Are you doing these three things to improve your mind?

 

We all know what it sounds like. We wake up, feel a little tickle in our throat and begin to think, “I’m sick. I’m getting sick. Is that…? Yep. I’m sick.” Or we have a rough night of sleep: “Ugh, I’m so tired. Ugh… how am I going to make it through today? There’s no way. Need. Coffee. Do they realize how tired I am? I can barely open my eyes. So tired.”

Each time we circle around with those thoughts a peculiar thing happens: we intensify our physical experience. Rarely do we repeat in our minds how tired we are, and end up feeling more jazzed. Our body becomes heavier, more sore, more weak with each repetition.

If we’re able to think ourselves more tired or sick, what happens when we think things like, “I am an angry person,” “I’m not attractive enough,” or “I’m so anxious.” So why do we do this to ourselves? Well, because we don’t always realize how much power we have over our minds.

That’s right, our minds.  They belong to us, and not the other way around. You are fully capable of turning your mind from unpleasant ruminations to more positive musings. But how? Here are three (not so easy) ways to improve your thinking:

  1. Vent less. When we feel burdened with thought, we often have the urge to vent (i.e. verbally vomit our frustrations). Under the guise that it’ll make us feel better, we seek out a friend or confidant to hear us out. Unfortunately, venting isn’t what helps us feel better. If we are venting just to vent, we’re actually ruminating out loud. We’ll most likely end up more worked up at the end than we did to start with. What helps us feel better is connection. If we seek out a confidant to hear us out, challenge us to take responsibility, and face our feelings without judgement, we can feel more connected and thus less overwhelmed.
  2. Don’t believe your boogers. We walk around all day assuming the thoughts that pulse through our minds are facts. “This sucks, that is awesome.” We believe what we think, and are even sometimes willing to fight to prove it is true. When we believe our thoughts, we end up with more thoughts, which we believe, which lead to more thoughts. I once heard a monk explain that our mind churns out thoughts like our nose churns out boogers. Thoughts are the mind’s job, but we don’t go through life believing our boogers hold the truth. So why do we believe our thoughts do? Don’t believe everything you think. Here are some tips how:
    1. Start by listening to the things you’re telling yourself all day. Awareness comes first.
    2. Work to label them. Whether they’re judgement, wishing, planning, or reminiscing. You can also just label them “thought.” Or better yet, “booger.”
    3. Start questioning whether they’re helpful or unhelpful. Do they make you feel more positive or more negative? If they don’t make you feel warm and fuzzy, look for a thought that counteracts them. Instead of “I can’t do anything right!” Try, “It’s been a rough day – and, I do a lot of things well. For example…” (hint: there are things you do well!)
  3. Step into your life. To get out of your mind, you have to get into your life. There’s even a workbook with a similar title, I recommend it. What does it mean to step into your life? To me, it comes with a few calls to action.
  • First up is accountability. Stop waiting for the motivation fairy to flit in and give you the desire to do things you don’t want to do. Be accountable to yourself, to your actions, and to your impact.
  • Secondly, to pull from Marie Kondo, do more of what sparks joy in your life. Get yourself organized. Love what you have. Do things that connect you to the earth, to yourself, and to your community.
  • Lastly, give it a rest. You don’t have anything to prove or any worth make up. Hold yourself with warm regard and give yourself a rest. Stop trying to berate yourself into improvement. Stop trying to outperform. Just step into the moment and try to enjoy it. It’s all you really have.

This life is hard. And confusing. And overwhelming. And that’s on the outsides of our bodies. Sometimes life is confusing and hard and overwhelming inside our bodies, outside of our control. Our mind, though, doesn’t have to be. That is the one suffering that we can control. Why not release it? Find rest. Enjoy it.

See you soon,

D

Honoring our power

It’s been going on a lot lately. I feel it coursing through my system. I want women (all women) to feel their power.

Let’s start by saying this has little to do with cis-men and their power. Yes, patriarchy. But we’re not here to talk about taking power from anyone. We all have power within us, and it is our job to keep and harness our own power for good.

