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3 MYTHS of Self Compassion

canstockphoto7797192To most, compassion is a commendable quality. But for some reason, this quality is limited to “others” in our culture, not often for “oneself.” Lets explore 3 possible false assumptions that may prevent us from applying compassion to oneself.
1-Self Compassion means weakness.
Susan didn’t express any painful feelings while going through her divorce. She believed she had to be “strong for the kids” and power on no matter what. This meant putting herself last and ignoring any emotional or physical needs.  When Susan fell apart 3 months after the divorce was final, she wondered why she was able to be “strong” in the beginning, but then suddenly became “weak and unable to handle even the smallest tasks”. What Susan didn’t realize is that instead of being a “weakness”,
researchers are now discovering that self-compassion is one of the most powerful influences of coping and resilience, that we have available to us.  How one relates to themselves when the going gets tough- as an enemy or ally-is often what determines ones ability to cope successfully.
2- Self compassion is narcissistic.
High self esteem requires standing out in a crowd-or being “above average” in the American culture. The problem of course is that it is impossible for us to be outstanding, all of the time. When we compare ourselves to those “better” than us, we will always feel like failures. An example of
this is teen bullying.  One teen told me “picking on wimpy nerds boosts my self esteem and makes me feel cool”. After many sessions he finally discovered he needed to focus on himself, and ways to feel more secure, rather than his demeaning behavior towards others. Narcissism usually results in exercising power over others; self compassion is the opposite-empowering oneself so there is no need to compare or put others down.
3- Self compassion is selfish.
Some confuse self care with selfishness and assume caring of oneself automatically means neglecting everyone else.  As a therapist, I am always amazed when I meet people who consider themselves to be good, generous, altruistic souls, who are perfectly awful to themselves.  Caring for oneself is actually the opposite: it’s one of the most important things you can do to have healthier relationships, and it does not mean you neglect loved ones! In reality, beating yourself up can be a paradoxical
form of self centeredness.  When we can be kind and nurturing to ourselves, however, many of our emotional needs are met, leaving us in a better position to focus on others. Therefore, having self compassion equals the ability to have more to give others, not less to give others.
These 3 myths often stand in the way of caring for ourselves. More information and even classes on ways to improve self care can be found at www.mindfulnessprograms.com or web search (name of State) i.e.. “Utah msar”.
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When Being a “Gifted” Child Doesn’t Feel Like A Gift

SCHOOL KID ANXIETYAs a child therapist, there is one thing I know about exceptionally intelligent kids: they are often misunderstood, and for good reason. Gifted children possess an inner world so rich and complex, that quite frankly, others just don’t get them. We tend to view gifted and talented kids narrowly, in terms of their performance: “Wow, Landon has a huge vocabulary. Jane made a fully functioning robot. Sam reads all day.” This is where we sometimes miss the mark. Yes, gifted kids think more, know more, create more, but to truly understand them, is to see how uniquely they experience the world. If the young gifted child could teach us, this is what she might say:

 

  1. “My feelings are bigger and different than everybody else’s.”

 

Super Sensitivity and Emotional Intensity: Just as gifted kids’ thinking is more complex, so is their feeling. Teachers, friends, and parents often see their emotional eruptions as a sign of instability, when actually their ability to sense and feel on such a deep level is one of their greatest strengths.

 

  1. “I don’t feel my age.”

 

Uneven Development: Gifted children’s intellect, social skills, and emotional self-control can progress at different rates. If you can imagine a child housed in an eight-year-old body, with the mind of a thirteen-year-old, and the social skills of a six-year-old, then you can begin to comprehend how complicated daily life can get for these kids.

 

  1. “People don’t make sense and I’m the only one who cares.”

 

Deep Social Concerns: Gifted kids are often highly troubled by issues of suffering, injustice, and hypocrisy. As such, they can react intensely when such things directly affect them or they observe this is the larger world. Most people will understand how an adult approaching mid-life could worry about the meaning of life, death, pain, and the injustice of the world, but when the 5th grader is crying about such issues during recess, it leaves most people rather confused and even uncomfortable.

 

  1. “There is no one in the whole world like me.”

