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recovering serious person

Hello My Name is Megan, and I am a Recovering Serious Person

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

I love to laugh. Being a recovering serious person, that wasn’t always the case. 

I think I really started to lighten up when I was in grad school to become a therapist in my mid-twenties. By then I had moved from Seattle to Tucson and was now in Louisville, KY. My adventurous spirit transformed my anxiety into excitement. My cohort helped as we collectively had to find some levity in the midst of darkness and heaviness.

Then I met my husband, who has had such titles as “University Mascot” and “Professional Mascot” and “Improv Comedian.” While he brought levity to my life, I also found myself digging into my old ways of seriousness in an attempt for him not to have too much of an influence over me so I wouldn’t subsequently “lose myself” in the relationship.

Then I became a parent and was in a tension between not wanting to be a rigid, overthinking, anxious person and wanting to do things the “right way.” (As if that is possible.)

Ultimately I realized flexibility was the key. Of course, I opt for a “flexible structure” so that I have a bit of a plan, but am not rigid about it. The more flexible I am with myself and others, the better I feel. And the better others feel around me.

And this flexibility does not mean getting walked all over. I love me some boundaries! I am very clear about what works for me and what doesn’t and I readily speak up for myself.

This brings me back to laughter. I’m realizing laughter is a wonderful medicine. We feel lighter when we laugh.  And perhaps it’s that lightness that helps us become more enlightened. 

love

Love Loves Love

Love loves love.
Period.
End of story.
Love yourself.
Even the things you wish were different.
Love others.
Even when you disagree.
Allow there to be enough space for differences to reside.
We are where we are in this moment.
Love does not force.
Love respects.
Model the Love you want from others, to others.
Not because it’s a lesson you’re trying to teach, because it’s the person you ARE. Compassionate. Loving. Kind.
AND have excellent boundaries for yourself.
This is Self-Love.
Know when enough is enough before it’s too much.
Learn from experience.
Be clear about your wants and needs.
You’ll see who can respect your boundaries and who can’t.
And that gives you more information to make appropriate decisions for yourself.
To love and respect yourself and your own boundaries.
Let’s face it. If you don’t respect your own boundaries, how can you expect others to respect them?
Love loves love.
Period.
the subtle art of not giving a fuck

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

The title of this book caught my attention recently while I was at the airport. Working with many people who have anxiety or feel stressed out I thought it could be an interesting read. I like things that make us question the status quo and may be a bit provocative. The subtitle drove home my decision to purchase it: “A counterintuitive approach to living a good life.” Even cooler!

I was curious about the author and what his credentials are so I looked on the back cover and discovered he was a well-followed blogger. Hmmm… Not your typical (potentially dry) self-help PhD? Not surprising with a title like this. My graduate studies had taught me to be leary about non-scientific based information, but I’m an out-of-the-box thinker, so I’m usually willing to let things speak for themself. As I read I realized Manson has no specific education or credential as a therapist or in the mental health field. What he does have is his own personal experiences, which he shares freely in the book (which is different than most PhD, self-help authors!). He’s likable and seemingly very open, which is a plus for me. Essentially what I found is a very direct and easy-to-understand and assimilate way to communicate mindfulness (without really talking about mindfulness!). Even cooler!

I have many clients who are not “readers” and I’m always on the lookout for books that may be interesting to the uninterested reader. This book fits the profile. I have recommended it to several people and they *loved* the title and were willing to give it a whirl upon my recommendation.

A few of the premises in the book that caught my attention:

  1. We can never really avoid being in pain and discomfort (he uses the word suffering), so choose what you want to be in discomfort about.
  2. Choose what you want to give a f*ck about rather than giving a f*ck about everything.
  3. Your emotions are there for a very good reason – to give you feedback, to get your attention. So PAY ATTENTION to them!
  4. Make sure you are aligning with your values and priorities. Are the people you surround yourself with people you strive to be like? Are the decisions you are making assisting you in being the best version of yourself?
  5. Failure is to be expected! Welcome it. Learn from it! Perfectionism can keep us from living in reality… I mean really, at what point is “perfection” achieved?! Or are you always telling yourself you’re STILL not good enough.
  6. It’s ok to say “No.” Again, choosing what you do and don’t want to participate in establishes appropriate boundaries.

I found it to be a very enjoyable, humorous, entertaining read, and am glad I read it.

Intrigued?! Give it a whirl for yourself!

 

train your brain

Exercises to Train Your Brain to Think, Feel & Behave Differently

Greetings! Megan here.

We know the brain has plasticity, so we know we can shape and mold it. However, many of us don’t know what to do to see a difference.

Oftentimes we see things as black/white, good/bad, like/dislike, right/wrong which are limiting perspectives and keep us stuck in just two options. To increase our flexibility and make training the brain easier, we have to work on the brain’s flexibility and give our brain more options and perspectives from which to see our life and the world.

If you want to decrease your anxiety, anger, irritability, and depression, here are some specific exercises that help you create flexibility in the brain.

Create a Mind-Body Connection

First, focus on your 5 senses.