There are so many ways we give away our power. Some of them are inherent in relationships, other ways are insidious, some even damaging.

Giving up our power often looks like abandoning ourselves. We give more credence to what others expect of us, what we think society expects of us, what we think relationship requires of us than to what our intuition knows is right.

I’ve been seeing it a lot in my work lately, women reclaiming their power. Women being brave enough to listen to their own instincts and then advocate for what they find there.

Too often we do the opposite. Women who have sacrificed their careers to raise their children, who sacrifice themselves to make sure the house and everyone in it is cared for in every way. Women who allow poor behavior from partners and do what they can to sweep away any consequences their partner might experience. It’s just easier that way. Women who forget or lose touch with who they are, because they’re trying to “have it all.” Women who believe they ought to look a certain way in order to have worth.

Where did we learn this?

Who says this is the way it has to be?

How might our lives change if we choose ourselves, in addition to all the other things we love? What if we thought of ourselves as -same as- not more important, not less important. Equal.

Yes, I will care for you when you’re in COVID isolation for a week, and then I’d like some time to myself this weekend.

Yes, I will pause my career because it’s important to raise these babies we’ve chosen, but I will listen to my inner wisdom and trust when it is time to go back.

I will own and share my feelings without fear of being labeled “sensitive.” I am sensitive. That is part of my power. My feelings belong to me, and I can experience them without reacting from them.

There is no morality in cleanliness, so I will not feel bad if my house feels like it is in shambles. I will not clean up after those who can clean up after themselves, outside of an occasional offering of kindness (infrequent enough that it doesn’t turn into an expectation by the other person).

Yes, I will wear clothes that feel good on my body, and give less care to what I’m supposed to look like these days. I will love this body because it is the body I have.

I am a valuable part of this conversation, and I will not feel shame for using my voice and sharing my ideas. I will not fear retribution and will set my boundaries and hold them with firm kindness.

Who is it that you want to be? What are you doing when you feel the most like yourself? Can you do more of what sends you down the path of authenticity, and less of what leads you astray?

You take that real estate test. It’s what you’ve always wanted. You take a step back from work and care for yourself, you’ve been trying too hard for too long. You speak up in that meeting, you have important things to say. You acknowledge those parts of you that you’ve kept hidden for too long, they’re beautiful.

We’ve been taught and it has been reinforced for too long that we should be self-sacrificing. That is not a balanced stance. We can be generous, selfless, and caring. But if we go to a place of giving where we lose ourselves, then we lose our ability to really show up in our lives, let alone for others.

This is where depression creeps in. The cognitive dissonance (or, the discomfort we feel when we live outside of our values) is immobilizing. Overwhelmed by the expectations, burdens, and dissonance, we numb out. We check out. We work harder to show up for others, and wonder why we feel empty at the end of the day.

Perhaps it starts with a willingness to get to know ourselves, truly, without shame. Only through understanding can we properly love. Only through true understanding and love, can we fully show up.

Show up for yourself the way you needed someone to show up for you when you were little. Show up for you the way you show up for others. Believe in your value, and live in a place where you honor it.

I see you working your tail off. You are not alone. You are a powerhouse, and I wish you rest and compassion.

You deserve it.

D

In the wake of loss

2021 ended in a difficult way for so many families in the Front Range. The Marshall Fire was the most devastating on record, and the loss is palpable.

The journey through this grief may be long and come in waves, and with the right support, you can feel your way through this. We’re here to help if you need us.

Additionally, we’ve added some resources below.

A few of the therapists over at Integrating Insights put together a wonderful handout for parents on how to talk to and support their kiddo with navigating the loss. You can read it below.

Not sure what to do next? The Red Cross has a page dedicated to you: What To Do After A Home Fire.

The US Fire Administration has this information packet below:

While we are offering a discounted rate to anyone impacted by the fire, Jewish Family Services also offers free services to those impacted.

You can also access more local resources through the Colorado Sun.

If you’re trying to support a friend through their loss, check out this Sonoma Magazine Article.

