- 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 gas 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.
Living 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 not 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 is defined as many different things. 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 out weigh any screen time on a smart phone. From decreasing depression, lowering anxiety, decreasing heart rate and blood pressure, improving relaxation skills, potential to improve sleep, and finding spiritual connection. It’s also used in addiction recovery. The biggest evidence 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 pause between the experience and our reaction we can make wiser choices.
Research is beginning to show that mindfulness and meditation increases our emotional intelligence, and the way we monitor the emotions in others and ourselves.
The beginning to meditation is as follows:
*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 the your breathe. 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
As I have worked with several clients who struggle with depression, I have noticed a consistent theme among those who prescribe to religion. Many of them tend to carry a belief that if they would only be more righteous, they would not be struggling with depression, or other mental health issues. If they would only pray more or read more holy writ. If they could only be more devoted to God, Adonai, Allah, Prabhu; then this illness would be removed from them. The following are some of the challenges I have found with this flawed belief.
- Most religions teach that human struggle is necessary and expected for growth and progression. Therefore, this belief is in direct conflict with the very teachings one prescribes to. Depression, or any other challenge, can be seen rather as a part of one’s “refining” process, not a detriment to it or a punishment because of that natural process.
- Making a medical health comparison, I don’t believe that most people would believe their God sees physical injuries or wounds as evidence of impurity or sin. So, why then do we make that assumption regarding mental illnesses? Is it because one who is religious may associate their mind with their identity more than they would their body? Do we take more accountability for what goes on in our head than our body? Additionally, sometimes people who could use valuable treatment and resources, avoid it because they believe between themselves and God, they have it covered. Regarding our previous example of infection, wouldn’t God expect one to pray AND seek good medical care?
- Why would only some be punished by depression for sin, and others not? A more accurate interpretation may be, that it has nothing to do with sin or righteousness, but rather a genetic predisposition for the illness.
- Many times, those who believe that depression is a bad omen, reduce their religion to a source of guilt, rather than the uplifting support it may have been previously. Many people report that religion can be a tremendous support and relief during times of trial. The belief that one is not righteous enough to be cured of depression, robs them of the components of religion that can bring hope and peace during times or horrific challenge. Religion and God can be a tremendous tool in one’s journey to healing and health.
I believe there is a reason why so many of my clients tend to fall into this flawed thinking trap. One of the side effects of depression can be a sense of numbness or apathy. Unfortunately, when you are numb, it likely means you can’t feel God either. One may mistake the sudden lack of spiritual feelings, as a disconnection from Him, or a punishment.
I would urge all who struggle with this thought pattern now, to trust in the things you already know to be true regarding the character of your God. Allow yourself to be human and injured, the way He allows you to be.More
It’s no secret that social media connects us like never before. In an instant, we can snap pictures and post our whereabouts (think that selfie from your backpacking trip in Europe) and also keep tabs on what our friends are up to. I love social media. It has been an integral part of my professional life and is a great way to keep in touch with my loved ones. But it is not without its problems.
In the past few years, there has been public and medical concern about such topics as cyber-bullying and too much screen time (particularly for young people). As a psychotherapist, I’d like to address one more issue as it relates to mental health and social media: that of internet loneliness, depression, and feelings of low self-esteem.
I frequently ask my clients this question, “What is the difference between guilt and shame.” Most clients reply that they aren’t really sure. The reason I ask this question so frequently, is because a lot of people I work with get swallowed up in these emotions from time to time. These are pretty common and even normal emotions to have in certain circumstances, yet most people have a hard time articulating what the difference is, or identifying them in themselves. I thought it would be useful to get to know each of these a little better.
GUILT- “I did bad, so I feel bad.”
One might ask why in the world were we created with this emotion. It is awful to feel! It certainly does not make the top ten lists of people’s favorite emotions to feel. Guilt can actually be a very useful emotion. Somewhere, deep down inside guilt, is a little seed of empathy, or concern for others and how they feel. Guilt helps us distinguish the difference between right and wrong, and works as little bumper lanes on a bowling ally do. Guilt keeps us pointed in the right direction. Now, People feel guilt for different things. What you feel guilt about depends on what you deem right or wrong. This is where I see people get in trouble with guilt. Many times, people who feel overwhelmed by guilt have attached it to things that have no moral implications of wrong, or are completely out of their control. You can see how guilt in these situations, is unnecessary, and frankly really ineffective. Remember, guilt is supposed to motivate me for positive change. So, feeling guilty that my child got an F in math is completely useless. First of all, getting an F in math isn’t morally wrong, and most importantly, I am not in control of my child’s behavior.
SHAME- “I did bad, so I am bad.”
Unlike guilt, shame is not motivating at all. In fact, for most people, shame is paralyzing. The big difference with shame is that you see yourself as the problem, not your behavior. One that is engulfed in shame, typically feels hopeless because you cannot escape yourself, and if you see your inherent nature or character as the problem, that feels pretty powerless. In the basement of shame is the belief that because I’m bad, people won’t love, accept, or value me. Typically, those swallowed up in shame have a hard time forgiving themselves, seeing their good intentions, or focusing on efforts rather than results.
