Posted in back to school, comfortzone, coronavirus, counseling, emotion regulation, empathy, goals, grief, home, loneliness, motherhood, parenting, relationships, summer, Uncategorized, unprepared, values

Ch-ch-changes

Change is always inevitable. As the saying goes, “the only thing constant is change.” That is more true in these tumultuous times than ever. As I type this post, I sit in a home with unpacked boxes and blank walls. During the craziness of a pandemic, my family has moved across state lines. More unsettled emotions and more disruption to routine await my children. 

It is important to focus on ways to support our children and give them stability amidst uncertain times. As we have previously discussed, their emotions are weaving through anxiety, grief, and confusion. The presentation of these feelings may come out sideways, but there is no question that they are struggling. School is uncertain and friendships are suffering from lack of time together. Here are a few ways to ensure our kids have what they need.

SET EXPECTATIONS EACH DAY

A way to reduce anxiety is to give the most information possible. As they wake up or join you for breakfast, remind them of everything on the agenda that day. It can include having a FaceTime date with a friend or relative, going to pick up groceries, spending time doing online school or even going on a walk. A few activities that you plan for the day or need them to accomplish, stated in a few bullet points. 

This can allow them to have a method for marking the days. As days run together it can become distressing for a child that is used to lots of activity. If it is possible, plan the day with your child and allow them to insert a few items they would like to do or need to do. This can provide some feelings of control. 

CREATE A SAFE SPACE 

My son is a fan of enclosed spaces. Give him a tent or box and he enjoys himself. Having somewhere a child feels safe can go a long way to aiding their adjustment to change. This can be a corner of the house where they can listen to music, read or draw. Having their own space, again gives them feelings of control and a place to turn when life seems out of control. 

Understanding their need for familiar things, and providing them time to seek out the comfort, you are validating their emotions and coping. It sets a healthy precedent for enduring upheaval later in life. It is also helpful to have a place of your own. Modeling healthy behavior aids in kids engaging that behavior. 

SPEND INTENTIONAL TIME TOGETHER

How often this is possible, depends on your life stage. Working from home with school age children having to do distance learning? Maybe once a week. However, setting up some activity to do with your son or daughter can give them the extra attention they need. This does not need to be finishing a thousand piece puzzle and hours of work. It can be reading together, coloring together or building a blanket fort. 

Kids love experiencing fun with their parents. They love finding ways to do things they know their parents are enjoying alongside them. It builds a foundation of security that lasts during times of uncertainty. Knowing that they have a way to connect with the most important people in their lives.

USE FEELING WORDS OFTEN

We spent the last two months focused on feeling words. On why they are important, how to cope and how to identify them. Revisit those if needed, its never a bad idea. Using feeling words when you are experiencing an emotion as well as identifying their emotions can give your relationships a common language. 

Some examples are: “Oh, I see you are so frustrated.” “I am really angry that, that car cut me off. Please give me a minute to listen to music to calm down.” “I am a little confused about what is going on right now, it can be scary”. “It is ok to be overwhelmed with all the change.” One of the phrases I use to most is, “It is ok to cry, but not whine. It is ok to be disappointed.” All of these comments allow for emotional intelligence, modeling and beginning conversations. The more emotions are discussed, the less scary they are for little ones. 

Change makes parenting difficult. It pulls and tangles our emotions and then we have to help our emotionally developing little ones navigate it as well. This season, that seems to last forever, is a tricky one. It begs for relief and we beg for stability. Let us find ways to be that stability for our children so they are able to cope effectively. 

Growing through change,

Allyson

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Posted in anger, coronavirus, counseling, emotion regulation, empathy, grief, motherhood, parenting, relationships, selfcompassion, social distancing, summer, Uncategorized

I’m Sorry, but We Can’t: Navigating Disappointment

“I know you wanted to do ________, but we can’t right now.” Sound familiar? I’m sure you’ve said it to your kids many, many times since March. If you’re anything like me, you’ve said it to yourself many times as well. My latest submersion in the pool of disappointment was Saturday. After coming in contact with someone that tested positive for COVID-19, my family went from limiting people interaction, to eliminating the interactions. 

Celebrating a holiday in a more subdued manner is so sad. I love to celebrate and have a reason to do fun things that make a day special and different than an ordinary day. I decided, even if the day couldn’t be the hanging out at the pool and jumping into a large crowd to watch fireworks, at least I would treat myself to a milkshake. Of course, the shake machine was down at Sonic! I mean, come on! Disappointment radiated through my fourth of July. 

