Life seems to have a way of getting crazy just when we don’t have time. There’s your child’s homework assignment that they forgot was due…tomorrow. An impending deadline at work that can’t be delayed any longer. What about the band concerts, dance lessons, or basketball games for your kids? School, church, and family obligations and responsibilities that we “have” to do. How do we balance all the demands on our time and energy?
Recently, I came to the point of realization that it wasn’t physically possible for me to accomplish and meet all my obligations the way that I had envisioned in my head. It was possible (though difficult) to meet the responsibilities on my list, but not in the way that I wanted them completed. Having realistic expectations of what I can and need to accomplish within the parameters of my life was a hard realization for me. I don’t just want to complete a task; I want to excel at that task. However, my overly high expectations of myself were leading to feelings of stress, anxiety, and negative self- worth. How do we combat these dueling feelings of inadequacy and the need for perfection?
Sounds simple enough right? However, how often do we sit down and write out all the demands on our time and energy for a day and then rank them? Try taking just 5 minutes and jotting down all the things that you need (or think you need) to accomplish for that day. Is it reasonable? How do you feel when you look at the list? Is it empowering and motivating? Or, do you feel the stress and anxiety like I did when I looked at mine? If your list is motivating, then you might have a good balance. However, if you react like I did, that’s a good indication that you are over-extended and need to pare it down a bit. How can I cut out something I “need” to do?
For those of us that suffer with perfectionistic tendencies, it’s hard to accept that less than perfect is good enough. Do we really need to be on every PTO committee at our children’s schools? Or, is being on one “good enough”? Are there things on your list where you can give yourself permission to be average? Adjusting the expectations that we set for ourselves can be a difficult thing to do, but I’ve found that being more flexible about what is and isn’t acceptable leads to a lot less stress.
After completing the first two steps, I realized there were several areas of my life where I’d created exceedingly high expectations. I had scheduled myself into a corner that didn’t allow for any deviation. Allowing for some flexibility in my schedule is very freeing; I don’t have to be doing something all the time. When something unexpected does pop up, I’ve left enough leeway to adjust accordingly.
I’ve learned that being able to look objectively at various aspects of my life and see where I can make improvements by doing less, either physically or mentally, is necessary at this stage. I simply can’t be or do all the things that I tried to tell myself that I had to. However, by carefully evaluating and choosing to prioritize the things most important to me, accepting that sometimes less than “perfect” is good enough, and allowing flexibility be my new mantra; I have a sense of strength, empowerment, and resiliency that was previously lacking.
I recently listened to a fabulous podcast where Brene Brown was being interviewed. (For those of you that don’t know, Brene Brown is a very well known therapist, researcher, and author. She has written several, brilliant books about embracing vulnerability and recognizing the difference between guilt and shame. Her books have had a big impact on my personal and professional life. I highly recommend all of them.) In the podcast Brene focused on being comfortable in experiencing vulnerable emotions. In particular she spoke about joy.
In Brene’s research she stated that joy was often associated with fear. Her example was simple, but profound. She spoke of a parent lovingly watching their child sleep at night. In that moment of joyful contemplation the parents often reported a high degree of fear right after having the feeling of joy/contentment. What if my child dies at an early age? What if I contract cancer? Everything is so good right now, something has to go wrong soon. When I heard this example I knew exactly what she was talking about! I have had those same thoughts and feelings as I tucked my children into bed. As I thought about it, a lot of times I feel joy I realized it was very often followed up with fearful thoughts that my happiness could only last so long before something went wrong.
The answer to challenging this commonplace problem showed up in Brene’s same research project. She stated there were a number of people that reported after they had joyful feelings they purposely stated thoughts of gratitude to themselves. Instead of leaving the situation feeling fearful and worried, like so many did and do, this second group of people reported feeling joyful, happy, and grateful. These people made mention of giving gratitude to a higher being, a thoughtful spouse, their jobs, health, and many other things that allowed them to feel happiness in that moment.
I took this to heart. Over the last week or two when I have noticed feeling happy with my family, marriage, house, holiday season, or really anything, instead of following up with a negative or fearful thought I immediately stated how grateful I was in the moment for that joyful feeling. What a difference! It seemed like the joy I was feeling multiplied and lingered much longer than when I had chaotically thought about what may go “wrong” next to ruin my happiness. It has made me a better wife, mother, friend, and daughter to practice this easy technique.