Here are some groups offered through Integrating Insights, as well:

Let us know what you need. We’ll keep adding resources as we find them.

Seity

I don’t need any help

Unlike many traditional graduate programs, my program required a 14-day backpacking trip into Utah’s
most grueling terrain. My peers and I spent two weeks hiking along the bottom of White Canyon, a deep
canyon marked by labyrinth-like side canyons, thick underbrush, arches, and pictographs. Throughout
these weeks, my peers and I took turns facilitating therapeutic group activities designed to provoke self-
reflection. What I discovered about myself during one activity changed the way I saw myself forever.
As the sun disappeared behind the canyon wall to the West, I shifted my heavy pack off my back and sat
in the sand to listen to the activity instructions my peer was giving. Here is what she said:


“I will be setting up a maze with rope. With one of your hands on the rope, your job is to find the way out
of the maze. You will be blindfolded, so this task will be difficult. You can raise your hand as many times
as you want to ask questions or to ask for help.”


“Okay, pretty straightforward,” I thought as I tied a bandana around my eyes and placed my hand on the
rope.


I slowly worked my way around the maze, making a mental map in my head. I could hear my peers
laughing and huffing in frustration as we quickly discovered the exit wasn’t going to be easy to find.
After a while, a few peers excitedly proclaimed their success and exited the maze. As fewer and fewer
people circled the maze with me, I grew frustrated and determined to find the exit.


“Do you need help, Jess?”
“No, I can do it! I don’t need any help.”
“Okay, let me know if you need help, I’m right here.”


Slowly but surely, I was the last one in the maze, circling around in the sand and swearing at my inability
to figure out the game. Finally, in a fit of frustration and anger, I pulled off my blindfold and begged my
peer to tell me the secret for getting out of the maze.


“All you needed to do was ask for help.”

If you relate to this story, it’s possible that at some point in your life, you learned that other people
couldn’t be trusted or relied on. To compensate for this lack of trust in others, you developed a
rebellious streak of independence to cope. Now, don’t get me wrong, independence can be a wonderful
strength, but at what point does it isolate you and leave you feeling alone and helpless?
As we’ve seen from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s difficult for humans to thrive in isolation. As difficult as
it may be, learning to be vulnerable and ask for help when you need it will improve your relationships
and your mental wellbeing. I’ll save you the hassle of backpacking into the Utah wilderness and blindly
following a rope in circles in order to unlearn hyper-independence. Here are a few skills to try to begin
learning how to trust others:

  • Check your ego: Use a beginner’s mindset to view tasks with “fresh” eyes instead of assuming
    you know all the answers.
  • Delegate tasks: Ask your co-workers or family members to help you with something small or
    inconsequential to build your trust in their ability to help you in the future.
  • Allow for imperfection: If you’ve delegated a task, and it’s not done exactly how you would have
    done it, ask yourself if that’s okay?
  • Trust: Think of someone you trust completely. Make a list of qualities which make it easy for you
    to trust them. Work to extend trust to others who hold those qualities

Next time you find yourself saying “I don’t need any help,” challenge yourself by adding: “Actually, I could use a hand.” Remember, this doesn’t make you weak or needy, this makes you brave.

Reach out if you need me,

Jess

We’re Still Here…

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It can feel a bit like the world is spiraling these days. People are struggling with the loss of work, being cooped up at home, or having their regular self-care activities come to a screeching halt. This could feel like the end of the world. This could also feel like an opportunity.

As a therapist working in the world right now (currently, through telehealth), I have to share: I’ve been amazed. I’ve been amazed by how many people have been seeing this as an opportunity. Amidst the loss and uncertainty, I’m hearing stories of gratitude for being required to slow down, spend more time with family, get more creative with self-care.

I’ve seen a lot of tears in the last two weeks, and I undoubtedly will see more. Heck, I’ve had my own. And that’s okay. Let it out, feel your way through it. Uncertainty can feel heavy on your chest, and tears can release some of the tension.

