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
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
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
- Specific Phobias
- 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.2017.01.006More
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.More
Anxiety is a unique mental health symptom because it is something that in some way affects everyone. Yes, everyone! Anxiety does not care who you are; it can have its effect on you. Anxiety can strike at a variety of times. Many people may recognize some of the physical symptoms before they are mentally aware that they are anxious. Learning to recognize the warning signs of anxiety can help us find relief before anxiety spirals out of control.
I previously worked with a young woman who was highly ambitious, extremely successful in school, was social, seemed to have it all together, and… had anxiety. Her anxiety symptoms were primarily physical: chronic vertigo, sleeplessness, and lethargy. Because of their physical nature, she was not aware they were linked to her mental health, and they went untreated for far too long. For this young woman, the start of her treatment was learning to recognize the warning signs; which, for her consisted of worrying, angst, and over stretching herself by not being assertive with peers. Learning to recognize our warning signs can help us to manage our anxiety appropriately.
Some physical warning signs of anxiety consist of the following:
- Increased muscle tension
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased blood pressure
- Feelings of numbness in limbs
- Nausea or Diarrhea
- Feelings of fatigue or weakness
- Sleep disturbance
You might be asking yourself, “Well, I have some of these symptoms. What can I do to overcome them?” Thankfully, there are a number of things that we can all do to manage anxiety appropriately.
Therapy is a great way for anyone to be able to explore these symptoms and what might be causing them in a safe and non-judgmental environment. Having a therapist who you can discuss these anxious feelings with and determine possible causes can bring symptoms of relief. During a session, the mental health counselor will discuss an individual’s’ specific situations and possible solutions. A study done by Quast (2014) found that therapy has a positive effect on the reduction of symptoms of anxiety.
Anxiety can also be treated at home with a few simple things. Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere anytime. This technique allows individuals to bring more awareness to their current situation by assessing their thoughts, feelings, senses, and how their body feels. The more people practice mindfulness, the easier it can be to overcome anxiety. Mindfulness tool can be found in phone apps; such as, Headspace. These apps provide a great way to begin a mindful daily structured routine. Mindfulness can be as simple as yoga, meditation, coloring, or drawing. The use of mindfulness alone has been shown to reduce worrying and helps to prevent the negative effects of anxiety (Hoge, Bui, Goetter, Robinaugh, Ojserkis, Fresco, and Simon, 2014).
Deep belly breathing can be an easy way to overcome anxiety in any situation. At times when I get frustrated or anxious, I stop what I am doing to take three deep breaths. While taking these deep breaths, make sure the amount of time you inhale, hold the breath, and exhale are five seconds or more. During these breaths, ensure that your breath is coming deep from your stomach and rather short breaths from your chest. While working with children, I recommend that they “fill their balloon” which is their diaphragm, or stomach area. If you have done yoga, this is like abdominal breathing or ujjayi breath. After completing these breaths, your body will be back in a more relaxed state.
The young woman I mentioned above could overcome many of the physical symptoms of her anxiety by seeing a therapist who helped her recognize her triggers, negative thoughts, and by building healthy habits; such as, mindfulness and deep breathing. Anxiety should not be the one in control in your life. You can take back control by utilizing the techniques mentioned above.
If you continue to struggle with managing your stress or anxiety, 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 challenges.
Quast, A. (2014). Yogerapy: An Integrated Yoga and Cognitive-Behavioral, Family-Based Intervention for Children with Anxiety Disorders in High Achieving Environments. Ph.D. of Pyschology. The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, 2014. Print.
Hoge, E., Bui, E., Goetter, E., Robinaugh, D., Ojserkis, R., Fresco, D., & Simon, N. (2014). Change in Decentering Mediates Improvement in Anxiety in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Cognitive Therapy and Research Cogn Ther Res, 228-235.
Nathan Watkins, MFT INTERNMore
- Have you eaten recently? If your car was out of gas, would you still expect it to run smoothly on a road trip? Of course not! You would make sure your tank was full so you had plenty of fuel to take you where you wanted to go. Our bodies need the same fuel. You cannot manage your stress, anxiety, depression, or life without properly fueling your body with healthy food. Want to have more energy to fight through difficult times? Make sure you’re eating!
- Are you properly hydrated? My family laughed at our aunt growing up that always gave the advice to go have a glass of water. Having a bad day? Go grab a glass of water. Stressed out? Water. Feeling sad? Water. Can’t focus? You guessed it…water. However simple it may sound drinking a proper amount of water each day helps keep energy up and will make you feel healthy. Instead of grabbing a caffeine filled drink when you’re out of energy, slow down and grab a nice glass of water. Being properly hydrated will help more than you know.
- When was the last time you showered and got ready for the day? People often skip over this important daily ritual when life gets busy. Slowing down and taking time for yourself will make a big difference in how you feel about yourself and the day ahead of you.
- When was the last time your heart rate was up? Walking briskly for even five minutes can get your heart rate up and provide your body with much needed chemicals that will help you feel healthy and focused.
