Festive Way to Increase Self-Worth

February 14, 2014 


I invite you to make a Valentine for yourself today... Curious? Read on:


I invited most of the kiddos who came to my office the last few weeks to make a Valentine. Most were enthusiastic and started thinking of a family member or friend to make it for. When I said " this is a Valentine to make for yourself. To You From You to remind you of all the lovable things about yourself," I was sometimes met with a strange look. Then the kids each got quick to work making a Valentine for themselves to increase self-esteem, reinforce self-worth, and start the road for self-compassion. Then they had fun making another Valentine for someone else....



So, would you consider making a Valentine for yourself today? Even if just created in your imagination? Or, how about a doodle or make one on the computer (also a great way to procrastinate at work today - but you didn't hear that from me - wink, wink). What would you list that is lovable about you? What would friends and family say they love about you? Most importantly YOU ARE LOVABLE because YOU ARE! 


(disclaimer: this V-card posted is made by a kiddo who is NOT a client and by parent permission)

Winter Blues....(sigh...) 
February 7, 2014 

A Funk. Not motivated. Wanting to hibernate.  Craving for carbs.  Low mood.  Can still laugh.  Sleepy.  Takes extra effort to get out and get going.  No, this isn’t depression.  What is this “I’m in a funk feeling?”  Then I started to realize it was an old state of being that I recognized as THE WINTER BLUES. 

But how could this happen to me?  I live in Florida.  And, yes a part of Florida that this winter’s weather requires boots, warm coats, umbrellas, scarves, mittens, aka winter gear.  For too many days than Central Floridians are used to.  But, I am a born mid-westerner who weathered many a winter!?  

And that’s when it all came together.  I needed to tap into some old coping skills and recognize this for what it was.

So, here’s my new mixed with old list of coping with the Winter Blues:

~first mix it up – try some new healthy coping skills mixed with some old reliables

~ Hibernate when you can.  Sleep a little bit more.  Take a nap.  Focus on restorative rest.  Sometimes taking a hint from nature can help us.  Much of outdoor nature is hibernating or coping differently now.

~Think sunny thoughts = look at sunny pictures, watch sunny movies, etc

~Get some sunshine when you can even if for just a few minutes to lift mood.

~Citrus – in all forms like foods to eat, like scented soaps, diffuse citrus essential oils, hey, is there citrus flavored lip balm??

~Count your blessings – Yes, I mean focus on gratitude here.  So if the grumbling of complaints starts, turn that into thankful thoughts.

~Remember that each day that goes by is one day closer to spring and summer! Yes it’s one day closer to sweltering Florida heat and humidity, flip flops, sunglasses, and ice cold water to drink for me!  Remember what summer was like for you? :)


How To Talk To Yourself - A New You of Sorts... 
January 1, 2014 
It's a new year.  Many people make "New Year's Resolutions" this time of year.  I often encourage people prone to depression, anxiety, PTSD, low self-esteem, and perfectionism not to make new year's resolutions.  Making these resolutions can trigger thoughts that we are not good enough the way we are.  Too much time can be contributed to what's wrong with us when we have anxiety and depression and not enough time spent on what is right with us, what is good with us, what is "perfect" just the way we are.  If there something about you that bothers you, then go ahead and make some changes! And, do it in a healthy way.
If you just feel negative somehow about resolutions at new year's or making changes, then you might want to consider simply adjusting the way you talk to yourself.  This can be a powerful way to feel less anxious, less depressed, less discouraged, less scared, etc.  Wouldn't that be great?
So, I am introducing a "challenge" of sorts for talking to yourself.  Each day in January I will introduce a new phrase or word to replace or add in to your inner dialogue or the way you talk to yourself.  You may even give a go at talking about yourself to others this way.  I will be posting this on social media and here on my website.  I created the tab so you can jump right to it each day.

Ok, here's today's new way to talk to yourself about you: I can choose to... -feel calm instead of getting all upset, -remain confident at work today, -feel neutral about myself eventhough I think I am being criticized, -stay at peace even with chaos around me, etc. 

A Psychoanalysis of Sports Fandom  
December 28, 2013  Originally posted October 20, 2013

Rapid heart beat, feeling anxious, nervousness, wondering what if, nail-biting, shouting...not a panic attack or a meltdown - just the average experience of a sports fan!
Here we go again because it's Bowl Time! 

