Stop Believing You're Insignificant

I’ve been wanting to write a new blog post for the past few weeks, but I just felt… stuck.  I don’t feel right crediting writers block for my lack of blogging, not necessarily because I’m not a writer, but because I know deep down that this explanation isn’t honest.  Since my last post, I’ve had thoughts and ideas on what topics I could write about.  I’ve had “ah ha” moments where I’d think of a clever statement I could make while writing.  But I didn’t follow through and write about social anxiety or abusive relationships or any of the other ideas that I had.  I didn’t write because my thoughts were getting the best of me. 

What does she mean that her thoughts were getting the best of her? Isn’t she a counselor? Isn’t being ahead of and on top of her problems supposed to be, like, her thing? Didn’t she go to school for all those years to learn about being the type of person who could put life’s stress aside and help other people?  While parts of these statements may have reflections of truth in them, I am not a robot. 

So, when I say my thoughts were getting the best of me, what I mean is that my insecurities were taking center stage.  You see, I took a leap of faith to pursue my dreams of opening a private practice and I haven’t regretted this one bit.  But with this I’ve invited a few more stressors into my life, at least temporarily.  Also, my life is just like everyone else’s, meaning I experience my own personal life stressors.  And get this, because things felt a little more stressful, my insecurities started gaining power and, before I knew it, my thinking shifted from “oh, that’d be a neat thing to blog about” to “you have too much going on and are too stressed to write anything worth sharing with others.” My thinking betrayed me.

I have a few activities and educational material that I use with clients who have similar issues with their thinking.  My favorite worksheet has 10 types of unhelpful thinking styles with simple illustrations to help describe each style of thinking.  You might be asking yourself, there are that many ways that my thinking can mess with me?! Yes, and I routinely share with my clients that I experience the majority of each of these on any given day.  I pulled out this worksheet because I wanted to identify exactly which of the types of thinking I’d been doing myself.  Here’s what I came up with:

·      Mental filter – I was only giving credit to feeling stressed, not putting any mental energy into            expanding on my ideas or writing anything.

·      Emotional reasoning – Believing that because I was having trouble focusing my ideas that I             was a bad writer with nothing to offer.

·      Fortune telling – Thinking that no one would enjoy or learn from what I had to write.

These beliefs are not true, and it took me a while to realize that my thinking was up to some trickery.  During the weeks that I was slowly convincing myself that I was not in the right frame of mind to write, I was aware I felt more stressed and had been doing relaxation training and mindfulness exercises.  But it wasn’t until I was confronted with the realization that I didn’t think I was good enough to write something worth reading that I felt better and more at peace.  My mind shifted to thoughts that were more realistic, supportive, and empowering. 

Our thoughts become our beliefs, and if we allow ourselves to think fear-based, limiting thoughts then we risk believing that we are limited, insignificant people.  No one wants this and we should keep a close eye on our patterns of thinking, especially when life gets a little tough and scary.  If your insecurities are running the show in your life it’s time to get to know them and give them a smaller role.     

The Crepe Myrtles are Blooming.

I sometimes feel overwhelmed by life's burdens.  Just the other day I was driving alone in my car and I realized, in that moment, how small I had made my world.  I had spent 20 minutes driving yet all I could think about were the things causing me stress.  I hadn't thought about the other people on the road with me, considered whether I was driving carefully, or even troubled myself to consider solutions to my worries.  The reality is, I was worrying about the same things that eat up most of our worried minds: the future, plans, finances, saying the wrong thing, so on and so forth.  I was allowing my past and my future to consume my present and could feel the discomfort spread: first my chest, then my stomach, and then my head. Then something special happened - I glanced to the left and saw a blooming crepe myrtle.  

I don't have a green thumb or know much about trees, but I remember living in an apartment complex about a decade ago that had sidewalks lined with crepe myrtle trees and they were beautiful, though not year round. From then on, I looked forward to seeing the first blooms because it happened so quickly and they filled the world with color - white, magenta, red.  I also associate it with the beginning of Spring, which for me is an easier season to love than Winter.  

But this isn't really about the beauty and wonder of crepe myrtle trees or Spring, but rather, having something to look forward to, especially during tough times.  Luckily, the things that you and I worry about most of the time are not things that are life threatening.  They bring us fear due to uncertainty and lack of control, and we can feel this fear in every ounce of our body, mind, and relationships.  The stress can't kill us, but it can feel paralyzing.   

