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Take Time to “Spruce It Up!”

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I recently read an article entitled “Time for a Spring cleaning of the mind” by Jeannette Bessinger.

Because I have never been interested in Spring cleaning my home, I paid close attention to the tips that were given on how to “declutter my emotional space.”

I share these tasks with you along with some ideas of my own, and encourage you to join with me in asking yourself these questions, and reflecting  on how you can work towards clearing  the emotional junk from your mind.

  1. Mind your own business.  Most of us have enough business of our own to tend to.  Ask yourself, “If it’s not my business, why am I in it?”
  2. Let go of the need to be right.  Ask yourself,  Is it more important for me to love and be loved or to be right?  Who do you play the right wrong game with?  Make a commitment to  eliminate the need to play this game with others.
  3. Stop blaming, shaming and complaining.  All three behaviors are negative and do not bring joy to your life.  Ask yourself,  Does my behavior of blaming, shaming and or complaining assist me and others to feel joy and happiness?   Continue to remind yourself that these behaviors are toxic and will not improve your relationships and sense of well being.
  4. Stop trying to impress and please everyone.  Ask yourself, Will I die if  someone disapproves of something that I think, do, or say?  Remember you don’t have to do everything and be everything for everyone else.  Make a list of 10 things that you can do for yourself and select one to do TODAY.   Make yourself a priority.  Put yourself on your “To do” list.
  5. Clean up unfinished business.   Ask yourself, If not now when will I begin?  Pick a task that you have been procrastinating to complete and DO IT TODAY!  Eckert Tolle stated, “That which stands in the was IS the way.  Beginning is usually the hardest part of the task.  Just Begin.
  6. Forgive someone.  Ask yourself, Who am I holding a grudge against?  Am I being unforgiving as a way to punish them? Remember forgiving others is a gift you give to yourself.
  7. If you’re in the wrong, Make it right.  Ask yourself, Have I committed a wrong that I can make right?  Follow this admonition,” When you do something wrong, tell the truth, apologize and right the wrong if you possibly can.  Owning up means it won’t own you.”
  8. Let go of self limiting beliefs.  Ask yourself, Do I believe everything I think?  Work towards eliminating the negative self talk you engage in.  Use positive affirmations to rid yourself of stinking thinking, such as, I am capable of achieving that which I believe.  I am capable of achieving the task at hand.
  9. Let go of perfectionism.  Adopt the belief that, “Nothing in life is perfect.”  Stop comparing yourself to others and remind yourself that, “It is what it is, and it’s all good.”
  10. Stop mismanaging your emotions.  Ask yourself, Am I stuffing my unpleasant feelings down with too much food, or shopping.  Remember, that “feelings are like the weather, natural and ever changing.”  It is important to take time to acknowledge them, feel them and release them through healthy coping skills.

Only you know which task will be the most beneficial for you to complete.  I challenge you to choose a task and begin to work towards clearing the emotional junk from your life.  Begin now to “Spruce up your life,” YOU DESERVE IT!

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Managing Holiday Perfectionism: Dr. Julie Hanks on KSL’s Studio 5

timthumb-1The holiday season can mean added stress and higher expectations (which is not good for “perfectionists” or “recovering perfectionists”!). Part of the added stress is that we often go on autopilot and rarely examine our expectations, or our “shoulds.”

On this week’s episode of Studio 5, Dr. Julie Hanks shared a formula for examining your expectations, deciding where they come from, whether or not you want to hold on to the “should” or let it go, and consider the result of keeping or rejecting the belief.

Download the “Holiday Perfectionism: Shifting Your Shoulds” worksheet (PDF file to print).

Please share with any friends or family who may need help managing high holiday expectations!

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7 Rules in Shame-Based Families

Teen Family Time
Shame has been a popular psychotherapy topic in social media lately and due to its fame it is frequently on my mind.  Today I’ve been thinking specifically about shame-based families and how this toxic feeling is often handed down through generations.
Shame can be passed through a family in myriad ways.  A common path is for it to travel through family rules.  With some prompting, maybe you can recall some of your family’s rules.  What rules did your family have about touching and sexuality?  What were the rules regarding marriage, money, vacations, religion, socializing…?
In John Bradshaw’s Healing the Shame That Binds You he outlines 7 rules that are maintained by shame-based families.
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Is Perfectionism Hereditary?

