to what is transpiring in the present moment, without judgment.

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, renowned mindfulness teacher and researcher, mindfulness is also “a particular way of looking deeply inside to promote understanding and healing with an acceptance of what is.”

To fully understand mindfulness we must first recognize the importance of focusing on our breathing. Since our breath is always with us and easily accessible, following it anchors us in the present moment. It is our “friend” and regulator. When our mind wanders, and it will, we gently bring it back to our breathing and the present moment, without judgment.

In addition, our feelings about our mindfulness practice play an important role in the success of living “mindfully.”

Nine inter-related attitudinal factors form the foundation of mindfulness:

Non-judging: Learning to be an impartial witness to our own daily experiences. Not labeling them either good or bad, but just taking note of what they are now.

Patience: Understanding and accepting that things sometimes unfold in their own time and being open to each moment in the present.

Beginner’s Mind: Seeing afresh…looking at things as if for the first time with an unbiased view and a sense of curiosity.

Trust: Honoring ourselves and our feelings; believing in our own instincts.

Non-striving: Being in a state of non-doing and allowing ourselves to “be” without trying to change anything.

Acceptance: Coming to terms with what is and seeing things as they really are in the present.

Letting Go: Accepting things as they are with no attachment or expectation.

Kindness: Bringing compassion for ourselves as we are now without self-blame or criticism.

Curiosity: Noticing what is happening in the moment with our emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations.

As we cultivate these factors in our practice, they in turn strengthen mindfulness within ourselves and in our relationship with others.

Mindfulness can be practiced informally or formally.

Formal mindfulness practice involves setting aside a specific amount of time, usually thirty minutes or longer every day, to consciously “go inside” and be aware of what is sensed or felt in the body, using the breath as an anchor. This practice can include a sitting/walking meditation, body scan (systematic scan of body parts), or yoga session.

Informal mindfulness involves finding brief moments in everyday life to be present. Instead of multi-tasking or spending extended periods on automatic pilot, the focus is on one activity at a time, without distraction. Whatever your preference, practicing mindfulness can help reduce the amount of mindlessness you experience day to day.

overthinking

Overthinking Things ALL THE TIME

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

Do you catch yourself constantly distracted by your thoughts? Are you consumed with thinking about things – how a situation will turn out, what someone might say, how you will respond, worrying about things that have not happened yet, etc? Do you get stuck in the same thought patterns? Do you get stuck not making decisions or taking action because you can’t stop weighing all the options? Can you remember the last time you felt really happy or really sad or really angry?

I like balance. If we are too lopsided one way – thinking too much for instance – it usually creates problems for us and those around us. What would it look like if we strive for a balance between THINKING, FEELING, & DOING? We think sometimes. We feel sometimes. We do (or take action) sometimes.

I bet we would find a relief from a lot of the dialog in our head, the worry we constantly feel, or the meaning we’ve made out of things that might not have any meaning at all.

Go ahead, give it a try!

triggered

How to Respond When You Get Triggered

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

The holidays are upon us and that usually means lots of time with our extended family. 2020 has no doubt brought an extra helping of limitations and pressure for us to navigate this season.

Do you dread this time of year or certain aspects of it? Do you wish you had ways to cope with the parts you don’t enjoy? Is there that certain someone who triggers something within you every time you see or talk to them?

Remember this:  You only have control over yourself…how you think about things, your behaviors, how you are feeling, and what you say.

  1. Act, don’t react to the times when you are triggered.  his means slowing yourself down enough to regain control of the situation by choosing how you want to respond (if at all) to inappropriate, mean comments or people. Have a plan for how to respond before you are in the situation. “If he says something mean, I will just look at him blankly while taking some deep breaths to soothe myself. Or if I decide I can’t not say anything, I’ll just say ‘Huh, that’s an interesting perspective, or Huh, that’s a good question, I’ll have to think about that.'”
  2. Acknowledge and validate your feelings that get triggered, “Of course I want to scream at her for commenting about my weight, that was inappropriate for her to say.” Take a deep breath and know that you have zero control over that other person and instead you will take control of yourself and respond appropriately, if at all.
  3. Let yourself off the hook.  Often we think we have to respond to negative comments or inappropriate questions so we can defend ourselves or to make sure the other people in the conversation don’t feel awkward. Remember to be your best adult self and sometimes saying nothing at all communications more than we could ever say with words. In fact, if we don’t respond, it shifts the awkwardness back to the sender.