This holiday season I challenge you to experience true joy. In those loud or often quiet moments when you find yourself feeling happy, follow those thoughts/feelings up with thoughts of gratitude. Why are you happy? Who helped you achieve that happiness? Why are you grateful for having the joyful feeling? Extend your Thanksgiving list of gratitude into the Christmas season, and notice the difference it will make.
Whether it is dancing with a loved one, head banging on our way to work, or singing our hearts out with friends and family; music affects our mood and our relationships. A recent study by Apple and Sonos found some surprising results regarding something we all love, music.
Apple and Sonos (2016) completed a global study of thirty-thousand consumers to see how music can affect our “home life”. The study surveyed people with varied backgrounds ranging from families with children, couples, and friends as roommates. Despite different backgrounds those that were surveyed had something in common: music impacted their relationships in positive ways. At this day and age we all seem to plug in on the internet, video games, and social media. While we tend to be physically present, we are not always emotionally or mentally present with those around us. We know electronics play a role in preventing some of these interactions, but how do we combat them. We can do this by just playing music!
The study found that in the US families spent more quality time together by four and a half hours versus families who did not play music (1). This is huge especially when we have a difficult time unplugging, we now know that we can plug into music together and spend more quality time with our family and friends which then improves our relationships.
For families spending quality time listening to music improved their relationships in a variety of areas including the following:
They were 33% more likely to cook together.
They were 85% more likely to invite others over including friends and other close family.
They also experienced 15% more laughter together as a family.
The words “I love you” and other words of affirmation were 18% more likely to be said among each other.
Each of these examples can translate to improved relationships. Music is something that is so simple, and yet, can yield such a big impact for our relationships and drive more connection. The study further notes that the average of physical distance between family members was by 12% which the study called “a nexus of intimacy and togetherness” (1).
Throughout the study, couples began to experience 66% more intimacy while music played (1). Intimacy is much more than sex. Intimacy is moving from you and me to more of a “we”. The more intimate you become the closer you and your significant other will understand the ins and outs of the relationship. However, music did indeed improve the more “intimate” instances of intimacy. The study noted that couples were awake 37% more each evening which means that couples were having more, wait for it, sex (1).
When we’re having a bad day we can turn on our favorite song have a dance party and instantly our mood can change. Studies have shown that even by listening to happy or sad music we then perceive neutral faces as either happy or sad which matches the music heard prior by the individual (2).
Whether it is being closer with a loved one or improving the quality time your family spends together music can help. Music is something that can help us feel a variety of emotions and some good or bad. Music can help bring us together, but what really drives the connection between your family or friends at these times is becoming emotionally connected. When we truly open up with someone and have these musical experiences we show our vulnerabilities. During these vulnerable moments we can connect to someone on another level and they can see who we truly are.
When music is not enough to mend or help overcome a difficult patch in our lives we can seek further assistance. This assistance can come from friends, family, or professionals such as therapists to help work through your unique and challenging situations. If you are considering therapy and are worried what it will be like, please come and see us at Wasatch family therapy. We strive to provide everyone who comes with a comfortable, safe and non-judgmental atmosphere so that those we see can succeed. Please do not hesitate to contact us at Wasatch Family Therapy at 801-944-4555. Together we can learn further tools to help you through your specific changes.
SONOS | Apple Music. (n.d.). Retrieved November 13, 2017, from http://musicmakesithome.com/
Cooper, B. B. (2016, August 26). 8 Amazing, Little-Known Ways Music Affects the Brain. Retrieved November 13, 2017, from https://blog.bufferapp.com/music-and-the-brain
Complicate Everything: In order to create the perfectly stressful holiday, make sure that you make everything as complex as possible. There is zero room for simplification if you want to achieve high stress. Don’t just serve one kind of pie; make sure you make everyone’s favorite kind. Tablecloths, napkins, place settings, and your outfit should all match for ambiance. Additionally, all recipes should be great great great aunt Emm’s, passed down from generation to generation or the holiday just won’t be stressful enough. Remember that 12-step process so the homemade rolls are the right kind of fluffy.
Do NOT Delegate: Make sure for the ultimately stressful holiday, that you do everything yourself, and I mean everything. This should include loss of sleep, not actually participating in the activities you prepared for everyone else all night and day, and never accepting help of any kind. This will be tempting when others offer, but don’t give in. No one else can do it as well as you anyway. The stress is just an added bonus.
Have High Expectations: After all, these holidays come only once a year, so it must be perfect or you have ruined it for everyone and can’t try again for a whole year and everyone will be completely distraught until then. That is, unless you mess it up next year too. Make sure you are as rigid as possible. There is no room for flexibility this day. Do not tolerate anything that doesn’t go according to that wondrous magical plan you created in your head. For an added stress-filled bonus, make sure you meet everyone else’s too high expectations also!