Talk-Therapy-Touted-as-First-Line-Treatment-for-Youth-with-Psychosis-RiskPerfectionism, the constant fear of failure and simply “not feeling good enough.” To a perfectionist mistakes are indications of personal flaws and the only way for acceptance is to be perfect.   Our high expectations often leave us feeling inadequate and falling short of what we could be.  But nobody is perfect at life, nothing is meant to be flawless.  When we realize we are not expected to be perfect and that we are here to learn, we are able to develop compassion for ourselves and others.

This perfectionistic trait can easily be passed down to our children because they feel like they are not good enough in their parent’s and their own eyes.  Here are some ideas to help interfere with this vicious cycle:

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Harnessing the Power of Procrastination: Julie Hanks on Studio 5

Harnessing the Power of Procrastination: Julie Hanks on Studio 5

Most all of us have procrastinated at one point or another. We delay doing things like taxes, cleaning, work projects, etc. While we tend to think of this as a bad habit, it’s possible to manage the tendency to put things off to actually benefit you. Here are 4 ways to harness the power of procrastination:

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5 Phrases for Recovering Perfectionists: Julie Hanks on Studio 5

5 Phrases for Recovering Perfectionists: Julie Hanks on Studio 5

Don’t let perfectionistic tendencies hold you back. Try these 5 phrases!

Ok. I admit it. I’m a recovering perfectionist. And sometimes I still find myself wrestling with unrealistic expectations. Here are my 5 go-to phrases when I slip back into old patterns of perfectionism, black and white thinking, basing my worth on my performance, or feeling reluctant to take risks.

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When Perfectionism Becomes Toxic

Wasatch Family Therapy Woman

Self-evaluation can be a good thing when it helps us to move towards a goal.  However, there is a vast difference between, “I need to spend more time with my family” and “I’m a terrible mother.”  Excessive self-criticism backfires because it leads us to focus on our so-called failures instead of the simple ways that we could progress.

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Ask a Therapist: I Feel Like a Failure As A Mom And Fiancee

I am a stay at home mom and lately I have been feeling like a failure. I feel like I can’t do anything right and that everything I do goes unnoticed. I have a wonderful fiance, who works hard to take care of our family and who loves me very much, but the problem lies with me. I can’t express my feelings to him. I have so much guilt inside of me. I feel guilty when I need money and my fiance gives it to me, I feel guilty if he comes home and the house isn’t spotless, even when the baby was a handful, I feel guilty if I take time for myself or if we go out without the baby. I feel guilty when the little one cries or throws tantrums when my fiance is at home, because I am supposed to be a good mother and a good housekeeper and a good fiancee, but I don’t feel like I am. I am a failure at everything and I am just so sick of crying everyday. How do I get past this? Please, please help me.

A: Thanks for your email. You sure put a lot of pressure on yourself! Who says you have to be a perfect fiancée, house keeper, or good at finances? It sounds like you want to be more than just good at those things, it sounds like you want to be perfect. I wonder if there’s something deeper going on, or how you learned to be so hard on yourself. Watch the video for the rest of this answer.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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Overcoming Perfectionism: Studio 5

Overcoming Perfectionism: Studio 5

I love the new February Studio 5 theme is “Live Without Pretending”! We’re challenging women throughout Utah to “get real” about what’s really going on for them and share more of their authentic selves.

While the bible says to “Be ye therefore perfect”, it doesn’t mean to be externally flawless. It means whole, ripe, complete. Perfectionism is about trying to earn love through performance, it’s about being ready and whole in this very moment.

Shame researcher Brene Brown, PhD says that “Healthy striving is self-focused. How can I improve? Perfectionism is other focused. What will others think?”

I highly recommend Dr. Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Join in the Studio 5 Instagram Feb challenge by posting your real-life photos using #livewithoutpretending (I’m Julie_Hanks on Instagram)


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Ask a Therapist: Lacking Emotions in Social Situations