 

Profound Sense of Loneliness: A keen self-awareness accompanied by the feeling of being different can leave gifted kids feeling like aliens––it doesn’t help that their passionate curiosity and interests often do not match those of their classmates. Because of these difficulties, the school experience for gifted kids can be sometimes one of painful rejection.

 

Despite their many differences, gifted children have the same basic emotional needs of every other kid: they long to be accepted and understood. As parents, educators, and mental health professionals, we can help by simply listening when they try to show us that being exceptional does NOT always feel like a “gift.”

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3 Book Kit to Create a Happy, Healthy Person!

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In my opinion, there are several of our societal norms that are alarming. Many of the values that our nation used to rate high on the list are slipping. Worst of all, this value shift has led to increasing health, social, and economic crises. It is my belief that if a person is not deliberate about how they want to become and how, they will get swept up in the societal messages and goals that lead to so much unrest and discontentment. Here are 3 books to date, which have shaped my person and helped me to be deliberate about what I am becoming:

 

  • Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

 

 

This book teaches lessons that are applicable to almost all areas in life. This work is based in research. Most meaningfully however, I believe is the instruction on how to allow vulnerability in our lives to foster connection, creativity, and self-worth. If applied, the principles in this book can change the way you see yourself, and therefore the way you interact with and experience the world around you. Living this stuff makes you actually feel like you are living. Society doesn’t condone this kind of living, but people are responding to this research, which means we are hungry for something different than society is feeding us.

 

  • Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman

 

This book completely changed the way I treated my body and the way I saw my body. It, like Daring Greatly, is all research based. I had no idea the degree to which I had been mistreating my body with food. Since reading, and applying these principles, I feel happier, well rested, energetic, strong, and clean. It takes a lot of effort to do this, because society (even some in the medical field) goes completely against these nutrition ideals, but it is worth it!

 

  • The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

 

 

Another area of peoples’ lives that usually needs a tune-up is personal finance. We live in a society that idealizes money to the point that many people go deep into debt in order to achieve an empty ideal. This book will make you rethink the way you earn and spend money. Most people aren’t thoughtful enough about how they earn or spend. This book teaches you how to make your money do what you want it to, no matter what your person goals may be. Security is the name of this game.

 

I hope these books are as useful to you as they have been to me. Happy reading!

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#1 Marriage Advice From a Marriage Counselor

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You’ve probably been getting marriage advice since you first started dating, or even earlier! Some of it has been solicited and helpful, some of it has not. I hope, since you clicked on this article, that my advice can fall into the first category.

People, apparently myself included, are eager to share what they have learned about what works (and what doesn’t) in marriage. About half of the clients that I have seen over the past seven years have been couples.

Here is a link to an article I recently wrote on my blog understandingtherapy.com. It’s my #1 Marriage Advice that I have gleaned from observing and counseling distressed couples.

 

https://understandingtherapy.com/2016/07/11/my-1-bit-of-marriage-advice/

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On Being You

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A catch phrase of today seems to be “be yourself”. There is a big push for people to be authentic, and to appreciate others for doing the same. While this is a positive and healthy idea, you might be wondering what it actually means. If you stop to think about it, the idea of knowing who you are and portraying that to the world can be complex and confusing, and is actually an ongoing and lifelong process. I recently had the opportunity to contribute to an article discussing this very topic. So, if you are like many others, and are constantly trying to figure out who you are and how to be true to that, visit the following link for some helpful tips and hints:
http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2016/07/11/on-being-ourselves-what-this-really-means-what-it-might-look-like/
“Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive that
is youer than you!” Dr. Seuss
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Two Books Every Couple Should Read