As this pandemic continues, everyone is a little too acquainted with disappointment. How do we cope with this disappointment, and how do we help our kids navigate this emotion? It is especially difficult when you are disappointed for them. Your child was supposed to graduate, visit a theme park for the first time, have a birthday party, see the beach, or merely finish out the school year with their friends. Our hearts hurt when our children do not get to have the childhood we dream for them. Our hearts hurt even more when they express disappointment and we cannot change the circumstances. Here are a few points to consider:

RECOGNIZE DISAPPOINTMENT AS A PRIMARY EMOTION

When people, especially kids, experience disappointment, they often express it through anger. After all, it is more socially acceptable, and seen less as weakness, to explode in anger rather than dissolve into tears. When a child isn’t able to do something they prefer and they throw a tantrum, recognize the primary emotion. 

Call attention to their feeling of disappointment, validate their sadness and their original desire. Recognize their anger as a protective reaction to a hope that went unfulfilled. We can all relate. Even small disappointments seem monumental to a child, even a teenager. 

Those without their frontal lobe fully developed (anyone under 25) have some trouble regulating their impulses. They forget to utilize coping skills, and often do not want to regulate their emotions. When a feeling is validated and empathized with, the intensity often dissipates. Sometimes it is tempting to belittle the experience, or tell a child that they are over reacting. This moves us to the next point:

VALIDATE, VALIDATE, VALIDATE

Just because you cannot understand the intensity does not mean it is an overreaction. They may not respond in a respectful manner, and that can be given consequences. However, the intensity they feel is partially due to age. Disappointment is new to them. In some ways, that is a positive reality. Some young people become desensitized to disappointment because it is their constant reality. 

Being able to experience disappointment, means you allowed yourself to dream. Recognize the hopes, expectations and dreams that must have been held before the disappointment. Validate the emotion, discuss what was expected or hoped for and give them room to feel.  This is a great way to model empathy. The same needs to be done for you as well. Acknowledge and feel your disappointment. Validate your own emotions and seek out those empathetic friends that will validate them as well. 

Crying over disappointment can seem immature or being “overly sensitive.” But experiencing that depth of emotion can merely mean that you give yourself freedom to hope and plan and dream – something that adults often do not allow themselves to do. Teach your kids that having that freedom to experience disappointment is okay and actually a mark of healthy emotional expression.

MODEL AND TEACH HEALTHY COPING

When you give yourself permission to experience disappointment, you give your children an example of healthy emotional regulation. But you also give them a front row seat to witness healthy coping.  If you had great hopes for a birthday and it does not happen, it is okay to express the disappointment. This may include a few tears, or just a glum expression. When they ask for an explanation, tell them how you feel. However, it is key not to stay there. 

Feeling emotions are crucial for a healthy emotional life, but so is coping. We would not allow a teenager to mope for an entire weekend over a cancelled date, so neither can we. Express the emotion, process the emotion and cope with the emotion. This can be putting on some music, choosing a different task or merely engaging in some physical activity. 

Some people cope best by processing the emotion with a safe person and as a result they are able to continue on with their day. Others people struggle to move past the emotion. That is where the distraction technique we utilize with toddlers can come into play. Distract yourself with something this is possible and will make your heart a little lighter. You favorite song, facetiming with a friend, listening to a comedian, watching a good movie, going on a walk, creating something or taking a bubble bath. Find something that helps you cope, allow your child to recognize that you are engaging in these coping activities. Work with them to find a few methods that help them as well. Having a list of helpful coping skills on the refrigerator might be very helpful during this time that is filled with more than normal disappointments. 

This feeling of loss, of sadness, of missing something, is uncomfortable. However, if we suppress it and ignore it, it will come out in a maladaptive manner. More importantly is that we can teach our children to handle it the same way. Refusing to acknowledge disappointment may result in no more dreaming, only expressing anger or a temptation to belittle others that express disappointment themselves. 

Remember, feelings aren’t wrong, they are valid. Feel them, express them, but also be intentional about coping with them as well. You can do this!

Moving through disappointment to the other side,

Allyson

Someone please find me a milkshake!

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Posted in boredom, coronavirus, counseling, emotion regulation, empathy, home, isolation, loneliness, parenting, summer

The Doldrums of Summer

“I’m bored!”

Complaints of boredom almost always arise during summertime as kids adjust to idle days after months jam-packed with school, sports, and other activities. Now, as we are all moving through a summer in which our vacations, camps, and road trips have been cancelled or postponed and many of our plans changed or been put on hold, our kids are likely to encounter boredom more than ever.

It can be tempting as a parent to try to prevent boredom in our children, especially when our kids are asking us to try to solve the ‘problem’ of boredom for them. We want our kids to have access to enrichment and learning activities, to engage in team sports and learn how to play instruments. We love seeing our kids light up whenever they are being delightfully entertained and sometimes, frankly, we just need some time alone to work or rest.