We may only ask ourselves the question of "why do I do this to myself" after the rollercoaster of emotions and physiological reactions after watching our favorite sports team lose.  So why do we do this to ourselves?  For those of us who consider ourselves sports fans, are we gluttons for punishment or in like some unhealthy relationship with fandom?  Are we stuck in unhealthy psychological dynamics? Time spent year after year, week after week, game after game, riding this roller coaster of emotions. Up and down emotionally as we are so invested as we watch, rooting our team on to victory despite the toll it takes. "Our" team when there is a win. "The" team when a loss. Challenging others and their commitment when the team is behind in the game. Physiologic symptoms and quickly changing emotions: anxiety, anger, happiness, elation, frustration, confusion, victory, pride. Sounds like life doesn't it?

So, perhaps it's not like some dysfunctional family pattern repeated w codependency. More like count on it as seasons change. Community togetherness, individuality too. Courage, conversation, bonding, perseverance, history, tradition, superstition, rituals, distraction, purpose, adjusting to change.

This then leads to the necessary use of coping skills.  What are common coping skills used by ultimate sports fans? "There's always next time."  The Fun of the roller coaster, Loyalty, andHope - that is why we watch. That is why we are fans!

Debunking Perfectionism Myths
December 13, 2013

Perfectionism can play a role that keeps depression, anxiety, OCD, social phobia, and relationship problems going.  Let’s take a look at some common myths of perfectionists (according to Egan, Wade, Shafran, & Antony in press) and a more realistic way of thinking.  A key to overcoming perfectionism may not be in replacing thought, but in considering other options.  So here’s other options to the common myths pictured above.

~Work smarter not harder.

~The world of academia is one of the only places where effort = outcome most of the time.  That is, you go to class, listen, learn, do the assignments on time, study, pass tests, get a good grade.  Much of the rest of this world effort doesn’t always equal outcome.

~ Getting outcome that you want really usually involves many resources coming forth at different times and at different paces.

~ Open up to broader ways to categorize people or see them for the complex individuals they are.

~ What else brings happiness in addition to “success” or meeting a goal? Nature? Something funny? Time spent with people you like? Travel? Good food? Sharing a meal with friends? Dancing? Love?

~ Avoidance can cause things to fester.  There is a difference in "wait and see" or watching things play out and total avoidance.  Consider how all of those look.

~ People are usually not noticing every little detail and are usually stuck in THEIRown thinking, worries, anger, happiness, love.  We might be quick to judge ourselves, but it doesn’t mean everyone else is.

~ And, realistically there might be a person or two in your life that do form quick judgmenst about you.  Consider that that thought process says a lot more about themthen it does about you.  You can protect yourself from the harsh, quick judgments of others.  And, that might be the new goal or skill to get somewhat perfect about! ☺


How to Deal with People that Annoy You during this Season without Stressing Out More... 

November 22, 2013 
If you can relate to not wanting to be at a feast or celebration because someone will probably really annoy you, 


You will be out shopping or buying things at stores within the next week or so,


Taking a long car ride with people and creatures you may love dearly but also get on your nerves,

Here’s some ideas for coping to stay calm and centered and your best self and not adding more cumbersome coping skills to your list of to do’s:

~ Think of yourself as the still deep waters of the ocean – it’s kinda calm, flowing, curious, functional – even if a storm rages around you

~ Think of 3 positive things about that person and keep reminding yourself of those things before, during, and after being around him/her

~ Deeeeeeep Breaths, Innnnnn, and Ouuuuuut

~ Consider that person is probably doing the best they can even if it’s not good enough for you or the situation – empathy and a sprinkle of understanding can go a long way to keeping your cool

~ Losing your cool can make you look like the annoying one – so use your voice and words assertively, slow, and quite – people can be more likely to listen and accommodate your request that way – and you get what you want 

~ Throw a hissy fit in private if you must! 

~ Find humor in the situation ☺


A Season of Change
October 1, 2013 
Autumn is nature's reminder that change happens in life.  It can be beautiful and awe-inspiring with the colors of leaves, the shapes of gourdes, and nourishing with all the fruits and vegetables in season.  This can also be like grief.  It is a time of change and people can find some beauty in their grief work with creativity, reflections, conversations, etc.  
Just like a recipe for those fall foods and traditions, we used to talk about grief in terms of ordered 5-Step stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance).  And, just like nature's own plan for making the colors of the fall leaves that seems to have no exact pattern or formula, recent research shows that grief over a loss (either from a loved one's death or a loss that is non-death related like the loss of a job, relationship, health, etc.) is experienced more like waves in the ocean: shock and denial at the crest of the wave; depression, confusion, and painful feelings, in the middle of the wave; and "acceptance" or peace at the end of the wave.  And these waves come and go just like waves in the ocean, some big and some small and with different rhythms and paces, some soothing and some scary.  
I invite you to check out the Journaling tab on this site for a month-long daily journal prompt to help with healing loss.   