Focus on Commercialism: As these holidays roll around, make sure to focus on the true meaning of each holiday. Everyone knows that is commercialism and aesthetics only. Nothing else. As long as the way you did the holiday makes you look good to everyone else and you spent a ton of money, then you did a perfect job at creating a stressful holiday. Don’t get distracted with all that family love stuff and gratitude crap. This is game time. You have waited all year to be this stressed out. Stay focused.
The cooler fall air is the first indicator that the season of thankfulness and gratitude is upon us, but what if you don’t feel that you have anything to be grateful for this year? Perhaps your life has been plagued by chaos and uncertainty. Grief, job loss, depression, problematic relationships, and isolation are just a few of the things that can lead to feelings of apathy towards life and general ungratefulness. How can we combat this discontent and find gratitude and joy again?
Start as You Mean to Go
This is a phrase that I use often for a number of situations, but I think that it is particularly applicable when talking about gratitude. Simply begin your day as you want it to go for the remainder. Make the choice of gratitude as soon as you wake in the morning. Before you climb out of bed to begin your day, take a moment and find one thing, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential it may be, for which you are thankful. This choice to start with a grateful heart will set the tone for the day.
Stop and Smell the Roses
An overly used cliché, I know, but it’s true. It’s hard to be truly grateful if we are so busy living that we don’t take the time to appreciate the little things that make life worth living. Be mindful of what is happening around you, and take the time to truly experience and appreciate the small blessings, victories, and learning opportunities that life has to offer.
Look Outside Yourself
What better way to forget about our problems than to look around and see the problems that other people are dealing with? This isn’t to say that we should take joy in others’ pain and suffering, but to use it to put our problems into perspective. Stepping outside of ourselves and helping those that are less fortunate enables us to really appreciate the good in our lives, as meager as it may be, and also to recognize that there is always someone that has less.
Find a Purpose
Find a purpose in life that gives your life meaning. Maybe this means volunteering your time to a cause that is close to your heart, finding fulfillment in your family or career, or deciding to go back to school. The possibilities are endless. Whatever your direction, find something which you are passionate and excited about and share it.
Have an Attitude of Gratitude
Gratitude is a choice. Choose a life of gratitude by having an attitude of gratitude that starts as soon as you wake in the morning. Find the things that you appreciate about your life and celebrate them, no matter the size. Slow down and take the time to seek out and appreciate the lessons that life has to offer, even the hard ones. Life is hard, and there are plenty of opportunities to get down, but look to others to gain insight and perspective of your challenges. Lastly, find your purpose. We aren’t all going to find a cure for cancer or negotiate world peace, but we all have the chance to leave this world better than we found it.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are affecting over 18% of the American population, making it the most common mental health issue in the United States (adaa.org). Anxiety disorders include:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Panic Disorder (PD)
Social Anxiety Disorder
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Major Depressive Disorder
Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)
Alarmingly, little more than one third of the people suffering from any form of Anxiety disorder are getting treatment (adaa.org). Often the barriers to treatment include not knowing that treatment is available or where to find it, or not wanting to resort to medications. Some people may not realize they have a diagnosable disorder, while other people may know they have it but not want to have to “do therapy.” If you or someone you know is not getting treatment for whatever reason, some lifestyle choices could help, including a clean, balanced diet, appropriate exercise, adequate sleep, and something that’s getting more attention in scientific research, meditation.
In January 2017, Psychiatry Research, a peer reviewed scientific journal, published the results of a randomized study that found significant reductions in stress related hormones in those participants who practiced Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) as compared to the control group participants who did not (Hoge et al., 2017). Furthermore, when mindfulness techniques are combined with therapist guided cognitive-behavioral intervention the results are even more impressive and longer lasting (Evans, 2008). In short, working with a good therapist to learn healthy cognitive-behavioral habits and making good lifestyle choices—including practicing meditation on a daily basis—can go a long way toward helping you and/or your loved one overcome whatever form of Anxiety disorder you’re dealing with.
There are an abundance of free resources available to help you learn how to meditate.
YouTube offers countless videos of guided meditations. Some of my favorites are from Deepak Chopra.
You can download any number of meditation apps for your phone. I highly recommend Meditate Me, available only through the App Store for iOS devices.
Whatever resource you use, you’ll be glad you took the time and put the practice to the test!
Call us for an appointment with a skilled therapist.
Here’s to a peaceful life!
