An important first step in developing emotional health is becoming more aware of your internal emotional cues. Once you learned to recognize that you’re feeling something, the next step is to give a label to the emotion you’re experiencing. Interestingly, the very act of naming your feelings helps reduce the intensity of the feeling, making it more manageable.
Use this feelings word list to help you label your feelings and increase your feeling vocabulary.
It is human nature to cope. We try to make the hard things a little easier to endure. As a clinician, I have noticed that there are certain tendencies to cope that don’t help at all. These tendencies typically help us either ignore the problem or cause new ones, neither of which is effective. We live in a culture programmed for immediate gratification. Consequentially, poor coping mechanisms are easily available everywhere we turn. These mechanisms could include alcohol abuse, drug abuse, pornography, excessive gaming, excessive social networking, binge television watching, self-harm, infidelity, and even unhealthy eating patterns. You can guess how some of these behaviors could lead to addiction, and/or cause other emotional, relational, or health problems in a person’s life.
Healthy coping strategies will lead to positive outcomes, such as relief from stress or solutions to the problem. Healthy coping strategies do not rob you of the opportunity for growth. They take more effort, but the pay out is far greater and the effects long lasting. Here are some examples of healthy coping strategies you may want to add to your repertoire.
1. Exercise. The research overwhelmingly indicates the positive benefits of exercise both for the mind and body. There is no question that consistent exercise relieves stress and tension during life’s hardships. The more consistently you exercise, the more your brain will learn that a splendid cocktail of needed and pleasant hormones come after such activities. It will be a great day when something hard happens and your brain craves exercise for relief, rather than a doughnut. Lastly, exercise can lead to better sleep, and of course we cope better when we aren’t tired and grumpy.
2. Talk to a friend. Sometimes when things are hard, we have the tendency to isolate ourselves. This can be caused by the shame we are experiencing due to our problems. However, loneliness just leads to more problems and unhappiness. Though it is hard to talk to others about our problems, we know that it leads to a sense of relief and strengthens essential supportive relationships. Sometimes people use social networking or infidelity for a faux sense of connection, rather than going through the appropriate channels such as family and friends, to meet essential connection needs.
3. Spiritual Practices. I am not talking exclusively religion here. Many times when things get rough, we are so focused on the chaos outside us, that we forget to nurture what is on the inside of us. Spiritual relief comes in many different ways for many people. This could include prayer, meditation, being in nature, music, service, and many other possibilities. These practices increase self-awareness and bring the body out of fight or flight mode, which in the long term can be very destructive to our health and relationships.
Try adding at least one of these strategies to your life consistently, over an extended period of time, and I promise you will notice a big difference. Happy coping!
Many of the arguments and misunderstandings that take place in relationships come from assumptions. Too many times we make an assumption about something that leaves us feeling disappointed, frustrated, and hurt. If we can learn to do away with assumptions and be more direct, our relationships will feel more full and satisfying.
Ashley Thorn, LMFT is quoted in the Psych Central article below.
Click the link to read the first article in a 2-part series about common assumptions that are made in relationships, and how to avoid them.
The arena is full of screaming fans losing their minds in anticipation of your arrival on the stage. The laser light show (which has been through rigorous test runs during pre-show rehearsal) is perfectly sync’d with your guitarist’s heavy monster riffs, your powerhouse vocal range, your bassist’s thumping bass licks, and your drummer’s pounding drum kicks. Your big moment arrives as you make a fashionably late but unforgettable entrance onto the stage and you slay the audience with your ferocious yet infectious energy. The crowd is electrified and shouting in unison back to you the lyrics to your well-crafted and polished songs. You move on to the next city. Repeat. Life as a rock star couldn’t be grander. What does this brilliant analogy have to do with you and some of the issues you may be facing? Everything when you incorporate the S.T.A.R. method.
What is S.T.A.R. you ask? Let me break it down for you:
S = Stop
T = Think
A = Act
R = Review
When we are bogged down with anxiety, depression, and other life struggles we tend to neglect the inner ROCK S.T.A.R. within us. When we stop – we allow ourselves the opportunity to consider the alternatives which gives us time to think – about what our actions and perceptions create within ourselves. With this critical information we are able to act – in ways that are beneficial to staying true to the simple universal truth that we are all capable of doing amazing rock star like things and for that we can happily review – our renewed sense of confidence in our ability to handle ourselves like the rock stars that we are. We too can slay our struggles like our favourite entertainers do to audiences on a regular basis.
LCSW Clair Mellenthin recently appeared on KUTV to discuss why some moms are unfortunately mean to other moms. She explains that it almost always comes back to insecurity: women who don’t feel good about themselves as mothers or lack confidence are more likely to lash out and belittle others. Sometimes there is tension between moms who stay at home and moms who work. This too is usually fueled by insecurity or the need for a mom to try to “prove” she is better.