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Relationship maintenance is one of the most important things couples can do to create and “maintain” emotional intimacy. This maintenance comes in many forms. Some couples have regular date nights. Others have daily talk time. Often times one or both people read self help books about strengthening the relationship. Many of the couples I work with, and come across in my personal life, ask me about books they can read that will give them skills to strengthen their relationship. Here are two books I think every couple, happy or in distress, should read.
The first is The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This book takes you through five ways that people show and feel love. The five love languages are quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation, service, and gift giving. This book takes you through the these five love languages and helps you identify which love language speaks to you. Read this with your partner. Once both of you are done and have properly identified your love language, share it with the other person. I use this idea in every couples session. The hope is that once you know your partners love language you can start speaking directly to what they need in the relationship. Someone who has the love language of quality time, but is given gifts will not feel properly loved and connected to their partner. This book gives invaluable insight into yourself and your partner that can strengthen every relationship.
The second is Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson. This is a fantastic book that teaches you about attachment and reconnection with your partner. It has seven fabulous “conversations” for you and your partner to work through. If you are looking for emotional intimacy with your partner this is the book you are looking for. It is educational and highly effective at healing past wounds within relationships. Even if you and your partner have a healthy and loving relationship this book can still be a tool in creating a stronger bond.
Many couples feel that going to therapy, or even reading books like these shows a weakness in the relationship. My frame is that attending therapy and reading books to better your relationship is a strength; it means you and your partner are willing to put hard time and effort into being better individually and together. These couples are the ones that have relationships that will last. Hopefully you have the time to pick up these two books and give them a try. Read them with openness along side your spouse and they can make a world of difference.
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How to Deal

canstockphoto1624254Difficult challenges seem to come in bulk- it’s a real phenomenon of life. These strange time periods in which there is a piling of  negative events one on top of another is experienced so universally that we all say, “When it rains, it pours.” How do we outlast the down-pour?

 
Stress is a fact of life. Thankfully, some of it can be alleviated by honestly evaluating our priorities, relationships, behaviors, etc., and making different and healthier choices. But, some of it just has to be lived through. (Example: last week I was dealing with a horrendous tax audit chore when my car decided to break down, expensively. That was chased with an extended family emergency and a two day migraine… You’ve been there, right?) Stress is part of life, but misery does not have to be! If you choose to, you can navigate the rainy times of life healthfully and resiliently. You can, and should, honor your feelings and acknowledge that things suck sometimes. Write it out, talk it out, and don’t pretend everything is okay. But then give yourself a break and navigate the storm with confidence.

Here’s how:
Write down as many pleasurable and relaxing activities that you can think of. Many of them should be free, in case of financially stressful times. Use this list to take care of yourself and wait for the sun to start shining again. Worrying solves nothing. Take a break; enjoy something. Get lost in a book. The problem will still be there when you’re done playing with your dog, trust me. Memorize some mantras that are empowering to you for times of emotional overwhelm. Positive self talk is everything when you feel fatigued from life! I’ll let you peruse some of mine if you need some ideas:

  • It’ll be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.
  • This, too, shall pass.
  • I’ve survived a lot of hard things, and I’ll survive this, too.
  • Anxiety won’t kill me, it just doesn’t feel good.
  • I’m strong enough for this.
  • Everything changes. This is only temporary.

Finally, a few basic coping skill reminders: Get enough sleep!! Drink water, eat well. Take walks and breathe deeply. Get enough sleep!! Learn how to say ‘no’ to unwise time commitments. And did I mention, get enough sleep?!

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Forget School For the Summer!

canstockphoto3930124As we enter into summer, one question I am frequently asked by parents is : ‘What can I be working on so that my child continues to progress over the summer?’  If your child has had a difficult school year, having two full months with no formal academic activities can certainly cause worry.  Looking for answers, and at times not finding much, it can seem like there’s not much for parents to do but enroll kids in tutoring, or if possible a skill building workshop or class, or resort to working with their kids on their own with worksheets and materials from their child’s teachers – not always a fun endeavor when kids want to be outside with peers or doing something non-academic related.

My number one recommendation to these types of requests (while keeping in mind that every child is an individual and will require individualized recommendations)? READING. Yes. Regardless of your child’s age, reading ability, level, and grade, the more time your child reads, the better. Reading, and if your child is struggling with reading, reading with your child,  is simply the strongest recommendation I can offer to help your child succeed academically. 20 minutes every day. That’s the recommendation. Not a workbook. Not a program, not a technique, not a workshop. Read with your child. 20 minutes, everyday. You don’t need to learn ‘how to teach your child to read’. You don’t even need really great reading skills ! Just read with your kids. 20 minutes. Everyday. Here’s why:

In the world of education, 20 minutes a day is a magic number regarding reading. This is connected to a famous study conducted in 1987 by Nagy and Herman. The study examined how much time students spent reading, how many words read, and then performance on standardized tests measuring reading achievement. I probably don’t need to tell you; students who spend 20 minutes a day reading scored at the 90th percentile on tests measuring reading achievement. Those in the study that spent 5 minutes reading? Scored in the 5oth percentile. That’s a big difference.