Evans, S., Ferrando, S., Findler, M., Stowell, C., Smart, C., & Haglin, D. (2008).
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for generalized anxiety disorder. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 22, 716-721.
Hoge, E. A., Bui, E., Palitz, S. A., Schwarz, N. R., Owens, M. E., Johnston, J. M.,
Pollack, M. H., & Simon, N. M. (2017). The effects of mindfulness meditation training on biological acute stress responses in general anxiety disorder. PsychiatryResearch.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2017.01.006
Mindfulness is all the rage right now. There are a million pins teaching you how to be mindful, and just about as many books or articles. The problem is trying to find the time to be mindful! I’m trying to balance three children, my husband, work, dance class, homework, preschool, nap time, volunteering, self-care, my own hobbies, and the list goes on. I could write a whole blog post about everything that I have to do, and I’m sure your list is just as long (if not longer). The last thing on our list is to take some time to ground ourselves so we can continue to move forward with the many responsibilities we have. Here is a small but effective grounding, or mindfulness exercise to try. So put a show on for your kids or lock yourself in the bathroom and give this a try.
Take three calming breaths and look around while identifying:
5 things that you see
4 things that you feel
3 things that you hear
2 things that you smell
1 thing that you taste
Find a good time in the day and set an alarm on your phone to do this exercise. You will be surprised at how five minutes of reconnecting with yourself can help you throughout the day.
Change is something we all do. This may include confronting new challenges in relationships, moving, starting a new job, or welcoming a new addition to the family. Changes, whether big or small, can be a difficult adjustment for anyone.
Let’s try a simple experiment. Tonight, I want you to change the way you brush your teeth.
As you are brushing your teeth, switch from brushing with the hand you usually do and use the opposite hand. I know that some of you will be thinking that will be quite easy, but you may be surprised by how difficult this simple change can be.
Some attempting this change might notice that your brush strokes feel uncomfortable, your arm is not operating in a manner you are accustomed to, and when you finish (if you finish brushing your teeth with your opposite hand), your teeth may not feel as clean! I know, I know ,some of us are blessed and are ambidextrous and this may be easy, but for me this task was not.
Changing brushing your teeth, just like any change in life, will feel uncomfortable, awkward, and difficult, but it is when we continue to work through those difficulties that we improve and grow. These changes may come by choice or can be unexpected.
Changes occur in many different ways; such as, changes in our mental state, making changes in a relationship(s), or even changes in our behavior can be difficult without any help. Where do we find help for changes? The simple answer to that is in therapy. Therapists are like an athlete hiring a coach or trainer. The therapist is trained in helping individuals, families, or couples make changes or achieve their goals. We all know that many athletes have natural abilities, but often they require another set of eyes to give them the guidance that they need to hone those abilities and develop to their greatest potential.
One of the most important factors of making change with therapy is the therapeutic relationship. The therapeutic relationship is the trust you have with your therapist. It what makes you feel comfortable with him/her as you come frequently without judgment of what you have going on. This relationship can take time to develop, but depending on your therapist, you could feel comfortable right away. This relationship means that your therapist is there to have what some call “real talk” with you and help you develop and improve. This means that at times, therapy might make you feel uncomfortable as you explore different aspects of change, but because of this therapeutic relationship, you keep coming back.
Your current or future therapist can be male or female, short or tall, and can even be a new or experienced therapists. The relationship with whichever therapist you choose is crucial. Research has shown that the therapeutic relationship is one of the most important indicators of therapy success (1). If you wanted to be a successful Olympiad, you find a coach or a trainer, right? So, when seeking to make real changes changes or improve, why do we not seek out a therapist?
The first step for many is reaching out to a therapist, which can be difficult. Going to therapy is often stigmatized as making the individual weak, helpless, a failure, or broken. Going to therapy does not make you any of those things, as we all have our individual struggles. Just by coming to therapy, you are showing strength and a desire to achieve and improve.
If you are considering therapy and are worried what it will be like, please come and see us at Wasatch Family Therapy. We strive to provide everyone who comes with a comfortable, safe and non-judgmental atmosphere so that those we see can succeed. Please do not hesitate to contact us at Wasatch Family Therapy at 801-944-4555. Together, we can learn further tools to help you through your specific changes.
(1) Horvath, A.O. and Symonds, B.D. (1991) Relation between working alliance and outcome in psychotherapy: a meta-anaysis, Journal of Counseling Psychology, 38 (2), 139-149.
Dr. Tina Sellers, author of Sex, God, and the Conservative Church, defines sexual shame as “a visceral feeling of humiliation and disgust toward one’s own body and identity as a sexual being, and a belief of being abnormal, inferior, and unworthy.”