- Are you sleeping too much or too little? Make sure you are getting a healthy amount of sleep. It can be a tricky balance. Too much sleep can result in feeling lazy, lethargic, and depressed. Too little sleep can leave you feeling tightly wound, exhausted, and stressed. Make sure you are balancing sleep correctly so you can have enough energy and motivation to get through your day.
- When was the last time you got out of your house and connected with someone? Go out and connect with someone face to face. Technological connections are great, but actual face to face connections will do much more for your mental health.
In a society where we are all required to do more, sleep less, perform better, get richer, and find room for others, it’s hard to find the “me” in much of anything. So much of daily living is performing where our minds are constantly racing to the next thing. Sleep is interrupted by alarm clocks and delayed by late nights. No matter what the reason, whether it’s family, work, or school, it seems there is never enough time in the day.
Reports of declining mental health is increasing in depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and addiction. The big question is: How to cope? Is it really possible to find time for you? To build a way to relax, think, and rejuvenate without any artificial replacements?
I say, absolutely! The way to finding “me” is through ME-ditation.
Meditation means different things to different people. Renowned psychologist Marsha Linehan defines mediation as the ability to open the mind and acknowledge thoughts and senses, without showing judgment or analyzing, while embracing the unknown, through daily practice.
The benefits of meditation far outweigh any screen time on a smart phone. These include reduced depression, lowered anxiety, decreased heart rate and blood pressure, improved relaxation and sleep, and the ability to find spiritual connection. Meditation is also used in addiction recovery. Perhaps the biggest evidence of the benefits of meditation is that it improves emotional intelligence!
John Cabot Zin outlines the ABC’s:
A-Awareness: Becoming more aware of the mind and body. Thinking and doing.
B- Breathe: Allowing yourself to be with your experience. Create your story without reacting or responding. This can create compassion for yourself and others.
C- Compassion: By creating a pause between the experience and our reaction, we can make wiser choices.
Research is beginning to show that mindfulness and meditation increase our emotional intelligence and the way we monitor the emotions in others and ourselves.
Here Are Some Tips For Your Meditation Practice:
*Acknowledge you need “me” time.
*Find a quiet space
*Sit or Lay down
*Put your hand by your side
*Clear your mind
*Close your eyes, or try a sleepy gaze
*Breathe in through your nose for 5 counts
*Pause or hold for 5 counts
*Exhale through your mouth for 5 counts.
If thoughts come into your mind during your exercise, sweep them from your mind. Be aware of your body and sensations. Focus on your breath. Feel the air in your nose or mouth as you inhale and exhale. Acknowledge what you hear or smell. Feel your body relaxing. And breathe. Start with 5-10 minutes daily. The key to prolonged benefits, is to practice, practice, practice. If you fall asleep during your exercise, that’s good! You need it!
If you enjoy this simple meditation, seek out our trained therapists to deepen meditation skills and other powerful approaches to mindfulness.More
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, many people are excitedly stocking up on chocolates and bears, making reservations, and trying on endless sexy ensembles for that perfect February 14th date. However, what if you’re not one of those people? What if you’re not single, but your relationship is currently not in a great place, and you can’t stomach the thought of trying to fake it through an awkward dinner with your spouse? Don’t panic! Here are a few ways that you and your partner can still make it through enjoy Valentine’s Day without a major dose of anxiety and tension.
Whatever you do, don’t let the day sneak up on you. If you wait until the night before to start thinking about it, you’ll definitely find yourself stressing. Take control of the situation now, and start planning out what you would like the day to be like. Do you and your partner want to try and do something together that maybe doesn’t include romantic pressure, but that could be fun, relaxing, and enjoyable? Would the two of you rather plan an evening at home with your kids and make it a family affair? Do you want to do absolutely nothing but watch movies in your pajamas? The point is, prepare ahead of time so that you and your partner both know what to expect.
Although Valentine’s Day is marketed as the romance-seeped, blissful, sex-filled holiday of the year, let’s try to remember what it’s really about…LOVE. What is love? Well, that’s a loaded question! Love is many things besides romance and sex-it’s friendship, caring, empathy, respect…the list goes on and on. Maybe this Valentine’s Day, you and your partner seek to connect with each other on a different level. For example, you could agree to give each other the gift of respect for the whole day, and agree to practice talking kindly to each other. Or, perhaps you feel like roommates, and maybe you could do an activity together that allows you to try and be friends for the evening. If even any of that is just too much, consider seeking connection with the other people you and your partner love and care about. Maybe you take cookies to a neighbor, or have some trusted friends over for dinner. Whatever you do, seek connection-don’t spend the day soaking yourself in feelings of loneliness.
Again, while Valentine’s Day is promoted as a day to think solely about your partner, it might be a good idea to do something nice for yourself too! Especially if the day is going to be hard for you this year, make sure you and your partner encourage each other to practice some self-care. Go get a massage, spend the morning reading a good book, or go for a walk. Self-care can be done together or separately, but either way it can feel soothing and comforting on a day that may otherwise be filled with painful reminders.
Best of luck to you! I hope no matter what your current relationship situation is, that you are able to find peace, connection, and happiness this Valentine’s Day. And remember…it’s just 1 day. :0)More