However, parents should be slow to jump in and ‘fix’ boredom. There are many ways that we, as parents, can guide our children through their boredom and help them learn more about themselves while empowering them to emotionally regulate.

Try Connecting

The fact that our children usually come to us with the cries of their boredom is a clue that one of the reasons our kids get bored is because they are lonely. Sandi Mann, a senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire in the U.K., describes boredom as a search for neural stimulation that isn’t satisfied. So much of a child’s learning comes from social interaction and our increased isolation during the time of COVID-19 has increased the potential for everyone, especially our kids, to be a little lonelier.

Try to listen to what kind of boredom your child is experiencing. If it sounds like loneliness, you might look for ways of connecting your kids to their friends more. Try a combination of ways to connect that can also ignite your child’s creativity, generosity, or kindness. Provide stationary, letters, and envelopes or help coordinate facetime phone calls between friends, even with younger children. It will still be meaningful even if the video call is short and distracted. If you have older kids, it is fine to have rules about socializing over screens that mimic your in-person rules, such as having to be in a common area while on a device and having a “curfew.”

Some children, younger kids especially, may simply need to feel your empathy and connection through their boredom. Normalize the feeling of boredom, listen to what they have to say, and help them problem solve. If you have time to play, certainly take the time to play. But connection will also happen through the simple act of taking the time to make eye contact, listen, and simply be with them. Kids rarely have “run out of things to do,” and instead just need a break to be with someone for little while.

Model Boredom

One of the most impactful ways that we can help our kids with their boredom is by engaging with our own. When we keep ourselves busy or distracted by screens, we start to lose our ability to move out of our own boredom. It is easy to drown out our boredom with podcasts, tv, and scrolling, but in the process we lose our ability to be creative in alleviating our own boredom and become dependent upon outside stimulation.

Boredom has been found to be a fount of both creativity and emotional processing. Dr. Mann states that, “Once you start daydreaming and allow your mind to really wander, you start thinking a little bit beyond the conscious, a little bit into the subconscious, which allows sort of different connections to take place. It’s really awesome, actually.”

When you are bored, your brain begins to do amazing things. It is the space in which your brain sets goals, assigns meaning to your past, and processes emotions. It is also the space in which we dream up new solutions to our problems. It is really tempting in this season of boredom, burnout, and uncertainty to want to check out at the end of the day (or even mid-day) and just numb out with some Netflix. But just like our other emotions, boredom communicates something important to us. If boredom is the unmet need for stimulation, then boredom, like hunger, is simply trying to get us to pay more attention to what we really need.

Just like with our kids, boredom can be delayed by constant entertainment, but that will just make creating stimulation for ourselves so much harder. We can model good mental fitness by allowing ourselves to get bored during the day. This can look like engaging in menial activity, practicing mindfulness, sitting and thinking, or even just putting away our screens.

Provide a Space for Exploring Boredom

Personally, the hardest part of allowing my kids to be bored is letting go of control. Younger kids learn better through concrete experiences so while a teen may find themselves lounging under a tree and getting lost in their thoughts during productive boredom, toddlers and preschoolers tend to be a little, erm, *messier.*

Create space, perhaps both inside and out, in which your kids can explore. Set up a drawing station or pull out some play dough. Dedicate a section of your backyard to dirty and messy play. Have a cache of puzzles, books, or other engaging activities on hand. Set a time everyday during which everyone has alone time in a space made special for them. When we give kids ways to constructively work through and process their emotions, including boredom, they are more likely to grow into adults with healthy emotional regulation.

Many of us are still finding ourselves in survival mode this summer, but boredom is one thing that we don’t need to run from. Let’s all lean a little harder into boredom and see what amazing things happen.

Being bored and brilliant with you,

Selena

Ducharme, J. (2019, Jaunary 4). Being bored can be good for you—if you do it right. here’s how. Time. https://time.com/5480002/benefits-of-boredom/

Kovelle, K. (2020, March 25). Boredom is OK! Here are 13 ways to help your kids embrace it. Metro Parent for Southeast Michigan. https://www.metroparent.com/daily/parenting/parenting-issues-tips/boredom-is-ok-for-kids/

Zomorodi, M. (2017, April). How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas [Video file]. Retireved from https://www.ted.com/talks/manoush_zomorodi_how_boredom_can_lead_to_your_most_brilliant_ideas?language=en

Posted in boundaries, counseling, emotion regulation, motherhood, parenting, therapy

I’ve Got A Feeling…or two, or three…

Back in March, Tiffany wrote an excellent post about checking in with your emotions. She beautifully described emotions as “a check-engine light for the soul,” and we figured that now is the perfect time for a tune-up. For the next several weeks, we will be checking in with one emotion each week with strategies for both parents and kids to help with identifying emotions, coping with them, and working through them.