Rolling out the Red Carpet for the new Purple Book: DSM-5 
September 27, 2013

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5 (DSM-5) was released in May this year and will be more widely used in October.   This book is the manual that mental health practioners use to make a diagnosis for patients.  The history of this manual is interesting and I will save that for another time.  You may have heard some controversy or concern about the revisions with the DSM-5.
After studying the manual, attending seminars and workshops, and using it in my practice all summer long I think that many of the changes might be helpful for the world of mental health.
The manual encourages us to look at people as PEOPLE and not just a list of symptoms or a diagnosis.  Yay – we needed that!  Also, Obsessive Compulsive disorder is in a category all it’s own.  People with OCD will tell you it’s more than anxiety, it’s entirely unique.  Good news for research, treatment, and management of OCD.  And, Grief is now recognized more so as distressing (yea…) and allows for the bereaved with complicated or traumatic grief get grief therapy needed for healing.
Change is not easy and can create anxiety even in the world of mental health “experts.”  Let’s continue to see how the DSM-5 can be used in a beneficial way in real-life application.

"I don't wanna...." 
September 16, 2013 

This weekend I was at a social event and got asked by a friend, “Is it hard to take your own medicine? Is it hard to practice what you talk about to your clients?”  The perfectionist part of my brain was hollering “No, I do it easily all the time” and the anxious part of me started calculating the times that I “didn’t follow the guidance of a therapist”, ie use healthy coping skills in a tough moment.   
And, that got me thinking about the times that we don’t chose those helpful coping skills.  Maybe it’s just too hard sometimes.  Maybe we want to wallow more and not really feel better.  Maybe we don’t feel worthy deep down of being happy or peaceful.  Perhaps the answer is all of the above.  
Most importantly we can give ourselves “grace” for the times that we don’t use that helpful coping strategy.  And, ask the question, “what got in the way of me [walking away] instead of [continuing to bicker?]  That allows us insight, without judgment, to setting us up for success to manage our emotions and conflicts in the ways we are aiming for.

Invisible Illness??
September 8, 2013 
Several years ago "invisible illness" walked into my office....I quickly discovered that standard counseling techniques just didn't fully help clients feel psychologically better when living with an invisible illness. That was unacceptable so I got to work studying, researching and learning the best ways to provide therapy to each client coming in with an invisible illness. This week is the national awareness week. So whether you live with one of these illness or care about someone who does, check out all the resources this week and take away help, hope, and whatever else you need! 

Creating an Emotional Boundary 
September 4, 2013
Ever find yourself feeling anger, sadness, guilt, worry that seems like is just doesn't "belong" to you?  By that I mean perhaps this emotion seems too big, incongruent, or that it might really belong to someone else.  Well, maybe it does belong to someone else.  We have a tendency to "pick up" emotions that could belong to others because they are not owning it or feeling it.  And, after all...someone needs to own it, hold it, take care of it, feel it - especially when it is anger or guilt about what happened to us or a loved one. 

Imagine that this emotion, like guilt for example, is a big ball of yuck that is sitting on the floor.  But the person responsible for the hurt or "bad thing" isn't showing guilt or remorse and this ball of guilt is just sitting there on the floor.  We might want to pick it up and not just leave it.  That becomes problematic because we can experience guilt that doesn't belong to us and that just causes more internal conflict.  

If you have found that you are holding a big ball of emotional yuck because the person you want to feel it is not feeling it, challenge yourself to set the ball back down.  You are not dishonoring yourself or the person that got hurt.  You are honoring you and authentic emotions.   And just perhaps if the ball of yuck sits there long enough, the owner will pick it up and deal with it.  And if not, you are not burdened with things that don't belong to you.  You just may discover that you are lighter, more peaceful, and surer of yourself and handling things.

Effective Coping with Anxiety IS Possible! 
August 15, 2013
Never fear - help is here!
Keeping coping simple can be key to making it actually "do-able"
See what strategies below will work for you  

Overcoming Anxiety

Explore more infographics like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually
Describes the "free fall" that can be associated with anxiety and how to deal with this. This comes from an infographic by Michael J. Salas, who is a therapist and counselor in Dallas, Texas.

How can I emotionally support someone without being exhausted, frazzled, or guilty?