What’s a good way to deal with a mean mom you may encounter? One way would be to avoid such a person, but what if it’s the mother of one of your child’s friends? Clair says that if you find yourself in the company of a mom who begins insulting others, simply giving positive input can stop the conversation. She always explains that it’s okay to be brave, say you’re uncomfortable, or even change the subject completely.
“What if I’m the mean mom?”
If you are a mom and find yourself being rude, judgmental, or mean to other moms, it’s a good idea to look inward. What insecurity or pain is causing you to project negativity onto others? Try cultivating gratitude for small things in your life to counter the temptation to be mean to others. Finding ways to be happy and confident can help you be more kind and considerate to other moms.
Watch the video for more about how to deal with mean moms.
Specific forms of therapy have proven to be very effective for those who struggle with any extreme eating patterns. You know the drill: the holidays hit, we overeat or eat all the nutritionally weak foods, then resolve, usually in January, to stop all sugar intake or eliminate total food groups like “carbs”. We’re disciplined for 2 or 3 weeks then our body feels deprived and we do a complete 180. Does this feel like banging your head against a wall? It does to me!
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) offers 4 techniques to find balance in eating.:
1) Sequence NOT Elimintation. The order in which we eat foods does make a difference. Try to eat nutritionally dense foods FIRST, but don’t eliminate food groups altogether. Eliminating ALL SUGAR or ALL CARBS leave us feeling deprived and the psychology behind that process increases our desire for something. Often nutritionists recommend eating lean protein first because as it is more filling, then vegetables/fruits, then grains, then desert. One client I worked with 5 years ago lost 50 pounds just be adopting this technique. She lost her strong desire for sugary deserts over time because she didn’t feel deprived of them (she could have them if she wanted them….just after the healthy stuff). She set herself up to succeed not fail. It took 6 months, and by then it was a lifestyle for her,. Today, 5 years later, she still wears the same jeans.
2) Measure progress with Feelings not Numbers. Rather than weighing yourself everyday, try tapping into how you feel at the beginning of each day. Do you feel bloated? Do you feel fatigue? My guess is over time, after eating healthier, you will wake up feeling energized, more relaxed about food having a sense of control over your health. Scales increase anxiety whether you have lost or gained weight. If you are down, you become more anxious increasing worry about maintaining that weight; more rigid in food choices, and ultimately set yourself up to buckle under pressure.
3) Start and end your day with Breathing Techniques. Ideally, a trained therapist can teach you these skills, called “mindfulness skills”. DBT offers one skill called 4 Square Breathing which leads to balanced food choices throughout the day and relaxation at night.
4) Stay in thePresent Moment. When you make unhealthy choices, don’t dwell on it day after day or even hour after hour. Stay present and start making heathier decisions now. Beating ourselves up about poor eating habits only lead to extreme cycles once again. Stop the head banging once and for all! Personally, I eat chocolate cake to prevent binging! To learn more about mindful eating contact our office about enrolling in a 6 week DBT course.
Everyone goes through challenging experiences: loss, illness, divorce, and other hardships can take a heavy emotional toll. Resilience is being able overcome these kind of struggles and is the ability to “bounce back.” But you don’t have to wait until the storms hit to develop this skill. Here are 5 ways to build resilience for when you really need it:
1) Seek 3:1 Ratio of Positive to Negative Emotions
Studies about highly resilient people show that they don’t experience fewer negative emotions, but instead experience more positive emotions. In other words, we don’t have to fake anything or pretend that we don’t feel difficult emotions, but we can foster positivity to help balance them. Trying to hit a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative emotions can put things in perspective and help develop resilience (take the test at positivityratio.com to see how you are doing!).
One of the things I have learned about the most as a parent of multicultural kids is the importance of being mindful and staying in the moment. This isn’t the easiest thing to do and yet, it’s one of the best things to do. You’ll see lots of parents blogging about how they’ve stopped yelling or stopped using their electronic devices as a way to be more mindful and present with their kids. Being mindful has its benefits in that it allows you to pay attention in the moment and, as parents, to use the moment to create meaningful connection with our kids.
As a multicultural parent, the same goal applies when being mindful in those quick moments of questioning that kids give us ever so often. When it comes to addressing cultural differences, many times we experience a hesitation that is just quick enough to send a message to our kids that “we don’t talk about differences.” And, in our not-so-great moments, we scold our kids for asking an age or developmentally appropriate question based on our own discomfort around differences.
When we are mindful we can create teaching moments in response to our kids’ curiosity by engaging in the present moment as it’s happening. There is a balance to doing this because you want to do it in a way that intentionally educates, demystifies, and normalizes differences so that you can connect with your child comfortably and confidently.
We’ve all met those people that seem to offer up more criticism than healthy advice or positive reinforcement. Learning how interact with those overly critical people without letting them bring you down can be a very difficult thing. Sometimes we may be able to simply walk away from them, but other times we are forced to have those people around us. If you ever struggle with this, here is an article with some of my thoughts and tips on how to more effectively respond to the critical people in your life.