Most of us grew up in a culture where parents didn’t often talk openly with their kids about bodies and sex, and a good number of us still don’t really know what to say to our own kids about the topic. In schools, many sex-education courses focuses on abstinence and skirt around topics deemed more appropriate for home discussions. Combined with our distorted, sex-saturated media, it’s no wonder so many individuals grow up with feelings of shame or inadequacy surrounding their bodies and their sexuality.
These feelings interfere with the development of our most important relationships, but they don’t have to.
Dr. Sellers suggests four steps for overcoming sexual shame:
The first step is to Frame. Framing means gaining accurate information on sexuality. Some of my favorite books on bodies, sex, and intimacy are:
For kids: “Sex is a Funny Word” by Cory Silverberg
For girls: “The Care and Keeping of You” by Valorie Schaefer
For boys: “Dating and Sex: A Guide for the 21st Century Teen Boy” by Andrew Smiler
For parents of teens: “For Goodness Sex” by Al Vernacchio
On female sexuality: “Come as You Are” by Emily Nagoski
On male sexuality: “The New Male Sexuality, Revised Edition” by Bernie Zilbergeld
For LDS couples: “What Your Parents Didn’t Tell You About Sex” by Anthony Hughs
There are many more great resources out there. Having accurate and open information about your body and what “normal” looks like can help dispel the sexual myths you may have picked up growing up or through media. Education can calm anxiety and help lay out a plan for gaining the approach to sexuality that you’d like to have in your life.
Dr. Sellers’ second step is to Name. This means finding a group you feel safe in, where you can tell your story and feel heard. This could be a therapy group, it could be a book group (using any of the above suggestions!), it could be an online support group. The important thing is to find a place where people can really hear and understand you so that you can name, or verbalize your own story.
The third step is Claim: Where sex is used so commonly to sell products (either by sexualizing our lunch or pointing out our flaws in order to get us to buy the product that will “fix” everything), media and marketing can throw a real punch to our sense of self worth. We need to claim our right to be okay just the way we are. If this is an area you struggle with, reading books and sharing your story can help, but sometimes you might find you need extra help learning to heal internalized shame. Find a therapist to talk to. Practice challenging negative self-talk. Claim the amazing things that make you who you are.
The last step is Aim. Aim means to write a new story for yourself. We all have stories or narratives that we tell ourselves, and if the old one hasn’t been helpful, begin writing a new story. Learning to look at your past in new ways can help open up potential for growth and new discoveries in your future. Let the keyword for your new narrative be “hope.”
If you have struggled with shame in connection with your body or sexuality and it’s holding you back from creating the connection and pleasure you hope for in your relationships, call and schedule an appointment today at 801-944-4555.
The road ahead, though long, is straight and smooth. You start cruising on your predetermined route, and all seems to be going well. You are making great time as you speed at freeway speeds towards your destination. Suddenly, the road is filled with potholes. You slow down and try to maneuver around all the damaged parts of the road, but you persevere forward. Then the road starts to take twists and turns that you couldn’t see from the starting point, so you slow further to ensure safe passage. You notice turn-offs from the road you are traveling on, but you are determined to continue on to your destination. However, the further you travel, the more twisted and impassable the road becomes. What are you going to do?
We have all encountered situations in our lives where we are faced with the decision to continue on a path that is fraught with danger and impassable, choose to abandon our current path to our destination, or reroute our journey entirely. Maybe we’ve experienced the death of a loved one, a divorce, a job loss, a crisis of faith, troubled relationships with our families, or other crippling circumstances that force us to reevaluate. These situations are difficult and anxiety provoking; however, they also give us the opportunity to look critically at our path and make changes if necessary.
As scary as it is, looking for alternative routes can be empowering. Not too recently, I was at crossroads that I hadn’t anticipated. Looking at options was overwhelming, but I realized that as difficult as the situations was, I did have options. I could choose to be controlled by circumstances and become subservient to a situation, or I could take control of the situation and make a choice to move in a different direction that gave me the power to grow. I chose to grow and reroute.
The new route isn’t without its own bumps, twists, and turns; thus, I am constantly evaluating the possibility of detours that may slow my progress, but that will still lead me to my destination. However, seeing my progress has been invaluable in my journey.
If you are faced with a situation where you feel like you are stuck and without options, visit us here at Wasatch Family Therapy, and we can help you see alternatives. Life is a journey that isn’t without obstacles, but we can help you move around and beyond them.