Ultimately be gentle and tender with yourself and others.  Allow each new moment to unfold as it needs to.  Trust that you will do your best in each new moment and allow others the opportunity to be their best in each new moment.

boundaries

Creating Healthy Boundaries

Written by Bridgette Allen, MAMFT

Healthy boundaries keep us safe, both physically and emotionally. They keep us clear about what’s “me” and what’s “not me.” They are rules we make for ourselves that determine just how much others can come into our “space.” And like societal rules, personal boundaries can be looser or more rigid, depending on what the situation requires.  The purpose of boundaries is to keep us feeling safe on the outside as well as the inside.

Healthy Boundaries are:

  • Flexible: we are able to be both close and distant, adaptable to the situation. We are able to let go of destructive relationships and connect with nurturing ones.

  • Safe: we are able to protect ourselves against exploitation from others. We can read cues that someone is selfish or abusive. Also, we are not offensive to others.

  • Connected: we are able to engage in balanced relationships with others and maintain them over time. As conflicts arise, we are able to work through them.

In order to develop healthy boundaries, we must know what we like and don’t, what feels good to us and what feels bad. We must know “who we are” and “who we are not.” Healthy boundaries are developed in childhood when a kid gets the message from caregivers that his/her thoughts and feelings matter. This happens when a parent models healthy boundaries by guiding and correcting a child in a firm, nurturing, and consistent manner. The parent doesn’t use the child to regulate his/her own difficult emotions by beating the child, for example, or by demanding emotional nurturance from the child. When this occurs, a child grows up unable to separate his/her thoughts and feelings from others’.  He/She takes undo responsibility for others’ thoughts and actions, blames others for his/her feelings, or needs to control and manipulate in order to feel safe.

In therapy, we “redraw” our boundaries. We reconnect with our feelings and strengthen the muscle that sets limits and keeps us safe.

“Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.”
― Brené Brown, Rising Strong

change

A Tornado of Change

Written by Jennifer Komis, MAMFT, MDIV

I don’t know about you, but this year has felt like a tornado of constant change. And that’s putting it mildly. Whether you’re pulling your hair out homeschooling your kids, bent over a laptop trying to work from your couch, or trying to figure out what dating looks like in the time of COVID, all of us are experiencing some feeling of mental spinning.

Change… now adapt. Change… now adapt. And repeat.

When life brings this level of upheaval, it’s going to bring stress. And that’s normal.  In fact, it would be pretty unusual for you NOT to feel stressed right now. Stress alone doesn’t have to be a bad thing. But recognizing when you need a little help managing your stress is a good thing.

Check out the image below to understand more about how too much stress can effect your mind, body, emotions and behavior.

alcohol

Awakening the Autopilot with Alcohol

Written by Rob Giltner, MAMFT

When we think of ourselves being on autopilot it can be helpful to consider that feeling as a trance. We go in and out of trances multiple times throughout the day. A trance can be a simple day dream or perhaps being zoned out while driving. There can be positive and negative trances which can influence our behavior.

Alcohol can create a strong trance.

When we drink too much and become inebriated we are in a bit of a trance. Continued use of alcohol can create a different type of trance. When our use of alcohol begins to negatively affect our lives we can experience two things; shame and guilt. Shame, which can be described as “I am bad,” can put us on autopilot by believing we are “bad.”

When assessing our use of alcohol it can be very helpful to consider our use as a relationship. We all have a relationship with alcohol. And with any relationship, it can be healthy or unhealthy. If we notice our relationship with alcohol to be unhealthy it could be because we might be on autopilot or in a trance.

