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 Just Want It To Be Over

“I just want it to be over.”

A sentiment I hear on repeat, from all walks of life, from the left as well as the right. From men, women, non-binary, White and POC.

“I just want it to be over” …but it’s not. It’s not going to be for a while.

Wishing for difficult moments in time to be over is natural. It’s human to try to escape suffering. That is what our brains are made for. Itch? Scratch. Uncomfortable? Adjust. Sad? Distract. It’s as if we are addicted to the pursuit of not feeling negative feelings. This addiction blinds us, though, to all the potential joy we could be experiencing. Right now.

Here are two reasons you are robbing yourself of joy when you wish for now to be over and the future, surely full of awesomeness, to be here now.

1. When you wish for something to be different, you are shifting out of acceptance. This is a topic I talk about often, but here is another reminder. Acceptance is essentially acknowledgement. This is what is. When in acceptance, we are not condoning, being “okay with,” or embracing anything. We are simply acknowledging life as it stands. In this space, there are feelings. All the feels, but we’ll get to feelings in a minute.

When you step out of acceptance, you step into either aversion or attachment. Aversion says “I don’t want what I have,” while attachment says “I want what I can’t have.” Can you feel the instant ache? These are the places we experience suffering. “I just want this to be over” is a deeply painful cross between these two points of suffering. I ache to escape what I have and long for something not possible. Oye. Is it any wonder we’re suffering so much?

2. You can’t block out one “type” of feelings. Therapist bias here, but feelings can’t be broken down into types. Feelings are feelings. If you try to block out sadness, you block out joy. If you try to block out anger, you block out peace. You cannot pick and choose. You are either numb to feelings or open to experiencing them. And no matter how long or how much you try to hide from feelings, you can never escape them. They’ll pitch a tent and wait for you to open your door for other moments. This is why grief can snowball. Often, when we lose someone, we lose everyone we’ve lost before them all over again because we’ve mistakenly believed we could shelve our experience.

How much easier would all this feeling stuff be if we just thought feelings were… feelings? Not good. Not bad. Not desirable or undesirable. Just that – a passing emotional experience. Just as waves are not separate from the ocean, our experiences are not separate from ourselves. The ocean never fears that the current wave will last forever. The ocean doesn’t try to block out certain waves or believe it is this current wave. They simply arise, move through, and return to the ocean. You could have embarrassment or jealousy arise and, instead of losing your peace of mind by resisting, believing it is who you are, or falling prey to thoughts about its permanency – you could choose to get curious and lean into the experience. You might find when you do this, feelings are juicy. They’re fascinating. Exciting. You could feel child-like awe about them. Suddenly, all feelings are awe-some.

“I just want this to be over.” Okay. But engage with this intentionally. Finish the thought: “I want this to be over, and I know it isn’t and that I cannot control that. So, instead of sitting in the discomfort and allowing it to be temporary, I’m going to consume, distract, numb, or stuff my feelings and turn this difficult time in my life into a long-lasting suffering that will take me years to unpack. But, that sounds like future me’s problem.”

If it feels ridiculous, you’re doing it right.

Sometimes we have to be a little ridiculous with ourselves to see where we’re getting stuck. 2020 has given us a ride, and from the look of it, we’re only halfway through. We can’t fast forward. Can’t numb out until it’s over (ever seen Click?). 2020 is giving us an opportunity to tune in. To greet the grief and overwhelm – both ours and in our communities. Sit in discomfort. It’s good for you. If you’re comfortable, you’re not changing. We often have to look for opportunities to get uncomfortable to create change.

Not this year.

Lean in. Reach out for help. Try not to wish your life away. If you’re reading this, you’re alive. Look at your family, your friends. Whisper to yourself, “we’re alive.” Breathe it in.

D

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

5 Steps Toward a Healthier Fight

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One of the most rewarding parts of being in a committed relationship is that feeling of being seen, understood, and loved anyway. It’s a feeling we all ache for, and it is what leads us into arguments with others. Wanting to be understood is what fuels disconnection, whether in a relationship or in a country. The stronger we cling to the desire to be understood, the more we begin to believe that our side is the right side. This, in turn, fuels us to push understanding into the minds and hearts of others. Round and round we go, down a spiral of unhappiness.

I often say to my clients, “would you rather be right, or happy?” Being right means another is wrong, and in relationships you can’t have one person always be wrong. If one person is wrong, the relationship suffers. Often, in order to find happiness in our relationships, we have to have a willingness to be neither right nor wrong, but to find an answer somewhere in between.

Perhaps part of the issue is that we confuse love and attachment. Love says, “I want you to be happy.” Attachment says, “I need you to make me happy.” Similarly, in arguments Love says, “I want to understand you.” Attachment says, “I want you to understand me.”

What is this attachment? Attachment is wanting something we cannot have. When we feel attached to someone being a certain way or to winning an argument, we are wanting something inherently impossible. Nobody will stay just as they are, and no argument can be won without losing something. Attachment breeds suffering, whereas love ignites openness. When we’re open, we can experience happiness.