As we dive into the world of emotions, I wanted to start us out with a word about the importance of talking to your kids about emotions.

The ideal balance is to have both high expectations AND high responsiveness in our parenting. One without the other is unbalanced (and we will all be unbalanced from time to time), but talking about emotions with our kids is just as important as teaching them discipline and boundaries.

Here are just a few reasons why we should talk to our kids about emotions:

1 – One day your kids will be grown-ups with their own grown-up emotions.

We spend a lot of time and effort making sure our kids know the things they need to know to be successful adults. We teach them math, manners, finances, and French. But knowing how to talk about, cope with, and regulate emotions is arguably the most important tool for success in the adult world. We need emotional regulation to cope with our adult relationships, adult stressors, and adult workplaces. And just like with any other skill, the sooner our kids start working on it, the more practice they will have and the better chances they will have to excel in it.

2 – Emotions help kids self-soothe.

Emotions can be big and powerful, and they can even be frightening whenever they seem to ‘take control.’ Being able to name emotions and the ways they make your kids’ bodies feel not only normalizes what is happening, but it also empowers them to talk about what they are experiencing and take appropriate action.

3 – Emotional health is critical for physical health.

If emotions aren’t processed and regulated, then they can manifest as health problems. Just like a lack of emotional regulation can lead to health problems in adults, the same can result in physical problems for kids too. This can includes symptoms like headaches, stomach aches, or weakened immune system function.

4 – Talking about emotions with our kids give us a chance to connect.

Talking to and teaching our kids about emotions can be hard and exhausting. It can also create more connection with our kids. Whenever we engage with our kids on an emotional level, we have more opportunities for compassion, empathy, and connection.

In the coming weeks, I want to begin by challenging you to become more aware of your own emotions. Here is an emotion wheel to get you started. Our kids are studying us all of the time, so the best way to start the conversation about emotions with you kids is to start leading by example.

Feeling with you,

Selena

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Posted in counseling, goals, motherhood, parenting, screen time, selfcare, summer

Survival Mode to Summertime

Stepping into summertime feels really different this year. Kids have already been at home for months, things are slowly reopening, and many summer plans have been put on hold. So how do we differentiate summer from quarantine life and move out of survival mode to summer mode?

Hopefully things are getting a little more normal for you. As you make this transition, I would encourage you to remember to do what is comfortable and best for your family. If that means socially distancing longer than your friends or letting loose now that the stay at home order is over, you get to make the choice for your family. A great thing we can do for our friends and family members is respect their decisions. On this Memorial Day, you can also take some time to prepare for your summer!

When You Were a Kid

What do you remember about summer when you were a kid? What did you love? What can you recreate with your family? Maybe a backyard kid pool and homemade popsicles made the list or water balloon fights and super soakers. We may have to get a little more creative this summer with safety precautions and not everything open. I would encourage you to make a bucket list with your kids about things you want to do over the summer. Planning and working your way down the bucket list can help get everyone in summer mode.

Reinstate Normal

Anyone still feeling like they are in survival mode? What do you need to implement to get back to normal that is within your control? In our house, I need a better morning routine, and we need to get back to our bedtime routine in the evenings.  Maybe its reigning in screen time or limiting self indulgence as a coping mechanism as discussed in previous blog posts. Communicating expectations and routines is beneficial for both you and your kids. It keeps you accountable and does not take them by surprise.

One on One

In her book, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting, Dr. Markham discusses the importance of one on one time. She suggests doing this daily for fifteen minutes with each child and calling it by your child’s name, for example, “Matthew time.” I realize this may not be feasible every day, but what a great thing for our kids to look forward to when we can! These little ones love spending time with parents. It also creates something predictable in the summer routine.

I hope this new season helps you get into a new mindset as you set out to enjoy some time with your family this summer. Life isn’t normal yet for most of us. We know summer will have great moments and hard moments as all parenting seasons do, but I hope you can enjoy the moment by moment of this season.

Diving in with you,

Andrea

Reference:

Markham, L. (2012) Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. New York: Perigree Press.

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Posted in boundaries, coparenting, coronavirus, counseling, emotion regulation, home, isolation, motherhood, parenting, relationships, screen time, summer, therapy, values

A Sea of Screens

We have all witnessed the impact of too much screen time on our own mood and on our children.  We have heard about the importance of limiting our screen time, but often times we haven’t seen the specifics of what screen time limitations should look like or the detrimental effects of too much screen time.  In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time that we have all been required to be on our screens more than normal (and may have streamed an extra show or seven for ourselves or our children) the need for a screen detox is inevitable. It may be helpful to explore together just what our screen hygiene looks like and how we can change it to increase digital wellness.  