A negative relationship with alcohol can be tricky. Alcohol may want to stay in a relationship with us even when we do not. It can manipulate our thinking or judgment in order to stay. Alcohol could make us rationalize and/or justify our behavior to maintain the relationship.

If we notice we might be in a trance and have a negative relationship with alcohol there are a few things we should do to protect us and make sure we are healthy.

  • First, we would want to find any ways our use has created a loss of self. A loss of self could be a loss of happiness or peace. It could be a loss of a friend or family member. Or it could be a loss of a hobby.
  • We would then need to set up boundaries to protect ourselves from alcohol and regain anything we may have lost. Not drinking and ending a relationship with alcohol is one boundary someone might make. Another, could be to limit the amount of alcohol an individual uses.
  • Lastly, if the trance of alcohol puts us in is very strong, therapy is a must. Therapy can help us heal from the affects alcohol and end the trance it creates.
trauma

Living with Trauma

Written by Rob Giltner, MAMFT

“Trauma has become so commonplace that most people don’t even recognize its presence. It affects everyone. Each of us has had a traumatic experience at some point in our lives, regardless of whether it left us with an obvious case of post-traumatic stress.” ~Peter Levine

What living with trauma can look like:

  • Feelings of hopelessness and beliefs that aren’t meant for you
  • Constantly finding ways to escape from reality
  • Sleeplessness, fatigue, nightmares, sleep disorders
  • Avoidance of anything connected to a traumatic event
  • Difficulty regulating emotions like anger, fear and sadness
  • Reoccurring flashbacks of past events
  • Extra sensitivity to physical and emotional pain
  • Addiction to alcohol and other substances
  • Increased panic and anxiety

Everyone responds to trauma differently, and finding healthy ways to cope and heal from those events and their after-effects is key to living a healthy life. It’s easy to minimize, normalize, and rationalize some of these less severe symptoms, but if healthy coping mechanisms are not developed, they can lead to patterns of self-sabotage and withdrawal from the world and relationships. Like Peter Levine also said ,”Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence.”

The most courageous thing we can do is love our self during times of pain and struggle.

Being aware of our story, and owning it, requires immense bravery. After all, to be human is to think and feel, and our emotions are here to try and protect us. If we see anxiety and stress as friends and offer them empathy, kindness, and thankfulness, they will be able to relax and dissipate. When you feel them approaching, welcome them, be kind to them, be thankful that they are there, and then invite them to leave. Bringing our minds to the present can reduce stress, anxiety, and connect us to everything around us.

 

joy

An Exercise In Joy & Success

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

“…the measure of success is absolutely the amount of joy you feel.”

Take a minute and think about a time when you felt pure joy. Oftentimes we think of moments that were life-defining. When we proposed to our sweetheart and heard “YES!” Or maybe our wedding day, or the day our first child was born, or when we got that new job, that raise or promotion.  Unfortunately for many of us our emotions fluctuate fairly rapidly and it’s rare that we can maintain that feeling of pure joy.  But what if it didn’t have to be this way? What if we could live joyful, or joy-filled, lives and experience this joy a majority of the time? Well, we can!

“Yeah, right!” I hear you saying.

Give me a minute to explain… What we’re talking about is viewing your life from a bit of a different perspective.  Instead of a perspective of LACK – “I’ll feel joy when I get that raise, meet the right person, lose 20 lbs, etc.” – and shift into a thinking of ABUNDANCE – “Everything is exactly as it needs to be. All I need to be is myself. Everything I need to know is already within me.”

See the difference?

Here’s what I want you to try: Write down the above messages of Abundance on sticky notes and stick them on places you look often – on the microwave, on your dashboard, at the bathroom mirror, on your computer screen. Make an effort to look at the messages and remember that feeling of Joy.  Soon you’ll start to associate the two together – the feeling of Joy with the message “Everything is exactly as it needs to be.”

Stick with it for 21-30 days and see what happens.  This is how long it takes to make a shift in belief, perspective or behavior change.  You are actually building new neural pathways in your brain.  The more attention you give the new perspective, and don’t give attention to the former perspective, the stronger the new perspective of Abundance becomes and the perspective of Lack begins to die off.  Remember, what we feed, grows. Give it a try!  What do you have to lose?!