Wasatch Family Therapy TeensQ: I am a 17 year old High School student and I have felt this conflict my entire life, but only now can I ignore it no longer. Amidst all of the discussion about college and ‘finding the right fit,’ I have realized that the major internal problem I have is that I lack an identity, lack interests, lack emotions, and therefore have trouble with social interaction. I am hopelessly apathetic at heart, and I don’t know how to reconcile the true ‘me’ with the image others expect–that of a ‘normal’ person who has passions and desires. I care about nothing–not politics or current events, not my friends or family or other people, not sports or music or art. Outwardly, I am a high-achieving, well-rounded student. I do well in every subject and participate in a variety of extracurricular activities, some of which I hold leadership positions in. However, none of them truly interests me, and I only continue them to get into college. Nothing ‘outside’ school much concerns me either. The various problems of society don’t matter to me, even when I’m affected. Occasionally a particularly poignant tragedy or example will make feel like helping out, but on the whole, I am completely apathetic. The same goes for the social aspects of my life. My childhood, family, and friendships were and are normal, but I do not have emotional connections to anyone; if somebody ‘close’ to me died, I would only be concerned with how it would affect my own convenience. I don’t have any academic, athletic, or arts-related interests either, and I do not believe the problem is lack of exposure. The only things I like to do are things that make me forget my existence and consciousness–playing games or reading a book or watching television, but the appreciation I have for those things is completely aesthetic and surface-level.

Left alone, I would be fine with this situation and content with engaging myself in passive activities for the rest of my life. However, society demands interaction. I sometimes have difficulty projecting the ‘right’ appearance in conversations and social interactions because I never feel anything (happiness at a friend’s success, sadness at someone’s death, gladness when someone praises me). Most days I do not have trouble interacting with people, but the times when I ‘mess up’ cause me great consternation because I am somewhat of a perfectionist and do not want people to think of me badly. I do not believe I have a social disorder because I understand what people mean and what kind of reaction to give–I just cannot act out that reaction because I do not truly feel it and I do not have enough acting prowess to express that emotion believably. People occasionally comment that my expression is too serious (that’s my default expression–blankness that is misinterpreted as seriousness, sadness, etc.), that I do not smile–in fact, I barely move, because I have trouble acting out body language as well even though I know what the proper response is. The emotions I do feel in social interactions are solely derived from self-consciousness–did I smile enough just then? Do I look relaxed? Most of all, do I look NORMAL? This kind of nervousness impedes my acting and therefore my daily interactions. Because I want to look what ‘normal’ is in any situation, I project different personalities to different people, causing conflicts when I deal with them together. I cannot just ‘let things go’ and be who I am–silent, still–in public; I want to look normal, but I can’t seem to force my body to comply.

What should I do? I want to make my social interactions normal so that I can live more conveniently–’conveniently’ in this case means in a state where my physical needs are attended to and I am left alone and not thought about much by others, where I fit in, so that when alone I can drown myself in fiction and escapist activities. If I have a disorder or psychological problem with this lack of emotions–perhaps a refusal to recognize them?–I want to be able to deal with it. However, I don’t think I could deal with speaking to a counselor in real life because my guard would always be up, always trying to act and never expressing what I truly mean. I won’t be trite and say that I am spiraling down into darkness, but this problem truly does bother me.

A: It sounds extremely exhausting to be constantly on guard worrying about the appropriateness of your social interactions, especially when your internal state doesn’t match your behavior. I’m so glad that you are reaching out for help to find your way through this confusing situation.  Yes, it does sound like there is a problem going on, either psychologically or medically. I recommend that you seek help from a counselor to get an evaluation, and to get a thorough physical exam from a physician. There are many medical and mental illnesses that can cause the blank feelings that you’re describing and the feeling of disconnection and despair. While I can’t diagnose you based on an email, the emptiness that you are describing sounds like severe depression. To learn more about the symptoms and treatment for different types of depression click here.

You mentioned that you’re not sure you can put your guard down with a counselor, but keep in mine that psychotherapists are trained to help you lower your guard over time, to help you get to the root of the problem, and to help you develop skills to live a more fulfilling life.  Additionally, a therapist can help you resolve any life events or relationship problems that may have contributed to shutting down your emotions and help you to reconnect with who you are, how you feel, and what you want.

I have seen many clients in my clinical practice develop the disconnection that you are describing after experiencing trauma or loss as a way of protecting themselves against further pain. If you need help finding a good therapist in your area click the Find Help link on PsychCentral. Don’t wait. Life and relationships can be much more rewarding than what you are currently experiencing and there are many, many resources available to help you. Please let your parent, guardian, or school counselor know that you need help so they can support you and help you.

I urge you to get professional help so you can reconnect to your emotions and find joy and fulfillment in your life.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Originally appeared in my PsychCentral.com column

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