Averaging 7.5 hours of screen time per day, 8 to 18 year olds often suffer many difficulties due to steep overuse of screens.  The developmental impact appears to be most determined not by what screens are doing to alter brain development, but rather by what we are missing when we spend our time engulfed in the sea of media.  Sequestered in our homes, we neglect the rich benefits of outdoor green space which calms our nervous system and strengthens our attention span.  The constant hue of blue light short-circuits our circadian rhythm as we shield ourselves from the sun.  Exercise and its many benefits are traded for the slothful rhythm of autoplay, creating fertile ground for anxiety, insomnia, depression, and hyperactivity.  Emotional regulation, conflict resolution, and our ability to understand cause and effect are all stunted when we and our children don’t enjoy the fruits of imaginative, free play and movement.  Empathy, connection, and love are hampered when we substitute media for real embrace and eye to eye connection.

In the midst of a global pandemic, a temporary increase in screen time is to be expected.  For many of us, it’s the only way we have made it through the day with any semblance of sanity!  But however alluring the call to the sea of screens, we must return to the shore of digital wellness.  Unfortunately, we can often feel lost at sea, with no way to find our way back.  So what can we do?  Here are some helpful guidelines to get us started, as well as some additional resources to promote digital wellness in our homes:

  1. Limit screen time for adults and children in the home.
  2. Curate our use of media, opting only for those things we enjoy and avoiding pointless browsing/binge watching. 
  3. Assign times and spaces that screens are and are not allowed (ex: no screens at dinnertime and after 9:00pm or no screens or phones in bedrooms).
  4. Use software to protect children from inappropriate material. 
  5. Model healthy screen usage for your children.
  6. Decrease screen time slowly as you work toward healthier limitations
  7. Consider a 24 hour “screen sabbath” once per week, when screens are off-limits. 

Detoxing from our screen dependence will not be fun.  But it is necessary if we are to enjoy and fully embrace the life, real life, that’s right in front of us.

Tiffany Raley, M.A.

References:

Children and Media Tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics. (2018, May 1). Retrieved May 17, 2020, from https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/Pages/Children-and-Media-Tips.aspx

Infographics – Screen Time vs. Lean Time. (2018, January 29). Retrieved May 17, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/multimedia/infographics/getmoving.html

Posted in coronavirus, counseling, emotion regulation, relationships, selfcare, selfcompassion, social distancing

Self-Care vs. Self-Indulgence

Spending so much time away from our friends, communities, and support systems has been hard. Sure, all of the Facetiming and Google hangouts have been nice, but no matter how introverted you might be, we’re all starting to really miss our people. Our people are usually the support systems we turn to when things are hard, but when our normal support systems are absent or lacking, many of us have had to start practicing more forms of self-care to make up for the lack.

When you’re having a hard time and cannot use some of your normal coping skills, how do you know what kind of self-care to turn to? Or, how much? Or, when is it enough? When our lives were busier, the question was more often one of “How do I fit in good self-care?” Now that we are having to practice more of our own care and maybe even have time for it for the first time in a long time, some of us are now asking, “Is there such a thing as too much self-care?” We all need a way to respond to our negative emotions, but how do we know we are doing it right?

One of the most confusing things about discerning between self-care and self-indulgence is that many behaviors could be either.

  • Going for a run.
  • Sleeping in.
  • Eating a big meal of comfort food.
  • Taking a long bath or shower.
  • Taking time for yourself.

Each of these could be the care your soul needs, or might just be a way to numb out from your negative emotions.

So how do we tell the difference? How do we know if the things we are doing are helping our minds, souls, and bodies, or hurting them instead?

Let’s get on the same page:

Before we move on, let’s start with the Merriam-Webster definitions and go from there – just so that we’re all on the same page.

Self-care: care for oneself

Self-indulgence: excessive or unrestrained gratification of one’s own appetites, desires, or whims

Both actions are directed towards yourself and are meant to benefit you, but there are miles between their respective purposes. If self-care is caring for oneself, then things like going to the dentist, making sure you do your laundry, or taking time to stretch all fall into that category. Sure, those things aren’t very glamorous, exciting, or even necessarily pleasurable, but they do serve the purpose of caring for oneself.

Self-indulgence, on the other hand, is directed by the desire to receive pleasure, specifically excessive pleasure.

But what about things that are pleasurable and caring? Like lighting a lovely smelling candle and journaling?

Or what about things that are caring, but excessive? Like training for a marathon, but forcing your body to overtrain and getting an injury?