I’ve seen a lot of hope in the last two weeks, and I hope to see more. Maybe the world will get a wake-up call. Maybe we’ll realize what is really important and care more about our people than we do about how pretty our homes look for Instagram pictures. Maybe we’ll put our phones down and look up to the sky or into the eyes of those we love more often. Maybe we’ll Facetime Grandma more than once a never.

Maybe, just maybe, we’ll realize that we don’t have to face a pandemic to appreciate those we love, take good care of ourselves, and slow down.

If you’re struggling, please reach out to a therapist or other trusted person. You don’t have to go it alone.

We’re still here.

All services have been moved to Telehealth through programs like Google, Doxy, Theranest, SimplePractice, and Zoom. But we’re here. Here are a few tips to get the best experience out of your telehealth sessions:

  • Find a quiet, comfortable, private place to engage in therapy (though we never mind meeting your dogs and cats!). If you can’t find a quiet place, plan to stop a few times throughout the session to take a few deep breaths and refocus your energy.
  • Have a few things you’re hoping to touch on in the session. When you feel prepared, sessions feel smoother and you walk away feeling like you got more from them. It also helps you feel like you have power in an otherwise uncertain time.
  • When you’re talking, look at the camera instead of your therapist. While you’re talking, we’ll look at you. Then, when we talk, we’ll look at the camera and you can look at the video of us. This back and forth helps it feel more connected.
  • Be patient. Everyone and their mother is using telehealth services, so sometimes there are blips. Though it can be tough, we’re still here and we can see it as an opportunity to pause and breathe.
  • Relax. The hour is yours. Laugh, cry, be uncertain. Just be you.

Keep an eye out for some at-home self-care things, and check out our Facebook or Instagram for ideas. Get creative!

You can do this. We’re still “here” with you.

D

When You’re Not Quite Enough

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We can push so hard sometimes. We push away experiences that we find unpleasant, like anxiety, anger, and sadness. We create these beliefs about what it means to be human and then we measure our worth based on how well we meet those expectations. Unsurprisingly, it’s never quite enough, so we hate ourselves a little harder and then hope that by hating ourselves, we’ll learn to do better. But hate is exhausting, so when sticky thoughts come back up we believe them without question. Then, we hold ourselves to those beliefs, and it continues.

Welcome to misery. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Clients often come in wanting me to help them make the sadness, anxiety, or anger go away. I’m here to tell you that I can’t do that. I cannot make your emotions go away, because you’re a human. Humans have emotions. Sure, I can help you learn how to navigate, manage, and experience those emotions without falling into despair, but that’ll take a lot of effort on your part day in and day out.

Geez, don’t sugar coat it, Danielle.

I know. I’m a bit of a pragmatist – I also believe that’s where peace comes from. It’s time we acknowledge (aka accept) where we are. Who we are. Then we can adjust our expectations within attainable limits and feel the joy of small victories.

Meet Sophia. Sophia feels like she should be doing better. She should be further along in her career, more successful in love, and adulting in a way that looks right. She’s been coming to therapy for a while, so she feels like she shouldn’t be still feeling sad or anxious. She snaps at her loved ones when she doesn’t mean to, she questions her worth so frequently she doesn’t even notice half the time, and she clings onto others like air. She sees herself doing these things, and she knows better, so she gets angry that she’s still doing them. The anger doesn’t take long to drift into sadness and despair that she will always live with this struggle. That somehow, she’s broken.

I’ve created Sophia out of thin air. She’s not real. But my guess is that if you’re reading this, she doesn’t need to be. You already know her. I know dozens of Sophias: Men/Women/Non-Binary, later in life and just starting out. I could maybe go so far as to say we all have a little bit of Sophia in us. Some (not so) distant fear that there may, in fact, be something wrong with us when we’re anxious or sad.

There is nothing wrong with you. You are supposed to have all the feels.

It can be really confusing when you’re in recovery from something like Generalized Anxiety Disorder or Major Depressive Disorder. It can also be frustrating when you’re trying to get into recovery from something like this. The push to feel better sometimes makes us forget we’re still supposed to have sadness and anxiety.