Hopefully, you can now understand the difference between shame and guilt. If you find yourself feeling shame, you may be struggling with depression or anxiety. If you find yourself feeling guilt for many things that don’t have any moral implications, you may also be struggling with depression or anxiety. The good news is, there are proven ways to dispel shame and guilt, and to see the value in yourself again. If you are interested in learning how, schedule an appointment today.More
When it comes to our relationships, we often spend time trying to figure out problems (how can we get a spouse to listen more, how can we get children to be more obedient, etc.). But what if you are the problem? Might be a bit of an uncomfortable idea, but the truth is that often times it’s easier to spot shortcomings in someone else than it is to see them in ourselves. I encourage you to look in the mirror as we explore the following topic: Are you a guilt tripper? This involves using guilt as a form of emotional manipulation to get someone to think or act a certain way. It’s something that we’ve all done at times.
I’m excited to offer an e-course based on my book “The Burnout Cure” to help women identify and articulate their feelings and needs in order to strengthen their relationships. Get on the invitation list here drjuliehanks.com/ecourses
Need help or advice with a specific decision, relationship, or issue? Schedule a coaching session with me!
When it comes to our relationships, we often spend time trying to figure out problems (how can we get a spouse to listen more, how can we get children to be more obedient, etc.). But what if you are the problem? Might be a bit of an uncomfortable idea, but the truth is that often times it’s easier to spot shortcomings in someone else than it is to see them in ourselves. I encourage you to look in the mirror as we explore the following topic: Are you a guilt tripper? This involves using guilt as a form of emotional manipulation to get someone to think or act a certain way. It’s something that we’ve all done at times. Here are some questions to determine whether or not this is something you engage in in your relationships:
- Do you have a hard time asking directly for what you want and need?
- Do you believe that others won’t do what you’d like them to do?
- Do you think other people are responsible for your feelings?
- Do you mope, sulk, and use the silent treatment frequently?
- Do you often feel powerless to get someone else to take action?
Answering yes to all or most of these questions indicates that you may have a problem with using guilt as a passive-aggressive way to get your needs met. And while you may have some level of success getting what you want through this strategy, long-term it will harm your relationships, as it pushes people away. Now let’s get to the solutions! Here are some ways to stop guilt tripping others for good:
Identify Your Own Needs
The first step is to figure out your own needs before you even open your mouth to speak to someone else. This can be difficult, particularly for women, but you have to know what you’re actually feeling or wanting before you can express it clearly. In my private practice, I’ve often asked women what it is that they want in a specific situation, and they really have to stop and think for a while before they can give an authentic answer. Give yourself permission to have needs and desires, and also don’t shy away from painful emotions; instead learn from them and let them help you determine what it is that you need.
Make Direct Behavior Requests
Next, be brave enough to ask for what you’d like directly. For example, a guilt tripper might say something like, “if you really cared about me, you’d take me to my appointment.” This is an inappropriate statement, and it unfairly puts someone on the spot and makes the relationship conditional. Instead, try something like, “I need a ride to my appointment; would you be willing to take me? I would really appreciate it.” Be straightforward about what you need and what you’re hoping the other person will do.
Build Relationships, Not Expectations
Guilt trippers are usually thinking more about what they want than about who they’re asking. This kind of thinking is self-centered and damages relationships. It’s also not particularly effective in the long run. And you can actually be more successful motivating people to do what you’d like if they are doing it because they want to, not because you are shaming them into it. Others will want to help you! For most people, love is such a better motivator than fear, shame, or guilt.
Own Your Feelings
A person who guilt trips thinks other people are to blame for their negative feelings, and then uses that mindset to attempt to control someone else. For example, in a divorced family situation, a mother might say to her daughter, “if you go with your dad this weekend, I’ll be all alone.” This is unfair to a child, as it’s not her responsibility to alleviate her mom’s loneliness. The woman in this situation should instead own her feelings and seek out companionship in other ways. Remember that your feelings are your own deal; they’re not someone else’s job.
Explore the Emotional Undercurrent
If you find that you’re a chronic guilt tripper, if you do it more than just occasionally, there’s almost certain to be something at the root of it. Are you depressed? Are you trying to control someone in order to compensate for something in your past where you felt powerless? Are you replaying some memory of manipulation that you once experienced at the hands of someone else? Look a little bit deeper into your emotional current.
I’m excited to offer an e-course based on my book “The Burnout Cure” to help women identify and articulate their feelings and needs in order to strengthen their relationships. Stay tuned for it!More
The original purpose of social media is to connect us, and yet for many women, looking in on others’ lives can leave us feeling inferior, jealous, isolated, or dissatisfied. So how can we put all these posts and pictures in perspective when we seem to get discouraged by them? There’s been quite a bit of research done on how social media affects us psychologically and emotionally. Here are a few tips to help you if you find that it’s dragging you down:
1. Be Intentional & Interact Directly
Studies have shown that always consuming, or simply binge reading and looking at picture after picture online can negatively impact you. I encourage you to instead intentionally research, seek out information, and connect with people in your life. Engage more and be purposeful; don’t just mindlessly scroll through your feed to fill time.More