How does it make you feel about yourself?

One of the biggest clues about whether you are practicing self-care or self-indulgence is how you feel before, during, and afterwards.

Self-indulgence keeps you focused on your sensory experiences, but practicing self-care takes a more holistic evaluation of and communication with yourself. Self-care ultimately comes from a place of self-compassion. Dr. Kristen Neff explains that self-compassion “requires taking a balanced approach to our negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated.” This is precisely opposed to self-indulgence. Where self-indulgence invites you to indulge in pleasurable sensations, emotional exaggeration, or numbing yourself from feeling anything at all, self-care requires tuning into your body and your emotions and looking for what your entire self needs most. Even, and maybe even especially, when it doesn’t feel good. Dr. Neff states that, “We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time.” Sometimes sitting with our pain is exactly the kind of self-care that we need because it’s the kind of self-care that brings healing.

Self-care should leave you feeling more connected to yourself – physically, emotionally, vocationally, spiritually, mentally, etc. Self-indulgence, on the other hand, may leave you feeling worse. If your “self-care” causes you to neglect or harm important people or activities in your life, creates unnecessary financial burdens, or causes significant damage to your body, it is likely self-indulgence.

How do I stop self-indulgence?

The easiest way to get rid of something is to start growing what you want to replace it with. If self-care is rooted in self-compassion, then the best way to curb self-indulgence is to lean into self-compassion.

In its simplest definition, self-compassion is treating yourself with the same compassion that you would show a dear friend whenever they are struggling. If you want to take a closer look at some of the thoughts and actions that indicate your level of self-compassion, take a look at Dr. Neff’s self-compassion scale here:
https://self-compassion.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ShortSCS.pdf

Do you have low levels of self-compassion and are stuck on what to do next? Check out Dr. Neff’s exercises for increasing self-compassion here:
https://self-compassion.org/category/exercises/#guided-meditations

If you’ve realized that you’ve been lower on self-compassion and self-care than you had hoped, or if you’re confessing to yourself that your self-indulgence has been getting a little out of control, then I urge you to remember that you are not alone. This has been a hard season for almost everyone, and we are all learning and growing together.

Learning compassion with you,

Selena

Resources:
Neff, K. Definiton of self-compassion. Self-compassion. https://self-compassion.org/the-three-elements-of-self-compassion-2/.

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Posted in comfortzone, coronavirus, counseling, emotion regulation, goals, grief, isolation, motherhood, parenting, relationships, social distancing, therapy, trauma, values

Hitting Reset

None are excused from the challenges of this season.  The wealthy, the healthy, the married, the single, the successful, and the impoverished are collectively walking through one of, if not the most challenging time in a generation.  Increased weight lays on the shoulders of those in leadership positions as they seek to determine the best course for those in their sphere.  For those special people that call themselves educators; grief, uncertainty, and adaptability demand their attention.  For those medical personnel that are the very ones that fight this pandemic daily; anxiety, exhaustion, and caregiver burnout run thick in their presence.  For the parents that can’t find a moment to themselves and are struggling to meet the umpteen needs that arise within an hour, the mundane, insecurity, and human weakness call for one to expend every last drop of energy and patience. For the single person at home, face-to-face human connection has ceased altogether.  Though in many different forms, this pandemic has brought a halt to our preferences and routines that once helped us lead the life we desired and valued.

Just four and a half months ago we walked into 2020, pondering, discussing, and naming what he hoped or expected the year would have in store for us.  Some of us chose a specific word, goals, and desires for how we hoped this year would look different.  We identified some ways we wanted to take initiative in our lives and shape our lives to align with our values, priorities, and desires.

The current pandemic infuses our homes with tension and our hearts with grief. But for those willing to see, this time brings with it the gift of perspective. It is a magnifying glass for our lives, so to speak, to help us better appraise what is most dear to us, what is most challenging to us, and what is creeping in unwarranted and stealing precious moments from us.  Insight that we did not have just a few months ago has been given.  Complacency and busyness no longer plague our society and hinder our growth.  Our busyness has ceased, our culture has shifted, and we have this small moment in time to evaluate our values and priorities and implement some necessary changes to lead the intentional, value-driven life we desire to lead.  In assessing our different areas of development (physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, and relational), what are the areas that need evaluation with your newly gifted magnifying glass?

Have you found yourself in a cycle of over-eating, emotion-eating, slothfulness, or maybe just a few too many alcoholic beverages?  Do you have a sense that your emotional health and strategies for coping could improve?  Have you put off spiritual disciplines or seeking Christ altogether because of a past hurt or because it’s just not convenient?  Have you had a hard time taking control of your spending, Starbucks attendance, or seeking therapy in retail?  Have you noticed that your relationships are rocky, your friendships are surface-level, or your parenting could use some attention?  