Without sadness, we wouldn’t be able to recognize what is important to us. Without anxiety, we would make rash, potentially dangerous decisions. Feelings serve a purpose. Ever seen the movie Inside Out? That’s what it’s all about. Understanding the why behind our emotions.

Here’s a favorite poem, which I’ll describe more in-depth in another post:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-Rumi

When we try to push away all feelings we label as negative, we end up numbing ourselves to all emotions, including the ones we typically think of as “good,” like happiness, love, excitement, peace, etc.

Maybe, just maybe, if you could learn to experience your feelings, regardless of whether they are “good” or “bad,” you could see that you are beautifully human. That no amount of sadness, anxiety, or anger makes you broken. You always have room to grow and heal. And yes, you can experience sadness without being depressed.

Our goal, then, should not be to remove the existence of difficult feelings, but rather to flow with them, acknowledging both their presence and their temporary nature. We get curious about them, looking for what they’re trying to teach us, and then allow them to pass when they’re ready. In Buddhism, this is called inviting it in for tea.

How to do this? I recommend you start with getting good at a body scan meditation, which helps you learn how to shift your mind, feel your body without holding/resisting/judging, and bring awareness into your breath.

If you need help, reach out.

Good luck out there,

D

When You Love Your Opposite

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Most couples who come to see me don’t come in already having figured out how to relate to one another. Most people come to see me because they trigger each other and are unsure of how to navigate to a healthier place.

Working with couples has taught me that there are often two kinds of people in stressed relationships: outwardly emotional people and inwardly emotional people. Those who are outwardly emotional can be seen as intimidating or sensitive. The inward emotional folks are the shutdown, aloof bunch. Outward folks may have fears of abandonment and self-worth issues. Inward people may fear being smothered and struggle with vulnerability. Both people typically struggle with emotion regulation, trust, and healthy boundaries. Both people struggle with insecure attachment styles.

We call those outward folks’ attachment style Ambivalent or Preoccupied, aka “the jungle.” For inward folks, we call their attachment style Dismissive or Avoidant, aka “the desert.” In Wired for Love, Stan Tatkin explains these types as waves (outward/preoccupied) and islands (inward/avoidant). His book is great for a deeper dive into the topic.

When a preoccupied and an avoidant person come together, it can be a bit tricky. The preoccupied person may be too needy, reach out too often, and feel easily rejected or abandoned. Fearing being smothered, the avoidant person may pull back at the first sign of these behaviors to protect themselves, be dismissive of the other person’s feelings, or accuse them of being too sensitive. In turn, the preoccupied person reaches out harder. Then the avoidant retreats further. It’s a bit of a cycle. Too often people try to be heard/seen by getting louder or to show overwhelm with closing down. This cycle leaves both people feeling frustrated and confused.

Fun fact: when a preoccupied person gets overwhelmed their heart rate skyrockets. Inversely, an avoidant person’s heart rate plummets. Makes sense, right?

Lightbulb! Don’t have those attachment styles get together! … if only it were that easy. Preoccupied people are interested in avoidant people because it perpetuates their anxious beliefs about relationships and vice versa. Even when we try not to, we inevitably end up with someone who fills our unconscious expectations. Here’s a great video to illustrate:

“We may describe someone as not sexy or boring when in truth we mean, unlikely to make me suffer in the way I need to suffer in order to feel that love is real.”

Our attachment styles come from how we were parented. To add some fun to the mix, attachment styles can also vary from relationship to relationship and change over time. The good news in this is that attachment styles can be healed.

Once we know our attachment style and the style of our partner, we can work together to heal. The avoidant person works to notice when they get overwhelmed and chooses to lean into the relationship instead of pull away. The preoccupied person works to notice when they get overwhelmed and chooses to lean on themselves first instead of believing their needs can only be met by the other person.

As the video shows, we try to listen to our knee-jerk reaction to learn what is being triggered within us, and then work to respond as our adult self instead of reacting as our younger self. This takes time, patience, and commitment.

Ready to find your attachment style?

Reach out for help if you need it.