I know, easier said than done. In the heat of an argument we become angry and lose sight of the end goal. What is your end goal in a fight? Is it to win and be right? If you’re just dating, perhaps your end goal is to figure out if this is going to work. If you’re married, you’ll benefit if your end goal is, “how do I make this relationship stronger?”

In order to fight well, it’s important to keep the intention for understanding the other person and wishing happiness for them. Keep in mind, there is a difference between intention and action. The goal is to hold the intention, but not necessarily to do anything and everything to make them happy. Your job isn’t to make your partner happy, only they can do that. Your job is to wish happiness for them, so that you interact with them from a place of openness, understanding, kindness, and truth.

It can be scary to try to understand your partner in a fight. Sometimes we worry, “then who will be trying to understand me?” Relationships take faith, and if you are willing to model what you wish to receive, they’re more likely to reciprocate.

So how do you fight fair? Here are 5 ways to have healthier fights:

  1. Be honest. So often we skirt around the issue, do little jabs, use sarcasm, or just stew in our feelings. I see a lot of red cheeks in my office when I ask the question, “have you talked to them about how you feel?” An obvious solution, yet why don’t we use it more often? Being honest doesn’t mean you say what anger wants you to say. Being honest means saying what’s underneath the anger. Instead of “You never even ask how my day is anymore. All you care about is yourself.” try “I’m worried I don’t matter to you like I used to. I’m scared we’re losing what made us so great. I miss us.”
  2. Seek understanding instead of being understood. We so often think we’re listening, when really we’re planning our comeback, correcting mistakes in their stories, or wondering what we’ll eat for our next meal. When we listen to understand the experience of others, we use our critical mind to not only pay attention, but understand the emotional needs under what they’re saying. If you get distracted, pull yourself back to the conversation with a few deep breaths. It’s okay if you need to ask someone to repeat, so you can understand.
  3. Speak from love instead of attachment. You can learn to decipher between the two through somatic awareness. When we’re acting from love, we feel calm, warm, open. When we’re acting from attachment, we feel tense, closed, and anxious. If you’re getting stuck in attachment, imagine the other person as a small infant, and the warm, loving feelings that come with holding babies. Conversely, you can imagine the pain you would feel if you lost them (the pain comes from love). If this were the last conversation, how would you want it to go?
  4. Take accountability to resist defensiveness. It is incredibly tempting to shift blame away. Owning our mistakes leaves us feeling vulnerable, which we mistakenly believe equates to weakness. When you understand your impact on others and take accountability for how you affect them, you are standing squarely in strength. It doesn’t mean you lost the fight (remember, we’re not trying to win the fight!). Instead of, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” try this: “I realize when I said that, it hurt your feelings. That was unfair of me, and I’m sorry.”
  5. Keep your end goal in sight. If your only goal is to win this battle, you might just end up losing the war. Relationships can feel like war sometimes, when we’re stuck between struggling to feel understood and frightened at the idea of losing the other person. Take some deep breaths. Look at your partner with fresh eyes. Eyes that give them the benefit of the doubt. Remind yourself what you hope to come of this argument. A stronger relationship? Deeper connection? How do you ask for what you need? Using healthy argument rule #1, be honest and ask. Try, “it would mean a lot to me if we could take a few minutes each evening to see how one another’s day was. Could we try 10 minutes once we get home?”

Lean in to the beauty, the delicateness, and the strength of your relationships. Don’t be afraid to be wrong, vulnerable, or honest. That’s where the good stuff happens.

Good luck out there,

D

Falling In Love

I’ve been faced with the question of ‘who am I’ with my clients lately. Often the suffering that enters my office is in the form of feeling at odds with self, how self fits into others and community, and questioning the value of self. Sometimes this is in the form of constantly rescuing others, other times in the go-getter American attitude of non-stop distraction. Don’t be fooled, I see this in 7 year olds as much as I do in adults.

Self. It’s not a topic we talk genuinely about often, but simply one we refer to. “I’m hungry.” “I’m bored.” Yet rarely, “I’m feeling vulnerable.” We put so much energy into our outside worlds. We even kid ourselves into thinking that we’re taking care of ourselves by watching TV, shopping, or playing video games. Yet when we do this, is our attention, compassion, and energy focused inward? Or are we temporarily escaping reality by putting our energy into something else? Continue reading

Can You Help Me?

 

Whenever I see new clients for the first time, I’m struck by how they enter the therapy room. Will they come in pumped and ready to work on their deepest issues? Eh, sometimes. More likely, they enter a little unsure. I can almost hear them thinking, “can you actually help me?”

It is the same question that prompts their questions of, are you married? do you have kids? have you ever struggled with an addiction? They are asking if I am able to help them feel better. And they should! Is therapy right for you? Am I the right therapist? All important questions. In order to better understand, let’s start somewhere else: what is therapy? Continue reading

Joy and Sadness

 

Being a therapist, and someone who has a strong affinity for children’s movies, it was in perfect order that my little girl and I went to watch Disney Pixar’s new movie, Inside Out. It was a film that brought laughter, tears, and a much needed emotion-focused movie to the market. I’ll try not to ruin the movie for anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of seeing it yet.

I was impressed with the accuracy, as I see it, in the portrayal of our relationship with emotions. Continue reading