Yeah? Me too.  Never has your social calendar been so free that you can focus more on your exercise routine.  Never has your insight been so clear on what flusters you the most.  Rarely is it so apparent that the world offers little and Christ is the only hope.  There are few opportunities to curb your shopping and eating out habits.  And there is no better time to commit to authenticity, break through the painful patterns, and create beautiful community.

This season brings, along with it’s pain and grief, an opportunity to hit the reset button.  It won’t be easy to align your days to how you imagined and desired them to be long ago when you chose the path that you are currently on.  Mamas, in the midst of the trials, grief, and fear, I challenge you to use this opportunity to improve in the areas you long to be stronger.

Walking the path and pressing “reset” with you,

Tiffany Raley, M.A.

Posted in coronavirus, counseling, emotion regulation, motherhood, parenting, social distancing, therapy

All the Feels: practicing emotion regulation in a time of uncertainty

All the feels.  All of them… or so it seems.  After the rapid changes, cancellations, social-distancing, decision-making, scrambling to meet work and school requirements, rushing to gather food and supplies that could be necessary, and facing potential loss of job and income, it’s normal to be left feeling all the feels.  This pandemic has left us all in uncharted waters.  And for many, that means responding to day to day life scenarios in less than helpful ways.  Tempers shorten, patience withers away, frustration boils over, grace is in short supply, and peace remains just out of reach.  When experiencing an influx of emotions, we must harness them and use them for the wonderful and helpful tool they are, lest they run amok and cause unintended damage.  

Emotions themselves are not bad, though they can often feel that way.  Emotions are intended to serve as a check-engine light for the soul.  When the check engine light appears on your car, you schedule a time for someone to take a look under the hood. To ignore it is to risk further, and much more costly, damage to your vehicle.  Emotions are our check-engine lights.  When they’re firing off, it’s time to take a look under the hood, lest we endure more costly and long term damage.  So what should you do when you notice your check-engine light is on? Ask yourself these three diagnostic questions to get things back on track. Free worksheets are available below to help guide you and your child through this process.

Adult Emotion Check-In Worksheet

Feelings Check-In Worksheet for kids

What are you feeling?  

You have probably experienced a plethora of emotions over the last week of rapid change and global concern.  Don’t leave the emotions swirling around unnamed.  Take a moment to tame your emotions by naming what you’re feeling.  By labeling a feeling, our emotional response is calmed and we gain control and insight to move forward. 

What are you thinking?  

Emotional reactions are most often a product of the thoughts we allow to take up residence in our minds.  Have you ever willed yourself to do or not do something? How did you do that? How did you create the inner determination to accomplish what you set out to accomplish?  You thought your way to it.  You changed your thought from, “I have to have that piece of cake,” to “I will not eat that cake.  I will not eat that cake.  I will not eat that cake!”  The same is true for any emotion.  They are born of our thoughts.  After you identify what you’re feeling, take a moment to investigate what thought gave birth to that emotion. 

What can you change? 

Now that you know the source of your feeling, you can more easily regulate your emotions by examining the thought. Once you’ve identified the thought, ask yourself, Is this thought true, helpful, realistic, and kind? If not, consider alternative thoughts or how you might modify the through so that is true, helpful, realistic, and kind. 

Taking the time to do an emotional check-in can make a dramatic difference.  If you notice yourself cringing at the thought of writing out your thoughts and feelings in this format, then I urge you: journal, draw, paint, talk to a friend (at least 6 feet away, for now), just find some way that allows you to regulate “all the feels” and navigate the waters ahead.  If you experience higher anxiety than most, it might be helpful to take breaks from media, your phone, and even thinking about the current pandemic.  Set times to break from the information when appropriate and enjoy your family, nature, or being creative.  Laugh and be active.  Enjoy the life that is yours today.

Navigating all the feels with you,

Tiffany Raley, M.A.

Resources

Beck, J. S. (2011). Cognitive behavior therapy: Basics and beyond (2nd ed.). Guilford Press. 

Bradberry, T. & Greaves, J. (2009). Emotional Intelligence 2.0. San Diego: Talent Smart.

Siegel, D. J. & Bryson, T. P. (2011). The Whole-Brain Child: 12 revolutionary strategies to nurture your child’s developing mind. New York: Random House. 

Posted in counseling, motherhood, parenting, therapy

Risky Business

If you decide to see a therapist, there is a good chance that their paperwork will include a section called “Potential Risks of Therapy.”