I'm a bit anxious by nature, so I've collected a number of different coping mechanisms to help when I'm feeling overwhelmed or panicky.  But there are circumstances where I know my mind might be a bit more worried until the passing of an event, such as waiting on the results of something.  And in these conditions, I rely on another set of skills to keep me grounded and at peace.  I ensure that there are things in my day and life that I enjoy, such as taking five minutes to meditate with the crepe myrtle trees.  When I have a busy day scheduled, I treat myself to a breakfast and fancy coffee or plan a dinner I can look forward to throughout the day.  When I know a couple of weeks will be more stressful for me, I carve out extra time for my friends and plan ways to pamper myself during the week (hello epsom salt bath on a Wednesday).  I've learned to be gentle with myself.  

We need not feel all the worry all the time.  So find (or rediscover!) the things you enjoy and make time for them, especially when life asks a lot of you. Your body will thank you, your mind will thank you, and your people will thank you. 

 

The Inner Peace Pie

Hey, did you hear it's Valentine's Day? Fun fact: I once talked my dad into sending me flowers in college on Valentine's Day.  Fun fact number two: I was once seeing a guy and he hung out with someone else on Valentine's Day.  So, maybe we weren't dating?

Relationships can be confusing and having a day that capitalizes on our emotions can just feel like the worst, so, naturally I want to discuss spirituality. Why? Because I think the overall quality of our relationships is directly proportional to the state of our spirit.  

I used to struggle with the concept of spirituality because I didn't know what it meant, but I now understand it as a state of inner peace and I keep my understanding of this simple.  As humans, our spirituality and, thus, inner peace is defined by three things: the relationship we have with others, the relationship we have with something bigger than ourselves, and the relationship we have with ourselves.  So many of us spend Valentine's Day and dozens of other days each year feeling empty and lonely, even people with partners, but there is an easier, softer way to spend this day.  

There are a couple of sayings in the recovery community: hurt people hurt people and you can't love someone else until you learn to love yourself.   Of those three things I listed earlier, we sometimes spend a disproportionate amount of time focused on our relationships with other people and even then, we may only be focusing on one relationship with one person.  Our spirit cannot thrive this way and inner peace will remain fleeting or illusive if we don't begin considering these other areas.  

When was the last time you considered, "how's my relationship with myself?"  Do I express gratitude and engage in self-love or am I hyper-critical and unforgiving of my mistakes?  Accepting our humanness and flaws while celebrating our talents and achievements is essential if we're seeking inner peace.

What about your relationship with something bigger than us?  For some of us, this may be God and for others this may be nature, the universe, a support group, or music.  Having a secure relationship with something bigger than ourselves provides us with a sense of safety and hope while also serving as a means to connect us with others. 

Lastly, we cannot forget those who are there for us when romantic love isn't - our friends and family.  Do you treat these relationships as a gift? Or have you learned to take for granted these special relationships?  We're social creatures and need people we can count on to be there for us and to do so, we have to be there for our people too.  

I believe we all want a piece of the inner peace pie.  Take a slice - you deserve it.  

Source: Photo by Huong Ho on Unsplash

I'm not perfect and can't fix you

I've thought about this post probably 50 times in the past week.  The thing is it's public, and the thought of managing a blog makes my heart go pitter patter, but not in the fun, romantic way.  But I believe personal expression is one of the easiest and most therapeutic things we can do for ourselves, and I have thoughts to share with y'all.  

You may be wondering about the title of this post, but what I really want to discuss is the idea of resiliency.  Each one of us have both risk and protective factors woven into our identity: things that work for us or against us in life.  The fewer risk factors we have and the more protective factors we have, the better prepared we are to manage stress in our life.  The problem is that we have very little control over the risk factors we have because they begin making an impact when we're children.  Based on my risk factors, I shouldn't be living the life that I'm living.  I should be more anxious and less successful. Wait, what? I should still be plagued by thoughts of "I'll never be good enough," but I'm not, because of resiliency.  We cannot forget that we all have things in our life designed to protect us and harnessing these, along with a little hope and gumption, decreases the power of our risk factors.  

I want you to breathe a sigh of relief when reading the title of this post.  Perfect means unrelatable and robotic.  Perfectionism also breeds procrastination and giving up.  And though you may feel broken, you are not.  I don't believe people become broken because of their emotional health problems.  I believe we become versions of ourselves that lose hope and suffer, sometimes for a really long time, until we're ready and willing to do something different.  

Source: Photo by Amy Reed on Unsplash