Thanks to Pinterest and the internet, type in ‘why your child can’t skip reading tonight’ and the visuals that accompany this statistic will astound. But here is the logic: one student, Amy, reads 20 minutes a night, 5 nights a week. In one week, that’s 100 minutes of reading; in one month, 400 minutes; one school year, 3600 minutes; and by the end of the sixth grade – 21,600 minutes of reading!  Her friend, Mark, reads only 4 minutes a night, or not at all. In one week, that’s 20 minutes of reading; in one month, 80 minutes; one school year, 720 minutes; and by the end of the sixth grade – 4320 minutes of reading.

Is your child more of an Amy (by the end of the sixth grade, has read 21,600 minutes or 60 days) or more of a Mark (by the end of the sixth grade, 4320 minutes or 12 school days)? Given that the fluency (how fast or slow a student reads) can vary, the number words read might be somewhat different, but it’s estimated that Amy would have read 1.8 million words, and Mark over 282,00o words.

It’s such a dramatic difference, I myself had to look at that math twice just to be sure it wasn’t a trick.

Now ask yourself, who is the better reader? Who would you expect to know more? And so on…..

So this summer, let yourself and your student truly relax and enjoy some reading! In the long run, it might be the best thing you can do to help your child’s school achievement for next year.

 

 

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Thoughts And Prayers Are Not Enough

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In the hours after a tragedy inspired by intolerance and bigotry, it is difficult for me to write. I want to be angry and sad, and simply feel those feelings until they dissipate and I’m swept up in the next wave of media and life. I want to sit and watch the news, safely in my home, without action, knowing that it would likely be a reaction to the senseless hate that our country has struggled to defuse. I want to send my “hopes and prayers to the victims and their families” in order to feel a little better about the world and how I experience it, but, I also know that that isn’t, and never will be, enough. Whether you are an advocate for the LGBTQ community or an advocate for civil liberties, wishes and prayers are not enough to stop the violence and intolerance that divide our nation and break our hearts. For real and lasting change to happen we must, as participants in the democratic process, engage mindfully and thoughtfully in the political and cultural dialogues that are happening right now. Have an opinion, listen to others opinion, validate and learn about the differences, and by the grace of God or whatever you believe in, love each other. So instead of just wishing and praying, educate yourself beyond the emotional reactivity we see from Fox News and CNN.

Usually, the hours after a terrorist attack the media turns toward dialogue and coverage about the attackers that further instigates fear and polarization between
“Us and Them”. This binary mentality prevents us from seeing the individuals within the “them” and leads to more polarizing actions rather than learning to understand, communicate with, and co-exist with “them.”

When we choose to do nothing but listen or perpetuate the hate and fear rhetoric, we are ignoring our responsibility and opportunity to heal. By all means, send your prayers to these people, but also know that actions like voting, donating time or money, or having dialogue with others that promotes understanding and tolerance will help move us in the right direction.

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Camp Gregory – A Weekend of Healing for Grieving Children

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Children who are experiencing grief and loss struggle with identifying how and what they are feelings, as there are often no words to describe the emotions they experience. Oftentimes, they feel isolated and alone in their pain and confusion. Camp Gregory gives young children the experience of healing together with other children who have also suffered loss and are trying to process their feelings of grief. Join us for a weekend of play therapy, laughter and healing.

Location: Grandview Family Counseling, 1576 S. 500 W. Bountiful, Utah.

Dates: Friday, August 5th and Saturday, August 6th.

Facilitating: Holly Willard, LCSW RPT-S and Clair Mellenthin, LCSW RPT-S.

Ages 5-8 from 9am-12pm Friday and Saturday.

Ages 9-12 from 1pm-4pm Friday and Saturday.

Cost: $200

To register, call (801) 406-9002 or visit grandviewfamilycounseling.com.

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