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.More
Karen turned off the automatic notifications of missing assignments from her daughter’s school. Each time her phone would ping, she experienced a tightening in her chest, and a pit in her stomach, that gradually intensified, until finally each new ping brought panic and rage.
Karen’s daughter, Chelsea, had never been great at turning in homework, but the last couple of years things had gotten worse. Chelsea was a bright child, but had struggled with some executive skills, and regularly forgot assignments, or just didn’t want to do them. Her grades showed straight A’s in classes she enjoyed and F’s in classes she didn’t, with very little in between.
Karen wanted to see her daughter succeed, but worried that her apparent lack of motivation spelled doom for her future. Karen enacted more and more control over her daughter, limited activities and free time in hopes of “inspiring” Chelsea to “be more responsible”.
Instead of helping, it seemed to make the problem worse.
Karen’s attempt at control stemmed mainly from the shark music. We all recognize those two little notes. Duuh duh…duuh duh… duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh, then bam, the shark appears. With those two little notes, our breathing speeds up, our chests feel tight, and fearful anticipation makes it difficult to think about anything other than the impending danger.
Dan Siegel describes shark music as the “background noise caused by past experiences and future fear”.
Karen’s shark music started to play anytime her phone pinged with a new “missing assignment” notice because a new missing assignment made her fears for her daughter’s future replay in her head. This fear made it difficult for Karen to address what was really going on with that specific assignment, because every assignment blended together as one big problem.
Learning to recognize when our own shark music has started playing is the first step toward a more intentional, less reactive response to our children. Without the shark music, Karen could calmly talk to her daughter about specific assignments, and they could come up with plans to address the problems behind each situation, giving Chelsea the opportunity to learn important life skills.
For her missing math assignment, perhaps Karen would learn that Chelsea sat by her best friend in math, and often missed writing the assignment down because she was busy talking. Brainstorming with Chelsea would teach her how to solve problems rather than put her in a reactive position to her mom’s “meanness”. For a missing English assignment, maybe Karen would learn that Chelsea hadn’t understood what the teacher was asking for, and a solution could be to talk to the teacher after school for clarification.
We all have our shark music, whether it has to do with our child’s education, the time they spend with friends, or what their eye roll *really* meant, allowing ourselves to get pulled into the shark music causes us to miss out on what is really going on with our kids. After we recognize what triggers our shark music, we can acknowledge our fear, and then refocus on what lesson we really want our child to learn.
Learning to recognize what triggers our shark music can be a challenge. It involves examining our impulses and past experience. Sometimes the most effective way to do this is with the guidance of a professional. If you feel stuck in your own shark music and are ready to learn a new way of interacting with your child, call 801-944-4555 to schedule an appointment today.More
- 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.
Wishing you the most stressful of holidays!
Kathleen Baxter LMFT
- They may be hungry, tired, ill or bored.
- They might not know or understand what is expected of them.
- They might be held to expectations that are beyond their developmental level.
- They may have experienced trauma or abuse.
- They may be copying the bad behavior or their parents or someone else.
- They may be trying to cover up feelings of pain, fear or loneliness.
- They may be experiencing feelings that are overwhelming to them.
- They may feel bad about themselves.
- They may be experiencing bullying.
- They may be experiencing dietary issues.
- They may be trying to get attention from others.
- They may be testing whether parents will set limits, boundaries and enforce rules.
- They may be asserting themselves and seeking to be independent.
- Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- General anxiety disorder.
- Sensory processing disorder
In any given year, 1 in 5 Americans experiences mental illness of some kind (depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.). Clearly, this is an issue that affects a great deal of us, particularly the loved ones of those suffering. And mental illness is more than just an individual problem; it is a family concern. Here are some ways to support a spouse or partner with mental illness:More
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.More
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.