August 2, 2013
It’s like a rollercoaster ride. 
If someone is going through their own stress and they want your help and support, many people think that means they have to get into the rollercoaster seat next to them and ride out all the ups and the downs.  But after all is said and done, and the ride is over, we will be in the same shape as our loved one.  That does no one any good.
The key really to giving a true and effect help and support could come from one of these perspectives instead:
~Picture yourself with a “super-stretch” arm and hold the hand of your loved one with your feet firmly planted on the ground, letting your arm stretch easily as they go through the ups and downs.  Only your arm moves – you stay well grounded.  
This translates to listening, caring, being available for support, etc, but at the same time you needn’t FEEL all their feelings.  You can stay neutral within yourself, or feel some lower level of sadness or compassion for them or their situation.  
~ Picture yourself walking with your loved one to the entrance to the ride, witness them getting on, tell them you care about them and will be waiting for them at the exit to the ride to love and nurture them when they get off the ride.
This translates to listening to what they are experiencing and taking great care of yourself during this time.  You will then be able to be at your best for them perhaps when they need you the most.
Decide which approach works best for you in order for you to keep healthy emotional boundaries and feel good about your role in your relationships with others.

How to survive Family Gatherings 
July 19, 2013

This is assuming that your family has some stress, strain, trouble with conflict, or toxic people in it.  And perhaps no one in your family would wear one of those “we put the FUN in dysfunction” t-shirts because no one really enjoys the dysfunctional happenings when the family gets together.  But, there is a way for you to survive and maybe even for you to have some fun at the gathering.
The ability to predict and prepare are two important elements that can go a long way to setting you up for success.  Consider a few of these before you go:
~Time – is this an all day gathering? If so, put a box of time around it.  In essence, decide ahead of time what is the realistic amount of time you (and your kids and your spouse) can spend, what time of day is best for you, and stick to that timeframe in your mind.  Perhaps even prepare others ahead of time that: “we will be arriving at 2 and leaving at 4” for example.  
~Boundaries – now that the time boundary has been established, how about the “what are people going to talk about/say” worry? Think about it like a baseball field (another reminder of the summer-time) with the fair and foul lines.  You decide ahead of time what topics fall into fair territory and what will fall into foul territory.  Then prepare a few responses you can have if a “foul” topic comes up.  Something like “I hear what you are saying, can we talk about that at another time.” Or, “I appreciate your concern….I will take that into consideration” and then switch the topic or excuse yourself to refresh your beverage, use the restroom, check on so and so….
~Consider the Players involved – be realistic about family members, what to expect, what they actually are capable of so you don’t get disappointment and expect too much out of someone who cannot meet your need.  When you know what to expect and what not to expect you can better take care of yourself, your needs (and make sure that your children’s needs are met as well even if it’s just by you).
You are the Manager of your team. Do baseball teams hire the guy that heckles the loudest in the stands to manage the team? No.  They hire the most qualified.  And you are the most qualified for your immediate family.  Keep that in mind… you still know what is best for you (and your kids).  Managers can see things and know things that other people in the stands cannot see and just don’t know.  And that’s ok.  Thinking like a “team manager” can keep your own frustration down and confidence up.
Now when you get to the gathering you have predicted and prepared.  You are calm and confident and equipped.  You can handle things.  You might even find that you enjoy the gathering, laugh, and have fun!

How is Anxiety like this Bee-Do Minion? 
July 12, 2013


Panic or anxiety symptoms are triggered from an alarm going off in the back of our brains.  It's the flight/fight mechanism going off alerting the brain and body to potential danger.  Well that would be very helpful if a dasterdly villian were coming after us so that we could fight him off or run away.  Then all those chemicals that our body released to help us survive from that villian or danger would be used up and our bodies would be tired.  We would rest and recover.  

Panic disorder, panic attacks, and general feelings of anxiety are problematic in that the "BEE-DO BEE-DO" keeps going off in the brain, but there is no danger to really fight or run away from.  What if I am worried about money problems? Can I run from that? Not really.. Can I have a fight with that? Not really... So I would stay stuck in having my heart beat fast, quick breathing, tight muscles, etc. that prepared me to fight or run; yet, I have no where to run and no villian to fight.  The body symptoms can sometimes cause people to get more upset and fightened and that continues the cycle of alert-danger?-fight/flight-feelings-emotions-thoughts-body feelings-alert-etc, etc, etc.

So hit the "Reset" button.  Tell that perverbial minion to be quiet or take off his siren hat and be calm!  There is no REAL danger.  This will calm the body down and a great way to help us gain control back of our minds and bodies from panic attack and anxiety problems. You can do it!