When we focus on Joy FIRST, our lives will begin to shift so we experience success in multiple areas.

If there is an area that seems like a problem area now – your relationship, your job, your living situation – they will work themselves out as you are focusing on joy.  This might mean they will begin to bring you joy in new ways because you are seeing them differently OR because you see clearly now that there is no way they will bring you joy and you will make confident decisions to move beyond them.

Wouldn’t it be AWESOME to feel Joy AND Confidence?! Oh yeah, it can happen. You can do it.  Stay focused and give it 21-30 days. Be gentle with yourself. You will mess up but chalk it up to a learning experience and keep moving forward. Growth comes with growing pangs.

And if you find you need some help, we are always here to be a guide (and cheerleader!). Keep at it! We believe in you!​

listening

The Art of Listening

Written by Jennifer Komis, MAMFT, MDIV

The first class I took in therapy school was called The Art of Listening. I thought I had it in the bag. I mean, come on, I’d been listening for AGES (as an eldest child and total feeler). WRONG. Here’s what I learned…

Listening is easy if:

1) You already agree with what’s being said

2) You aren’t emotionally involved in making a separate point or

3) You’ve slept 8 hours, accomplished all of your tasks, have had a great day, and are your very best self (insert sparkly smile here)

Otherwise (which is most of the time), listening is HARD. We want to interrupt and make our point (I do). We want to insert a platitude so we don’t have to sit with the other person’s pain (Shh, shh, everything happens for a reason), we want to interject some kind of suggestion (If you try a, b, and c, I think it would help…), or we want to judge and silence to get it over with (This IS NOT a big deal. Get over it.).

We live in a culture that prizes efficiency, speed, debate, ego, and winning. This is deeply ironic because therapy research seems to say that what we really, deeply want is to feel heard. Things like being right seem to matter far less when we truly slow down, let go of the perceived threat to our worldview, and just hear one another out.

Can you hear it? That’s the voice of someone else. Someone else whose fought her/his own battles trying to put words to them. Someone else who is seeking to protect her/himself in a world that feels overwhelming at times. A person who is hoping to feel heard, seen, and valued, despite their imperfections. Someone else like you.

trust

Trusting the Process and Your Heart

trust

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

Trust is not easy.

When we are “trusting” something or someone, it assumes there is some uncertainty and we’re “having faith” or trusting something positive will happen. And typically, we don’t always love to feel uncertainty.

However, most of life is fairly uncertain. We think we know what’s going to happen but then we say, “Or I could get hit by a bus tomorrow!” However, do we really think we’ll get hit by a bus? No.

What this shows us is that even in the uncertainty and the possibility of getting hit by a bus, we TRUST that we likely won’t get hit by the bus and therefore are fairly calm with the uncertainty of what will happen tomorrow.

What is really happening psychologically when we do this is sending ourselves a subconscious message that we actually think good things are most likely to happen (we’ll be alive tomorrow) more so than the negative will happen (getting hit by the bus).

I love, love, love “The Law of Detachment” chapter in Deepak Chopra’s book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. He writes,

“In detachment lies the wisdom of uncertainty…in the wisdom of uncertainty lies the freedom from our past, from the known, which is the prison of past conditioning. And in our willingness to step into the unknown, the field of all possibilities, we surrender ourselves to the creative mind that orchestrates the dance of the universe.”

How poetic and reassuring; compassionate and wise. Calming even.

I wonder if you noticed how it spoke to your head or your heart, your thinking brain or your feeling brain, or both.

Or maybe you even felt the two, the thinking brain and the feeling brain, connect with each other in a way that left you feeling calm or some other positive emotion.

If not, give it another read and see what happens. Maybe something even more profound might happen. Maybe you’ll notice something come to you in a few days, a week, or even a month from now.

May we all be willing to step into the unknown; to allow ourselves the opportunity to see all the possibilities the universe has to offer.