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book of the month

2021 Book of the Month Giveaway!

Hi Friends! Megan Bartley here.

One of the fun questions that was asked during our Mindfulness Center holiday party was, “What’s your favorite holiday?!” We had many varied answers from Easter to Fourth of July to Thanksgiving to Christmas. My answer was unique. My favorite holiday is New Year’s Eve and Day.

I have always liked the idea of a fresh start, of starting anew. Of putting the past behind me and stepping into the unknown of the future. Now, with that said, I am a planner, in a big way, so I usually have many goals and intentions for the New Year. I also LOVE to challenge myself…to learn new things, read new books, try new activities, explore new places, eat new foods…you name it.

One of my favorite books is The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra. One of the laws is the Law of Detachment. Choprah so elequently 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.”

Aaaahhhh…. I could read that passage over and over. It seems so simple, freeing, beautiful and exciting.

So in the spirit of newness and giving, I am excited to announce that every month this year we will be giving away one of my most favorite books that has helped me

  • 1) learn new things,

  • 2) see old things in new ways, and/or

  • 3) challenge the norm of what we “know.”

In January 2021 we will give away a copy of The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. Simply submit your information below to enter the drawing. We will announce our winner in our email newsletter the last Friday of every month. If you can’t wait to read the book… Order it HERE!

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.

holidays

Coping with Pain, Loss & Stress During the Holidays

The holidays can be a time of great joy, peace, and fun! We may have traditions that enhance our close relationships this time of year, feel more connected to a higher power, or are simply looking forward to much needed time off. However, for many of us, the holidays can be a time of pain, loss, and stress.
This pain can come from hurt or damaged relationships, loneliness or be the result of a traumatic event. If you are feeling pain, it can be helpful to view this pain as a wound or a symptom of a wound. Remember that emotional wounds do not heal over time like physical wounds. Emotional wounds can heal by utilizing mindfulness, empathy, and other therapeutic remedies. If you notice pain this holiday season; try to shift your focus to healing these wounds.

Loss is always difficult and can become harder around the holidays.

Maybe we are dealing with the death of a loved one and an empty chair around our table. Perhaps it is the loss of a relationship or, in the face of the pandemic, the loss of an activity we enjoy and cherish.  Like pain, if we notice loss we need to give ourselves the time and space to heal from it. Allow yourself to grieve, and if possible, sit with the feelings of loss and befriend those feelings. If you notice loss, be kind and gentle with yourself. Loss can create a further loss of self. This can manifest in loss of sleep or loss of personal value you may have. Make sure to protect yourself from any possible loss of self during this time.

Stress is also very common around the holidays. Specifically, when dealing with difficult people…

Whether it’s a difficult family member or a person you have just come across, difficult people can trigger stress. It is first helpful to not take their behavior personally. Also, know that if you feel that someone is difficult, it is likely someone else feels the same way. Be aware if this person is trying to elicit a response out of you. It can be helpful to have a plan or script when dealing with a specific difficult person. Lastly, if you are able, try to have empathy for that person. If you allow yourself to be consumed by their behavior then you are ultimately giving the difficult person power. Empathy gives you the opportunity to eliminate some of that power.
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.

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!

 

emotional roller coaster

The Emotional Roller Coaster of Living with Chronic Illness

Written by Cheryl Young, MAMFT

Being diagnosed with chronic illness can often feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster ride!

Here are 9 that are often relatable to both the individual and family members after a diagnosis
has been made:

1. Relief

  • “Finally an answer, I’m not crazy after all!”
  • “At least now I can build a plan of action and keep from getting worse. It sucks
    not to know!
  • “Well, at least it’s not going to kill me. So I have that going for me. It could be
    much worse!”

2. Jealousy

  • “Why do I feel so limited by my illness while others I know with a chronic
    condition seem to do just fine?”
  • “How unfair! My friends and family are getting to follow through with all the
    plans they made for their future – now I have this roadblock in front of me!”
  • “Why don’t other people understand – I may look just fine, but they can’t see
    the invisible symptoms I am feeling like fatigue, depression and anxiety”.

3. Impatience

  • “Why all the long waits for a doctor’s appointment – it feels like they just don’t
    care about me!”
  • “When will I know if this medication is actually working?”
  • “How come they don’t have a cure by now?”

4. Disappointment

  • “I feel like crap but my doctor says I am fine.
  • “I give up! Why bother eating healthy and going to PT – nothing is making me
    feel better!”
  • “I used to have dreams and ambitions. Now I can no longer do the things I
    wanted to do with my life. What do I do now?”

5. Exhaustion

  • “All I do is think about my condition – I just wish I could take one day or even one
    hour off from all the worrying!”
  • “I hate having to rely on others all the time for help – I worry about adding more
    stress to their lives too!”
  • “I am so anxious and worried that I can’t sleep, I can’t concentrate, and I have mood swings all the time.”
  • “There are so many unpredictable problems -I am worn out by all the emotional ups and downs.”

6. Loss of Identity

  • “Do I have any choices anymore? I feel like my body has betrayed me and I am
    no longer who I once was.”
  • “I have lost sight of who I actually am as a whole human being.”
  • “Can I still have a career? Will I still be able to perform my job without asking for
    help?
  • “Can I still find love as a person with this condition? Will I ever be able to enjoy
    romance, friendship, sex or care for my own family?”

7. Fatalism

  • “My doctors do not care about me, they just want to collect my insurance – they
    probably don’t even want to find a cure.”
  • “Things aren’t getting better…why do I even bother trying to fight this disease?”
  • “So much for living mindfully. I may as well live on the edge because nothing I do
    for myself makes a difference.”

8. Withdrawl

  • “I don’t talk to friends or family or coworkers anymore because it’s too difficult
    to explain – they wouldn’t understand anyway.”
  • “I don’t work or take part in my usual activities anymore because I can’t perform
    them the way I used to and it is embarrassing. I used to be good at these things.”
  • “I don’t want to leave the house anymore because it is physically too hard, there
    are too many obstacles out in the world for people with disabilities and people
    can be cruel and stare at me.”

9. Getting Perspective (Gratitude)

  • “I am grateful to my friends and family who through this journey have helped me
    by being good listeners and also sharing their feelings in a way that helps me
    clarify and value my own journey.”
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.