Risks of therapy? I wasn’t expecting that the first time I went to see a therapist. I had heard so many positive stories about therapy before I went that I hadn’t even thought about the risks until I read his paperwork.

Almost everything in life includes some element of risk, from driving your car to backpacking to using your credit card at a gas station. Most of the time, it is healthy for us to know the potential benefits and risks of an activity and have the chance to decide for ourselves what we are willing to risk.

Therapy is no different. There are countless benefits to therapy, but there are risks as well. If you have decided that therapy might be right for you or for someone in your family, there are a few potential risks that you should be aware of beforehand.

Vulnerability Hangover

Coming to therapy takes a lot of courage.

No, seriously. Like a lot of courage.

Even before you walk into the room for your first session, you have to be courageous. It takes courage to sit with yourself and decide to ask for help. It takes great bravery to sit in front of a stranger and choose not to impress them, but to let them see the messiest bits of yourself, your family, your marriage, your kids. It takes hard work to break patterns and to start to interact with the world a little differently.

And if you’ve ever had to be braver or more courageous than you wanted to be, then you know all too well the feeling that comes afterwards.

A vulnerability hangover is a gut-wrenching feeling that happens the moment we decide to get real about who we are, what we want, and how we express it. –

Andria Park, Shine

Brene Brown first coined the phrase “vulnerability hangover” and it’s the perfect term to describe the mix of fear and exhaustion that can sometimes come with going to therapy. It’s kind of like the mental health version of going to a class at the gym after you haven’t worked out in two years. It’s messy, it’s hard, and it’s uncomfortable, but if you put in the time and the effort, then you know it will make a difference.

There may be some sessions that leave you feeling like a million bucks, but that isn’t always the case. Therapy probably won’t be easy, so give yourself the space to rest before or after sessions as needed.

There Might be Disadvantages of Change

Weird, right? But it’s true. Sometimes the problems we encounter are so big and take up so much space in our lives and in our families that they actually mask other problems in our lives.

For example, you may love your child so much that many of your conversations and interactions with your spouse center around a child in your family who is struggling with severe anxiety. This is a good thing; you are both committed to helping your child. However, what happens when all of your hard work pays off and you see your child improve? You might discover that your spouse has been struggling with depression or that you have been struggling with anxiety as well. You were both ‘fine’ before, but in reality your child’s problem was simply masking yours. One of the risks of therapy is discovering – and now having to deal with – problems that you did not realize were there before.

When or if this happens, it might actually feel like therapy made things worse. If you’ve seen improvement in the issue that brought you to therapy, then this probably isn’t the case. A good option would be to talk to your therapist so that you can decide together your next best step.

You Might Encounter Stigma

Popular culture in the US has developed increasingly positive attitudes towards therapy in the past several decades, but the stigma that only “crazy” people or people who “really need help” go to therapy still exist. I’ve had clients complain that things “finally got so bad that we actually need therapy now,” and others who feel like they have to keep therapy a secret from their families or risk being shamed. If the people you are closest to do not support you or your family going to therapy, then the reality is that reaching out to a professional for help may put you at the risk of feeling isolated. The good news is that there are many support groups, both online and in person, where you can find support from others who are going through similar situations.

Remember, there is no shame in getting help. We all need help at some points in our lives – that’s why many therapists also see their own therapists too.

Results are Not Guaranteed

One of the more common fears about therapy is that it won’t work. I get it. Therapy can be expensive, you may have to take time off of work, get a babysitter for your kids (or your other kids if you are taking one of them to therapy), or say no to other commitments. If you add the fact that many people do not seek therapy until they are in crisis, then therapy becomes a high stakes experience and the idea of it not working becomes truly terrifying.

The reality is, though, is that not every therapist or type of therapy is a good fit for you or your family. And sometimes, you might not realize that until you’ve made both time and financial commitments.

If this happens, please talk to your therapist. Almost every therapist will be familiar with the experience of feeling “stuck” with a client, but we can’t help unless you tell us what is and isn’t working with therapy. There are usually different methods that we can try, or we can always refer you to another therapist. Another therapist might have more expertise in what we’re working on in therapy or might simply be a better personality fit. A good therapist won’t be offended if you ask for a referral – our goal is to help you, and sometimes the therapist you are currently seeing just isn’t the best fit.

Another way that you can help protect yourself against this risk is to advocate for yourself. Do some research online, find online support groups, or talk to other professionals. Call a local therapist for a consult or do some digging into what kind of therapy works best for what you hope to accomplish in therapy. It’s okay to ask your therapist questions before you commit to therapy and it’s okay to be picky.

Whether you decide that therapy is right for you or not, it is always brave to want to grow. And that’s always a good place to start.

Being brave with you,

Selena

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.