Take care out there,

D

Fears and Frustrations in Couples Counseling

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When I tell people that I really love doing couples, premarital, and marriage counseling, I typically receive one of two responses:

“Wow, good for you! I can’t imagine doing that.”

or

“That’s tough. I went through/knew of someone who got divorced after marriage counseling.”

 

I get it. There is something about working within the most important relationships in our lives that gets people a little on edge. Sure, there are other important relationships, like with our children and our friends. But none with stakes quite as high as our partners. Our partners are in our everyday lives. As important as children are to us, they eventually grow up and live on their own. Our partners, on the other hand, we’re with day in and day out until one of us dies. There’s a reason we call them our significant other. If they weren’t so significant, we’d just call them our other. Or, that person over there. Let’s face it, how we relate to them matters.

It can be scary to not only recognize that such a significant portion of your life is struggling, but that it also needs more help than you can do alone. Reaching out for individual therapy can be vulnerable, so reaching out for two people, doubly so. There are a lot of fears and frustrations people have, and I’d like to share a few things to help you both know my approach, but also to relieve some of the pressure in case you need a little boost to reach out to someone for help.

I’ve gathered these fears and frustrations from people I’ve spoken to over the years.

Three common fears about the outcome of couples therapy:

  1. We’ll get divorced/split up. This must be the number one fear, from my experience. There is truth to it, too, which I think really lights people up. There is a risk of separation or divorce when you come to marriage counseling. Just like there is if you don’t. I think what made couples counseling get such a tough reputation is that people often wait until they are ready to divorce to reach out for help. At this point, the odds of a breakup are high. It’s not impossible, as I’ve seen couples come back from the brink. That happens, though, because they choose for it to. When a relationship is truly over in the heart of one or both partners, there is little a therapist can do to change that. We aren’t in the business of changing hearts. We’re here to help you align your life and mind with your heart and values.
  2. Nothing will change. Also high up there, the fear that once therapy completes, they’ll return to the status quo. This is also possible and is a fear for a reason. Humans are creatures of habit, and they’ll eventually revert to what feels natural if they aren’t putting in constant effort toward new behavior for at least two years. You read that right, folks. It takes at least two years of constant effort to create a new, more connected, more positive status quo. So no, a few months of therapy will not undo fifteen years of discord in a relationship. But a few months of therapy combined with constant effort, openness, and willingness… that can change things.
  3. Everything will change. Isn’t that the trick, though? We want change so badly, but then we often end up deeply fearing the actual process or experience. What if everything changes and I no longer recognize my partner? What if they no longer love me, or I no longer love them? What if our new normal isn’t the normal I thought I signed up for? Can’t they just go back to who they were when we met? Well, can you? You are an imperfect human trying to create a life with another imperfect human. Change can be scary, unknown, and sometimes a little painful. But if you’re really committed- if you really want to spend your days with your partner, then you’ll love whoever they are today and you’ll make efforts to adjust your sails together as you each grow. They’ll need to do the same. I can’t promise you can go back to how it was when you fell in love – in fact, I can near-promise it won’t. If you’re really in this for life, together, I do believe you can create a new relationship, despite the fear.

Three common frustrations, sometimes born out of fear and unfortunately others, out of an experience, about the couples counselor or process:

  1. The counselor will take sides. They’ll believe everything my partner is saying, I’ll be the bad guy, and “couples counseling” will really be just about trying to fix me. Sometimes people actually want a therapist to take sides, but in that case, they want the side taken to be theirs, not that of their partner. Nobody wants to be the “wrong one.” And frankly, I don’t believe relationships can ever be just one person’s problem. Even if one person has done the primary betrayal, the other person has participated in the relationship getting to the place it was. It may not always be 50-50, but it is typically pretty close. The approach I take is to not be on either party’s side but on the side of the relationship. Sometimes that means I’m a little harsher on Person A for a session or two, but then it typically switches and the heat is on for Person B. It’s not about who is right. The moment that is the focus, the relationship suffers. It’s more important to be on the lookout for what is best for the relationship as a whole. Find a therapist who will fight for your relationship, you can search for them on the website Marriage Friendly Therapists.
  2. It will be one way in the office, and another way at home. I often hear this, that one person will misrepresent themselves or their partner in therapy. Maybe at therapy, they’re understanding, open, and honest, but at home, they’re closed emotionally and dig in their heels. This happens sometimes- that’s okay. Try and remember that therapy is a practice ground, with the hope that eventually what is practiced will come home with you. Unfortunately, yes, that means both people have to be conscientious about bringing the good home. If you find yourself stuck, find words that are both kind and honest to share in counseling that you’re seeing a pattern. Not only is that good practice for you, but also that way your counselor can help you break down barriers and come up with solutions.
  3. It’ll just be a waste of time. Some couples express this as their frustration. They go to therapy, argue it out, then go home angrier than they came. Nothing gets accomplished, nothing changes. This certainly can happen, and sometimes hashing out an argument can help clarify the pattern you’re stuck in and encourage you to listen differently. Let’s talk about a few things that will keep your therapy focused:
    1. Spend some time in advance thinking about what you think the problem is. Hint: it’s not your partner. If you think it is, okay. Also, come up with what is your responsibility. Do so before each session, with the goal of looking for patterns between you that need mending. This way once you’re in the room, you can express a few hopes you have for that day.
    2. Seek out skills to use at home. Marriage counseling is a combination of processing hurts and increasing skills to change patterns, like improving communication, friendship, and fair fighting. Most of the skills I recommend come from Mindfulness and The Gottman Institute. It may be worth looking around at the different modalities therapists use, and finding someone who aligns closely with what you think would work best for you. There are so many books out there- ask for some recommendations that will support your work and read through them as a team effort with your partner.
    3. Plan on doing homework every. single. day. One hour once per week in therapy will not undo the many hours of interactions between. You must take what you learn in counseling home and put it to practice, then come back and discuss what worked and what didn’t so your counselor can make adjustments to the plan. Remember that you’ll need to put some effort forth every day for the next several years as a start, then for the rest of time, thereafter. This is a commitment to the health and happiness of you, your partner, your relationship, and anyone else involved (like kids, furr babies, etc). It will be tough, but it can also be worth it.

 

Relationships require that you each take care of yourselves, one another, and the relationship itself. You can do this. Reach out for help when you need it (preferably, long before you contemplate divorce!).

D

Unlocking Your Heart

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You’ve made it! It’s our final week in our moving through depression series. So far we’ve discussed the importance of:

This last week is an important one. Perhaps one of the most debilitating parts of depression is the incessant “why?”

What’s the point? is one of the most painful questions we can ask ourselves, primarily because it insinuates that there isn’t one. What comes next is what I call the darkness. This is where suicidal thoughts run rampant and we tuck further and further into our despair. Don’t forget, there is help.

First, let’s talk about how to find your passion. It doesn’t have to be a hard process. In fact, it should be a fun, heart opening, exciting process. What is passion? Passion is defined as a “strong and barely controllable emotion.” Whoo. Yes. Passion is like fire, it ignites and takes over your senses. When you find passion you can lose your sense of time, entering into a flow state. Flow is that experience where your mind becomes hyper focused (especially on your senses), time disappears, and you feel an immense sense of calm and happiness.

Talk about a depression fighter!

Here are some ideas for finding your passion:

  • What is something that excites you? (duh – but a good place to start!)
  • What do you spend your time researching and reading about (books, magazines, online, social media, hashtags you follow, etc)? See any themes?
  • What do you find yourself inexplicably and repeatedly drawn to? Art? Music? Dance? Helping others? Outdoors? Competition? Animals? Parenting? Event Planning? Travel? Crafts? DIY?
  • Look at your local library or in your neighborhood for opportunities to take classes, join clubs, or meet up with others to try new activities (and maybe see if one of them sparks!).

There are a lot of people out there who will tell you how to cognitively find your passion by thinking through the steps and blah blah blah. I’m not one of those people.

Passion is not of the mind, but of the heart. There is little your mind can do in this process, and most often it actually stands in the way. “Yeah, I like ______, but there’s no way I could/have time/resources/money to do it.” Mind = not helpful. My hope is you go around, heart open, and see what breathes fresh air into it. Then, do more of that.