Take a minute or two, wherever you are, to focus on each sense and be as descriptive as possible. Naming and noticing while not judging (they aren’t good or bad; right or
wrong; they just are).

Sight: What are you seeing? Colors, textures, name the objects, just notice.

Smell: What are the smells around you? Do you smell the grass, flowers, stale
office furniture, someone’s lunch, your deodorant, or shampoo? Again, use your
adjectives: pungent, sour, sweet, stale, fresh, etc.

Taste: What are you tasting? Toothpaste? Coffee? Breath mint? Be descriptive:
Minty, tangy, sweet, bitter, etc.

Touch: What does it feel like in the chair you’re sitting in or on the floor/ground
you’re standing on? Is there a breeze? Warm sun on your face? What do the
clothes feel like on your skin? Tight, loose, itchy, soft, cozy, etc.

Hearing: What are you hearing inside this space (room, car, etc)? What are you
hearing outside of this space (next room, outside, down the street)?

Next,  Count your breathing.

Count to 4 or 5 or 6 on each inhale and exhale for the same number. It
doesn’t matter what number you choose, one’s not better than another, just do what feels
best for you. Counting in and out for the same number is very balancing. As you do this
breathing work, notice the break in breath at the top of the breath and at the bottom where it feels like the breath is suspended for just a moment.

Set Boundaries

Know what you have control over and what you don’t have control over.

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

Awaken The Auto-Pilot and be Kind to Yourself (and Others!)

Notice your critical voice. We speak to ourselves, in our mind, with many different voices. Sometimes we’re very parental with ourselves and sometimes we are free and playful. Other times we can be very critical. If you have any sort of perfectionistic tendencies or are a bit Type-A, this may really resonate. When we begin to just notice (no need to try to change it) when we are speaking to ourselves critically we inherently change it. Just the sheer act of paying attention and noticing (without judgment) has the ability to change the issue at hand. And remember, don’t be critical of yourself being critical – just notice it for what it is and move on!

For ultra brain flexibility do a routine task differently.

-If you have “your spot” at the kitchen or dining room table, move to another spot at
each meal.

-If you have a morning routine in the bathroom, change it up. Brush your teeth first,
then take a shower, then floss your teeth.

-Soap up in the shower differently. If you usually start and your head, start at your feet.

Remember, there is no right or wrong, good or bad and we aren’t going for efficiency right now. We’re going for a change of perspective as well as flexibility of thinking and doing, which will help you change other, bigger, things if you want to! You’re building new neural pathways in your brain! Congrats!

I hope these insights are helpful! Let me know if you have any questions!

trending

How Are You Trending?

Written by Rob Giltner, MAMFT

Lately, we’ve been hearing a lot of terms like: “peak performance,” “level up,” and “elevate yourself” as it relates to being our best self. However, our best self is something that we should take time to think of. Only once we have a good idea of what our best self looks like can develop a proper road map to achieving that. 

One tool that can be very effective in achieving our goals, can be to take an inventory of ourselves and assess mindfully how we are trending. We might think of trending as it relates to social media. However, here the term describes an assessment of ourselves.

In therapy or counseling, we often use scales to take a personal inventory.

For example, if you have been experiencing constant anxiety you may say that the anxiety is at an 8 out of 10; 10 being the worst. Your long-term goal may be to get anxiety down to a 2 or 3. However, that can’t happen unless you develop a plan and utilize anxiety-relieving tools. 

Understanding how you are trending allows you to set measurable goals where you are able to go from an 8 to a 6 and so forth. If you take that progression then you are trending in the correct direction.

Often individuals have great long-term goals. Which could be to feel more peace, to be happier, or to be less stressed. What often gets in the way of those goals is being unaware of the direction we are trending. After all, all of us carry busy schedules and have many things to do. When we are overwhelmed or highly stressed our brains go into survival mode instead of naturally assessing how we are trending. 

If you have a goal or an idea of what your best self is; are you trending away or toward that direction? If you are trending away, what might you do to help yourself begin to trend in the right direction? If you notice you are trending toward your goal what has been working? And as always be gentle with yourself in any direction you may be headed.

improve your marriage

How To Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It

marriageYes, you heard that correct! When I (Megan) lived in Austin, TX, I had the privilege to be mentored by author and relationship expert, Dr. Patricia Love. She encouraged me to think outside-the-box when working with couples which is what helps me be one of the “Three-Best Rated Marriage Counselors in Louisville.” You CAN improve any relationship without talking about it and that’s what I teach my clients and the other therapists at Louisville Mindfulness Center every day.

How you show up with others, invites them to show up that way with you. If you are acting as your “Best Adult Self” and setting appropriate boundaries and the other person you want a good (or, even decent) relationship with can’t meet you there, that gives you more information. With that more information, you can decide if being in that relationship works for you or at the very least how much time and energy you want to give to that relationship – especially if there is not a mutual exchange of energy…i.e. you’re doing all the work.

While I couldn’t find the video of Dr. Love on the Oprah show (yep, she’s done that!), I want you to see her YouTube page so you can watch her live!  And here are some other wonderful books Dr. Love has written as well…

love

marriage therapy

relationships

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