If you’re deep in the thick of it, you might have to do things you cognitively know you like, without the deep sense of peace and happiness. For most clients, I’ve seen this last anywhere from 2-8 months. Keep in mind, you have to keep doing these things (and all the steps of moving through depression). Over the course of those months, you’ll slowly begin to pull out of the mud (it isn’t that at six months you wake up and suddenly enjoy everything!).

Once you know your passion, you have to value it. Simply knowing your passion without valuing it is like walking up to the right door and not having the key to unlock it. We value our passions by carving out time for them, nurturing them, and enjoying them without judgement of how often or how well we do them. We engage in our passions for the simple pleasure of doing them, knowing that they are as important as any chore or job that is to be done.

Often in passion we end up finding purpose. Our purpose is in broader terms than our passion. Our purpose may be to bring the world beauty, joy, knowledge, or to reduce suffering. Purpose, like passion, is not something you can find by thinking about it. It can be felt in times when you’re quiet inside, sometimes because the world outside you is quiet, others because it is chaos. If you glimpse your passion or purpose for even a second, appreciate that. Try not to let yourself get frustrated it was only a moment. It’s a moment more than you had, and the more you work to open up to yourself and your heart, the more those moments will come. And the longer they’ll last.

 

The path through depression is a difficult one. It is one that takes time, repetition, and perseverance. I typically tell people to anticipate two years before they’re able to make a new behavior feel natural (that’s about how long it takes to prune one behavior pathway and build a new, solid one in your brain). If you’ve only been struggling with depression a few weeks or months, it most likely won’t take that long. But if you’ve been in the darkness for longer than you can clearly remember, it might. It’s normal, difficult, and absolutely possible.

I believe in you.

And if you need a little help, reach out.

Until next time,

D

 

Create A Mind Of Giving

 

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The importance of giving to others cannot be readily overlooked. We learn the value of contributing from our families when we’re little. Even if your family didn’t place a large importance on it, you can commit yourself to it now.

So why do it?

When we give our time, money, or thought to another we are generating good things in our own minds, hearts, and lives, in addition to benefiting them. Think of it this way, if you look around the world and judge those you see, you end up having a mind of judging. In turn, then, you feel judged by others (because we all assume others think the way we do). If this is true for a mind of anger, judgement, or greed, then couldn’t it be true for giving and caring?

How nice would it be to look around and assume everyone around you wants to contribute, participate, and care for themselves and everyone they come in contact with?

It’s a whole new world.

Volunteering connects us to our community and fights off loneliness. It nourishes the spirit, relaxes the mind, and focuses our energy into productive efforts instead of the ruminating darkness of depression. I often hear from clients who have undertaken a volunteer job statements like:

I don’t know what it is. When I’m volunteering, I just feel so much better. I can focus on their problems and forget about mine for a while. It warms my heart to help a kid or elderly person in need. It’s for them, but it helps me too.

In times when money can feel like such a struggle for so many of us, it is even more important to give your time to something that you appreciate or believe in. The more we value our time, the more valuable it is when we give it to others.

How can you get started? Consider some of the following questions:

  1. How much time do I have to devote each week, month, or year?
  2. How long of a commitment am I willing to do? None? Six months? Two years?
  3. What are some things that I’m passionate about or interested in?

Once you have the answers to the above questions, it’s time to set out. But where to start? You can begin by thinking of what you’re interested in. Local government? Check out your city or town for a board you can sit on. Animals? Reach out to rescues or humane societies. Want to devote the next few years? Maybe it’s time to look into something like Doctors Without Borders or the Peace Corps. Not sure? Try one of the following websites for ideas and connections:

Whether you devote a few hours once or twice per year, or every day for the next several years, giving back to your community and world is a practice that depression can’t beat.

We’ve almost reached the end of our Moving Through Depression Journey. How have you been doing thus far?

See you next week,

D

 

p.s. thanks for the forgiveness on this post being late this week!